2017 Arrowhead 135 Stories

The Arrowhead 135 is a human powered ultra-endurance marathon that takes place every year during the coldest part of Winter.  Participants have 60 hours to complete the 135 mile trek from International Falls to Fortune Bay Casino in Tower on the Arrowhead State Trail.  Racers are required to stop at three checkpoints (unless racing unsupported, new this year) that are spaced about 35 miles apart, where race officials can pull a racer due to frostbite or other medical concerns. Participants must run, ski or bike the distance with their sub-zero survival gear,  no outside help except from other racers or race officials and they must follow a strict set of race rules out on the course.

Image Credit: Sveta Vold

This year's race saw the first place man and woman set new course records.  The mild weather conditions were a contributing factor that had 76 of the 85 cyclists completing the race under the 60 hour cut-off.  I have compiled all of the stories, photos, a podcast and news articles of  racers who chose bike propulsion pertaining to this year's epic race.  For full race results, click here.

Map of Arrowhead 135 course

Image Credit: Sveta Vold

Race Participants:  Bike Propulsion
Sveta Vold-1st Unsupported Women, 4th Woman Overall, 37th

Ben Doom-3rd

Steve Cannon-8th

Paul Zeigle-17th Men, 19th

Todd Hunter-39th

Christopher Tassava-12th Unsupported Men, 41st

Geoffrey Archibald-64th

Pamela Gonzalez-76th

Stephen Sylvester-DNF

Image Credit: Sveta Vold

2017 Arrowhead 135 Press




Penn Cycle & Fitness
Now is the time to buy that new fat bike.


RiotGRRRaveL is Back for 2017

Riot Grrravel returns in 2017 on June 3rd with with three distance options to introduce gravel racing/riding to women of all ages and abilities.  What started out in 2014 with 82 riders by Riot Grrravel organizer Ellie Skelton was her way of bringing more women to come to enjoy this increasingly popular style of riding in a non-intimidating fashion.   After three years of organizing RiotGrrraveL, Ellie has passed the torch to Victoria Malawey who is also an avid cyclist, gravel enthusiast and bike advocate.

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

This year's race will have distance declarations of 10, 20 and 33 miles to open up the field to women of all abilities and experiences.  The 33 mile course will have more elevation changes for those that want to challenge themselves with climbing in addition to distance.  Men who wish to participate must ride with a female, trans, gender non-conforming rider, or a family member (any gender) under 18.

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

Riot Grrravel will take place on Saturday, June 3rd at Hope Lutheran Church in Hastings.  Registration will be in the parking lot from 8:00 to 9:00am.  Roll out is 9:00am sharp for 33 miler, 9:15am for the 20 miles and 9:30am for the 10 mile riders.  This free unsupported women/family friendly event is being held rain or shine so dress accordingly and bring everything you will need to be self supportive.

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

Registration is now open for Riot GRRRaveL 2017 and only takes a minute to sign up online.  It will have a rider cap and should fill up quickly, so make sure you register early.

Image Credit: Kate Lockhart

If you or your company would like to sponsor or volunteer for Riot GRRRaveL 2017 please send a message to Victoria on the Riot GRRRaveL Facebook page.  Volunteers can sign up at this link.

Central Lakes Trail
Get out and enjoy 
the beautiful gem known as 
the Central Lakes Trail!


My Favorite Winter Fatbike Gear-Part 3

As Winter winds down early this year there are still plenty of opportunities to ride fatbikes if you go to the right places.  Some of these opportunities are made even better with the right gear.  This will be my fifth year of winter cycling and I have a few favorite items that help make fatbiking out on the snow and ice much more enjoyable.

Bontrager Gnarwhal Stud-able Tires

If you're a Trek Farley owner with 27.5" wheels, then you know the frustration of limited tire options.  Trek released their Bontrager Gnarwhal stud-able tires back in December and quickly sold out of their first shipment.  I was very disappointed that my order was not filled and would have to wait until the next shipment arrived for distribution.  Well, they finally arrived two weeks ago but the Bontrager studs I ordered to go with the tires would not arrive for some time.  I really liked the grip of the 45NRTH concave studs on my Dillinger 4's so I decided to go with them for the Gnarwhals.

After a couple hours of hand studding the Gnarwhals I was ready for my first ride on the ice with these big meaty tires (27.5x4.5).  Compared to the 45NRTH Dillinger 4's, these were monster truck tires.  They have a very large footprint and when used with the proper psi for the riding conditions they really grip everything from sheer ice, crusted snow to groomed singletrack.  This tire can handle riding a tight circle on ice without slipping adding extra confidence in the turns.

If you are interested in getting a pair for the end of this Winter or for next season, there will be another shipment arriving at Trek after the first week of March.  Visit your local Trek Authorized Dealer for more information.  These stud-able tires retail for $120 each and are tubeless-ready with a 120tpi foldable casing for easy tubeless setup.

