Gophers and Cheese is a motorcycle blog focused on Minnesota and Wisconsin near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul. Since 2010, Gophers and Cheese has featured original photos and write-ups of motorcycles, great places to ride, and local events in the area.
The Moto Collective started up their own bike night the 4th Friday of each month. I missed the first one last month but was able to make it last night. It's fun to check out all the work going on inside their shop and they even had a DJ and a keg. What more could you ask for? Here are some of the bikes that showed up including a vintage Ducati...
...and a newer 2013 Triumph:
I finally met Roach Cliff!
Pair of Hondas:
This bike is sensory overload and I think quite a few things have been added to it since the last time I've seen it:
Here's a long-distance selfie taken with my GoPro:
The sky was covered in a thick blanket of fast moving clouds that made for an ominous backdrop.
However, the sun did peek through every once in while.
This road made for some good photos because of the vanishing point. It was sandy and quite slippery in some sections.
As I mentioned, I took quite a bit of video. Here are a few stills from the forest section:
However, the most fun I had was in this part where there was standing water from the rain showers on Saturday. I started cautiously just riding through the edge of the puddles before taking a chance closer to the middle.
It was cold, wet, and very dirty but I was grinning ear to ear. I felt like a little kid jumping in puddles.
The bike was (and at the moment I'm typing this, still is) absolutely filthy.
The first place I found was the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area near Ham Lake and East Bethel, MN. I visited the park two weeks ago and it was beautiful! While I know snowmobiles and ATVs are clearly banned, I didn't see any reason I couldn't ride a motorcycle through it so I did.
After that experience, I wanted more and planned a full day down in the Red Wing, MN area this past Friday. Here are a few sunrise photos along the St. Croix Trail between I-94 and Prescott (which is now freshly re-paved by the way - go check it out). I crossed into Wisconsin at Prescott and back into Minnesota at Red Wing.
The "Minimum Maintenance Road" sign is my new favorite sign. I want to find more roads with this sign. This is Collischan Rd. in Red Wing, MN and it was a lot of fun to ride.
At the end of the road is a little boat launch...
...and next to the boat launch is the entrance to a trail. I was hesitant at first and then decided to go for it. On my first ride down the trail, there were a few spots where I got off the bike and inspected the terrain to ensure it wasn't too soft or muddy. I was traveling solo and didn't want to get stuck. That said, I was so glad I took a chance. I didn't go far but the little bit of the trail I rode was SO FUN!
I rode that road and the trail back and forth a few times before heading out (see video below). The next Minimum Maintenance Road was 305th St in Hay Creek, MN between County 1 Blvd and MN-58. Hay Creek Trail is a good ride too.
Of course, I couldn't get that close to Welch and Vasa without riding the road between them. If you haven't, I HIGHLY recommend it (do it multiple times back-and-forth).
Halfway between Welch and Vasa, I tried crossing the little bridge on the side of the road to check out the trail on the other side.
However, the trail was so overgrown, I wasn't comfortable riding over terrain I couldn't read at all. There could be stumps or rocks or mud and I felt that I pushed my luck enough already. That said, riding even a little bit down the trail was pretty cool since you were quickly engulfed in nature. It was just tricky to turn around.
I found a few more gravel roads nearby before heading back into Wisconsin.
My last stop before crossing back into Minnesota again was the Nauti Hawg. The high temp was over 90 degrees and I was in full gear due to the kind of riding I was doing. It was really hot.
Overall, I covered 275 miles that day and it was awesome. I modified this bike to make it perform well both on- and off-road and it does. I know trackers and scramblers are kind of trendy right now but I just hope people who build them get out and actually ride them the way they are intended to be ridden because it's a blast!
Here is some GoPro footage (chest mounted) of Collischan Rd in Red Wing and that little trail next to the boat ramp. If you only watch one, watch Part 2 (the trail through the woods). If your computer and Internet connection supports it, check it out in HD (1080p 60fps).
Moto Mania was incredible!!! I am currently working on a feature for Chop Cult and after that I will start work on blog posts. I took over 1,300 photos and after a first pass have it down to 400. I need to take another pass or two and then get to editing. That said, I already chose and edited 30 really good ones for Chop Cult so you can look forward to that along with a detailed write-up.
