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SKI TRAIL PROFILE: Wild River State Park

The "River Trail" at Wild River State Park is a beautiful classic only trail - ideal for a relaxing stride or speedy double pole - kick (note this image was taken in late March, after the grooming was done for the season)!

Like many of Minnesota's State Parks, Wild River State Park has an amazing network of Classic or Skate Ski trails (all of which are hiking trails in the summer).  Wild River State Park's 55k of trails range from the meandering Amador Prairie loops, to the River Trail right next to the beautiful St. Croix River, to the famously challenging Aspen Knob Loop.

As amazing as the skiing is at Wild River State Park, it is very much under utilized by the Nordic community - but won't be once the word gets out!  This place has good regular grooming on all trails and has a whole lot to offer.  As a bonus, it's only about a 15 minute drive from the St. Croix Falls / Taylors Falls area and a 1 hour drive from Minneapolis.

A sheltered section of trail on top of the river bluff.

Location:  East of North Branch, MN about 10 miles or north of Taylors Falls, MN about 10 miles.  Right on the St. Croix River.  Click HERE for the Google Map.

Trail Distance & Technique:  55k of classic  and/or classic & skate trails.  There are also some great snowshoe trails as well.

Terrain:  Generally rolling, with some flat sections and a couple of very hilly loops (Aspen Knob & White Pine Ridge Loops).  This park is a great showcase of the Upper St. Croix Valley's diverse terrain and vegetation.  There is so much trail here, you could put together a number of different long loops with a wide array of terrain.  It definitely takes a couple of skis on these trails to check them all out and figure out how to best connect the loops. 

Grooming:  Grooming is done by the Minnesota State Park Service.  Generally, the trail is prepped to be in prime shape for weekends, which are the park's highest traffic days.  However, the trails are maintained for mid week users as well.  The park employees here are obviously passionate about skiing and taking their time to sculpt the 55k of Nordic trails within this park!

Lighted After Dark:  No lights
Warming House:  Yes!  There is a beautiful heated warming house with rest rooms, a wood fireplace, vending machines, and even a ski rental shop with some snacks for sale!  Additionally, there are also cabins available for rent within the park all winter, with ski trails going right by the front door.  Check these out for a nice winter Nordic get away!

The Wild River State Park Nordic Center / Warming House.

The Nordic Center / Warming House from near the front door.  Visible in this photo is the fireplace, dining area, and ski rental shop.

Ski Train In Peru!

I wrote about going to Peru yesterday and it made me think of Peru's first winter Olympian Roberto Carcelen (I interviewed him on here a long time ago).  He runs a side business called Inca runners which takes people out to train on the Inca trail.  When I talked to him, the tour he organized sounded pretty awesome.  Apparently you hike from Machu Picchu to Choquequirao (I spelled that right without even looking it up...awesome).  Choquequirao is a set of ruins that's supposed to be even more spectacular than Machu Picchu...yet nobody goes there because it's quite a bit more isolated.

Anyway, check out that Inca runners link and if you want to do this let me know so I can talk to Roberto about getting us a sweet deal on this trip.  We need to get some pictures of our athletes wearing CyclovaXC vests on Machu Picchu :)

Seriously folks, doing a trip like this would be indescribably awesome!  (My whole plan with CyclovaXC has been to plan at least one completely magnificent training trip somewhere in the world per year...so there should be a chance to get in on these eventually...but you're not going to want to miss any of them!).

Is Anybody Interested in Seeing Machu Picchu This Summer?

This picture was taken on the same day as my little author thumbnail that appears on the left of all these great posts (as Frank said...I need to switch to one where I'm covered in CyclovaXC gear...soon...soon).

Anyway, as many of you know, I had a lovely little girl 9 months ago (yes, it's been 9 months, isn't that ridiculous?).  She'll be turning 1 year this summer, so we need to get her down to Peru to meet the rest of her family.  Soooo...Zulma and I will be spending about 2 months in Lima (hopefully) from around June 15th to August 15th.

