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Ishpeming Fat Bike Trails Ride Report

I was spending the week between Christmas and the New Year in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. The main objective of the week was to spend time on the Keweenaw’s spectacular XC ski trails, most notably the Swedetown Trails in Calumet and the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton. They are awesome ski trails and I’ll write up a seperate ski report about those trails, but I had burnt out my ski legs by the end of the week… So, I jumped in my truck and headed toward Marquette County my last day in the Keweenaw to wander around the Ishpeming Fat Bike Trails, where the 906 Polar Roll would be held in February. I thought it was a great opportunity to do a little recon, since I was within a couple hour drive.

Overview Of My Ishpeming Fat Bike Trails Ride

ishpeming fat bike trails

I do not know this area well, but I do know that we rode through here during the Marji Gesick 100 and then also passed through some of the area during the Ore To Shore mountain bike races. I saw that RAMBA had posted on Facebook about parking at the top of Hill Street, so that’s where I started. I eventually made it over to the SBT loop as well. My intention was to get a couple hours of riding in and then head back to the Keweenaw, but I ended up spending over 4 hours on the fat bike and covered around 24 miles. It was a slower paced day while I explored some new trails and had to get my phone map out a couple times to figure out which way to go…

Ishpeming Hill Street Fat Bike Trails

ishpeming fat bike trails

My hydration pack had a leak in it, so I ended up just tucking 1 water bottle in my back jersey pocket, which is my middle layer. Again, my intention was to only ride for a couple hours and I figured I would be thirsty when I finished, but the one water bottle would get me through. It was actually a CarboRocket mix in the water bottle, so I did have some fuel. I should have swung by a shop and picked up a second bottle.

Anyways, I headed up the groomed trail under the pipe gate and started my exploration. The trail started with a gradual climb and continued working its way up hill. I was still running a 2 X 10 set up, but had broken my small ring up front on a short ride a few days earlier in the Keweenaw and was stuck with a 36 tooth front ring and an 11 – 36 cassette in the back. That being said, the climbing was manageable but did force me into some low cadences.

The trail continued uphill for .7 miles and my first thoughts were that Polar Roll was going to be pretty awesome if we headed up Hill Street and hit these trails. I didn’t know if that was the plan, but a role out from Ishpeming, up Jasper, Hill Street and then into these trails would sure thin out the crowd and make for some good hard racing. Lets face it… racing is much more exciting when climbing is involved.

ishpeming fat bike trails

I hit some downhill sections, but the trail really never flattened out completely and was usually headed up or down. I hit one hill that I had to bail. There were foot marks from other folks bailing and I think that even if I had my small ring, I would have had to bail and walk as it was really steep and traction would probably be a problem, regardless of gear selection. Back on the bike… There was one spot that the trail went over an unfrozen creek, but it was solid to ride through and there really wasn’t much water flow. It was some great fat biking.

Around 3 and a half miles, I came out to a rail trail or unmaintained road. I could see fat bike tire tracks going up and into the woods to the left, but I could also see where the snowmobile groomer went up to the right. I thought I saw the post on the RAMBA Facebook page to keep hanging right hand turns. I believe Hill Street trails are new, so they hadn’t been marked yet. Anyways, I headed up to the right and I do mean up as the trail went up hill. This is the loop with the “4” and the “6” in it in the map above. Those are mile marks of my ride.

There had been a little bit of traffic from snow shoers or walkers that made the trail bumpy, but it was manageable. Eventually, the walking traffic had stopped and it was just me with a few inches of crunchy fresh snow on top of what was probably the first pass with a snowmobile groomer or in hind site may have just been the first snowmobile scouting of trail. At the end of the day, I didn’t actually know if this other loop that I was on, was actually part of the fat bike trail… If not, it should be!

It was ridable, other than a few spots that I ran out of gears at the top of a climb. It ended up being an additional 3 mile loop, by the time I popped back out on that unmaintained road right near the intersection that I had entered the loop. It also worked me over good. I would say it is all ridable once groomed and packed a few more times and with a better gear ratio than my 36 X 36.

As a side note, I have a 28 tooth direct mount on the way and am just gonna run a 1 X 10 set up with a 28 up front and 11 – 36 10 sp in the back. I think this will be sufficient for fat bike needs. The 28 tooth direct mount was really cheap and I don’t feel like spending the money for new shifters, derailer and cassette for just 1 more gear in the back. Rarely do I need to maintain anything over 20 mph and I think traction becomes a problem in the snow with anything that requires more gear ratio than a 28 X 36 anyways. I am sure there are some that disagree and I will let you know if I regret it.

