2nd Annual Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival at Lebanon Hills October 4th

The 2nd Annual Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival is coming up on Saturday, October 4th at the West Trailhead at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Eagan.  This fun-filled event is made possible through Dakota County Parks and a partnering with MORC (Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists), local area bike shops, businesses and organizations.

Join in on the fun and celebrate one of Minnesota's best mountain bike trail systems and the many hours of volunteer work that MORC members have put in to maintain nearly 12 miles of single-track.  This event is not only for the avid mountain biker but also a fun and festive way to introduce new riders to the sport.

Image Credit: Dakota County Parks

The Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival is a family-friendly free event, however Dakota Co. Parks would like attendees to pre-register online or by calling 952-891-7000 during standard business hours.  Come down between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm for a day filled with activities.

Image Credit: Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail Facebook Page

Scheduled activities include Build Your Skills Sessions, Gear Talk Sessions, Fix-It Clinics and live music by Twin Cities bluegrass band Sans Souci.  Throughout the day there will be bike tune-ups, kids activities, timed competitive events, group rides and a VIP Lounge presented by Freewheel Bike.  Food and beverage, including beer and wine will be available for purchase on-site by Green Mill.

There will be plenty of new bikes to demo at this year's festival.  The Trek Factory Demo Rig will be there with brand new Mountain, Road and Cyclocross models to test ride on the mountain bike trails, skills park and nearby bike paths.  The Specialized Demo Rig loaded with 2015 men's, women's and kid's bikes will also be there and event partner Valley Bike and Ski is coming with Giant, Felt & KHS demo models.  All demo rides are free but may require you to bring your helmet, credit card and driver's license to demo bikes.

Parking is free but limited at the West Trailhead lot.  Overflow event parking is available at the School of Environmental Studies (12155 Johnny Cake Ridge Road) located just South of the West Trailhead entrance.  Additional street parking can be found along Galaxie Avenue on the west side of the park and in neighborhoods near the park.

Image Credit: Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail Facebook Page

This is a rain or shine event.  Dakota County Parks will have a large canopy tent on-site to keep people dry if it does rain.  Severe weather or lightening may postpone or cause events to be rescheduled later in the day.  If wet trail conditions close the mountain bike trails, nearby paved trails and the old gravel parking lot are available for test-riding bikes.  Check the Lebanon Hills Mountain Bike Trail Facebook page for hour by hour updates in the event of severe weather the day of the Festival.

Visit the Dakota County Parks Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival page for more information or call the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center at 651-554-6530.  Thanks to Event Partners MORC, Penn Cycle, Erik's Bike and Board, Trek, Freewheel Bike, Valley Bike and Ski and Health Source Chiropractic for making the Wild Ride Mountain Bike Festival possible.

Penn Cycle & Fitness
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Best Times and Places For Fall Color Rides With Help From the MN DNR

Image Credit: MN DNR

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for bicycling and the Minnesota DNR has several tools available to help you experience the color changes throughout the state.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Fall Color Map has now gone live and will be updated by State Park and State Recreation Area (SRA's) staff by noon every Thursday.  With the wet Spring Minnesota has had and a good growing season during the Summer, trees are very healthy and a magnificent color display is expected throughout the state now through mid-October. 

To coincide your bike rides with the peak color changes using your smartphone or tablet, the MN DNR also has a Fall Colors Mobile version that is integrated with Google Maps.  It will display a map for typical peak colors around the state and provide a list view or  map view of State Park and SRA's with percentage of color change.  Click on any listing for more details on where to go, what you'll see and other things of interest.  Each listing also has links to events, a map view and the corresponding MN DNR webpage.

Minnesota has 24 State Trails with scenic views to check out the fall colors.  Whether you prefer to ride on paved, aggregate or natural surface trail, there are many miles to explore.  Visit the Minnesota State Trails Start Up Guide to pick a trail that is right for you.

I published a four part series of posts entitled "Favorite Trails for Fall Color Rides" two years ago that list some of my favorite places to ride during the Fall.  These are some really fun trails with great scenery.  They can be read at the following links:  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.  Give them a try, they will not disappoint.

Image Credit:  MN DNR
If adventure riding or forest roads are a little more your style the Minnesota DNR has a page with information about biking in Minnesota State Forests.  There are over 2000 miles of forest roads and thousands of logging trails to explore.  See my post Explore Minnesota's State Forests by Mountain Bike With Resources From the MN DNR.

Fall is a wonderful time of year for biking and with a little help from the MN DNR you can find out where and when to go for a great riding experience.


