Tag: Gary Sjoquist

I first fell in love with mountain biking when, out of curiosity, I attended the grand opening of the the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails in the summer of 2011. Within two weeks, I bought a mountain bike, started this blog, joined IMBA, and became addicted to the sport.

Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout 2012, Beginner class; photo by Aaron Hautala Haul Road, Yawkey Unit Tugger, Yawkey Unit

My love affair with Cuyuna further intensified when I first rode (and raced) a borrowed fat bike in the snow at the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout back in March. The Sunday after the race, participants were allowed to ride their fat bikes – one day only– in the Yawkey Unit, my #1 favorite section of the trail system. Heaven!  But only one day?  I couldn’t complain too loudly because I didn’t own a fat bike.

So when I heard earlier this fall that the Yawkey Unit would be open to fat bike riding all winter, I contacted Aaron Hautala, president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crewand asked him for details on how the new policy came to be.  He fed me bits and pieces of the year-long process and I decided to pull it all together into a blog post because it’s a story of perseverance and collaboration among private and public interests, all for the good of the sport, the natural environment, and the local economy.

Gary Sjoquist and Jenny SmithIn late summer of 2011, one of the key people behind the creation of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike TrailsQBP Director of Advocacy Gary Sjoquist, suggested to DNR staff at the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area (CCSRA) that the trail system would be a good place to pilot winter fat biking, given the rapid growth of the activity around the country.

Jenny Smith Letter to DNRIn the fall of 2011, Jenny Smith, owner of Cycle Path and Paddle in Crosby,  sent a letter to the DNR asking that Cuyuna’s trails be opened in the winter to allow snowshoeing in the park. While her letter didn’t specifically ask for winter fat bike access, she made the economic argument that the successful introduction of mountain biking in the warm months could be extended into the cold months with other winter activities besides cross country skiing.

On October 25, the CCSRA Advisory Council unanimously passed the following motion:

To explore funding opportunities to pilot a “Winter Tourism Package” for the CCSRA to allow winter biking, snow shoeing, skiing, and access to parking beginning in December 2011 in order to provide an economic boost to an area negatively impacted by the recession. Motion was made by Representative John Ward and seconded by John Schaubach.

Steve Weber, DNR Manager of the CCSRA, began exploring the options for a winter trail program with his DNR colleagues. In an email to them, he wrote:

CCSRA Winter Riding mapSteve WeberIt became apparent early on that the majority of our existing mountain bike trails are too narrow and steep for winter mechanized grooming. However, I do believe there are some winter riding possibilities on the existing mountain bike trail but that is going to require a lot more research and testing before we can offer it to the public. Time permitting, perhaps we can do some testing on that this winter… After some research, I discovered the perfect area for a winter bike trail and conceptually designed a trail in the Sagamore Unit.

Steve showed the Sagamore Unit trails to local Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew(CLMTBC) members who were gung ho about the plan and offered club assistance.  His plan for a pilot project to see if there was desire and ability to open this unit up to winter riding in the future was approved by Courtland Nelson, Director of the Division of Parks and Trails. Plans were then made to brush the trails immediately and to secure the equipment necessary for grooming the trails in the winter. A group of CLMTBC riders began regular riding of the entire trail system to identify which trails and units would be best suited—experience and safety—for winter biking.

Nick Statz, Yawkey Unit; photo by Aaron Hautala Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout 2012

As the winter of 2011-12 set in, CLMTB club members began talking up the idea of a winter cycling event, and the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout was born. The race for the event was held in the Sagamore Unit and the Yawkey Unit was opened up for a one-day winter pass which CLMTBC promoted with this video:


CLMTBC riders had identified the Yawkey Unit very early on as ideal for year round riding because its:

  • Trail footprint is manageable to maintain, groom.
  • Trails provide a great experience for riders: scenery, range of difficulty and elevation
  • Trails provide a challenge on a fat bike all within feet of each other.