Hill Street To Negaunee

ishpeming fat bike trails

As I mentioned, I popped back out on the unmaintained road near where I entered this loop and decided to head up that trail that I originally saw going up the road and to the left. It looked like I was back on some more used trail section as it wrapped around the lake. It was great riding, but I was worried I would eventually dump back out on Hill Street and I was wanting to make my way over to the SBT loop. I had an assumption in my head that I would run into a trail to cross cut over and connect to the SBT Loop. Again, I am not familiar with these trails, but I was making some assumption that this would probably be part of the Polar Roll and they would have to connect us somehow.

ishpeming fat bike trails

Anyways, I came to a fork in the trail and I took a right. There was a fresh snowmobile track on it that I followed and continued wrapping around the other side of the lake. Ironically, I popped out on a road that turned out to be the end of the maintained part, not very far from the unmainted part of the road that I had come out to twice before. I decided to just wander north on the road and eventually popped out on County Rd 28B. I pulled up Google Maps on my phone and realized I wasn’t too far from Negaunee and decided to ride the shoulder up to Negaunee and catch the SBT Trail Loop there.

Ishpeming SBT Loop Fat Bike Trails

ishpeming fat bike trails

I found the SBT trail loop and quickly found myself at the staircase that we had to ride up during the Marji Gesick 100 in September… I didn’t figure I would make it in the snow, but I did! Anyways, the trail riding was really good. There were a few offshoots into less maintained trail, but I stayed on the nicely groomed stuff. It was hilly, but all ridable and the hills were not too long. They definitely made you work, but didn’t hammer you.

ishpeming fat bike trails

I eventually came out on some flatter straight section of trail and came up on a couple other guys stopping at an intersection. I asked them which way to go as I figured I would continue around the whole loop back through Negaunee and then just reride the section from Negaunee to Ishpeming and make my way back up to Hill Street vs back tracking from Negaunee.

The guys continued heading up the flatter trail, while I headed into the inner trail section. They yelled out to me about meeting up at Cognition when I made it to Ishpeming. I believe one of them had mentioned that it was their first fat bike ride also. Anyways, I didn’t go to Cognition as I mentioned I was going to continue riding. Plus, I had to get back to the Keweenaw after my ride for New Year’s Eve with the family.

ishpeming fat bike trails

I did hit one climb in this section that I had to bail near the top. The other guys I had run into had warned me of it. It was a little icey, but I think I would have cleared it with a little more gear ratio. I was also getting a little tired and wishing I had a second bottle with me at this point.

Anyways, I came out on the north side of Ishpeming on Malton Road and then back into the trails again. This is where things became familiar again from the 906 Polar Roll last year. After looking back at my GPS file, I realized that quite a bit of the SBT Loop that I rode on this trip, was infact already part of the 906 Polar Roll from last year.

I came across another climb along a fence line that challenged my fatigue with my 36 X 36 rings, but I made it. I came out on some more open 2 track type trail and wasn’t sure if I was still on the SBT Loop and turned around and went back to the last sign. I was on the right path and kept going. Just before Negaunee, I dropped down a big flight of stairs that was pretty cool. There was, what looked like a wedding party there taking pictures and they shouted out at me with a few cheers as I dropped down the stair case. That was fun!

I was back where I started in Negaunee now and started making my way back to Ishpeming. I was really tired now. I probably should have stopped and found a place to refill in Negaunee. Regardless, I kept riding and then came up on a partridge that came across the trail right in front of me, landing on a log near the trail. It wasn’t bothered by me at all. I stopped and watched it for a few minutes.

I eventually came back to that intersection where I had met up with the guys on the first lap. I decided to go straight this time, thinking it might be a faster way back to Ishpeming. I came across one more intersection, but continued going straight again… The trail became a little rough and I eventually dumped out on the road, but it appeared that my only option was to ride up some snowmobile path or the road, so I turned around and headed back to the previous intersection.

ishpeming fat bike trails

This trail had some walking traffic on it and was a little rough, but I eventually dumped out on some good trail again and found the sign that pointed toward the Cognition Trailhead and I followed that direction. The trail was groomed great and soon I was out on a side street in Ishpeming. The signs pointed toward the snowmobile trail to head back into town, but I stayed on the side streets.

SBT Loop Back to Hill Street – Marji Gesick Flashbacks

ishpeming fat bike trails

I pulled up Google Maps on my phone to see where I was and then headed south. I would hit 28 and then find Jasper. I started climbing Jasper to Hill Street and then saw what was the trail entrance to the climb up to the top of Jasper and the final checkpoint of the Marji Gesick 100… I was very worn out at this point of my fat bike ride, since I only took 1 bottle of water and had been out for 4 hours.

I was thinking here we go again… Marji Gesick is haunting me. I still had to make it up Hill Street to my truck and layed into my pedals as my mental way of already preparing for the 2017 Marji Gesick and overcoming my fatigue with mental strength to make it to the finish line. I made it to the top of Hill Street! Probably no big deal to anyone reading this and it might be one of those “had to be there moments”, but it was a little win for me to finish off the ride for the day.

Looking Forward To The 906 Polar Roll

The Polar Roll course hasn’t been released yet, but since we start and finish all in Ishpeming, I have to assume much of what I rode will be part of the race. If so, it’s going to be a really sweet race! I just don’t know how it is all connects… I guess I will find out on race day.

