Cake and Cuyuna with Brenda – Spencer Harding

Sending it Safely in Cuyuna with Brenda
Words by Brenda Croell and photos by Spencer Harding

Edit note: It came to my attention quickly that the original wording of this article, in my attempt to be playful and transparent with the fact that this was a weekend with my partner whom I adore, I undermined the hard work that Brenda and other Minneapolis WTFs have put in for their community. I asked John to take down the article in that form. Brenda has rewritten the article to better respect their community and women in cycling at large. – Spencer

Cuyuna is everything I love about the Midwest packed into 300 acres. What we lack in elevation we make up for with flowy singletrack through aspens, pines, and descents towards crystal clear lakes. The trails are so immaculately maintained you would have never guessed this place was used for anything else except mountain biking.

Cuyuna is an IMBA silver level ride center with 30 miles of purpose-built mountain bike trails. The landscape was created by 70 years of iron mining that created the pits that have now filled in as lakes and ore piles that form the hills the trails are carved into. The story of the town and trail system has become a shining example of how cycling infrastructure can boost small town economies.

Despite the many obstacles that faced this small community, they managed to come together to create a paradise for those on two wheels. Bobsled, one of my personal favorites, feels like riding a velodrome in nature. A punchy climb greets you, but berm after berm awaits. One can’t help but fill the void with screams of joy and panic.

Sand Hog mountain, a must-ride, gives you previews of Sidewinder, the downhill that is to come. Be sure to stop at the top for a breather and a picturesque view of Huntington Mine Lake, and if you’re visiting in the Fall, the kaleidoscope of colors. Red dirt and rock will fly as you rip around the turns and twists. The trail spits you out at the edge of the lake aka prime snack and swim stop if the weather is right. There’s an old oak tree I like to climb to snack in and listen to other riders’ hoots and hollers echoing across the water.

The day we went to Cuyuna it was shortly after an odd snow and rain mixture. Thanks to Cuyuna’s trail builders, it only takes about two hours for the earth to dry. Red puddles on the main road beckoned my bike, and I couldn’t say no. Nothing puts a grin on my face faster than splashing through them and being covered in muck. What I didn’t know is that it would forever stain my favorite (and only) wool Jersey. So if you care about your clothes, beware! Otherwise, send it!

Brenda’s bike is custom painted Cake Bike from Eric at Peacock Groove, Brenda simply asked for “a bike that looked like a donut!” It uses smaller 24” wheels to address an industry wide problem in cycling – that bikes are consistently made for male-bodied persons – ignoring the needs of smaller (usually female-bodied) riders. The paint is detailed with many shiny and colorful sprinkles adorning the frame and custom HED BigDeal rims laced to HED carbon fiber hubs. The build is complimented with mostly Race Face components and a Shimano drivetrain powered by an EndlessBikeGirl narrow wide chainring. The bike is easily at home on snow/sand and equally agile for shredding single track.


See more information at True North Basecamp and Cuyuna Lakes MTB. Follow Spencer on Instagram, Brenda on Instagram and Cake Bikes on Instagram.

  • Riding berms like that on fatbikes is a special treat!

  • Nicholas Petersen

    This is awesome. And #5, man. So good.

  • Zach Bonzer

    Be honest. How many times did you session Bobsled flying into that parking lot smiling every time?

    • Zach Bonzer

      I will also need that Iowa Fart sticker.

      • Thaddeus Walters

        shoot me a message. I got the sticks.

        • Zach Bonzer

          I would, if I could figure out how to do that on this forum…

          • Thaddeus Walters

            yeah i dont get it either. you can just hit me up on facebook if youd like

    • spencer harding


  • LOVE #6, love Brenda’s attitude, and love anything Spencer does <3

  • Superpilot

    #mudteeth – On #7 – When you are having so much fun, the mud catches on your teeth because you’re smiling on the trail, then everyone gets to see when you stop because you’re still smiling so much!

  • AdamBike99

    Brenda, the littlest big shredder!!!
    And that crockpot pic… love it!
    Super photos and story Spencer.

  • Ben Rex

    Great photos Spencer, and rad bike Brenda!

  • Hell Yeah! Sending it Safely!

  • Ben Hoffman

    Any chance we can see the redacted article?

    • Why?

      • spencer harding

        ben if you want to email me [email protected] I can send it to ya

        • Ben Hoffman


      • Ben Hoffman

        I feel like removing content as soon as it is realized as “problematic” undermines our ability to create dialogue surrounding the issues at stake. To be able to read the article in perspective of it’s removal could prove meaningful, and hopefully highlight the reasons it was taken down to begin with. Also, I am curious.

  • Chris Valente

    that looks fun as hell! also looking forward to the new #crockpotoutside IG movement that you guys will no doubt be starting…

    • Ian Reiman

      yes! Slow and Low, baby!

  • bikecow

    I’ve never met either of these individuals, but Brenda’s stoke is contagious!

  • Renee

    Go Brenda & go Cuyuna! <3

  • Daniel Powell

    If there is something better than letting a crock pot do it’s thing on some food while you go out and shred on a cold day, I haven’t seen it.

  • AngryBikeWrench


  • Sam Scavo

    I’m inspired to add the coon skin cap to my winter riding gear.

  • vopop

    These are the best photos that ever been posted onto this website!

  • Ace Metric Cycles

    So much Orlando in those back patches!

  • Nicholas

    tell me more about the cabins or shacks? Do you rent them? Are they just bathrooms. Looks fun!

    • spencer harding

      they do rent them, they have bunk beds and a table. the bathrooms are communal and in a separate building. more info here

    • I’ve stayed in them before, so rad! And the riding is spectacular!