Saturday, January 23, 2016

My Best Bike Moments of 2015

Inspired by Pedal Hub's recent podcast, "The roundtable reunites!" in which Patrick, Amber and Gene discuss their top 5 bike moments of 2015, I decided to reflect back on 2015 and write about my five best bike moments of the year.

Here are mine, in chronological order:

My Vaya - post ride and still full of mud
Box of Frogs was a 60 mile bike ride adventure on gravel, tar and through the mud that I did back on June 7th. I set out to do the ride on my own but was lucky enough to ride along with my friends Kate and Victoria. Finishing that ride taught me that I can do things that seem impossible - like trek through flooded bike trails and ride all day long. The ride was long, hot, muddy, windy, rainy and wonderful!

At the beginning of the Gandy Dancer Trail
My Bikepacking Adventure happened in early August and involved four days of biking in Wisconsin, most of it on the Gandy Dancer Bike Trail. Owen and I packed up our bike bags with a change of clothes, some toiletries and a few other essentials then rode from place to place and stayed in hotels (we'll add camping to our bikepacking trips in the future). We discovered we could manage with very little, rode almost 170 miles in four days and had a blast!
I blogged about the trip in great detail. Here are links to my blog entries:

Katy and I relaxing in hammocks on the most wonderful day
Coffee and Hammock Adventure happened in late September when my friend, Katy, and I headed out from Northfield on gravel roads to Caron Park. We'd had fun on a ride a couple weeks earlier when I we stopped during a ride to made coffee and planned to stop for coffee on this ride as well. So we found Caron Park then somewhat accidentally rode some of the mountain bike trail in order to find an ideal #coffeeoutside location. We made coffee then Katy said she had a surprise - she pulled two hammocks out of her backpack. So we tied our hammocks to trees and then drank coffee and relaxed away the afternoon in our hammocks then biked back home. That day goes down in history as one of the most perfect days of the year! Thanks again, Katy!

Close to the end of my first century ride
My First Century Ride in September was an awesome experience! I have long wanted to do a century ride but have thought riding 100 miles in one day out of my capabilities  I rode my Salsa Vaya with Owen, who rode his Salsa Mukluk and we ventured out on a route created by Owen that mostly went on paved bike trails but also included some gravel. We started riding at dawn in Wayzata on the Dakota Rail Trail then headed west to Hutchinson on the Luce Line Trail and finished in the dark in Wayzata again. Good thing we had bike lights! The ride was long but not as bad as I thought it would be. We didn't go fast and we stopped often to rest and for food. Some of my favorite moments from that ride are talking to people we met along the way. It was the best feeling to see my trip odometer turn over 100 miles. Yay!

Happy New Year!
New Years Eve Sechler Park Ride - To close out the year, Owen and I loaded up our fat bikes and headed to Sechler Park, one of the mountain bike trails in the Northfield area created by CROCT (Cannon River Offroad Cycling & Trails). The night was gorgeous and moon-lit and made for a fun albeit somewhat challenging short ride through the woods. Neither Owen nor I spend much time on mountain bike trails and the trails weren't very well packed so that's where the riding challenge came in for us. That and I decided to tackle some of the obstacles in the skills park area. I've never ridden obstacles before so was really excited that I successfully rode the teeter-totter twice! Along the ride, we bumped into local fatbike race legend and friend, Christopher Tassava. We stopped and chatted a bit before heading back home. Even though we weren't riding when the clock struck midnight, it was the New Year somewhere during our ride! All in all, the ride was a perfect way to wrap up 2015!

What were your favorite Bike Moments of 2015? Feel free to comment below.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

On Riding, Writing and Sitting Still

I'm on a writing retreat at the Anderson Center in Red Wing and took a break from my writing yesterday and this morning to get out and ride the Cannon Valley Trail. The CVT parallels the Anderson Center's property and to get to the trail I only need to bike a few blocks down a hill. I simply can't resist  riding the trail when I'm here! The CVT is my favorite bike trail and although I've ridden it many, many times, I never get tired of riding the trail or the beauty that surrounds it.

With the leaves gone from the trees, I expected the scenery along the trail would be somewhat bland. But I was wrong. I spent most of my rides simply taking in the beauty along the trail. The sun shining through the bare trees. The green moss on rocks and fallen logs. The brown leaves covering the hillsides and carpeting the woodsy floor.

On my ride to the Welch trailhead this morning, I noticed a newly constructed Marshall Memorial Rest Area alongside the trail. On my way back through, I decided to stop and check it out. I'm glad I did! There are benches alongside Belle Creek and a walking path down to the water. It's a beautiful little spot.

Normally, I don't sit still very well but I felt compelled to lean my Vaya up against the bench and sit still for a bit to breathe in the fresh air and listen to the sounds of the creek flowing next to me. I probably sat for only 10 minutes but I felt so refreshed after my little break that it felt like I stayed much longer.

