Sunset/Full Moon moonrise virtual meet-up ride report.

A virtual ride was proposed on the Steel On Wheels Forum (S.O.W. Forum) for the Full Moon on April 22, 2016. You were to ride out to a local viewing spot, watch the sunset, followed by a full moon rise. Then share it on the forum. S.O.W. members are fans of coffee and food outside. That means packing camp stoves and enjoying a hot beverage and a snack mid-ride. I decided to give it a go when I saw we had a favorable forecast. It was calling for partly cloudy skies, highs in the low 40’s, falling temps after dark with moderate to light winds. I invited my friend Jeff to come along. Sunset was to be at 8:07 pm with a moon rise at 8:40 pm. The plan was to leave West Duluth at 7 pm. Pedal 7.5 miles west to Bardons Peak overlook. Our route would grind uphill one mile to Skyline Parkway. The rest would be all on Skyline Parkway. About 5 miles of the 7.5 miles would be uphill. The last 1.5 miles is gravel. West Skyline Parkway is closed in the winter. It typically opens to car traffic on April 1st. We discovered it wasn’t open yet and the normally hard pack gravel was muddy and soft. Here’s a video from my Cycliq Fly6 showing the rear view of the last 10 minutes of gravel and our arrival at Bardons Peak Overlook. 

Our Route taken: //

This will be a picture heavy post. Friday started with dense cloud cover. By noon I was sweating the fact it may not clear off. By 12:30 I started to notice breaks of blue sky in the clouds. I texted Jeff celebrating the fact the clouds were beginning to break. It took all afternoon to see the clouds dissipate. By five is was looking like they were getting thicker again. It all turned out fine. By sunset there was practically no clouds left in the sky.  We left West Duluth at 6.55 pm. Giving us plenty of time to reach our destination by sunset. We arrived at 7:35 to discover two things. First, despite having 32 minutes until sun down, the sun had already descended below the treetops and the peak of Bardons Peak. Second, the orientation of the sunset and then moonrise was a little different then we had thought it would be.

Arriving at our viewing destination. Bardons Peak overlook on Skyline Parkway.

That meant we had to climb up the rocky knob of Bardons Peak to catch the sunset. It’s an easy 50-60 ft rock scramble.

Jeff scrambling up Bardons Peak.

We also noticed the temperature had already dropped into the 30’s and Bardons Peak is exposed to any wind movement. In other words we were getting cold very quickly.


We hurried to put on our winter gear we brought along. Jeff even brought a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag to crawl into for warmth. We were prepared.

Jeff in his sleeping bag.

It felt like winter camping.

As the sun went down and the last light of the day faded, we boiled water on our stoves. I had tea and muffins. Jeff brought along hot chocolate and a backpacking scrambled egg breakfast. We huddled up against the rock wall trying to stay out of some of the wind.

My set-up. Tripod chair in the lower left and stove.

As we finished up with our beverages and food we started to see the first glimpses of the full moon. We arrived thinking it would come up over Duluth and Lake Superior in the distance to the east. In reality it rises more from the east southeast. Which meant from this vantage point it would rise over the St Louis River and Wisconsin on the other side of the river. I also discovered I had no clue how to take a decent picture of a full moon with my point and shoot camera. It took me all evening to finally get one good picture. That would be the last one I took and the last one in this post. In the meantime I froze my hands trying to get a shot. Luckily before I left the house I remembered at the last second to grab my Gorilla Camera Tripod. I missed most of the first 20 minutes of the moon fiddling with the camera.

It started out very orange.


We watched it for an hour before deciding we were getting cold enough. We started the ride back towards Duluth.

The lights of Downtown Duluth from 12 miles away.
Moonlight reflecting off the St. Louis River.

This is when my favorite part of the evening started for me. We warmed up as soon as we started riding. We were riding along the ridge on Skyline Parkway through the woods. On our right the entire way we could see the St. Louis River down below with the Full Moon over it. It was spectacular. We stopped twice along the way to enjoy the view and try to get pictures.