Yeti Rambler 18 oz.

When it comes to riding in freezing temperatures the last thing I want to have to deal with is a frozen water bottle when I want to hydrate.  I've tried all sorts of things over the past few winters and my new go-to water bottle is the Yeti Rambler 18 oz. container.  It fits in a standard water bottle cage and is even short enough to work with my 15.5" Trek Farley frame which has limited space for larger water bottles.  The cap on the Yeti Rambler can be opened with gloves on and the over the nose diameter of the bottle makes it easy to drink from.  I have tested this bottle with hot and cold water in some of the coldest temperatures we have had in the Twin Cities over this winter and it really prevents liquids from freezing up.  MSRP $30.

Bontrager Convertible Neck Gaiter

One of the most versatile items to keep my head, face and neck warm this winter is my new Bontrager Convertible Neck Gaiter.  This simple piece of cloth can be used in a variety of different ways to protect your skin against the biting cold and wind that winter riding presents.  On warmer days in the 20's°F I will wear it to cover my chin and neck.  On windy days and when the temperature dips into the teens and below I will pull it up to cover more of my face to protect from windburn and frost nip.  It's very breathable and wicks moisture away from my skin keeping me warm and comfortable.  It retails at Trek dealers for only $16.99 and is worth every penny.

Lake MXZ400 Boots

I first saw a prototype of the new Lake MXZ400 boot from a Lake Brand Manager that was in town to do a photo shoot for the boot and had attended on of the Get Phat With Pat fatbike races at the MN River Bottoms.  It would be over a year later that I would actually get to test out this new boot offering.

My first impressions of the comfort, insulating warmth and customizable fit with the double Boa Closure System impressed me greatly.  This boot has 400 gr. of 3M Thinsulate insulatation for those really cold rides and paired with a large toe box, it provides feet the circulation needed to keep them warm.  The two studs on the toe section and the ice grip inserts on the sole provide the traction needed on slippery surfaces.  With a breathable, water resistant upper and the Boa Closure System, I can wear a variety of sock thicknesses without overheating, sweating or letting snow/moisture in.  The other thing I like about this boot is that with all of the insulation it provides it doesn't feel bulky or overly large.  Lake MXZ400 boots are two bolt compatible for cleat installation.

I know this season is almost over, but this is one boot you may want to add to your winter riding gear while they are still available for next winter.  MSRP $430.


Keeping Your Head, Face and Neck Warm During Winter Rides

Winter biking presents many challenges to dressing right and keeping warm for the temperatures and weather conditions.  In this post I will concentrate on gear worn above the shoulders for a variety of conditions which will not only keep your head, face and neck warm, but also help regulate core body temperature.


I have been using a balaclava for many winters now and it is my go-to piece of apparel for very cold temperatures and windy conditions.  There are many brands out there but my balaclava of choice is the Gore Bike Wear Windstopper Balaclava because of its thin breathable fabric that completely cuts biting wind on those days and nights when the windchill factor dips to sub-zero.  A balaclava will help protect your skin from wind burn, frost nip and in extreme cold, frostbite. 


Another product I have used for several winters is the ColdAvenger Pro Softshell face mask.  I break this out when temperatures dip below zero because the ventilator on this mask warms and humidifies the cold, dry winter air making it much easier to breathe.  The ventilator does not restrict my breathing, even during times of rigorous activity.  The wind and water resistant softshell fleece material wraps around my face and neck keeping me warm during the coldest rides.


If you have ever ridden in the cold with a regular bike helmet and a snow/snowboard helmet you'll notice the difference immediately.  Last winter I got a Smith Vantage MIPS helmet and never wore my regular mountain bike helmet again for winter riding.  One of the major differences was the snow helmet had vents that could be opened and closed to regulate heat so I would get too hot or cold.  The other feature I liked a lot was the insulated coverage over the ears.

This snow helmet allows me to add the extra protection needed such as a beanie, balaclava or neck gaiter to adjust for a variety of freezing temperatures I'll be riding in.  Most of the time, unless it's really cold, I wear just the helmet without anything else to insulate my head.  It's that warm and if I start to heat up, I'll open the vents on the top of the helmet to let some of the heat out and cool off.  If you ride a lot in the winter, it is definitely worth upgrading to a snow helmet.


A good pair of goggles can make seeing the trail easier during snowy and windy conditions and protects eyes from watering.  During previous winters I had a cheap pair of goggles and I tended not to wear them because they would fog up quickly from breathing or sweating.  I decided to give goggles another try, only this time I would spend a little more and get a pair that had plenty of ventilation to prevent fogging.  I opted for pair of Smith Knowledge OTG goggles that fit perfectly with my Smith Vantage MIPS helmet.  They had adjustable lens vents and a foam membrane with plenty of ventilation all the way around the lens.  Because they were an OTG goggle, I could also wear them with my prescription glasses.