For now, enjoy this photo that Dan Raleigh took of me riding around the track during Moto Mania on Saturday. HUGE thanks to Dan for organizing such an amazing event.
I posted a bunch of photos and video clips during the event on Instagram / Facebook / Twitter if you want to check those out (same content on all 3).
I'm so excited that I even bought and then modified a 2003 XL883R with the goal of having it ready for the event (I plan to use it long after the event too, of course). This is it, probably 95% done:
I am also very excited to be an official sponsor of the event, alongside some of my favorite local and national brands.
However, after all the posts and buzz on the interwebs, you might still have no idea what Moto Mania actually is. I suspect that the main reason you might be confused is because the monthly bike night at the Uptown VFW that occurs the first Thursday of each month is also called Moto Mania and it is organized by the same person, Dan Raleigh. It turns out that Dan calls everything "Moto Mania". The monthly bike night, the dirt track event, all of his kids, his wife, each of his vehicles, etc. - Dan calls them all Moto Mania. It's weird.
The Moto Mania dirt track event on August 1st will be held at the Steele County Fairgrounds in Owatonna, MN (about an hour south of the Twin Cities, straight down I-35).
How the hell Dan convinced the powers that be to let him organize this event is beyond me but it's happening and it's going to be awesome. This is a photo of a photo of the fairgrounds during the fair. What you're looking at is a large 1/2 mile oval dirt track with a smaller "enduro" dirt track inside it. This is where Moto Mania is taking place. The larger 1/2 mile track will NOT be groomed (it won't exactly be off limits either) but the smaller enduro track will be graded and groomed specifically for the event. There's a wall around the large track with a single entrance from the opposite side of the grandstand.
The dirt track will be the centerpiece of Moto Mania. There will NOT be organized races. There will not be spectators in the grandstand either. Everyone who shows up will simply have free use of the track. While there might not be "racing", there might be "aggressive parading" as Dan calls it. If you went to Mama Tried, I'm guessing it will work like the ice racing where people ride whatever type of bike they like and they can join and leave the track at will. Maybe someone will spontaneously organize something but the beauty of Moto Mania is that it is unplanned. Also, you do not need a dirt bike or flat tracker to participate! Flat trackers, choppers, cafe racers, baggers, scramblers, mini-bikes, dirt bikes, stock bikes, etc. are all welcome. We may even see an ATV or two. If someone shows up with a racing lawnmower or high-powered golf cart, it will probably be allowed on the track.
Speaking of the track, Dan and his buddy Josh invited me down to check it out back on June 30th. Grass had grown over some of the track but, again, the smaller inner track will be groomed for the event. Dan had some paperwork to sign and we got to see the track from the grandstand before we were let loose on the track. It's HUGE! It's like the field of dreams, "Build it and they will braaaaaappp!!!"
My 883 wasn't ready yet so I rode my XL1200C. It is clearly not a dirt bike and the worn tires weren't exactly ideal for the dirt (and a little mud) but it did just fine.
Here are a few photos of me riding around (photo credit to Dan). You can't see the big stupid grin on my face because of the bubble shield.
This is Josh (left) and Dan (right):
They had a lot of fun tearing up the track:
Having the whole entire track (large & small) to just the three of us was awesome. We all felt like little kids riding around. While we did have permission, no one else was around so it was almost like we weren't supposed to be there. It was a lot of fun.
So what else do you need to know?
The event is FREE! FREE admission! FREE camping (Saturday night)! FREE use of the track! There will be lots of giveaways too from various sponsors (including yours truly) and they will be free (you won't have to buy raffle tickets).
No refunds... because it's free. Did you read the first bullet point?
Donations are certainly appreciated but not required.
The event starts Saturday morning whenever people show up. Don't be a dick and get there at 4:00am and start blasting around the track but late morning/early afternoon is probably when some people will start showing up.
It ends Sunday morning and the nearby VFW will be hosting breakfast.
There might be some beer available (free while it lasts, not for sale) but you can bring whatever you want with you and there are stores nearby if you need more.
I'm not sure whether any food vendors will be on-site but there are lots of places to eat very close to to the track.
There is not a schedule of events. Show up. Make your own fun. If you have a good idea - share it!
