Days like these.

City of Duluth mountain bike trails built and maintained by COGGS.

Yesterday I started work at 5 am. An unusually early start time for me. The good news was I able to get in an 8 hour work day and be home before 2 o’clock. Hmmm, what to do? Bike ride of course. I had enjoyed my trail ride on my Pugsley earlier in the week so much, I decided to try that again. I lack any serious mountain bike skills. I can count on my two hands how many times I’ve ridden summer trails on my Pugsley. My only “mountain bike”. Well, I do have the 80’s Specialized Rock Hopper Comp. I don’t normally think of that bike as my mountain bike because I’ve used it for just about everything but mountain biking over the years.

I decided midday and mid-week biking on the trails would allow for the least amount of run ins with other bikers. I ride really slow and they always catch me. Then I get self-conscious about my lack of mountain biking skills and do something really embarrassing like riding off the trail or not making it up a tiny little rock without putting a foot down.

Turns out I didn’t see any other bikers, or hikers for that matter, at all. I really enjoyed the trails yesterday. I think I might try riding them more often. The trail you see above is a mile and half from my house. It was built in late 2014. In the next few years an access trail from neighborhood is supposed to be built through a new park at the end of my block. So I will be able to ride these trails practically from my front door. I don’t think the Pugs is the best tool for this job. But for now I’m having a great time learning to ride some of this fantastic local single track on it.

Fat tire on very old rock.

Today I was able to get out again in the late afternoon. This time is was a quick out and back on the local rail trail. All but the first and last mile was on a paved trail.

Riding the rail trail.

It wasn’t a perfect day because it was slightly on the hot side for me. But it was nearly a perfect day for being out on a ride. It wasn’t energy sapping hot and not humid at all. In fact I felt surprisingly energetic. I felt like I could have ridden a few more hours if time wasn’t an issue.


I’m glad I got out and enjoyed the beautiful summer days the past two days. Once we’re in the middle of the warm season, it’s easy to forget it doesn’t last long in this part of the country. Most of the year it is a rare thing to be able to get out and be able to stop during a ride and not get cold. Looking forward to more days like these over the next two months.


Venturing across the bridge for more urban gravel.

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.

Crossing the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge heading for Wisconsin and the City of Superior.
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.
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: //

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.


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.

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.

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.

That hill in the distance is Minnesota. Yes. Minnesota has hills. Well, this part of Minnesota does.
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.

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.



One of those perfect days for riding a bike.


There are a few days every year which seem about perfect. It happens most often in the late Spring or early Fall. Today was one of those days. Weather has a lot to do with making a day perfect. Maybe today seemed extra perfect because yesterday was far from it. It was rainy, foggy, and windy. The temp clawed it’s way to only 51F/11C degrees and stalled there. Today started out looking the same. It was 47F/8C degrees with dense fog on my way to work. But then the fog started to lift and break up. By 2:30 pm, when I got off work, it was cloudless with a crisp blue sky, a light wind coming off the very cold Lake Superior, and 71F/22C degrees. I rushed home, turned around and went back out for a leisurely ride. I tried to soak up as much of the bright sunshine as I could. It seemed so incredibly bright today. Perhaps it felt that way because yesterday was so dark and rainy.

It’s hard to put it all in words. So I’ll share the pictures I took and the route: //

The route included rail trail, gravel,  paved roads, two fairly big climbs….and all was within the city limits of Duluth.

Abandoned Mission Creek Parkway.
St. Louis River and Wisconsin on the other side.
Old (recently refurbished) stone arch bridge over Stewart Creek.
Last big climb of the day.

I normally shoot all my pictures with an old Canon Elph pocket camera. Today I took all the pictures you see here with my iPhone. I haven’t taken many pictures with the smartphone. This was the first ride I shot entirely with the phone. I kinda like the way they turned out. Again…..perhaps it was the perfect day.


May sunset, full moon rise, overnight camping trip.

Taking the scenic route.

This past Saturday was a full moon. The folks over on the Steel on Wheels Forum scheduled a Sunset/Moonrise Virtual Meet-up event. Jeff and I participated in the April edition. For the May edition we decided to do it as an overnight bike camping trip. Three weeks ago we reserved a walk-in campsite at Jay Cooke State Park. It’s a 16 mile bike ride from my home. Jeff lives another 11 or 12 miles further.  The long range forecast was looking very bleak at first. May can be cold and rainy. Or it can turn out to be possibly the best weekend weather of the year. It turned out to be 80F degrees, cloudless, and extremely dry air. So dry the humidity was down around 15-20%. That is desert dry. And a challenge to stay hydrated in. The low was in the mid-50’s and Sunday it was sunny, dry, and 71F.

Not only was it warm, but the leaves were out. There has been many Memorial Day weekends here in Duluth where the leaves are just starting to come out. It was amazing to be outside this weekend with perfect weather and early leaves.

