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.