Although I am known for having a bit of a frivolous nature, the fact is that I do know my way around Peru and especially Machu Picchu (Frank can attest to that).  I've already talked with several people who have expressed an interest in checking out the lost city of the Incas, so I'm guessing there is upwards of a 90% chance that I'll be heading up there this summer.  In short, if any of you have ever dreamed of going to Machu Picchu, now would be the time to do it.

You're all welcome to crash at my place in Lima for the first couple nights (I can show you the best gourmet restaurants in the city...and believe me they are goooood!), then we can head up to Cuzco.  I can generally get fairly inexpensive tickets in Lima, so just let me know.  I enjoy showing people Machu Picchu so take advantage of this!

The only downside is that with gas prices so high, flights are a bit expensive, so I wouldn't book quite yet. But you can give it a couple months.

Seriously people, think this over and get in touch with me.  Going to Machu Picchu seriously is the trip of a lifetime!

Whistle Stop Marathon Registration Now Open!

The Whistle Stop is one of our favorite marathons and is one to put on your "must do" list!

The Whistle Stop Marathon is a classic event in an epic area.  It is ran by an incredible group of folks who take tremendous pride in putting on an amazing event.  It is a moderately size event with all the perks of a big marathon, but without the production line feeling that one often gets when running a big city marathon.  In short, it's an amazing event on Saturday, October 15 - arguably the best time of year for a marathon (it's 'coolish' outside, fall colors, and it's great ski training).

For all of the details and some fun stories about this race, see our event profile HERE.

Registration just opened up for this event, and this is one that you won't want to miss!  Registration is now at $65, so jump over to their website and register.  Preregistering for a marathon is the ultimate motivation to get out and put some miles in!  

Frank Maneuvers Under a Downed Tree in the Blizzard of '10

I was just going through some old photos and I came across this one of Frank skiing under a tree at my Mom's place during the big blizzard of...when was it...December 2010?  The funny thing is that my first ski for the last two years has been with Frank on back country skis at my Mom's place after some big blizzard.  I always have the same conversation with Frank too (he gets all excited about the snow).

"We should go down to city park and ski there!"

"But Frank...it just finished snowing like six seconds ago, they're not going to have it groomed!"

"They might...."

"They don't even have the roads plowed yet, and we'll probably get stuck on the way there, let's just back country ski here!"

"But there might be new, corduroy out there...kilometers and kilometers of it...."

Actually back in the old days we did used to go driving off like mad men looking for snow and new corduroy...but somehow I just don't have extra energy to burn off on frivolous chases like that anymore.

And to tell you the truth, I really like doing a casual back country ski to start the year.  Skiing back country tends to slow Frank down a bit!

Eau Claire Marathon is Coming Up!

That's right folks, this Sunday May 1st is the Eau Claire Marathon and Half Marathon.  I did it last year and I have to say that it's a pretty awesome event.  The course kicked my butt...not because it was all that difficult but because I wasn't in great shape.

More and more I'm starting to like these "little" marathons.  This isn't the massive battle that something like Grandma's is.  Although I enjoy the spectacle of things like Grandma's and the Birkie, let's face it, those races are a logistical nightmare.  For something like the Eau Claire marathon you can just show up, race and go home.

Eau Claire is a good sized event though because it's not so big to make just getting there a problem, but it's not so small that you have to worry about aid stations not being manned.  This race is very professional and very well organized.

All that being said, I'm not going to run it this year (I haven't been running), but if you're in the area, let me know...I know where the best beer joints in EC are!

CALL TO ACTION: Trail Work Day on Woolly MTB Trails in St. Croix Falls - Sat, 30 April @ 9AM

Someone needs to create and maintain trails - Cyclova XC members Steve, Mike, and Duane get ready to do some trail work Fall of 2010.

If we the mountain bike enthusiasts don't create and maintain trails - no one will.  If you value having amazing single track and trails to ride your bike on, if you are curious about the new Woolly Trails in St. Croix Falls, or if you're looking to meet some mountain bikers in the St. Croix Valley, you should definitely join us for a morning of working on the Woolly Mountain Bike Trails in St. Croix Falls

Keith Valeski and the Woolly crew have organized their first ever public trail work day in St. Croix Falls.  As a newly certified IMBA Cub, this is a great opportunity to see some of the best practices in creating sustainable single track in action!  If you've never seen these trails before, prepare to have your mind blown!

