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    I recently emailed a whole bunch of you to ask one question about how far you like to go bikepacking in a day. These questions help me get to know you better (and helped shape our new event, Gravel Pizza Overnighter). Q: How far do you like to ride on an average day of bikepacking in the Northwoods (not excessively hilly or sandy)? Check all that apply. Your responses (103 total responses)


    We recently announced a 3-part series on an introduction to winter fatbike ultras. Here we're kicking off Part 1 where we discuss the races in our area, risks to consider, and resources to help you get started. Winter fatbike ultras aren't for everyone. They require critical planning, training, and mitigation of serious risks. The Nxrth is partnering with Jamison Swift, Co-Founder of the St. Croix 40 to present a 3-part series on winter fatbike ultras. We'll walk through: Who should consider winter fatbike ultras What risks you need to be aware of How to pack your gear How to stay warm and dry Food and water planning Much more Read the introduction feature Here or learn more in Part 2 (Food, Water, Gear, & Staying Warm) or Part 3 (Tips from Seasoned Fatbike Ultra Veterans). PART 1 OF 3: RACES, RISKS, & RESOURCES Words and photos by Jamison Swift, Co-Founder of the St. Croix 40. Who should consider winter fatbike ultras? Deciding if winter ultras are for you requires you to think about the types of adventures you like to have and if you’re comfortable with doing those adventures in the freezing cold. Here are some key questions to consider: Can you be comfortable in the cold for long periods of time? Do you like spending dozens of hours alone outside? Are you willing to learn - and practice - surviving in extreme conditions? Can you take on the monetary investment in equipment? These are just a few of the questions that await you in the winer ultra world. Biking for days at a time is slow and relentless. You need to be prepared to pedal continuously as even the flats won’t give you much glide. Practice being patient, practice walking your bike, and be ready to enjoy a journey of highs and lows, over and over again. What are the races in our area and beyond? Being in a snowy climate means that we have a lot of options right here in the upper midwest for winter ultras. St. Croix 40 This is an entry-level winter ultra that requires all the mandatory gear of the bigger races. You will also have to use the gear in a couple of tests as you race overnight for 40 miles, learning if this is really for you. Tuscobia 80/160 Flat and straight, the Tuscobia winter ultra takes you through beautiful northern Wisconsin pine forests and through numerous small towns as you travel between Rice Lake and Park Falls, Wisconsin. The simplicity of the course makes navigation simple, and the abundance of towns along the route means that you’re never very far from safety in either distance. Arrowhead 135 The coldest and most remote winter ultra adventure you’ll find in the upper midwest. This race spans multiple days for many participants, and it has limited aid. The course is diverse, with many hills and some of the best chances to hear wolf calls of any event. This is the big one, and pretty much a prerequisite for any longer adventures up in Alaska. Some other events to consider: The Drift: 13, 28, and 100 mile options in the rugged mountains of Wyoming. Fat Pursuit: Held in Idaho, this course challenges you at either the 60K or 200K distance. Actif Epica: A great event from our friends in Winnipeg, Canada with multiple distances. Finally, all these lead to the biggest events up in Alaska: White Mountains 100: A challenging trip around the White Mountain range north of Fairbanks, AK. Iditarod Invitational: This is the granddaddy of them all. 350 mile or 1000 mile distances available. Limited support, remote checkpoints only accessible by plane, and thousands of square miles of Alaskan wilderness. Risks to be aware of before you consider this At St Criox 40, we talk about the three biggest challenges you’ll face at these events: Frostbite Hypothermia Trenchfoot It’s important to understand how to avoid becoming a victim to each of these three issues, and we spend a lot of time every year talking to participants about how to be safe on the trail. Bikers have unique challenges with keeping toes warm while pedaling, and so this is an area where practice is of utmost importance. Learning what works for you and your body is key to success. What resources and opportunities are available to learn more? There are lots of great blogs and race reports out there to learn about how people handled various events. We also try to provide as much insight and information to beginners over at the St. Croix 40 website. Our Winter Journal has a variety of great articles and interviews that offer information about how to be successful. Additionally, one of the best community groups available is the Arrowhead Dream Team Facebook group. This is a fantastic place to ask questions and review all types of gear suggestions from dozens of successful participants. Know before you go Knowing if these events are right for you is key to being successful. Events like St Croix 40 exist to give you a safer place to test yourself before getting in too deep. However, you still should think hard about how much you enjoy the cold, being alone, and learning to take care of yourself in harsh winter conditions. Winter ultras are actually incredible, despite the struggles, and maybe they’re for you?


    Several of you have either a.) asked how to pronounce "Nxrth" or b.) simply use a different pronunciation than I do in my head. I want to know how you all say it in your head (even if you say it "correctly" out loud). Take this 1-question survey to throw your pronunciation in the hat.


    Cedaero just announced a handlebar bag that's specifically designed to carry a small camera system safely on your bike. Check out the details about this product drop and a gallery of images. It's available in 20 colors plus a whole bunch of optional customizations. More about the Cedaero Viewfinder pack HERE. From the Cedaero product announcement: The Viewfinder is a camera pack that performs equally well on or off the bike. We sized this pack to be a perfect point-and-shoot companion, with a little extra room for a second lens, flash, or other goodies. All sides of the pack are padded, and the interior gives your sensitive electronics hugs, not scratches. Need a divider to keep things tidy? That comes standard. Need a strap? We've got you covered. And did we mention it's compatible with Peak Design Anchor Links? Yep, sure is. And when it's off the bike, the handlebar straps fold flat on the back of the pack so they're out of the way and out of your life. While we designed this pack with the photographer in mind, it has become a favorite for general handlebar pack usage as well. It's super stable and perfectly sized for lunch, and the flip-top lid makes for easy access to what's inside. And we cannot make any qualified claims, but the foam panels do keep your beverages colder for longer. This pack is a great option for narrower handlebar setups, as it's about an inch narrower than our Bar Hopper pack. More about the Cedaero Viewfinder pack HERE.


    Trailtopia is a Minnesota-based adventure food company using all-natural ingredients and a boatload of real veggies, fruits, and meat. They make entrees, desserts, and breakfasts perfect for bikepacking. Today we review several of their food packs and share our thoughts. From Rochester, Minnesota, the idea for Trailtopia was born in 2013. Vince Robichaud wanted a better option for adventure ingredients that included all-natural foods and real veggies, fruits, and grains. They're a family-run company that makes adventure food right from their up-north kitchen in Minnesota. All of their meals (almost all) can be prepared right in the bag with no mess. They have minimal additives and usually have a shelf life of 5 years. They even sell freeze-dried meat on the side so you can go with extra protein or even add it to your own recipes in da woods. They're full of real fruits and veggies and color and protein. Natural, Nutrient-Rich Ingredients Trailtopia's foods are all made in their Minnesota kitchen using simple freeze dried ingredients. Their ingredient lists are all short and readable and their meals are full flavored but really wholesome. No matter what you choose, you're going to get a whole lot of veggies meat. If you need even more protein, they sell side packs of meat including beef, beef crumble, chicken, hulled hempseed, and sausage crumble. They're pre-cooked, freeze-dried, and rehydrate quickly. They also have some fun collabs including a Bent Paddle Beer Braised Chicken Stew using Bent Paddle's ESB Amber Ale if you want to double down on Minnesota goodness. Trailtopia Meals Variety is pretty important if you do a lot of camping. Trailtopia has versions of several of the staple outdoor flavors like chili mac and beef stroganoff also have some fun twists like Cajun Smack Chicken and Rice and Chicken Cashew Curry. Open them up and they're all full of color since they have a full does of real freeze-dried veggies. I'm gluten-free and really enjoyed the Teriyaki Chicken & Rice. But I'm also psychotic and don't like mushrooms so I pulled those all out before cooking. Back in the good old days, I would enjoy custom prepared meals in the woods, but I'm completely sold out on just-add-water meals. These are freeze-dried, super light, mess free, local, and made with wholesome ingredients. I also tried some breakfast options. The oatmeal is definitely tasty and simple, but personally I think it's hard to beat the simple grocery store variety packs when it comes to oatmeal. They come in smaller portions, but I've always just cooked up a few of them and mixed and matched flavors. But f you're looking for larger portion sizes and real fruit, these are an excellent option. Desserts with Real Fruit I almost never go camping without dessert. Whether that's a maple waffle chocolate bar or fried rice crispy bars, dessert tastes amazing in the woods (and it's a nice evening activity around camp). Trailtopia's Triple Berry Crisp weighs just 4oz and has real freeze-dried strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. These are gluten free, serve two, and you can prep it while eating your dinner so it's ready to go when you're done. The berry crisp was a nice sweet option that I wouldn't otherwise be able to have at camp without bringing some kind of processed berry goop. It comes with crisp topping and that made for a complete dessert. They have a few varieties of berry crisps as well as cheesecakes and pudding. They all prep right in the bag for a mess free end-of-the-night snack. To find more entrees, breakfasts, and desserts from Trailtopia, visit their website or follow them on Instagram.


    Have you been curious about winter fatbike ultras? If you're considering exploring a winter ultra, now is the time to start planning. Today we're launching a new 3-part series introducing you to the sport of winter fatbike ultra racing. In "Intro to Winter Fatbike Ultras, a 3-Part Series", Jamison Swift will walk through: Who should consider winter fatbike ultras What risks you need to be aware of How to pack your gear How to stay warm and dry Food and water planning Much more Learn more in Part 1 (Races, Risks, & Resources) , Part 2 (Food, Water, Gear, & Staying Warm), or Part 3 (Tips from Experienced Ultra Athletes). Words by Jamison Swift, Co-Founder of the St. Croix 40. Winter Ultras Aren’t for Everyone. Traveling in freezing cold temps, often alone and in the dark, can be lonely and isolating in a way that other endurance events are not. People often talk about how great it must be to get some peace and quiet out on the trail, but in many cases you find yourself battling a low level of fear and anxiety. Fear that you haven’t packed the right things, or that you’ll have a mechanical issue. Worry that you could go off course if you’re not careful, or that you just might not be as tough as you thought you were and have to bail out. It takes a certain type of person to attempt these, a certain level of crazy. Winter ultras are a niche within a niche. Born out of the sled dog races in Alaska, these are not simple trail runs at the park, or bike rides through the woods. These are tests of our capabilities as humans to be self-sufficient and survive in harsh conditions. To Love Winter Ultras, You First Need to Love Winter. Growing up in Minnesota has taught me that you can do more than just survive in the cold. Before I found running in my mid-30s, I was not athletic at all, and winter was a thing to be endured. However, once I started to see how fulfilling it was to be active in the cold, I started embracing whatever our weather dished out. You also need to enjoy the challenge of learning to be self-sufficient, and embracing a survivalist ethos. When it’s just you and your equipment in the cold, you need to be prepared and confident that you can tackle whatever might come your way (including knowing when to stop). The simple act of going to the bathroom in -20°F, surrounded by snow, is just another challenge to be embraced on the trail. Yet despite these hardships and struggles, you’re rewarded with crystal clear, starry skies, and air that is crisp and clean. The simple sound of your tires crunching across the snow becomes music, intermixed with the rustling accompaniment of birds and wildlife as they make their way through the woods, taking on a journey not unlike your own, surviving without house or hearth. Just living. Deciding if This Challenge is for You Over the next couple of articles, let’s unpack the who, how, and what of winter ultras, and help you decide if this is a challenge for you.


    Minnesota has just had one official bikepacking route, Straddle & Paddle, for several years. With the addition of Minnesota's new Driftless Loop, we added a Minnesota Bikepacking Routes page to The Nxrth. View the Minnesota Bikepacking Routes page. The two Minnesota routes are on pretty opposite parts of the state. Many of you who have done Straddle & Paddle are now already planning trips to explore The Driftless Loop. We'd love to add more Minnesota routes to the map, so if you have a great route and great photos to share, let us know!


    Bromandude719 recently dropped a nice little Wisconsin gravel biking montage. Fair warning: this includes lots of snowy gravel shots so if you're strictly basking in your snow-free, mosquito-filled summer of gravel and lemon iced tea, you may want to avert your eyes. And just for fun, here's "Part 1" from last year:


    The Driftless region of WI, MN, and IA was missed by the glacial flattening of the surrounding area. Here the rivers cut deeper and the hills roll freely. This route runs both sides of the Wisconsin/Minnesota border and explores the region for 3-4 days. Created By: Nicolette Reker @nikity_nak Watch a video overview of the Driftless Loop by Katrina Hase. The Driftless Loop gives an overview of the Southeastern Minnesota Driftless area with a brief jaunt across the cheddar curtain crossing the Mississippi river at LaCrosse and again in Winona. It includes several camping options and passes through towns to reduce the amount of food and cooking supplies you'll need to pack along. If you're from the area, you'll love that our beloved Kwik Trip stores make several appearances on the route where you can pick up some Glazers or a corn dog for your jersey pocket. While the majority of the route is gravel, it stops in several towns. Make sure to leave time for the many coffee stops along the route and Island City Brewing in Winona. Driftless Loop Bikepacking Route Map: Disclaimer: If you choose to ride this route, you do so at your own risk. You are 100% responsible for being prepared for all conditions and making sure that biking these routes is legal. Before riding, check local weather, road conditions, closures, and property ownership. Obey all traffic laws and follow land use restrictions. Do not ride these routes without proper safety equipment and navigational tools. The accuracy of these routes cannot be guaranteed neither can we guarantee that these routes are on public property. and its contributors are in no way liable for the personal injury or damage to property that may result from cycling this route or any other routes on this website.


    The Straddle and Paddle bikepacking route traverses the north shore of Lake Superior and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, two of the Minnesota Arrowhead’s finest natural playgrounds. Straddle your bike through the north woods and paddle a canoe on the finest short day-trip loop the Boundary Waters has to offer. Created by: Peter Pascale Originally published on and featured here with their permission. From Straddle and Paddle starts and ends on the scenic Lake Superior shore, and travels the gravel, double-track and trails of the Superior National Forest. Dubbed ‘the Minnesota Arrowhead’ for its pointed shape, this region supports some of the best gravel and adventure races in the midwest – the Heck of the North, the Grand du Nord, and the Gravel Conspiracy to name a few. And now this route ties it together to support your northwoods rambling adventure. Lakeside rustic campsites abound (some with well water), and dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in the forest – providing ample flexibility. Straddle & Paddle Bikepacking Route Map: is dedicated to exploration by bicycle. They inspire and inform through original bikepacking routes, stories, and coverage of the gear, news, and events that make our community thrive. They believe travel by bicycle has the power to encourage conservation, inclusivity, and respect for all people and cultures. More here. Disclaimer: If you choose to ride this route, you do so at your own risk. You are 100% responsible for being prepared for all conditions and making sure that biking these routes is legal. Before riding, check local weather, road conditions, closures, and property ownership. Obey all traffic laws and follow land use restrictions. Do not ride these routes without proper safety equipment and navigational tools. The accuracy of these routes cannot be guaranteed neither can we guarantee that these routes are on public property. and its contributors are in no way liable for the personal injury or damage to property that may result from cycling this route or any other routes on this website.


    Trenton Raygor closed the books on The Day Across Minnesota last year but continues his race, The Filthy, as well as some other upcoming projects. Here we talk about unforgettable experiences and doing adventures together with family. Interview with Trenton Raygor @trigunw0lf What's it like being done with DAMn? You built something incredible, filled 500 seats in a day, were a Banff Film Official Selection and now it's over. The Day Across Minnesota was something truly incredible. Never would I have thought that going on a birthday bike ride with my friends Carl and Robert would lead to any of this. The DAMn had five incredible years and challenged hundreds of all types of humans from all over the United States (and some from overseas) to push themselves. One of the most special things for me is knowing that each and every one of them has walked away changed, healthier, and primed for new adventures. Yeah, we made a film and were sent to Banff Canada to premier at the famed Banff Mountain Film Festival and then sent to Paris France to show at Tous En Selle in Europe's largest cinema. We even got to hangout and ride bikes with Bernard Hinault! It's all been an incredible honor to be a part of. This year, 2022, definitely feels different than the past five. I knew that it would, and honestly, that was the hope when Erik and I made the decision to shelve The Day Across Minnesota, announcing that 2021 would be our last. I have two children, as does Erik. They needed our time back and we both knew that it was the right thing to do. We see one another a little less than we used to, but he and I were hanging out last weekend grilling in his backyard and I mentioned noticing that since December of 2021, I've had a lot more time to spend with my kids. Mission accomplished? It's funny though, because in that same conversation, he mentioned that if I was on board and was interested in bringing it back, that he would be all in. It's safe to say that we both miss The DAMn and all of the great things that it's done for the cycling community as well as the small towns like Gary, South Dakota and Hager City, Wisconsin who have welcomed hundreds of us with open arms year after year. I'll go out on a limb and say that I think we both miss the time with each other, burning it at both ends, with little to no sleep for 3 days straight as well. The humanity, the nature, the fortitude, the suffering, the psychology, the disappointment, the elation, I swear...when you're race directing, you're in the middle of it all, and there's honestly nothing like it. You've been a great example of making cycling a family generational activity. What does family and biking mean to you? Biking has always been about family. My dad used to race road bikes regionally back in the 1980s. He was always a hero and inspiration of mine in that regard, though I didn't really start riding long distances or racing until he got back on the bike a little over a decade ago. He had just beat lymphoma, but was pretty unhealthy. Getting back on the bicycle and training for gravel rides like The Almanzo 100 is really what helped get him back to a healthy place and also gave us a wonderful opportunity to better connect. Around that same time, we decided that though all of these 100 mile gravel races were fun, there should be something more attainable to hopefully attract new riders and help grow the gravel cycling community. Nine years ago, together, we put on The Filthy 50 which has now become one of the largest gravel cycling events in the country. My mom, brother, and sisters are all a big part of The Filthy as well and my oldest son who is 14 years old will be riding it this year, so yeah, you could say that cycling is generational and important to the family. That 14 year old of mine has also joined the Six One Two High School Mountain Biking Team this year. He's pretty excited about it and needless to say, so am I. Any secret big ideas you've been working on that you want to talk about? No secrets, but I can talk about a couple of new things that are in the works on the film front. Upon the launch of our film 'Delta of Spirit', my friend Nicholas Kapanke and I started Checkpoint Zero Films. Since then we've released a couple of shorts, but are now working on a couple of bigger, longer running projects. The first is unofficially titled 'The Last DAMn'. You can probably guess what it's about... We are getting close to finishing this one. One of the coolest things about it to me are the contributions that some of our riders have already made to the film. In addition to the riders that we follow and their gripping stories, Ben Weaver, a friend, poet, musician, and DAMn alumni, shared a song and a poem for the film. Tony Thomas, a friend, musician, colleague, and DAMn alumni contributed all of the soundscapes for the score. A few others who have completed The DAMn are also providing us with pieces for the film that will truly make it a community creation. I absolutely cannot wait for this one to drop! The other film that we are working on will be a bit more of a Ken Burns like documentary about gravel cycling in America. If you got into gravel cycling at all in 2022 and are wondering how it got here, well, this film will help you understand how and why things are the way that they are. Believe it or not, it hasn't always been this way. What are your Top 5 "Up North Things"? 1. The Arrowhead 135 It doesn't get much more "Up North" than riding your bike, skiing, or running 135 miles through the woods from International Falls to Tower in late January. 2. Jeremy Kershaw He's a fellow race director and all around good human who puts on the Le Grand Du Nord gravel ride out of Grand Marais as well as Heck of The North. 3. Y-ker Acres As a connoisseur of bacon, this family farm near Duluth is producing some of the best I've ever had. 4. Voyageurs Wolf Project Wolves are my favorite animal and if I haven't had the chance to visit in a while, the internet takes me there. 5. Jay Cooke State Park This is one of my favorite state parks in Minnesota and a place where my family has made some great memories.


    Tour de Chequamegon event organizer Dave Schlabowske has teamed up with Brooke Goudy & Devin Cowens to offer 5 scholarship spots for riders who identify as gender expansive and BIPOC. Learn more about the Tour de Chequamegon and who is eligible to apply. Photo: Cliford Mervil @cliford.mervil From the Tour de Chequamegon website: Brooke Goudy and Devin Cowens will be ride guides along for all three days of the Tour de Chequamegon weekend trip and help create a welcoming space for BIPOC cyclists of any experience level to enjoy the scenic gravel roads of Wisconsin’s Northwoods. We are holding five of the 50 spots on the Tour de Chequamegon (Sept. 22-25, 2022) for this program, and people from the Midwest will be given preference to provide an opportunity for regionally located cyclists to explore in their own backyard. There will be no charge for those five spots. We can also help with equipment and possibly offset travel expenses. Representation matters so this scholarship opportunity will also aim to create an inclusive space for trans, women, intersex, and gender expansive adventure riders that identify as BIPOC. For more info, visit the Tour de Chequamegon.

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