Fall gravel riding sweetness

                                                                                               Image shamelessly stolen from Milltown Cycles

I’m excited to see that Milltown Cycles will be sponsoring not one but three group gravel rides over the next month or so. Their announcement of the series states that:

Plans have been finalized for three fall gravel tours this year.  They will be 45-50 miles in length, self supported, group rides.  Bring water and food for yourself, know your ability level, and bring adequate maps or GPS type devices.  We will mark the courses well, and maps and cues can be printed off using links below.  We will not provide maps or cues at the start.  You can ride the routes as fast or slow as you like.  It should be a good time for riders of any skill level.

Check out http://milltowncycles.blogspot.com for further details and route info.  I’m hoping to make it out to at least two of these, and am especially looking forward to the Rawland Route, which was a standard training route for me when I lived in Northfield.

At 50 some miles in length apiece, these rides aren’t as daunting a commitment as those more established gravel races in the state. Because of that, I think they could fill a really important niche, hopefully making gravel road riding a more accessible experience for those who aren’t quite ready to tackle a full hundred mile (or longer) gravel grinder.

Speaking of not being ready for gravel centuries, it looks like I’m waking up at the ass-crack of dawn to drive up to Duluth for the Heck of the North. It promises to be a humbling experience, as its been months since I put in any considerable saddle time.

Minneapolis exploring

Five weeks ago I moved to Minneapolis and promptly quit riding. Asides from a six-mile roundtrip commute to school, I’ve been on a bike maybe half a dozen times since leaving Northfield. I mostly blame this on an increasingly overwhelming workload, but in reality I know that classes and homework don’t add up to that much more than forty hours a week. A lot of my inactivity is due to just not being that excited about riding in the city.

Minneapolis is likely one of the best cities in the country to be a cyclist, but its still a crowded urban area. The twenty to thirty mile rides that I have been able to go on since moving here have been confined to flat, congested bike paths. Its tough to get excited about a two hour long, pancake flat out-and-back where the only obstacles to negotiate are grown men on Seqways.

Admittedly, I’ve been spoiled by the idyllic, underused gravel roads I’ve been able to ride on for the past few years. I’m unlikely to find any good substitute for Farmer’s Trail or Shady Lane in the metro, but I’m going to do my best to quit bitching and seek out the next best thing.

Despite the lack of gravel, Minneapolis does have one big advantage over Northfield: single track! Theodore Wirth Park is an eight mile ride from my house and has a fun, if short, loop of MORC maintained trail.  This trail pretty much ensures that my Fargo will continue to see regular use within the city.

Theodore Wirth Singletrack

Crosby Farm and Hidden Falls Parks are near the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers. Until today I’d just puttered around the paved bike paths that run through them, but this afternoon I detoured onto an overgrown stretch of trail that juts off of the pavement. An abundance of itch weed had me turning around within a few minutes, but I could see this area being fun to explore later in the fall.
Next weekend I’m heading up to Duluth for the Heck of the North. I’m out of shape the point where I don’t even need to think about the possibility of riding well, but hopefully I’m still at a point where the distance is manageable. I plan on taking it slow, carrying a camera, and enjoying a ride on some new-to-me gravel