To our friends, family & future travelers,
As valued supporters of our mission, it’s our goal to keep you informed and up to date on how our small company is responding to the global COVID-19 dilemma, now and moving into the months ahead of us. We want you to be prepared to travel with us or navigate necessary changes we must make, due to any unforeseen circumstances related to COVID-19. We hope this message is as clear and concise as possible.
At this moment, we write this letter to you all from the beautiful town of Patagonia, Arizona. Patagonia is the home of our winter/spring AZ Gravel Camps. The riding here is endless, the vibe low key and currently, town is very quiet. We’re multi tasking between taking advantage of all the fresh air here, and redesigning what the rest of 2020 now has in store for The Cyclist’s Menu. Furthermore, we’re jazzed about planning for 2021 and highlighting what we’ve had to postpone. It will be bigger and better!
At this time, we have decided to cancel all European trips for the rest of 2020. This includes:
***We'd like everyone to know at this time, we are not canceling the 2020 Spirit World 100 Gravel Road Event. Currently, November 5-8, 2020 is 7 months out. We will address any major changes to this event in the coming months. Thank you for your support! Stay tuned to @spiritworld100 online for current news/information.
Due to the evolving situation with COVID-19, we're doing our best to remain knowledgeable and make the smart moves for our company and your health and wellness. With that said, we want to RIDE BIKES EAT FOOD just as bad as you do. So, we’re in the process of making some domestic changes to our 2020 schedule. These additions to our seasonal calendar will hopefully bring some light to your year in this moment of uncertainty. It’s all the buzz at TCM HQ right now!
At this time, we’re moving forward with our regularly scheduled 2020 domestic trips. We’re also adding some new dates to invigorate our love for travel and regain some of the normalities we will all need come Fall.
In an attempt to make your personal travel easier and as low stress as possible, it’s our goal to offer a unique set of domestic destinations to our line up. These are locations that are off the beaten path, makes car travel more accessible and provides an all inclusive experience. We’re taking these steps to ensure that cleanliness and personal care is of the utmost importance during your trip. This way we can travel together in a stress free environment. These trips include:
If any of these trips catch your eye, please, drop us a line! We can’t wait to share more details with you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
At this time we’re monitoring all trips on a 45 day basis and making any necessary adjustments at that time. The situation we’re in now is one we can’t plan for, it will be changing daily between now & June. We’re committed to making sure you have options when planning for your future travel with us. If you must cancel your trip or we must cancel your upcoming trip due to any health changes associated to COVID-19, you’re welcome to keep your deposit on file for any future trip with us. Your deposit will not expire. If you have a credit on file with us, you will receive first access to 2021 trips, worldwide.
We’re so grateful for your continued support of the lifestyle we all create together at The Cyclist’s Menu. It’s a special thing and something we are so ready to get back to, as quickly as we can. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, whatsoever. We’d love to hear from you. We look forward to greeting you in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, the mountainous coastline of Mendocino, California or the high desert borderlands of Patagonia, Arizona. Stay current on any immediate news/information @thecyclistsmenu.
Teeth to the wind!
Heidi Rentz & Zander Ault
Dear Gravel Family,
We've been going through the ways we could share with you our emotions about Gravel Camp 2019. First we thought it would be appropriate to address ya'll from a rather formal perspective; then we laughed! We aren't very formal, but we do take our work and your experience seriously. In many ways that's why it works so well. We all choose to be here and because of that, we're a community of people who desire the feeling of being connected. That's what Gravel Camp is. A place to reconnect, ride your bike and eat great food. So, instead of sharing with you what we thought you might like to hear, we're going to tell you the honest truth.
You know us. You know why The Cyclist's Menu is operating. We've dedicated who we are to this experience. At times we find ourselves doubting our journey, but it only makes us work harder and search farther for inspiration. Gravel Camp season 2019 is going to be more special then what we've experienced in the past. Between February 19th and March 25th, 2019 (5 separate weeks) you're invited to reconnect with the San Rafael Valley, its food system and your soul. We can't wait to enter the Spirit World with you soon.
Steam Rolling Temporal Canyon!! Toot Toot!
Official Arizona Gravel Camp dates are online at our website. But, we've included them here as well for easier access!