Had I know about the lovely spot, I would have packed a book or my journal, made a cup of coffee (I now carry a little stove, pot and coffee on my Vaya so I can make a cup of coffee at any time) and planned to sit and read or write all morning. But I wasn't prepared to stay and it was time to head back for lunch and my writing. "Next time," I promised myself. Then I got back on my Vaya and pedaled my way back to my writing retreat home away from home.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Milltown's Bikepacking Event - a recap

Owen and I have done some bike packing of the "credit card travel" variety where we slept in hotels instead of camping. We like credit card travel but want to branch out and actually go bike packing for "real" where we carry tents and sleeping bags and all. But, since our camping experience are mostly limited to camping with our families when we were children, and our most recent tent camping experience was, let's just say, rather stressful, we know we have plenty to learn.

We have many questions about bike packing from "What's a bivvy sack?" to "How do we carry all of our equipment on our bikes?" So we were super excited to learn that Milltown Cycles was offering a bike packing "how-to" event for beginners.

The event sounded perfect for us so I signed Owen and I up right away. I also decided to bring our kids, Rose and Ryan, because they've been wanting to go camping for some time and actually have more recent camping experience than Owen and I do.

We were not disappointed! The bike packing event was great fun and we learned a ton.

Here's what happened....

Last Friday, we packed up all of our camping gear (some on loan to us from one of my Northfield Women's Gravel Crushers friends, Katy) and drove to River Bend Nature Center where the event was to be held. We arrived a few minutes late but found our way to the outdoor amphitheater where a nice bonfire and the event's speakers waiting to teach us all about bike packing.
Awesome bonfire
The evening started with a great talk by bike packing guru, Dave. Dave works for Quality Bike Products and has an extensive knowledge of what kinds of gear to use and how to pack it on your bike.  Dave's talk was informative and fun. He had his fully packed Salsa Fargo on hand so we could see what a bike all set up for bike packing looks like. Dave answered all of our questions and was super helpful. Dave keeps a blog where he shares information about bike packing. Find it at:

Bikepacking Dave and his fully loaded Salsa Fargo
A shot of Dave's Salsa Fargo
After Dave's talk, we gathered around the campfire while local coffee roaster, Cody of Stoke Coffee, brewed up a cup of coffee for us and taught us all sorts of things about making great coffee while we're out bike packing. We all got to try the coffee Cody made and asked some questions - Cody knows his coffee! Cody's coffee roasting business, Stoke Coffee, is local and he sells his beans online, at farmer's markets and at our local co-op, Just Foods.
Ryan is taking in all that Cody from Stoke Coffee has to tell us
about making coffee (Ryan likes coffee)
Then we started roasting hot dogs over the bonfire and Curtis from Milltown made up three different kinds of camp food from Mountain House for us to try. He made it all on a little MSR camp stove. I've never had dehydrated camp food - actually, I haven't had much of any kind of camp food - and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted!

Well fed and full of information, we were all getting tired so we trekked back to the camping area and set up our tents with aid of headlamps and flashlights. Bikepacking Dave stuck around until we were set to call it a night. I think he might have been amused at how uncoordinated my family was at setting up a tent but we managed much better than the last time our family went camping! Rose, who backpacked for a week in Montana, is our most experienced tent-setter-upper so she directed Owen on how to set up the tent. I mostly observed because I think that "too many cooks spoil the broth" saying must apply to setting up tents, too, so I figured I'd do the most good out of the way. Once the tent was up, Ryan and I got our sleeping bags set up and things arranged inside the tent.
Our camp
Dave headed for home, we said our "good-nights" to the other campers (four others stayed the night) and soon it was time to go to sleep. It got down to the mid-30s that night but we stayed pretty warm and slept well.
Rose and Ryan - all tuckered out
In the morning, we all gathered for a breakfast of donuts, juice and meat sticks and I broke out my little Esbit pocket stove and made some coffee. Milltown had great giveaways of bike packing equipment for those who attended the event and we were lucky to win two travel pillows, a first aid kit, and a super cool Nemo sleeping pad that I think Owen will take with him on the Tour Divide next summer.
Rose is delighted with the handy packable first aid kit
Ryan shows us that the Nemo sleeping pad is so small and lightweight
he can easily carry it over his shoulder.
After breakfast, we packed up our tents, chatted a bit, loaded up our vehicles and talked some more. All too soon, it was time to head on home.

Thanks, Milltown, for hosting such a wonderful event. We learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and now feel better prepared to go on bike packing adventures and on car camping trips with the family. Good thing because Rose and Ryan are already asking when we can go camping again!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Ride a Century? Done!

On Saturday, I completed a goal I've had for quite some time - I completed a century ride on my Salsa Vaya!