Bottom line… Big props to RAMBA and Ishpeming for laying out some nice groomed singletrack for fat bike riding. I am looking forward to coming back for the Polar Roll. I didn’t have time to stop at Cognition Brewery, but I did pick up a Pasty from Lawry’s Pasty shop to eat on my drive back to the Keweenaw that hit the spot. Look for my Polar Roll Race Report later in February.

Reference Links

906 Polar Roll Registration

RAMBA (Range Area Mountain Bike Association)

906 Adventure Team

Lawry’s Pasty Shop

Cognition Brewery

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Biking Door County

bike door county

I had never been to Door County and although I love trail riding… I was looking forward to biking Door County on my road bike, wandering around the shorelines and checking out the sites. Plus, I was headed to the Keweenaw Peninsula next and my ribs were just about healed up and I wanted to save them for the  trails in the Keweenaw.

Prelude Ride and Wasted Beer

biking door county

I took off for a short ride on the evening that we arrived in Door County to check out the surroundings and also see if I could find a connector trail into the state park that was next door and the town of Sturgeon Bay. I ended up doing a nice loop around the state park and then found the short connector trail to the lake front drive that lead into town. I did a nice little ride around the town that took me by some parks and some of the ship building companies.

I also came across a gas station with a sign that said “Beer Cave”! One of my little things that I enjoy doing, is trying beer from small local breweries whenever we travel to a new place. I used to brew beer myself and still have my equipment, but it has been awhile since I have put together my own batch. Anyways, I decided to stop in and find a 6 pack of something local. Not really sure how I was going to haul it back to camp on my bike, but some things you just figure out as you go…

Well, it was really humid, I took a wrong turn and ended up getting lost in a subdivision. The condensation was starting to build up on the bottles as I was wandering around in the humidity, trying to find my way back to the campground. I was also getting some funny looks as I was in full roadie cycling gear and carrying a six pack. I finally found my way back to the lake front drive and just as I approached the connector trail… pop, boom, pop… the bottles had built up enough condensation to soak the cardboard case and they started dropping out of the bottom and crashing all over the road.

So there I was standing at the end of this road in my roadie gear, trying to figure out what I was going to do with all this broken glass. I don’t like leaving a mess for somebody else… Anyways, 3 of the bottles actually survived after hitting the pavement and I stuffed them in my jersey pockets. I picked up all the broken glass and was able to fold up the remains of the cardboard case just enough to hold all the broken glass and ride the remaining mile back to camp. The beer, by the way was Door County Style IPA from Door County Brewing Co. I am not great at describing beers, but it was decent and I would buy it again.

biking door county

Biking Door County – The Big Ride

Sturgeon Bay To Egg Harbor On Lakeshore Drive

biking door county

I headed into Sturgeon Bay, across the river and started making my way out of town up the west side of Door County Peninsula on Lakeshore Drive. I expected to see more shoreline, but most of the shoreline was covered in private property and homes. Regardless, it was a really nice road for cycling. Although not a huge shoulder, there was a couple feet and very little traffic during my mid morning weekday ride. There was a county park that I was able to pull into and see the lake before arriving in Egg Harbor. Turns out that the county park was the pit area for the Door County Tri. I could see the paint markings on the asphalt for the pit areas.

The ride from Sturgeon Bay to Egg Harbor was very flat. I don’t think there was a any noticeable elevation change at all. I rode straight thru the town of Egg Harbor without stopping. It seemed like a nice little touristy town with restuarants, ice cream shops and pubs and looked like it could be a fun place to stop and hang out for an afternoon.

Fish Creek

biking door county

There was a small climb out of Sturgeon Bay and then  the ride was mostly flat and downhill to Fish Creek. Fish Creek was another little touristy harbor town but appeared to be a little more busy. I got a little curious and wandered down to the boat docks to find a small public lake view access. I really like the atmosphere around boat harbors. I spent most of my summers hanging around boats & harbors as a kid. I have never gotten into boating myself though. The price of maintaining a decent size boat will afford you a whole lot of other things in life…

Peninsula State Park

biking door county

The entrance to Peninsula State Park is right there in Fish Creek, so I headed in to wander around the state park roads. The road wasn’t perfectly smooth, but it was some nice riding and I found a few little lookout spots and a lighthouse to help make this more of a site seeing tour of Door County, rather than just a bike ride. I was still missing and hoping for some riding along open shoreline, but I was enjoying the ride regardless. I ended up riding 12 miles of roads within Peninsula State Park and I think there were a couple other roads that I still missed, but it was time to move on as I was just over 40 miles into my ride by now. I found a water spout to top off my hydration pack and headed out of the park and up the road toward Ephraim.

Ephraim To The Other Side of Door County Penninsula

I was starting to think I should either head back the other way or I could find my way to the east side of Door County Peninsula and follow that shoreline back to Sturgeon Bay. As I rode into Ephraim, I saw a rustic road sign on a road that headed up the hill. I turned around and decided to head up to see where it would take me. I stopped and looked at the gps on my phone at the top as I found myself in the middle of farmland, but this road would take me across the peninsula, so I proceeded on across.