San Rafael Valley, Arizona
The 2019 season brings us farther in our journey to offer an experience unlike any other cycling company in the business. To accomplish our goals, we've pulled together an incredible team to guide you, inspire you and make you laugh during that climb when you're thinking about quitting. After all, those are the special moments. We can't wait for you to meet them. Stay tuned to our social media over the course of the next few months as we roll out their red carpet.
Beyond the incredible riding that the San Rafael Valley offers, we've designed a family style meal house that's going to bring us closer than any table we've dined at before. Tucked away in an alley behind Main Street, we've found a rustic old garage that will be lit by candles and twinkly lights. This old ranch style setting will be our gathering place for breakfast and dinner. Bring your favorite sweater and that old pair jeans, you'll be warm by the fire as we tell stories into the night.
Z dishing up Heidi's famous Fry Salad Bowl
AZ Gravel Camp 2019 is going to be amazing!
Gravel Camp News
Were heading to Iceland and Vermont in 2019!
August 2019 will be an unforgettable experience in Iceland. We have partnered up with Icebike Adventures for what will be a milestone in the history of Gravel Camp. We traveled to Iceland this summer, August 2018, to scout and curate this experience. We couldn't be more proud of how it's come together and the plan we have in store for the 12 riders who will join us. #icelandgravel is a bucket list experience and designed for the seasoned rider. It will be challenging, there will be tough weather, we will eat well and go home satisfied! 7 nights, 8 days of fresh fish & volcanic gravel roads.
July 2019 is another incredibly special moment centered around #ridebikeseatfood. We've partnered up with the amazing people at Rasputitsa Gravel Road Race. Heidi Myers and Anthony Moccia have become dear friends; we couldn't be more excited to share their Vermont secrets with those who join us in the Green Mountain State. Steep rolling hill country meets lush farmland as we make our way through the Northeast Kingdom. An area of Vermont that is incredibly rural, the gravel road riding is world class and we will travel miles and miles of it. We might even have a post ride BBQ on Caspian Lake with Jasper Hill Farm and Hill Farmstead Brewing Company!
We wish you an incredible Fall! Stay in touch with us, we want to know about all the badass adventures you're going on. We can't wait to #ridebikeseatfood with you very soon.
Teeth to the wind,
Heidi and Z
Instagram @thecyclistsmenu is an incredible way to stay current and in touch. Thank you for all your support.
We want to share our thoughts and perspective on a plant based medicine that will improve your life.
Everyone is talking about CBD. Everyone wants to know more and how can or will it help me out?
At The Cyclist's Menu we view active recovery as a blend of message, muscle activation with Roll Recovery units, proper rest, eating well & strength training. Pain killers such as Ibuprofen or Aspirin have never really been a part of our lives unless faced with a pretty severe situation like surgery or some massive injury. With that said, we've considered alternative forms of pain relief in those moments too. CBD has become our go to for many reasons and we excited to share them with you.
"I've tried a few CBD formulas before giving Onda Wellness a go. Each seemed to provide the usual benefits we're all familiar with; muscle recovery, lowering the build up of lactic acid, deep sleep. However, none of them gave me any real notion of it's effects in my body. It seemed more like a guessing game than actual results. Onda let's you know it's working with your body to aid in recovery from your active lifestyle. it's specific combination results in a euphoric state, where your body runs smoothly through your day, your workout or simply time with your feet up off the ground." Chef Zander Ault
Chef Z rocking his sock tan & enjoying a day off the bike during The Cyclist's Menu road camp in Mallorca, Spain.
In the past, we've discussed the thin line between CBD being a product athletes can support and not be viewed as a stoner. It's the grey area right now that has many questioning the validity of these products and whether or not it's just a gimmick. At least it seems this way. Yet, how is anyone supposed to know or have an opinion unless they try it themselves. Seems obvious to us, but this is the same problem with many things, not just a product that bodes the question, "Am I using a sports enhancing drug." Many might think so right now, but if something is able to create a greater awareness of your body when in need of a balanced method of recovery and state of mind, who's to judge? Plus, WADA/USADA removed it from the banned substance list in 2018 after some pretty compelling evidence. Guess we will just keep riding our bicycles and living life the way we please!
