This whole thing started on a Friday. We’ve had some teaser snow this season, a few decent little storms that allowed us to get out and ride our favorite trails, transformed into white ribbons darting in and out of the trees, but nothing that really stuck long enough to satiate our desire to get the fat tires out and really feel like we had a go at full winter of fat biking. Having a bit of anxiety about that, I looked at the forecast for the coming week and moved the dot on the map north. Cuyuna was the natural choice, I’d been watching and living out what looked like a pretty rad winter, in contrast, from up that way via social media all season. I thought about it, weighed the options, and kept moving the map further north. I’ve had an affinity for the North Shore ever since I made my first trip up there with my family years ago, and having a love of that rugged coastline in the back of my mind, hit Duluth, which would have been another grade A option for this idea, and still kept moving further north. I settled on Tettagouche State Park. I’d been planning gravel rides and overnight camping trips up around that area for a while, but I’d never thought about taking it on over the winter. My mind was already made up, but looking at the forecast for the following Tuesday made me just about lose it. 8-16 inches of snow forecast over a 24 hour period. This was going to be perfect. This also gave us a chance to try out something new, the 8 miles of groomed fat bike specific trails in Split Rock State Park. This only amplified our excitement, and was our plan for wednesday morning after we rode back out of camp.
I toyed with the idea of full-on winter camping, but abandoned that pretty quickly, given my own and everyone else I’d invited along’s lack of dedicated winter camping gear. Instead, we’d be overnighting in the Tettagouche Camp. A set of remote backwoods cabins which required a 2 mile hike-in from the nearest trailhead. Bonus: The access trail gets groomed in the winter, which meant we could ride all the way to camp. That sealed the deal. I planned a short 15 mile route from Finland, MN to the Tettagouche Camp that included fire roads, ATV trails, a creek crossing, 1000 feet of climbing over the range that circled the park, and the last 2 miles of groomed trail that led up and into the camp at Mic Mac Lake. Given the impending snow storm, I assumed that even a 15 mile ride would be a test, but I didn’t even come close to understanding just how tough it would be to break trail on the route I’d chosen.
Tuesday morning came around and my friend Dan and I were loaded up and ready to go. The weather in the Twin Cities was misty and cold as we rolled out, changing to sleet and finally snow as we hit Duluth. The storm was raging, and had been dumping snow along the entirety of the North Shore since the middle of Monday night. Just what I was hoping for. The wind was up, the lake was full of large breakers, and the road was rough, covered with snow and slush, and in the dropping temps, it was getting slick. We took our time, and eventually pulled into the state park office and chatted with Kurt, the friendly park ranger, about the conditions out there. He assured us that the trail to the camp had just been groomed, and that we would have no problem blasting our way up and into camp.
As we made our way toward Finland on highway 1, the conditions were white out. Snow was falling by the inches as we parked and unloaded the bikes and packed them up for the ride out of town. What we quickly realized, as soon as we left the parking lot where we were ditching the car, was that absolutely everything we planned was not going to work out. We had a short section of paved road until we hit the fire road that snaked its way along Hockamin Creek out of town. The paved roads were in poor shape, becoming worse with the additional snowfall, which, on any other day, or, maybe more accurately, any other place, wouldn’t be a problem for us. We were riding fat bikes, after all. However. Up here, in these conditions, people still have a tendency to drive…how should I put this. REALLY FUCKING FAST.
I wasn’t thrilled on riding the more heavily trafficked paved roads, and was looking forward to getting out onto the gravel fire roads, and, even more excited to hit the ATV trail that would take us off into the woods. A quarter mile and we hit the turnoff to Hefflinger Road, and noticed our first potential issue. It wasn’t plowed. Ok no big deal. We’re on fat bikes, remember? Wrong. There weren’t any tire tracks from trucks, or otherwise, to pack down the snow into a rideable route, save a few from snowmobiles which were still pretty deep. Let me reiterate, the snow was DEEP. I’m talking mid-calf to just below the knee in some places. It was a wonderful sight, having suffered through a dry, occasionally snowy, occasionally rainy winter down in the cities, but it made our pace a crawl, at its quickest. The problem with trying to stick to snowmobile tracks is that snowmobiles, unlike full blown vehicles, are able to dart on and off of just about any trail about as wide as your shoulders. This being one of those cases, they left the road about a mile on, and we had a choice to make. Ride and hike-a-bike another 14 or so miles, hoping that there were more, deeper tracks ahead, which would take us…maybe 8 hours, or ride back to the car, pack up the gear, and head to the trailhead, and ride into the camp, and rip the groomed trails in the park. We decided option A included a decent dose of suffering, which wasn’t super high on our priority list. Option B, on the other hand, included a lot of potential for getting rad, which was definitely something we were looking to do on fatbikes in a snowstorm in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, anywhere (yes, that includes even you, Austria…).