Winter '14-'15 Minnesota Fatbike Events

Get Phat with Pat - Minnesota River Bottoms

Fatbikes are more popular than ever here in Minnesota and new fatbike events keep popping up around the state.  This season's calendar will include all types of  Winter fatbike events from festivals and races to demos and group rides.  Below is a list in chronological order.  Race and event organizers, if you would like your event listed, please send me an e-mail.  I will continue to update and add events to this post as they become available.

Fatbike Frozen 40 - Elm Creek

The Pie Burner Pedal-November 29, 2014
Hosted by: Iron Range Fat Bike Riders
Hibbing Community College
Hibbing, MN
25 miles 

Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series-December 6, 2014
Elm Creek Park Reserve
Champlin, MN
10.5 miles 

Global Fatbike Day-December 6, 2014 

Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series-December 13, 2014
Murphey-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Savage, MN
10.5 miles 

The Solstice Chase-December 20, 2014
Great Lakes Fat Bike Series
Big Rock Creek Retreat
St. Croix Falls, WI
42 & 21 km
Online Registration 

Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series-January 10, 2015
Elm Creek Park Reserve
Champlin, MN
10.5 miles 

Penn Cycle Get Phat with Pat Race #1-January 17, 2015
Minnesota River Bottoms
Bloomington, MN
Details to come. 

4th Annual Global Fat Bike Summit and Festival-January 23-25,2015
Snow King Resort
Jackson, WY 

Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series-January 24, 2015
Murphey-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Savage, MN
10.5 miles 

Penn Cycle Get Phat with Pat Race #2-January 24, 2015
Minnesota River Bottoms
Bloomington, MN
Details to come.

Arrowhead 135-January 26-28, 2015
International Falls, MN
135 miles
Registration for race veterans opens 9/1/2014
Registration for newcomers opens 10/1/14
Race Registration Information

Penn Cycle Fat Tire Loppet-February 1, 2015
Great Lakes Fat Bike Series
38 km
Online Registration 

Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout-February 7, 2015
Great Lakes Fat Bike Series
Cuyuna Country SRA
Crosby, MN 

Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series-February 7, 2015
Elm Creek Park Reserve
Champlin, MN
10.5 miles 

Fatbike Frozen 40-February 14, 2015
Great Lakes Fat Bike Series
Elm Creek Park Reserve
Champlin, MN 

Frozen Frolic Winter Mountain Bike Race Series-February 28, 2015
Murphey-Hanrehan Park Reserve
Savage, MN
10.5 mile


Product Review: Trail Rail Adjustable Cell/GPS Cradle

I first came across the Trail Rail Adjustable Cell/GPS Cradle last year at Interbike and immediately thought of its application for mountain biking and adventure riding.  This mount is a solid way to secure your iPhone or Android device to handlebars for navigation, shooting photos/video and for easy access taking calls or messaging.  What makes this mount so stable and virtually indestructible is the cradle, platform and all components are machined from solid 6061-T6 Aluminum billet.

I ride the fatbike on every type of terrain so I figured it would be the best test of durability for the Trail Rail Adjustable Cradle.  I have used it to secure my Samsung Galaxy S4 (on the Adjustable Cell/GPS Cradle II) to my bars for navigation and ride tracking on gravel roads, through the Minnesota River Bottoms and on area singletrack mountain bike trails without ever having to worry about the cradle coming loose or losing my phone.

Rock gardens, logs, fast descents and the occasional crash did not interfere with Trail Rail's ability to keep my phone securely in place.  In fact, it held it so secure that I could see this mount being used on ATV's and motorcycles, too.

The cradle is adjustable to provide the best viewing angle.  By changing out individual components such as the C-Link adapter and Platform (Diamond), the orientation of the phone can be changed to a landscape view for shooting photos and video.

Here is a short video I shot using my Samsung Galaxy S4 in the landscape position on the Trail Rail Adjustable Cradle while riding at the Minnesota River Bottoms.

While the video quality may seem shaky, it is not because of the Adjustable Cradle but rather the vibration and shock from the bike on rough terrain.  I do like having the option to shoot 1080p video and take photos with my smartphone while on rides and the adjustability of this cradle allows me to do so easily.

My favorite thing about the design of the Trail Rail Cradle is the easy access that it provides while riding.  I can quickly glance down at a map, check my ride stats or view a newly received text message.  All of the button functions (volume, power and home) are available without the cradle getting in the way of them and I have full responsive touchscreen functionality.

The adjustable cradle fingers and spacers provide a custom fit on phones with cases.  I have an Otterbox Defender Series case on my Galaxy S4 which increases the phone size significantly and it was easy to get the right secure fit.  There are two neoprene strips that apply onto the face of the cradle to prevent scratching of the phone and dampen vibration.

