Category Archives: News

Discovering how things work here is a group of neighborhood kids learning about bicycle maintenance. 

Teaching your child the ancient art of bicycle maintenance

by John Brown

As a parent and tinkerer, one of the most fun activities I share with my two boys is teaching them how bicycle maintenance works. Now that my older son is riding more and helping me review a bike for HaveFunBiking, the time has come to teach him how a bike works. Almost everybody gets the basics, but after 20 years working in shops, I want to give as much of my experience to him as possible. Take a look at my plan for teaching my son bicycle maintenance.

This father, son team assemble a bike for a school program.

Here this father-son team assembles a new bike for a school program.

Safety first in bicycle maintenance

Like wearing a helmet when riding a bike, working on a bike also has safety gear. Eye protection is a must. With safety glasses on, the next step is to show your child the danger zones on a bike. Spinning wheels, spinning brake rotors, along with crank, chain, and cogs, are all dangerous to little fingers. Teach your children to avoid those areas when the bike is moving. On that subject, it is also essential for kids to wear snugly fitting clothing. Loose clothing can get caught in moving parts.

bicycle maintenance

Caution areas are highlighted in red. These are the places fingers can get pinched.

Tools of the trade-in bicycle maintenance

The next step is to teach your kid the tools and how to use them. The main tools used on bikes are metric hex wrenches, screwdrivers, and metric box wrenches. First, show your child how to hold each tool for best leverage and what part of the tool engages with the bike. Then, show them where each tool fits on the bike before beginning the fix.

bicycle maintenance

Professional bike mechanics use hex wrenches, box wrenches, and screwdrivers.

Having fun with bicycle maintenance

Now that the safety and instruction portions are over, making the process fun! Your kid is likely dying to get their hands (and wrenches) on the bike as quickly as possible, so let them have at it. Considering you already gave them the safety and function basics, their bike exploration will be safe and enlightening. Once they play a little, ask your kid to teach you how the bike works! Have them exercise their brain and logic by explaining how the bike functions.

Teaching a little at a time

It’s easy for parents to get overzealous when teaching. If you are mechanically inclined, sharing that gift with your kids can be exciting, but try not to overwhelm them. Feel comfortable stopping the lesson when they lose interest. I like to start teaching with the rear brake (assuming it is a rim brake). The rear brake usually needs adjustment and is a rather simple example of how the rest of the bike functions. Once the rear brake is dialed and your kid is comfortable with the process, have them adjust the front brake.

Next, I start teaching about how to adjust the shifting system. Hopefully, you and your child had a good conversation when they “taught” you how the shifting worked because that conversation is an excellent baseline for teaching how to adjust the shifting. Because of the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur, start with the rear shifting first. Once they get the hang of that, move to the front derailleur.

After the bike functions properly, teach your kids to adjust the seat, bars, and controls. You may ask why I would recommend the simple adjustments last. The simple answer is that these adjustments require the most leverage and are best saved once your child practices using the tools.

Test ride

Once your child completes the adjustments, it’s time to take a test ride. Have your kid test ride in a supervised area away from traffic (like a driveway). Once the test ride is complete, make any additional adjustments, and be sure all the hardware is tight.

bicycle maintenance

Test rides are fun!

Learn through mistakes

Most of the fun of learning to work on bikes (or anything for that matter) is the process. Nobody gets it right on the first try, and we all learn from our mistakes. Mistakes are more valuable than successes. So the most important part of teaching your kids to work on bikes is to let them make mistakes and be a resource for the solutions if needed.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Bicycle theft prevention to keep your e-bike secure

by John Brown

Bikes in general, are stolen often, but for a thief in today’s crazy world, an electric bike is the crown jewel. With e-bikes, normally a larger investment here are some bicycle theft prevention ideas to consider. To protect your bicycle investment, consider using a combination of a U-lock, or cable lock, along with a GPS-tracking air tag. You could also take the bike inside a building with you or use a mobile bike storage locker for storing your bike. Using a combination of the above locks will deter a thief. And with a GPS tracking device attached will help you retrieve your bike if it is stolen.

Types of bicycle theft prevention

Not all situations require the same level of security. Also, there isn’t a lock in existence that a motivated person can’t get open.  Therefore, there are many different types of locks for different situations. Picking the right lock should dissuade a potential thief from even trying to take your bike.

U-Lock

U-locks are a good bicycle theft prevention tool.

The most reliable bike locks are U-locks. They consist of a steel bar bent in a ‘U’ shape that fits into a straight locking mechanism. These locks are also resistant to bolt cutters and hacksaws, and a potential thief would need a lot of uninterrupted time and powerful tools to get through one. Many U-locks offer an insurance program where the lock manufacturer will pay you to replace your bike if it is stolen. All you have to do is register your bike.

Chains

Chain locks are also popular. While some chains can be cut with bolt cutters, some versions rival the strongest U-locks in durability. Chains use hardened steel links and padlocks to keep your bike secure and offer much flexibility in what you can lock your bike to. Look for versions that have some better covering over the chain (either rubber or fabric), because it goes a long way in protecting the finish of your bicycle.

Cables

The least secure lock is a cable lock. Cable locks use steel cables with a built-in key or combination mechanisms to secure your bike. These locks are great for stopping someone from grabbing your bike and running off with it. But if a thief is prepared and motivated, they can cut through these locks in a few seconds. However, cables do offer the greatest flexibility in what you can lock your bike to.

GPS air tag devices and alarms

In combination with a bike lock, an external bike alarm system with GPS tracking capabilities is another option. For less than $60, the Apple Airtag, and Knog scout alarm and tracker are a coule options. And easy to mount under the bike saddle, or other places on the frame,

There are a lot of pros and cons to these devices, But for the price, I say it’s just an extra chance for recovery. Intalled inconspicuously, these tracking/internal bicycle alarm systems combine with a bicycle lock adds to the chance you are going to get your bicycle back if stolen.

Secure indoor bike storage options

First and foremost, secure indoor storage is best! Especially in an area that stays above freezing, if you have an e-bike to protect its battery. If any of your bikes will be stored in a public area of your building, please use one of the bike lock systems above.

Safe, weatherproof storage lockers are like a garage for your bike.

Bike lockers are another bicycle theft prevention option and are available at many municipalities’ Park & Ride lots, near bus stops, and other community locations. Check your city’s website for a location near you. In Minneapolis, see info on Metro Transits bike lockers,

How to Lock

Location, Location, Location

First and foremost: Lock your bike in a secure location. The ideal location is in plain sight with a lot of traffic. The more conspicuous a thief needs to be stealing your bike, the lower the chance is of them trying to take it. And always remember to lock your bike to something secure. For example, a parking meter might look secure, but if an industrious thief has removed the hardware that secures the meter to the post, they can quickly slide your bicycle and lock up the post and be on their way. So search for immovable objects like a bike rack that’s bolted to the ground.

lock it up rack booby trap

This bike rack was cut and taped back together by a bike thief. Be sure what you lock to is secure.

Protect Your Bike Parts

Bikes are built with quick-release wheels and seats. It’s fine to lock the frame, but a thief might just take a front or rear wheel if available. If you use a cable or chain, lace it through both wheels, the frame, and whatever you’re locking the bike to. If you’re using a U-lock, then remove the front wheel and place it next to the rear wheel. Then capture both wheels and the frame when you lock it up. Many manufacturers make component-specific locks that secure your wheels or seat to the bicycle frame.

Lock it up Frame and QR lock

Frame locks and locks that replace your wheel’s quick-release levers are common on commuter bicycles

If you follow these tips, then you’ll be on your way to making sure your bike isn’t stolen, and it’ll be one less thing for you to worry about.

