Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013 Mileage

As it turned out, that ride on November 30th was indeed the last ride of the year.  While there were a few reasonable days for riding, most temperatures throughout December were well below 0°C.  Coupled with the unseasonably cold weather was two weeks of out-of-state travel, which pretty much put a kibosh on physical activity.  So much for having good ‘form’ going into the holiday season!

Despite the lack of riding in this December, my annual mileage was well above the record set in 2012 (3579 miles; an increase of 18%).  Most riding was allocated to commuting and randonneuring (including training for the Munger Bungo)...   …definitely something I’m happy with.

So, a good year!  Achieved a major milestone (600 km brevet), avoided major crashes/mishaps, and set another record for cumulative mileage.  Here’s to keeping the momentum in 2014!

Ride time Mileage
Ride Cumulative Cumulative
Bike count hh:mm:ss km
Road 12 30:23:55 756
Mountain 4 7:54:35 151
Commuter 68 92:29:09 1944
Gravel 19 34:37:11 708
Randoneering 40 95:03:47 2199
TOTAL 143 260:28:37 5759

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Last Ride of the Year?

With a major winter storm predicted within the next 36 hours, the opportunity for ‘one last ride’ seemed too good to pass up.  Dressing in layers and with a single water bottle in tow, I headed out late in the morning on my commuter bike, the Surly Cross-Check.

(The commuter, sans Schwalbe tires, Hondo fenders, and Nitto rear rack)

For nearly all of my rides, I travel south out of the neighborhood onto Tyler Parkway, the main arterial from northwest Bismarck into town.  While typically busy with traffic, the road is wide and accommodating to both bicyclists and pedestrians.

(Tyler Parkway, looking south)

Following a brief stop at Gate City Bank, I headed west on Burnt Boat Road until I reached the entrance to the Missouri River overlook.  Here, I paused before riding the steep descent to Pioneer Park.

(Overlooking the Missouri River)

The scene beyond Pioneer Park has changed considerably since my last ride, now with leafless trees and very few trail users.

(One of many excellent paved paths of the Bismarck/MandanTrail Network)

As I proceeded south, I noticed the presence of wildlife activity immediately adjacent to the trail.  A sign that winter has indeed arrived in western North Dakota.

(Bark!  It’s what’s for dinner!)

Further south passing underneath Memorial Bridge, I arrived at the intersection of Memorial Highway and Front Street.  The building on the northeast corner (formerly Hansen’s Furniture) will be the future home of Epic Sports.  Having had a personal tour of the building last month by friend and biking compatriot, Dennis Kemmesat, I can’t wait to see the transformation that is to come.  2014 is slated to be an awesome year for anyone associated with the shop.  My prediction is Epic Sports will be highlighted in Bicycling magazine as one of the best bikes shops in the northern Plains sometime in 2015.

(Future home of Epic Sports)

I headed west into the wind over Memorial Bridge.  There are five turnouts along the south side for each military branch.

(United States Marine Corps turnout on Memorial Bridge)

After navigating through the pseudo-industrial development that comprises Mandan’s Memorial Highway, I resume my travels on a paved path immediately south of Kist Livestock.  By the sound of the stockyard, there is a major sale today.

(Path along the south border of Kist Livestock Auction Company)

Continuing on I reached a critical intersection along the trail.  On any other day, the northern terminus of the Fort Lincoln Trolley is where I decide to travel north (Harmon Lake), west (to work or further to New Salem), or south (Abraham Fort Lincoln State Park or the many gravel roads southwest of Mandan).  Today, however, I turn around to head home.  As much as I would like to continue riding, my daughter is home from college, and with less than a day left of her visit I need to make the most of our limited time together.

(North, West, or South?  All good options!)

Will this be the last ride of the year?  Stay tuned…

Monday, October 28, 2013

Five Web Resources for Randonneuring

Randonneurs USA: http://www.rusa.org/
  • THE resource for randonneuring in the United States.
Minnesota Randonneurs: http://www.minnesotarandonneurs.org/
  • Part of the Twin Cities Cycling Club, the Minnesota Randonneurs host an up-to-date website with an event schedule, forums, and related articles.

Rocky Mountain Cycling Club (Colorado Brevets): http://www.rmccrides.com/brevets.htm
  • Brevet schedule and results for RUSA-approved events in Colorado.

