2014 Season Video Recap of Penn Cycle's Thursday Night at the Races Now on YouTube

Image Credit: Justin Williams Photos
Penn Cycle's Thursday Night at the Races has become a Thursday night summertime family tradition over the last 23 years.  What started out with 45 riders the very first night at Buck Hill a long time ago has grown and evolved into something truly special.  With the addition of kids races and adults racing on kids bikes over the years, it is a one-of-a-kind racing series.   

"You won’t find a more family friendly, cycling event anywhere and I am really proud of what we have put together and continue to do so on Thursday Nights." - Pat Sorensen, Penn Cycle President.

The video below is a week by week recap of the fun, thrills and competition of this year's series.  Stay tuned for a special thank you from Penn Cycle President Pat Sorensen at the end of the video.

The Penn Cycle Facebook page has more fun video shorts from this season of Thursday Night at the Races as well as a photo album from June 26th.  Scan through the Photostream for other pictures from this season, too.

Penn Cycle & Fitness
Summer Value Days
Going on now through August 31st


Resources to Get You Riding Gravel

The idea for this post came to me after I received an email from a woman who was a gravel first-timer and thought she would enjoy riding gravel but didn't know where to start.  She asked me for some recommendations of where to ride near the Twin Cities.  I gave her a list of resources to point her in the right direction.  Riding gravel is one of my passions so I decided I should put this information into a post so others can enjoy the Minnesota gravel riding experience.

There are several resources I use to help me discover new places to ride.  With this information I can plan out routes and by using my smartphone I can stay on track without the worry of getting lost in unfamiliar territory.  If you are new to riding gravel or an experienced aficionado, I hope this information will help you find new roads to ride.

Google Maps

Google Maps has been a longtime favorite of  mine for finding gravel and planning routes.  Using the Google Earth (satellite) layer I can find gravel roads and map out a ride.  Once my route has been created, Google Maps displays the route distance, elevation profile and the option for turn by turn directions by selecting "List all steps" in the elevation profile box.  From here you can print a cue sheet by selecting "Print text only" or with the map included by selecting "Print including maps" in the print options above the map.

Mobile Apps

There are quite a few cycling website/apps that use Google Maps for their mapping engine to plan routes, Strava, MapMyRide, RideWithGPS, Runtastic, and Endomondo just to name a few.  Creating routes using these websites will sync them with the corresponding mobile app for use out on rides to keep you on course.  These apps will also let you search other user's routes and some even give you the option to download GPX files of the routes for export into the app website of your choice or Garmin GPS devices.  For more information and features on Runtastic's Road Bike Pro app see my post App Review: Runtastic Road Bike Pro.  To learn how to create routes with your PC using the Strava Route Builder for use with the Strava iPhone and Android apps, see my post Strava Routes Now Available For iPhone & Android.



Gravelmap is an interactive user-submitted gravel route database created by a web developer/cyclist from southern Oregon.  This is a growing resource with new road/routes being added weekly as the word gets out about it.  Read my post Gravelmap Launches Interactive User Submitted Gravel Route Database for more details.

 Forest Roads

Image Credit:  MN DNR
Minnesota has many miles of forest, logging and fire roads located in our State and National Forests waiting to be explored.  For more information on riding gravel in Minnesota's State Forests, see my post Explore Minnesota's State Forests by Mountain Bike With Resources From the MN DNR.  GORP has compiled a list of road and trail rides in Superior National Forest and more information can be found on the USDA Forest Service website.  Information for Chippewa National Forest can be found on the USDA Forest Service website.  The Cook County Visitors Bureau has also compiled a list of adventure riding opportunities in Northeastern Minnesota.

Riding Gravel Forum/
Gravel Grinder News

The Riding Gravel Forum is a place to share your knowledge, experiences and photos with others that like to crush gravel. It's also a good resource to learn from experienced gravel riders, ask questions and join in the conversation on everything from bikes, components, accessories, gravel racing and everyday gravel riding.  Read my post New Riding Gravel Forum Provides a Place to Talk "Gravel" to learn more.

Another one of my go-to gravel resources is Gravel Grinder News from Trans Iowa Race director, Guitar Ted.  It covers everything from bikes, equipment, events and gravel-related links.

Riding Safely

There are several good articles on how to stay safe out on those lonely gravel roads.  Guitar Ted has put together this post entitled Safety And The Gravel Road Rider.   Marsh Jones, Miesville Grinder organizer has some Common sense tips for riding gravel on his blog.  I have on many occasions encountered aggressive dogs out in the country and Crazy Guy on a Bike has written Some tips for handling encounters with "Man's Best Friend" while cycling that will help you know what to do in just such an event.

Gravel Events

For those looking to challenge themselves or ride with others there are still quite a few gravel races/rides left for 2014 in Minnesota.  I have compiled a list of 2014 Minnesota Gravel Grinders with links to more information and registration details.  2014 is winding down and I will be publishing a new list for 2015 as next year's gravel events start to be announced.  For additional gravel events outside of Minnesota, visit the Gravel Grinder News Calendar of Events page.

