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  • REMEMBERING THE FINAL DAMn: CHRIS NELSON'S 242 MILES ON A SURLEY PUGLSEY

    The 2021 Day Across Minnesota (DAMn) marked the end of a much loved endurance gravel cycling event. In this event recap from last summer, Chris Nelson shares his play-by-play race as well as how he ended up deciding to do the event on a Surley Pugsley fatbike. Day Across Minnesota is a ride that started in 2017 and closed the final chapter in 2021. The challenge is to traverse 240 miles of Minnesota gravel roads by bicycle in a single day from Gary, SD to Hager City, WI. Story: Chris Nelson Photos: Markman Outdoor Photography & TMB Images The DAMn (Day Across Minnesota) first became a race in 2017. I was interested in riding this first year, but I was honestly scared that I had what it takes for this epic challenge and I didn't sign up. After seeing the 2017 DAMn ride reports, I committed myself to training and gearing up for the adventure, and I was rewarded with a successful 2018 DAMn. After the 2018 DAMn, I felt no need for another DAMn ... but a few months later, the 2019 DAMn was announced and I signed up again and was able to became a DAMn Champion a second time. I signed up for the 2020 DAMn, but the pandemic forced me to take a rain-check which rolled into 2021 ... The Final DAMn. For some perspective on completing The DAMn, during the open ceremony video, Erik shared these stats: 409 riders have become DAMn champions from 2017 through 2020; 329 of them have completed the DAMn one time; 60 have done it twice; 15 riders have complete three; and 5 have finished every DAMn year! Fatbiking the DAMn When the 2021 DAMn was announced, I posed the question: do I ride my gravel bike and go for my fastest time; or ride my Pugsley to go for the fastest fatbike ... Trenton (The DAMn creator) encouraged me to go fat, and that's all it took! The DAMn has challenged me to push myself into the unknown. Having completed the ride twice on a typical gravel bike (Breezer Radar Pro), riding a fatbike brought me back into the unknown. My longest day with the Pugsley was 140 miles, and that was a rough day that left me crushed. I've spent countless hours over the last 8 months getting the Pugsley and my body ready for this challenge. My drop-bar Pugsley (AKA The War Rig) was created in 2016 with the help of Kyle when he worked at The Alt. This bike is a 2015 Surly Pugsley that's mostly stock, with Salsa Woodchipper handlebars, Gevenalle GX shifters, and Fat B Nimble tires (riding with tubes - the Marge Lite rims are not tubeless compatible). Over the last few years the crew at Tonka Cycle & Ski have been taking care of this beast. In preparation for the 2021 DAMn, Tyler at Tonka got the Pug ready with a mostly new drivetrain and other tweaks and adjustments. In addition to the work Tonka did on the bike. I met with Paulie at GO PHYSIO for an body analysis and bike fit. We focused on dialing in the Pugsley for comfort and efficiency for the long day. Also, Paulie has a custom bike trainer in his studio that will fit a fatbike tire, which is really cool! In the months leading up to the race, I did many training rides, focused on building endurance. This included racing the Freedhem 76 and winning as the fastest fatbike; this result was very encouraging. Additionally, two weeks before The DAMn, I invited some DAMn friends (Rene, Dan, Arik & Robb) for a night training ride. We met up at midnight to ride the Luce Line from Plymouth to Hutchinson and back (3 of us started in Hopkins for some bonus miles). It was a very basic course, with little challenges in route or climbs, but great test of lighting and ways to stay awake/alert all night. The DAMn COVID For the first three years of The DAMn, there were three assigned check points on the course: mile 60; mile 120; and mile 186. These were the only places your support crew could meet you for fresh water, food, bike maintenance, etc. In 2020, this changed in reaction to COVID-19 and restrictions on group sizes, and the organizers allowed riders and crews to pick their three support stops along the route. I worked with Lisa to pick general locations and gave her final say on the exact place to meet. I picked Morton at mile 86; Henderson at mile 151; and Cannon Falls at mile 214 (this became Spring Garden/White Rock at mile 222). Additionally, this change required releasing the whole route in advance of the race. On the first three years of The DAMn, riders would navigate with cue sheets, and you'd only get enough cue sheets to get you to the next check point. I was so happy that 2021 riders were officially allowed to use a GPS device with the route, that really helps to avoid wasting time and energy with missed turns. The DAMn Eve It won't be The DAMn eve without a last minute panic. On a short ride with Lisa Friday morning, my rear brake started making an awful noise. I went straight to Tonka Cycle & Ski and Brett got Pugsley right on the stand, confirmed that retaining spring broke ... And the pads were shot. I am so happy this happened at home and not in Gary (or on the way to Hager City)! Also so grateful for the outstanding support from Tonka! I spent most of the afternoon packing the car with all our gear, food, and supplies. We decided to drop off our three dogs for boarding as we left town, so I needed enough space for the dogs and their gear too. Gary to Morton We arrived in Gary with a little daylight left to allow us time to set up my bike and create space in the back of the car for Lisa's sleeping bag. We also had time to catch up with so many friends around the Buffalo Ridge resort. As it approached midnight, riders started to gather for the start. As I was talking with Birchwood teammate Nick, last