This is a high quality phone mounting system that delivers security even on the roughest of terrain.  The only negative that I came across using it was not being able to quickly remove my phone from the cradle.  Removal does require the use of an allen wrench to loosen the cradle fingers.  Trail Rail does however sell Thumb Screws to avoid this, making phone removal tool-free.  Quick cradle removal can also be done by implementing the new UV Quick Release Mount.

With a number of Individual Components available for the Trail Rail system, mounting options are many and can be customized to your liking.  Contact Trail Rail for questions regarding components and cradles for mounting for your device.

The original Adjustable Cell/GPS Platform I was designed for use with the iPhone but can be used with smaller Android phones and is available for $119.99.  I have used this cradle with my old HTC One S.  The newest addition to the Trail Rail line, the Adjustable Cell/GPS Cradle II is ideal for larger phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 & S5 and is available for $139.99.  Since last year the price for the Trail Rail phone cradle system has come down significantly from its original $200+ price tag.  These mounts are more expensive than most on the market but are very high quality and built to last unlike plastic mounts.

Each system comes in MIL-STD-8625 Class II, Black & Sealed finish and the Adjustable Cell/GPS Platform I is also available in several anodized colors.  All Trail Rail products are made in the USA.

Both Systems Include:
(1) C Link Adapter
(1) Platform Adapter
(1) Adjustable Cell/GPS Cradle
-19mm (.750")
-25.4mm (1.00")
-30.1mm (1.187")
-31.8mm (1.252")
-32.4mm (1.275")

Disclosure:  Trail Rail provided the review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review. 


Plan Road Rides Right From Your Android Device With RunBikeRoute

RunBikeRoute for Android is a simple and easy to use route planning tool app that I have been using regularly for the last couple of years.  It's how I plan my road rides and discover new route options.  I like to mix things up a bit by creating routes that include gravel and paved segments of road and because RunBikeRoute uses Google Maps, it lets me choose between the standard map and satellite imagery.  The satellite map layer helps me locate gravel roads and determine which paved roads have wide or no shoulders to ride on.  I will use this app to discover new areas and roads I've never been on to keep from riding the same old routes.

I have a very busy schedule but I still set aside time to ride.  Some days I may only have an hour to an hour and a half available, while other days may let me ride up to 4 hours.  This is where RunBikeRoute comes in handy for me, I can plan a route to fit the window of time I have to ride based on mileage, elevation profile and my average riding speed. 

Drawing a route that snaps to roads or trails can be done by using the Bicycling mode in the settings.  I use the Manual mode for off-road or roads and trails that Google Maps doesn't recognize.  Once my route is created I can save it within the app for reference, view it while out on a ride or refer to it to recreate the route later on my computer using Strava, Runtastic or RideWithGPS for live turn-by-turn navigation using the corresponding app.  See my posts Strava Routes Now Available For iPhone & Android, App Review: Runtastic Road Bike Pro, or Route Planning Made Easy Using RideWithGPS* for more information.

*Use with Garmin GPS units or the new RideWithGPS app.

For the last few months RunBikeRoute was not available on Google Play and I sent an email to the developer to find out why.  The developer responded by telling me that she had taken it down because "I just have not had time to keep it up to date and as more and more people transition to newer devices it simply wasn't working as well."  She has received other emails like mine and decided to work on a better version of the app that will take advantage of  a lot of newer and faster Android features.  After our conversation she has re-published the current version of the app with the caveat that she was unsure of how it would work on the newer Android operating versions.

I have been using RunBikeRoute on a Samsung Galaxy S4 running Android 4.4.2 (Kit Kat) and it has worked fine with the exception of the Export feature to create a GPX or KML files for use with other mapping software or GPS devices.  I have also had to use Tracker Booster to get a quicker reading on my location while using the app on rides. The developer will certainly address any issues with the current version of the app and continue to work on an updated version.  Comments about how RunBikeRoute is working and requests for new features are welcomed by the developer by sending an email to code.for.good@gmail.com.

I like the convenience of RunBikeRoute for planning a ride anytime without a computer.  I can plan a route in a couple of minutes, save it, hop on the bike and go.  If I'm unsure of a turn or the distance until my next turn I can refer to my route using the app.  Now that RunBikeRoute is available on Google Play again for download, start planning your rides and discover where new roads will take you.

For more information on how to use RunBikeRoute and all of its features, see my post Planning Your Next Ride Just Got Easier With Run. Bike. Route. for Android.  RunBikeRoute is available on the Google Play Store for $0.99. 


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.


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.  
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