Cana Island Lighthouse

biking door county

I found a little shoreline drive and then came across a lighthouse sign and decided to follow it. It ended up being an additional 5 mile round trip out and back, but I came across Cana Island Lighthouse. Apparently you can pay for a tour and a wagon ride out to the island. I believe at one time the island was actually a peninsula, but the land and road going out to it appeared to be sunken or washed out. I saw people walking across the old sunken road and the tour tractor was pulling the wagon across also. I think I had only eaten 1 energy bar at this point and decided I should eat something more and dug into my sport beans. I probably should have packed real food for a easier paced tour like this, but I was also trying to test out some of my various energy food products. Sometimes I think it is a good idea to start yourself into a bit of a hole and see what will bring you out of it the best.

Bailey’s Harbor and Jacksonport

Speaking of food, I was starting to think about those ice cream shops that I passed by in Egg Harbor and Fish Creek and was feeling like ice cream might be a great idea. I saw what might have been a shop as I was pedaling through Bailey’s Harbor, but never stopped and didn’t feel like turning around after I found myself at the other end of town. I was also running a little behind schedule from when I told my wife I would be back to the campground. I did stop real quick at a little pier on the south end of town to call and check in with my wife and check out the lake though. As I mentioned before, I was expecting to see more of the lake during my shoreline rides and these little stops were about the only times I could see the lake.

biking door county

I got back on the road and was headed south toward Jacksonport. Now I couldn’t get the ice cream out of my head. I should have stopped… Jacksonport was a no go for ice cream. There wasn’t much in Jacksonport really. Actually, the towns on the west side of Door Peninsula seemed to be where more of the tourist action was at and the east side of the peninsula was a little calmer.

Whitefish Dunes State Park

I turned down Cave Point Drive to get off the main road and headed into Whitefish Dunes State Park. I had 2 options once inside the park. I could back out of the park and cut inland to ride around the park and reconnect to the shoreline drive at the south end of the park, or I could do a little off roading on my road bike. I chose the later, hoping my road tires would hold up to the multi use trail. I normally wouldn’t be too worried, but my rear tire was pretty worn and I had a 22mm tire on the front. Not a fan of the 22mm tire. It is a racing tire, but I think I got a good deal on a tire set a couple years ago and this was the front one. I hadn’t used it much and was trying to wear it out. Surprisingly it actually made the mile and a half of gravel and sand. It is hard to escape the fact that a gravel bike makes so much more sense for me than a road bike. My road bike is 10 years old though, so it really isn’t worth trying to sell. At any rate, I popped out on the shoreline road at the south end of the park and was almost 80 miles into my ride at this point.

Glidden Drive

This was a fun road to ride down. It was a little bumpy, but it was just twisty enough to make it a lot of fun on a road bike at 18 to 20 mph. Again, not much of a view of the shoreline though.

Back Toward Sturgeon Bay

Now I was headed back to the west and across the peninsula to find Sturgeon Bay again. I had a pretty big head wind in the wide open farm land and was wearing down a bit. I should have filled my water up in Whitefish Dunes State Park, because I was emtpy and thirsty. Food doesn’t really help when you are out of water either. In my experience, it just sucks you even more dry. That being said, I came across a hill that I was still able to hammer up at a pretty good pace, even after riding 80+ miles.

Ice Cream Stop

biking door county

Ah ha… A gas station. I didn’t realize how close to town I actually was, but I pulled into the first gas station that I saw. I grabbed a couple bottles of water and an ice cream sandwhich. The water went down fast and so did the ice cream. I dumped the remaining water in my hydration pack and got back on the road to find that I was back in Sturgeon Bay and just a few miles back to camp. I ended up with a nice 94 mile road ride on the day and 114 miles total in Door County between the 2 rides.

Biking Door County Summary

I enjoyed the ride, but was really hoping to see more lakeshore. Regardless, Door County was still a great place to get out and do some touring around on a bike. As far as my fitness… I felt good, but the humidity and heat really sucked the water out of me and it took me a couple days to rehydrate. It probably was a good thing that only 3 of those beers survived… My muscles felt good and it was nice to get back out on the bike and just wander around again. I didn’t ride too hard, but didn’t take it easy either. I rode most of the ride at an Endurance or Tempo pace and then kicked it up on the few hills that I came across to work the legs over a bit in between all the tempo riding.

I did take the next couple days off completely from the bike. I am a bit mixed on whether or not active recovery works for me. It might have been a good idea to do a short 30 minute easy spin the next day, but I couldn’t really fit it in anyways. Rides like this is what my Endurance Path is really all about. I really enjoy the racing and challenges, but the end game is having the ability to be able to go out and do stuff like this whenever and wherever I want without having to train for it or take 2 weeks to recover.

Stay tuned for my next post as I headed to the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan next to do a few days of trail riding.

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Cuyuna Lakes Ride And Trip Report

Cuyuna Lakes

I have been in desperate need of some training and actual singletrack riding. I felt like I was sick for the entire month of April and had been on and off the bike this entire spring, going more than a week at times without doing any riding. I was happy to have finished True Grit, but really wasn’t too excited about my overall performance and results. Additionally, I was not really feeling like I was any faster than last year. I was feeling stronger on climbs, but not really faster or in better shape overall.