In April of 2012, CLMTB proposed to the MN DNR and the CCSRA Advisory Council that the Yawkey Unit be open year-round. In November, the plan was approved: the Yawkey and Sagamore units would be open all winter, with Sagamore to be groomed by the MN DNR and Yawkey to be groomed by CLMTBC and area snowshoers.

Brainerd Dispatch article on fat biking  Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout 2013

On Dec. 28, the Brainerd Dispatch featured a front-page photo of CLMTB members Aaron Hautala and John Schaubach riding in Yawkey, along with a brief paragraph explaining the winter riding rules.

So props, kudos, and high-fives all around to CLMTB, the MN DNR, and the CCSRA Advisory Council for making this happen.  I expect to be riding Yawkey and Sagamore next weekend and I’m all signed up for the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout coming up in March.

Here are some recent CLMTB videos of riding fat bikes this winter in Yawkey and Sagamore:




Trail work Trails

2012 MN High School Cycling League season awards party 2012 MN High School Cycling League season awards party 2012 MN High School Cycling League - staff Gary Sjoquist and Steve Flagg
The MN High School Cycling League held their inaugural season awards party yesterday at QBP headquarters in Bloomington.  League director and QBP Director of Advocacy Gary Sjoquist and his talented team put on quite a show. Steve Flagg, founder and president of QBP, was on hand to make sure Gary wasn’t goofing off.

16 teams and 146 student mountain bikers competed during the season (official results here). In the team competition (combined boys and girls):

  1. Burnsville/Lakeville Composite
  2. Roseville Area Composite
  3. Rochester Composite

See the large slideshow of 135 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Organizations Photo album

Gary Sjoquist and Utah delegationI’ve blogged about QBP’s Director of Advocacy Gary Sjoquist a few times because of his involvement in various mountain bike-related activities and projects.

This week, he and his QBP colleagues hosted a group of civic leaders from Utah to share what’s been done in Minneapolis to earn it Bicycling Magazine’s #1 ranking as the best bicycling city in America for 2011 and Walk Score’s #1 ranking of the 10 most bikeable large U.S. cities. The plan:

This two-day trip will examine their recipe mix of new infrastructure, education, and advocacy that won this accolade.  Special attention will be given to how cycling is being integrated into the transit community, and look at the economic impacts of cycling within the MSP area.

Ogden, Utah’s bicycling infrastructure is particularly  important to QBP because they opened their western distribution center, Q-West, there in 2011 (press release) and their Bike Commuting Program for employees is a big deal.

Utah delegation & Nice Ride MN bikesUtah bike delegation at Mpls City HallI joined the delegation on Thursday as they toured Minneapolis on Nice Ride MN bikes, starting out at the Holiday Inn Metrodome.

We biked down to Mpls City Hall and ate lunch while hearing from Shaun Murphy, Minneapolis Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator; Ethan Frawley, Bicycle Coalition of Minneapolis; and Dorian Grilley, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.

Utah bike delegation at Midtown Bike Center Utah bike delegation, downtown Mpls Utah bike delegation on the Stone Arch Bridge Gary Sjoquist & Utah bike delegation at Pracna on Main
We then worked our way over to Freewheel’s Midtown Bike Center on the Midtown Greeway where we heard from Bill Dossett, Executive Director of Nice Ride MN, and Soren Jensen, Executive Director of the Midtown Greenway Coalition.  From there, it was back to downtown Minneapolis during rush hour, and then across the Stone Arch Bridge to St. Anthony Main where we had dinner at Pracna on Main.

See the large slideshow of 72 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Utah delegation members 
City of Ogden: Mayor Mike Caldwell
City of Ogden: Josh Jones
UTA: Matt Sibul
UTA: Darci Taylor
Bike Utah: Scott Lyttle, Executive Director
Bike Utah: Brad Woods, Board President
WFRC: Andrew Gruber, Executive Director
WFRC: Jory Johner
Salt Lake County Planning: Max Johnson
Davis County: Commissioner Louenda Downs
Utah County: Commissioner Larry Ellertson
Eagle Mtn: Mayor Heather Jackson
MAG: Shawn Seager
UDOT: Evelyn Tuddenham
SLC Transportation: Dan Bergenthal

Organizations People Photo album

Trek Bikes currently has four company bloggers (see the Trek Life section of their website) and one of them is A Great Ride by John Burke, Trek president.  He’s a pretty good blogger and tweets at @JBTrek08 regularly, too.