The upcoming Fall riding season is my favorite time of the year to hit the gravel.  Weather conditions can range from warm and sunny to cool, cloudy and sometimes windy.  Dress accordingly and be prepared for sudden weather changes because you may find yourself a long way from your finish destination if things turn cold or rainy.  When the leaves begin to change colors expect some spectacular scenery on rural country rides.  Southeastern Minnesota is where I like to ride this time of year, the hardwood forests along gravel roads in this region are quite a sight for the eyes.  Begin a new adventure, leave the hustle and bustle of the city and head out into the country for some great riding on the road less traveled.  


Product Review: Finish Line Super Bike Wash

I don't particularly enjoy cleaning my bikes and would often ride until they were really dirty before taking the time to get the dirt and grime off.  I ride a lot of gravel roads and singletrack mtb trails that will get a bike pretty dusty in between cleanings.  Until I started using Super Bike Wash from Finish Line, I would dread getting out the brushes, rags and soapy water bucket to wash my bikes.  Now it's quick and easy to get 'em clean and I don't mind washing them anymore.

I recently took a day trip up to Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area to ride the red dirt singletrack on the fatbike.  After several hours of riding the trails of this former mining pit area, the bike was completely covered in rusty dust.

I have used this product in the past for gravel dust and dirt, but this would be the ultimate test for Super Bike Wash.  I wanted to see if it required little or no scrubbing to remove the iron red dirt without leaving a rusty residue behind.  Super Bike Wash is designed to lift dirt and grime instead of dissolving it by simply spraying it on, letting it sit for a couple minutes and either wiping or rinsing it off.  

Not only was the frame dirty, but the wheels, tires and components had Cuyuna red dirt in every little nook and cranny.  This is one chore I don't like to spend a lot of time on so if Super Bike Wash could lift this stuff with minimal scrubbing, I'd be a happy biker.

Following the instructions for using with water, I sprayed it on liberally and let it do its work before rinsing it off with the hose.  It worked well, but did require a little light scrubbing or agitation with my hand on some areas, especially the sidewalls of the tires.  It definitely was a time saver, most of the rusty dirt just rinsed right off.  I was impressed by how it loosened the dust on the wheels, crankset, chainrings and front/rear derailleurs without having to use a brush.

After a short time, the bike was showroom clean and ready for another adventure that would likely get it good and dirty all over again.  Super Bike Wash can be sprayed on dirty areas and wiped off with a towel for a quick touch up to keep a bike looking clean.  I was happy with how Super Bike Wash performed, it removed most of the dirt without scrubbing and didn't leave a rusty residue behind when rinsed saving me time and elbow grease.  Because Super Bike Wash is so quick and easy to use, I don't go as long between cleanings as I did before.

Super Bike Wash is completely safe for all bike surfaces, even carbon fiber and is biodegradable making it safe for the environment.  It comes in a 1 Liter Spray Bottle, I Liter Refill (w/o sprayer), 1 Gallon Jug and a 16 oz. concentrate that makes 4 Liters.  Available at Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops.

Disclosure:  Finish Line provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review. 


Penn Cycle Shoots for a Record Turnout for Last Thursday Night at the Races of the Season

Image Credit: Michael Speake

The finale of Penn Cycle's 23rd season of the World Famous Thursday Night at the Races is bound to be a great event.  Thursday, August 7th at Buck Hill is where it all goes down.  Bring the whole family out for the racing fun, food and music that has made this a summertime Thursday Night tradition.

If you've never raced at Buck Hill, come out for the fun or the competition of mountain bike racing on the slopes.  Whether you are a beginner, recreational or advanced rider, there is a race class for you.  Registration begins at 5:00 pm with races starting at 6:30.

Highchair Kings Performing

Pat Sorensen has booked special musical guests, Highchair Kings to perform live for the crowd.  This Minneapolis band headed up by singer/songwriter Trevor Lettman and bassist Jared Hedberg will bring their indie rock sound with hits like Crush Gravel, Endo and Suckers of the World.  To download a free 4-track sampler of their debut EP, click the Free Download button below.

Giant & Liv Demo
Giant will be holding their Liv Women's Demo and Ride Life Ride Giant Demo with a fleet of road and mountain bikes in a range of sizes to test ride.  Liv models available include Avail, Brava, Envie, Obsess, Intrigue and Lust.  Giant models available include TCR, Propel, Defy, Revolt, XTC Anthem, Anthem SX, Trance, Reign and Stance.  Please bring your helmet, shoes, credit card and identification to demo a bike.

Image Credit: Wyatt Jirsa
Image Credit: Wyatt Jirsa

As always there will be plenty of food and drink on hand to purchase.

Image Credit: Gal Alon

After the adult races watch the kids get their turn at racing on the kids course.

The adults then take to the kids course on kids bikes.  Watch the hilarity ensue as Pat shoots for the win.


The last race of the season last year drew a record crowd of 292 racers.  Pat told me, "I hope we can beat the record from last year. Everybody come on out!"