All but the first two miles was on the Munger Trail. We were able to take our time, not worry about traffic, and enjoy the scenery. We even took time to stop and watch some baby geese.


Here’s our route on Saturday. We took a three mile round trip detour into Carlton to buy some snacks: //

A rare picture of me.

We checked into the park campground, set up camp, and went down to the river to scout out our options for sunset and moon watching.

Jay Cooke State Park’s iconic Swinging Bridge over the St. Louis River.

Since the river runs through a small valley I didn’t think we’d have a good vantage point for either the sunset or the moonrise. Turns out it was better than I expected. With the help of some apps on our phones we discovered the sunset would be slightly off to the right of the river looking upstream and over the tree tops. The moonrise would also be off to the right looking downstream.

Looking downstream. We learned the moon would rise over the treetops to the right.

We headed back to camp for some relaxing and dinner.

Jeff in maximum relaxation mode.

Our dinner and clean-up ran late. We thought we might have missed the sun dropping below the treetops. By the time we reached the river we noticed sunlight still on the south bank.

Sunlight still shining on the south bank.

We raced up the river bank to a bend in the river and were able to catch the last of the sun just moments before it dropped below the treetops.

Interesting rock formations and driftwood high up in trees.

This month the moon was up 15 minutes before the sun set. However it would be nearly 90 minutes before we would see it rise above the treetops from the our vantage point on the river. We spent the time climbing and sitting on the strange rock formations. Jeff found on his phone that the rocks we were sitting on have been exposed for 1.1 billion years. We sat and pondered that for awhile. It’s amongst some of the oldest exposed rock on the planet.

Jeff climbing on the 1.1 billion year old exposed rock. Waiting for the moon to rise over the tree tops to his right.


We watched Jupiter rise. It was the first bright “star” in the sky. When the moon finally came over the tops of the trees we spent about twenty minutes trying to get a decent shot. Here’s my best attempts:


The bright star to the lower right of the moon is Mars.

We eventually headed back to our campsite. Our site was in the woods enough we couldn’t get an unobstructed view of the moon. We had bought a bundle of firewood and sat at the fire until midnight. I forget to get the obligatory fire shot.

Sunday morning was cool, but calm. We had a leisurely breakfast and then packed up and headed back to town. I was home by 11:00 am.

All in all, it was a successful overnight bike camping trip. And, it was my first bike camping trip of 2016. I’m already looking forward to more.

Rohloff Hub Spring Maintenance.

The silver oil drain screw in the hub shell facilitates the changing of the hub oil.

Rohloff Internally Geared Hubs run in an oil bath. The only regular maintenance that needs to be done is to change the hub oil every 3,000 miles or once a year. If you ride in harsh and/or wet conditions you should stick to that schedule, or you can change it more frequently. Since our winters last almost 7 months, I make a point to change the oil in the Spring time regardless of the number of miles since the last change.

The first step is to remove the oil drain screw and add cleaning oil to the hub with a syringe.

Cleaning oil on left, SPEEDHUB oil on right. Syringe, and oil change tube with threaded nipple.

Then you need to circulate the cleaning oil in the hub to loosen old oil. You can do this by turning the cranks with the bike in a bike stand for 5 minutes. Or you can simply take it for a ride. Given we were having one of the most glorious Spring days of the year so far, it was a no brainer. I took it for a ride.

I like this kind of maintenance work.
A tour boat on calm waters passing beneath Duluth’s iconic Aerial Lift Bridge.

After circulating the cleaning oil, you need to drain all of the old SPEEDHUB oil and cleaning oil you added. You achieve this by threading in the oil change tube and letting it drain overnight.

Oil change tube on the underside of the hub. Cup will catch drained oil.

The oil is black in color. This means it was definitely time to change the hub oil. Grey colored oil is good. Black is not so good. The hub is so tightly sealed it is quite difficult to get the oil to drain since air needs to displace the draining oil. Air needs to get in through the oil change tube. I think it would be good to have two drain holes. One to drain the oil and the other one on the opposite side of the hub to let air in. Then you wouldn’t have to let it drain all night. It would come out all at once.

Tomorrow I’ll add new SPEEDHUB oil with the syringe and oil change tube, replace the oil drain screw and the job will be done. This is so much easier than doing maintenance on Shimano Nexus or Alfine hubs. I’ve done both. It requires totally dismantling the hub and pulling all the “guts” out of the hub shell. It’s not bad once you’ve done it a few times. But simply changing the hub oil on a Rohloff is incredibly easy in comparison. You don’t even need to remove the wheel from the bike. I don’t miss the Shimano IGH days.

Getting close.

Recreational trail connection through West Duluth is looking ready for paving.

Two things are getting close I noticed on my Sunday ride yesterday. The new trail near my home is about ready to be paved. And the trees are starting to leaf out.