Coach HR & Chef Z riding their Ibis Hakka MX gravel bikes (with road slicks on em'!) into the Mallorcan sunset.
To keep things short, Onda Wellness CBD is a game changer. It's a beautiful product that will promote an increase in athletic abilities among many other results, too. From our experience with any CBD product, using it regularly delivers the best outcome. It compounds itself inside your body and begins to take shape in different ways for different people.
"I've noticed it begins to take effect about 30 minutes after consuming a capsule or dose of tincture. However, it responds to how your body is feeling. If your experiencing soreness or fatigue you'll notice a lifting effect of these symptoms over the course of the day, especially as you begin to incorporate it into your life for 10 or more days in a row. Onda CBD reacts to a healthy diet and healthy fats, too. We have noticed an increase in results due to what foods we're eating versus others. Our bodies have hundreds of CBD receptors living inside us already and when you add it into the system, it lights up!" Chef Zander Ault
Chef Z taking a quick break from an enormous road ride on Mallorca!
"I'm a professional guide and I direct endurance cycling camps. It's a tough job, but it's my passion and I wouldn't trade it for anything. My career as a professional mountain biker lead me to realize that I simply have a love for riding into the unknown, for hours on end. That ability to compete with myself and find community amongst those who enjoy it the same way I do, is incredibly fulfilling. Road Camp Season on Mallorca, Spain this year was a biggie. I was lucky to ride 850 miles, 65,000 feet of climbing and 65 hours in the saddle. It's been a while since I had that time and I rode harder than I ever have before. It's hard for me to describe this feeling and it's emotional connection to being my best person each day. But, challenging myself is what I live for, especially when my goals are so far from what I typically choose to achieve. Onda CBD has been a driving force in pushing me to go farther, to dig deeper and push my boundaries as an athlete." Director Heidi Rentz
Coach HR riding as hard as she could up the mountain, to make it back to Campanet (Homebase for The Cyclist's Menu on the Island of Mallorca) before it got dark. She was ecstatic when she rolled in from her ride that evening, "HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS. I feel as strong as I did 6 years ago when I was a full time pro".
At The Cyclist's Menu it's about discovering balance and sharing our style of life with those who choose to travel with us. One aspect of what we do that we love is our guests arrive with unknowns. We don't deliver your typical cycling vacation, where your daily schedule is laid out for you beforehand. We feel this is too normal. Plus, life doesn't operate this way for anybody, so why should we try and mimic something that actually doesn't exist. For these reasons and others, we've enjoyed sharing the beneficial results and stories of why CBD works for us with our guests from around the world. Once you travel with us, you're a part of the family.
"I've struggled with anxiety, depression my entire life. I'm an over achiever in what I love and passionate about. These characteristics help me define myself, help me achieve my goals; but they inhibit me, at times, from being my best self. It's challenging to explain, especially if you have never lived through an anxiety attack or been dealt a card where you had to find your best route through what is a depressed moment. They're tough, especially when you want to succeed above all else. When I first tried Onda CBD, I went into it thinking about the recovery and athletic benefits as a cyclist and runner. What I actually realized is it suppressed my bodies chemical in-balance. Onda CBD has given me the opportunity to succeed when I'm under stress, when my body wants to otherwise explode with internal energy. It's a force to recon with and when I realized CBD had this power, something I had never experienced other than while using western medicine, I knew my athletics and career as a chef would increase ten fold." Chef Zander Ault
Chef Z in his zone as he creates the perfect mid-ride fuel at our favorite beach on the island of Mallorca.