To further prevent my new goggles from fogging, I treated the inside of the lens with Fogtech DX Instant Anti-Fog wipes.  The extra ventilation these goggles provide and the anti-fog treatment did not disappoint.  I have ridden in a wide variety of conditions and temperatures and have not had a problem with my goggles fogging up.  I now wear them regularly to protect my eyes from the wind and cold.  It's true what they say, you get what you pay for so spend a little more on a good pair of goggles for better performance in the cold.

Neck Gaiters

A new addition to my winter riding apparel is a neck gaiter.  I added this for those days when it was a little warmer out and I didn't need a balaclava or my ColdAvenger.  I tried on several neck gaiters at my local bike shop and chose the Bontrager Convertible Neck Gaiter because of its fit and next to the skin feel.  This versatile piece of apparel can be used a multitude of different ways to keep your head, chin, cheeks and neck warm.  When my extreme cold gear isn't needed, I opt for the neck gaiter because of many ways it can be worn as I heat up or cool off while riding.  It tucks into to a jacket or baselayer top to keep the cold out around the neck area.  A neck gaiter is an inexpensive way to protect from the shoulders up.


Beards have long been worn by winter cyclists to protect their faces from the elements.  The bigger the beard the better the coverage.  They allow a rider to bear the cold and wind without the use of facemasks or neck gaiters.  You've all seen many photos of ice beards from fatbikers riding in extreme cold conditions and they must work or these hearty riders wouldn't continue to grow them out winter after winter.


MPLS Winter Biking Is New Interactive Site for Twin Cities Bike Commuters

MPLS Winter Biking is an online resource launched a couple of days ago by Foundry, a software design & development agency based in Minneapolis, that allows bike commuters in the Twin Cities to report and view trail/road conditions.  It works for both desktop and mobile devices.  Users of site can rate and add comments to their reports by clicking the map for the road or trail they would like to inform other cyclists about.

MPLS Winter Biking is interactive using Google Maps with Bicycling routes highlighted and user submitted reports are color coded based on the 5 star rating system.  Reports indicate whether or not they contain an optional comment on the conditions.  Cyclists can zoom in to report for a specific road or trail and each report shows the date and time of  the submission.  To keep the map information current, user submitted reports are only 3 days old or less.  Over the last day and a half, a lot of new reports have been submitted detailing how the commuter conditions have changed with the new snow we have received.

Whether you're an avid or occasional bike commuter, put this resource to use by submitting your reports so that other cyclists can be in the know and plan their routes accordingly.  Your fellow cyclists will thank you.


Ditch the Water Bottle and Go With Vacuum Insulated Containers for Winter Rides

This Winter has already had its share of sub-zero temperatures and keeping your beverages from freezing can be a challenge.  Storing beverages in a vacuum insulated bottle is a great way to keep them drinkable in the coldest of conditions.  To prove this I did a test with three containers for cold liquids and and the two for hot liquids during a couple of sub-zero cold snaps recently.

Although my tests are far from being scientific, I wanted to test these containers during some extended sub-zero and single digit temperatures to see how they performed.  My main two focuses were for cold and hot liquids and how these containers would keep the liquids from freezing over extended periods of time. The bottles used for the testing were a 21 oz. CamelBak Podium bottle outfitted with a Mud Cap, a Yeti Rambler 18 oz. and a Stanley 32 oz. Half Growler.

I first started with the cold water test using the same temperature water in all three bottles.  I wanted to do this test with cold water from the tap which ended up being 58° F.  I put all three bottles outside on a recent cold evening at 1:05am when the temperature was -6° F.  I checked the temperature of the water in the bottles three times over the next 32 hours to see how they would perform.  I have had plenty of experience with uninsulated CamelBak water bottles in previous winters and knew that it probably wouldn't perform that well compared to the vacuum insulated containers.  Below are my findings during the cold and hot water testing.

My first reading would be 7 hours and 10 minutes later when the outside temperature had dropped to -8° F (the coldest during the testing period during this test).  The CamelBak bottle was completely frozen solid while the two vacuum insulated bottles performed much better with water temperature readings of 44° F for the Yeti Rambler and 48° F for the Stanley Half Growler.

My second reading would be 3 hours and 25 minutes later when the outside temperature had warmed up to 7° F.  The vacuum insulated bottles had water temperature readings of 39° F for the Yeti Rambler and 45° F for the Stanley Half Growler.

The third reading would be later that evening (7 hours 35 minutes after the second reading) when the temperature outside had reached 12° F.  The Yeti Rambler had dropped to 35° F and the Stanley Half Growler was at 39° F.  A thin layer of ice was forming at the top of both containers but each was still drinkable by breaking the ice.

