Interest in fat bikes has grown incredibly in the past few years, and often people seeing one for the first time wonder “What do you use THAT for?” The past couple winters in Minnesota and Wisconsin have answered those questions pretty well, and more riders every year are making them their number one bike. As a tool, though, they sometimes get overlooked, and we think incorporating bikes into other parts of your life is a great thing, whether it’s commuting to work, running errands or taking a trip. Erik’s employee, Dave, and myself (Lainger) both are avid hunters when it’s not prime biking season, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride more. This past weekend we had the opportunity to take out a couple CB4 fat bikes from Cogburn Outdoors (a hunting and fishing specific bike from the Quality Bike Products family).
For a brief overnight, we brought along the CB4s with slightly different set ups and loaded them on the rack. We headed to Northern Minnesota in search of the elusive Ruffed Grouse and the bikes soon proved their worth.We settled on a spot a few miles down the road from where we were staying – Using paper “PRIM” maps and online resources and thought it looked like a good start. It was 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon when we pulled into a small parking space next to an ATV trail. Dave’s bike was outfitted with a rack and the Cogburn Gear Carrier; mine was not. The gear carrier is a well thought out piece of metal that straps to the rear rack or cargo carrier of the bike, and you can then attach fishing rods, archery equipment, shotgun or rifle to easily, and it does a plenty good job of keeping it out of the way but easily accessible. By comparison, I had to case and strap my shotgun to my back. While this was a stable mount that worked well for our purpose, it poses a problem when the trail gets tight, and it could certainly be more comfortable. To allow for hunting boots, we both opted for a flat pedal rather than clipping in as we normally would. We dressed to be moving, but were comfortable in tin chaps and jeans with breathable layers up top and a hunting vest.
Setting out felt like the beginning of a great adventure – starting so late in the day, we wouldn’t usually be able to cover a lot of ground before dark, but on bike we were able to cover 3 miles pretty quick and access some land that was new to us easily. The added benefit was that the bikes were a blast to ride, and while a walking hunter can move at 2.5 to three miles an hour, this eats up time to get some place. By taking fat bikes, we got to where we wanted to go and were able to stow the bikes so we could walk the most promising parcels of land.
On the way out, we rode past a promising spot but opted to keep going. It could have been because the riding was so much fun, or it could have been the excitement of the adventure and the ability to keep pushing further, but we passed it up. After riding to the end of the trail though, we had the opportunity to come back at it. We parked the bikes well off the ATV trail in a depression and good cover. As a precaution, we locked the bikes together and set about to work the brush. For its size and convenience, I like the Abus Catena to lock up the bikes – it’s a fairly sturdy chain, but it is lightweight and packs down to the size of a softball roughly. After heading a mile out, and not seeing any birds, we turned around and worked back to the bikes. We would have loved to get a couple birds for dinner, but knowing this doesn’t always happen we were glad we planned ahead and brought dinner. Normally I would recommend setting a waypoint using a GPS when you stow something in the woods, but we had some good landmarks that would ensure we would find the bikes again. Though I will freely admit to walking about 20 feet past the bikes and not noticing them with the Realtree camouflage and mottled vegetation surrounding them. It was approaching 5 PM when we arrived back at the bikes, and we knew with sunset at around 6, we should be making a move out of the woods. We unloaded and stowed the guns for the ride back and unlocked the bikes. We were surprised to find we covered the 2 miles back to the truck in just around 15 minutes! Back in the lot, we wiped the extra dirt and mud from the bikes but the smiles on our faces weren’t as easily removed.
Driving back to our place for the night, we talked about the possibilities these bikes opened up for us. It’s easy to think how with the addition of a trailer it could be a great rig for deer instead of an ATV, and we discussed the merits of the gear carrier (Dave pretty much won this one as he never tagged a tree branch with one end of the gun or another) – with a canoe or kayak rig towed behind it could be a great setup for waterfowl hunting too. I liked the internal frame bags you can see in the picture above as a place to stow the lock and camera while riding, and they would come in equally handy for extra gear on wet or cold days as well as first aid kits or items that require ready access.
The following morning we explored a Wildlife Management Area about a half hour away. We always like to scout for new hunting spots and this one showed some promise. We parked the truck again and hopped on the bikes to follow an old railroad grade 1.2 miles to its end – this time the path was closed to motorized vehicles making the Cogburns a perfect fit. The spot should be a great place for ducks when the migrators start coming down, but we still wanted to explore it a bit more since we had some left over time before we had to head home. We threaded the wide bars through a stand of thick popple to an island of oak trees about 4 acres in size. The outer edge of this “island” was bound by a mass of young trees so thick it was like walking through a maze. A great spot for grouse in some cases. We again locked the bikes to each other and thought about leaving the dog to watch over the bikes but thought she would have more fun in the thick stuff, so we trusted the lock (we probably didn’t need to rely on the lock, but when your only way out is on your own, you make sure to plan accordingly). In some of thickest cover around, we jumped one grouse, but given the lay of the land, it escaped pretty quickly as we played twister in the thick brush.