We hope this look into how CBD has been a driving force in our success as athletes and humans will provide a more balanced equation for you to consider researching this plant based medicine. Onda Wellness is a full spectrum product and offers the highest available purity in the industry. We encourage you all to read more about CBD, ask those you know who have tried it and if you want to learn more from us, feel free to reach out anytime. #ridebikeseatfood
We gave Kate’s a run at Gravel Camp
We’ll be 100% honest with all of you; it’s hard to find the right food that works for you as an athlete. It takes years, trials, ups and downs, you name it we’ve tried it! Yet, in an ever-growing market of packaged food, we’ve discovered a few that work, taste great and don’t make your stomach feel like you just ate half a burger or more. Kate’s Real Food Bars started in Kate Shade’s kitchen, as a wholesome, healthy snack to get her through big days skiing in the Teton backcountry of Idaho or tram laps at Jackson Hole Resort. Hence the first bar’s name, “Tram Bar.” What is now a full line of different flavors and ingredients, Kate’s has produced an on the go meal bar that packs a punch, limits flavor fatigue and is nice to eat when your literally “moving fast!” We gave it a go in Gravel Camp country in Southern Arizona and have a lot of great things to share.
At The Cyclist’s Menu we’re all about eating foods that make sense for our bodies and the environment. However you want to think about your footprint on this planet, what you eat has a much larger impact than we all realize. Much of our tendencies stem from simplicity and it’s challenging to break those routines. The schedules we all face are all over the place on a daily basis. When you can count on something that works for your health and wellness stick with it. So, when and if you’re staring at the wall of meal bars at your health food store (which is a daunting task by the way,) remember that Kate’s bars are anywhere from 86-91% organic, full of ingredients you can pronounce and understand, made in small batches and taste freaking great! Also, Kate’s ‘Tiki bar’ is Gluten, Soy and Dairy FREE! Radical!
Kate’s come in 2 different sizes which makes moving with them easy and usable for those who need to keep an eye on how much their consuming on a regular basis during exercise. The full bars range from 260-360 calories over 2 servings. Where as the newly added “Bites” pack a 130 caloric hit ideal for training rides, runs and a boost before putting in a gym session or hot yoga class. The Bites are a favorite at The Cyclist’s Menu for their simplicity and easy access. When out riding or running, you can carry an open package and devour each piece as you go, versus mowing down a bar at threshold, haha! We all know what that feels like, no matter how easy it is to chew or eat some real food while exercising.
Heidi and I recently headed out for a 90-mile ride from our home in Tucson, Arizona. It was a stellar day, 80 degrees, nothing other than riding on the mind. We each brought 1 meal bar and 1 pack of bites. Our ride time was 5 hours and with close to 400 calories in each of our pockets we were set for our adventure. What works well for Kate’s bars is the texture and low glycemic energy burn. Soft and chewy, a bit sweet and savory, Kate’s provided what we needed to keep moving comfortably while feeding our bodies what it needed each hour to feel great on the bike. I’ve been steering away from peanut butter for a little while due to some congestion issues, but I still love the stuff. However, in taking a break from it, I am really enjoying the ‘Handle Bar.’ Dark chocolate, cherries and almonds make this bar super delish! Furthermore, in all of Kate’s bars, the oats literally feel like they just came out of the oven. It’s easy on the palette. 90 miles with Kate’s makes gearing up for your next big adventure seem simple.
We are STOKED on Kate’s and super excited to share this great on the go food with our clients at Gravel Camp in Arizona this winter and around the country, season after season. We hope to see you out there adventuring in 2018. #ridebikeseatfood ya’ll and visit www.katesrealfood.com for more info!
Over the course of the past 3 holiday seasons, we’ve had a lot of fun creating home cooked meals in a handful of different ways. Everyone cooks over the Holidays; it’s tradition, right? Well, it is around our kitchen and this story highlights how we’ve enjoyed cooking these meals more than just what the meal was.
What ever happened to the good old days?
It’s one thing to say you’re from a city or a town, but what if you delivered where you were from with such compassion for that place; those who asked felt it too? We believe that food and the land it’s grown or raised on provides this deeper understanding of place for those who choose to dig a litter deeper. If it nourishes your soul than typically we’re more apt to want to share that emotion with others. Our farmers, ranchers, craft brewers, friends and family feel this way too.
We’ve cooked on smokers, wood fired pizza ovens, even the most simple campfire pit. Christmas 2017 brought on a whole new plan. This season a 500-pound cast iron cauldron landed in the backyard. Made by a company called Cowboy Cauldron, this behemoth of an open fire vessel puts most primitive style ovens we’ve used to shame. By no means do you need a 500-pound cast iron cauldron to make Christmas Eve dinner, but damn was it fun!