If it is stolen, a GPS tracking device may help you get your bike back

Even with the best security measures, nothing is 100% theft-proof. With thefts unfortunately a sad reality of bicycle ownership, a tracker could help provide some peace of mind – and the means to find your bike – should the worst happen. Bicycle trackers are an emerging technology that allows riders to locate their bike, usually through a dedicated app. following a GPS chip.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit him, and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then as a store manager. Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, and parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Save the date for the annual Minnesota Bike/Walk Summit

Advocating for people who bike and walk, on March 14th, is Minnesota’s Bike/Walk Summit, in St Paul. One of the most important events, the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN) needs your help at the Bike/Walk Summit. If you live in Minnesota, your presence is requested to help educate the elected leaders about the State’s bicycling issues and pedestrian needs.

The MN Bike Walk Summit is an opportunity for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and active transportation advocates to discuss policy priorities with elected leaders and each other. This in-person event will focus on learning and lobbying for active transportation-related issues, so come prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Leading on Funding, Policy and Programs for Active Transportation

BikeMN will provide examples and printed resources to guide attendees on engaging with congressional representatives, ensuring a productive outcome that supports our legislative agenda for a greener, healthier Minnesota.

Your Voice in Saint Paul at the Bike/Walk Summit will help

Capitol-2

Riding up the bike lane to the Minnesota State Capitol

Mark your calendar for Thursday, March 14, 2024. Join bike advocates and enthusiasts from around the state in Saint Paul for the ninth annual Bike/Walk Summit on Capitol Hill to help Minnesota set the pace for the rest of the nation.

Once the schedule is finalized, BikeMN will schedule appointments for summit attendees to meet with their legislators. Morning sessions will include training and coaching on talking with your legislators. Appointment times with specific legislators will be posted on the morning of the Bike Summit to assist you in mapping your day.

Stay tuned for registration information and a schedule at BikeMN.org!

About the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota from their website

“We see a future where all people experience safety: traffic safety, freedom from community violence, enforcement strategies that are equitable and support walking, biking, and rolling.

The culture of getting around values walking, bicycling, rolling, and riding transit by default instead of defaulting to cars.

People of color, especially Black and Indigenous communities, have access to vital daily movements.

Engaged, diverse voices advocate for better bike and walk policies and infrastructure in their communities.

Rural, urban, and suburban communities thrive due to connected routes that support all ages and abilities.

Biking and walking are critical climate mitigation strategies to sustain a healthy planet and community”.

Questions? Email [email protected]

Twin Cities Metro mountain bike trails to enjoy

In the Twin Cities, you will find an extensive network of mountain bike trails, offering rugged single-track and easy-to-moderate trails to enjoy. Explore the following list, with many regional and city parks that maintain off-road trails to provide riders at every skill level with a fun experience. Whether seeking a serene roll or a challenging thrill, there’s no shortage of mountain bike trails in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. For that next Adventure you are planning, here are more than 25 trail systems to shred.

Plenty of trails to shred.

Fun riding Twin Cities Mountain Bike Trails

Bethel

Bethel Haunted Forest Trails: 6 miles

A series of interconnected loops in an 80-acre wooded area, one mile south of the town of Bethel. Rated easy to intermediate with advanced sections featuring hills, twists, and log crossings. Trails are shared with hikers and are open for fat biking and snowshoeing in the winter.
Map

Spring, summer, fall, or winter, the River Bottoms is a fun place to ride.

Bloomington

Minnesota River Trail: 11 miles

Another Twin Cities mountain bike trail system is nicknamed Minnesota River Bottoms. You will find mostly singletrack winding through wooded areas along the river bank. The trails can be challenging and muddy after rain. Plenty of jumps (optional) and some obstacles. Trails are shared with hikers and are groomed for fat biking in the winter.
Map

Burnsville

Buck Hill: 6 miles

This is a beginner to an intermediate system that includes two downhill flow trails. The skills park here features a bermed course with drops, a rock garden, skinnies, and a dragon tail.
Map

Terrace Oaks: 2.3 miles

A fairly technical, intermediate singletrack trail system with many climbs and amazing descents.
Map

Cottage Grove

Cottage Grove Bike Park

West Draw Park is a work in progress with the Cottage Grove Bike Park. Setting on 26 acres, this family-friendly park currently includes a 4x track, two pump tracks, and a complete dirt jump plaza.
Info

Cambridge

Springvale County Park: 3 miles

A flowing singletrack trail system offers banked turns and a beautiful rolling jump while weaving up and around a lake, then traversing streams, swamps, forests, and a glacier moraine berm. Elevation gain is just under 160′ but these trails are fast and are great for beginner to intermediate riders. Constructed drops, teeter-totters, rolling jumps, boardwalk sections, and rock gardens keep the ride interesting. Trails can be accessed from both the North and South parking lots. There is a bike repair station along with a bathroom and drinking fountain in the South parking lot. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter.
Map

Chaska

Hawk’s Ridge Mountain Bike Trail: 4 miles

Hawk’s Ridge occupies a narrow sliver of land just east of Pioneer Ridge Middle School. It’s primarily an open, hilly, multi-use trail hand-built by volunteers of the Carver Trails group. Trails are beginner and intermediate levels with great views, challenging corners, and verticals carved into the hillside. There is a green (easy) trail around the perimeter of the park and a short black (most difficult) trail also. Note: Parking is available across the street at Pioneer Ridge Middle School during off-school hours only. Since there’s no parking on any residential streets around Hawk’s Ridge, riders must park at nearby city parks and ride in during school hours.                      Map

Eagan

Lebanon Hills Regional Park: 11 miles

This course is a favorite for many in the region, with some beginner trails but mostly intermediate. With a good mixture of rolling hills and technical singletrack. Woods provide a secluded feel in the south suburban area. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter.
Map

Great jumps along the switchbacks.

Elk River

Hillside Park: 6 miles

The park here is mostly posted with advanced to expert trails that are either climbing or descending for the entire course. A great park for skills practice. with quick/tight switchbacks, rock rolls, drops, berms, and good jumps. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter.                          Map

Inver Grove Heights

Salem Hills: 4.4 miles

Gently rolling hills through woods and reclaimed prairie consisting of three loops: Harmon Park, Sawmill, and Foul Pond Loop.
Map

Lake Elmo

Lake Elmo Park Reserve: 8 miles

A beautiful park for beginners to intermediate with a pleasant view of Eagle Point Lake. This is a multi-use trail with many fun features with some hard-packed singletrack and grassy trail. Be prepared to share the park with horseback riders. Fat bikes are allowed on Big Bluestem Trail in the winter.                                                                                                                                                 Map

Reid Park Trails: 1 mile

On 30 acres, this beginner-friendly trail is a work in progress.
Map

Sunfish Lake Park: 5 miles

This park offers three loops with distinct ratings of easy, intermediate, and advanced skill levels. Features include a bridge, logs, and switchbacks. Note that other trails exist in this park, and biking is only allowed on the singletrack trails. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter.                 Map

Find trails for beginners to advanced.