We rode back with empty game bags, but the trip was anything from a loss. Fat bikes like the Cogburn are a great way to get out in the woods and do something different from the normal routine. A bike is a tool when properly used that can carry you and your gear to places where the only limitation is your ability to think of all the possibilities. I know I’ll be using a fat bike again this year for more than just getting on and riding. What’s the most amazing thing you’ve done with a fat bike, or what’s on your fat bike bucket list if you haven’t done anything out of the ordinary yet? Let us know in the comments.
So you’re not into technical outerwear, that’s cool, but seriously, it’s time to ditch the denim on the slopes. You’ll be warmer, drier, and you’ll enjoy your days on the mountain so much more if you’re covered with a jacket that’s meant for snowboarding. So if you’re in the market for a new shell this year or know someone who’s still rocking the Carhartt coveralls, we think you should check out the Dunmore Jacket from Burton.
The 2015 Dunmore Jacket from Burton is a great piece to take from mountain to town with added length and a tailored fit paired with workwear styling. Erik’s carries this jacket in the colors shown above (Woody and true Black). With Thinsulate™ insulation and a brushed flannel lining, you’ll stay warm on cold days. The shell is a two-layer polyester made of recycled bottles and is waterproof and breathable (10k/10K). It also sports a removable fleece hood and a waist gaiter/spray skirt to keep out snow if you are in the deep stuff. find the Dunmore Jacket at select Erik’s locations or online by checking it out HERE and clicking “Find In Store”
Sometimes you need a break from the same old trail you usually ride. The following guide is meant to inspire you to take a trip and enjoy some of the best mountain biking that Minnesota and Wisconsin have to offer. We’d also love to hear you favorite day or weekend trips for mountain biking. Let us know in the comments and we’ll make sure to add them to the ride guide. Click on the pictures below for more information on the trails.
Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Area – Crosby/Ironton, MN
Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Trails (CAMBA) – Cable/Hayward, WI
Levis-Trow Mounds, Neillsville WI
In our last post, we discussed the Burton ICS system and EST bindings, both items that Burton has developed in order to create a board that flexed better, provided better contact, and a better mounting system. These ideas have been the holy grail since the mid-90s. There are a whole parade of binding names that offered the answer to this problem including Preston, Excel, Tech Nine and more. None of these were bad, in fact at the time they were the most technical thing around, but we still had to put up with bone-jarring landings and weird mounting to make it all happen.
For riders not on a Burton board using the channel system, there’s a great option to get more from your current board with the Re:Flex offering of bindings from Burton. The secret to this technology is in the disc and frame of the bindings. By using a hinged disc and removing material from the base of the binding, Burton creates a binding that is lighter, with better ride responsiveness and allows the board to flex more evenly across it’s length than a traditional 4×4 or even previous 3D hole system board.
In removing some of the material from the binding, Burton is also able to improve the cushioning under foot to create a more comfortable ride.
What Bindings are Re:Flex and which are EST? At Erik’s we have marked the bindings on our web site as EST if they are an EST binding, so anything without this designation is a Re:Flex binding. This includes the Genesis, Cartel, Mission, Custom and more – see the whole line of 2015 Burton Snowboard Bindings online or at select Erik’s Locations. Take a look below for some of the styles available.
We just got this awesome new ride in from Specialized, but if you want one, you better hurry – there are only 100 of these Specialized AWOL x Poler collaborations made, and we’ve got a size medium and a size large. Scroll through the photos below, specs are listed at the bottom. To see more of the AWOL line, visit an Erik’s near you. These bikes can only be sold direct to a customer, no online sales.
Chances are you’ve heard of Chequamegon if you’ve ridden in Wisconsin or Minnesota for any period of time – you may even have been lucky enough to draw a spot in the annual race of the same name held every September on some the trails. Dubbed as the Singletrack Capital of the Midwest, the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) trails are an IMBA Ride Center located in the area of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. With 6 areas or clusters of trails, it is an area prime for a long weekend of riding, and the Rock Lake trail (Namakagon unit) is considered an Epic ride by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).
Erik’s staff member J.J. sums up the fall riding in the Cable Hayward area like this: “Cable and Hayward area in Wisconsin is one my favorite areas to ride in the fall. From the firework like colors of the trees to the cooler temperatures (meaning less bugs attacking you), camping and riding is perfect.“
Some trails are also open to Fat Bikes come winter time, as well as the American Birkebeiner ski race held every February
Trail Length: Over 80 miles, with 27 miles as part of the Rock Lake trail, and 44 miles of continuous singletrack from Hayward to cable (Source IMBA). In fact, using double track and other trail types there are over 300 miles of trails! (Source CAMBA Trail Guide)
There is no trail pass required, but like many trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the CAMBA trails are volunteer and donation supported, so membership or volunteering is always appreciated. Some trailheads (Rock Lake TH, Sawyer County Forest, Mosquito Brook and OO) require parking fees.
Like much of the area, the Chequamegon National Forest and surrounding areas were created by glaciers, and as a result the area is sculpted into numerous small lakes and hilltops. There can be some steep climbs, and newer sections of the trail are designed in the “Flow” style. these trails are rhythmic in design and can be described as feeling like a roller coaster. As an IMBA Ride Center, however, there’s more than just flow – the variety of terrain available for different types of riders is great considering the overall length of the trail system.
One of JJ’s favorite rides is as follows: “By starting at the Rock Lake trail head you can combine it with other trails that makes up a 30 mile loop. While it does include some double track ski trail it allows you to ride past Namakagon Town hall and Wilson Lake Trail Heads. Within the past few years they have completed a section of trail that is singletrack that allows you to ride from Telemark Resort to Hatchery Creek. It includes more recent types of trails that are called flow trails, super fun sections that will make you smile. I tend to do the same sections two or three times before continuing my ride. “
Trail Conditions: For up to date trail conditions, see the CAMBA Website
From Minneapolis Saint Paul, there are a number of ways to get to the area, but to reach Cable/Hayward, take I-35 north to Exit 165 and head East on 70 through Rock Creek, Grantsburg, Siren. and Spooner. At Spooner, Follow US-63 East until you reach the town of Hayward continue on this to head to Cable. It’s about 3 hours drive time.
From Madison and Milwaukee, take I-94 West to Eau Claire and take the US-53 North exit (Exit 70) through Chippewa Falls, Rice Lake and Spooner. Turn Right onto US63 on the north end of Spooner and continue on to Hayward and Cable.
What are those slots on Burton Snowboards? How do you mount the bindings on this snowboard?
If you’ve never seen a board with their Infinite Channel System (ICS), it may look a bit odd at first. If this isn’t your first season snowboarding though, the benefits become easy to see. In short, better adjustability, more durable and better ride quality. Depending on the day or your riding style this stance adjustability has huge pay offs when it comes to getting the most out of your board and your riding. There’s little question why Burton has gone to using this technology in nearly all of the boards in 2015.
Read on for a breakdown of this technology… Read More…
Drop whatever you’re doing – Grab your bike, load it on the rack and point it to Cuyuna right now! Where last week’s trail was right in the middle of most Erik’s locations, this week we’re headed to an exciting ride destination in North Central Minnesota – making it a bit further drive for riders coming from Madison and Milwaukee, but this is a cycling destination that is pulling in cyclists from around the world
Located among a collection of old open-pit ore mines, Cuyuna is a fantastic example of a new style of mountain bike trail emerging all over the country. Cuyuna is considered a Flow trail – namely that it has been designed in and around the terrain it is in. Tailings (Overburden/leftovers) from once busy mining operations have been worked around or shifted to benefit the design and durability of the trail. The topography is classic Midwest – with very few long grueling climbs, but definitely some short, steep efforts. Trail difficulty ranges from beginner to expert, with something for everyone. Everyone in the family can ride Dragline, Boot Camp and Easy Street, which accesses a multitude of other areas and intensity levels.
Don’t take our word for it though – the MN DNR has some information on the trail as well as this original video:
Trail Length: 25 miles currently with plans to add more – the adjacent Cuyuna Lakes State Trail has 6.7 miles of paved for more casual riding.
- Best trail in MN (StarTribune) – 2013
- Best trail in MN (WCCO) – 2013
- Top 50 Trails in US (Bike Magazine) – 2013
- Top 25 Trails in the World (Singletracks.com) – Ongoing
- Nominated at Interbike for an Interbike PlacesForBikes Award – 2014
- The first designated Ride Center by IMBA, currently one of 27 Ride
Centers in the world.