To be a part of this trail work day, simply show up at the St. Croix Falls High School at 9AM sharp on Saturday, April 30.  Bring along some work gloves as well as perhaps a rake, brush snippers, shovel, and a strong back.  Some tools will also likely be provided.  For more information, email info@woollyrace.com.

See you there!

Birkie Registration Now Open!

Hey Everybody!

Well, we've been a little lazy in getting our posts up lately, which is unpardonable! Frank and I are just temporarily swamped with getting the shop set up and all that.  Still, this should only be a temporary delay, and at the very worst we might water things down so that we're publishing every other day instead of every day (but just briefly because...as everybody knows...you can't shut me up:).

Until I have time to go on some other incomprehensible rants about skiing, biking, and running, I just thought I'd give a shout out to the birkie page where you can register for the 2012 event.  It's up and running and there's no time like the present to register (you don't want to pull a Lindsley and be caught scrambling after the cut-off date).

So here's the page, no excuses!

RUN TRAIL PROFILE: Ridge Trail - Osceola, WI

One of 2 entry gates to the Ridge Trail, the entire Ridge Trail system is a trail runner's paradise, with ample opportunity for adventure!

The Ridge Trail traverses the majestic, high ridges overlooking the St. Croix River, roughly mid-way between St. Croix Falls and Osceola, WI.  This is an amazing foot trail that generally, only the locals know about - one that isn't promoted and info can't be found online about it (except for at CyclovaXC.com of course).  Next time you're in the St. Croix River valley, you owe it to yourself to check out!

Following is some basic info on the trail:

Location:  There are 2 trail heads (Osceola and Chisago), about 1/4 mile apart off of County Road S, about 2 miles north of Osceola, WI and 3.5 mile south of St. Croix Falls, WI.  I prefer parking at the Osceola trail head, as it is bigger and a bit more private.  Click here for the Google Map

Distance & Loops:  There are 2 loops and which are interconnected - the Osceola and Chisago loops.  The Osceola loop is roughly 2.5 miles in length and the Chisago loop is roughly 1.25 miles in length.  They are nicely interconnected - just follow the signs.  There are also some unmarked dead end trails which are fun to explore that will add distance to your run. 

Trail Surface:  This well established trail is periodically maintained and is generally free of debris (sticks, down trees, leaves, etc).  In some places, the trail is covered with a wonderful soft bed of pine needles which feel great on your legs and feet.  This is a rocky area, and there are some rocks sticking up out of the ground, particularly in a few places on the Chisago Loop.  As is the case with all trail running, step with care.

Terrain:  Generally flat and rolling, with a hilly section on the Chisago loop.  The west edge of the trail overlooks the St. Croix River along the edge of a very steep cliff - providing some great views. 

One of the dead end spurs off of the Chisago Loop takes you along the peak of a beautiful ridge overlooking the majestic St. Croix River.

A spring view of a flooded St. Croix River Valley, from atop the west edge of the Osceola Loop.

BIKE TECH: Michelin Krylion Carbon Tire Review

The Michelin Krylion Carbon is arguably the finest fast road training tire available at a price that won't break the bank.   

When it comes to tires on my road bike, there is one tire that you will always find mounted to my wheels - the Michelin Krylion Carbon.  I started riding this tire's predecessor back in the early 2000's, which was then known as the Axial Carbon.  Since then, I've ridden tens of thousands of miles on these tires and I only recall ever having 3 flats on them in that time. 

The Krylion Carbon clincher tire is a very high performance training tire - in fact it feels like a race tire.  It has the low rolling resistance, cornering characteristics, and smooth ride that many racing tires (yes even comparable to some tubulars).  In fact, I and many others have done a fair bit of racing on this tire and been happy with it's performance.

Despite it's high end performance, this tire is incredibly durable.  Michelin claims that these tires will last 3000 miles, which is an average life span for these in my experience.  Michelin says that there is 30% more rubber on this tire than it's Pro Race 3 model and that the rubber has a higher carbon content to it, which make it a more durable, high mileage tire.