100 miles - Done!
I'm proud of what I did - I'm getting kinda teary-eyed thinking about that moment when I realized I rode my bike for 100 miles! You see, a century ride is something that I never though I could do when I started bicycling six years ago. It's not something I thought I could do earlier this summer, even. But rides like the Box of Frogs, Riotgrravel and my bike packing trip have made me feel stronger both physically and mentally. As the summer progressed, my century ride thinking morphed from "Hey, I think I can do a century" to "When I do a century I'll ride my Vaya" (it's my most comfortable bike) to "I'm going to do a century this fall."

I rode my bike to train but I think the most important thing I did to get ready for this century ride is this - I told myself I could do it and started to believe I could, in fact, pedal my bike for 100 miles.

The best memories of the ride were the many short chats I had with people along the trail. I found that talking to people and hearing their stories energized me and kept me going. I'm going to write a blog post about that in the next day or two.

I could recap the ride in great detail for you but, frankly, most of what happened is I pedaled my bike for a VERY long time - just over nine hours.

There's more to it than that, of course, so if you're interested, read on for more info.


Overall, my body felt strong and my spirits were up most of the way. I was glad to have my husband, Owen, along for company. Owen's ridden several centuries before so knew what to expect and could remind me to focus on the miles accomplished instead of the miles to go. He's also great to talk to and good conversation really helps me keep my mind off of pedaling.

We had a gorgeous day for a ride - mid 70s, sunny, not much wind. For much of the ride I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the roads and trail. At times, the ride was boring. I had points when I was really tired. I hummed when I got a bit too tired and talked to myself sometimes, too. One thing I said to myself was "Little circles. Just make little circles." because my bicycling friend, Kate, told me to remember that all I have to do to finish the ride is keep moving my feet in little circles.

Physically my butt got kinda sore but I expected that. Nothing else really hurt during the ride - not for long periods of time, anyway. Both of my feet felt numb sometimes. My wrists got a little sore and so did my shoulders. I was pretty tired the day after the ride but not very sore at all. It's three days after the ride now and I'd say I've completely recovered.

My Vaya outperforms the Mukluk Owen was riding when it comes to speed so Owen had to work harder to keep up with his heavier bike. There were a few times when I had to slow down for Owen. That doesn't happen often (Owen's a fast rider) so it felt kinda good to be the speedy one for a change :-)  


  • Ride start at 8:08 a.m. (about an hour later than we should have, given how much I stop to talk to people)
  • Finished riding at about 8:20 p.m. (we had lights so were visible and could see where we were going)
  • Total moving time - 9 hours, 9 minutes, 7 seconds
  • Average speed - 11.0 mph (faster than the 10 mph I planned for)

  • I rode my Salsa Vaya 2
  • Owen rode his Salsa Mukluk 2 making this his first fat bike century
The Ride:
  • About 40 miles in, I was tired and wondered if I could make it but also knew I was stuck at that point
  • After the 50 mile mark (and a great lunch in Hutchinson) I was feeling pretty good and knew I would make it back. Still, I would occasionally worry that I would fall off my bike or something and not make it
  • We rode about a 12 mile stretch of gravel between Silver Lake and Lester Prairie. That might have been the hardest part of the ride but it was also really pretty out there on the country roads
  • I found it was NOT helpful to look at my odometer because it seemed to move way too slowly. Some of those miles felt super long 
  • I learned to celebrate the miles I had completed instead of focusing on how many miles I had left to do
  • Every 10 miles Owen and I cheered! I did switch this up and counted remaining miles after about mile 80, though
  • 80 miles was a point where I was just getting sick of riding my bike and wanted to eat chocolate
  • I realized when I was about .5 miles from our van that I was only at 97 miles so Owen and I rode back on the trail for a mile plus so I could get my 100 miles
  • I cried when I hit 100 miles - because I was happy. Overwhelmed. Amazed. Proud. Done!

The Route:

My main goal for this century was to make this a relatively "easy" ride so I could build confidence and convince myself to do an organized gravel century down the road. With that in mind, Owen created a mixed-surface ride that was mostly on bike trails. We avoided a lot of wind this way, had shade much of the time and also felt very safe not having to deal with traffic. We were super glad to be on trails at the end of the day because we finished the ride in the dark.

Here's where we rode - We parked the van at Wayzata Bay then road streets north a bit to pick up the crushed limestone Luce Line Trail. About 25 miles in, around Winstead, the limestone changed over to freshly paved tar. We stayed on the Luce Line all the way to Hutchinson. At Hutchinson, after a lunch break, we took the Luce Line back to Silver Lake rode gravel to Lester Prairie where we stopped for water and snacks. At Lester Prairie we picked the Dakota Rail Trail (limestone for a short bit then paved the rest of the way) back to Wayzata.

Until next time!