I also had been working a lot the past few weeks on various projects and just needed to shut down and spin the pedals on some single track for the purpose of training and to clear my head and figure out what to focus on next. There is something about the trail that slows down the squirrel cage in my head and helps me focus. The problem is, I get really bored riding the same loop over and over again and become complacent and uninterested, which doesn’t help slow down the squirrel cage.

You can get really good at riding that specific singletrack, but I need to get better at riding any singletrack and learn how to react and flow thru stuff that is new to me. New trail also helps my brain shut down long enough to clear my thoughts and focus. Riding new single track for me is like meditation. I go fast enough that I have to focus on the trail and the trail only and after awhile, my head is completely cleared and I can think clearly and objectively. It takes a lot for my mind to shut down and stop spinning. I had multiple reasons to plan a little ride getaway.

Planning

My birthday was also coming up. My wife asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told her, “nothing”. I just wanted to get out and ride my bike on some singletrack and was thinking about heading up to Cuyuna, since I could ride for 3 hours at a time and barely repeat any trail. Cuyuna is a little over 2 hours away and pretty much becomes a full day trip with the drive up and a good 3 to 4 hours of riding. My nearest local trail is a 35 minute drive, and although great trails…. I complete a whole loop in 40 to 45 minutes and then it is just repeat loops of the same trail.

So there I was… planning my overnight trip to Cuyuna. Not much planning really. I figured I could drive up, ride all afternoon and evening, stay overnight in a tent, ride again in the morning and then drive back home. Pretty easy way to get some mileage in and ride some trails that I am not completely familiar with. It would be my own little mini training camp. I could still get some work done in the evening around camp with my laptop and keep up with some of the projects that I am in the middle of.

The Cuyuna Trip

Cuyuna

Cuyuna – Day 1

Wednesday morning I woke up, got the kids off to school, did  a little bit of work, had some coffee with my wife, packed up my car and headed toward Cuyuna. I was pumped and it felt good to head out. I had been working pretty hard the last few weeks and hadn’t taken much of a break. It was a bit weird to head out with some camping gear, minus the family though. However, I was looking forward to some solo time on the trails, to ride my own ride and have some deep thought time on my own. I think we all need that on occasion. It does the mind some good.

I arrived in Cuyuna and my first stop was True North Basecamp. I had camped at the Portsmouth campground within the Cuyuna Rec Area before, but had been wanting to check out True North. I didn’t see anybody around, other than some painters working on the outhouses, and I wasn’t sure how to check into a campsite. I wanted to get on the trails and ended up heading over to Portsmouth, which is right off the Cuyuna trail system anyways and really convenient. Not to mention, it’s only $15 for a non-electric site at Portsmouth and that is all I needed.

I picked out a campsite, set up my tent and headed out on the trails. My intention was to ride for a couple of hours, take a couple hour break to recover and then do another short evening ride before settling down for the night. I headed down to the west end of the trail system, which is where Miner’s Mountain, Sand Hog Hill, Sidewinder and Mucker Mountain is located. These are some really fun trails and you can get a little bit of climbing in to work over the legs. The trails were fantastic and I think I only ran into one other person. I didn’t ride super extreme, but I didn’t take it easy either.

I was able to ride for a couple of hours and barely repeated any of the same trail. I still don’t know my way around Cuyuna very well, but am getting a little better at piecing together a continuous ride without having to stop and look at the maps. There is another thing I dislike. I hate riding trails that are difficult to ride a continuously without stopping. This is why I like the long endurance point to point races. No repeated sections and you just ride. At any rate, I’ve been to Cuyuna a handful of times now and kind of have it figured out.

Cuyuna

I headed back to camp to rest for a couple hours before heading out on my evening ride. I passed by the lake as I exited the trail up to the campsite and thought to myself, “I know it is going to be crazy cold, but I bet it will feel amazing”.  I couldn’t resist and dropped my hydration pack, helmet, gloves and glasses off at my campsite and headed back down to the lake. I walked in enough to cover my quads and it was an ice bath. Remember, this is Minnesota and early May. I believe last winter or the winter prior, we still had ice floating in the lakes at this time.

I decided I couldn’t walk in this far without taking a cold dunk and I dove under. Holy shit, was it cold! But, it was amazing and felt like I just did a total body reset. I got out of water rather quickly after that and rode back up to my campsite to dry out. There was enough sun to dry me out and stay warm for a little bit. The cold water dunk was great, but I felt like it sucked a little energy out of me. Regardless, I would do it again in a heart beat.

Cuyuna

I grabbed some lunch, laid down for 20 minutes and then did some work on my laptop while rehydrating and resting before my next ride. I had precooked some chicken that I could roll up in a tortilla and didn’t worry about packing a stove or anything. I kept things pretty simple. I also, packed my own water, which turned out to be a good idea, since the water was still shut off in the campground.