We got to the trailhead, we unloaded the bikes, we saw the groomer laid out in front of us, climbing straight up to the ridge for what we knew was about a mile, only to drop back down again on the other side into the camp, and we hopped on and started to ride. We had pressured down the tires, to probably around 4 psi, as low as we could go without rolling the tires off, and found out we could make it about 100 feet to the base of the climb without having to dismount and walk. We got this far…and we turned around. Dan was chipper but defeated, I was pissed off, we were both severely lacking in stoke. At this point, having spent most of our daylight starting and stopping, packing and repacking the bikes, I made a call. Let’s strip the bikes, go ride whatever we can ride for an hour or so, then head back to Finland, get some food, drink some beer, and then drive back down to the trailhead, leave the bikes and most of our gear behind, and hike to the camp for the night. We knew the conditions would improve by morning, and that our time on the groomed trails at Split Rock were sure to deliver stoke in spades.
We unpacked the bikes, took off down the nearest fire road we saw with snowmobile tracks, and started to explore. We rolled up the winding road as far as we could, stopped, and rolled back. We had put the fun back into the day, we pulled wheelies, got drifty in the deep snow, and tried (and failed) to ride over a 20 foot tall snow pile in the parking lot. From there we went to the 4 Seasons Supper Club which is absolutely, unequivocally, THE finest dining establishment in Finland.
Here are some things that happened there:
Viewed Jeopardy with the locals, they were STOKED on Jeopardy.
Witnessed a Red Cup Rum n’ Coke Roadie® (yea, we coined that one) handoff.
Ate some burgers.
Watched a pretty decent date between a local married couple (the twinkle lights really set the mood in there).
Debated the origins of an oil painting portrait of a very rugged looking individual.
Had some Coors.
Grabbed an off-sale 6-er of Castle Danger to bring on our hike to camp.
We took our beer and said our goodbye’s and headed back to the trailhead. We packed up our bags and got straight to hiking (in our 45NRTH boots, I might add) up and over to camp. This may have been the best, and most surprising, decision we made on the whole damn trip. The snow had, at this point, moved on over the lake, and the clouds cleared out and left the sky open and the nearly full moon shining down on the pure white landscape. The woods were dead silent and the light reflecting off the snowfall was so bright we didn’t even need our headlamps. The experience was a first for both of us, walking straight into the thick of the woods in the middle of winter, completely alone. It was unbelievable. We trekked in silence, occasionally stopping to take photos or chat about how incredible the scenery was around us. We made it to camp at 7pm and it felt like the middle of the night. It took some searching in the dark, but we found our cabin (GET CABIN B) right at the edge of the water, the light of the moon illuminating the frozen lake, the rocky landscape of the park rising up on the horizon. We went inside and stoked a fire, drank our beer…and our whiskey, and called it a night.
Dan kept the fire going throughout the night, until he fell asleep, and we woke to about 35 degrees. Shivering, we made coffee and tea, rushed to get the fire re-stoked, and set to making breakfast. We had grabbed some potatoes, some bacon, an onion, and some eggs in town the previous night and we made a totally ridiculous scramble. I split it in two, and we ate the whole thing. Re-fueled, we packed up camp and hiked out, walking through the landscape in the daylight was a completely new yet equally amazing experience, and we made it back to the car and headed south to Split Rock State Park. We arrived to beautifully groomed corduroy, and 8+ miles of trails beckoning. We spent the remaining morning and early afternoon shredding, and by the time we were heading back south to the cities, our legs were cooked, and we’d accomplished what we’d set out to do, despite all of the roadblocks to our carefully laid plans. The good thing about an adventure is that no matter what happens, it always shows you a good time.