The full moon as seen from the top of the ski runs at Spirit Mountain. There’s still a two feet base of snow on the ground.

At this point I wish we had decided to camp out somewhere. It was great being outside. I always think about getting outside for a full moon, but never do it.

From Thompson Hill. The Full Moon, St. Louis River, and the lights of Superior Wisconsin.

I’m so glad we did this. It was so much fun.

Commuting on a Brompton in the snow.


Only a 20% chance of rain today in the forecast. It was for later in the day. Weather app was reporting clear skies when I got up this morning. It was still dark outside, so I didn’t look outside to see for myself. Temperature was around freezing. Fairly typical weather pattern for the past few weeks. You can imagine my surprise to see big snowflakes coming down when I headed out the door with my Brompton in hand. I was prepared for a cool, uneventful ride to work.


The snow only lasted as long as my 20 minute commute. It was heaviest in the picture above. The flakes of snow were the big wet kind. The kind that can momentarily blind you if they land right in your eye. Many did. It turned an expected uneventful ride into a mini adventure.


I even ran a quick errand on the way. My new commute takes me right past the main Post Office. I finished our taxes last night. The tax software I used gave us free e-file for Federal taxes, but wanted to charge me $24.99 to e-file the State Income tax form. I printed it out, stuffed it in an envelope and paid 71 cents to “mail” file it instead.

The ride home was sunny, dry and windy. There was a stiff, cold Northwest wind. It felt completely different than the ride into work. But that’s life near the Big Lake during the shoulder seasons.

I’ve had my Cycliq Fly6 tailight/HD camera since January. It records in 10 minute splits. When I’ve shared them in the past I just uploaded a full ten minutes. Well, today when I got home I finally learned how to edit it down to only the segments I want to highlight or share. Here’s a video from the rear taillight/camera during the peak snowfall during my short commute. It’s 1:27 in length. Enjoy:

Spectacular Snowbiking Today!


I worked half a day today. When I got home I knew what I wanted to do. Get back out on the Pugsley while we still have snow. It’s supposed to be in the upper 40’s tomorrow. It’s going to make quite a bit of our snow disappear. It was above freezing by noon today with plentiful sunshine. That meant I wouldn’t be able to get back out on the freshly groomed mountain bike trails I had ridden yesterday. Too warm. Riding in warm,  soft conditions leaves nasty ruts. The alternative was to return to my old stomping grounds. The snowmobile trails of Western Duluth. Fatbikes have been banned from snowmobile trails according to recent DNR policies. But I figured I wouldn’t see any other snowmobiles on a day like today. I was close. I only saw three the couple of hours I was out there. I still consider these trails within the city to be mutli-use trails. I saw more dog walkers then snowmobiles on the trails today. And one cross-country skier. Are they banned too?

My route today: //

The first and last mile were on-street riding. The remaining 12 miles was completely on snow. I made my way down to the Munger Trail. Took a side trail up hill to the Magney Snively area. It was a steep hike-a-bike out of the St Louis River Valley. Then a short out and back to Bardon Peak. Followed by a trail around Spirit Mountain and back home. It’s a very picturesque route and spectacular on a late winter sunny day like today. Sometimes it’s hard to believe all this beauty is within the city limits of Duluth.


I can never ride past the Bardon Peak overlook without snapping a few photos.



I realized how much I miss riding these trails. I enjoy cruising along on the snowmobile trails so much more than the twisty narrow single track mountain bike trails.


I’ve been saying this for 10 winters, ever since I bought my Pugsley, these kind of winter rides are my favorite rides of the year. With the warm temps I was able to ride without any ear or neck covering. My jacket was unzipped most of the ride and I still was overheating.


Wish you could all join me for a winter ride Northeastern Minnesota style.

I’m not sure if anyone watches these, but here’s three separate rear view videos from my Cycliq Fly6 taillight/camera from today’s ride:



Freshly groomed trails!!


