First Annual Tour de Chequamegon Rocked!

Good morning from Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Our inaugural Fyxation Tour de Chequamegon bikepacking weekend was an amazing success. For three days our group pedaled down 110 miles of virtually car-free gravel forest roads under a canopy of blazing fall colors in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. We threw in a little choice, but easy, CAMBA single track and even a challenging section of ATV trail, and ended the trip with 12 miles of glass smooth, rolling asphalt town roads to get us back to the start in downtown Cable.

Group photo before we head out on Day One by Peter DiAntoni

As I mentioned in the first blog post announcing this trip, the goal of the ride was to put Wisconsin bikepacking on the map, literally. Bikepacking and gravel riding is one of the fastest growing niches in cycling, but if you look at the map of bikepacking routes on the popular website and there are no routes shown in Wisconsin or the midwest. Fyxation and the Wisconsin Bike Fed worked together to put this trip together to introduce the world the the wonderful gravel riding and camping opportunities in Wisconsin’s Northwoods adventure playground around the Cable/Seeley/Hayward area.

It was great to have a bunch of women on our first trip!

We also wanted people new to bikepacking to feel comfortable coming on the ride, so we prepared food. In the mornings Fyxation cooked up oatmeal with hot apple sider and plenty of fixings like Wisconsin maple syrup, craisins, fresh pears, apples and bananas, etc. to doll it up. Nick also percolated gallons of delicious Blue Heeler coffee, donated by Fyxation’s bike friendly neighbors at Colectivo.

We worked with Heather Ludzack, the creative chef Brick House Cafe to make us wraps for lunches on the route. She also prepared a big pot of chili and cornbread muffins we heated up for dinner on the first night. Our bikepackers rolled into the campground on day two to the delicious fragrance of a comforting wild ride soup for bubbling on the stove. She also prepared some cornbread and other sides, and wraps for lunches each day. Lakefront Brewery donated some Octoberfest beer for sitting around the campfire.

Nick Ginster from Fyxation on the single track section near Patsy Lake.

We limited registration to 20 guinea pigs this year because this was our first trip and we wanted to make sure we could handle any unanticipated problems. Everyone had to carry all their own camping gear and clothing, but we hauled and prepared all the food and provided support in case of mechanicals. Talk about pro support, the crew from Fyxation was even able to cut and thread a new spoke after Ryan threw a chain inside his rear cassette and shredded one!

We stuck together in a group, with me leading the ride using the route from RideWithGPS on my phone. I was able to keep my phone charged for three days because I have my Fyxation Crusher carbon adventure bike set up with a Shutter Precision dynamo hub on the front and a Bush & Müller Luxos U headlight, which has a USB charing port. The system worked like a charm. Their is no cell service in most of the Chequamegon Forest, so I downloaded the route to my phone and it worked fine. Nick did the same and rode sweep for three days.

That is a BIG pot of chili!

The itinerary for the trip was as follows:


An optional pre-ride gathering and dinner at the Sawmill Saloon in Seeley. A bunch of the riders stayed overnight at the cool Lenroot Lodge next door so they were fresh and ready to roll by 9am on Friday morning.


We started our day Friday morning at the Brick House Cafe in Cable. After a delicious breakfast, riders rolled down Randysack Road at 10:00 AM and headed into the forest. Everyone left their cars parked in the public lot behind the Brick House. We rode about 32 miles to our first overnight at Moose Lake Campground. We were lucky to have an impromptu concert from a talented neighbor in the next campsite, thanks Steve!


From Moose Lake Campground we rode 42 miles, generally northeast through the forest to East Twin Lake Campground. Day two features almost all car-free gravel forest roads like this one, but goes through a wide variety of forest from bogs to cedar swamps to hardwood.


We rode 37 miles from Twin Lake Campground back to Cable for a finish party at The Rivers Eatery, an incredibly cool restaurant the specializes in wood-fired pizzas and craft beer and soda. The walls of the restaurant are covered in cycling jerseys and bib tags from the Birkie.

We lucked out and didn’t have any rain for the trip. Because it temperatures dropped to freezing at night and hovered in the 50s during the day, we also didn’t have to deal with mosquitoes or other bugs! Everyone stayed warm at night huddled up around a nice campfire and then snuggled into their tents and sleeping bags.

Tell me this doesn’t make you want to join us next year!

It was super nice of Mick and Beth to open up the Rivers Eatery special for us. Not only do they make the best wood fired pizza in the Northwoods (including gluten free crust for one of our bikepackers), their restaurant is a gathering place for adventurers and people who take active recreation vacations. They are even talking about putting in showers and a sauna out back! What a gem of a place they have created.

So hard to choose a pizza and a beer at the River’s Eatery, they have so many good ones!

With a few days rest in, looking back I thing our first pilot bikepacking trip was a big success. Everyone seemed find the routes challenging but fun and doable. Next year we make a few changes to improve the experience for participants and probably open the ride to 40 people. We will hold the ride on the same weekend, October 6th-9th, 2017, so mark your calendars if you are interested. The forest campgrounds are not very big, so I don’t think this trip can ever accommodate more than about 100. Our goal is not to make money on the ride, just cover our expenses and introduce the joys of riding gravel and bikepacking in beautiful Wisconsin Northwoods.


You can see LOTS more photos from the trip in our Bike Fed Photoshelter Gallery and the slideshow below:

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

13 thoughts on “First Annual Tour de Chequamegon Rocked!

