Tag Archives: Caleb Wendel

The Duluth Enduro Series: why I’m now hooked on mountain bike enduro racing

Duluth Enduro Series 2015I tried a few XC mountain bike races back in 2011 when I first started mountain biking and while I enjoyed the atmosphere of the races, I didn’t really enjoy the riding that much, as it seemed to be 90% aerobic endurance, not my forte.  I began to equate ‘endurance’ with ‘suffering’ and haven’t competed in any XC mtb races since.

So when I started learning about mountain bike enduro racing last year and that COGGS was again hosting a Duluth Enduro Series in 2015 for members, I became intrigued because of the format. The way they explain it:

Enduro uses a time trial format with racers starting special stages 30 seconds to a minute apart. There are two types of stages: Timed stages (or Special Stages) and Transits. All of the Timed stages will factor into your final place. Timed stages are mostly downhill, but will have a few flat sections or small climbs. Transits require riders to make it to the start of the next timed stage within a given time, however there’s no benefit to finishing the Transit faster than your competitors.

The Wikipedia entry for Enduro mountain biking nails the rationale for me because of the emphasis on technical features, more my forte:

Enduro is a form of Mountain bike racing in which there is a greater proportion of downhill sections, which are timed, to uphill and cross country sections. This aims to test rider’s technical bike handling skills as well as providing endurance and climbing.

But since I live in southern Minnesota, a 3+ hour drive from Duluth, and since the Duluth Enduro Series races are held on Wednesday nights, I didn’t give too much thought to actually competing.

On Wednesday morning, June 10, a massive rain system was moving towards southern MN and forecast to cover most of Wisconsin on Thursday. I had been planning to head to the IMBA Great Lakes Summit in Marquette, MI on Thursday but decided to take a detour to Duluth to avoid the rain and sample some of the COGGS trails that I’d never ridden. I posted a note about my intentions to my Facebook profile timeline at 3pm:

Continue reading The Duluth Enduro Series: why I’m now hooked on mountain bike enduro racing

Keweenaw Peninsula mountain biking: more than just Copper Harbor

Since the trail system at Copper Harbor is an IMBA Silver-level Ride Center, that’s what I’ve mainly heard about here in Minnesota whenever talk turns to mountain biking in the U.P., especially in the Keweenaw Peninsula.  So the cool thing about the annual Ride the Keweenaw, I discovered, is that you get to experience many of the other trails in the area.

Griff Wigley, Hansi Johnson, Oliver Cooper MTU Technical Trail Ride MTU Technical Trail Ride - dragon MTU Technical Trail Ride - dorkscrew
IMBA’s Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson and I arrived in Houghton on Friday afternoon to ride some of Michigan Tech University’s network of mountain biking trails. We luckily arrived at the same time as Oliver Cooper, MTU engineering student and avid mountain biker. He led us on some very cool technical trails (rocks, roots, mud) that included some fun man-made obstacles like the Dragon and the Dorkscrew shown above (photos extracted from the poster).

Rob Peters, Lori Hauswirth, Bill Marlor, and friends 3713796927_d9314082ce_o 3713778779_364680869e_o
A late addition to the Ride the Keweenaw schedule was a Friday night ride on some of the Southern Keweenaw (SöKē) trails around the Adventure Mining Company in Greenland, about 40 minutes south of Copper Harbor. Staffer Rob Peters (and course designed of the annual Miner’s Revenge Mountain Bike Race) graciously led the ride and opened up the trail through the mine for us.  Very cool. (Other than the group shot on the left above, I didn’t take photos, so I’ve grabbed two of the mine tunnel from a Flickr album of the 2009 race by Christopher Schmidt. I’ve linked his photos to his set.)  Some rocky sections of the trail we rode were the most technically challenging and fun I’ve ever ridden.  If you love the gnarly stuff, especially steep, rocky downhills, go there. “The Adventure Trails are free use public trails open 7 days a week for hiking, running, and mountain biking.”