Just when I think the trail conditions couldn’t be any good, I have another great ride. The weather has been cycling between above normal and normal conditions for the past month or more. We have a warm spell and loose 2 -4 inches of base snow. Then it turns colder, snows, and we gain back 1 or 2 inches. We had some sloppy wet snowfall earlier in the week. I thought for sure the trails would be icy and deteriorated. Then today I get off work early. I saw a Tweet that the trails on the ridge above my house were freshly groomed and in pretty good condition. That’s all it took. I know very well from past experience this time of year that if you don’t go when the conditions are good you may not have another opportunity until next winter. Up here the opposite is also possible. We could be riding snow well into April. I don’t expect that though. Not with the warm winter we’ve been having.

The trails turned out to be quite exceptional. I’m soooo happy I got myself out even if I had to cut it short to attend a community meeting about the local bike infrastructure.

Here’s the GPS from my ride://

Here’s another Cycliq Fly6 tailight/camera recording. It’s ten minutes worth of the ride from about mile 5 to 6. At minute 7:30 to 9:17 I stop to talk with Tim Ek. He’s a local endurance rider sponsored by Salsa Cycles. He has wonderful way of putting his adventures into words on his blog. He’s also a full time, year round bike commuter. For years our daily bike commute crossed paths. He used to be the only other winter rider I’d see. Nowadays we have quite a bit more company out there during the winter months.

It was a good day to be out on a bike.

Determined to ride.


This time of year, mid-February, I am normally enjoying the best snowbiking of the year. Usually there is a base of accumulated snow 2-3 feet deep. The trails have been packed in for six or eight weeks and we would be experiencing the coldest temps of the season. Last weekend we were seeing less snow then normal, but we had a cold spell that firmed things up. And then this week happened. Above freezing day time temps. That is rare. Rain yesterday and today. And the world was engulfed in thirty different shades of gray.

I really needed to get out for a ride. So I dressed for the conditions and headed out. It was 36degF/2degC. The first half of the ride was rain.The second half was mixed rain and snow. Less than ideal conditions. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned over the years is, it’s how to dress for less than ideal conditions. I chose a route that would help to generate warmth. If you click on the link you can see an elevation profile.


It’s a route which includes quite a bit of climbing. Nothing gets me heated up more than climbing. The first 5 miles was relatively flat. The next 13 miles were mainly uphill. Or at least it seemed like all I was doing was climbing. It had just enough breaks in the climbing to keep me from overheating too much. I tried to take some roads that aren’t part of my usual route to keep things more interesting. I passed a lot of historic homes. Something I enjoy looking at.

Here’s another 10 minute look from the rear of my bike of my ride. Recorded with a Cycliq Fly6. It’s starts at the stone archway from the picture at the top of the post.

Another good example of the incredibly nasty and cruddy streets we have during the winter. The rain is turned into salt water from all the winter salt on the streets. It turns the sand into a cruddy mess. The best part is having my A-train Ultimate Commuter to ride. The internally geared hub combined with the belt drive just laughs off these component eating conditions. It helped turn a ride in awful conditions into a pleasant mid-winter ride. I’m looking forward to more tomorrw.

Another day, different snow conditions.




Yesterday: 7degF/-14degC. Today: 17degF/-8degC.

Yesterday: Crisp, cloudless, sunny blue sky. Today: Dense gray sky, light flurries.

Yesterday: Firm packed trail. Today: 1″ fresh snow on top of firm packed trail.


Yesterday was prime conditions. The subtle changes in temp and snow changed the conditions significantly. The dusting of snow decreased the traction quite a bit. The trails were a bit more challenging to ride today. Still fun. But it did take more attention to keep the tires on the narrow single track. Turns were slicker. The low, flat light conditions made it harder to read the trail.

Here’s another rear view of a portion of the ride:

I know my brakes sound bad. The position of the camera seems to amplify the sounds coming from the rear triangle of the bike. It doesn’t sound anywhere near as bad from where I sit.