Off the Beaten Path: http://janheine.wordpress.com/
  • News from Bicycle Quarterly and Compass Bicycles.  Hosted by Jan Heine, an ‘ancien’ in randonneuring circles.

  • Cyclotourist association founded in 1904 credited with fostering the development of randonneuring in France.  Organizes Paris-Brest-Paris every four years.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Munger Bungo 600k – Ride Report

The Munger Bungo 600k brevet is a north-south route from Stillwater to Two Harbors along Minnesota’s eastern border.  The ride passes through Hinckley and Duluth using the 70 mile Willard Munger Trail.  As a result, a significant portion of the brevet uses a safe – and mostly paved – multiuse trail.  The brevet also has limited elevation gain over the approximate 380 mile route.  These attributes made the Munger Bungo the perfect brevet for a randonneur attempting his first 600k!

And so I lined up with 22 other riders at 6 a.m. in front of the Stillwater, MN Super 8 on September 7th for what was to be a near-36 hour ride.  What an experience it was to be!

In lieu of a chronological report, I’m opting to review a few key themes that emerged in my mind after some reflection.


This was my first brevet of the year.  Further yet, it was my first ride of the year beyond 100 miles.  As one might expect, I was riddled with self-doubt about my fitness going into the ride.  This turned out to be a non-issue, as I was able to ride well for all but the final 60 miles (more on that below).  My pre-brevet strategy of incorporating brisk 100 km rides every week beginning in late June seemed to work.  These rides (typically starting at 3 or 4 a.m.) also allowed me to acclimate to night riding, which turned out to be important during critical sections of the Munger Bungo.

Being mentally prepared for the ride and highly organized with my gear was as important (and perhaps more important) than my fitness.  As Louis Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”  Accordingly, I made every effort to anticipate what I might encounter along the route in order to develop a strategy.  Leading up to the Munger Bungo I took ample time to review the route and available facilities at each control.  I developed a strategy to ride quickly early in order to provide ample buffer for the second day, when I knew I would suffer most.  As time for the ride got closer, I reviewed (and re-reviewed) weather forecasts and carefully read the pre-ride report from Michelle Brougher.  Collectively, this information was golden, as there were few surprises.  I was even able to adhere to my pre-ride strategy, albeit at a slightly slower pace than expected due to a persistent headwind the first day.

As for gear, I organized clothes in my drop bag for specific purposes (e.g., Two Harbors out-and-back; Sleeping clothes; Second day gear), each in separate (and clearly labeled) freezer bags.  This organization helped me transition quickly at the Munger Inn.  As for what I carried on my bike, redundancy was key (e.g., two front lights, two tail lights, two tubes, two bottles of Ensure, multiple gels, etc).  I only felt unprepared once toward the end of the second day, when I wished for my fenders (I removed them prior to the ride as the chance for rain was negligible).

Managing Pain and Fatigue

Having a shoulder still in recovery mode from a torn labrum (see first blog post), coupled with a touchy right knee (previously torn ligaments) had me concerned how my body would respond to 600k.  As it turned out, my right shoulder was the least of my worries, but my upper back, neck and (eventually) right knee were problematic as the ride wore on.  To mitigate inflammation I took one Advil at each control, but this proved ineffective in the last 60 miles.  I included a tennis ball in my front bag and used it to massage my upper back by leaning against a wall (typically at a convenience store), and though it provided relief, I didn’t stick with it during the second day.  In retrospect, I should have stopped periodically to stretch and use the tennis ball more frequently.  Furthermore, I wonder if I would have benefited (in body and mind) from periodic mini-sleep stops.  As it turned out, I wasn’t able to fall asleep at the overnight control, resulting in some fairly significant fatigue later into the ride.  We took a mini-sleep stop along the Munger Trail on the morning of the second day, and even five minutes of shut-eye proved restorative.  In future brevets, I’ll definitely be on the look-out for shaded park benches to take advantage of this opportunity!

Being Chased by a Pack of Dogs is a More Effective Stimulant than Coffee

Enough said.