year's top finisher (Chase) rolled up and down the street with a bike that look more like a pro time-trail bike than a gravel bike, and his wheels made the most intimidating noise rolling over the fresh chipseal on the street. Chase and I were clearly going to have a very different rides! The roll out is always fun with the fireworks signaling the start of the race and a short neutral roll out on the paved highway, then we make a right turn on to the first narrow gravel road. The pace is always fast with lots of pent-up energy. The early roads were soft, it felt like beach sand under your tires, they were some of the worst gravel roads I can remember riding (2017 Westside Dirty Benjamin is the only other one that comes to mind). Pacelines were forming, I got into a group of 30 to 40 riders. We were fast, averaging 19 mph, but it was stressful in the dark with the loose gravel causing riders to lose control. Add to that the cloud of dust and constant peppering with small gravel kicked up by tires. I went to the front for a long pull to avoid the dust and not worry about somebody wrecking in front of me. I know the riders behind appreciated it, so it was a win-win, but there's was only so long I could keep up that kinda effort. When I fell off the front, I tried riding in the line for a couple minutes and hated it. I made the excuse that I needed a pee-stop (and I kinda did). After that I rode solo or with smaller groups. I was very happy to have my fatbike to ride these soft sandy roads. I would have had a difficult time handling a normal gravel bike in these conditions, slowing me down and stressing me out. It was a cold night, my Garmin was reporting 46℉ over night, and not just a little dip, but from 1:45 to 7:30 AM! I've checked with other riders and their devices were recording the same temps. Through most of the night, I wasn't able to get at my bottles or food with the fast pace and the loose conditions. It was good to roll into my first support stop around 5:30 in Morton to get a couple ham & cheese buns. It took longer to get out of Morton than I'd hoped and I started getting the shivers - it's a good thing I kept my vest on! Morton to Henderson These were fast and uneventful miles, the cool morning helped keep the legs feeling fresh. Road conditions improved, making it easy to grab food and bottles. Shortly after sunrise, I got into a good group that was a core of two single-speed riders, one with a standard gravel bike, and me with Pugsley. This group would grow and shrink over the miles, but this core group of four of us worked together for more miles that I can count. We were keeping our average pace around 16 mph, and that felt GREAT ... sadly, I knew that pace couldn't last. Our core group started to splinter a little after the classic check point 2 (mile 120) as we all had different locations for our support stops. I was planning a longer break in Henderson (mile 151) to get some whole food, lube the chain, reload on-bike supplies. It went smooth and was a great way to refresh and recover energy for the hard miles ahead with rolling road and the heat from the midday sun. I was happy and shocked to leave Henderson just after 11:00, well ahead of my personal record pace. Henderson to White Rock Leaving Henderson, you cross the river and immediately go into a rough single-track trail. The single-track started with sandboxes and down trees that required dismounting and to lift the bike over them ... oof that fully loaded Pugsley is HEAVY! In the single-track section, I passed Nick getting footage for the documentary ... I'm excited to see what he's doing with this year's ride! I was one of a small number of riders able to ride most of this trail, the Pugsley's tires gave plenty of float over the sand and rough trail conditions. The next rapid-fire challenge coming out of Henderson is my least favorite climb on this course, it's just kicks up to 8% to 9% and stays there for so long. Around mile 155, I saw another fatbike, this was on the only other fatbiker I saw all day. We rode together for many miles, talking about bikes and other races. After a while, one of the riders I worked with in the morning caught up to us. I grabbed his wheel and the three of us worked together for a while; I looked back after a pull on the front to see the other fatbike had fallen off. Then the other rider got to his support stop ... and I had some long, lonely solo miles. It felt like there were no other riders around me. I was starting to suffer the heat load of the sun and the many miles. My pace was slowing mile-by-mile, slowing to 10 to 12 mph. Rolling across Hwy 52 south of Cannon Falls, I knew another infamous climb was just around the corner. This one isn't that bad, but with the heat and hurting legs ... it fells very mean. Dan (Birchwood teammate that joined my night training ride) caught up to me, it was nice to talk with a familiar face for a few miles. He made a support stop at a friends farm, right at the bottom of another climb. I think if I'd joined him at that stop, it'd been the end of my DAMn ... I was just so tired and looking at that climb as the first thing after you get started again, I knew I needed to keep moving. Lisa had a hard time finding a place to meet me in Cannon Falls and moved 8 miles further east than we had planned. It was a terrible thing and a great thing all at the same time. I had 222 miles behind me as I rolled into the stop planning to be quick, dropping off the CamelBak and exchanging water bottles; but I collapsed into a chair after damned near falling off my bike. I was in a deep hole with heat exhaustion, I was light headed and nearly passed out. Lisa was quick with wet towels and cold drinks. There was a moment when I wasn't sure I'd be able to get back on the bike, but Lisa nursed me back to healthy. It was 5:30, and I'd spent 35 minutes in the shade of our SUV recovering, before I was able to remount the Pugsley. White Rock to Hager City Riding out of my check point 3, I was refreshed and riding lighter/cooler without the CamelBak and sunsleeves/legs, plus the temps were starting to slide back down. The last support stop being further up the road than I planned had the benefit of shortening the last leg for the ride. I had 20 miles to get to the finish, in my mind, I'm thinking this is just a lunch ride, I do 20 miles nearly every day, no big deal! It also helps that this miles are mostly down hill. I was watching my Garmin's ETA for the finish, it was holding around 6:40, 20 minutes ahead of my personal record. It was odd that I thought I was totally alone on the road for many miles after Cannon Falls, I rode with a many riders on the last miles into Red Wing, including some familiar faces. Riding into Red Wing is a nice break with mostly easy descents allow you to cover the miles with little effort. Also, you get into tree covered roads, helping the body continue to recover from the afternoon's heat. I made my only route error in Red Wing, I was enjoying the sights and missed that we turned a couple blocks earlier that in years past. The new/earlier turn routed us onto the new river bridge, opened in 2020. The new bridge includes a protected bike/ped crossing ... SO NICE! As I crossed the river bridge, my Garmin battery gave up and it shut down. Annoying, but I could see the finish line from here and didn't need it to guide me any more. Finish Line When I posed the question: should I ride for my personal best time or go for fastest fatbike? I thought I was asking and either-or question, I didn't expect 'all of the above' was an option ... But I finished as the fastest fatbike and took 16 minutes of my best DAMn time. When Trenton gave me a finish line hug, he informed me that I was the first fatbike, adding that that's my thing now. I guess I'm gonna have to claim it, I am a fast fatbike-gravel rider. The finish line moved since I last rode in 2019, now a short distance further and in a shady park-like area. It felt so nice to be in a cool shady space, cheering for riders in as they arrived. This year was the first time I felt like I could enjoy a finish line beer! And a bonus, somebody had a bunch a pizza he could eat and gave me a few pieces ... that was a little heaven, beer and pizza in a shady chair! The finish area was a great place to share stories with friends I've known for years, and some I'd just met. Nick was filming lots of footage at the finish line, at one point I looked back to see he has his camera behind my calf tattoo filming a big group coming in to the finish. I hope that make his documentary! It was awe-inspiring to watch riders get back on their bikes and start the return trip to Gary, SD chasing the unimaginable Double DAMn. I have so many mixed emotions about the Final DAMn. I'm so grateful for the opportunities to challenge myself on this ride three times. I'm feeling sad that there won't be another DAMn, on the other hand, I feel a need to move on to other races and challenges. The DAMn demands so much time and energy, it becomes that one pinnacle ride for my year, I can't fit more than one ride of this scale into my year. I'm hopeful that Trenton will bring a new challenge to us gravel nuts. I'm also happy to know that I'll continue to see my gravel family at upcoming events ... and that's what I love most about these rides, these stone-cold crazies that are the family of gravel! Statistics I was 79th place of 231 finishers with an official time was 18:42:49. For reference, the fastest fatbike in 2017 was Bal Singh at 17:26; in 2018 Bal finished in 19:30; in 2019 Jake Cohen finished in 19:22 In the Final DAMn, 563 racers signed up, 393 made it to the starting line, 231 became DAMn Champions by crossing the Hager City, Wisconsin finish line 242 miles later, and then there are the incredible 11 who became Double DAMn Champions by crossing the Gary, South Dakota finish line 495 miles later! Thank you for the support: To start with, I'd like to thank everyone I will forget ... 'cause I'm bad like that Trenton, Erik, Joel, and countless others that created, organized, hosted, and made this DAMn ride a reality. I was humbled be the number of folks on bikes and along the road that cheered me on by name! I recognized many of you ... but there were too many that I couldn't figure out, sorry! Having the course public brought something totally new and enjoyable: FANS! There were support crews and farms along nearly the whole route cheering riders on, it truly lifted my spirits. Thank you! Thank you to Paulie at GO PHYSIO for the great bike fit, I was as comfortable and efficient as possible for a 242-mile day on a Pugsley. Tonka Cycle & Ski: Tyler and Brett both helped me have the Pugsley ready its longest day ever. TMB Images and Markman Outdoor Photography for capturing the good, the bad, and the ugly that is The DAMn Saving the most important for last: I have to say THANK YOU again and again to my best friend, Lisa! For the third time, she drove back-and-forth across the state, through the dark & cold night, the blazing heat of the day, and going without sleep for 40+ hours to chase my DAMn ride. There are riders that complete this ride without support; however, my success has always been a team effort with Lisa play a critical role supporting my training leading up to the race, the long day on the course, and the post-race recovery. She's my DAMn Champion!! To read about more of Chris Nelson's bike adventures, check out the stories on his blog, "Bikes, Beer, and Other Stuff I Like".

  • GETTING INTO TROUBLE AT PIEDMONT: FAT BIKING IN DULUTH, MINNESOTA

    Check out the latest video from Minnesota MTB on YouTube. Here he visits Duluth, Minnesota to ride the Piedmont trail system and encounters a little bit of sketch. From Minnesota MTB: Today's video we are back again in Duluth, MN. This day I first rode Hawk Ridge and Amity East and this video we ride the Piedmont trail system. These trails have much more variety and a lot more risky sections both in the summer and winter. And this ride I find my self second guessing my decision to ride on particular trail! Check out his YouTube channel for more.

  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR FAT BIKE RACE REPORTS

    The best part of every ride, race, or route is the stories we share with each other afterward. We love hearing your stories of endurance, adventure, and even failure. You spent months planning for that big ride and we'd love to share your story with our readers. This is your bike adventure hub and YOUR STORIES are what make The Nxrth a community. During your next fat bike race, make sure to snap some photos or put together a video. As much as we love biking, we also love to hear what worked well (and didn't work well) for other riders and be a part of more adventures through stories, photos, and videos. Have a story to share? Send a message to josh at thenxrth dot com.

  • 2022 FAT BIKE WORLDS RECAP VIDEO

    Fat Bike Worlds took place last weekend in New Richmond Wisconsin at the New Richmond Golf Course, New Richmond Nature Center, and 45th Parallel Distillery. The event was presented by Borealis Fat Bikes and Pure Fuel. Here is a video recapping the events of the day:

  • ARROWHEAD 135 ONE OF 50 HARDEST RACES ON EARTH. KEN KRUEGER CALLS IT FAMILY REUNION.

    The Arrowhead Winter Ultra 135 is a human powered ultra marathon taking place in the coldest part of winter in the coldest city in the lower 48 states, International Falls, Minnesota. With average finish rates of less than 50%, the Arrowhead 135 is known for its brutal cold weather, attracting the toughest athletes in endurance sports. Race Director Ken Krueger shares what makes it so iconic, challenging, and alluring in this interview. Check out Ken's story and gallery of photos here. Photos: Burgess Eberhardt What’s the story behind Arrowhead Ultra? This is the 18th annual Arrowhead Ultra 135. It was started by Pierrre and Cheryl Ostor. Pierre used to go to AK (from MN) to race every winter. His wife asked why he didn't start his own race. The first year there were 10 racers, 5 finished. What makes the challenge for the Arrowhead so iconic and so alluring to endurance athletes? It is ranked one of the 50 hardest races on earth. It is like a family reunion, most people are not here to win, but rather to see what they are capable. About 70% of our racers have been here before, some have been here many times. The finish rate is largely determined by trail conditions and weather. Each year is different. How many times have you done it yourself? I have 7 bike finishes, 1 ski finish, and 1 foot finish. I was the 5th person to earn the A'trois trophy for completing the race in all 3 disciplines. I have not had a DNF. What’s the most common mistake you see athletes make? DNF when they are capable of continuing - followed closely by continuing when they are not capable of making the next check point. What was your most memorable year of Arrowhead and why? 2007 was my first year. It was probably the coldest we ever had. The finish rate was ~20%. I did everything wrong, my bike did not work for most of the race. I pushed it ~85 miles. I finished. Most people don’t finish. What do you want non-finishers to know about their experience? It is unfinished business, most will come back for revenge. If you DNF at Arrowhead, you are in good company. Amazing athletes have DNFed here. Visit Arrowhead Winter Ultra to learn more about the race, read reports from other year's, and learn how to qualify for the race. The 2022 event takes place from January 31 to Feb 2nd. Find a list of 2022 registered racers here.

  • MISSED HUGH JASS AT TREK HEADQUARTERS? WATCH THE HIGHLIGHT VIDEO.

    Hugh Jass is in its 7th year of riding and racing through the woods of Wisconsin LIVE and in person. The 6-part series explores some of the most fun places to ride fat bikes along with a party atmosphere. In this video, Trail Genius gives a highlight reel of the Hugh Jass fat bike event that took place in Trek's own backyard cyclocross course in December. Check out the course, activities, and winners and then put it on your calendar for next year.

  • HOW THE HECK FAT BIKE WORLDS CHOSE NEW RICHMOND, WI FOR THE 2022 EVENT

    Fat Bike World's is making it's very first trip to the Midwest on January 28-30th. Get ready for corn hole, a maple syrup breakfast, and world class fat bike riding in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin. Also, find out how how New Richmond, WI was chosen as this year's host in a Q&A with the race coordinators. The 7th annual Fat Bike World Championships is presented by Borealis Fat Bikes and Pure Fuel January 28-30, 2022 in New Richmond, WI. The race events will take place at New Richmond Golf Course, New Richmond Nature Center, and 45th Parallel Distillery. Weekend events include the Bourbon, Bikes, and Brews Tailgate on Friday, Championship Race and Fun Race Saturday followed by awards and the Fat Bike Worlds After Party, and a community pancake breakfast on Sunday followed by the circuit race, kid’s race, and Omnium awards. Yeah, it’s a race, and some serious athletes show up to race for the title of World Champion, but plenty of people wear costumes, shoot whiskey and eat bacon on the course too. Try your hand at riding a fat bike, check out the vendors, enjoy a cold brew or a tasty local cocktail, listen to the band, and watch people slay laps on some killer trails and jumps. It’s for all types of riders and spectators, from the pro racer to the newbie, with categories and laps for each. More than anything, Fat Bike Worlds is about riding bikes and chilling with a group of awesome people! Bring your family and friends to this three-day festival, tucked into a small town atmosphere. Plan to make some new memories, and get ready for some all-out racing! Q&A with race coordinators: 1. How did New Richmond, WI get chosen for Fat Bike Worlds this year? Big Ring Flyers-Apex Cycling has had a number of members participate over the years in Fat Bike Worlds in Crested Butte, CO as well as last year in Pinedale, WY. Founder Dave Ochs always envisioned the race as a traveling show, and eventually struck up a conversation with multiple time Worlds finisher and BRF-Apex member Chris Stevens. When Dave approached Chris this spring about hosting in our hometown of New Richmond, we jumped at the chance. 2. Fat Bike Worlds includes an obstacle course, maple syrup breakfast, and corn hole; definitely a unique fat bike race! Why do you put this on and what do you want people to experience? We really want to get the community involved in the whole weekend of events and expose them to what fun fat biking really is. BRF-Apex has a strong presence in Western Wisconsin and we want to get as many people on bikes as we can. It's easy, it's fun, and it's good for you! 3. Where else has Fat Bike World's been hosted and what do you love about the fat biking community? Fat Bike Worlds has been hosted in Crested Butte, CO 5 times, last year in Pinedale, WY, and this year of course it will be in New Richmond. We love the fat biking community because there's something for everyone - whether you are looking for a casual ride to grab a few craft beers, a serious tool for maintaining your fitness, or a lycra-clad hard-core racer, you belong to this community. Last Year's 2021 Fat Bike Worlds Video To learn more about Fat Bike Worlds and for a full schedule of races and spectator activities, head over to their race website.

  • RIDE THE NORPINE FAT BIKE CLASSIC AT LUTSEN

    The Norpine Fat Bike Classic is fast approaching on January 29th. Enjoy the best of winter up north while riding through stands of old growth cedars on Pisten Bully groomed trails overlooking Lake Superior. The Norpine Fat Bike Classic has two distances: The Long Pine (30 miles) and the Short Pine (19 miles). The event is put on by the the Superior Cycling Association and all proceeds benefit the Norpine Trail Association. To learn more about the events, head over to the race website.