    • Thanks for reading and sharing it Tina! I love my BarYak system on my gravel bike. I’ll have a write up about that and some other bikepacking gear soon.

  1. I was in the Chequamegan Forest last month, but on foot. (North Country National Scenic Trail) I’m going to pull the trigger on a fat bike purchase and get my wheels rollin through the woods. I’ve been following Tammy’s ride on FB and there isn’t a day that goes by that I wish I was taking part in your event. Great article, excellent photos. I’m a backpacker, so why not try bikepacking? Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. Thanks for organizing this trip Dave. The route was beautiful
    with the full fall colors.
    The ride support exceeded my expectations.

  3. I was out on the Forest and saw this group riding. I waved and smiled but not one waved back. We are friendly and share the location as a wonderful area.

    I spend a lot of time out there, it’s a great area.

    • Sorry nobody waived Paul. Where was it that you saw us? We did waive and talk to a lot of people along the route over the three days, from bear, deer and grouse hunters we met out hunting, to ATV riders, people in cars, other people out riding bikes, a native family cutting bows and people camping next to us. It certainly was not an intentional snub. Not sure why we missed you, sorry.

  4. Great story! I’ve been considering something similar in the Vilas County area. Great pictures as well! I was wondering what camera and lens set up you used? As a “cycling photographer” I always find that info interesting. Thanks!

    • Hey Rob,

      Vilas County was actually our first thought for this, but I didn’t have as many local connections to help me plan it. The Bike Fed would still be interested in doing some sort of gravel ride in Vilas though if we can get the local support we need to make it happen.

      As for cameras, after 20 years of shooting Nikon, I got tired of lugging that big DSLR kit with me on bikes and moved to mirrorless. I started with Fuji and and XT-1. I really liked that system, but Fuji does not do all the things my Nikons did, including allow wireless flash with rear curtain sync, something I use all the time. So I sold my Fuji kit and went Sony. I have an A6300 with the kit 16-50 zoom, a Sony 35 1.8 and a Sigma 19 2.8. I also have a Sony A7rII, 16-35 F4, 24-70 F4, 70-200 F4 and a 50 F1.8. I have backed the Meyer Optic Goerlitz to get their 58mm Primoplan and 100mm Trioplan lenses. I am still debating what super wide lens to get.

      On this trip, my on-bike kit was the A6300, with the Sony 16-50 on the body in my Relevate Fuel Tank on the top tube so I could grab the camera quickly while riding and shoot. I carried the 35 1.8, 70-200 F4 and the Sigma 19 F2.8 in the Relevate Tangle frame bag and could switch lenses when I stopped. I also always carry a Joby mini tripod and a Godox X1Ts wireless trigger and TT685s flash in the Relevate Terrapin seat bag. That tripod also works like a clamp to hold a remote flash up in a tree off to the side of the trail.

      Because we had the support truck following us around, I cheated and carried my full frame A7RII and the 16-35. That is what I used to shoot some of the photos in camp, including the night sky shot.

      I love that little A6300, but I prefer the look of a full frame camera, so I am working on a custom handlebar bag set-up that will sit on top of my BarYak and let me carry the A7rII with the Sony 24-70 or short-medium prime lens. I hope to figure out that rig over the weekend and I will probably write a short blog post about it when I do, so stay tuned…

      And feel free to email me if you have a supportive group of folks in Vilas who want to do a gravel ride, or if you want to talk about doing photos for us! Always looking for another good shooter who rides in other parts of the state!

      Thanks for reading, riding and writing.

      • Thanks for the detailed response! I sold the last of my Nikon gear earlier this year and have gone all Fuji for now. Love the system but it does have it’s limitations. I use the Sony RX100III for my “on the bike” camera now but have been considering going to the Sony A6000/6300 to carry on the bike. Its a little more compact that the XT-1. BTW, I know Porcelain Rocket used to sell a DSLR bike bag but I’m not sure if it’s still available. Unfortunately I don’t have any contacts in Vilas otherwise I’d be glad to help! Take care!

        • I loved almost everything about the Fuji XT-1, I just couldn’t live without the wireless off-camera second curtain sync though. I particularly liked the shutter speed dial on the camera and aperture rings on the lenses (old guy syndrome). The that said, the I do think the Sony system is designed more for a pro photographer, and keeps getting better all the time. The A6300 is blazing fast, with autofocus almost as good as my old Nikon D4. I’m willing to bet the new A6500 is as good as my D4 was. As they improve the Autofocus on the A7 series, I will probably stop carrying the A6300 though. I prefer the look of a full frame format. Sort of like you can’t make a 35mm camera look like it was shot with a 2 1/4, you can’t make a crop sensor look like a full frame sensor. They look great, but not the same. That might not matter to 95% of the shooters out there, but it matters to me.

          With the improved autofocus, weather sealing, Sony Pro Service and the exciting, expanding FE lens line-up for the Sony cameras from Sony, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Meyer-Optic Goerlitz, Rokinon, etc., I feel really good about my decision to go from Nikon to Sony. I now have a compact full frame camera system I can carry on my bike that doesn’t weigh me down.

          I am aware of the Porcelain Rocket DSLR slinger, but I don’t like it on a drop bar bike. It works well on a mountain bike bar, but blocks my hand hold on top of the drops. I am just perfecting my BarYak quick-draw camera system that will allow me to carry my A7rII and the 24-70. Again, I will have a blog post about that in the coming month.

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