There will be fire rings at night.
There will be port-a-potties.
There isn't a lot of shade - wear a hat, sunscreen, etc.
There are no tech inspections and no formal restrictions. Make sure your ride is in good condition and I would recommend a helmet. Protective gear is really smart but, again, I don't think anything will be formally required and I'm not your dad so I'm not going to tell you what to do.
Some non-motorcycles might be allowed on the track (ATVs, Military Humvees, etc.). Where Dan draws the line is TBD. Just don't bring a car or truck and expect to take it on the track. This is intended to be a motorcycle event.
This is the very first year of the event. There aren't many rules. What happens this year will likely inform what gets banned next year... if the entire event doesn't get banned altogether. You'd better show up and enjoy it this year.
It's worth repeating something I said above - don't be a dick. This is a free event that takes a lot of time and effort to put together. The will be a very wide range of experience levels on dirt (including a lot of newbies) and a wide variety of vehicles. Have fun but don't be stupid... and don't be a dick.
If you still have questions, reach out to Dan. When he's not enjoying enduring karaoke night at the VFW, you can find him on Instagram (@1stThursday).
You have one week left to prepare. Be sure to check out my Instagram/Facebook/Twitter posts (I post the same stuff across all 3 so just pick your favorite). I've been posting video clips from our day on the track and some ads like these:
In my last post, I detailed all the things I've done to my 2003 XL883R since purchasing it in May. Thanks to some much-needed help from Luke (Hugit Machine & Motorcycle) on the rear axle & front fork and Jared (Fat Hand Customs) on the exhaust, I was able to get the bike done for the Bearded Lady this past Saturday. This is a photo I took in Boom Island Park on my way to the show. That's the Minneapolis skyline in the background.
I am so happy with the way the bike turned out. It looks and feels very different compared to my other Sportster (2004 XL1200C). I am really excited to ride it around the track during Moto Mania on August 1st (more details very soon). Between now and then, I am trying to ride down as many dirt and gravel roads as I can to get more accustomed to it. Moto Mania should be a blast!
Hopefully you've been keeping up to date on my Instagram or Facebook feeds. It's been a really busy month. I've attended Rumble on the Deck and Full Tilt and took hundreds of photos. I also hung out at July's First Thursday / Moto Mania. I'll post pics eventually. What I've really been busy with is getting my new (to me) 2003 XL883R ready for the Moto Mania dirt track event on August 1st.
I bought this bike at the end of May and took it for a few rides before starting to tear it apart. It's almost all done (for this year at least). In the photo above taken in early June, it was pretty much how I bought it.
Here's what I've done since taking that photo (and why I've been too busy to blog):
Progressive Suspension 413 black 15.0" rear shocks
Progressive Suspension stock length fork springs up front with fresh fork oil
Painted front fork lowers black
Kijima 39mm black fork boots
Rock guard on headlight
Drilled and repainted the headlight "eyebrow" and secured with pike bolts
Removed front & rear turn signals
XR1000 timer cover
Removed chrome trim from rear fender struts
Removed front fender
Removed reflectors from front forks
Frame sliders to act as bungee nuts on rear struts (to-be-installed)
Swapped various crappy fasteners for socket heads
What does it all look like together??? The new pipes aren't done yet but so far the bike looks AWESOME. The 15" rear shocks and dual-sport tires really transform the look of the bike into a scrambler / tracker and the high pipes will only enhance that look. Blacking out many components really makes the flames pop too. CTFS!
I'll post complete photos showing the result of all of these modifications soon. Assuming the exhaust gets done this week (a friend is making it for me), you can see it in person early in the day at the Bearded Lady on Saturday. If you miss it, you'll have to wait until Moto Mania in Owatonna. I am so excited to ride it down some local gravel & dirt roads and I really can't wait to ride it around the track on 8/1!
I'm not trading in one of my Sportsters for a Honda anytime soon but if you can't appreciate a bike like this, there's something seriously wrong with you. They're building some pretty sweet bikes in NE Mpls. Go check them out!
Then there's the beautiful purple and white Honda that I recently saw at the Rockers Spring Social. It was nice to see all the little details with it up on the lift. I really love those black and white forks.