My weekend: Three bikes and some whitewater.

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Lake Superior on April 1st. If this was a normal year you’d be seeing the lake covered in ice right now.

We had what must have been one of the nicer April 1st in quite awhile. Pleasant temps for this time of year and a lack of wind. I got in my longest ride of the year on Saturday. Nothing to brag about, but it felt good to spend some time in the saddle.

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People at work were talking about the Annual Lester River Kayak Races happening this weekend. They are scheduled last minute to correspond with high melt water on the river. Lester River is located on the eastern side of Duluth. I headed in that general direction thinking I could end up at the races about time they were scheduled to start. I rode along the Lake front on the Lakewalk. It’s still odd to have the studded tires off the bike so early in the Spring. The bike felt fast with the smooth rolling summer tires.

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It wasn’t long before I reached the Lester River Crossing on the Lakewalk extension. I headed up stream to see if I could find the kayak races.

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Spectators waiting for the races to begin.

I found a place to watch just as the projected start time arrived. I waited 20 minutes but the kayaks never came. As per usual for me when the weather starts to warm up, I tend overdress and get a bit sweaty. I was starting to catch a chill standing around. So I meandered on my way without witnessing any of the racing in person. Here’s some footage from YouTube for an idea of what I missed.

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Bike ride number two on bike number two happened Sunday. It was an errand run to the local Co-op (not to be confused with Whole Foods Market).

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We’ve always kept a tight household budget. In fact we’ve been budgeting our expenses since 1998. Our food budget always challenges us and helps us from over spending. The down side of the food budget is we get low on basic food staples by the end of the month. Once a new month rolls around we generally do a couple of big shopping trips. The picture is of the Blue Truck/Xtracycle loaded up with four full size sacks of groceries. The xtra large canvass shopping bags were hand sewn by Susan and fit in the Xtracycle quite nicely.

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Bike number three may not be what you were expecting. This one has a motor other then me to power it. The snow is gone and it’s warm. I decided it was a good weekend to take the cover off the moto, drop in the battery, and start it up. I’m always impressed with this Honda motor. After sitting outside all winter, it starts up instantly and without any complaints. Luckily whatever animal was living under the seat was gone and hadn’t chewed through any of the wiring. Looking forward to another season of riding this machine along with all my other bikes.

Hope everyone out there had a nice weekend.

Cycle on.

 

 

It happened this weekend.

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The studded tires came off and the summer treads went on. All the tires I handled were Schwalbes. That will tell you the state of my thumbs. They are raw from coaxing those tough beads onto the rims. For those tracking things at home, the studded tires were 26 x 1.75 Schwalbe Marathon Winter. The summer tires I’m currently using on this bike are 26 x 2.0 Schwalbe Supremes. Interestingly enough, they measure almost the same width on the rim with a caliper despite being two different sized tires.

The annual ritual of removing the studded tires is always a milestone. It signals the arrival of above freezing temps. I’m not commuting by bike many days lately. Back when I commuted daily, the day the studs came off was always a big day. And a bit stressful some years. Take them off too early and get surprised by a late Spring snow storm, and you regret it. There’s been a few years when I’ve had to put the studded tires back on.

This years removal was about three to four weeks earlier than normal. On average the studded tires usually come off the third week of April. That’s about the time we no longer drop below freezing at night.

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The best thing about taking the studded tires off is the first ride on the bike. I feel like Superman on the bike with faster rolling tires. And the lack of the “sizzlin’ bacon” sound of the steel carbide studs on pavement is sooo nice. It feels like I’m gliding along effortlessly and stealthy quiet. To top if off I gave the bike a good scrubbing to remove all the accumulated winter grit and salt. It felt, and looked like, a new bike. You know what a joy it is to ride a new bike.

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Riding the local mtb trails on the Pugsley was definitely not an option. The trails are officially closed. We are into the mud season. Trails will be closed to all users until it drys out. That could be in two weeks or six weeks if we have a wet Spring.