This was full of mud holes and ruts from illegal ATV use.

I enjoyed a leisurely ride around the area and on this somewhat loose gravel base. This 1.5 mile new trail will make a big difference in the way I get around the area.

The new trail simplifies getting to and from the Munger Trail.

The map above is from my ride yesterday. The long straighter section is the new trail being built. The zig-zag route on neighborhood streets is the way I’ve been taking to get to and from the Munger trail. The Munger Trail starts at the bottom left of the map near that water inlet. Hwy 23/Grand Ave is a busy four way county highway. I’ve ridden the highway many times. But it no longer was an option last year or this year due to major reconstruction of the roadway. Last Summer and this Spring/Summer it’s down to one lane in both directions. Once the trail is paved my route will be 100% quiet neighborhood streets and trail corridors. I’m looking forward to that.

Now, let the Spring commence.

Brrrrrr, the wind is back.

I call it the “Castle Bridge”.

Yesterday I wrote we had a break from the never ending Spring winds. The break was short. The winds were blowing off the lake at 20+mph again today. With temps having a hard time breaking into the 50’s, it was once again a cold day. It’s funny I can ride in the most brutal winter conditions in the lower 48 states all winter long, but a Springtime windchill has me wanting to stay inside. My thoughts have moved onto warmer weather. It makes it harder to enjoy the lingering cold. Thankfully the skies were blue and sunny. That’s what finally drew me outside for a late afternoon ride. I did a nice loop within the city limits that included some climbing, rough pavement, gravel, multi-use paths, woods, scenic vistas, and neighborhood streets. Here’s my route://

Northeastern Minnesota gravel.

I rode on a quarter mile of the old abandoned Mission Creek Parkway to connect me up with the Munger Trail. I was surprised to see a brand new bridge and all the eroded path freshly graded. I believe this will be part of the Duluth Traverse Mountain Bike Trail at some point in the near future.

New trails going in everywhere in West Duluth these days. Gotta love it.

Sweet Sunshine

Riding some in-town gravel.

I had the day off from my day job today. It gave me the chance to work at home on my big bicycle related project. It’s been a week since we’ve had a day with sunshine like you see in the above picture. Sure there’s been partly cloudy days. Those included brutal winds off the big lake and temps in the 30’s and 40’s. By late afternoon I needed a break from the computer work and felt the need to get out in the sunshine. I did a short ride out to Bardons Peak. The exact same ride I did one week ago today for the sunset/full moon rise ride.


If anyone local is curious, Skyline Parkway west of Magney-Snively is now open for the year. It opened late. It was freshly graded as well. The surface is inconsistent and loose.


My ride took me past Spirit Mountain Ski Resort. I stopped to have a look at the last signs of winter. I’m already looking forward to next winter.

A ride in sunshine is just what I needed. I had planned to ride longer, but cut the ride short so I could be home in time to go for an after work walk with Susan. That was equally pleasant.

Can’t resist stopping and enjoying the sights.

Dramatic cuts in ancient rock.

Yesterday’s ride (above) was a chilly, windy outing. I enjoy getting out in any weather, in any season. I tend to take photos in many of the same places. There are so many scenic spots in and around the place I live. Some I can’t resist stopping and enjoying the view whenever I pass by. I love to watch as the views change with the seasons. Here’s the same spot during the Winter of 2013-2014:

Pugsley on freshly groomed trail 016
A beautiful snowbike ride on a bitter cold day, 02/02/14. The freshly groomed trail was set-up so hard it was like riding concrete.

I’ve only recently started to learn more about the geology of Northeastern Minnesota. It’s land mass is part of Laurentia or The North American Craton. The Earth’s crust in this area has remained stable for 600 million years. It’s likely the rocks in this cut are that old. Some of the oldest exposed rocks on the planet.  At least that’s the way I understand it. If there’s any geologist’s reading this and I’m wrong, please correct my numbers.

Ancient rock juxtaposed with some of the finest stainless steel tubing modern metallurgy has produced.

My bike almost blends in. Same color palette going on there with the blacks, grays, and silvers.

I rode by where they are building the trail extension for Duluth’s Cross Town Trail. This section will eventually connect the Munger Trail with Canal Park in the central downtown area of Duluth. The complete connection won’t be completed for at least two years and maybe as long as five years. There’s some major complications putting the route through West Duluth. This section is looking promising:

One of two bridges built in the Fall of 2015.

Last Fall they put in this bridge over a creek and a second one on the other side of the Interstate Highway 35 overpass in the picture above. In the last few weeks they have been working on putting in the paved multi-use pathway. I heard this will be done by the end of May. I’m very excited about this section. It’s one mile from my house. By taking the path from here it creates an off-street route for me to access the Munger Rail Trail. Avoiding the need to ride on a heavily used stretch of a four lane highway. Can’t wait until it’s done.