Happy riding.

Winter Fatbiking in Brewer Park, prime conditions.


I haven’t been out in the snow on my Pugsley for a few weeks. It’s due to some unseasonably warm weather. Soft and/or icy snow conditions have been the norm during this warm period.

Thanks to a cold arctic blast of frigid air, trail conditions suddenly improved. We had a low temperature of -15degF/-26degC last night. I expected that to really firm up the trails. I was correct. As often is the  case, the arctic blast also delivered crisp, clear blue skies. Nearly perfect snowbiking conditions. By time I got outside today it had warmed to a balmy 7degF/-14degC.

I used my Cycliq Fly6 to film the rear view of my ride. If you get motion sickness you may not want to watch. You can see why if you do watch any bit of it. The first 8 winters with my Pugsley I rode exclusively on snowmobile trails. I reveled in my winter rides cruising along snowy landscapes on wide level trails. Then with the explosion in sales of fatbikes the Minnesota DNR put out a policy on fatbike usage essentially banning us from snowmobile trails. Timing was good it turns out. That was at the beginning of last winter. The Brewer Park Mountain Bike Trails had been built the summer leading up to last winter. So I took to the mountain bike trails in place of my usual snowmobile trail rides. It turned out to be an entirely different riding experience. The mtn bike trails are not made for level smooth cruising on wide trails. They are narrow single track with lots of dip-dee-doos, and back and forths, and up and overs. It’s craziness to me and no where near as enjoyable as riding the snomo trails I used to ride. On the other hand I do enjoy being out in the woods on my Pugsley on a day like today. So I can’t complain. It’s only a mile from my house. How lucky is that?


Click on the following link to see the GPS of this ride.


Happy riding.

The worst conditions to ride in….


I’ve always said if I had a choice of two different conditions to ride, one being -15degF and dry or 35degF and raining, which would I pick. If the only criteria was the temperature, obviously I’d pick the warmer of the two. Add rain into the equation at the warmer temperature and there is no doubt. I’d pick the -15degF hands down.

Why? I can dress to stay warm at -15. No matter how you dress for 35 and raining, the longer you stay out the higher the chance the dampness and cold is going to penetrate whatever you wear. You are bound to get chilled at some point. It is the most miserable conditions to ride in.

I really wanted to get out for a ride today. Guess what kind of weather we were having? Thirty-five degrees and rain mixed with snow. I have a hard time getting motivated for a leisurely ride in this type of weather. After putting it off most of the afternoon, I finally got myself out the door about an hour before sunset. I kept it short, just over an hour. Just like a hundred times before. The conditions weren’t ideal, but I somehow enjoyed the ride.

Here’s a Cycliq Fly6 rearview of 10 minutes of the ride. You can see the cruddy road conditions. Muddy puddles you can’t see the bottom of, wetness and sand everywhere. This type of nasty road conditions is what we normally have tin the months of March and April. It’s a bit earlier this year. Conditions my belt drive commuter bike just laughs at. No cleaning necessary!


Winter Camping: 0 for 2.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I were packed up and ready to go winter camping. A day before we were to leave the forecast decided to dip down into the -25degF range with much colder windchills. We decided to postpone.

We decided to try again this weekend. A warmer, more comfortable forecast was out. Again we were all packed and ready to go. Then he came down with a nasty cold. Postponed again.

What to do? Get out for a bike ride. We are still experiencing above normal temperatures. With temperatures in the mid-30’s I headed out for a ride around town and along the lake front.


There should not be open water here this time of year. There should be ice and ice fishermen and ice shacks out there. It’s weird.

I’m a bit late getting new technology. With the recent purchase of my first Smartphone I can now do things like this:
Happy Riding.

My commuter bike design explained.


The harbor should be completely frozen over this time of year.

Forty degrees above normal. That’s how warm it was yesterday. My thermometer was reading 46degF/8degC when I left for a ride. The next week is statistically the coldest of the year for us. Yesterday’s weather was more akin to mid-April.