Earlier I mentioned that this tire is very flat resistant.  This is largely due to the fact that Michelin has put in their "bead to bead puncture protector", which drastically reduces flats due to punctures and adds minimal weight.  

While it is very rare to get a flat on a 'newish' Krylion Carbon tire, I have found that flats happen much more frequently when the tread is getting wore and toward the end of the life of the tire.  Once you start to notice a flat wear surface across the top of the tire running surface, it is likely time to replace the tire.  This flat wear surface usually happens after 2500 - 3500 miles of riding on this tire.  I believe that 2 of the 3 flats I've had on this tire were when the tire tread was getting very thin and I thought I'd try to get in "one more ride" on the tire before changing it out.  Do yourself a favor and change the tire once it's wore and avoid changing a flat out on the road.

This tire is available in 700c x 20, 23, or 25 sizes.  I've historically always used the 23 width and been very happy with it.  However, I've recently became a huge fan of the 25 width.  If you're simply looking for a fast riding, very smooth, durable tire, give the 700c x 25 size a try.  You'll find that it is even more smooth riding than the 25.  Riding a 25 also allows you to run a bit less pressure in the tire without slowing you down as we recently outlined in this recent tech post on riding rough roads or cobbles.

The Michelin Krylion Carbon Tire definitely gets 2 thumbs up in my book.  Check it out and enjoy the miles!

Cyclova XC Shop to be in St. Croix Falls, WI!

St. Croix Falls, WI will soon be a nationally known destination for cyclists, xc skiers, and trail runners.  Cyclova XC is thrilled to be a part of it!

Cyclova XC, Inc will be opening a new bike, xc ski, and trail run store in downtown St. Croix Falls, WI Fall of 2011 - with a Grand Opening on Saturday, October 1, 2011.  

We have carefully put together an assortment of products that will perfectly fit the needs of our customers - ranging from National Champions to first timers.  We bring World Cup level expertise with world class service to match - to the common man (or woman, or child).  We will provide our clients the ultimate customer experience; treating them with respect, sharing/enrolling them in our passion for the sports, and helping them to enhance their bike, ski, or run experience.

We will be located in St. Croix Falls, WI.  This area is a literal playground for cyclists, xc skiers, and runners.  With three wineries, great coffee shops, shopping, and camping (at one of 3 state parks within 8 miles) within a 5 minute walk of downtown there is plenty to do after you're done with your ride, run, or ski.  St. Croix Falls is 50 minutes northeast of Minneapolis and the gateway to northern Wisconsin's plethora of silent sport opportunities.

In Short:  Cyclova XC is a community of silent sport enthusiasts; where athletes and enthusiasts come to purchase their equipment, have it serviced by experts, learn, and enjoy their craft.

Check back here often for more information as it's released on developments with Cyclova XC's retail store:

World Cup expertise with service to match will be the norm at Cyclova XC!  Photo credit to David Gabrys

BIKE TECH: Fizik Arione Saddle

For many roadies, the Fizik Arione is as close to "couch comfort" as you'll get on your bike.

Finding a saddle that works for yourself is often a challenge.  Typically what works for one person won't work for the next.  Slight differences in anatomy and body position while riding can totally change what one should look for in a saddle.

For men, I've been intrigued by one saddle in particular, the Fizik Arione.  This saddle seems to be a favorite of many road and cross riders, of varying ability levels, shapes, and ages.  This saddle became very popular shortly after being released in about 2003 - I recall that the entire local Pro 1-2 peloton seemed to be riding them back in the day.  Since then, they've offered this saddle in a variety of iterations, different color combinations, etc - and it's only gotten more popular.

I started riding this saddle in 2004 and have been riding "them" ever since.  I say "them" because I own four of them and have them on different bikes.  Obviously I'm a fan of finding something that works and sticking with it, when it comes to bicycle saddles anyway!

