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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.