Winter Bike Expo 2012: fat bikes rule

Winter Bike Expo, Freewheel Bike Winter Bike Expo, Freewheel Bike Winter Bike Expo, Freewheel Bike  
Freewheel Bike held their 2nd annual Winter Bike Expo ("the world headquarters of winter riding fanatics") yesterday at their Midtown Bike Center. The fat bikes were everywhere (Surly and Salsa each had a big presence) and since I’m doing some work on the 2nd Annual Fat Bike Winter Summit & Festival coming up in January, the Expo gave me a picture of how much enthusiasm there is here in Minnesota for fat biking.

Griff Wigley being influenced by Aaron Hautala Joe Meiser and John Gaddo, QBP Hansi Johnson and Aaron Hautala Aaron Hautala's Cuyuna Series G Surly Moonlander
I hadn’t planned on going but on Friday night, I had dinner with Aaron Hautala, president of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew and while I was under the influence, he influenced me to go. I got to chew the fat (heh) again with former Northfielder John Gaddo, Outside Sales Rep at QBP (Quality Bicycle Products). He introduced me to Joe Meiser, Q’s Product Design Manager who, just a few days ago, had sent me all his photos from the 1st Annual Fat Bike Summit for posting on the site. I also got to talk fat bike advocacy with IMBA Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson.

I took a photo of Hansi and Aaron, two guys who, unlike me,  actually  know what they’re doing with a camera.  (See some of Aaron’s photos on his Sweet Cuyuna Living’ blog; see some of Hansi’s photos on his Universal Klister blog.) Alas, I was laughing when I took their photo and ended up with a very blurry image. So I’ve covered up my mistake with a stylized version of it. My choice of red was influenced by red accent that Aaron has used all over his Cuyuna Series G Surly Moonlander, which he had just outfitted with monster 4.8" Bud and Lou tires from Surly, complete with red valve stem caps.

See my large slideshow of 56 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Photo album: MN High School Cycling League 2012 season awards party

2012 MN High School Cycling League season awards party 2012 MN High School Cycling League season awards party 2012 MN High School Cycling League - staff Gary Sjoquist and Steve Flagg
The MN High School Cycling League held their inaugural season awards party yesterday at QBP headquarters in Bloomington.  League director and QBP Director of Advocacy Gary Sjoquist and his talented team put on quite a show. Steve Flagg, founder and president of QBP, was on hand to make sure Gary wasn’t goofing off.

16 teams and 146 student mountain bikers competed during the season (official results here). In the team competition (combined boys and girls):

  1. Burnsville/Lakeville Composite
  2. Roseville Area Composite
  3. Rochester Composite

See the large slideshow of 135 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Want to be able to ride fat bikes in national parks in the winter? Attend the 2nd Annual Fat Bike Winter Summit and Festival

PressRelease-2013FatBikeSummit 10.29.12QBP and Fitzgerald’s Bicycles are teaming up to host the 2nd Annual Fat Bike Winter Summit & Festival, Jan. 25-27 in Island Park, Idaho. The Summit (Friday) is for land managers, parks staff, and policy makers to learn more about fat biking in winter and to discuss possible changes in policies. The Festival (Sat/Sun) is for anyone.

I’m part of the team working on this event, helping with the blog, Twitter, webinars, Facebook, etc. And if all goes as planned, I’ll be at the event posting updates throughout… and hopefully doing a fair amount of fat biking in between.

We started started sending out this media release today and we’re starting to do a little online promo.

If you’ve got suggestions or questions, fire away.

Photo album: MN High School mountain bike race at Buck Hill

MN High School mountain bike race at Buck Hill MN High School mountain bike race at Buck Hill MN High School mountain bike race at Buck Hill MN High School mountain bike race at Buck Hill
The Minnesota High School Cycling League held its final mountain bike race of the season today at Buck Hill in Burnsville.  I volunteered to take photos primarily of volunteers, teams, sponsors, and whatever else I could find of interest in and around the pit and start/finish areas.  I got a few action shots but there were other photographers assigned to taking those. I’ll add links to or embed their photo albums here as soon as they get them published.  Alas, I burned through two batteries on my camera taking 500+ photos and didn’t have enough juice left to take podium photos. Hopefully someone else did.

Update 11:20 pm:

Update 10/29 10:45 PM:

See the large slideshow of 155 photos (recommended) or SLOW CLICK this small slideshow:

Mammoth Trail technical obstacles: small victories, one large defeat

Mammoth_Trail_MapI began contacting a few guys individually about the Mammoth trail in Chaska over a year ago. Much of the information about it on the MORC site had been removed, as it’s not a MORC trail and some portions of it go across private property. We saw some ‘no trespassing’ signs and in a few places, tree branches had been deliberately placed across the trail. Neither the Mammoth page on MTBR nor the Mammoth page on Singletracks provide much in the way of current information.

The common refrain I’d heard: go with someone who knows the trail the first time because they aren’t marked and it can be difficult to find your way around. The map (right) was emailed to me with the caveat:

That isn’t the most updated map but it will work. Unfortunately there is not an updated map available. Skull loop has been shortened due to loss of access to some private land and Tom Thumb Loop is slightly different than shown.

Griff Wigley and Graham Wigley  Graham Wigley, Washing Machine loop, Mammoth Trail The Washing Machine loop, Mammoth Trail 
So on Wednesday, I finally went with my son Graham who’s ridden there before. And we still got turned around a few times. It was a warm, humid day, occasionally drizzling – perfect for leisurely wandering the beautiful area—so getting a bit lost wasn’t a problem. And the Original Sin loop (AKA the ‘washing machine’ loop) was every bit as fun as I’d heard. Among the many challenging technical obstacles we encountered:

Griff Wigley, Mammoth Trail1. the half log skinny (right) which, as you’ll see in the first half of the video below, rolls from side to side.  And in the middle of the log there’s a narrow ridge that runs nearly the entire length. If you ride to the right or left of the ridge, the log flips you off.  You have to ride exactly in the center, on top of the ridge.

I made it on my 4th try.

big skinny, Mammoth Trail muddy tire
2. the long downed tree skinny that slopes downhill. It’s pretty fat and has all its bark so I was confident I could ride down its complete length and maybe even up.  On my first attempt I applied both brakes to scrub off my speed after about 20 feet and my rear wheel locked up and slid off. I noticed that my tires were partially packed with damp dirt, so I mentally reasoned, Move my weight back a little further for better rear wheel traction; less rear brake and more front brake. 

You may be wondering: Why brake at all on a skinny, especially one that you can roll down?  I find it helps my balance on a skinny to keep pedaling. So on a level or downhill skinny, I apply both brakes just enough to provide resistance to the pedaling.  And this downhill tree is steep enough that you’d pick up speed quickly, making a crash a little more scary with the numerous trees around it.  Plus, the tree narrows considerably as it forks to the left around a tree at the very end. That part would seem to require a slow, delicate touch.

Alas, I never got that far. My next attempt lasted all of 3 seconds and made me glad I had on all my body armor.  More front brake was exactly NOT what was needed, as my front wheel immediately slid off, though in retrospect, I may have just applied it a little too hard when my front wheel was at a slight angle.

As the drizzle began to turn to rain, I decided it would be prudent to call it a day and make plans for a return engagement.  I’ll stay on the Original Sin loop, however, as that loop doesn’t cross any private property.

See this 90-second video clip of my four attempts of the two obstacles:

Upper body armor means I can crash more with confidence

After narrowly escaping tearing my rotator cuff a couple months ago, I decided to shop around for some shoulder protection. When I saw that POC Sports had upper body armor called Spine VPD Tee that also included chest and spine protection, I figured it would be best to go all-out since my goal is to be doing more gravity-oriented mountain biking next year. VPD (or visco-elastic polymer dough).

Spine VPD Tee Griff Wigley with POC Sports Spine VPD Tee Griff Wigley with POC Sports Spine VPD Tee
So I ordered it from my LBS (local bike shop) and they got it the next day via QBP. There are many reviews of the Spine VPD Tee out there on the interwebs. This video provides a good overview.

Michelin-Man Jersey over Spine VPD Tee Griff Wigley, Spine VPD Tee with hydra-pack Griff Wigley, Spine VPD Tee with jacket
As I noted in my video contest submission, most of us guys don’t want to be seen as overly safety conscious, so we avoid wearing ‘too much’ protective gear.  And with upper body protection, fears of looking like the Michelin Man creep in.  So I bought a $13 light weight practice football jersey and it does a pretty good job of camouflaging the shoulder pads, more so if I wear my hydra-pack.  And if it’s cold out, my Craft Pro Zero Extreme base layer fits nicely underneath it and my red Sugoi RPM Jacket fits nicely over it.  The jacket pulls down the shoulder pads the most, providing the best camouflage.

Griff Wigley, body armor stormtrooper

Of course if it’s hot out, I’ll have to shed those outer layers.  And when I add my white and black elbow/forearm pads and knee/shin pads, I look pretty much like an Imperial Stormtrooper.  Which, if it’s Halloween, is not a bad thing.

Unlike my new full-face MIPS helmet which I’ve not yet worn, I wear my upper body armor whenever I’m trying to either push my limits on speed, or I’m pushing my limits on obstacles. I’ve crashed hard with it on several times. I don’t actually know whether it has saved me on those crashes but I don’t really need to know.