This year we did 17 pounds of beef, a mix of rib roast and tenderloin steaks. Side dishes included sautéed wintergreens and Yukon gold potatoes. Everything was cooked on the cauldron and the temps only got colder as the sun went down. 30 people filtered in and out of the warm confines of our small kitchen in Denver, Colorado, catching a moment to see dinner over the fire. We were unsure of how the dropping temps would effect the cooking times for so much food, although we kept a close eye on the coals and reloaded the fire regularly to keep it stoked and as hot as possible. This was what made that night special, the unknowns. It was a neat dance we had going on with vegetables and meat around the cauldron’s cook grate. Coals needed to be managed from one side, while the roast and potatoes stayed put, allowing for that caramelized char that open fire provides so well. When it was all said and done, the entire process took 5-6 hours. The fire is the most important component of this style of cooking and we spent 2 hours just working coals to make it right. Once food was ready to go, it was game on the holiday feast unfolded.
Happy Holidays everyone! We hope you’ve been cooking up a storm with your friends and family too. Try something new this season; we think you’ll amaze yourself! If you come across the opportunity to cook on a Cowboy Cauldron, have a blast, it’s incredibly fun and engaging.
*Our meat, dairy and eggs were sourced from Sky Pilot Farm for this feast. Sky Pilot Farm is located in Longmont, CO. Check them out!
*Our potatoes were sourced from Full Circle Farm in Longmont, CO
* All of our herbs were sourced from Osage Gardens in New Castle, CO
Cycling, Food, Community Development with The Cyclist's Menu
We recently wrapped up our Fall 2017 Ride Bikes Eat Food Tour schedule; which brought us from Bellingham, WA to Tucson, AZ. The gist was this; go for a group ride, eat a great meal, celebrate local culture & raise funds for an organization that supports the development of future trail projects. This personal brand activation strategy for The Cyclist’s Menu provided a unique opportunity to showcase a few select brands over the course of this trip. One of these brands is ‘Floyd's of Leadville.’ Based in Leadville, Colorado, Floyd's is 1 of the Nations leading CBD hemp oil producers. Mind you, this product has no THC, which provides much of the psychoactive properties that marijuana is known for. Floyd's has formulated a recipe that works in favor of the active mind, body and soul using only the CBD hemp oil to aid in recovery and relaxation.
We had an opportunity to chat with Floyd Landis, Founder, before leaving for the Tour and mentioned our workload, amount of riding ahead and line up of events. He quickly asked if we would consider working with his CBD formula and put the product to test under a high stress environment. It was a unanimous “Yes” amongst the office at The Cyclist’s Menu and so we underwent a 2-month trail period.
“We were coming off an incredibly busy summer and fall season, with a lot less cycling activity than normal. So, going into the Ride Bikes Eat Food Tour, we knew we had to take advantage of the small moments we’d have to get out on our bikes or on foot. The first 2 stops were amazing, yet we experienced a lot of rain in Washington and Oregon. Finally, we reached California for 5 days of our own time in Mendocino, CA. 20, 35, 48, 56 miles; the days ramped up and so did our bodies. It was really interesting to see the increased daily load be managed by proper nutrition, sleep and Floyd’s CBD to help round out and maintain muscle recovery over the training block in the Mendocino Woodlands.”
- Director/Endurance Coach, Heidi Rentz
If you read through the research available on CBD and the compounds beneficial properties, they’re all over the chart. We felt this was why we wanted to try Floyd's, because the product left room for choosing when to use it and space to determine how it might be affecting our bodies during different kinds of workload. At The Cyclist’s Menu we offer private chef/catering in many ways to the cycling industry as well as hosting our own gravel and road cycling camps around the world. We spend a lot of time on our feet and on our bikes, so our bodies experience impact in a blend of stressful formats. CBD has unique characteristics that work to flush muscles free of lactic acid; this was very noticeable in our line work over the course of an extended work/training block. Much like an endurance athlete or an individual training for a specific race or event, when the body is placed under continuous stress in the form of exercise, Floyd's CBD tincture and capsules offered a perfect mix of comfort, longevity and confidence to achieve our daily goals.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect, although I’d heard a lot about the affects of CBD in the body and how our nervous systems have many receptors for the organic compound already. It seemed like a win-win for our crew, who spends many hours on our feet in the kitchen, on our bikes and amongst social environments at events. It was exciting to see how CBD would interact with our busy schedules and if it would make an impact on our ability to maintain a healthy, physical being while on the road for 2 months. As a result, we found this to be true and will be using it again and again as athletes and chefs.” – Chef Zander Ault
Needless to say, The Cyclist’s Menu is in full support of Floyd's and highly recommends it to anyone who has interest in trying something new or adding a different product to their arsenal. With the overwhelmingly large growth in research on CBD and it’s benefits to the human body, it’s no wonder why athletes of any sport will begin to use it. We’re stoked to help introduce this product to our friends, family and guests who join us for an unforgettable cycling experience, season in and season out.