Lakeville

West Lake Marion Trail: 5 miles

On the west side of Lake Marion, near Casperson Park,

The hard-packed singletrack course flows through rolling wooded and open field terrain. Find a pump track at the trailhead. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter.
Map

Lino Lakes

Rice Creek Chain of Lakes Regional Park: 3.2 miles

Here you will find two separate, one-way singletrack trail loops. One on the east side of the park (Sherman Lake Loop) and one on the west side (Rice Lake Trail), about two miles apart.  Both are continuous loops with a single entry and exit point connected to existing paved trail riders will use to access the loops.  The two trails ride similarly with a flowy design, but a slightly different feel.  Both are entry-level trails suitable for most riders. The trail loop on the west side features a few challenging climbs combined with fun, flowy segments for a total length of approximately 1.4 miles.  The 1.8-mile east side loop features a few jump opportunities with some downhill segments that should add a little thrill for gravity trail fans. The plan is to eventually have additional miles of trails in separate nodes across the park.                                                           Map

Maple Grove

Elm Creek Park Reserve: 12.7 miles

Built to accommodate all skill levels of riders with Interconnected singletrack loop trails. the system is mostly intermediate, with short sections of easy and advanced trails.
Map

Minneapolis

Theodore Wirth Park: 12 miles

A great trail system consisting of several separate loops, just minutes from downtown. The singletrack trails are Intermediate to advanced, offering twists and turns with many technical features. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter. One more of the Twin Cities mountain bike trails to check out.                                                                                                                                             Map

Minnetonka

Lone Lake Park: 5 miles

This trail system is designed to accommodate a variety of mountain biking skill levels. It offers ample challenges, from the steep topography to the fast, flowy single-track. The trail is also open to hiking and trail running in dry months, as well as snowshoeing and fat biking in the winter. Two trailheads provide users easy access from Rowland Road, in the park’s southwest section, or Shady Oak Road, in the east.
Map/Info

Here you will find many features to keep the ride interesting.

Monticello

Bertram Chain of Lakes Regional Park: 14.25 miles

This system offers many options for all skill levels, including fast singletrack, switchbacks, and a meandering double track. Be ready to deal with logs, roots, and wooden bridges.
Map

Montiview Challenge Course: 2.75 miles

As the name implies, this trail demands good bike-handling skills. A very tight and twisty singletrack route with many short, steep hills runs through the woods and some open spots with great views of the surrounding area. Jumps, bridges, teeters, rock gardens, boulder piles, and other features keep the ride interesting. The park also features a sculpture by a local artist and a bike repair station. A work in progress; look for more trails to be added in the future. Parking and a restroom are available near the trailhead at the top of Holy Spirit Trail, and the park can also be accessed from the off-road paved path off Jason Ave. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter.
Info

Oak Park Heights/Stillwater

Valley View Trails: 3.2 miles

Intermediate singletrack with some beginner and advanced sections. Features include a bridge, boardwalk, rock garden, and switchbacks. Trails are one way with an estimated 400′ elevation change.
Map

Rockford

Lake Rebecca Park Reserve: 13.25 miles

Easy to advanced singletrack loops through the wooded landscapes with wetlands. Start at the Hilltop picnic area.
Map

Saint Paul

Battle Creek Regional Park-West: 8 miles

Battle Creek features a wide selection of trails within its boundaries for Intermediate to advanced riders. including both 3.3-mile multi-use trails and 4.5 miles of singletrack. Thickly wooded, with some limited visibility on turns. One more of  Twin Cities mountain bike trails to check out.                                                                                                                                                   Map

Fort Snelling State Park: 10 miles

Enjoyable riding for beginners along the Dakota County side of the river. Generally flat trails but scenic. Starts as a wide double track then narrows to singletrack. Trails are multi-use and perfect for fat biking in the winter.
Map

Savage

Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve: 10 miles

This trail system features glacial ridges, hilly terrain, and an extensive, lush forest. This is a challenging trail and a favorite for mountain bikers.
Map

Shakopee

Excel Energy Mountian Bike Park: 4 miles

The loop trails circling Quarry Lake are rated beginner to intermediate.  The singletrack course weaves between the tree cover and a larger prairie area, taking advantage of natural and constructed topography. This trail was designed and built to be ridden in any kind of weather, so it doesn’t close when it’s wet. One special feature is the so-called chicken foot, a fallen oak tree that’s been cut flat for riders to balance on as they ride across it. The park also has a pump track.                                                                                                                                                          Map

Waconia

Monarch Singletrack: 10 miles

This trail system at Carver Park Reserve comprises five connected loops that accommodate all experience levels. Easy Rider features wider tread and few sharp turns and climbs, making it ideal for hand cyclists and beginners. The Raptor Ridge loop has flowy trails and a highlight of the entire singletrack: A vista overlooking Parley Lake followed by berms and a roller descent. Paradise Trail has the longest climb of the system and an expert feature area with a concrete rollout, jumps, a slalom section, and a shorter, technical climb. It offers bypasses for the difficult features to accommodate intermediate-level riders. Groomed for fat bikes in the winter.
Info/Map

Enjoy the twisty stacked loop of intermediate single-track trail here.

Woodbury

Carver Lake Park: 4 miles

Carver Lake Park is a nice twisty stacked loop of intermediate singletrack. It’s never too technical, but there are several places where a short advanced side trail leaves the main trail, then rejoins it again shortly.

One more of the Twin Cities mountain bike trails to check out. Offering great flow, it’s easy to get a couple of full laps in less than 1.5 hours with the three sections or loops. Or, add an extra lap on your favorite loop. The trail dries out faster than others in the Twin Cities as well, which makes for a shorter downtime after it rains. There is water (during the warm months) and an outhouse and repair station available at the trailhead. You will also find a well-developed skills park here. The trail is also groomed for fat bike riding in the winter.                                                    Map

See more trails in Minnesota to shred here

The best way to stay dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being wet diminishes their ability to keep you warm.

Waterproof clothing is a surefire way to stay comfortable

by John Brown, HaveFunBiking.com

With spring approaching, staying dry is the most critical and challenging part of biking or hiking in the rain and snow. The best way to keep warm and dry is to wear waterproof clothing. While most synthetic fabrics still insulate when wet, being damp diminishes their ability to keep you warm. Therefore, a waterproof jacket and pants are a great way to start, but waterproof socks and gloves complete the outfit. While many materials are naturally waterproof, once perforated with stitching, zipped closed with generic zippers, and left to be loose at all the cuffs, their waterproofing goes out the window. Before you go out and buy anything labeled “waterproof,” read on to understand that all waterproofing is not the same.

Waterproof Clothing and Gear for Staying Dry

To keep water out, look for waterproof clothes with sealed or welded seams (see image). Also, look for waterproof zippers (pictured) or large flaps that prevent water from driving through the zipper. Make sure all the cuffs are adjustable enough to be snuggled tight against your skin.

Examples of cycling clothes with taped seams (Left), welded seams (Center), and a waterproof zipper (Right)

A waterproof garment is measured in mm of fluid. For example, a fabric that was 5,000  mm waterproof is tested as follows. The fabric is placed over the end of a long tube. Following that, the tube is filled with 5,000 mm of water and the fabric needs to support the pressure without leaking. Take a look at the table below for a quick reference.

RatingResistanceWeather Conditions
0 mm – 1,500 mmWater-resistant/snowproofDry conditions or very light rain
1,500 mm – 5,000 mmWaterproofLight to average rain
5,000 mm – 10,000 mmVery WaterproofModerate to heavy rain
10,000 mm- 20,000 mmHighly WaterproofHeavy rain

 Breathe Sweat Out

In addition to measuring waterproofness, textiles are also measured for their ability to breathe water vapor out. Breathable means that water vapor (sweat) your body produces can escape through the fabric. Breathable fabrics work because water vapor is smaller than water droplets. To breathe, the material will be perforated with holes small enough to stop water droplets from getting in, but large enough to allow water vapor to escape.

Breathability is important because, as far as insulation is concerned, it’s just as bad to get soaked with sweat as with rain. Therefore, using a breathable material in tandem with base layers designed to pull moisture off your skin is a surefire way to stay dry and warm.

Breathability is expressed in terms of how many grams (g) of water vapor can pass through a square meter (m2) of the fabric from the inside to the outside in 24 hours. To that effect, the larger the number, the more breathable the fabric. For example, in a coat with 5,000 gsm breathability, 5,000 grams of water pass through a square meter of the fabric.

Waterproof even when it isn’t raining

During the spring thaw, snow melts during the day and freezes again at night. In my commutes, during the thaw, I focus on wearing waterproof clothing to keep warm. The rivers of salty water I end up riding through would soak any non-waterproof clothing rendering it useless.