John Burke, president, Trek BikesTwo weeks ago, he put up a video of his presentation at Interbike (I heard about it last week from Gary Sjoquist, Advocacy Director at QBP). John’s blog post is titled  Interbike advocacy address – the good, the bad, and the future. He wrote:

This week I had the honor of addressing the attendees at Interbike. I wanted to talk about the good and the bad news and the “state of the union” about what’s going on in bicycle advocacy. It was an awesome group of people capable of doing great things. Remember, the world is run by those who show up!

It’s an informative and inspiring presentation. I like his BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) of 5% of trips by bike by 2025.

But I think there needs to be a different metric to go along with it that involves mountain biking. Hmmm. Any ideas out there?

In the meantime, watch the video. I’ll add some notes from his presentation when I get a chance.


Update Feb 14, 2012:

I typed up my notes on Burke’s presentation a while ago but lost track of them. Duh. Found ’em today, so here’s the 3-page PDF:

Outline - John Burke presentation at Interbike 2012


Lobby, Country Inn Deerwood Lobby, Country Inn Deerwood Lobby, Country Inn Deerwood
I had a consulting gig in Brainerd last Thursday and my client put me up at the Country Inn in Deerwood, about 4 miles from the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails. Of course I brought my bike, even though my shoulder was still giving me a little trouble. I was hoping for a miraculous Cuyuna Cure. I was a bit stunned when I walked into the lobby of the inn to see a virtual shrine to mountain biking. Evidently the owner, Dan Brown, is a biker and has experienced an economic bump from all the mountain bikers flocking to the area. I didn’t get to meet him but I suspect it’ll be Real Soon Now.

High school mountain bike racing meeting at Cuyuna Gary Sjoquist presenting high school mountain bike racing at Cuyuna Gary Sjoquist, Jenny Smith John Schaubach, Griff Wigley, Steve Weber; photo by Jenny Smith
On Thursday night, I stopped by the Heartwood in Crosby where Minnesota High School Cycling League director Gary Sjoquist was doing his high school MTB racing presentation, as there will be a Cuyuna area team next season. I ran into two of my Cuyuna geezer pals, John Schaubach and Steve Weber, and Cycle Path and Paddle proprietor Jenny Smith snapped the photo of us (above right) doing the smartphone dance.  I arranged to go for an early morning ride on Friday with John.

John Schaubach and Griff Wigley at Cuyuna John Schaubach, Cuyuna overlook Nick Statz and John Schaubach
The day dawned cool, clear, and still.  With the fall colors, it could not have been a more perfect morning. We took Easy Street to Mucker Mountain and then Little Sidewinder over to Hopper Hill where we ran into Dirt Boss Nick Statz doing trail work. The cool thing about riding with John is that he’s a walking history book of the Cuyuna Lakes area, having grown up there.  And as a member of the the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trail Crew, he’s intimately involved in all aspects of the park’s development. So every time we stopped for a break, I got an education.

Scott Christensen and Greg HenningsenJohn stayed on to help Nick and a short time later, I ran into Twin Cities area mountain bikers Greg Henningsen and Scott Christensen who were up for the day. My shoulder was feeling stronger than I expected (thank you, ibuprofen) so I followed them around for hours. By 5 pm, I’d ridden every trail in both the Mahnomen and Yawkey Units (insets B and D on the revised Cuyuna DNR map, now with directional arrows on the trails).

It was one of those it-doesn’t-get-any-better-than-this days that I’m still savoring. Thank you, Cuyuna.

