Winter mountain biking in Minnesota: locations, conditions, equipment, group rides, events

 fat bike on a packed trail: excellentregular mountain bike on a trail with little snow: excellentregular mountain bike on a trail with moderate snow, not packed: difficultfat bike on a trail with deep snow, not packed: difficult

I attended Freewheel Bike‘s 2nd annual Winter Bike Expo ("the world headquarters of winter riding fanatics") on Saturday at their Midtown Bike Center.  (I blogged about the event on my Mountain Bike Geezer blog here, including my photo album).  While the event had offerings for bike commuters, the bulk of the action was aimed at mountain biking in winter, using fat bikes especially. QBP’s brands Surly and Salsa each had a big presence at the event, as both offer a number of fat bike models.  (They’re sold locally by Mike’s Bicycle Shop here in Northfield and Milltown Cycles in Faribault.)

I’m doing some consulting work on the 2nd Annual Fat Bike Winter Summit & Festival coming up at the end of January in the West Yellowstone area, so I’m locked in on the trend. And the Expo gave me a picture of how much enthusiasm there is here in Minnesota for fat biking.

I don’t (yet) own a fat bike. Last winter I didn’t need one, since we had so little snow. My hardtail 29’er worked fine just about everywhere I went. But with a solid 8 inches from our weekend snowstorm, things are looking up for a decent winter.  And more and more of Minnesota’s mountain bike parks and other trails allow mountain bikes.

So let’s use the discussion thread attached to this blog post to discuss winter biking locations, conditions, equipment, group rides, and events.

Live downtown and own a car? Mary Witt says move it or lose it on the 4th. The Crit rules!

Mary Witt Criterium parking alert No parking after 5 am 2012 Race Flyer
If you live downtown and need your car tomorrow (4th of July), move it before you go to bed tonight because the barricades for the 13th annual 4th of July Criterium (bicycle races, for the clueless) start going up at 5 am on the 4th. 

One of Mary Witt’s sons, Ben Witt of Milltown Cycles, is the organizer of this event so she was out last night plastering flyers on the doors of all the downtown area residences. The flyer reads in part:

If you live within the course and will need the use of your car during the day of July 4th, you will need to move your car outside of the course prior to the event. Exceptions will not be made and cars will not be permitted under any circumstances during the duration of the day.

Ben Witt can teach you how to do basic bike maintenance

Ben Witt teaching basic bike maintenance  I attended a free basic bike maintenance class at Just Food Co-op last night. Northfielder Ben Witt, proprietor of Milltown Cycles in Faribault, teaches the class once or twice a year. Last night he was assisted by his sweetie, Meg Jensen Witt, Just Food Co-op’s wellness manager.

Ben has class participants do some hands-on learning: changing a flat tire, lubing cables, and how to handle the rear derailleur to make it easy to take the rear wheel off and put it back on. Cool.

See the large slideshow of 17 photos (recommended) or this small slideshow:

Photo album: scenes from a bottom bracket tune-up

I brought my X-Caliber down to Milltown Cycles today so Ben Witt could service the bottom bracket. I took some photos while he worked on it.

See the album of 10 photos (large slideshow, recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Northfielder Ben Oney and the world’s toughest mountain bike race

Ben Witt, hosting the Ride the Divide movie Ben Witt, hosting the Ride the Divide movie Ride the Divide
Last night, Milltown Cycles proprietor Ben Witt hosted a viewing of a feature film titled Ride The Divide at the Viking Theater in St. Olaf’s Buntrock Commons. It’s about "the world’s toughest mountain bike race" called the Tour Divide, an "… ultra-cycling challenge to pedal solo and self-supported the length of Great Divide Mountain Bike Route…as fast as possible." It’s 2,700 miles from Banff, Alberta to the Mexican border.

Ben Oney and his Tour Divide Salsa Fargo, a drop-bar, off-road adventure bike Ben Oney, Tour Divide Q&A 
Earlier this summer, Northfielder Ben Oney finished 13th (80 participants) in the race on a Salsa Fargo, a drop-bar, off-road adventure bike. He hosted a Q&A session after the movie. See his old Tour Divide blog and his new Boney Bikes blog, but better yet, follow Ben Oney on Twitter.

See also:

Ben Witt wants you for the Crit

Ben Witt 2011 crit flyer
Northfielder Ben Witt, proprietor of Milltown Cycles in Faribault, stopped by my corner office at the GBM earlier this week to make sure I would let LoGro readers know about the 11th Annual 4th of July Northfield Criterium on Monday. 

Ben could use some assistance during the event: corner martials and help with set up and take down.  Contact him at 507.331.2636 or at MilltownCycles@Gmail.com.

Annual 4th of July Northfield Criterium Annual 4th of July Northfield Criterium Annual 4th of July Northfield Criterium

Why I didn’t buy my mountain bike from Milltown Cycles

Robbie Wigley with her new Trek 7300 WSD from Milltown Cycles, somewhere on the Sakatah TrailRobbie bought her new hybrid bike (Trek 7300 WSD) at Milltown Cycles a month ago and was pleased with the advice/treatment she got from owner Ben Witt and manager Curtis Ness. The day she purchased the bike, we couldn’t wait for them to assemble it as we were due to meet some friends at the Cow.  No problemo. Curtis delivered it to our table.)

So after I spent a weekend at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival trying out mountain bikes, I spent an hour with Ben at my morning office at the Blue Monday, talking pros and cons of all the possible variations of which mountain bike to buy, given my price range, riding ability, planned use, etc.  His recommendation: a 29er hardtail, the Gary Fisher X Caliber.  I told him to order it and promptly tweeted the news.

A couple hours later, I got an email from Ben (he also uses Google Talk/IM which I found to be very helpful):

I hate to say it, but I can’t get that bike for you.  They are sold out for the year, and they don’t list an estimated time of arrival for the new 2012 models. 

He then recommended that I get the bike from a competitor which did have one in stock in my frame size:

I’m sorry to have that as the only option I can offer.  There are not many bikes that are similar to that to offer as alternatives.  I think you’d be very happy on that bike, and we can easily get the tires, pedals and other accessories here for you.

Ben Witt and Griff Wigley with a Gary Fisher X Caliber at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, MNBen Witt and Griff Wigley with a Gary Fisher X Caliber at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, MNWhaaaa?  Couldn’t he could sell me another bike in that price range with similar features? I wanted to buy a bike from him.

He was adamant. The X Caliber was the bike that was best for me and it made no sense to wail till fall to get one.  He was confident I’d be a long-term customer of Milltown Cycles and that he’d make a fair profit from whatever accessories, parts, and service I’d need.

I got my bike later that day.  And a few days later, he outfitted it with Eggbeaters and tubeless tires. Watch out, Hans Rey.

Bike trail travels: Pizzeria 201 in Montgomery

Robbie got a new bike from Milltown Cycles a few weeks ago and we’ve started exploring Minnesota’s bike trails. LoGro readers can expect an occasional blog post and tweet when we come across something y’all might find interesting. I’ll tag the posts bike trail travels.

Last night after riding a segment of the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail near Sakatah Lake State Park, we took an alternate route on the drive back home to Northfield and ended up in downtown Montgomery.

Pizzeria 201 in Montgomery, MN Big Honza at the Pizzeria 201 in Montgomery, MN outdoor patio at Pizzeria 201 in Montgomery, MN

outdoor patio at Pizzeria 201 in Montgomery, MN Roman Holiday pizza at Pizzeria 201 in Montgomery, MN Diane & Troy Domine, Pizzeria 201 in Montgomery, MN 
Robbie immediately noticed the attractive Pizzeria 201 restaurant with Big Honza Giganticzech adjacent to its outdoor patio.  So we stopped for drinks, a delicious thin crust pizza (Roman Holiday – see their PDF menu), gelato, and got to meet the friendly owners, Diane and Troy Domine, and a few of their five kids.

Many Northfielders pay a visit to Montgomery during Kolacky Days in late July. You now have another reason to go more often.

Former Northfielder John Gaddo and Hans "No way" Rey dazzle the crowd at the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival

Hans Rey, Griff WigleyAs I got ready to dig into my plate of lasagna at Maucieri’s in Crosby last Friday night, in walks Hans “No way” Rey, “considered the world’s leader in extreme mountain biking… a former trials riding world champion, a showman, a stuntman and an adventure mountain biker.”

He was the featured stunt rider for the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival, brought to the event courtesy of GT Bicycles, with financial support from MORC, IMBA, and Bloomington, MN-based QBP (Quality Bicycle Products), one of the largest bicycle parts distributors in the world.

Gary Sjoquist, Hans Rey, John Gaddo, Jeff VerinkHans is a god, even in my world of motorcycle trials, so I was thrilled to be invited to join him and some other mountain bike industry guys for dinner and beers. In the photo, L to R: Gary Sjoquist, Advocacy Director for QBP; Hans Rey; John Gaddo, Inside Sales rep at QBP; and Jeff Verink, sales rep with GT Bicycles and the talented master of ceremonies for the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival.