When Waterproof is Not Important

As the temperature rises, waterproofing becomes less and less important. It’s less important because, at a certain temperature, waterproof materials cannot breathe enough to keep you dry. Therefore, if it rains hard enough and it’s warm enough, you will get wet.

In the spring and fall, be sure to have your waterproof gear ready. The cool temps and wet conditions can be very dangerous if you aren’t prepared. Being dry is the #1 way to maintain comfort and safety while riding in inclement conditions.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that particular fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, parts, or just share your latest ride. You can also see more of John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Picture yourself riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through the wilds of Minnesota, pedaling America's famous 3,000 mile bike system

An adventure of a lifetime, along Minnesota’s Mississippi River Trail

by Russ Lowthian
Picture yourself riding the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) through the wilds of Minnesota.
Pedal with family and friends at your own pace on this Bold North adventure.
The first leg of America’s famous 3,000-mile bicycle trail system uses bike-friendly roads and multi-use pathways. You may find some of my observations of interest.  From several MRT bike tours I have led over the years and referencing my book Road Biking Minnesota.

From the Mississippi’s headwaters near Park Rapids to the Iowa border, the complete Minnesota section of the journey is roughly 620 miles. The following route descriptions are spread over nine days to keep the daily mileage comfortable for plenty of time visiting the river towns along the way. Depending on how much time you can spend on any bike vacation, this overview makes it easy to break it apart for multiple bike getaways.

Please visit the embedded links offering short video clips and maps of the Mississippi trail system as you read the following. See the first video clip to get a better feel for what you will see and experience leaving Itasca State Park on the MRT. The information in this video and subsequent videos are made possible by the MN DNR, the MN Historical Society, Explore Minnesota Tourism, and the National Park Service.

MRT – Day 1 from the Mississippi Headwaters to Bemidji

After enjoying a hearty breakfast at the historic Douglas Lodge, in Itasca State Park, it’s time to roll out. First, you will need to pedal a few miles through the towering pines to where the Mississippi River begins. At the Headwaters parking lot, walk your bike down the trail. There, dip your rear wheel in the stream to celebrate the beginning of your journey. You may hear one of Minnesota’s loons calling out. Following the internationally recognized Mississippi River Trail, depart from the park’s north entrance. Now pedaling a scenic county road in a northeasterly direction, this 30-plus mile stretch offers a beautiful rolling terrain. As you pass by patches of pine forests and an occasional old farm setting, smell the air. Soon you are pedaling into the first city on the Mississippi River.

Rolling into Bemidji

Arriving in Bemidji, the MRT enters on a city trail that connects to the Paul Bunyan Trail. As the river’s current flows into Lake Bemidji, consider spending your first evening here. While visiting, discover all this community has to offer.

A-League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Bike-Friendly Community. It’s easy to get around and explore the city by bike.

In the downtown area, metal sculptures, murals, and historic architecture are found on just about every corner. Don’t forget to stop by the visitor’s center to have your picture taken with
Paul Bunyan and Babe, his blue ox. See our Bike Bemidji article for lodging and more things to do when not riding. You will find camping options in Lake Bemidji State Park.

MRT – Day 2 from Bemidji to Grand Rapids

Back in the saddle, the MRT takes the Paul Bunyan Trail north to where the Mississippi River pours out of Lake Bemidji. As the current flows east, enjoy the sites along the Great River Road as it rolls into Chippewa National Forest. This next stretch of the MRT to Grand Rapids is roughly 80 miles. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Bemidji, watch the 2nd video clip here.

With an abundance of wildflowers along the road, pedal through the enchanted treasures this forested area offers. Along the way, notice a huge population of bald eagles and hawks as the
river meanders from one huge lake body to the next. Soon the river flows into Lake Winnibigoshish (Lake Winnie), and the MRT takes a course around the lake’s south shoreline.

The first Federal Dam on the Mississippi

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Passing several resorts, you may want to stop for a selfie by the significant fish monument. Riding up the east shoreline through towering pines, the MRT is soon up to the Federal Dam, where Lake Winnie spills back into the Mighty Mississippi. This dam was created in the late 1800s, making it the most significant river reservoir. Approximately 45 miles from Bemidji,
there is a campground. You will find a restaurant and some lodging options a few miles further east.

The MRT follows the river meanders, now in a southerly direction, passing through a Native American village called Ball Club. Here the river dips and then flows to the east again. Soon the MRT rolls into Schoolcraft State Park, where it meets back up with the Mississippi. This secluded park is the perfect place to take a break. Quiet and peaceful, the park offers a relaxing
environment with a virgin white pine forest over 300 years old. Take a panoramic virtual tour of the area here, and then it’s on to some Wizard of Oz trivia.

Rolling into Grand Rapids

Judy Garland, from The Wizard of Oz, spent time here as a child. Today the community offers visitors many fun options to explore, along with the Judy Garland Museum. Once settled in, visit the Forest History Center and the local art scene. This area is rich in forested beauty and offers many art forms, including many bronze sculptures and historic architectural sites. Grand Rapids is also the western gateway to the Mesabi Iron Trail and Range. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike.  The mining communities along this Mesabi trail are worth checking out if you have a few extra days.  See our Bike Grand Rapids article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.

MRT – Day 3 from Grand Rapids to Aitkin

As the Mississippi River pushes against the western slope of the St. Lawrence Divide, it
flows south, and the MRT hugs the west bank as it rolls out of Grand Rapids. This stretch of
the MRT is approximately a 70-miles ride to Aitkin.

Several yard art figures for a photograph.

Approximately 20 miles south, you will come to a crossroads. Here, by taking a left and crossing the river, you’re in the town of Jacobson. If you turn onto this half-mile side-trip adventure, you will discover many pieces of unusual lawn art and a rest-stop option.

Rolling into Palisade

Back on the route, continue south, and you will soon be in a town named for the high banks on each side of the river, another intriguing place to stop. The community has a restaurant
and a convenience store. Next to the river, the park here is an excellent place for a picnic or an overnight stay in the campground. Back in the saddle, riding out of Palisade, there are two options to reach Aitkin.

You can depart on the Great River Road, now a hard gravel surface, for the next 15 miles,
enjoying a peaceful ride along the river.

Rolling into Aitkin

Here, roll into a community with a riverboat full of history. Once a popular meeting point for Native American Indians and explorers, today, the town makes an excellent overnight choice that offers camping and lodging options. After you settle in, check out the museum converted from the Burlington Rail Depot. Here you can learn about the town’s steamboat history and other interesting facts.  For more things to do and lodging options, click here.

MRT – Day 4 from Aitkin to Little Falls

As the Mississippi flows, now in a westerly direction, the MRT roll into Cuyuna Country. As the river passes on the north side of an iron range of the past, the MRT meanders around several abandoned open mine pits, now some of Minnesota’s newest lakes. The MRT rolls towards the Brainerd Lakes Area as the river bends southwest.

Rolling into Brainerd

Just imagine riding in an area called Paul Bunyan’s playground. Legend has it that Paul and his blue ox, Babe (remember that mythical figure you can take a selfie within Bemidji?) were having fun, wrestling around after a long rain spell. Stomping and tromping made many large depressions that eventually filled with water to create the 464 lakes in the area. With the MRT and Paul Bunyan Trail merging back together in Brainerd/Baxter, you will find many fun adventures and good things to eat here. For more, see our  Brainerd/Baxter article.

Back in the saddle, the trail and river both head south again. As the Great River Road rolls
along the east bank, passing Crow Wing State Park, agriculture replaces the forested
landscape. Further down the MRT, cross to the west bank and visit Camp Ripley, which
offers a fascinating military museum. Here see hundreds of exhibits showcasing vehicles and field equipment of Minnesota’s military past. It’s still ten miles of pedaling to reach the next river town, “where the river pauses.”