Not sure why this video won’t embed here. Maybe it’s because this site is so outdated and in desperate need of some housekeeping. Either way, just go ahead and click the little linky below. Really, do it. You won’t be disappointed.
Check out our latest closeout/demo bike list. We’ve got some screaming deals on Santa Cruz mountain bikes, Bianchi road bikes, and Fatback fat bikes!
what’s going on the blocks? I’ll give you a hint, it’s yellow and has one of the most unique drivetrains you’ll ever see.
Got to thinking a lot about this rig. I’ve had it for a long time and I always said if I could get the price I want for it that it could have a new home. After all, it just hangs in my shed right now. Seems like the market for this vintage of MTB is finally getting to the point that it might support the numbers I have in mind. Gonna have a bunch of pictures taken next week and put it up for sale. Burnsie, you win the lottery yet? You’re probably the only person that has ridden it with this stuff on there other than myself and I think you had a little bikegasm when you did.
Ben here once more. Gotta jump in here. I think this is important.
Many thanks to Stevil for posting about this on AHTBM today. I know his millions of adoring fans will rally to the cause.
If you haven’t seen the story floating around the interwebs yet, the gist of it is that over the course of the last few months or so, this chick Casey Nocket has been traveling around the country soaking in the beauty of our National Parks, and then deciding to improve vandalize various rock formations by adding her “artwork” in permanent marker and acrylic paint. I don’t think I can accurately describe how infuriating I find this. It’s to the point where it just makes me sad that there are people like her in the world at all. I think my National Park count is over 40 these days, and I’m sure that most of you know how much I love these places. I get bent when my campsite has a bottle cap left in the fire pit, so this one just pushes all the buttons.
What I’m asking you ALL to do, other than public shaming using her name whenever possible, is to sign this petition right now! It will help pave the way to having federal charges filed against her for her selfish, stupid, thoughtless, and asinine behavior. If you’ve got more than one email account, sign it twice.
Please share this story and petition with any and all people you know. The more publicity about this story the better. Many thanks ahead of time.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, but before I do, Casey, here’s a big giant two fingers up to you, and they’re not my thumbs.
Thanks to Ben for the post below, but we’ve got to get the word out. Big fall clearance sale all weekend long. We’ll even be open on Sunday! Check it out!
Hi everybody, Ben here.
I tried to find a picture of a match with angel’s wings, but no luck, and since my photoshop skills are rivaled only by those of Stevil, here’s a picture of a box of matches and a pellet gun on some crappy flooring.
These days I feel like every time I post anything up here my gut instinct is to title it something along the lines of “Is this thing on?”, “Anybody out there?”, “Hello?”, “My turn again?”, or any variation of those sentiments.
This time it was Dennis Porter (oh wait, that’s not him. There he is, clearly consorting with the enemy and planning the downfall of civilization as we know it) who told El Jefe that I should update the OOOBS blog. My response was along the lines of “I’m the only one who ever does.” To which he replied “I know”. What can I say, these days when I write something it is usually on our own site. I’ve got some good ones on there if I do say so myself. Seriously, you should read all of them. I think this one is my favorite. It suits my sometimes pissed off, usually opinionated, old (school) mechanic sensibilities. That’s why I wrote it.
Therefore it is time for a blog. And since I’m the one doing it I shall use it to my own ends. If you don’t like it you can go back to not checking the blog page. Or if you need your daily account of what all the cool kids are up to you can see what facebook has to say about daily soups. ZING!