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I chose to ride Skyline parkway. I timed it today so that I was able to get in a decent ride between rain showers. Skyline has extremely low traffic on a wet, cold, foggy Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed cruising along silently on my bike in the dampness, with the woods shrouded in fog. It was quite meditative. When I stopped to take the above picture I started to admire the look of the raw, unpainted stainless steel tubing used on this bike. All cleaned up the unpainted steel frame had an enticing shiny look to it in the low light conditions. I snapped a few pictures of it.

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These low light conditions also seem to “illuminate” Alex Cook‘s (the builder) frame building skills. One interesting highlight of this frame is the use of a 1″ steerer tube. While everyone else is building with 1  1/8th” headtubes or tapered headtubes, Alex suggested we go with a 1″ on this bike. He said it would blend better with the over aesthetic of this frame. I think he was right. In fact, I think he nailed it.

It’s always nice to have an enjoyable ride on a day that proved hard to get motivated to go out. Although I admit I was a bit chilled when I arrived home. A hot cup of tea was in order. My wife has quite a selection of loose leaf teas from The Tea Source in St. Paul, Minnesota. I picked a nice Roasted Chestnut black tea. Of course I used a mug I designed. I thought it was a fitting theme for today’s ride.

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My Spring sale at my store, Salty Pedaler, goes thru April 7, 2017. Use code spring2017 to get 15% off all orders.

Cycle on people.

Four Season Cycling? How about six seasons?

March 17th snow.

Our yo-yo winter continues. Warm, cold, thaw, freeze, over and over. This far North we’re used to everything freezing up in November and not thawing until April. This year has been weird. That’s the word I’ve heard used a lot this winter. We’ve had at least one major thaw each month so far this year. And then it snows again. Like it did this past Friday. And then two days later it’s mostly gone.

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I got out on a bike both days this weekend. Yesterday it was very sunny, and just warm enough to melt about half our snowfall from Friday.

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Today it was cloudier, but the melting continued.  On today’s ride I started thinking about the name of this blog: Four Season Cycling. I have to comment that it’s definitely not four seasons that last an equal amount of time on the calendar. If anything, Winter lasts the longest. Up to six months. That is if you count the winter months from when the leaves are on the ground in late October and up until green-up happens in the Spring. This typically happens around Memorial Day. It’s not until the late May holiday weekend that leaves are finally out and the lilacs and fruit trees are starting to blossom.

My thought was to add a couple of seasons during the shoulder months to “shorten” the winter season. I’m thinking late October and November could be a new season. April and the first couple of weeks of May could be another new season. We will need new names for these shoulder seasons. Or maybe just combine the names of the adjoining seasons like Winspring and Fallter?

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The old Endion Train Depot in Canal Park (not it’s original location).

Well, regardless of what we call the seasons and how many there happen to be, the hardiest Minnesotans enjoy riding through them all.

Cycle on!

 

February is for fatbiking??

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February, for me at least, is for fatbiking……unless you’re in the middle of a weirdly warm February. Taking it to the roads is what I was doing this weekend. I used the word “weird” to describe our weather on my blog post from Saturday, two days ago. I’m not the only one using this word. I’ve read it on the FB, on other blogs, and on NPR this morning. A meteorologist on the radio used the word “weird” to describe the weather in Minnesota over the past week. He said 197 record high temperatures were broken over the weekend in Minnesota. Here in Duluth we missed record highs by a degree or two Friday and Saturday. Despite not setting a new record, nobody can seem to remember experiencing 50 degrees temps in Duluth in February. It’s just, well, weird.

I’m not saying it’s climate change, or that winters are warmer then they used to be. perhaps they are. But I do remember that just three years ago we had one of the coldest winters on record. With something like 52 or 53 days with below zero temps. I remember it because bike commuted everyday that winter.

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This graphic I came across shows we still have cold winters. It shows 91.8% of Lake Superior covered in ice three years ago yesterday. This year only 8.2% is covered in ice. So maybe we aren’t having warmer winters overall, but we are having more wild, weird swings in weather patterns and temperatures.

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What this years warm winter means for me can be illustrated with the above. The local mtb trailheads were posted with this sign yesterday. It should be prime snowbiking weather, but instead I was riding the roads as the snow was quickly disappearing.

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I’m not complaining. I enjoy being on a bike whether it’s on snow or not. Maybe winter will make another appearance, or maybe I’ll have to wait until next winter.

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Either way I’ll be out riding a bike no matter what.

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Winter arrives with a convincing storm.

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After a weirdly, warm start to November a winter storm roared through the Arrowhead Region of Minnesota on Friday. Areas to the north and west of us received up to 2 feet of snow. In my neighborhood it was about 3 inches of snow. Amazing it even stuck considering we had the latest hard freeze since some time in the the late 1800’s.  Our first hard freeze corresponded with this storm. Without the normal freezes the ground isn’t frozen at all. This storm had high winds and lots of blowing snow and plunging temps. It was a very abrupt change. For those of us that love winter, all I can say is, “It’s about time.”

I’m not going to lie that I enjoyed the warm Fall. But I’m ready for winter. I had to go out for a ride and soak it in all. Snow and cold air. Love it!

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What’s that in the air?

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I believe it would be Fall. That’s what’s in the air. The seasons follow a different calendar  here. Winter lingers late into Spring. Fall and winter come early. The days are getting shorter. The green foliage is fading. It isn’t turning yet, but it’s definitely fading. The mornings are cooler. It takes longer for it to warm up. The warmth of the afternoon sun dissipates quickly at the end of the day. It’s all signs that Fall is coming. Sure, we may still get a hot spell or two. But it only lasts a day or two.

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Today was one of those days were it started with a mix of clouds with foggy patches. Susan and I took a walk over to our neighborhood co-op for a bit of shopping in the late morning. The temps were still in the mid-60’s. With the cloud cover it felt like the temperature was going to stick there the rest of the day. I don’t mind. I’m not a fan of hot weather. And we don’t even get the super hot stuff here. I look forward to these cool days. In the past I tend to put more miles on the bikes in September and October then any other months.

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The north coast of Lake Superior.

Things changed around 2:00. Gaps in the clouds started to form. Then bigger gaps. And then this (above). You can’t see it in the picture, but there is still fog out on the horizon of the big lake. There’s also clouds behind me in the picture. I managed to get out at the perfect time of this day. A brief window where the clouds opened up and the temp struggled to pull itself up above the 70 degree mark. Only barely. The view of the lake always awes me. I took a circuitous route that had me riding high above the lake. On the return portion I rode along it’s shore for a close-up view.

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I had to dodge the hordes Pokemon-go (SP?) players in Leif Erickson Park. It was my first exposure to this. At first I didn’t understand what was going on. Why were there people standing together in the middle of the trail looking at their phones. And people walking about in patterns looking at their phones in all corners of the park?. Patterns that didn’t register as normal in my brain.  It was a bit bizarre. Oh well. It was the only place I encountered these game players on the entire ride.

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Old skis on a shed wall in Chester Park.

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The blue skies and blue lake made a great back drop to just about every picture I snapped today.

Looking forward to Fall, cool temps and many more enjoyable rides…..and hopefully some bike camping trips.
//rwgps-embeds.com/trips/10766309/embed

Sunday coffee ride with Susan

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Susan’s Bianchi and my Brompton in Canal Park.

It happens between one and three times every year. Susan and I get out and ride bikes together. Susan loves to bike. She just doesn’t make it her top priority like I do. She has many other interests that keep her busy. When she does get out on a bike it’s usually with me. Not always. But we always have fun when it is the two of us. We had a relaxing ride with a coffee stop in the middle. We headed down to the Canal Park area on the lakefront. I’ve become so good at avoiding crowds sometimes I forget that Duluth is a huge tourist destination. Canal Park is the main tourist attraction. A former industrial area that has been turned into shops, cafes, restaurants, and recently micro breweries. It is peak tourist season right now. And Canal Park was bustling.

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Another purpose of this ride was to get some pictures of me with my Brompton. I’ve been asked to submit a guest blog post for possible use on another blog. A post about how I use my Brompton in Duluth.

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Since I normally bike alone I don’t have any pictures of me and the Brompton. Only pictures of the Brompton. It all went good except we somehow lost my camera. We split the picture taking between my iPhone and my Sony Elph pocket camera. Fortunately we still had some of the pictures that were taken on the phone. The camera is lost for good. I even went back down to look for it after we got home and realized it was missing.

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Despite the lost camera fun was had by all. It was fun to sit on the patio at the coffee shop on a beautiful Sunday morning and people watch. We just wouldn’t want to do it all the time.

A full weekend.

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Saturday’s quick ride.

We had two 90F+ degree days on Thursday and Friday. At 3:00 am Friday morning a devastating thunderstorm came through and caused much damage in other parts of town. Parts other then where we live. Straight line winds clocking upwards of 100 mph, that’s hurricane level winds, blew through the area. It left 1/3 of the city without power and knocked down 100’s of trees. Power is still out for more then 20,000 people as of Sunday night. Some people may have to wait until late in the week to have power restored. We were fortunate our neighborhood didn’t see any damage.

All that to say, it cooled down on the weekend. Ninety degree weather is very rare in these parts. Some years we never see a 90 degree day. Yesterday (Saturday) when I finally got out for a short afternoon ride it was 68F degrees. That’s what life by the world’s biggest fresh water lake is like. (Biggest by surface area, not volume.)

My weekend was very busy. Still working on the kitchen renovation. I manged to make progress on that and still get in a bike ride each day. Saturday’s was a quick ride. I tried to get in a ride before another round of thunderstorms hit. They ended up missing us and going east.

Sunday’s ride was way more enjoyable. I got out for a 20 mile spin with some climbing, some urban gravel, and lots of views. The route I took is here.I’ll make the rest of this post a picture post. Enjoy.

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Gravel, woods, and solitude.
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I came across more new mountain bike trails.

This trail was only a few days old. They are building new mountain bike trails faster than I can keep track of it. This particular stretch starts on the south end of the old Mission Creek Parkway bridge. The bridge that crosses the Munger Trail. It’s mind boggling to me how fast the mountain bike trail system is growing. There’s not going to be anywhere in the United States that has anything like this once it’s done. An interconnected 100 mile system of trails all within the city limits.

In other news. My raspberries are doing fantastic this year. I love berry season.

This is bike related. How can a patch of raspberries be bike related you ask?

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That’s me in 2007 with my newly built Xtracycle carrying a bucket of raspberry bushes.

One of the first errands I did when I built my Blue Truck/Xtracycle back in the summer of 2007 was carry a load of raspberry bushes 10 miles across town. A co-worker of mine offered me the bushes. All I had to do was pick them up. So I did. And I did it on a bicycle. Her yard was being taken over by them. That bucket of bushes has turned into quite a nice patch that produces a lot of berries. Love those berries.

Braving the crowds.

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The A-train down by the lake.

We are now into week three on the kitchen renovation. Working on painting the cabinet doors. With limited work space I can only do one set of doors at a time. I put on a coat of paint and wait for it to dry. Repeat. Working outside hasn’t been an option with the frequent rain showers we are having lately. It’d be great if I could line up all the doors and paint them all at the same time. I’d be done by now if I could have done that.