“One thing I really enjoy about Floyd's is it’s so dang easy to use. You don’t have to consider it a meal and you don’t have to cook anything. Let’s face it, as an active human, you really need two things: sleep and a good meal. If you choose to try or use Floyd's CBD it will be an active approach to maintaining your bodies ability to dig a little deeper!” - Chef Zander Ault
“Like nutrition, proper recovery is a life long journey. At a moment when I was feeling “out of shape,” Floyds CBD helped aid in a deeper sleep and a full body recovery from longer distance exercise that was noticeable over a week’s time. I will definitely use this product going forward and recommend it to any of my coaching clients and pals looking to feel their best as they dive back into a winter of big base miles."
– Director/Endurance Coach, Heidi Rentz
Words by: Aaron Bible, The Gear Institute
Photo courtesy of the DK200
If you haven’t heard of The Dirty Kanza, or DK200, don’t feel bad. Just 11 years ago in 2006 only 34 riders showed up to participate in this grueling test of endurance on two wheels. This year, 2,200 people showed up to race on the gravel and dirt roads around the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas, in a seminal event that now takes place the first Saturday following Memorial Day each year.
The race began as a 200-mile figure eight beginning and ending in front of the historic Granada Theatre in downtown in Emporia, Kansas, and now also offers a 25-mile, 50-mile and 100-mile option, opening up the event to a much broader spectrum of rider.
Event organizers say they are trying to make Emporia not only the “Bicycling Capital of Kansas,” but also the “Gravel Grinding Capital of the World,” capitalizing on a trend that has been pumping new life into a beleaguered bike industry for the last half dozen years. They’ve likely succeeded, with most racers in agreement that the Dirty Kanza 200 is the world’s premier ultra-endurance gravel road cycling challenge.
“Gravel is definitely developing its own scene, but a lot of the coverage seems to be coming through cyclocross outlets like CX Magazine,” says Chris Baddick, a guru for all things bike and an account manager at Thorpe Marketing in Boulder. “Mat Stephens, who won this years DK200, is a pro roadie when he's not racing gravel. Jake Wells, who came second, is a pro CX racer. Menso de Jong who was third is a pro mountain biker. Kind of awesome that it played out that way. CX was supposed to be the off-season sport for roadies, but it’s now big enough that perhaps it's developed its own off-season pastime in the form of gravel.”
There was also a record 200 women racing this year in the 200 mile open field, including Boulder’s Heidi Rentz, a professional cyclist, coach and co-owner of The Cyclists Menu.
“It’s that special feeling similar to riding a mountain bike…trees, peace and quiet, that place between rocks and dirt, no cars. Gravel biking takes you deep into the woods much more swiftly than a mountain bike does though. The opportunity for adventure is endless on a gravel bike and we’ve only just touched the surface of what more it can offer,” Rentz said.
Rentz has competed in many shorter distance mountain bike races, a few longer ones, off-road triathlons and marathon-distance trail running, but, she told the Gear Institute, “There was no way I could wrap my head around what I was actually about to do out there during those 200 miles. Heat reaching 90 degrees, 85 percent humidity, head winds, long lonely sections of digging deep, fast painful sections in an attempt to hang onto a pack… pure jaw-dropping stunningly beautiful Kansas. If you're someone who truly loves to ride your bike, if you are a true soul rider, this event is a must-do for you.