- Sand Hog trail is one of 8 designated Flow Trails in the world
Cost: There is no cost to ride the trails at Cuyuna
Terrain: Built in what was once a series of open-pit ore mines, the Cuyuna State Recreation Area was once a thriving area for the mining of iron ore and was active until 1984, when the last shipment left. Today, the pits and piles of left by this mining have been shaped into twists, turns and climbs that challenge and excite riders of all ability levels. Known for its red dirt as a result of its iron content, people often say “shred the red” in reference to the local trails. Trail surface drains very well – often to the point of being one of the fastest drying trails in the state following a rain, but be sure to check trail conditions at the Cuyuna Lakes MTB Crew’s Web and Facebook Page before you go. Trails range from gentle and meandering to fast and flowy. The Mahnomen unit is currently wrapping up a 1.2 million dollar construction project for a new entry point and rally center making this the site of future events as well.
Highlights: For the best views in all of the trail system, make sure to check out Miner’s Mountain just north of Huntington Mine Lake. For a fast and twisty decent, take Ferrous Wheel down. For an out of this world experience, experienced riders will be thrilled by The Yawkey Unit, especially Bobsled. For less experienced riders it’s best to start on Easy Street, and it’s worth including the Mucker Mountain and Little Sidewinder trails to get accustomed to.
Know before you go: Cuyuna is a challenging place in that there is not a nearby Erik’s location and its best to be prepared before you go with what you might need. Last week’s list found here is a good start, but we recommend being prepared for tire cuts and punctures including tire boots and even a spare tire in the group. Nothing will ruin a weekend like a shredded tire, and Cuyuna’s terrain makes this a possibility.
It’s also a good idea to consider leaving your light colored gear at home – the red dirt literally creates rust stains in white socks, and while it’s a badge of honor to be marked with the red, not everyone wants their favorite jersey to be a rust-orange after a fall.Wipe down your bike at the end of the day – the major component in that red dirt (iron) is basically metal – keeping your drive train properly lubes and sensitive areas like suspension wiped down at the end of each ride will save you time and wear on your parts in the future.
With fall in full-swing, now is a great time to enjoy a weekend destination with comfortable riding days and often great trail conditions!
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin to get out and ride on. These trails are often favorites of Erik’s customers and staff alike! To learn about any of these great trails click the links within or ask our staff, we’re happy to share. If you’re new to mountain biking, we can help with that too – talk to our staff about what mountain bike is right for you!
Located smack-dab between Minneapolis/Saint Paul and Madison, Levis-Trow trail system is a gem in the upper Midwest and is considered an Epic trail by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). Clocking in at over 25 miles of trail, the singletrack trails offer rewarding views – especially amongst the fall colors.
Trail Length: 25 miles
Elevation Minimum: 900 feet
Elevation Maximum: 1200 feet
Cost: A daily pass will set you back $5 and an individual season pass is $25 Passes can be purchased at the trailhead or online
Terrain: Tight and twisty singletrack – no killer climbs in length, but short and steep at times.
Highlights: Plumbers Crack is often photographed and can be seen below; you really shouldn’t miss a thing about Levis, but if you’re just passing through, you’ll be glad you got to Plumers Crack.
Levis offers something for riders of all levels and interests, but with some exposed cliffs, be aware of your surroundings and don’t be afraid to walk the bike if you don’t feel comfortable. Trails range from fast and flowy to tight and technical, but as always you control the speed, so ride safe!
From Minneapolis and Saint Paul Metro, take Interstate 94 East to Exit 105 in Hixton, then turn left onto Hwy 95 for 18 miles until you reach Fisher Avenue. Turn Left and follow the road until you reach the Levis Mound Trail Center on the left hand side.
From Madison/Milwaukee, take Interstate 94 West to Exit 115 at Black River Falls. Turn Right, heading North on US-12 / Hwy 27 – turn Right at County Road E towards Hatfield. In Hatfield, take a left onto County Road K and follow it until County J. Make a right onto County J and continue for 4 miles where the Levis Mound Trail Center Will be on your left hand side.
What To Bring:
Your bike of course, but with any day of riding, you should be prepared for anything that might happen. Here are some things we recommend:
- Extra layers – especially in the fall, days can start cool and warm up nice, but be prepared for a shift in the weather and plan accordingly.
- Hydration Pack filled with water
- Spare tube
- Patch kit/Tire Boot
- Tire Levers
- Spare chain link
- Spare derailleur hanger
- First aid kit
If you’re staying for a long weekend, it’s never a bad idea to bring spares of consumable parts like brake pads, tires and tubes – it’s no fun to cut a trip short because of a cut tire. If you’re not comfortable working on your own bike trailside, bring a capable friend along or enroll in our Park Tool School Course.
Here are some more photos from Levis-Trow; we hope to see you on the trail!
Erik’s Product Managers and Training Staff begin the second day at Specialized Dealer Event in Monterey California today, but they’re not relaxing in the sun. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s first sessions and a look at some cool things for 2015. Take a look and tell us if there’s anything you’re dying to know more about from the 2015 Specialized lineup!