Riding Partners

I was blessed with two riding partners during the Munger Bungo: Phil and Randy.  Phil and I began riding together shortly after Taylor Falls, while Randy joined us just as we started on the Munger Trail north of Hinckley.  These guys were perfect riding partners.  Congenial, communicative, and mindful, we passed mile after mile with ease.  We rode at a similar speed, worked well in a paceline (0.5 mile/rider at the front), and fell easily into consensus on major decisions.  With the three of us working together, we also were able to quickly catch route errors during the second day (errors, as it turned out, I contributed to).  At the finish, I couldn’t thank them enough for their help and encouragement over the course of the ride.  I hope to ride with them again.

And speaking of gratitude…

Giving Thanks

I owe a big ‘THANK YOU’ to the following people for their contributions toward making my first 600k a success:
  • Michelle Brougher for organizing an excellent route, recruiting top-notch help, commandeering an amazing overnight control (including almond milk for breakfast!), and providing much-needed encouragement and advice before and after Two Harbors.  And let it be known that the Espresso gel Michelle gave me made all the difference after North Branch!
  • Rob Welsh for his communication prior, encouragement during, and congratulations after the Munger Bungo.  The Minnesota Randonneurs are fortunate to have Rob as their RBA!
  • Dr. Ian Fyfe, Tana Ciavarella, and Mike Ibach for putting my shoulder back together and guiding me toward a full recovery.
  • Epic Sports for their support of my riding this year.
  • My wife for putting up with my crazy training schedule from June onward, and for being at the finish when we arrived.

And Now for Some Photos!

(Pre-ride review)

(Riding together prior to Taylor Falls)

(Taylor Falls without the much anticipated donuts)

(Onto the Munger Trail)


(St. Louis River just outside Carlton)

(Along the Lakewalk Trail in Duluth)

(Darkness falls en route to Two Harbors)

(Back on the Munger Trail)

(At the finish with Phil and Randy.  We made it!)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Breckenridge Colorado: An Ideal High Altitude Cycling Destination

Breckenridge offers wonderful cycling opportunities for both road and mountain bikers.  Located about 10 miles south of Frisco, CO, Breckenridge boasts hundreds of miles of single/double track, multiple road ride options, and an extensive network of paved trails.  While such riding options are certainly available in other U.S. communities, only Breckenridge can offer them at an elevation of 9,600 ft (2,926 m).

Fortunately for me, we vacationed in Breckenridge earlier this month.  Our stay overlapped with ‘Breck Bike Week’ as well as ‘Breck Epic’, so there were plenty of cycling-related events going on throughout town concurrent to our stay.

I had four days of riding opportunities, which I took full advantage.  An ascent of Hoosier Pass was my first order of business, followed by rides to Vail Pass, Keystone (around Lake Dillon), and Frisco.

I was even able to ride to the Eifel Tower!

Having previously vacationed in Breckenridge in 2005, I was struck by the intensification of automobile traffic and expansion of multi-use paved trails.  Being able to cycle around Lake Dillon without having to negotiate traffic came as a pleasant surprise.  Furthermore, all paved trails were in excellent shape despite the apparent heavy use by cyclists.
I hope eight more years don’t go by before I can visit again!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Reframing the Bicyclist-Motorist Relationship

Jan Heine has provided a thoughtful ‘reframing’ of the bicyclist-motorist relationship.  The link to his highly recommended article can be found here.

In short, we should treat each other as partners, not competitors.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a great place to ride.  The challenging terrain, reasonable riding distance, and surrounding beauty provide an excellent one-day getaway from the local roads of Bismarck/Mandan.  While riding anytime between April and November is possible, I prefer to visit the park in early June when much of the surrounding vegetation is green and the wildlife is active.

The park exists as two units: north and south.  The north unit, located approximately 50 miles north of Belfield, ND, has a 14 mile out-and-back road that terminates at the Oxbow Overlook.

(Oxbow Overlook)

The south unit is immediately north of Medora, ND.  This unit showcases a 36 mile loop perfect for bicyclists.  Despite the lack of a shoulder along the loop road, automobile traffic is normally light and almost always travelling less than 30 mph.  The terrain is surprisingly hilly (for North Dakota), with many short, steep climbs.  It is an ideal ride to test the legs after logging a spring time of base miles.

(Looking south from Boicourt Overlook)

The Central Dakota Cyclists have organized a group ride the last three years through the south unit during the third Saturday in June.  Bicyclists of all backgrounds and abilities have attended, and all – with the exception of one cyclist this year – have been able to ride the 36 mile loop at least once.

(Riders take a break while a storm builds to the west)
(A family event...   ...and a great workout as well!)
(Riding toward Wind Canyon)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Developing New Skills: A Visit to Barnett Bicycle Institute

Following more than a year of rescheduling and delays, I finally attended a bicycle mechanic course at Barnett Bicycle Institute (BBI) in Colorado Springs early last month.  I participated in the beginning 40 hour course called BAM (Bicycle Assembly & Maintenance), which was suited to home mechanics like myself.  The course was excellent through-and-through, with plenty of hands-on experience under the watchful eyes of seasoned instructors.

In addition to acquiring basic maintenance skills, I also attended a night course on wheel building.  The course, taught by John Ellis, underscored the deliberate, step-by-step approach for lacing and truing wheels.  I found wheel building an enjoyable activity (relaxing, really).  As an added plus, I brought new rims and spokes along with Shimano 105 front and rear hubs from my Koga-Miyata and applied my new skills to build two wheels.

(Wheel components)
(Built wheel)
Not all time was spent attending the course or practicing new skills.  I was able to venture out twice on my bike, first to Red Rocks Canyon, and then later in the week to Garden of the Gods.  Both rides were enjoyable, and only minutes away from BBI.

Reflecting on my week at BBI will always bring good memories, as well as a lasting appreciation for what it takes to keep your bike’s performance at the highest level.  Thank you BBI!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nice Ride!

A recent visit to St. Paul brought a surprise with the presence of a new bicycle sharing program.  Nice Ride Minnesota’ was established by the Twin Cities Bike Share Project in 2008, but only recently expanded throughout St. Paul.  The bikes and docking stations appeared to be in excellent shape during our visit, and despite the snow and cool weather, we passed two riders along Grant Street near Macalester College.  Had we more time, I would have taken a bike for a spin.  Rides less than 30 minutes are free (following a $6 subscription fee).

('Nice Ride' bikes and docking station along Grant Street)

Monday, March 4, 2013

First Ride - 2 March 2013

Unseasonably warm weather coupled with light winds made for the perfect opportunity to get out to stretch my legs and clear the winter dust from my underworked lungs.  Following a quick change in tires on the Surly Monkey (from Schwalbe Hurricanes to Maxxis Aspens), I headed out a little past noon in the direction of Fort Lincoln State Park.

It was nice to see most of the ice cleared from the the Missouri river.  Perhaps a sign that spring isn't too far away!

Upon reaching the park, winter's ice still had a strong hold on the Heart River.  The photograph below shows the confluence of the Heart and Missouri rivers.

Passing by the Veteran's Memorial and onto 46th St., I meandered south to 138A and then west past the Miniature Horse Rescue Ranch.  Based on the amount of traffic along the road, there must have been an afternoon sale.  Once past, the road was open and free of traffic.

With the intent of keeping the mileage modest, I turned north and followed 24th then 23rd Ave. past the USDA-ARS Area IV SCD Research Farm.  The 382 acres managed by staff at the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory are partitioned among four quarter sections, referred to fields F, G, H, and I.

(Field H)

(Field F)

(Field G)

Approximately 40 miles later, I arrived home.  It was a good first ride, and all the more satisfying now that the ground is covered with a thick blanket of wet snow.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bikes I Ride

The stable of bikes I own are a reflection of my different passions for cycling, and while they each have a defined purpose, I like to think they are adaptable to more than one riding style.  Thanks to over a decade of support by Epic Sports, I've been fortunate to acquire some truly excellent bikes at team prices, three of which have been built following unique guidelines for components and accessories.

Each bike reviewed below briefly describes the following: 1) frame, components, and accessories, 2) intended use, and 3) my most memorable riding experience.

Surly Cross Check (est. 2010)
  • The frame is as the title suggests, White Industry cranks and chainrings, Shimano Ultegra derailleurs (2x9) with downtube shifters, Chris King hubs and bottom bracket, Salsa seatpost, stem, skewers, and handlebar, Avid brakes, Tektro brake levers, Crank Brothers Eggbeater pedals, Nitto M-12 front rack, Velo-Orange hammered aluminum fenders, Brooks B17 saddle, Schwalbe Marathon tires (32 mm), Acorn randonneur bag and medium seatbag, and Japanese brass bell.  Credit goes to Mike Hilden for creating this wonderful bike.

  • This bike serves as my daily commuter.
  • Despite its commuter role, my most memorable ride with this bike was a 95 mile jaunt to and from Steele, ND on July 4th, 2011.  It was a calm, cool morning.  Enjoyed sunrise near Driscoll and a tailwind on the way home.

Surly Karate Monkey (est. 2009)
  • Another frame by Surly, SRAM X9 (2x9), Mavic Crossmax wheels (29"), Salsa seatpost, stem, and Woodchipper bars, Specialized Rival saddle, and Japanese brass bell.  The pedals have been swapped for Eggbeaters and the tires are now Schwalbe Hurricanes (41 mm).  This bike was originally built by Tyler Huber with a White Industry Double-Double drivetrain and flat handlebar.  The version photographed below was built by Steven Wilke.

  • While the most versatile bike of the bunch, it serves primarily as an early season trainer and a year-round gravel bike.
  • Burleigh County Cup, May 12th, 2012.

Specialized Epic 29 (est. 2011)
  • Full aluminum frame, FSR/Fox suspension (BRAIN in back, Float 29 in front), SRAM XO (2x10), Industry Nine wheels, Maxxis Crossmark tires (tubeless), Specialized stem, bar, and grips, Thomson seatpost, Specialized Rival saddle, and Eggbeater pedals.  This bike was built by Steven Wilke.

  • Singletrack.
  • Dakota 5-O, September 2nd, 2012.  Briefly led the second wave up the gravel road after the start.  The ride ended poorly (see previous post), but it was still the most memorable day on this bike.

Specialized Roubaix Pro (est. 2005)
  • Full carbon frame, Shimano Dura Ace (2x9), Specialized carbon seatpost and handlebar, Specialized aluminum stem, Specialized Avatar saddle, Ksyrium Equipe wheelset (in place of Dura Ace wheelset, which is used rarely), Ruffy Tuffy tires (28 mm), and Speedplay Zero pedals.

  • Road riding.  Short distance brevets (up to 300 km).
  • Gran Fondo, Fort Collins, CO, August 12, 2011.  Dropped all but one rider climbing Rist Canyon and then rode the remainder of the 90 mile route with the lead group.  Passed through some of my old stomping grounds west of Horsetooth reservoir.  It was a fun day.

Koga-Miyata Terraliner (est. 1998)
  • Terraliner frame, Shimano Ultegra (3x8), bar-end shifters, Sugino cranks and chainrings (gearing suitable for touring), Mavic MA40 rims and Ultegra hubs (36 spokes, front and rear), Panaracer Pacela tires (32 mm), Richey seatpost, Nitto stem and handlebar, Velo-Orange aluminum fenders, Brooks B17 saddle, Eggbeater pedals, Zefal frame pump, and Japanese brass bell.  This bike is being upgraded.  Stay tuned for significant improvements.

  • Touring.  Longer brevets.
  • Cowboy Trail, north central Nebraska, August 2000.  Rode from Atkinson to Platte Center while camping along the way.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Visit to The Big Apple

Travelling benefits us in so many ways, one of which is often a greater appreciation of your hometown.  A recent visit to the east coast provided an especially notable contrast between bike lanes/paths here in Bismarck/Mandan and those in New York City.  Over three very full days, I ventured forth with my wife and daughter to explore different parts the 'concrete jungle', otherwise known as Manhattan.  The intensity and speed of automobile traffic was mind-boggling at times, and made us happy to be on a bus or subway for most of our transportation needs.  While I was impressed with the network of bike lanes (which were painted green, but fading badly), their use by bicyclists was sporatic.  Here's what they look like...

Admittedly, we were visiting during a holiday weekend (MLKJ), which may have contributed to limited use.  Still, I wonder how much they're used on a normal weekday given what seemed to be exceptionally dangerous riding conditions, particularly at intersections.

Most bikers we saw during our trip rode within the confines of Central Park.  While they still had to dodge meandering tourists, runners, and an occasional horse-drawn cart, it seemed a much more relaxing experience.

I wonder how many of the bicyclists we encountered that weekend are able to 'escape' the city to ride on open roads, without the endless pressure of being surrounded by ten million people.  Conversely, I wonder how many bicyclists move to New York City from other parts of the world where open roads are the norm.  The transition must be difficult.  I know it would be for me.