Ride the Keweenaw group ride at MTU Ride the Keweenaw group ride at MTU trail pass system at MTU
Saturday’s 9 am group rides were held at Michigan Tech’s network of mountain biking trails (supported by a trail pass honor system). I was thrilled that they offered 4 choices ranging from beginner to expert because my legs were mush from the 4 hours of riding on Friday. I chose ‘intermediate’ and was barely able to keep up.

Caleb Wendel and Steve Vizanko Steve Vizanko pump and jump park at Michigan Tech MTU dual slalom MTB course
Post-ride food and refreshments were provided by co-owners Caleb Wendel and Steve Vizanko of The Bike Shop in downtown Houghton. Steve also did some jump coaching in the MTU terrain park (beginner and advanced jumps, a pump track, and a dual slalom course). I was thrilled to be able work on my form on the beginner level table tops that first learned how to do at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park back in Feb. See the May 26 Mining Gazette article, Riders practice jumping during Ride the Keweenaw, for more.

At noon, most riders departed for more group rides at Churning Rapids MTB trails near Hancock (1 pm) and the Swedetown MTB trails near Calumet (3 pm). Alas, not me. I departed for Copper Harbor to give my legs some recovery time so that I’d be able to get in at least one run on a downhill trail there.

First stop for the ‘Ride the Keweenaw’ weekend: The Bike Shop in Houghton, MI

Lori Hauswirth, Caleb Wendel, Hansi JohnsonI arrived in Houghton yesterday afternoon, all psyched for this weekend’s Ride the Keweenaw.

First stop: The Bike Shop in downtown Houghton where IMBA’s Midwest Regional Director Hansi Johnson, Lori Hauswirth, Executive Director of the Copper Harbor Trails Club and I paid our respects to co-owner Caleb Wendel. (I first met Caleb at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee back in Feb. when he took a video of me riding the hamster wheel.)

The Bike Shop, Houghton, MI The Bike Shop, Houghton, MI The Bike Shop, Houghton, MI
The Bike Shop (and companion boardshop Rhythm) has expanded this year from the basement to the entire first floor and mezzanine. It’s huge and classy. I’m likely to spend some money there today.

Variations in how to ride the hamster wheel at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee

Expert section, Ray's Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee Approach to the hamster wheel, Ray's Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee Approach to the hamster wheel, Ray's Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee Hamster wheel, Ray's Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee
My Jan. 22 blog post, Technical sections at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park: ingeniously challenging, included a short paragraph about the hamster wheel in the Expert Section at Ray’s Indoor Bike Park in Milwaukee. My video in that blog post also showed Ken Barker from Cedar Rapids, Iowa riding the hamster wheel (starting at the 33 second mark).

Caleb Wendel Caleb Wendel at Ray's Indoor Bike Park, Milwaukee
I met Caleb Wendel, co-owner of The Bike Shop in Houghton, Michigan that weekend and yesterday, he alerted me that the video he took of me riding the hamster wheel was now up on Vimeo:

As I wrote earlier, Ken and I figured out one way to ride the hamster wheel without putting your feet down: ride in fast and up as high as you can go without falling backwards; lock both brakes until the wheel starts to move, then pedal quarter turns with the same foot to keep the wheel moving; use your elbows against the hub and spokes as needed to keep your balance.

Of course I’m now itching to go back to Ray’s at least one more time before they close for the season and I’ve been thinking about how else the hamster wheel could be ridden.  This video shows a Ray’s employee, Dave Barnett, riding the hamster wheel (some of it includes a helmet cam view).  It appears as though he’s not pedaling at all, once the wheel starts to move, but rather just throws his body weight forward a few times (starting at the 23-second mark):

I’d like to try that approach, regardless. I’d also like to figure how to ride the hamster wheel perfectly clean, ie, no shoulder or elbow dabs against the hub and spokes. It would seem like hopping the bike left and right as needed to keep balanced might be a way to do that, though doing that at a steep angle while pedaling half turns seems daunting. I’ll report back next time I go but if anyone has ideas or experiences to share, please attach a comment.

Here’s a short video clip on how NOT to ride the hamster wheel: