In 2015, Todd Poquette asked a local blacksmith, Gordon Gearhart about making belt buckles for an upcoming endurance cycling event. Since then, the iron-forged awards have been adopted for the Polar Roll, The Crusher, and Marji Geskick 100. They've become an iconic symbol of ruggedness, pain, and glory that only a small number of people ever get.
Gordon Gearhart is an artist-blacksmith living and working in Marquette, Michigan. He has been blacksmithing since 1981 and currently produces architectural, sculptural, and utilitarian pieces.To learn more about Gordon Gearhart, follow him on Facebook and Instagram.
What's the back story on how your buckles became the symbol of pain and glory for the 906 events?
In 2014 my son, Zechariah McCarthy, was working with Todd Poquette. He was doing a snow biking video promoting the first Polar Roll. He suggested to Todd that the award be a metal sculpture.
Todd was receptive to the idea.
Zech designed the sculpture and he and I built a prototype. This was accepted and we proceeded to make the awards for the Polar Roll. The design was also used for the 2015 Polar Roll.
In the summer of 2015, Todd contacted me about the possibility of making awards for an upcoming endurance ride called the Marji Gesick 100. I played with various ideas, none of which captured the essence of the soon to be MG100.
Todd suggested a belt buckle, nothing fancy, something to symbolize the ruggedness of the trails to be ridden and to commemorate the ruggedness of the early settlers who emigrated to this area to dig iron ore and refine it into useable form.
A blacksmith made, iron belt buckle was appropriate to the occasion.
After the first MG100, belt buckles became the awards for the Polar Roll event. So it is that I am the maker of awards for 906 Adventure Team. Todd-conceived events such as the Crusher and Polar Roll EX have pushed me creatively, challenging my metal working skills.
Probably akin to how the bike events challenge the riders participating in them.
A bit about my son. Zech is a rider. He started with BMX and gravitated to mountain biking. He rode with 906 Adventure Team, participating in the early Polar Rolls and MG100s. Now he is riding downhill and enduro, participating regularly in the Lake Superior Gravity Series. Somewhere along the way he picked up a video recorder and started filming. He did some promotional footage for the early Polar Rolls under the Far North Productions label.
Several years ago he found work building bike trails in the Hibbing Minnesota area. He has since started his own business, Far North Trail Company, building trails local and beyond.
What's it like being a part of the Crusher, Marji Gesick, Polar Roll culture?
It’s always been an honor to make the awards for these rides that Todd and 906 AT put together. I know that every award I’ve made has been earned by the riders receiving them.
I’m impressed and inspired by the dedication of the riders and those who organize the events.
I’m proud to be a part of it.
What do you think the buckles mean to the racers?
I think the meaning of the buckles varies with the riders and has changed over the years. At first they were simply an award for having accomplished a challenging ride.
As the years have passed and the reality of the MG100 has settled in, the buckle has become a symbol of overcoming the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a brutal ride. From its conception, the MG 100 buckle was meant to highlight the rugged rawness of this part of the U.P, paying homage to the iron heritage of the area.
The buckle is not fancy. It’s not crude, but not adorned with frivolous decoration.
Much like the Marji Gesick itself. I think the riders understand that stripping away of the extraneous.
Are you a biker? Have you ever done any of Todd's events? And if not, do you think you ever will?
I am not a biker and I have not participated in any of Todd’s events. It is possible I might ride some year. The Marji Gesick 100 gets me thinking about it. Go into training to give it a go.
Could I do it? Am I too over the hill ( physically) to accomplish such a task? I have the urge to test myself. Not just regarding the event but regarding the discipline to prepare for it. Dedicate a year to riding the Marji?
Of course, who would stamp dates on the belt buckles. There is that.