There are several reasons I love this saddle, but the end result is that it's very comfortable - I've heard the phrase "couch like comfort" to describe this saddle before.  Following are some of the reasons I love this saddle so much:
  • It's long - 310mm long to be exact.  This allows the rider to move around (fore and aft) a lot on the bike, which is critical to being comfortable on the bike.  Adjusting your position forward or backward is also advantageous based on the terrain you're riding on (slide back a bit on the saddle for climbing, slide forward a bit for hammering on the flats, etc).
  • It's somewhat flexible (but not too flexible), yielding a slight "hammock effect".  The body of the saddle flexes a bit in the middle, absorbing road vibrations and shock.  This further increases the compliance of your bike.
  • Huge fore and aft adjustment range - 85mm to be exact
  • The cool Fizik clip seat bag system.  This is a strapless seat bag that clips into a hole on the bottom of newer Fizik saddles.  No straps - what could be better?  Note that Fizik is the only saddle company to use this system and only Fizik saddles manufacturer after 2007 or so are compatible with this system.
  • The basic Arione weighs in at a svelte 225 grams, with lighter versions available.
I'm definitely a fan and think you should check this saddle out.  Most likely, your bum will thank you!

The top profile of the Fizik Arione.  The length and room for fore and aft movement is evident in just looking at this saddle.

BIKE TECH VIDEO: Riding Rough Roads & Cobbles

This slowed down video shows what really happens as the world's best riders ride the cobbles of Paris Roubaix.  Imagine what you and your bike would look like on these cobbles!

Riding rough roads, especially cobbles can beat you and your bike up - but you likely never understood how much until watching this slowed down high speed video!

Watching this video reminded me of several key fundamentals that make all the difference when riding on any rough surface:

Body position while riding:  
  • Move Back On Your Saddle:  When riding over a particularly rough patch, the best riders technically generally move back on the saddle, reducing the weight and pressure on the front wheel.  This reduces the chances of damaging your front wheel (pinch flat or worse) and simply makes it easier for the front wheel to get over obstacles.  Generally if your front wheel makes it over obstacles, your rear wheel will follow.
  • Relax:  Relaxing your body, especially your upper body, while riding over rough surfaces allows your body to move with the terrain, not get beat up, and is easier on your bike.  As tempting as it may be to tense up, just relax and let your bike roll over the surface!
  • Ride A Bit More Upright Than Normal:  Most pro riders will ride in a slightly more upright position while riding over rough surfaces.  In the above video of Paris Roubaix, you'll notice that most riders are on the tops of their bars or hoods, rather than down in the drop.  This slightly upright position will move more of your weight to the back wheel and give you slightly better control of the bicycle.
Bike Tips:
  • Tire Choice:  Tire choice is rarely more important than while riding on rough surfaces.  Error on the side of a wider tire, with a higher profile, and a soft supple casing.  This will maximize the natural "suspension" a tire is capable of providing you while reducing the chance of getting a pinch flat.  A tubeless clincher or tubular tire will further reduce the chances of a pinch flat occurring.
  • Tire Pressure:  More air pressure isn't necessarily faster, and definitely won't ride smoothly!  Most road riders by default simply air up their road tires to the maximum printed on the sidewall of the tire - this is rarely the best thing to do.  Consider that we hardly ever ride on a perfectly smooth surface - there is always some degree of texture or bumps to the surface we ride on.  Therefore, less pressure is often the way to go.  A bit less pressure in your road tires will allow the tire to "roll through" the bump rather than "bounce over it".  Your body, bike, and often times race results will thank you for using a bit less air pressure in your tires!
  • Double Layer of Handlebar Tape:  Handlebar tape or padding can go a long way toward dampening vibrations felt by your hands, arm, and neck.  Putting a double layer of handlebar tape from your brake lever hood and up can help to ease fatigue on a rough ride.  Note that to do this, start with a partial layer from the hoods up to the center of the bar tops, then apply a regular full layer of bar tape as per usual.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Cyclova XC To Open A NEW SHOP - Fall 2011!

Cyclova XC will always be about having fun with our sports - and helping others do the same!

For Immediate Release:  Cyclova XC to launch a retail bike, xc ski, and run shop in the Upper St. Croix Valley, fall of 2011!

Cyclova XC has been a fantastic journey so far, but this is just the beginning!

Those of you that know Ben and I are well aware that we've taken a different and dynamic approach to the "professional amateur athlete" lifestyle for decades!  Events like the Firehouse Fifty, Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival, Birkie, and Grandma's Marathon have literally comprised the founding pillars of our very lives!  For the sake of camaraderie, friendship, and fun, we've founded two of the area's major race teams, and we're eternally grateful for the great times we've spent with great people both training and racing in the Northwoods.

In 2009, we recognized that there was a distinct lack of bike, xc ski, and trail running teams/clubs in the upper Midwest, particularly teams simply focused on having fun with our sports.  So, we launched our team and since then, over 100 people are members of Cyclova XC and  have purchased team gear from us.  Our team members range from first timers to National Champions - but they have one thing in common - their reason for being out is to have fun.  Our team continues to gain momentum and will always be a core part of Cyclova XC!

At the same time we launched our team, we also launched our website.  Since then, we have put up more than 600 posts, with posts nearly every single day.  Our website has something for everyone, ranging from World Cup ski wax techs to someone simply looking to get a good laugh!

For some time, we've noted XC Skiers feeling a void in terms of the ski service available in the region - particularly Nordic Stonegrinding.  During the winter of 2010-2011, we launched Cyclova XC Racing Service - a Nordic ski service bringing proven World Cup level expertise to the common skier, with a focus on Stonegrinding.  In it's inaugural season, this program was embraced by ski racers from coast to coast, factory team skiers to first timers. 

For some time, we've been hearing of the lack of a great service oriented bike, xc ski, and run shop in the region - specifically the upper St. Croix River Valley.  Silent sport enthusiasts of the region tell us that they want a shop to call home - a shop that welcomes all and provides World Cup expertise to the common enthusiast or beginner.  After many of these conversations, much research, and years of preparation, Cyclova XC will be opening a XC Ski, Bike, and Trail Run shop in the Upper St. Croix Valley - fall of 2011!

Stay tuned for much more information (including store location, what brands we will carry,  and much more) on this exciting announcement.  Also, let us know what you'd like to see from us!  

We look forward to seeing you in our store this Fall!

IMBA Club Interview: Woolly Mountain Bike Club in St. Croix Falls, WI

Some of the Woolly Mountain Bike Club's world class single track in action at their annual Woolly MTB Race.

I've recently had the pleasure of getting to know Keith Velaski and a few other folks from the Woolly Mountain Bike Club in St. Croix Falls, WI.  This is a passionate crew of mountain bikers dedicated to building and promoting world class mountain bike trails in the St. Croix River Valley.  Click HERE for the full scoop on these great trails.

This group has diligently been working at creating a world class sustainable mountain bike trail over the past several years, recently became an official IMBA club, and as of late has been turning a lot of heads!  I caught up with Keith and was thoroughly impressed by what they have accomplished as well as their work ethic and goals for mountain biking in the region.  Enjoy!

Frank L:  Thank you for taking the time to do this interview Keith! 
Keith V:  My pleasure, really.

Frank L:  We appreciate your efforts and dedication in creating a world class network of Mountain Bike Singletrack in St. Croix Falls!  To start with, how long have you been involved with these trails?
Keith V:  Since the beginning in 2006.  I moved to this area from Bloomington in 2002.  I used to live 7 blocks from the River Valley Trail, and rode it all the time.  I was really surprised to find such a lack of trails out here after I moved.  I figured the terrain around here was just begging to be ridden.  I was so desperate to find trails out here that I would stop and question people if I saw them reading a cycling magazine in the store.  I finally wandered into(now closed) Gravity Lab where I met and befriended Mark Fisk and his brother Matt.  Those guys took me out to some stuff that was really fun, but totally "unofficial".
Woody McBride gathered us together in 2006 and suggested we put on a race to try to promote the area.  It was that year that we started building on some private land in town.  Steve Litzkow is the name of that landowner.  He has a Bed and Breakfast (Wissahickon Inn) on 40 acres that is still within the city limits.  Steve is a guy who used to race bikes back when Bridgestones were (still are, btw) cool.  He is no longer able to ride, but still loves to be a part of the race.  The Woolly wouldn't be half the race it is without his support.

Frank L:  How many people are involved in building and maintaining these trails?
Keith V:  All of the above names, but additionally; Matt's wife Alicia, Charlie Strantz, Kent and Sally Lundholm, Ryan Lee, Jon Sutton, Paul Smith, and my sons; Carson, Doran, and Luke. 

Frank L:  If someone wants to become involved in helping out with trail building or maintenance, who should they contact?
Keith V:  Send a note to us on either our website: www.woollyrace.com or through our Facebook page.  We will be announcing trail building dates on morcmtb.org as well.

Frank L:  I've heard rumors of plans to build even more single track this Spring, to be ready for the June Woolly Race.  Is this true?  If so how much new trail will be ready for the June event?
Keith V:  Yep!  That is tough to say.  We are a pretty ambitious group, but we also have families and careers.  I will promise more new trail, but I'm wise enough not to commit us to something we might not be able to deliver.

Frank L:  Also big news is the fact that the Woolly Bike Club is now an official IMBA club.  From a trail building perspective, does this change your trail building philosophy or do members of your club have prior IMBA trail building experience?
Keith V:  The philosophy is the same.  We try to "do it right, do it once", so we follow IMBA's guidelines fairly closely.  Last summer was a true test.  This area just got HAMMERED with rain, but the only repair we had to do involved clearing downed trees and branches.  We didn't have any areas washout at all. We are really proud of that.

Frank L:  Tell us about your favorite section of single track on your trails.
Keith V:  There is a section that Mark, Matt and Alicia built last year that is awesome.  It starts with some tight twisty corners then opens into a really fun downhill with a banking turn.  Next, you climb up into a stand of oaks before you shoot down another little hill right through a big patch of ferns.  It is a really fun section through a really beautiful part of the woods.  

Frank L:  I hear there is some legitimate slick rock up there...
Keith V:  Well, there IS some, but we still have to get approval to use it.  You know how that goes.

Frank L:  What is your preferred bike setup for these trails?
Keith V:  Run what you brung!!  I have ridden it with a full rigid bike, and a full sus bike.  Both are awesome.  For the SS crowd, think Lebanon Hills, or East side of River Valley Trail.

Frank L:  Are there any recurring group rides on these trails that people could join you for?
Keith V:  Not yet...

Frank L:  This June, the 5th annual St. Croix Valley Woolly MTB Race will take place. This event seems to have consistently grown over the years.  What do you attribute this growth to?
Keith V:  Well, we use social networks to spread the word, we hand out flyers and stickers at Penn Cycle's Thursday night races, but I really think word of mouth has been our best advocate.  We get a lot of positive feedback from the racers.  We honestly love doing this, and I would like to think it shows.

Getting kids on bikes:  Part of the Woolly Club's vision in action at the kids race as part of their annual Woolly Race!
Frank L:  What is your vision for this event in moving forward?
Keith V:  We have 2 visions; One for the race, and one for the trails.  We would like to see the race continue to grow to the point that we have to limit the numbers.  We don't know what that number would be; but I can speak for all of us when I say we are more interested in Quality than Quantity.  We take a lot of pride in putting on a good race.
As for the trails, we envision a system that will not only be a destination for people from out of town, but something that will inspire more people locally to get out and ride.  The number of people who live locally and ride mtn bikes is not a large number, but there has been nothing to foster that growth until now.  We have talked about guiding school groups on some trail rides to introduce the local youth to mtn biking.  There is a lot of potential.  This area is amazing if you like to be outdoors.  The scenery is breathtaking, there are hiking/running trails galore, the St. Croix is a GREAT river to paddle or fish on, we have Trollhaugen and Wild Mountain within about 10 miles of each other.  I could go on and on.  I love it here, and feel fortunate to be able to raise my kids in such a special place.

SKI TECH: Storage Wax On Your Skis

Covering your ski bases with a nice thick layer of "storage wax" is critical over the summer.

It's that time of year again.  The snow is gone, we are getting warm sunny afternoons, but it's still chilly when you wake up in the morning.  However, the reality is that your skiing is probably done for the season.

This means that it is definitely time to put storage wax on your skis - if you haven't already!

When people refer to "storage wax" or "cover wax", they are simply talking about putting a nice thick layer of hot wax on their ski base and leaving it on the ski base (not scraping or brushing).  