While chatting with John Gaddo, I learned that he grew up in Northfield.  Many locals might know his dad, long-time general manager at the former WCAL-FM. John mentioned that he was also a trials bicycle rider but I had no idea the level of his skills until he teamed up with Hans for the bicycle trials exhibition on Saturday night.

See my album of a dozen photos of the John Gaddo bike trials exhibition, view the large slideshow (recommended), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

See my album of 28 photos of the Hans Rey bike trials exhibition, (and photos of Hans signing posters and speaking about his Wheels 4 Life non-profit), view the large slideshow (recommended), or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:I think Northfield should feature a bicycle trials exhibition by John Gaddo, right on Bridge Square, during the Milltown Cycles 4th of July criterium. How about it, Ben Witt?

Need a bike? Support the area’s three local bike dealers. Have a bike to sell? Post your ad here.

 Griff Wigley and Clark Webster Bike to Work Day at the Goodbye Blue Monday, 2011 Bike to Work Day at the Goodbye Blue Monday, 2011 
Since it was A) a warm morning (60F) and B) it’s Bike to Work Day, I rode my wife’s Giant Revive DX to my office at the GBM today. More than a few bikers joined me.

FIT to be TRI'd Mike's Bicycle Shop Milltown Cycles

We’re fortunate to have three bike shops in the area:

  • FIT to be TRI’d in downtown Northfield carries Focus and Marin bicycles
  • Mike’s Bicycle Shop in downtown Northfield carries Rawland, Trek, Surley, and Salsa
  • Milltown Cycles in downtown Faribault carries Trek, Gary Fisher, Rawland, Salsa, Surley, Steve Potts, and Redline

Northfielders in the 300 block of Central Ave. in downtown Faribault

John Metzke and Maggie O'Dell the Cheese Cave in downtown Faribault the Cheese Cave in downtown Faribault
Every time Robbie and I pay a visit to the Cheese Cave in downtown Faribault, we run into Northfielders. Last Saturday, it was John Metzke and Maggie O’Dell, shopping the retail section of the store and having wine with dinner, just like us.

Ryan Heinritz, Executive Director of the Paradise Center for the Arts Paradise Center for the Arts Paradise Center for the Arts
Stepping outside, there was Northfielder Ryan Heinritz, Executive Director of the Paradise Center for the Arts, (follow them on their blog, on Facebook and Twitter) welcoming patrons for the evening’s comedy show. Tomorrow, Saturday May 7th, is their Second Annual, Big Hats and Big Hearts Annual Auction for the Arts and Kentucky Derby Party.

Milltown Cycles, Faribault Ben Witt
Then we made our way a few doors from the Paradise to Milltown Cycles, owned by Northfielder Ben Witt, where we dropped off our daughter’s recumbent bicycle (a tricked out Rans Rocket) for a tune-up.

A nice morning for a fat bike commute to Faribault

Ben Witt and Curtis Ness Curtis Ness and Ben Witt Curtis Ness and Ben Witt fat bike tire
Ben Witt and Curtis Ness departed GBM this morning, heading to work at Milltown Cycles in Faribault on their fat bikes. It was a balmy 10 degrees at the time. 

See Ben’s blog post from yesterday – Custom Bicycle Build: Fillet Brazed Fat Bike. You can also follow Milltown Cycles on Facebook.

Whither the internal combustion engine?

Eric Johnson, Ben Witt

Eric Johnson and Ben Witt were showing very little concern for the nation’s fossil fuel-based economy on Thursday morning outside GBM.

Ben has the complete story on a Milltown Cycles blog post titled Big Dummy Canoeing.

Volunteers needed for the 10th annual 4th of July Northfield Criterium

Ben Witt 4th of July Criterium 4th of July Criterium

Ben Witt, Northfielder, blogger, and owner of Milltown Cycles in Faribault, is once again hosting the annual 4th of July Northfield Criterium in downtown Northfield on Saturday. Races start at 9 am and continue throughout the day… which brings a lot of people to downtown Northfield to participate and support/cheer the racers. And Ben could use a little help. From his blog:

At Northfield, the biggest challenge has always been find people willing to be corner marshals. The race has 8 corners, all of which need to be staffed all day with competent people from 9am to 6 pm. This is a big role to fill. If you’re coming down to watch, please consider volunteering. We really need your help to continue to make this race a success.

This is a race that is put on for the community at large, Jake and I don’t make any money and spend a lot of our time to put it on. Please consider helping out if you can, even if it’s for an hour or two. We also need help at the registration booth. This is a crucial point for getting the race running smoothly, and we really could use some good people to help us out.

Contact Ben at 507-331-2636 or benwitt11@hotmail.com

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