I eventually headed toward the east trails for my evening ride, figuring I could do a couple laps around the trails in the Bob Sled trail area. I headed east on the trail from Portsmouth and then noticed a wrong way sign on one of the posts near the Man High Hill area. I don’t know the trails very well here yet, but swore that this was the way to the other end. I circled up Man High Hill to end up back at the same spot. I didn’t know any other way to get down there, so I went ahead up the trail thinking maybe the sign was out of place from some early spring trail work or something.

Low and behold, I eventually ran into a group of riders coming the other direction and the women at the front of the group let me know I was going the wrong way. I still didn’t know how to get to the other end and asked for directions. She seemed more interested in letting me know that I was wrong and going the wrong way than helping me out…

Luckily, the guy behind her was helpful and explained where the new trail was that went down to the other end. I guess there was a sign on the other side of Portmouth Campground, that said this was a dead end trail and pointed you toward the new trail that would take you around to the other end. I obviously missed it, as I would never have seen it coming directly from Portsmouth Campground and didn’t see it earlier in the day when I came back to Portsmouth from the other end. This was actually good news though, because the 2 way traffic on these trails was a bit dangerous. Regardless, I was fairly close to the other end of this new 1 way section and just finished riding the last part to connect up with the other trails.

I enjoyed the trails at the other end. Bob Sled is a lot of fun and I only wish it was longer. There is just not enough elevation for it. That is what is so great about Marquette and Copper Harbor up in Michigan; you get trails like Bob Sled that are 4 to 5 times the distance. There are a few short loops down in this trail area that make you do a small climb at the start, so this was a good little workout for the evening before heading back.

I was fairly tired and opted to take the rail trail back around to the south side of Portsmouth to see if I could find this other connector trail, so I would know where it was for my morning ride. I found it and recognized it from the Cuyuna Whiteout Fat Bike Race. We just rode it from the wrong direction in the fat bike race, but the trail connections all made sense and I headed back to camp for the evening.

Cuyuna

It was great, not having to pack up quickly and drive home. I started a fire, grabbed some food, got my laptop out and put my feet up. Seems crazy to get my laptop out while sitting next to a campfire, but the fact that I could be productive while sitting around camp was pretty amazing. I guess it is all a matter of perspective.

Cuyuna – Day 2

I woke up in the morning to what felt like rain inside my tent. It was completely dry outside, but my tent is a really cheap 1 man tent. When I say really cheap, I mean it was like $19 or $29 dollars. I can’t remember which, but it doesn’t breathe worth a darn. There is nothing better than stepping outside first thing in the morning to the singing of birds and the sun coming up. I was missing something, though. I needed a cup of coffee, so I jumped in the car and headed for the Holiday gas station in town to grab a cup of coffee before I set out for my morning ride. I need to get a portable camp coffee maker. If you have a suggestion on one, let me know.

I wanted to get a good ride in this morning, but I needed to be on the road by noon or 12:30 at the latest to get home before my kids got off the bus from school. I was on the trails a little after 8:00 am and headed down toward the west end. I basically repeated the same areas from the day before. I just wanted to get some climbing in and work on my single track bike handling skills. I hadn’t slept the greatest and was still a little fatigued from riding the previous day, but I was still having a good ride.

Cuyuna

I rode the Miner’s Mountain trail area for a couple hours and then stopped at the main trail parking area to refuel before heading down to the Bob Sled trail area. I had been trying these tortilla roll ups with sunflower seed butter and jam, but they just hadn’t been working out very well. They are a little cumbersome to eat on the trail and they didn’t seem to settle well in my stomach. I use sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter because my son is allergic to peanuts and it’s easier for us to just keep all peanut products out of the house.

I really enjoyed the new one way single track sections that take you down to the other end. Even though they are really easy to ride and you flow through them… it was great practice on flowing the bike through a corner and testing the traction limits while not losing momentum. There is something to be gained out of easy flowy trails after all. By the time I made it down to the Bob Sled area, I was pretty tired and just did one lap around Bob Sled and then headed back to my campsite at Portsmouth.

The ice cold lake caught my eye again and I couldn’t help but take another dive in before heading home. That was soooo cold, but damn, it felt great. I’ve done some ice baths at home after hard sessions on the trainer and I feel like it helps with the fatigue or at least cut down some of the inflammation in the muscles after a hard work out. At any rate, it doesn’t really matter what it does. I just know it feels great and refreshing and my jump in the lake was a great way to end my short trip to Cuyuna.

Cuyuna Ride Summary And Training Thoughts

I was on my way home from Cuyuna Lakes after getting 60 mile of single track riding in over the previous 24 hours. I actually did not feel overly fatigued either. Although not a full 3 day training camp; there has to be something said about getting some mileage in over the 24 hour period without burning myself out in the process. If I would have done the 60 miles in 1 shot, I am pretty sure I would have been burned out and maybe not have gotten as much out of it. After a days rest, I feel like I came out of that trip stronger and faster in single track. I would do it again. In fact, I was going to make the exact same trip this week, but I couldn’t work it out.

