Tuesday, December 27, 2022

New Art: Zombie Stick

 Raleigh designed this awesome guy! He's called "Zombie Stick" 

I like him because he makes a totally different (but equally awesome) face upside down!

We've only made this into stickers so far, but some more Bricks and Bikes merch might be coming in the future. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Trip Report: Dubuque Iowa

In July 2021 we took a trip to visit some family in Dubuque, Iowa. We also took the opportunity to try out some mountain bike trails around the Dubuque area. 

John Deere Proving Grounds

The Proving Grounds are built on land donated by the John Deere company a few miles outside of Dubuque (you know you're getting close when you see the massive John Deere complex). The Proving Grounds include a mix of walking and biking trails build in and around dense forest. 

Next to the road just before the parking lot is a small pump track with a couple of intermediate level wooden features that were, unfortunately, home to many wasps. 

Soren riding a feature next to the pump track. Not pictured: wasps.

There is a gravel road that cuts the proving grounds in two and provides a convenient shortcut back to the parking lot if you need an early exit.

Soren riding on the gravel road through the middle of the Proving Grounds

The trails were reasonably well maintained and clear of brush, though many sections had black dirt that doesn't pack and well as a clay mix. Some of the sections were not yet complete (July 2021), like the landing for these impressive drops. 

We decided to pass on these

This drop was manageable

This drop was easy!

Tucked away about one hundred yards from the parking lot is a paved skills course with lots of wooden features.

We will definitely be riding here again! 

FDR Mountain Bike Park

FDR Mountain Bike Park is hidden away behind Storybook Hill, a small park West of Dubuque. FDR was not as well maintained as the Proving Grounds, but aside from one fallen tree was clear and ridable. 

We rode Jesse's Ridge, which has lots of tight turns and small hills. We did not have a much fun here as at the Proving Grounds, in large part because the tight turns made it hard to pick up and maintain much speed. 

Dense undergrowth and lots of turns

We did not find any interesting technical features or jumps - FDR is more of a wilderness ride. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

How to Get Started Singletrack Biking at Elm Creek

 Elm Creek is our home bike trail and is a wonderful place to ride and explore, but to a first-time visitor it can be a little tricky to find your way around. Here are some tips we've learned over the past few years. 

Are the trails open? 

Before you go, check the Elm Creek Singletrack Facebook page. They update the cover photo regularly to indicate whether or not the trail is open. 

The cover photo will tell you if the trails are open
 (photos via Elm Creek Facebook Page)

Where do I Park? 

Option 1: Trailhead (Easy and Medium Trails)

There are a few places to park. Most riders should park at the Trailhead, which you can reach from 169 and Hayden Lake Road. The road through Elm Creek is sometimes closed, so it's best not to drive through the park. 

Driving to the Elm Creek Trailhead (Image via Google Maps)

The trailhead provides access to the adapted (wide-easy), green (easy), and blue (medium) trails. It also has a posted map. 

Option 2: By the Dog Park (Hard and Medium Trails) 

There is a small parking lot across from the Elm Creek dog park. The Dog Park lot requires a paid permit, but I have never had issues parking across the street from the Dog Park. Again, the Hayden Lake Road through Elm Creek Park may be closed. 

Driving to the lot across from Elm Creek Dog Park (Image via Google Maps)

Parking by the Dog Park provides access to the blue (medium) and black (hard) trails, though you have to take the paved trails to get to the singletrack trails. 

Parking and path to black (hard) trails. Image via MTB Project

Which Trails Should I Ride? 

If you're riding with kids or you're new to mountain biking, you should stick to the green (easy) or blue (medium) trails. These trails have lots of bumps and rolls, but no mandatory airtime or difficult rocks. The adapted trails are great if you're pulling kids in a trailer. 

Elm Creek Adapted Trails (Image via MTB Project)

If you want a guaranteed smile on your face, you should ride the short green loop. It includes a bit of "roller coaster" one of my kids' favorite features. 

Elm Creek Easy Loop (Image via MTB Project)

My Family Riding Roller Coaster

Tips From the Kids

I asked my boys what Advice they'd give to new riders going to Elm Creek. 

Raleigh: Go the Right Way!

Virtually all of the trails are on-way. Please check the signs and make sure you're going the correct direction to avoid accidents! 

Soren: Go to the Black Trails!

Soren really enjoys the black trails because they have lots of dramatic jumps and technical features. 

Biking at Grizzland (the Black Trails)

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

How to Run a Virtual LEGO Competition

 I’ve gotten some questions about how to run your own virtual LEGO building competition. This post describes the approach I took to running the Bricks and Bikes competitions. It is not the only way to run a LEGO competition, but it certainly worked well for me!

I have run two virtual LEGO competitions, and plan to run another in the fall of 2021. 

Spirit of the Competition

A LEGO Competition should be about having fun. To that end, you should make all efforts to reduce emphasis on judging and numerical scores and increase emphasis on creativity, humor, and storytelling. This is especially true when the competitors are young children. 


The first thing you should do is decide on a schedule for your competition. I initially tried to do a daily event, but I found that was too taxing on me and on the competitors. Weekly rounds work much better. 


I funded prizes for the winners by asking competitors for an entry fee. I made the fee optional. If you want to use a virtual LEGO competition as a fundraiser, you might make the fee mandatory. I found it easiest to not announce specific prizes in advance. 


Before starting the competition, post your competition rules in a public place so that all competitors can see and reference the rules. Here is an example rules page from my web site.  If you have to change or amend the rules, do so publicly and clearly note that you did so. 


Determine your expected age distribution of competitors. If you expect to have a wide variation in ages (e.g., kids with ages spread across more than 4 years), I suggest creating divisions of competition based on age. An example distribution is included in the rules on my web page. 

Conducting the Competition

I divided the competition into rounds. Each round consists of:
  1. Theme announcement
  2. Competitor submission
  3. Submission deadline
  4. Judging
  5. Results announcement
I announced themes on Sundays, allowed submissions until Thursday night, and conducted judging on Friday or Saturday. 


Selection of themes depends on your audience. I found it works best to choose something that is open to interpretation, like “mystery” than something specific like “race car.” You can see some examples of themes and submissions here

Competitor Submission

I encouraged competitors to submit photos of their designs by interacting with my social media pages. This also encourages competitors to interact with one another.  You can follow this approach, or you can accept submissions via email or other mechanism. 

Submission Deadline

I enforced a submission deadline to give me time to assemble judging slides with all of the entries. I used a simple Google Slides template to quickly put together judging slides. 


For every round of competition I had two judges (usually myself and a guest judge). I conducted judging remotely, using a Zoom meeting and Zoom's cloud recording feature. Each judging round consisted of a brief introduction of the guest judge, then approximately one minute of discussion per entry. 

For every entry, I encouraged judges to find at least one positive thing to say about the design. Even if an entry is uninteresting or confusing, it's important to think of something clever, unexpected, or inspiring about the entry (again, the goal is to have fun!).  

Here is an example judging:

After judging concluded, I downloaded the video from Zoom and shared it via YouTube. 


I judged entries on by assigning three values between 1 and 10 for each entry: 
  • Originality - How clever and unexpected is this design? 
  • Style - How nicely are color, texture, and aesthetics used? 
  • Story - Is there a story inherent in the design? 
Each entry received a score of the sum of each judges scores for each three categories. 

Selecting Winners

I picked winners by selecting a number of top scores for each competitor. For example, if I had five rounds of competition, I used each competitors top three scores. This means that if a competitor missed a week, he or she would not necessarily be penalized in the final scoring. 

Results Announcement

I opted not to emphasize scores in my results announcements (to minimize any chance of argument about judging). I picked a top entry per round for an award, then at the end of the competition I picked a winner from each age category. 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Trip Report: Cuyuna Recreation Area (September 2021)

We just got back from an awesome trip to Cuyuna Recreation Area in central Minnesota! The weather was absolutely perfect and we had a blast. 

Soren rocking the Cuyuna Pump Track

On Saturday we started with a couple of laps at the Cuyuna Pump Track. This track is one of our favorite places to goof around and play with the whole family. There is a great playground for non-biking kids and a covered picnic shelter for eating a snack. 

Galloping Goose

After a few laps around the pump track (and some snacks) we headed over to Mahnomen Unit South to do Galloping Goose (6.5 miles) and spend some time on the skills track. After we got back to the parking lot, Grandma discovered a flat tire, so we headed over to Red Raven for a quick repair (and a snack), then to Yawney Unit for a couple of laps of Trout.  

We had dinner at Rafferty's Pizza (which was excellent) and hit the hay. 

The next day we had breakfast at Mixed Company, then did Haul Road, Winze, and Bobsled. Bobsled looks to have been groomed quite a bit since we were in Cuyuna in the spring, the berms were great!

Bobsled (The Fast Part)

Soren Commentary on Bobsled

I wish they had berm, big jump, berm big jump. They could have made a big jump over that creek. See how it goes lower down there? They could have jumps there to jump over that little creek.

Winze is a new trail (it doesn't yet show up on the MTB Project). It has an incredible jump line and has some big curves similar to Bobsled. Soren crushed it (I fell). 

Winze Jumps (and Dad Fall)

Soren commentary on Winze: 

Is this a black diamond?


If you fell off

It would hurt but it wouldn't kill you.

Regarding my fall

Oh, that’s why I was waiting for a while yelling, “Dad, you coming? Dad, you coming?” 




Saturday, August 7, 2021


Hello! Tyler here. I'm teaming up with my son Soren to set up this web page, on which we'll share content about LEGO bricks, mountain biking, and everything in between. I'll put my contributions (like this post) in italics. 

Me and Soren at Spirit Mountain, Duluth

New Art: Zombie Stick

 Raleigh designed this awesome guy! He's called "Zombie Stick"  I like him because he makes a totally different (but equally a...