Applying a layer of storage wax does numerous very good things for your P-Tex ski base including:
  • Oxidation Prevention:  Oxidation happens when a ski base is exposed to oxygen over periods of time.  Oxidation on a ski base can look like a whitish haze.  In reality, when oxidation occurs, the outer most layer of base material hardens and isn't able to absorb wax as a healthy base would.  Oxidation occurs to many materials, perhaps even on the side of your car as rust.  Putting cover wax on your skis when not in use reduces oxidation as much as possible.
  • Damage:  A layer of wax on your ski base protects the base from getting beat up or scratched during travel or storage.
  • Wax Saturation:  Letting your skis soak up a nice thick layer of wax over the course of the summer is like the ultimate hot box treatment - and it's free!  No wonder skis often feel so fast the first time they are on snow for the season!
Applying storage wax to your skis is very straight forward.  Following is a recommended process for getting this done:
  1. Clean your ski base.  If your last ski of the year was on dirty snow, clean the base with some Fiberlene and some wax remover (or base cleaner).  Allow the base to fully dry after using any wax remover products before proceeding.
  2. Brush the ski base with a very soft metal brush such as the Fast Wax Super Fine Stainless Steel Brush or the Toko Copper Brush.  Make 3-5 light passes from tip to tail to further clean the base and open it up a bit.
  3. Wipe off the ski base with a dry piece of Fiberlene or Base Tex.
  4. Drip on a thick layer of a soft paraffin wax (such as Fast Wax Base Prep or Toko System 3 Yellow).  
  5. Iron in the wax using 3-4 slow continuous passes from tip to tail.
  6. Store your skis away in a safe place, using a good set of ski ties.   Don't allow the ski to remain compressed over the summer by over tightening the ski ties (compressing the camber).  The skis should be allowed to rest in their normal state.
Note that some wax technicians recommend using a medium hardness wax (such as Toko LF or System 3 Red) as a cover wax, rather than a soft wax.  The slightly harder wax does offer better protection to the ski base and won't be totally absorbed by the ski base over the course of the summer (this is relatively rare, but does occasionally happen).

Getting storage wax on your skis is like closing the book on the past ski season.  Now you can start to dream of all the great skiing we'll have next winter!

Don't Drink All Your Calories!

Back in the old days, I used to guzzle Gatorade like it was going out of style.  There was hardly ever a day that I didn't drink at least one or two liters of "Fierce Melon" or whatever other new ULTRA-TECHNO flavor name they came up with for the sake of marketing (seriously..."Fierce Melon?").  I know, I know, you're supposed to only drink water.  But for some reason, Gatorade just seemed to go down a lot easier than water, and I always thought it was better to risk the calories and stay hydrated.

Well, when I was in my 20s I could more or less get away with that, but these days the caloric intake has to be fiercely guarded (perhaps I could get a fierce melon to do the guarding).  Just a couple pounds makes a HUGE difference on your Birkie time.  Shaving a couple pounds off your waist can literally shave minutes off your finishing time...and for those of you who are on the cusp of doing a sub 2:40 Birkie or a sub 3:00 marathon, that's all the difference right there.

Over the last year I've become a true believer in the idea that you don't want to drink all your calories.  You seriously have to be careful about what you grab at the grocery store or at the local Holiday (especially when you're stumbling in all bonked and not thinking straight).

I remember going out on a short ride with Frank in Rice Lake and afterwards he grabbed some Iced Tea concoction.  Now you'd think that an Iced Tea would be more or less healthy, but a quick glance at the label showed that that innocent looking bottle was a vessel for over 600 calories (I wish I could remember the name of that stuff...that was ridiculous)!

Now, you can get away with drinking something like that after a 100 mile bike ride of course, but if you're in the habit of grabbing that bottle every day on the way to work...that's when it's going to kill you.

Lately I've discovered one of the various forms of lifewater out there and these things are awesome.  They're actually drinkable for one thing, and for another they're zero calories (although you have to make sure you grab the bottles with the big ZERO on the side because they have another version that's like 150 calories).

The other good thing about these things is that after you've slammed one it kind of fills you up so you don't gorge yourself on anything.

I'm kind of curious to see what will happen to my fitness if I stick to a tight regimen of zero calorie drinks for a year.