I have the Mohican 100 race coming up in a few weeks and I was a bit nervous that I wasn’t ready for it at all. Now I feel ok about it. I noticed that I had set a bunch of PRs on Strava without paying attention to what or where I was riding. I felt really good about that, although I did some aggresive riding, I kept the effort (by heart rate) below threshold compared to the last time I rode at Cuyuna in October on an all out hammerfest with a buddy.

I am far from being able to put on a stellar performance at Mohican, but feel like I got some confidence back in my riding after this trip. A little bit of confidence can go a long way sometimes. I will probably focus on trail riding a lot more this year. I did a lot of road riding last year and last fall and although it was good for some muscular endurance that I desperately needed, I think I got a lot more out of the trail riding. I also think that the single track fat bike riding over the winter was a huge help to my single track skills.

I’ll probably write up something else again prior to the Mohican 100 to share how the rest of my spring riding and training goes. I am looking forward to the race a little more now and looking forward to getting out on the trails a bit more this spring. At this point, I have about 2 weeks of hard riding that I can fit in before settling down before the race. Which really means, I probably can fit in less than a handful of good training rides between the normal ebbs and flows of life… I’ll keep you posted…

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2016 Mammoth Gravel Classic Ride Report And Pictures

Mammoth Gravel Classic

The Mammoth Gravel Classic was my first organized gravel ride. I have been looking at gravel bikes a bit, but I am yet to take the big dive and purchase one, so I rode my full suspension 29er. This wasn’t a race and I could use more time on my 29er anyways, as I will be spending plenty of time on it in some endurance mountain bike races this summer.

I had been debating whether or not I would do the full 100 miles, because I want to do a training block prior to the Mohican 100 and riding the full 100 miles in the Mammoth Gravel Classic, would definitely mess up getting a good training block in soon. That being said, I felt like riding the 100 miles, so that is what I did. I can be a bit of a live for the moment guy when it comes to riding.

I headed over to St. Croix Falls, WI a little after 6:00 am to arrive at Cyclova XC, just as they were opening the doors at 7:00am. There is a really great group of people in the Cyclova XC and Woolly Bike Club community and I was looking forward to hanging out with them for the day. Frank Lundeen greeted me as I was coming in the door of Cyclova to pick up my Gandy Dancer Trail Pass. Other people were starting to gather and it was nice to see some familiar faces.

I chatted a bit with a few folks and then headed out to get my bike and gear ready. I planned to enjoy the day of riding. It was a fun ride and not a race, even though I was sure the pace would probably get pushed to a race pace in the front. I even packed a big bag of bacon that I had cooked up the night before, just to munch on along the way. Like I said, I fully intended to enjoy the ride.

The Mammoth Gravel Classic Ride

Mammoth Gravel Classic

We all gathered at the lookout in St. Croix Falls, just down the road from the Cyclova XC shop, before heading out of town as a group to kick off the 2016 Mammoth Gravel Classic. We were about 12 miles in before we hit our first bit of gravel and we were moving at a fairly good pace. It was a strong pace, for me anyways, on my full suspension 29er with 2.2″ mountain bike tires among mostly gravel bikes. There were a few other mountain bikers and a couple folks on Salsa Cutthroats with mountain bike tires as well.

The field started to blow up once we hit the gravel as it had some soft sandy spots in it. The pace continued to be pushed at the front and I was working pretty hard to stay on with the lead group. It was a bit on and off for me. I could catch back on during some of the real soft stuff, since I could float through it better and then too much of the harder packed gravel and I would start to fade a bit. I managed to hang on with the lead 5 or 6 guys till about the 24 mile mark when I was really starting to struggle to stay with them. The Mammoth Gravel Classic ride was feeling like an all out race.

The group was starting to break up a bit on its own, when 1 person stopped to relieve themselves, which led to the rest of us pulling off the side of the gravel road to follow suite. I was too slow and missed my chance to get back on with the group, but took off in chase on my own as I noticed another rider, Nate from the Woolly Bike Club, coming up behind me.  Within a couple miles a few others came up from behind, including Ben from the Cyclova XC Team, to join us.  We ended up working together for the next 10 miles or so until we hit a stretch of pavement, just before Grantsburg, and I started to get dropped off the back as I was enjoying some of my bacon.

I caught back up as we came to the gas station in Grantsburg. The guys that I was with in this chase group all pulled into the gas station to grab some more water or food. I decided to keep going as I had plenty to eat and drink with me and I knew I was working too hard to stay on with their pace anyways. I could use a bit of a soft pedal break and figured I could jump back on when they caught me again. I enjoyed the solo ride for a bit and even stopped to take a few pictures along the way. I was having a nice ride and the bacon tasted good!  It wasn’t the best fuel, but I was enjoying the day for sure.