This shall be a telling of the beautiful, strange, constantly evolving and long standing friendship between Swobo and One On One. Or more specifically Gene and Jen, since it all began long before the shop existed. Sometime back in the first half of the ’90s, which was the decade just before the new millennium for you young kids, a bond was formed. Nobody knows how it all started. Well, Geno might if he can remember, but it’s safe to say that a fire was lit that day. Most likely literally. I’m pretty sure that one of the first times I ever met Geno, at the Sawtooth Invitational MTB race in my home town of Grand Marais, he was wearing a first generation Swobo Merino jersey. These days known as The Trad. As in “traditional”. Look at you smarty pants. Most people will know that the legacy of Swobo began with clothing, and specifically wool. Because wool is awesome. There were a few other non-riding items like the infamous Sideliner jacket.
photo courtesy of Stevil
Which we would like to reintroduce to the line by the way.
When Swobo went off the air the first time we were all completely bummed out. Then about the time that we were tearing out the walls of the sauna and finding money, condoms, syringes, etc. to make room for bikes, coffee and art, we found out about the resurgence. Stoked. The following year bikes were added. Stoked again. We sold the hell out of the stuff for the next 5 years. Then things all went south again and V.2 died. Bummed. About the time I was packing up my life into a big truck and taking a long drive west little tidbits of info started to pop up. Swobo was being sold to someone new, Swobo was perhaps moving out of central California, Swobo would be coming back to life again (maybe the brand is kind of like the undead, drip some warm blood in its mouth and voila!). I kept my ears open, always wondering and asking people, “Who?”, “Where?”. About 6 months after settling in Fort Collins, the story was that the brand was coming here. I called the knower of all things, Geno, for the low down. He helped me track down El Jefe, and now here I am, sitting at my desk shamelessly promoting the brand and myself on the OOOBS site. Giddy up sucker!
What makes Swobo stand out from the packed house of bike brands in this country is that it (we) are a social brand. It is a brand that people LOVE to interact with. Sometimes overly so. There are some things that we don’t need to know about you. That being said, we’ll still let you crash on our couch when you get tired.
We’re a little weird, but that’s ok because so are you.
Anyway, to continue with my tale of friendship, One On One is the pinnacle of what we at Swobo love about shops, both during my time there, and continuing now that I am on this side of the relationship. We love the interaction, input, mutual promotion and admiration, and we really love it when we’re all in the same place at the same time. It’s like a big dysfunctional family reunion, and that just equals fun. When people or other shops just don’t really get us or what the brand is about, don’t understand how internal hubs work or why they are so awesome (we’ve had shop owners and mechanics tell us that they can’t figure out how to get the rear wheel off. That’s just sad.), or claim that they just can’t figure out how to sell the bikes to people, we pretty much always ask if they’ve ever been to Minneapolis and One On One. Most of the time the answer is no. If you ask me, everyone in the industry in any capacity could learn a lot about the way things should and can be by spending a little time in the twin cities riding bikes and visiting shops.
Now let’s make this about me for a minute. Partly because I’m writing this so I can, but mostly because I’m awesome. I am really happy to still be a part of the bike business. I’ll admit, I was pretty burnt out on the daily grind of shop and wrench work there at the end, but bikes are in my blood and I don’t think I can ever get them out. Designing bikes is something that I never thought I’d do. Most of the folks that I know who are bike designers are either accomplished framebuilders, engineers, or literally “designers” and basically just come up with paint and graphic schemes. I’ll admit it was a bit daunting the first time El Jefe said essentially “Here’s a blank piece of paper, come up with a bike”. Therefore I want to call out the fact that if I didn’t have the background of all those years at Kenwood Cyclery and then One On One, working for people that trusted me to know what I was doing and do it correctly, on all manner of bikes new and old, I would not be in the position nor have the knowledge to do what I am doing now. I want to say a great big thank you to everyone who has helped me get here, and it’s because of you that things like this are becoming a reality.
I’d say that’s pretty rad. All that said, I know a lot of people are being a tad bit whiny right now about the fact that we do not have a more extensive clothing line at the moment since the brand came to existence through wearables. Trust me, we want to add more clothing and bring back some of the old favorites too. We would love that. However, until all of you people buy a bike and we can get a third person into this office with us, El Jefe and I are too damn busy worrying about other stuff to have the time. Anybody that would care to have a labor intensive, time consuming, and non-paying internship for a year can come out here and we’ll throw clothing on your plate.
One On One, we love you guys. And with that we’ll throw a big fat skid across the finish line in the alley.
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