  • STRADDLE & PADDLE WITH NO PLAN [ROUTE REPORT]

    We had a plan. Not a good one. But we did officially have a plan. We would go on a four-day bikepacking adventure on gravel north country roads and hope that every single person we talked to on the phone was wrong. That was the plan. How Did I Get Here? I got into bikepacking because I’ve always loved the challenge and freedom I feel with every other kind of packing: backpacking, canoe-packing, hitchhike-packing, bike-canoe-packing, and scooter-packing (kidding about the scooter). Here’s why I was attracted to bikepacking. It gives you the ability to enjoy outdoor adventures at a faster pace than canoeing and hiking and in a more remote way than traditional bike touring on paved roads. The Plan We heard about a bikepacking route in Northern Minnesota called “Straddle and Paddle” from my favorite website, bikepacking.com. It promised everything I could want: endless gravel roads, thick lake-y forests, and the world’s best donuts. So seven buddies and I spent a year researching, buying gear, and generally overanalyzing the entire trip. But planning is half the fun, right? The Problem There was only one problem. Campsites. No, campsites themselves weren’t the problem. I mean, we found campsites, but the vast majority were booked, and the few remaining were non reservable. It was the weekend of several very large tourist events in the area. The events were cancelled because of Covid but the crowds still came en masse. I refreshed the reservation websites every day for months. And we made phone calls. Lots of phone calls. We called the forest service, campgrounds, bike shops, and churches. Over the phone, they all had the same answer. “We’ve been booked for months and haven’t had one single cancellation.” One kind-hearted person even told us, “You literally chose the worst weekend of the year. This is our single busiest weekend and you’re not going to find a campsite.” “What if we just show up to campgrounds?” I asked. “You can try”, she said. “There are a few first-come-first-serve sites, but I doubt you’ll get one”. With eight hearts full of unfounded hope, we embarked on our trip despite having not just one, but three nights with nowhere to stay. The Arrival Night One: After navigating the winding gravel roads and eating a greasy burger at The Tressle Inn, it was time to find our first place to sleep. There was one single non reservable campsite in the vicinity of our first destination. That’s right. You didn’t read one campground; you read one campsite. Not good odds, I’ll admit. But we had no choice. So we got to the end of the trail and the forest broke open to a stunning campsite on gorgeous Windy lake...and no one else was there! We got our first campsite. We swam, we fished, we ate freeze-dried meals, and we couldn't believe that the prettiest campsite we’d seen was just waiting for our group of hopeful bikepackers. Night Two: Our odds would improve but the circumstances wouldn’t. Our bike ride for the day included a lunch swim on Mistletoe Lake as well as a friendly bear sighting. For the night, we were aiming for a tiny campground of four sites at the Cascade River Rustic Campground. More sites than the previous night, but we’d be arriving on a Friday which is the hardest night of the week to get a campsite during the light season and this would be the peak of the busy season. We rolled in after a tiring day on Minnesota’s loveliest and crunchiest gravel hoping that just one site would be open. Here’s what we found. Site 1: taken. Site 2: taken. Site 3: taken. Site 4: Open! We got lucky again and our band of bikepacking brothers just barely scored a second campsite in two days. Night Three: Beautiful Grand Marais. This would be a tricky one. If we didn’t find an open site at the municipal campground (which they assured us we wouldn’t) then we’d have to bike 4 miles back up the Gunflint Trail (Gunflint Trail? More like Gunflint Mountain...) to look for dispersed camping in the dark, dense National Forest. It was technically an option, but nobody wanted to do it. We rolled up to the campground in the pouring rain and they let us know that they were almost completely full for the night...except for 2 campsites. Luck was on our side again as we completed 3 nights in a row of extremely unlikely campsites. We woke up the last morning and stopped at The World’s Best Donuts on our way out of Grand Marais. We enjoyed those sugary rings of dough as the waves lapped onto the shoreline. Our final day of biking treated us to lakeviews, river gorges, and many wonderful miles on the Gitchi-Gami Trail before making it back to our vehicles. Thank you, Minnesota, for the incredible trails, delicious donuts, and enough luck to get 8 guys through 3 nights without a solid plan. Bikepacking Cook County: If You Go. Bikepacking Northing Minnesota is wild. The gravel roads and mountain bike trails are abundant and the options are endless. If you’d like to embark on our route, start at bikepacking.com/routes/straddle-and-paddle/. There are many different variations you can take and the trip overview gives fantastic suggestions for campsites, burger joints, swimming holes, and an optional paddle in the Boundary Waters. The route is best accessed between May and October and can easily be adapted to be anywhere from an overnighter to a 5-day epic week on the trail. If you go on this route, please take extra care in following leave-no-trace principles. There are many visitors to the National Forest and it’s important to preserve the outdoors for future generations. My last suggestion? You guessed it. Plan ahead and make sure to set up at least one or two campsite reservations. Want more? Check out the adventure film, “Gitchi”, that we made of this trip to see our exact trip and the great experience that we had.