Rolling into Little Falls

For centuries Little Falls has been where native inhabitants, early settlers, and recent visitors have used it as a ‘gathering place.’ Located where the Mississippi River pauses, this
river community is the town of Charles Lindbergh’s childhood. After settling in, check out the historic attractions and museums while experiencing the town’s original murals and frescoes. While here, if interested, you can discover who helped finance the production of the “Wizard of Oz.” See our Bike Little Falls article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.

MRT Day 5 from Little Falls to Monticello

Cyclists will pass by Charles Lindbergh State Park at the edge of town, where his childhood home still stands. Then the MRT passes by the Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum before the river valley floor opens up to more agriculture. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving Little Falls, watch the 4th video clip here.

Rolling into St Cloud

The river offers several rapids through this stretch as the MRT rolls into St. Cloud. Another LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. While in this river community, check out some attractions, including the Munsinger-Clemens Botanical Gardens. See our Bike St. Cloud article for lodging and more things to do when not riding.

The MRT and river swing back to the southeast on the east side of the river. The route takes you to Clearwater through county roads that parallel several irrigated potato fields. Then, crossing the Mississippi again, cyclists will notice the river is a bit wider here as they pedal to Monticello.

Rolling into Monticello

Here you will find a river town, full of charm, tucked up against the Mississippi River and conveniently located between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. This vibrant community with many scenic parks is also home to thousands of geese and swans each winter. After settling in, check out the attractions in Monticello. For the lodging option in the area, visit the local chamber here.

MRT – Day 6 from Monticello to St Paul

Leaving Monticello, the MRT crosses the river and meanders through the farm fields of specialty crops to Elk River. To get a better feel for what you will see as you ride into the Twin Cities, watch the 5th video clip here.  Stopping in Elk River, cyclists passing through the downtown area will notice the fresco mural on Main Street. You will also find plenty of options for a rest stop here.

You will cross over the Mississippi River again on the Great River Road as you head out of Elk River. Soon you are passing through Dayton and entering the northern edge of the Mississippi National River and Recreational Area.

In the next twenty-five miles, MRT enthusiasts will enjoy stopping at several Twin Cities Gateway community attractions.

From here, enjoy paved bicycle paths through Minneapolis before reaching the St. Paul suburb of Inver Grove Heights.

MRT Day-7 from St Paul to Frontenac

As the Mississippi River Trail leaves the St Paul area, the route tentatively detours to the south to Hastings. To get a better feel for what’s ahead after leaving St. Paul, watch the 6th video clip here. The paved trail out of South St. Paul will connect to the Mississippi River Regional Trail, allowing cyclists a direct route to our next river town.

This new trail near Schaar’s Bluff is completed on the far end and will take cyclists into downtown Hastings’s historic district. You can find more about Hastings in our At-A-Glance article and a place to stop for cool refreshments or a meal.

Rolling into Hastings

Leaving Hastings, the MRT follows the Mississippi, winding along the backwaters of the river and past the Prairie Island Indian Community. About ten miles further, the route enters Red Wing, the next river community on the Minnesota section of the Mississippi River Trail.

Rolling into Red Wing

As the MRT runs alongside the river bank on the Great River Road, you will find the atmosphere in Red Wing both unique and charming. From the beautiful bluffs, historic sites, and world-famous boots and pottery, this river town also offers several dining opportunities for a stop here. If you decide to spend the night, see Visit Red Wing for more options.

Back on the Mississippi River Trail, it’s approximately another 10 miles to Frontenac State Park for the night. The city is on the National Register of Historic Places and contains many homes dating back to the Civil War era. Here you will find the Whistle Stop Café and a convenience store if you choose to camp in the state park for the evening.

MRT Day-8 from Frontenac to Winona

Back on the MRT, the route uses the wide paved shoulder of the Great River Road to Minnesota City. With a wide shoulder and rumble strip dividing you from the traffic, the Mississippi River is in sight, to your left most of the time. When you notice the river widening, the Mississippi flows into Lake Pepin, and you are close to the ‘Birthplace of Water Skiing.’

Rolling into the Lake City

Here discover the quaint shops and restaurants next to the harbor in the downtown area of Lake City. This river town is also a popular place for touring cyclists. In addition to the Annual Tour de Pepin bike tour, the site offers several other mapped rides. See the Lake Pepin Area Bike Map and checkout. Visit Lake City for more options.

As the river flows out of Lake Pepin, the next river community on the MRT is a town known for the eagles that populate the area and ‘Gumpy Old Men.’

Rolling into Wabasha

The oldest city on the entire upper Mississippi River, this community has been thriving since 1826. As touring cyclists roll into town, they will find 50 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places if time permits, enjoy their historic walking tour, and discover the stories that have made this town so unique. With Bald Eagles in abundance along the river, this is also home to the National Eagle Center, located downtown. Also, with the famous movie “Grumpy Old Men” its sequel shot here, dine at Slippery’s Bar & Grill for a nostalgic look at this river town. You can find more options at Visit Wabasha.

Rolling into Winona

Taking the MRT out on the back road through the village of Kellogg, it’s about 30 miles of pedaling to Winona along the bluffs. Arriving in this pristine river town, enjoy several views of the city nestled into a valley bordered by bluffs along the Mighty Mississippi. Here in Winona, there is plenty to discover, with so many attractions and museums. Be sure to visit the Minnesota Marine Art Museum. You will also notice many of the downtown buildings are on the National Register of Historical Places and self-guided history tours are an option. Being a LAB Bike Friendly Community, it’s easy to get around this river town and explore the city by bike. See our At-A-Glance Winona article for more tour, dinner, and overnight options.

A stop a the Pickwick Mill, 2-miles off the MRT

MRT Day-9 from Winona to the Iowa Boarder

Leaving Winona, the Mississippi River Trail creatively takes you up into the bluffs, past the historic Pickwick Mill, and then onto the Apple Blossom Drive Scenic Byway. A cyclist in the area enjoys a remarkable view of the Mississippi River Valley at the top of the byway. Then it’s a cruise down the Byway into La Crescent.

From La Crescent, the last leg of Minnesota’s section of the Mississippi River Trail is approximately 24 miles to Albin, IA.

Enjoy the fun of riding all or parts of the MRT for that unforgettable adventure.

There are tons of exercises, drills and products to help you keep your fitness through the winter riding months.

Fun and fitness when winter bike riding isn’t your thing

by John Brown

Snow, ice, and cold make for excellent conditions for fat biking, but how do you keep in shape when winter bike riding isn’t your thing? Luckily, many fun activities, exercises, drills, and products help keep you in shape through the winter months.

winter riding

Fun is fat through the winter.

Fitness ideas if winter bike riding isn’t your thing

Even the most minor efforts can help you stay fit. Trying things like taking the stairs rather than the elevator, parking on the opposite side of the retail center and walk when shopping, or taking time in the evening to walk around the neighborhood will make a big difference until the riding season returns. You can also start putting some time in at the gym. In the past, I had a gym membership that I would turn off, except for three months a year. I enjoyed yoga classes, weight training, treadmills, spin classes, and other gym-related activities.

On a bike trainer vs. winter riding

Another winter bike riding option you can enjoy through the winter is buying an indoor trainer. An indoor trainer holds your bicycle upright and offers resistance when you pedal, thus turning your bike into a stationary bicycle. When using an Indoor trainer, you can ride from the comfort of your own home or in a group setting. Most bike shops have trainer nights in their stores through the winter.

winter riding

Trainer rides are a great way to connect with other riders.

If you join a shop’s group trainer ride, there is usually a leader. However, riding alone can still be fun. Most people start riding their trainer while watching TV, and it’s a great plan at first, but that quickly gets boring. I find it interesting to use trainer-specific workouts online. There are plenty of free and for-pay versions. Additionally, depending on the trainer you buy, some of those workouts will change the resistance through your trainer.

