NORTHWOODS ADVENTURE SERIES
Duluth’s biking trails rank in the top six with the help of COGGS
Duluth has become well known in the international biking scene and was awarded the designation of a “Gold Level Ride Center” by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) – a distinction given to only 6 in the world.
“The IMBA Gold-Level evaluation criteria is comprised of key aspects that make for an amazing mountain bike destination and include a variety of trail types, overall trail mileage, quality of trail experiences, destination best practices, and local services,” according to the IMBA site.
Showcasing the glacial bedrock that creates Lake Superior's short but steep shoreline, the Duluth Traverse Mountain Bike Trail threads along the entire city of Duluth, MN. About 40 miles of spine trail connects the five main trail centers and neighborhood routes. The Duluth Traverse trails include Hartley, Lester, Mission Creek, Piedmont/Brewster, Stone Age, Craft Connector, Downer Park, and Spirit Mountain.
With over 90 total miles of trail, there is something for everyone: from smooth flow lines in Mission Creek; lift-serviced, downhill runs at Spirit Mountain Bike Park; technical, rocky descents in Piedmont; to old school, rooty XC trail in Hartley, and everything in between. The trails are designed and built for mountain biking, but all users (non-motorized) are welcome to explore them.
COGGS - the backbone of Duluth's mountain biking trail system
Whether a beginning mountain biker leisurely riding on a forested and peaceful trail or an advanced rider barreling down an extreme hill over moguls, rocks, and steep corners, cyclists of all skill levels will find that the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) is a valuable resource for them.
According to their website at coggs.com, “COGGS is the leading non-profit mountain bike advocacy organization in the Duluth/Superior Twin Ports Area of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Established in 1994 as a nonprofit 501-c3 organization, they are committed to sustainable trail development, equitable trail access across the Twin Ports, and developing a welcoming outdoor recreational culture by promoting opportunities, education, programming, partnerships, and healthy outdoor fun.’ “The trail system is free to use and open to all trail users. Runners. Hikers. Bikers. Dog walkers. Bird watchers. Kids on a hike. Everyone can use these trails.”
Justin Martin, COGGS Executive Director, started with the organization as a volunteer and quickly realized the importance of helping to build and groom trails. Along with the membership fees, donations and sponsors, Martin explained that they do grant writing and work closely with the City of Duluth Parks and Recreation Department to help design, build and maintain the mountain biking trails. Truly the dedication of COGGS to Duluth’s biking system is a key factor in becoming world-renown.
Martin is excited about races and events COGGS sponsors such as a fun enduro-style ride series for COGGS members taking place every summer and showcasing the amazing trails across Duluth. He said, “Spectators love the excitement of watching the speed and excitement the participants create.”
Martin’s favorite trail is Piedmont. “I am an aggressive rider and like to go fast over very large rocks. Newer riders can build a progressive skill set that allows them to build up to faster speeds and more challenging trails. You can even take lessons to learn how to develop your skills even more.”
They also invite everyone who appreciates these multi-purpose trails to consider supporting COGGS with a contribution in any amount since every dollar counts. They also appreciate corporate and business sponsors.
COGGS offers a membership program with perks including discounts at Galleria Bicycles, Twin Ports Cyclery, Continental Bike, Stewart’s Bikes, and Ski Hut.
Anywhere you live in Duluth you are just blocks away from a mountain biking adventure. "In Duluth you ride to your ride, hike to your hike and run to your run," states Hansi Johnson, a COGGS volunteer and contributing photographer.
Dave Antonson, COGGS Board Chair, moved to Duluth in 2000. “I have been riding bikes for as long as I remember. At age five, I had the training wheels on my bike for about 30 minutes. We took them off, and I have been off on a bike ever since.”
“I like the Hartley trail the best for my own riding. It is close to my home, so that makes it easy for me to access,” Antonson said. “It has everything from beginning to challenging trails. I consider myself an intermediate biker, and Hartley is great for me.”
He added, “I am proud that COGGS is such a strong advocate for new trails and for our trail maintenance with our volunteers. I have been with COGGS for ten years, first as a volunteer and now as a board member and an active user of the trails. I appreciate how important the organization is to tourists and some locals who use the trails often.”
“Every park is different. I tell people coming to Duluth the ride that they should start with is Spirit Mountain and then venture out to other trails. The trails are color coded for easy understanding of difficulty level—green for beginner, blue for intermediate, and black for advanced. Some have all three levels,” Antonson noted.
COGGS website also includes descriptions, levels, locations and more about the major bike trails in the area. The website gives current trail conditions, especially following rainy weather when some trails are periodically closed. The site also posts volunteer opportunities for a variety of tasks including help with grooming and maintaining trails.
Joining the area mountain biking community is another way to enjoy the great outdoors and to meet those along the trail who also love biking for recreation, exercise, excitement, and camaraderie.