All posts by Griff Wigley

Mountain biking at Theodore Wirth Park: a fun and very tricky skinny gets my attention

Mountain biking technical challenges at Theodore Wirth Park Double X loop at Theodore Wirth Park Double X loop at Theodore Wirth Park Double X rock garden at Theodore Wirth Park
I spent a couple of hot and sticky hours on the mountain bike trails at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis on the morning of the 4th of July.  Most of the single track is intermediate level, with just enough elevation to have fun on the twisting turns.  There are a few intermediate technical obstacles along the way (left photo above), and one XX loop with a berm, one jump, a rock garden, and one very difficult man-made skinny:

Double X skinny at Theodore Wirth Park Double X skinny at Theodore Wirth Park Double X skinny at Theodore Wirth Park
The biggest challenge for me on this skinny was having two turns (a left, then a right) that could not be negotiated without hopping the rear wheel on my 29’er. I could make one of the turns but not both. 

After a half-dozen attempts, I got off my bike and studied it. I saw that I was not positioning my front wheel correctly so that hopping my rear wheel would place it at the widest portions of the skinny (right photo), allowing me to ‘straighten the turns.’ 

After another half-dozen attempts, I was still losing my balance on one or both of the turns. More study revealed that the skinny at these turns was slightly uphill, which meant that my weight needed to be forward a bit to be completely centered.  Doing that, plus focusing my eyes ahead on a tree once I positioned my front wheel, allowed me to clean it on my next try.

Props to the Theo dirt bosses at MOCA (Minneapolis Off-Road Cyclists Association) for giving me a workout. Hopefully on my next visit, I’ll have a better clean-to-attempt ratio than 1/12.

Vote for Gary Sjoquist, nominee for this year’s Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. But hurry.

Gary Sjoquist, nominee for this year's Mountain Bike Hall of Famembhof-logo mbhof-logoGary Sjoquist

Gary Sjoquist is featured in quite a few of my blog posts since I started mountain biking last summer, so I was pleased when I heard he’d been nominated for inclusion in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (that’s a page on the Minnesota High School Cycling League web site, another one of Gary’s projects).

Ballot, 2012 Mountain Bike Hall of FameIt’s not simple or quick to cast a vote for Mountain Bike Hall of Fame (MBHOF) nominees.

You first must become a member. Voting membership is $20 and can be done via print/mail or online (PayPay/credit card).

Once you become a member, they send out ballots via mail. Ballots are being sent out now and need to be mailed back by July 15th. I got mine last week (right photo).

I blogged about Gary’s contribution to bicycling back in July 2011 but that didn’t begin to do it justice. See his complete nomination page in the category of Advocacy and then get hustling.


July 27 update: Gary Sjoquist was one of five people inducted into the 2012 Mountain Bike Hall of Fame today.


August 23 update: Last night I finally got a chance to toast Gary for his induction. (Apologies for the crappy smartphone photo.)

Gary Sjoquist and Griff Wigley

November 2014 update: The Mountain Bike Hall of Fame website has moved. See the 2012 inductee entry for Gary Sjoquist here.



Rudy O’Brien’s North Shore Enduro Tour: it rocked, we rolled

A couple weeks ago, Duluth resident and COGGS (Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores) member Rudy O’Brien announced in the MORC forum that he was organizing an enduro-style group ride for June 23rd. "We will be riding a handful of gravity trails in Duluth." I had to be in Duluth last week for a work-related conference so the timing was perfect. I’d never ridden an enduro or on any gravity trails so I was psyched for it.

Rudy O'Brien Dave Cizmas, Rudy O'Brien big rocks to roll down big rocks to roll down 

When the record flooding hit the Duluth area on Tuesday/Wednesday, it wasn’t clear whether we’d be able to ride.  So Rudy, Dave Cizmas and I did a pre-ride on Friday afternoon to check things out. Yes, there were lots of washouts but there plenty of ways to get around them.  We came upon a couple of other riders who were out exploring and we had a blast rolling down the big rocks which were dry and grippy. Game on for Saturday.

Dave Cizmas, Rudy O'Brien; Cody Inn, Duluth flood Cody Inn, Duluth flood Cody Inn, Duluth flood
We rode areas near Duluth’s Cody Inn which was featured in many flood-related news stories.  We got to see a group of guys cut the back section of the inn loose and watch it tumble into the chasm.

Chance Glasford, Dave Cizmas, Cory Vierck, Rudy O'Brien, Spencer Johnson, Andy Kienitz, AJ Peterson  AJ Peterson, Cory Vierck, Spencer Johnson, Dave Cizmas, Rudy O'Brien, John Morrison, Andy Kienitz, Chance Glasford

Saturday morning’s soaking rains stopped by 10:30 so off we went. Left photo: Chance Glasford, Dave Cizmas, Cory Vierck, Rudy O’Brien, Spencer Johnson, Andy Kienitz, AJ Peterson.

Right photo: a gigantic washout of a road near Spirit Mountain: same gang, plus John Morrison who joined us mid-ride.

Rudy O'Brien Andy Kienitz Spencer Johnson Dave Cizmas Chance Glasford
With the morning rain, the big rocks were slippery. Ones like these that were relatively a piece ‘o cake on Friday were treacherous.  Still way fun, but braking was a more delicate affair.

AJ Peterson's knee John Morrison's knee Andy Kienitz Cory Vierck Chance Glasford, AJ Peterson, Spencer Johnson
The knees of AJ Peterson and John Morrison got kissed by the rocks, as did the tires of Andy Kienitz and Cory Vierck.  Otherwise, equipment checks and adjustments were the order of the day, along with:

Spencer Johnson, Andy Kienitz Chance Glasford, Rudy O'Brien, Dave Cizmas AJ Peterson, John Morrison AJ Peterson, Rudy O'Brien, Dave Cizmas, Andy Kienitz, Chance Glasford, Spencer Johnson,
Mud-splattered faces. After this break, we headed west of Spirit Mountain where we hiked our bikes (15-20 minutes for each) up a couple of very steep and gnarly rock trails and then blasted down them. Well, I didn’t exactly blast down.  With a hardtail 29’er, I learned why these guys ride full-suspension bikes on these super-technical downhills. Still, it was amazing fun for me.

We had about ten-mile ride back to Rudy’s house, going downhill to Hwy 23, past the devastated Lake Superior Zoo, then a long climb through the streets of West Duluth up to to Skyline Parkway and to our starting point (above right photo).

Rudy O'Brien, bicycle trials demo Rudy O'Brien, bicycle trials demo Rudy O'Brien, bicycle trials demo
While we gorged ourselves on brats and beer, Rudy treated us to bike trials demo in his backyard. I’m going to learn how to do these stunts when I get a little older.

Rudy O'Brien, bicycle trials demo Rudy O'Brien, bicycle trials demo Rudy O'Brien, bicycle trials demo

Chance Glasford has a much more detailed blog post on the event and the terrain we rode. Example:

Chance GlasfordThe first trail was short but it had a couple sweet technical moves. There was a three tiered drop/step down and if you didn’t pick the right line you were almost guaranteed to go over the bars.

Spencer learned this first hand as his fork bottomed out, his weight shifted forward as he dismounted superman style over the bars into a very graceful roll!

Rudy O'Brien, organizer, North Shore Enduro Tour
I can’t wait for the next edition of Rudy O’Brien’s North Shore Enduro Tour.

Cuyuna boys stray; no longer Leb virgins

Aaron Hautala, Reed Smidt, Todd Orjala, John SchaubachCLMTB Crew president Aaron Hautala and Cuyuna legend John Schaubach drove down to the Twin Cities from Crosby yesterday to attend last night’s MORC board meeting.

John and Aaron had never ridden anywhere besides the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails so they decided to check out Lebanon Hills before the meeting. I joined them, along with MORC VP Reed Smidt and fellow Northfielder Todd Orjala.

We spent 3.5 hours riding every trail at Leb. I was glad worried when they crashed a few times but I still think they enjoyed themselves and maybe even learned a thing or two.

I also walked them through the soon-to-be-opened skills park at Leb and then took them over to see the Lexington Pump and Jump park in Eagan, as they’re scheming to add similar features to Cuyuna.

Cuyuna Lakes MTB Fest BMX stunt show, airbag free-fall

CLMTB Crew president Aaron HautalaAt last year’s Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival, I was a wide-eyed spectator who didn’t even own a mountain bike and therefore had time to take lots of photos of every event.

Not so this year.  I was having too much fun participating this past weekend to take many photos. Plus, I knew that CLMTB Crew president Aaron Hautala, quite the photographer (see his blog) was on duty with his monster camera.  Keep an eye on his Facebook photo album for more of his festival photos.

DSC01114 IMAG0001 IMAG0002 IMAG0003 IMAG0004 
The guys from the Factory BMX Stunt Show brought their Mega Jump ("the largest portable jump in a five state area with a 7’ tall landing") to the festival. I didn’t get show photos but as you can see from the above photos of one guy warming up, the talent was amazing. The two shows they put on were a huge hit with the crowd.

DSC01117 DSC01118 DSC01119 
Seek Joy Productions brought a US Airbag free-fall station to the festival and a steady stream of kids and adults took the plunge into the big baggie throughout the day. It took a while to convince this kid to jump but he did it.

 458107_3556239216905_1607901711_o 410931_3556241056951_1908783502_o 410828_3556241976974_458477199_o 471759_3556242496987_1403600111_o 413067_3556259577414_1416172847_o 178718_3556260257431_1231051539_o 457432_3556262177479_663350528_o
I was pleased that Aaron took photos of me making the plunge, first from below and then from above. I returned the favor later in the day.

Evidence of shredding the red at Cuyuna Evidence of shredding the red at Cuyuna Evidence of shredding the red at Cuyuna
I love how, when you shred the red at Cuyuna, your bike comes home with the evidence.

Is Cuyuna having a positive economic impact? Ya Betcha!

Meranda Mosher, Deb Bieganski, Jamie Lynn Drewlow Ya Betcha Bar & Grill in Crosby, MN
The Ya Betcha Bar & Grill in Crosby, MN has become one of the local eating and drinking establishments to attract significant numbers of mountain bikers who come to ride the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails.

On Friday night before this weekend’s Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Festival, the IMBA Summit attendees headed there for drinks and dinner after the group ride (photo of the building is from March).

I met the family who owns and runs Ya Betcha, Deb Bieganski, and her two daughters, Jamie Lynn Drewlow and Meranda Mosher.  Like Maureen and Jim Christopher at the Heartland Kitchen Café, they’re quite pleased with the increase in business since the park opened last summer.  It’s pretty clear to me that their outgoing personalities have something to do with that. I will be back.