Spin classes

Most gyms offer spin classes. These classes use a stationary bicycle, music, and instructors to guide a course through a one-hour workout. These rides are enjoyable and offer an intensity that is difficult to achieve while riding alone at home.

Winter riding

Spin Class is a fast and fun workout.

There are, however, a few downsides with spin classes to keep in mind. One issue is that a spin bike won’t fit the same as your bike. Many riders will install their saddle and pedals on a spin bike before each class. The other potential problem is that the courses you can select are not tailored toward your personal goals. The levels are usually high-tempo, high-effort workouts that might not fit your training plan.

Fun in the Snow

If you live in a colder weather climate and snow is the reality for months at a time, you can enjoy the white stuff and keep your fitness. Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating are fantastic ways to increase your heart rate. I love skating on our pond with my boys because I’m not good at it, so I get to use new muscles, and two, I have to work hard to keep up with those rascals.

winter riding

Our winter oasis, where I fumble through learning to skate

However, enjoy your time off the bike if you find your fitness through the winter. The brief time between fall and spring is perfect for strengthening new muscles, working on flexibility, and letting your body recover from a full season of cycling. Additionally, time off the bike always excites me to get back on it once the weather clears.

About John Brown, the author

As a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer, John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit and that fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.

Before purchasing an e-bike consider these helpful tips

With the popularity of e-bikes (electric-assist bicycles) and the many options available, here are some of the many questions we answered at HaveFunBiking.com. The top question, along with the price of an e-bike, was how the new government rebate programs worked. What are the e-bike types and styles along with battery/motor options available? Followed by the range or distance you can expect to travel on a charge. Riding in rain and snow, and the maintenance tips. In conclusion, after reviewing the following tips, to narrow down the right bike for you, visit several bicycle shops that carry electric-assist bicycles. Ask them specific questions to we have touched on here. And like buying a car, test-ride the e-bike you are interested in.

Different types  of e-bike displays in the Eco-Building at the MN State Fair

Top 10 questions asked when selecting an e-bike.

1. An e-bikes cost, and what about the Minnesota Tax Credit

Has the idea of touring by e-bike piqued your interest?

There are many variables when buying an electric assist bike, including the distance you can ride and how you will use it; the number of times you can charge the battery; its weight (bike and battery); the warranty; and whether you will need to take out a loan to finance the bike? Along with a good warranty, the quality of standard parts or upgraded parts on the electric bike can increase the price from $2,000 to $6,000 or more. Plus, having adequate insurance coverage for possible damage, theft, and liability can increase the price.

See more information on the cost of buying an e-bike here.

What’s the skinny on the MN Electric-Assisted Bicycle Rebate

The Minnesota Transportation Finance and Policy bill included a new electric bike rebate program that takes effect July 1, 2024. In the 2023 session, four million dollars was appropriated for the 2024 and 2025 calendar years. This will allow the Rebate Program $2 million to be used starting July 1, 2024. Then again, consecutively, 2 million dollars for 2025, that will be available until June 30, 2026.

Depending on your income, the credit maximum is $1,500. To qualify, an Individual must assign the credit at the time of purchase after July 1st to an eligible retailer that they have selected. This will reduce the cost of the e-bike purchased. For more information on the rebate, contact your local bike shop or see Minnesota Tax Changes.

2. Consider payment options to get the right e-bike

Enjoy the Micro-Mobility experience for hauling cargo or kids.

To get an electric bike that will fit your needs over the next two to five years, find out if the bike shop or bike manufacturer (if buying online) offers a no- or low-interest loan, often for six to 36 months. Some lending institutions, like Affinity Plus, offer low-interest bicycle-specific loans and let you borrow 120% of the cost of the bike to allow you to buy accessories like helmets, locks, baskets/panniers, lights, etc.

See more information on financing here.

3. Check the bike warranty, and then insure it

Many bikes come with limited or full warranties. Typically, e-bikes may come with a 2-year warranty on parts, motors, and batteries. Some e-bike brands have a 5-year, “no questions asked” comprehensive warranty. So, learn what sort of warranty is being offered before you buy. A reputable e-bike company will have its warranty information on its website.

A warranty should be a part of the purchase price.

It is recommended that you Insure your new bike. Check if your car, renter’s, or homeowners insurance can bundle an e-bike into your policy. If not, look at an insurance company that often covers theft and collision protection for your e-bike, similar to automobile insurance. Many companies, like AAA and Velosurance, even offer roadside assistance for bicycles and e-bikes.

See more information on warranties and insuring an e-bike Here.

4. E-bike types and gear options

There are two types of motors: the wheel hub type and a center crank model pictured here.

There are so many types of e-bikes available! First, what is your primary use for buying an e-bike? Is it for commuting, hauling cargo, off-road riding, touring, or riding in winter conditions? Once you know how you will use the bike, check out the nationally defined classifications below and your state DOT statutes for e-bikes:

  • Class 1: e-bikes are pedal-assist only, no throttle, with a maximum speed of 20 mph
  • Class 2: e-bikes with pedal assist and throttle, with a maximum speed of 20 mph
  • Class 3: e-bikes are pedal-assist, with or without a throttle, with a maximum speed of 28 mph.
    Most states consider e-bikes with a maximum speed of 20 mph “OK to use all non-motorized bike routes.”

See more on the types and speeds of e-bikes here.

5. What’s the battery’s range and life before recycling?

A centerpost battery for an electric bike
A center post battery mount is standard for many electric bike models.

The general rule is that a 36-volt, 10.5Ah (ampere-hours) battery should get 20 to 40 miles per charge, with the average weight of rider + gear & cargo being less than 200 pounds in ideal weather conditions. You’ll get fewer miles the higher the assist level you use. You may enjoy 50 miles or more on a single charge on low assist. To maximize the life of your e-bike battery, try to charge it before it is close to empty.

Recycling your battery: Call2Recycle is helping e-bike owners recycle their batteries. On the right side of their website, please type in your zip code to get a list of places that will recycle your e-bike battery when it’s time to replace it.

For a more in-depth look at how volts x amps = watts can give you an approximate range, click here.

6. Weight limits, and a size that fits you

There are many sizes and types of e-bikes and trikes to test ride.

Most manufacturers recommend a maximum combined weight of around 275 pounds for a rider and gear & cargo on an e-bike. Cargo bikes are meant to carry small people or big loads and can accommodate riders + gear up to 400 pounds or more. Typically, e-bikes can handle total weights more than described by manufacturers’ specs. However, it may reduce the range or increase maintenance, including wheel spokes repairs.

Most e-bikes weigh between 30-65 pounds, with the battery weighing anywhere from five to 15 pounds. The weight of the battery goes up as the voltage goes up, but the capacity (range of the battery) will go up, too.

For more on weight limits and restrictions, click here.

7. Maintainance and your options to have your bike repaired

Like a regular bicycle, always start with an ABC’s (Air, Brake & Chain) check before you ride to maximize your e-bike investment. You should schedule a tune-up every six months or every 1,000 miles you have ridden. This will protect your warranty. Check the manufacturer’s service recommendations to what they specify.

If you’re buying an e-bike online, see what sort of repair service or online support the company provides, or make sure your local or favorite bike shop can fix the electrical components of the e-bike you select. Bikes with Bosch drivetrain systems are well respected and offer the following information for care and longevity. 

For more information on maintaining our preparing an e-bike, click here.

8. Riding an e-bike in the rain or snow

E-bikes work well year-round.

Like most standard bicycles, E-bikes are water-resistant and can be used in most weather conditions. You may need accessories (like rain gear or studded tires) to ride safely. Most e-bike models also provide a high-quality, water-resistant casing to protect your battery when wet and cold. You can ride an e-bike at any temperature, but the colder it is, the more it may impact the battery’s range. Bring your battery (or the entire bike + battery) inside if you’re not riding it. Do not leave the battery on the bike if parking the e-bike outside at any time in the winter.

Click here for more information on riding an e-bike in rain or snow.

9. Keeping your new e-bike safe and secure

To protect your e-bike investment, consider using a U-lock with a cable lock when locking your bike outside (also recommended for indoor public storage areas). Another anti-theft device to consider is a GPS track tag. Ask your local bike shop for their recommendations. Again, having adequate insurance coverage for possible damage, theft, and liability is wise.

For more information on securing your e-bike, click here.

 10. What else should I do before purchasing?

A test ride should be part of the plan indoors or out before purchasing.

Have fun and test-ride the e-bike(s) you want to focus on. One of the essential parts of buying an e-bike is taking the model(s) you are most interested in for a test ride. Like buying a car, test-ride the e-bike will help you finalize your decision once you have narrowed the selection down. Visit several bicycle shops that carry the e-bike brands you are most interested in. So grab your helmet and go for a test ride. Consider these questions while test-riding that new e-bike:

  • Does the e-bike fit the way I like it to
  • Do I feel comfortable on the e-bike climbing hills
  • And finally, is the quality and functionality over everything I expected while riding?

Now that you are back from your test ride, does the e-bike you like fit into your budget, and does it have a warranty? An e-bike is a significant investment, whether $1,500 or $10,000. So, with a warranty, you can rest assured that your investment is well covered. For more information on scheduling a test ride, click here.

Have fun on your new e-bike. We would enjoy hearing about your experiences here at HaveFunBiking!

With an e-bike, it’s easy to bring along your faithful friend or haul cargo.

Explore Minnesota’s paved and surface bike trails

With more than 4,000 miles of paved Minnesota bike trails, the state has become a world-renowned bicycle touring destination for all to enjoy. Making considerable strides in connectivity, so in some areas, you can pedal distances of up to one hundred and fifty miles without leaving the trail. For example, in southeastern Minnesota, the Root River Trail connects to the Harmony-Preston trail for 60 miles of scenic enjoyment. In central Minnesota, the Central Lakes Trail connects to the Lake Wobegon Trails for over 120 miles of Rail-to-Trail touring pleasure.

As you plan your next adventure, look through the following list of Minnesota bike trails for miles of fun memories. Many of the trails listed are available in the Minnesota Bike/Hike Guide maps for your riding pleasure.

It’s fun riding with friends on all the Minnesota Bike Trails

With Minnesota’s bike trails listed here, find your next adventure

Blazing Star shooting State Trail  –  6 paved miles

The Blazing Star State Trail is paved and runs from Albert Lea Lake in Albert Lea to Myre-Big Island State Park, approximately six miles. The trail currently connects to Albert Lea’s city trail system.

Brown’s Creek State Trail  – 8 and 6 paved miles

This beautiful railroad-grade trail connects the Gateway State Trail in the city of Grant to Stillwater and the city’s round-the-river loop there.

Cannon Valley Trail – 20 paved miles (Rail Pass Required)

The Cannon Valley Trail follows the Cannon River in southeast Minnesota to the Mississippi River, using the abandoned Chicago Great Western Railway corridor from Cannon Falls to Red Wing.

Casey Jones State Trail  – an eight and six-mile stretch is paved

The Casey Jones State Trail consists of three segments, with the most extended section of former railroad grade between the city of Pipestone and the Pipestone/Murray county line. The segment from Pipestone to County Road 67 is paved, and the third portion of the trail offers a paved loop between Lake Shetek State Park and the city of Currie.

Fun along the Central Lakes Trail

Central Lakes State Trail – 55 paved miles

This trail begins in the city of Fergus Falls. It ends in the city of Osakis, where users will enjoy the many different landscape views, ranging from open grassland/prairie, lakes, wetlands, farmland, and forested rolling hills. Towns to visit along the trail include Evansville, Brandon, Garfield, and Alexandria. The Central Lakes Trail at Osakis connects to the Lake Wobegon Trail for another 65-mile stretch to St. Cloud.

Cuyuna Lakes State Trail – 8 paved miles

This trail, abandoned by mining companies over 35 years ago, runs from Crosby to Riverton, inside the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area. Many of the lakes along this trail system were former mine pits and now offer a world-class single-track mountain bike trail system around them.

David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail – 69-mile long multi-purpose unpaved trail

This long-distance, natural surface trail near Tower, MN, is suitable for horseback riding, mountain biking, and hiking in the summer.

David Dill/Taconite State Trail – 6 paved miles

This trail stretches 165 miles from Grand Rapids to Ely and intersects with the David Dill/Arrowhead State Trail just west of Lake Vermillion. The first six miles from Grand Rapids are paved for biking and in-line skating and connect to the Mesabi trail.

Gateway State Trail – 18 paved miles

The popular east metro trail begins in St. Paul, travels northeast through Maplewood, North St. Paul, and Oakdale, through Washington County, and ends at Pine Point Regional Park. Here, the Browns Valley Trail connects and runs to the city of Stillwater. Located on a former Soo Line Railroad bed, the trail is generally level and wheelchair accessible.

Gitchi-Gami State Trail – 86 miles, with on 33-miles paved, not continuous

This trail is considered a moderately challenging route and features one scenic view of Lake Superior after another. The trail parallels Highway 61, using the road’s wide 10-foot shoulder along undeveloped segments. The opportunity to spot wildlife is also a common occurrence here.

Goodhue Pioneer State Trail – Two paved segments, four and 5.5-mile

This trail is popular with hikers, bikers, horseback riders, and snowmobilers. Currently, there are two sections of the trail. The northern portion is a paved trail between Red Wing and the Hay Creek Unit of the Richard J. Dorer State Forest and connects with Red Wing city trails and the Cannon Valley Trai. The southern segment of the trail features 4.5 miles of paved trail and is used by hikers and bikers. This segment starts in the city of Zumbrota and connects to the city’s trail system.

Great River Ridge State Trail – 13 paved miles

Located in the beautiful southeastern Minnesota river valley, this trail system follows a former railroad grade with picturesque views of river bluffs. The trail is generally level and accessible and is famous for bicycling, hiking, and in-line skating. Currently, the trail begins in Plainview, traveling south through the town of Elgin, and ends at County Road 9.

Heartland State Trail  – 49 paved miles in two connecting segments

This was one of the first rail-to-trail projects in the country. The trail is located entirely on a level abandoned railroad grade, with the 27-mile segment connecting Park Rapids and Walker and the 22-mile segment connecting Walker and Cass Lake. The Park Rapids to Walker segment also has a parallel natural surface trail for horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking. The Heartland State Trail also connects with the Paul Bunyan State Trail and other regional trail systems.

The Lake Wobegon covered bridge near Holdingford.

Lake Wobegon State Trail – 65 paved miles

The trail runs west from St. Cloud, through Waite Park, Avon, Albany, Freeport, Melrose, Sauk Centre, and up to Osakis, where it joins the Central Lakes Trail and continues to Fergus Falls. At Albany, a paved spur heads north to Holdingford, then to the Mississippi River Trail below Little Falls.

Luce Line State Trail – 63 miles, mostly packed limestone

This former railroad-grade trail stretches across the varied landscapes of metropolitan and rural Minnesota. Primarily crushed limestone surface with a parallel Treadway.

Matthew Lourey State Trail – 80-mile long multi-purpose unpaved trail

The gravel-surfaced trail passes through forests linking St. Croix State Park with ChengwatanaSt. Croix, and Nemadji state forests. The entire trail is open to hiking in the summer. Mountain biking is allowed in some sections of St. Croix State Park.

You will find many trail towns along the Mesabi Trail

Mesabi Trail – 150 paved miles  (Rail Pass Required)

Stretching from the Mississippi River in Grand Rapids to the Boundary Waters near Ely, the Mesabi Trail is like no other in the country. Cutting through the forests of northeast Minnesota, your adventure will take you past lakes, creeks, and ponds, by vast red pits of old iron ore mines now filled with emerald green water.

Mill Towns State Trail – 3 paved miles

This trail currently connects with the city of Northfield trails system near Babcock and Riverside Park on the north end and follows the Cannon River to the city of Dundas, where the trailhead connects to other local trails.

Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area – 6 paved miles, 36 unpaved miles

Not far from the Twin Cities. Watch for wildlife as you travel the multi-use trail, which is paved for six miles from Shakopee to Chaska and unpaved from Chaska to Belle Plaine.

The scenery along the Paul Bunyan Trail can add to the experience.

Paul Bunyan State Trail – 115 paved miles

The Paul Bunyan State Trail is 115 miles long, not including a couple of short on-road connections through the cities of Baxter and Bemidji. Extending from Crow Wing State Park to Lake Bemidji State Park, it is the longest of Minnesota’s state trails and the longest continuously paved rail-to-trail in the country. It connects with the 8-mile Heartland State Trail. At Lake Bemidji State Park, it connects to the Blue Ox Trail, an unpaved motorized trail for snowmobiling and off-highway vehicle riding that extends northeast to International Falls.

Root River State Trail – 42 paved miles

Discover the dramatic bluff lands of southeastern Minnesota on this popular trail. Very accessible, except for some hills near Houston on the east end. Along the trail west, visit the towns of Rusgford, Peterson, Whalon, and Lanesboro before reaching the western trailhead at Fountain. Before Fountain, the Root River Trail connects to the Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail.

Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail – 18 paved miles

Come and enjoy Minnesota hospitality, southeastern style. The paved Harmony-Preston Valley State Trail is a beautiful 18-mile-long multiple-use trail connecting Harmony and Preston communities with the existing Root River State Trail. Main summer uses are hiking, biking, and in-line skating. The trail is groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter.

Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail – 39 paved miles

The Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail is a paved, 39-mile multiple-use trail developed on an abandoned railroad grade. The trail begins at Lime Valley Road near State Highway 14, joins the Minnesota River Trail in Mankato, follows a signed route on city streets through Waterville, passes through three miles of Sakatah Lake State Park, and ends east of Interstate 35 in Faribault. It is generally level and wheelchair accessible. Horses can use a parallel treadway, from Lime Valley Road to the County Road 12 bridge.

Shooting Star State Trail –  29 paved miles

The Shooting Star State Trail is currently paved for about 29 miles between LeRoy and Austin. It begins in the city of LeRoy, travels north through Lake Louise State Park, then west toward the communities of Taopi, Adams, and Rose Creek. There is a short break in the trail in Rose Creek between City Hall and Rose Creek Wayside Park. It picks up again in Rose Creek Wayside Park and travels west and north, primarily in state and county highway right-of-way, until it reaches the intersection of 28th Street NE and I-90. Just across the 28th Street bridge over I-90 is a paved path connecting to the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center in Austin. When complete, the trail will also connect with the community of Lyle (south of Austin) and the Wapsi-Great Western Trail in Iowa (south of Taopi).

You will want to stop often along the Willard Munger Trail for the spectacular scenery.

Willard Munger State Trail –  70 paved miles

This 70-mile Willard Munger State Trail segment is a completely paved trail. Beginning south of Hinkley, the trail first passes through the towns of Finlayson, near Banning State Park, then Rutledge, Willow River, near General C.C. Andrews State Forest, Sturgeon Lake, Moose Lake, and Moose Lake State Park, and Barnum. At  Carlton, the northeast portion of the trail transforms, offering some spectacular scenery at Jay Cooke State Park and along the St. Louis River, to the twin ports of Duluth and Superior. 

See more trails in Minnesota if off-road riding is your preferred choice

Give a call to the shops closest to you and verify they have the models you want to test ride.

Winter in a bike shop is a great time to learn and get fast service

by John Brown, BrownCycles.com

The winter months are the perfect time to visit a bike shop and learn. Other than just enjoying bikes at a time when you may not be riding, there are many benefits to visiting your bike shop during the cooler months of the year. You can learn more in the slower winter months, get better deals, and have faster service.

Faster turnaround time on repairs at your bike shop.

Most bike shops operate on a “first in / first out” repair schedule. This means during the busy summer months, there will be dozens of bicycles ahead of yours in line to be repaired. Those dozens of bikes could equal weeks of waiting before your bike gets fixed. Through the winter months, there are fewer bikes in for repair. That means you can expect a speedy turnaround time. Plus, with fewer bikes in the shops to be worked on, each seems to get more attention. That’s not to say your shop won’t do a great job in the summer months. I’m just saying that it is always good when service isn’t rushed and the mechanic has more time.

Bike Shop

Quiet time in the shop is the best time for quality service.

Bike shop discounts and deals!

As fall turns to winter, bicycle brands change from one model year into the next. Because of that change, the transition becomes a sweet spot for buying a bike. In some cases, you can get last year’s models for a discounted price; if those aren’t available, the new models are readily available. Along with the new model year shift, many shops also run sales through the winter to maximize store traffic.

A bike shop visit is worth more than a discount

It’s no secret that winter in a bike shop is slow. Why not take advantage of that slow time to talk with the salesperson and mechanics? Need to know more about all the different bike types? Where is the best place to ride your fat bike? How do the new shorts differ from the ones you already have? These individuals in the bike shop can help.

If it’s a question about your bike’s service or adjustments, the mechanics will likely spend more time with you and not be rushed. Even better, at this time of the year, some shops will allow customers to watch and learn as they fix their bikes in the winter. Due to the time added to teaching, this is not an opportunity to be considered or offered through the summer.

Learn more at your bike shops, clinics, and classes

As many bike shops have evolved from regular retail locations into community cycling centers, most have adopted a strategy of education and involvement. Because shops have far more time in the winter, most schedule their programs during this downtime. In the most basic cases, you can enjoy trainer rides at most shops. Typically, these rides are a “bring your own trainer” affair, where customers come and ride together.

Bike Shop

Park tool School is in full effect.

More ambitious stores are running classes on home bike repair as well. Usually, those classes focus on one part of the bike, like wheels or derailleurs. Finally, the most forward-thinking shops are doing classes and clinics and inviting speakers to come and give presentations. Many riders have questions about bike packing or fat biking, and shops will schedule professionals to discuss those subjects.

Classes at Browns Bicycle

Don’t let simple mechanicals ruin an otherwise great ride. Learn the basics of fixing flat tires, mending a broken chain, and getting home on two wheels rather than two feet. Please bring your bicycle with you for a hands-on instruction session. All ages are welcome, although an adult should accompany minors. Check out class dates when available.

Show the love.

If for no other reason, stop by the shop and say hello. Depending on how quiet the shop is through the winter, things can get pretty boring for the staff, who would love to share their knowledge. Storage can only be cleaned and reorganized many times after all the boxed bikes are built. After that, the friendly face of a customer is a welcome sight.

About John Brown, the author

John operates Browns Bicycle in Richfield, MN as a lifelong cyclist and consummate tinkerer. It all started for him in grade school when the bike bug bit, and that fever is still there. Now, and over the past thirty years, he has worked at every level in the bike industry. Starting, like most, sweeping floors and learning anything he could about bikes. He eventually graduated as a service manager and then to a store manager.  Through the years, he has spent extensive time designing and sourcing bicycles and parts for some of the largest bike companies in the world. All the while focusing on helping as many people as possible enjoy the love of riding a bike. In that pursuit, he has taught classes (both scheduled and impromptu) on all things bikes. John also believes in helping every rider attain their optimal fit on the bike of their dreams. Please feel free to stop in any time and talk about bikes, fit, and parts or share your latest ride. You can also see John’s tricks and tips on the Brown Bicycle Facebook Page.