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East Side dirt ride

November 30, 2008

The weather has been incredible here in MN.  It’s been getting down into the 20’s at night and then getting up into the low 40’s during the day.  Unfortunately, this means that the sacred trails I’m used to riding are closed due to the freeze/thaw conditions.   Thankfully, we’ve got a lot of  trails here in the metro and thankfully the soil is quite different at almost every one of them.  I had a new bike to ride and I was going to find a place to ride.  I took this opportunity to head on over to the east side, my old stomping grounds.  I don’t take this journey often.  Friday was only my 3rd time riding the east side in 2009.

Saint Paul, MN

Saint Paul, MN

The city was founded near prominent Native American settlements as a trading and transportation center.  It is also known for its famous “Pig’s Eye” landing, the name of the city prior to naming it Saint Paul.   Pig’s Eye beer (Yuck!) got it’s name from here and was brewed just to the left (west) of the above image.  It was named the capital of MN in 1849.  I like it because of the history, the people and the food.    I lived in Saint Paul for 7 years and my wife lived there for 13.   We are east siders.   Saint Paul is also home of Battle Creek, a great park and and the old home of a historic MN ski jump.

Ski Jumper in the 1940's.  Picture from the MN Historical Society.

Ski Jumper in the 1940's. Image from the MN Historical Society.

The trails at Battle Creek are a bit more rustic.  They are rough, not rough by Fruita standards, but rough given the buttery smooth single track that is typical of Twin Cities trails.   In the old days, the trails were actually run off ruts down the bluffs.  They were rugged.  We used to ride our down hill and free ride bikes here.  There is also the most vertical per lap at BC.  The other big plus about BC is that few people ride there.  When you ride it, you often don’t see a single person.  I love it.  It’s hard.   Its a bit rough. A perfect place to test my new Big Mama.

Heading out

Heading out

I wanted to maximize my dirt time, so I did the park and ride thing.  In all honesty, I could get to these trails by riding about 15 miles of paved bike path that starts outside my home.  Thank you MN.  You can see the Indian Mound bluffs to the left and just around the bend in the river, you can see Battle Creek in the distance.  A perfect warm up before hitting the dirt.

Before I get started, I’ll share a couple of back yard beauty shots of my new Salsa Big Mama.  25.9 lbs (w/o pedals) of alloy and carbon.  My build could certainly be lighter, but I built this bike to last.  Every part on it is durable and installed for a specific reason.

So Clean!

So Clean!

So detailed.

So detailed.

Most of you reading Gnat blog know that I’ve been riding prototype Big Mama’s for some time.  It’s a bike I’ve been fortunate enough to work on throughout its development.   It is a bike that for me changed the game.  While I love all my hard tails and my Dos Niner softail, I’ve got a crushed disc in my back.  My body longed for more travel.   While most of you know I work for Salsa, the Big Mama is a really important bike to me personally.  I wanted a ride all day bike that wasn’t fragile.  I wanted something that pedaled really well.  I didn’t want a complicated linkage system.  I wanted something that allowed me to ride longer and further.  In the end, I think we/I got just that.   Now….I just want one about 2 lbs lighter.  Ha!  I’m never satisfied.

Riding the Big Mama felt a bit funny at first.  You see, I’ve pretty much only ridden the Fargo (with drop bars) over the past 4 months.  My personal Big Mama prototype was doing rounds at dealers, tradeshows and demo events.  I was a bit hesitant to push the bike into the corners and I was a little nervous about all the leaves.  Thankfully, it came back quick and I was having a blast.   I was in my element on a beautiful day, riding my old stomping ground’s trails, and I was on a bike that I helped develop.  It does not get much better than that!

I’ve already talked about the trails a bit, but one thing I haven’t called out is that the trails aren’t all smoothly or intuitively connected.  You need to ride around a bit to hit all the trails.  You need to ride some bike path & cross a paved road (with cars).  You need to do mulitple loops and sometimes loop back on the same trails you rode out on.   With that, I started on the west end of the trails and did a few laps up and around the old ski jump.    You can see the old footing for the ski jump take off behind the BM.

Ski Jump Footing

Ski Jump Footing

After enjoying the view and catching my breath, I headed out to ride the rest.  This Big Mama is my 4th version I have built and ridden.  This is the lightest and most XCish build I’ve built yet.  I could feel the benefits of the lighter weight on the steep climbs.

After about 20 miles of loops and dirt, I headed for home.  It was a great day.  I saw one other rider and 4 people walking dogs.  Incredible day.  Incredible ride.  One sweet bike.

Old growth trees, long shadows and great light.

Old growth trees, long shadows and great light.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 30, 2008 9:01 pm

    Wow! That’s so cool. A great bike and a great story to go with it about the trails. Now there is another place I have to hit up in the Twin Cities!

    Glad you are having fun on it and I hope I can lay eyes on it sometime, just to see all your cool little details. Take care!

  2. December 1, 2008 1:05 pm

    Sweet. I sure liked the tiny taste of Big Mama I had at I-Bike. I would love to give that bike a real test some day.

    Nice build, but to make it lighter than it is…XTR, carbon rims, etc…that would take some serious cash. 2 lbs lighter? Lighten up the frame.


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