My final reading would be the next morning (over 32 hours since the start of testing) when the outside temperature had warmed up to 18° F.  The water in the Yeti Rambler was at 33° F and so was the Stanley Half Growler.  Both had a layer of ice at the top of the container but under the circumstances, I was pleasantly surprised.

The next test was to see how these two vacuum insulated bottles would perform when filled with boiling water (212° F).  At the start of the test the outside temperature was 3° F.  I would take two extended period temperature readings of the water over the next 24 hour period.

My first reading would be 12½ hours later when the outside temperature had dropped to -4° F.  The Yeti Rambler had a water temperature reading of 99° F and the Stanley Half Growler was at 104° F.

My second reading would be almost 24 hours after the start of the test where the outside temperature had fallen to the low teens below zero overnight and warmed up to -6° F.  The Yeti Rambler had a water temperature reading of 56° F and the Stanley Half Growler was at 68° F which is still a long way from freezing.  For very long rides, bikepacking or a backup water supply, starting with boiling water in either of these containers will leave you with cold water after 24 hours in some very cold temperatures.

In conclusion, heading out on cold winter rides with vacuum insulated containers is the way to go if you want your hot liquids to stay hot and your cold beverages to keep from freezing.  Using this style of container will let you stay out longer in cold, even sub-zero temperatures while allowing you to stay hydrated.  The 18 oz. Yeti Rambler will fit in a standard water bottle cage for those shorter rides while the 32 oz. Stanley Half Growler will require a Salsa Anything Cage or Anything Cage HD to hold it.  Since getting both of these containers, I no longer have to deal with frozen bottles during the winter months.


My Favorite Winter Fatbike Gear-Part 2

Winter is finally here and and that opens up a lot of new opportunities to ride fatbikes.  Some of these opportunities are made even better with the right gear.  This will be my fifth year of winter cycling and I have a few favorite items that help make fatbiking out on the snow and ice much more enjoyable. 

45NRTH Dillinger 4 Tires 

This Winter has started off extremely icy and a pair of studded tires has almost become a must if you want to get in any riding.  Most of the Twin Cities area singletrack is currently unrideable without studded tires until we get a decent amount of snow to pack down on top of the ice.  I've crashed on icy patches in previous years and vowed that I would go studded this winter for better traction and to ride areas that I couldn't before.

I recently purchased a pair of 45NRTH Dillinger 4 studded fatbike tires and set them up tubeless so I could run lower pressures when needed without the risk of pinch flats.  From the very first ride I was amazed at their grip on the ice.  Now I can ride the slippery stuff with confidence thanks to their 240 concave studs.  These tires now allow me to go places I would have never thought of before.  Frozen lakes, creeks, marshes and icy singletrack are no longer off limits thus extending my opportunities to ride.  They will definitely be put to use during some fatbike ice fishing ventures to come.

Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag

The Mountain Feedbag from Revelate Designs is a favorite cockpit bag of mine.  I use a pair of them year round for different practical applications.  They're small, but big enough to carry the things I need for the ride.  I can easily fit my tool kit in one with room to spare for keys, wallet or snacks.  The other one usually carries a spare tube, water bottle or other gear needed for cold rides.  They allow quick access and hold very secure, even on the bumpiest of rides.  I like to travel light and these bags allow me to do that without feeling cumbersome.

Bontrager TLR Flash Charger Floor Pump

The Bontrager TLR Flash Charger Floor Pump is one of the best floor pumps I've ever owned.  This high capacity pump works great for filling high volume fatbike tires and also has a pressurizable chamber that makes seating tubeless tires a breeze.  I recently set up a pair of Bontrager Barbegazi 26x4.7 tires tubeless and was able to get them to seat easily without the use of a compressor.  I check my tire pressure before every ride and adjust it to handle the trail conditions and this pump makes doing so quick and easy.  The pump action is very smooth and I would definitely recommend the Flash Charger to anyone who has a fatbike.

WSI Sports HEATR Baselayer

One of the newest gear items I'm most excited about is my new base layer from WSI Sportswear.  This Eagan based company has a full line of performance base layers that have been designed, tested and made in Minnesota.  HEATR is their line of base layer apparel that warms against the skin while wicking away moisture to keep a person dry and comfortable in a variety of cold conditions.

I have their warmest Full HEATR Pant and Long Sleeve 1/4 Zip Shirt that has a comfort range from -20° to 50° F and added their HEATR Socks and HEATR Glove Liners to complete the set.  The material is thin, stretchable and wicks moisture really good.  I combine this set up with my Gore Bike Wear Windstopper outer shell to stay remarkably warm without layering up too much.  I'll be putting it to the test with the subzero temperatures to come and hope to write a full review later this Winter.
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