Mammoth Gravel Classic

Mammoth Gravel Classic

The guys caught back up to me about 8 miles later at mile 44, but they were hauling and I only stayed on with them for about a mile. As one of the guys dropped off the front after taking his pull, I told him to jump in line in front of me cause I knew I would be dropping off the back soon and didn’t want him to get forced off the back with me. I rode solo with them in the distance for a couple miles, before another chase group came up from behind, moving at a stronger pace yet. I made the turn south into the wind with this 3rd group at mile 47 and then let them go a few miles later as we made a turn east on some good hard packed gravel.

I couldn’t keep the pace. We were pushing a pace, that I normally ride on my road bike and I couldn’t maintain that with my full suspension 29er for that many miles. Maybe I could have, but it wasn’t a race and I didn’t want to blow myself up, since I was planning to get some more serious training in over the coming weeks. I was content to ride a more comfortable pace at this point and enjoy the backroads.

Mammoth Gravel Classic

Mammoth Gravel Classic

About 63 miles in, I hit the Gandy Dancer Trail and stopped to take a couple more pictures. I never stop and take pictures during a race and I do like taking pictures, so it was nice to enjoy the ride and stop for a few photo opportunities along the way. You have got to appreciate the opportunity for a ride like this. Now about the Gandy… It was a full on head wind at this point and even though I was riding full suspension, I would have loved to have a set of clip on aero bars or some drop bars, because I was getting hammered in the wind.

The wind got really bad as I made my way around the airport where the land opened up like the great plains for the wind to barrel through with no obstacles. I had a few guys come by me around the airport, but caught back up to them as we approached the town of Siren. I pulled off to look for a gas station and figured I only had about 30 miles to go and a liter of water and a Monster energy drink should be plenty for the last 30 miles.

I talked with a couple of the other riders that had stopped at the same gas station, but I got split up from them in town traffic headed back to the Gandy Dancer Trail and they were gone out in front of me before I got back to the trail. I was back on the Gandy Dancer, fighting the head wind and the sun was starting to beat down pretty hard. About 8 miles later, I was out of water again with a completely dry mouth and only a little bit of the energy drink left. I had a bit of a headache starting to set in as well.  I think it was the caffeine punch and lack of water.

Mammoth Gravel Classic

I stopped to take another picture and then came to the town of Frederick around mile 80 and took off into town, looking for another gas station. This time, I bought 2 liters of water! A little tip… I always keep some extra cash on the backside of my phone inside the case for emergencies like this. I refilled my hydration pack with the water and headed back toward the Gandy Dancer Trail.

I had about 25 miles to go at this point to finish the Mammoth Gravel Classic. My seat was starting to get a bit uncomfortable and I found myself standing up to pedal quite a bit. The seat is great for endurance mountain biking, but I am out of the saddle often in singletrack. Gravel grinding was a bit of a different story as I was seated in the saddle grinding out miles for most of the day.

I had a couple other riders come up behind me at one point. I rode with them for a couple miles and then they dropped back and I was solo again. I did come across a few other riders from the 70 mile ride as well, but we were all riding a little different pace and I continued my ride. I came across a couple riders that were walking, they said they were ok and didn’t need anything and again I continued my ride.

A couple miles from town, I came to a road crossing where another rider was stopped and flagging down a car. He said he just had some cramps, but was going to get a ride back. I continued heading down the trail as he was talking with the car. I looked back to see the car take off and him still standing there, so I turned around to go back and check on him. He seemed fine actually, and didn’t appear to be walking funny or anything. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was fine, but had cramps.

I told him to ride with me and that there was only a couple miles left to the end of the ride, it was all down hill and that I would ride to the finish with him. He said he was going to stop and see if he could catch a ride instead. I couldn’t understand it. Ride all that way and then stop a couple miles before the end, where you could pretty much coast back to town… I asked him if he was actually ok again and he said he was fine but didn’t want to ride yet and was going to hang out for a bit and that I could keep going, so I got back on the trail and kept riding.

I came by the Woolly Bike Club Trails and turned down the paved bike path that led me around to the Gandy Dancer Trail Head and back into town. I came down Main Street to Cyclova XC and finished off my first organized gravel ride, the Mammoth Gravel Classic!

Mammoth Gravel Classic Ride Thoughts

My total mileage for the Mammoth Gravel Classic was 104 miles with a moving time of 6 hrs and 49 minutes and a total time of 7 hrs and 13 minutes. I had a total of 14 minutes of gas station stops and photo stops. It was a good ride. Huge thanks to Cyclova XC and any of the Woolly Bike Club folks that helped put on the ride. It was a free ride and Cyclova XC even gave away some free SWAG. Check that out… Free ride and SWAG! That is pretty tough to beat.

This will not be my last gravel ride for sure. I am not ready to run out and buy a gravel bike quite yet, but that is mostly because I am still not sure what type of gravel bike I would be into and my full suspension 29er suites me just fine for the level of seriousness that I plan to ride gravel at. I may need to get some skinnier tires to throw on for gravel events, but I still have some tread to wear out on a couple sets of old mountain bike tires yet.

I hope you enjoyed the ride report. I enjoyed the ride and learn something every time I head out. It is great to get out and ride some new roads and trails! Till next time, keep on pedaling!

Reference Links

Cyclova XC

Woolly Bike Club