I’ve been able to get in a few bike rides in between coats of paint. Yesterday I got out for a short ride late in the day. I haven’t been down to the lake front in awhile. I decided to head in that direction. I know Duluth is a tourist destination and the lake front can be swamped with tourists. I thought to myself how bad can it be? Turns out it was much worse then I expected. On the way to the lake front I rode past the Reggae Fest at Bayfront Park. The dog show at the convention center and the regular hordes of people around Canal Park and the lake front. An outdoor wedding had just finished as I rode through Leif Erickson Park. It was all a bit much for me. I retreated to city streets and made my way back home away from the hustle and bustle of the the lake front. Here was my route.

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Lake Superior.

Despite the crowds, the views of Lake Superior were nothing short of breath taking. This is what draws me to the lake. It is a constantly evolving canvas. It never looks the same twice. Today it featured mud colored water. The result of all the rain run off from the recent heavy rains flowing into the big lake. This view alone was worth braving the crowds.

Venturing across the bridge for more urban gravel.

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Riding gravel in Superior Municipal Forest. Not another soul around.

It’s the weekend, we’re having some of the warmest weather of the year. I felt drawn to cross the river into Wisconsin for some reason. Maybe the thought of crossing over the river on one of the local high bridges would seem cooling in our hot weather we’re having. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t able to get across the river by bike last summer because the bridge was being refurbished and the pedestrian/bike way was closed all summer and into the fall. I’m not sure what the pull was. It was strong enough to coax me across the river both days.

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Crossing the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge heading for Wisconsin and the City of Superior.
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The A-train on the bridge. Not only is this my all-weather commuting bike, it’s my camping bike, and today it’s my gravel bike.
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It’s rare to see a freighter this far up river from Lake Superior. It happens, but it’s rare.

Today’s ride was to be extra slow. The temperature reached an incredible 91F/32C degrees while I was out today. You have to realize how hot that is for us Duluthians. There are entire summers where the temperature never reaches the 90 degree mark. Just four days ago we had a high temp of 51F degrees. Forty degrees cooler than today. I acclimatize to hot weather very slow. But, I did pretty well in the heat yesterday when it was only about 5 degrees cooler. So I took it slow and drank water constantly.

My destination for today was the Superior Municipal Forest. I’m not sure of the history of it, but it appears to be older growth woods. The forest lines the bays and inlets along the St Louis River. There’s a nice gravel road that winds it’s way through the forest and in and out of the bays. Here’s my route for today: //ridewithgps.com/trips/9542772/embed

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Superior Municipal Forest.

This gate is usually open during the summer. The gravel road doesn’t look like it’s received any maintenance since winter. We’ve had a lot of rain. Maybe they’ve been waiting for it to dry out a bit before grading the gravel.

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What it meant for me was a lack of any other humans. Not a soul to be seen. It was almost eerie being in the middle of a city and not seeing another person. I felt like I was in the middle of a wilderness far away from any cities.

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Chunky.
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Bays were muddy with silt from rain runoff.

About halfway though the forest roads I started to feel the effects of the heat. I had to take the short gravel uphills quite slow to avoid feeling light headed. I slowed my pace and kept the fluids coming.

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My A-train all-rounder is a fantastic gravel bike.

Despite the crazy heat, I had a wonderful 20 mile ride. No traffic to speak of and very few people. Even when I wasn’t in the municipal forest.

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That hill in the distance is Minnesota. Yes. Minnesota has hills. Well, this part of Minnesota does.
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Low traffic roads…or I should say, no traffic roads.

With the exception of a couple of aggressive deer flies, I didn’t have to worry about bugs today. High winds kept the bugs down. Sustained speeds over 20 mph with gusts much higher. It was so high on the bridge coming back I had to get off and walk the bike for about a mile. I know from past experience it has to be over 45 mph gusts to get me to dismount on the bridge.

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View of the Bong Bridge from the Wisconsin side. Rough, muddy waters today.

I’ll leave you with another picture of my A-train on a fishing pier in Superior, Wisconsin.

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