  • POLAR ROLL: TODD POQUETTE ON HOW BACON, HORRIBLE WEATHER BUILD COMMUNITY

    The 906 Adventure Team is gearing up for the 2022 Polar Roll on February 12. As usual, the event is full of a challenging variety of fatbike and snowshoe events and of course...bacon. In this interview, I chat with Polar Roll Race Director, Todd Poquette. Todd is well known for creating new categories of pain as well as community. The crew in Marquette Michigan works harder and takes bigger risks to come up with new ways to create memorable bike adventures. We talk about his philosophy around challenging adventures, how bacon became an on-course staple, and what exactly makes the Polar Roll such an icon. All photos by Ryan Stevens Photo @ryanstephensphoto Todd, where did the Polar Roll idea even come from? We had this local fat bike event called the “World Snowbike Championship” or something like that. It piggybacked a large nordic event in the community and covered nothing but nordic ski trails. I kept asking myself and a few others the same questions: “Why the heck are we piggybacking a ski event?” And “Why the heck are we going to crown someone the World Snowbike Champion for winning a road race?” It just seemed sacrilegious and boring. Here we are in Marquette County, Michigan, on the edge of a fat bike boom, and in a community that is setting the standard for fat bike grooming… and we are gonna host a world championship on ski trails? NO. You should always ask yourself “What can we do that no one can do better?” In Marquette, the answer was simple: create one helluva lotta snow and groom trails specifically for fat bikes. That was the vision in its most simple form. Step 2: Identify a course. I wanted to link trails groomed by RAMBA and NTN to create an epic P2P adventure. I also wanted to see the communities work together (west end and Marquette). We are like every other community, we have our little weird politics and special groups. I felt the more we could bring the two sides together the better things will be for everyone. I’d say for the most part the majority of people bought into it and continue to buy into it still today. Step 3: Identify who this event is for. This was the beginning of how Polar Roll and the rest of our events have set themselves apart. We looked at Polar Roll as more of an adventure, not just a race. You know what makes an event a race? Two people lining up side-by-side with one goal - to kick the other person’s butt. What I’m saying is, you can create an experience for everyone and make it accessible to everyone, and you’ll still have 10% of your field show up solely for the chance to race. We’ve always promoted “race it or ride it”. People should be able to come to an event and experience that event in whatever way will best serve their needs and interests. Polar Roll has always been and will always be more than just a race… it’s a freaking adventure. What’s up with the on-course bacon? I mean… it’s bacon! There’s nothing else to say. I’m kidding, there is. So Chris Holm and a crew from the “Tuesday Night Rieboldt Ride” group decided to put an aid station out on the course, most likely because our events don’t offer aid stations. We tell folks they’re self-supported, but it was never intended to mean you couldn’t get help from someone, it just meant WE weren’t going to help you. Chris and his crew set the bar that year. They absolutely crushed it. It was another moment in life, for me at least, that if you pay attention there’s always something to learn, sometimes in the most unlikely places. I wanna say they set-up about 4-miles from the finish line - and you could not have predicted how perfect it would be. Riders were coming into “Hugs & Bacon” literally crying for their mommas. The course was brutal! They’d roll in and the first words uttered are “I’m done!” or some other iteration of profanity laced exhaustion. But then they had some bacon, and after bacon they drank whiskey, and after the whiskey they had more bacon, and then more whiskey. They’d go from DONE to LETS DO THIS in three shots. It was magic. Well, bacon and whiskey if I’m being honest, but I saw something that day…. Actually I saw a lot of things that day. I watched people come together who you’d never expect to see together… and in my view it was the adversity that brought em’ together. Their differences didn’t matter - what did matter was getting through that course alive. And the aid station… I saw how grateful people were to receive help when they needed it and didn’t expect it… and I saw the people who offered that help feel genuinely good for doing something for someone else… and getting nothing back in return except a sincere thank you. I guess you could say bacon brings out the best in us. What’s the snowflake challenge? It sounds wimpy. The snowflake challenge is just another stupid idea we came up with last year as part of the EX format, EX meaning EXPEDITION, meaning you literally are on your own. EX was our answer to the pandemic. We were extremely fortunate to find ourselves in the position we were in when we needed to #adapt. I recorded a video on my phone and basically told people “Listen, we’ve been telling you for six-years you’re self-supported and on your own, it’s for real this year! We were one of the few events to operate that summer and since then the format has blown up. We have been able to reach a whole new group of people… but I digress… you asked about the Snowflake. You have to complete the EX-30FB (fatbike), EX-30SS (snowshoe), IQ Test (duathlon), and a Director’s Choice. Complete them all and get a hand forged belt buckle. Easy! You have a lot of great photos of people falling in the snow. How much pain should riders expect? Pain is overrated and temporary. I wouldn’t be too worried about pain to be honest, but I would be worried about mind games. We looooove mind games. I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me when someone calls and says “Hey, you sent me the wrong gpx file… I signed up for the 40 but the file shows a 60-mile route…” and then I laugh… because they have the right file. It’s what we do. Routes are never what we say they are, and never short! I have this little slogan I like to share with people “Life isn’t fair. The world isn’t safe. There is no finish line.” When you come to a 906AT event you are going to be tested and have to prove you can prevail when everything is literally stacked against you. ANYONE can be successful in a controlled environment where everything HAS to be fair, and the RULES are leveraged to make an experience predictable. THAT’S EASY. If that’s your deal, cool. BUT IT’S NOT OURS. We joke about pain, and ya it’s gonna hurt at some point, but it’s so much more than that… but I hate to even try to articulate it… because I think you have to experience it. You have to give it a chance to change you. You have to give yourself the opportunity to prove you’re better than you believe you are… and that’s really what it comes down to for a lot of people…. They don’t believe in themselves…. So they need a kick in the butt… I’m kinda the friend you don’t want…. But need. I just want to see people succeed, see a life they didn’t envision for themself, and have the balls and fortitude to go after it…. And never stop going after it…. Regardless of how far they have to go… or who’s toes they might step on… THERE IS NO FINISH LINE… If you are not where you want to be today…. KEEP GOING. DO NOT QUIT. Be honest, do you hope for great weather or terrible weather? I ALWAYS WANT THE MOST TERRIBLE WEATHER. "Double Trouble" and "The Duathlon" both sound horrible. How horrible are they? I like to look at stuff like this as an opportunity for personal growth. That’s why we are always changing routes, courses, venues, rules, etc. No idea is off limits. The first winter duathlon we offered was the IQ Test. That is our EX-15FB in one direction immediately followed by the EX-15SS… and you must complete both in 24-hours. That was fun. Funny story… Roy comes up to the long snowshoe with his son last year. They proceed to crush it and document the adventure with photographs along the way through Facebook. One small problem - they didn’t wear snowshoes for the snowshoe event. So I had to disqualify him and his punishment, if you want to call it that, was that he’d have to come back and do it again with me, but this time we’re doing both the EX-30FB + EX-30SS back to back… and I called it the Duathlon for Dummies. That’s the stuff we do - we make fun of ourselves. Which is refreshing these days because it seems like people are really losing their sense of humor… and if you lose that… it’s all downhill from there. And everyone knows how much I dislike downhills… Double Trouble will be great, until it isn’t. Are they horrible? Sure. Learning how to persevere and smile when thinks are absolutely fricking horrible is a skill everyone needs to learn. 906 Adventure Team always seems to have ambitious goals. What’s coming down the pipe for 906AT? More Adventures. More Adventure Teams. We never rest. Good is not good enough. This year's event takes place on February 12, 2022. If you want to learn more about the 2022 Polar Roll, first ask yourself, are you absolutely sure? If so, head on over to their race website here.