Our weather is typically arctic in nature this time of year. What snow we have stays on the ground until a warm-up that usually happens from the middle of March until the middle of April. Snowfall can start as early in the winter as the last week of October. For every snow event the road crews spread sand on the city streets for traction. Depending on temperature it can be mixed with salt.

Conditions we have right now are very reminiscent of the Spring thaw.  These are freeze-thaw cycles we don’t usually see this time of year. What I’m getting at is these current conditions are what this bike was designed for.  This is my A-train Cycles Ultimate Commuter. Maybe not “ultimate” for what you ride, but a design maximized for the conditions we have in Duluth. Maximized to handle the high volume of grit and crud on the streets, the rough road conditions, and provides dependable braking on the hilly terrain the city of Duluth occupies.

The problems I experienced with other bikes led to this design. I experimented with many drivetrains over a decade to reach this design. A chain with some type of lube applied in these conditions creates a high maintenance system. As the snow melts over a period of a month or more, we have wet roads daily. The wet roads compound the nastiness of a winters worth of sandy crud on the streets. The crud gathers at the edges of the roads. The lube on the chain then attracts this crud to it. To keep a chain working in these conditions requires daily cleanings of the drivetrain. Sure you can just ride it and deal with a barely functioning derailleur system. But that is maddening when it spans several months of these conditions. Specially if you live in a hilly area like I do where you shift frequently. Sure, I tried single-speed and fixed gear set-ups. But they were less than ideal for our hilly terrain. I won’t get into those reasons in this post.

My solution is an internally geared hub with a Gates Belt Drive. I use a 14-speed Rohloff Speedhub. All gears are sealed inside the hub. Gear range is from 19 gear inches up to 101 gear inches. The same as an older 27 speed mountain bike. The belt drive runs dry so it doesn’t attract any dirt. It repels the crud. This drivetrain, even in these conditions is maintenance free. It always shifts and never corrodes. I don’t need to clean or lube it. I might get 1,000 miles on a chain in these conditions. The belt lasts 10,000 miles and never stretches like a chain will.

Rim brakes are another issue. In this daily slop and crud, the rims needs a daily cleaning to keep brakes working. The sandy grit wears down the rims like sandpaper. Riding everyday, I have rarely gotten more than 2 years out of a set of rims. That’s with frequent cleanings. There is a stop sign or stop light at the bottom of every hill. After about a week of build up of nasty stuff on your rim braking surface, the brakes barely work. I can’t count how many times I’ve done a Fred Flintstone (both feet on the ground) to come to a stop at the bottom of a hill when the brakes weren’t working sufficiently. This bike uses disc brakes. The stopping power can be counted on in any conditions. And no more worn out rims.


Wide tires. This bike is designed to accommodate wide tires. In the summer I use a 26 x 2.0 sized tire. In the winter I use a 26 x 1.75 sized studded tire which is about the same width as the summer 2.0 tire. Our roads are crumbling, not unlike the roads in many other cities. The late winter/spring freeze-thaw cycle compounds the severity of our roads. The wider tires give a plusher ride over all those road imperfections. And I honestly think they help keep my attention on other road users rather than on dodging holes and tire grabbing cracks. The wider tires are more forgiving than thin tires.

The stainless steel tubing used on this frame is unpainted and corrosion resistant. It is American made KVA MS3 tubing. The tag-line for MS3 is: “Stronger than steel, stiffer than titanium, and a better feel than both“.  It is lighter than traditional steel and nearly as light as titanium. It provides a ride better than any steel frame I’ve ever owned. It’s capable of the snappy acceleration of a stiff performance bike combined with the comfort of a touring bike.

Here’s another look from my Cycliq Fly6. It’s from yesterday’s ride. This segment is mostly downhill after the first four minutes. At 5:00 minutes I hit some rougher streets. It illustrates the sloppy, cruddy conditions I described and the roughness of the streets.

Happy riding.