People Trails

I had dinner Wed. night with Gary Sjoquist, QBP’s Advocacy Director.  When the subject turned to bike advocacy and related issues at the federal level, he told me that his friend and colleague Leslie Bohm died of cancer on Monday. Gary and Leslie were both founding members of the Bikes Belong Coalition, a cycling advocacy group.

Gary said he was writing up a remembrance for various industry publications, so I asked him to send it to me for posting here.   Mountain bikers should know how our sport has benefited from Leslie’s legacy.

Leslie BohmI met Leslie for the first time in Washington, DC in 1998.  Several of us industry people were invited to take part in a celebration reception for the passage of TEA-21, the federal transportation bill that had just been signed into law.  It was worth celebrating, because it extended the bicycle funding and programs begun with ISTEA in 1991.

In DC, it was John Burke (CEO of Trek), Mike Greehan (Publisher of Bicycling Magazine), Chris Kegel (owner of Wheel and Sprocket, a Milwaukee-based multi-store retailer), Leslie, (who was building Catalyst Communications into a marketing machine for the bike industry), and myself (a longtime bike advocate, mostly in mountain biking,but new to the industry). 

It was the first time I had met Leslie, and I liked him right away.  He was a really smart guy, and so personable.  You couldn’t help like the guy with his goofy charm and great smile. And as someone who had put thousands of miles on BMWs across the U.S. in the 80s and 90s, once I learned that he had run Eclipse (really high quality tank bag manufacturer), he had my instant respect.

Anyway, the following morning us industry folks got together for breakfast and talked about launching Bikes Belong 2.0.  Not many will remember, but the original Bikes Belong came from an earlier industry/advocacy community effort in1996/97/98. 

In 1996, in Dubois, Wyoming at the Gerry Speiss Trial Lawyers College, a group of bike advocates from across the U.S. met for the first time to discuss national advocacy stratgies.  LAB, RTC, and IMBA were represented, along with BR&IN (the industry journal) and various advocates from around the country.  We met and discussed the national state of bicycle advocacy and what our individual organizations (both national and statewide) needed to succeed.  

After three days of meetings, we basically came to the conclusion that rather than spend a lot of time trying to improve our individual organizations, nothing was more valuable than trying to ensure that federal funding would continue for bike projects in the upcoming federal transportation bill (later called TEA-21). 

We asked representatives from LAB, RTC, and IMBA to form an organization that could help influence TEA-21.  In 1997 and 1998, this meant asking the bike industry to provide $400,000 in funding to form a loose lobbying effort, which was called Bikes Belong.  Leadership was provided mostly by RTC, and an industry perspective was provided by Leslie Bohm.

Leslie was involved with this first Bikes Belong, and so was the “bridge” guy to help establish the “new” Bikes Belong Coalition run by the industry and founded the following year in 1999.  

Another important Leslie accomplishment was the Bikes Belong grants program.  When we launched Bikes Belong, the question was “what can the industry do to ensure that bike facilities actually get built?”  Leslie had the answer – an industry-funded grants program that leveraged federal funding to get more places built for our industry’s products to be used.  He led the development of the grants program, and since he was all about accountability, he developed the matrix used to rate grant applications.  By 2003, the Bikes Belong grants program was leveraging one industry dollar into $550+ of federal funding to build bike trails, bike lanes, mountain bike trails, etc.

But perhaps Leslie’s biggest contribution to Bikes Belong came from his unique ability to “defuse” volatile situations at Bikes Belong board meetings.  With high powered CEOs on the board, personalities and biases were occasionally displayed.  Often during these tense times, it was Leslie who would say just the right thing to defuse the situation with a poignant or downright funny remark. 

Since many of the CEOs on the board depended on his marketing expertise, Leslie was the one person in the room who had gained their respect, and who they didn’t need to match egos with.  He was virtually without ego, but incredibly productive, and a great asset both to Bikes Belong and the bike industry.

Godspeed, Leslie.  You were among the very best and brightest we ever had.