Penn Cycle & Fitness
Summer Value Days
Going on now through August 31st


Product Review: Lone Peak Pfeifferhorn Handlebar Pack

I first learned of Lone Peak Packs last year at Interbike in Las Vegas where I met owner Gary Hubbert.  He showed me his full line of cycling packs that are designed and made right here in the USA.  The one pack that caught my eye was the Pfeifferhorn Handlebar Pack.  For me, this pack would become a great dual service bag that I would use year-round on the fatbike and road bike.

The Pfeifferhorn Handlebar Pack has 330 cubic inches of space to hold necessary items for those long rides.  The main compartment holds larger items while the smaller front compartment works well for items like keys, cell phones or snacks.  The three-point, multi-adjustable straps make mounting this bag easy for just about any type of handlebar set-up.  My Trek Crossrip Elite has interrupter brake levers or "cross levers" that can make mounting some handlebar bags difficult, but I had no problem securing the Pfeifferhorn Handlebar Pack to my bars.  It stayed in place without moving or swaying, even when loaded up with gear. A  polyethylene liner runs the full length of the pack to help keep its shape and support the weight of the items contained within.

The Ballistic Nylon fabric and flaps covering the zippers kept my gear dry during rainstorms and slushy, wet winter rides. 

I really liked this pack for winter fatbike rides, it had that extra space I needed for things like goggles, gloves, a balaclava and snacks.  I would bring what I needed or store what I didn't for changing weather conditions or all day rides.  It was nice having these things close at hand, I could remove my goggles or switch to a warmer pair of gloves and stash them in the pack without getting off the bike.

Once Winter was over and it was time to hit the road again, the Pfeifferhorn Handlebar Pack would become an essential part of my road bike gear.  Whether it was long distance gravel/road, commuting to work or just riding around Minneapolis, it held what I needed for the ride.

This is a quality handcrafted pack that has a good amount of storage space, stays put and is reasonably priced.  It comes with a lifetime warranty and its durable design and stitching should provide many years of useful service.  

The Lone Peak Pfeifferhorn Handlebar Pack is available from the Lone Peak online store for $39.95 and comes in Black, Blue, Red and Steel.

Disclosure:  Lone Peak provided the review sample for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review. 


Minnesota Mountain Bike Group Rides

Now that Summer is in full swing and the weather has been cooperative, the mountain bike trails have had a chance to dry out from a very wet Spring.  Conditions are becoming tacky to dry in most areas prompting more mountain bikers to hit the trails.  I was recently asked by a fellow mountain biker who was interested in riding with others, "Where do you find out about group mountain bike rides?"  I pointed him in the right direction to some sources that I knew of.  This got me thinking, I should put together a list so everyone can easily find out about rides in their area.  I did some research and gathered the information I could find for this post.  If I missed your group ride or one that you know of, send me an email with a link to more information and I will get it listed.

Twin Cities Area

Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists
(Year round - various locations)

Penn Cycle
(Through September 10th - various locations)

Freewheel Bike
Theodore Wirth Singletrack

Maple Grove Cycling
Elm Creek Park Reserve
(Through September 15th)

Carver Mountain Monday
 Chain Gang Mountain Ride
Burnsville MTB Ride
TNT - Tuesday Night Theo
Battle Creek Run Around
The Dirty Sprocket
Thursday Night Off-Road Ride
MTB @ Elm Creek
(Through August - Various locations and days)

Michael's Cycles
(Wednesday's - Various locations)

Southern MN

Mankato Area Mountain Bikers
More info on the MAMB Facebook page 
(Through November - Kiwanis Recreation Area)

Nicollet Bike
(Summer - Mount Kato)

Northern MN

Ski Hut
(Through September 8th - Duluth Area Trail Network)

Grand Rapids Itasca Mountain Bicycling Association
More info on the GRIMBA Facebook page
(Legion Trailhead - Grand Rapids)


Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Rehabilitation Project is Underway

After many years of discussion, debate and extensive studies, the rehabilitation project for the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge over Long Meadow Lake is finally underway.  Since its closure in 2002 to pedestrian and bike traffic, the old steel truss bridge has been deteriorating and considered an undue safety hazard.

Now that the City of Bloomington has secured Federal and State funding for the rehabilitation project, construction will begin in 2015 and open to cyclists and pedestrians in the Spring of 2016.  A team of  bridge engineers and historians has been hired to consult and develop the final project design plan which will wrap up in November.  Bid letting for the project is expected to take place in December and project commencement in January 2015.

This project has been long awaited by cyclists and will be a very important river crossing not only for bike commuters, but recreational riders and pedestrians alike.  A public meeting on the project was held in June and another will be held this Fall.

For more information about the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge visit the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge over Long Meadow Lake - History Frequently Asked Questions page on the City of Bloomington website.  For a background of the bridge, project status and information on public meetings about the project, visit the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Over Long Meadow Lake website.   Subscribe to receive email updates on the Old Cedar Avenue Bridge Project.
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