Photo courtesy of The Cyclist's Menu
Zander Ault and Rentz co-founded a gravel-bike focused business called The Cyclist’s Menu last year where the power couple hosts cycling camps south of Tucson, Arizona, all winter long. They have 10 camps from January to April in 2018; Mallorca, Spain, road camp in the spring; Colorado camp in the summer; and Mendocino, Calif., in the fall. The Arizona camps welcome a variety of riders: some are training for events like the Land Run 100 and The Dirty Kanza 200, and some riders are just up for a life-changing adventure on the bike. “Everyone who comes to camp with us always has at least one thing in common: the desire to be outside on the bike all day and eat food!,” Rentz said. “Zander (aka, Chef Z) is our in-house chef prepping three meals daily and does his best to source all our food as responsibly as possible, making sure that nearly 90 percent of our meals are local to wherever that special location is that we choose to adventure in.”
“If you have access to good, rugged, hard, gravel road rides in your backyard, I believe it would be very difficult not to fall in love with the sport,” Rentz says of the gravel bike trend. “There are so many good gravel bikes out there to adventure on. Chef Z and I ride an Ibis Hakaluggi and we can pretty much do anything on them, hell, we can even mountain bike on these babies and we do it regularly. Our Kappius Components (out of Boulder) and wheel set has allowed us to float through rough terrain, we've been blown away by them.”
Despite it’s name, the “Iron Range” of Northern Minnesota has little to do with a mountain chain of any kind. In fact, the Iron Range refers to a large swath of mineral deposits that once blanketed 7 different counties, an area where iron ore has been mined since the early 1800’s. Evidence shows that Native Americans were discovering “native copper” deposits on the Keweenaw Peninsula; these deposits were most notably used for tools of all kinds. Between 1844 and 1903 these massive deposits were developed and the emergence of the early Northern Minnesota mining industry was established.
There are 4 major deposits that have characterized the greater Iron Range district. These deposits include: the Mesabi Range, Vermilion Range, Gunflint Range and Cuyuna Range.
Although similar processes were used to mine these large deposits, some required different tactics to locate and remove large majorities of the mineral content. For the purpose of our story, we’re going to focus primarily on the Cuyuna Range. What became known for its high level of Jaspers and Taconite, the Cuyuna Range deposit was so large it proved extremely challenging to reach solely from underground mining techniques. Instead, large open pit mines were created using steam shovels and water replacement pumps to locate and remove the ore from the earth. These man made lakes surround the towns of Crosby, Cuyuna, Nisswa, Brainerd and Aitkin. What were left behind were piles of tailings, dyed red from the iron ore that once lived beneath the surface. This change in the topography of Crow Wing County would change the historical economy into one deeply rooted in recreation.
In 1964, it was apparent the long time prosperous mining industry was in threat of disappearing. In 1982, the industry dried up, leaving the Cuyuna Range in a state of demise. Questioning their future as a community, businesses like Cuyuna Regional Medical Center, Crosby-Ironton Public Schools and Fiber-Optic Telecommunications sought to provide the gross income for many families. However, a few locals teamed up with friends from Minneapolis (2.5 hours south) and asked the question: “How can we revolutionize the landscape and turn the moonlike topography into an outdoor destination?” Thus, The Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists (MORC) was born and slowly this forgotten corner of Minnesota began rethinking its self-identity.
MORC proved that the area was indeed made for fun, northern mountain biking. They accomplished about 25 miles of trail in 12 years. Enter Aaron Hautala, lifelong Iron Range resident, brand/advertising guru and Cuyuna’s unofficial mayor.
Aaron Hautala (above), all smiles in negative temps, as he guides us on gorgeous Cuyuna singletrack!
Aaron has a calm and collected perspective. Not overwhelming on any account, simply put and digestible for even the most respected intellectual. Thrifty in his own right, Aaron saw something in this lost, lonely town of Crosby, MN. With a passion for skiing, he turned to the foundation of what a ski town is, for inspiration to bring Crosby back to life and able to enter the competitive market. Aaron calls it “a purpose built community.” Modern terminology in the mountain biking industry defines a purpose built trail as one that allows mountain bikers a chance to engage with the natural topography and move with its flow and energy versus against it. Using his backyard as the canvas for this vision, Aaron garnered huge support from local government and businesses that value his desire to bring outsiders back to Cuyuna, back to the Iron Range.
In 2012, The Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew (CLMBC) became an official chapter of the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA.) Aaron has been president of CLMBC since January that year. The focus since his inception as president hasn’t necessarily been how many miles of trail can we build. The focus has been how can these trails and a plan for annual growth and future development define Crosby, again. If the region could be shown the importance of a “purpose built community,” recreation might have a chance to creatively rebuild the city and its livelihood.
The interest that MORC and CLMBC provided for the area began to grow within the larger Minneapolis cycling community. However, Aaron Hautala knew the trails couldn’t sell themselves. There had to be a reason why people would want to choose Crosby as a year round outdoor recreation destination. 45NRTH, a brand based out of Minneapolis is leading a charge in winter cycling apparel and fat bike accessories.
“It’s more than just creating great outerwear or industry leading technology in tire development,” says Kurt Barclay, 45NRTH Marketing Manager.
Kurt Barclay, embracing the cold!
“For us at 45NRTH, it’s been about creating passion for outdoor adventure, especially during the cold winter months. It’s about establishing community around a sport and watching the community grow because they’ve fallen in love with the people, the energy and the potential that cycling offers from a development perspective. If we can be spearheads for trail development then 45NRTH is known for its culture, its ability to give back and offer economic improvement in places like Crosby and the Iron Range, places that need that support net in order to present what might be seen as the impossible.”
Aaron and the CLMBC team brought on 45NRTH last year and since have seen a massive growth in the rise of interest in how bikes and the trails just might prove that Crosby will become “a purpose built community.”
Well, local residents are seeing just that. On December 8th 2016, The Red Raven Café had their opening day. A cycling centric café and future bike shop, Owners Patrick and Julie are a husband and wife team who moved from the Minneapolis area to help redefine Crosby. Nick Huisinga, founder of the new Cuyuna Brewing Company, is another local, hoping to bring new flavor in the form of craft beer to thirsty visitors.
Team 45NRTH & Aaron enjoying a ride break in the Red Raven Cafe.
Crosby is ready and Aaron has established a long-term plan that will enable the trails and the town to grow simultaneously. A recipe for success; Aarons vision is currently bringing in an added 2 million dollars annually. He can only attest this growth to the trails and those who have believed in the ability of those trails to bring fame back to Crosby. The coolest part is, Crosby’s annual growth is estimated to continue to steadily grow. With 27.5 miles in 2016, CLMBC projects 30 miles in 2017, 42 miles in 2018 and a grand total of 75 miles of single track trail if each stage of the “master plan” is accepted by private donors, neighboring towns and the Minnesota State Government’s land, recreation and mineral management agencies.
The reason we love this story is because the mountain biking and winter fat biking is incredibly fun. However, to experience the culture that has been created around those trails is what will leave a lasting impact on those who travel to visit Crosby, MN. The Red Raven Café, The Cuyuna Brewing Company, The True North Basecamp, each of these businesses and a handful of others have opened and will be successful with the development of this trail network. Mining has left its lasting impacts. However, the people who live here have been agriculturally connected to the land for just as long. These people are the ones who you’ll meet, ride with and enjoy telling a story to after a long day outside. They are the folks who work this land, own the local businesses, craft goods and manage the agricultural heritage of this place. Grass-fed beef, heritage pork and wild game processing facilities dot the rural farm roads of this region. Don’t forget to check in with The Crow Wing CO-OP for all your local food needs if staying for an overnight or weekend long trip. You’ll quickly realize the magic of this landscape, on and off the bike.
It’s these people that have a story to tell. Formed by the regions clay deposits and mythical ore, each and every one of these local residents will shake your hand and smile. They will thank you for visiting Crosby and most likely ask, even on the coldest of days, “Are you heading out for a bike ride today?” If and when you run into Aaron Hautala, he will turn to the stories of these residents who have opened their minds to recreation and new ideas. He thanks them for their willingness to listen to his hair brained rants about why trail development will reform this red earth. Aaron will refer to the Iron Range and those who have come together in the midst of uncertainty as the “Red Dirt Family.”