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Single Track Action

Bikers dig Pine Valley run

There's a new club in town that's rolling right along.

"We're a local mountain bike club and our goal is advocacy for singletrack and multi-use trails in Cloquet and the surrounding area," said Brendon Menze, president of the Cloquet Singletrackers. "It's a way to bring the local bike community together."

So why the emphasis on singletrack trails? Menze summed it up in two words: "They're fun."

"Singletrack trails are basically a path for bikes through the woods," described Menze. "They are also multipurpose trails that give people a place to hike and run. In the wintertime, people can snowshoe and walk on a singletrack trail, as well as ride fat (tire) bikes."

The fledgling group officially formed in April 2021. They are already on track to having 50 members on their club roster and a long list of ideas for activities.

The club held an organizing meeting in early May and elected club officers, board members, and started planning for their future. The club is working on building a website and has established a Facebook page for sharing information. (Search Facebook for Cloquet Singletrackers.)

Menze said a membership drive is underway and plans are taking shape for activities and events to be held this summer. Membership information and a T-shirt presale are available on the club's Facebook page.

"We have weekly group rides at 7 p.m. every Thursday evening at Pine Valley," Menze said. "There's usually between 10 and 20 riders each week, men and women riders at all ability levels and ages. People choose their own route and ride at their own pace. There's no pressure and it's a fun atmosphere. It's a great way to learn from other riders.

The club plans to have a skillbuilding clinic for youth riders by July as well as an informal enduro event each month. The new club is taking over the Frozen Forester winter race and Menze said building a connection with the CEC mountain bike team of local high school- and middle school riders is also a club goal.

Funds raised through memberships, events and donations will be used to purchase commercial-grade tools such as weed trimmers, pruners, rakes, shovels, pick axes, hoes and leaf blowers instead of relying on volunteers to bring tools from home. "We'll work with the Cloquet parks department staff and organize volunteer trail maintenance sessions to keep the singletrack trails at Pine Valley in tip-top shape," said Menze.

The concept of singletrack trails at Pine Valley was first proposed in 2011 to the Cloquet parks commission by a group of longtime Nordic skiers who felt the park would be a great location for a singletrack trail system. The skiers - most of whom are active road cyclists and mountain bikers during the non-skiing summer months - patiently worked on the project proposal through the parks commission and city council over several years.

The first 2.5 miles of singletrack at Pine Valley were built in 2018 and the second section was completed in 2020. A short section of singletrack trail is scheduled to be built later in 2021 and will round out the total distance to about 5 miles and offer a way around the ski jumps during the winter months. Pine Valley has just over 6 miles of designated Nordic ski trail, combining to make a dual-network of about 11 miles of trails in the 60-year-old park.

The Pine Valley singletrack trail system was professionally designed by Jake Carsten of Dirt Dojo Designs and presents a range of trails rated from easy green to intermediate blue to advanced black sections. Basically, there's something for everyone. The singletrack was purpose-built and optimized for mountain biking, yet hikers, runners, and snowshoers are also encouraged to use the singletrack.

"Pine Valley is great in that it's friendly to beginning riders and kids and also offers challenges to advanced riders," said Menze. "A long-range goal of the club is to identify potential locations to build more singletrack in Cloquet."

Looking forward, the Cloquet Singletrackers promise it's going to be a fun ride.

"Membership is open to everybody. All ages, all abilities. That's a big part of our motto," said Menze. "We want everyone to feel welcome. I invite everyone to come out and 'pedal the pines.' It's about having fun on bikes."