  • THE EXTENDED MAMMOTH GRAVEL XL [VIDEO]

    In early 2021, Scott Haraldson and his friends took on Bikepacking.com's new Mammoth Gravel Loop. It's a 105 mile route with 75% of it being upaved. Just for fun, they added another 75 miles to make it a 3 day, 2 night loop. See their trip video and stunning drone shots in Scott's most recent film. Mammoth Gravel Loop Route Details:

  • FROSTY FLUFFY TRAILS ON THE WRONG BIKE

    Every year winter comes around and I talk myself out of getting a fat bike. I remind myself that last year we didn’t get that much snow and I probably won’t get enough use out of one anyway. It would sit in my garage while I run my cold errands on the studded tires of my all-road Kona Rove ST. Then came 2020-21 which included: 1. A global pandemic 2. Minimal travel 3. Everything that’s fun was closed And of course: 4. Plenty of soft beautiful rideable snow That was all fine and good except for one little problem: Fat bikes were sold out everywhere. A few friends jumped on the train early enough, called a bunch of bike shops all over the state, drove a couple of hours, and snagged one while it was still early. I wasn’t so quick to the punch. You already know what happened next: The snow fell, the fat bikes went out en masse, and I twiddled my thumbs with more than a little jealousy. But to be honest, winter has always been a favorite season of mine for cycling. Hardly anybody else is out, the frosted trees and trails are beautiful, and (if dressed appropriately) the cold, authentic wind on your face feels amazing. So I resolve to get out anyway...even though I’m riding the “wrong” bike. My Kona Rove ST isn’t a fat bike but it is: a.) Equipped with studded tires for the ice and b.) Tons and tons of fun on the snow. I regularly get out to ride weekly for coffee runs, trail riding (not groomed fat bike trails though, of course), social rides with a friend… ...and generally just messing around on a fun bike during a beautiful winter season.

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