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.
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 bikepacking.com 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.
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.
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.
The itinerary for the trip was as follows:
DAY ZERO: THURSDAY, OCT. 6TH
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.
DAY ONE: FRIDAY, OCT. 7TH
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!
DAY TWO: SATURDAY, OCT. 8TH
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.
DAY THREE: SUNDAY, OCT. 9TH
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.
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.
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: