Chris Chavie is an avid cyclist and community builder who founded the MN Bike Trail Navigator blog in 2011 as a massive resource for regional cycling info, maps, events, and more. He can regularly be found exploring Minnesota by bike and racing in many of areas great events. Today we talked with Chris all about his favorite bike events, adventure destinations, and gear that he's excited about.
To learn more, check out Chris' website, MN Bike Trail Navigator.
Chris' Top 5 Gravel Event Picks
*in no particular order
The Filthy 50
The Filthy 50 is a personal favorite of mine and I've enjoyed watching it grow from around 200 riders back in 2013 to the current 1000 rider cap. Since its beginning, race director Trenton Raygor has broken down some of the barriers to gravel racing, bringing in a lot of new riders to the sport. It has become a Fall race tradition for many gravel lovers.
The Heywood Ride
The Heywood Ride is another of my "grassroots gravel" favorites. The courses are filled with one lane roads, plenty of long rollers, steep climbs and fast descents that showcase the beauty of the Northfield area and beyond. With distances of 30 to 390 miles, there's a course for every caliber of gravel cyclist.
Since being invited by race director Don Griggs last year to come out and race, The Freedhem 76 has become a new Fourth of July vacation tradition for my wife and I. The grassroots feel and mostly gravel course, that's different from the standard crushed limestone I'm used to riding, were just a couple of the things that drew me in. The sand trap MMR segment is also a plus.
Spring Valley 100
Considered the "the granddaddy of all gravel races", this ride through the Driftless Region on the former Almanzo 100 course out of Spring Valley is not only beautiful but challenging. Continuing with Almanzo founder Chris Skogen's tradition of breaking down barriers to gravel cycling, the Spring Valley 100 is still free to enter and is self-supported.
Chippewa Medicine Wheel Gravel Ride
I've always wanted to ride the National Forest Service Gravel Roads of the Chippewa National Forest in northern Minnesota, so I plan on attending the Chippewa Medicine Wheel Gravel Ride this fall. The organizers tout this as an "all wooded forest ride without a cornfield in sight" and "the best gravel in the middle of nowhere" which is a change of pace from the areas I ride south of the Twin Cities. This is a free event with routes of 54 or 106 miles.
Chris' Top 5 Places to Ride
*in no particular order
Tioga Recreation Area | Cohasset, MN (MTB)
With beginner, cross country, jumpline, flow and downhill trails, Tioga has something for every type of mountain biker. The trails are amazing and so is the scenery. Like Cuyuna, there's plenty of red dirt, rocks and elevation change, but with a more wilderness feel. It's definitely worth the drive.
Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area | Crosby/Ironton, MN (MTB)
The first of the Iron Range mine pit trail systems, Cuyuna is a top mountain bike destination in the Midwest. With 70 miles of "Red Gold" for riders of all abilities, it's been a favorite of mine to hone my skills and get better at climbing. I fell in love from the very first ride.
Northfield Area | MN (Gravel)
The Cannon Valley Velo Club is so lucky to have this treasure right in their backyard. They introduced me to the gravel roads here and it has become my favorite near the Twin Cities area to ride. The area is loaded with quiet gravel roads and plenty of elevation change and spectacular views of the Cannon River Valley.
Welch Area | MN (Gravel)
On the north and south side of the Cannon River Between Red Wing and Cannon Falls lies some fast riding gravel with short and long climbs and descents that showcase the scenery of the river valley. Cannon Valley gravel was my training grounds when I first started riding gravel years ago and I still visit it regularly.
Driftless Region | MN (Gravel)
I had never biked this area until the 2013 Filthy Fifty in Stewartville and 2014 Almanzo 100 in Spring Valley. I immediately fell in love with the remoteness, beautiful scenery and developed a love/hate relationship with the numerous lengthy climbs. It's definitely on the top of my list for Minnesota's best gravel.
Chris' Top 5 Gear Things He's Most Excited About Right Now
*in no particular order
Garmin Varia RTL515 Rear-view radar
This is one of my everyday favorites. I never ride road, gravel or commute to work without it. Vehicles approaching from the rear no longer take me by surprise. It also provides me with a little extra time in the event I need to make an evasive maneuver. I even paired it with my wife's Garmin Edge for when we ride together. LINK.
Outbound Lighting Hangover helmet light
The Hangover is my new favorite helmet light, not only for its bright beam, but for its functionality and long battery life. It's a great addition for filling in where my handlebar light lacks coverage out on the trail. Pass-through USB-C charging is also a plus for those extended length night rides. LINK.
Showers Pass Spring Classic jacket
This waterproof, windproof and breathable shell is perfect for spring and fall riding in Minnesota. I recently bought one and the way this Spring is going, I'm glad I did. LINK.
Garmin Edge 1040
The new Garmin Edge 1040 is a big improvement over the Edge 1030 Plus and is my main training tool to track my progress, fitness and to help me achieve my cycling goals. Its long battery life, slightly larger display and USB-C charging are just some of the reasons I made the upgrade. I love the fact that I can commute to work all week long without recharging. LINK.
Fanttik X8 APEX Tire Inflator Portable Air Compressor
Since receiving this as a gift from my wife, I rarely use my floor pump anymore. It's only the size of a water bottle and inflates any tire with Presta or Schraeder valves. Works perfectly with high pressure road tires, fatbike or gravel tires. It has become standard equipment on all my out of town bike trips. LINK.