Midwest MTB Racing Recap: Season Preview by Jay Richards
April 17, 2012
First things first, being a lover of snow and skiing, the ski season was way to short. With good snow not falling until later December, we were able to ride on the mountain bike trails at Mapelag late into December with our last ride with the "narrow" tires occurring on Christmas Eve! The beginning of March we had the deepest base of the year at Maplelag and honestly thought March was going to be a good month for skiing. That thinking led to a goal of skiing 30 days in a row, a spin off of the 30 days of biking a good number of people are challenging themselves with, this month. However, with natural snow melting off by March 16th, it got challenging and interesting to make 30 days. Regardless, it has been nice to be ripping the dirt as of late on some of the best riding conditions of the year, no bugs, good sight lines and ideal temps.
Usually the first mountain bike preview makes reference to the season coming up soon. Not this year, a late start to non existent winter for some, allowed riders to ride on the trails late into the fall with some trails remaining open all winter. A good year for winter riding was made even better with the "fat bike", the latest craze in cycling with riders able to ride all types of conditions thanks to super wide tires. There were a good number of winter bike races and we hosted one ourselves with 6" of fresh snow falling during the day to add to the fun. Will have to say the fat bike opened up a whole new aspect of cycling in the being able to adventure places not accessible during the winter.
With a little more open time in April and dry trails, I've had the opportunity to check out some of the local favorite trails including the new mountain bike singletrack trail at Movil Maze near Bemidji and the time honored favorite, Paul Bunyan State Forest. The Movil Maze singletrack has expanded and has turned in to a very fun area to ride. The trail builders have been building trail by hand paying close attention to detail with meticulous manner. With early opening at Paul Bunyan combined with super dry conditions, the riding there as been some of the best I have ever seen for early season. The PBSF trails have been featured before in previous reports and should be the top of the list of any mountain biker in the Midwest to put on the list to check out. There really isn't anything like it in the state. With nearly a 100 miles of trails, you can ride for hours without crossing the same trail twice. The trails were built for atv and dirt bikes but all the mountain bikers I have talked to have never had issue and the area is dead quiet during the week.
Photos from Paul Bunyan State Forest
Other Trail Notes:
Tony Schmitz with big time help from "Michigan Mike" has been leading the charge on expanding the singletrack at Mountain View Singletrack area outside Detroit Lakes, MN. For area residents of the lakes area, this is a fun trail system to crank some laps. Eric Guse and crew were working at Buck Hill last weekend, site of Thursday night at Buck racing during the summer and the Birch Bump (MN series race the end of July) and built a half mile of new singletrack! Impressive considering the amount of terrain available. Residents of Dane County, WI are excited about the new trails being built in their neck of the woods and the new Duluth Traverse, a continuous off road trail from Lester Park to Jay Cooke State Park gets going with a fundraiser.
A few years ago, the 29" wheel made scene and seems to be the the preferred wheel of choice. Now a new wheel size, 650B, making noise after recent wins on the world cup scene this spring. The 650B tire is in between the 26 and 29 and people behind the 650B movement claim that with 650B tires you get all of the same advantages of the 29" movement (lower rolling resistance, better traction, smoother ride, etc.) with less of the disadvantages (geometry limitations, toe clearance issues, higher center of gravity, suspension travel limitations). Ask.com has a nice Q and A for more information.
With most mountain bike races not taking place until May, gravel grinding has been one fix for lovers of dirt with rides and races nearly every weekend. The big Raganok 105 was last weekend with reigning MN state champ Brendan Moore finding his way near the top after 6 hours of racing. If your looking to grind some gravel this weekend, the Woolly bike club will be putting on the Mammoth Gravel Classic
Series racing is just around the corner to with the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS) to kick off racing on May 6th. Of course the highlight of the year for WORS is the Subaru Cup, labeled "the Midwest Mountain bike race event of the year" which is part of the Pro XCT series with top racers from the country and UCI points on the line. The Minnesota Mountain Bike Series opens with a new venue (after typically starting at Harmon Park) with the challenging hills of Afton Alps testing riders legs and lungs early in the year. The MN series has a fresh new look this year and is partnering to help with development of high school racing to help introduce young riders to the great sport of mountain biking.
The "Border Battle" is no longer but instead the White Tail ridge venue will be host to a race in the Minnesota series and will also make a stop in Wisconsin for the final race in the series with the St Croix Valley Woolly, pleasing riders in western Wisconsin who aren't keen to traveling to WORS races located mostly in the eastern part of the state.
Like previous opening reports where where we preview races such as the mighty Chequemegon, Ore to Shore and races in between, we will look ahead to upcoming races each week instead like the regular reports. If you have an event or news you would like to have published, please pass along to skinnyski and we will do our best to include it. While the focus is on cross country racing, trails and anything related to mountain biking is all good! With that said, anyone itching to cross country mountain bike race in April, the long time running Decorah Mountain Bike Time Trials have always been a nice season opener for many mountain bikers and if you are looking for adventure to the north, the Grand Beach Mountain Bike Race will be held at the Grand Beach XC ski trails April 29th in Manitoba, Canada!
Keep the wheels moving!
| || |
About the author...
Jay Richards maintains a very active lifestyle. He somehow finds time between managing a full-time resort (Maplelag) and bringing up a family of four boys with his wife Jonell, to compete in both mountain bike and a few cross-country ski races. Jay rides for Maplelag Resort, manages the Maplelag/Paramount mountain bike team and enters his 22nd year of racing and promoting mountain bike races.