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  • INTRO TO WINTER FATBIKE ULTRAS [PART 3]: #1 TIPS FROM SEASONED ULTRA VETERANS

    In the final part of "Intro to Winter Fatbike Ultras", we talk with four experienced ultra athletes about their top tips for researching, planning, and preparing for your first winter fatbike ultra. If you're signed up for your first event or curious about trying one someday, check out these tips and then start planning. 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 Here or catch up on Part 1 (Races, Risks, & Resources) and Part 2 (Food, Water, Gear, & Staying Warm) PART 3 OF 3: #1 Tips From Experienced Ultra Athletes Of all the adventure cycling disciplines, it's hard to imagine a micro niche that requires more planning and preparation than fatbike winter ultras. These events take participants to the coldest, most remote places. Riders spend long days and dark nights alone in the harshest weather with no support. In the final installment of "Intro to Winter Fatbike Ultras", we ask seasoned ultra veterans what their number one tips are for trying your first winter fatbike ultra. Here they share their personal experiences of planning for success and learning some lessons the hard way. James Kiffmeyer: My most important lesson for winter ultras was a training ride I did that I expected to be easy. I started in beautiful weather, 28 degrees outside, I assumed I had nothing to worry about. Roughly 15 miles into the 30 mile ride it warmed up a bit more and started to mist. Due to the wet sweat I already had built up, and the mist coming down, I got incredibly cold. I didn't have any way of drying off on the trail, and it brought home the true danger of the combination of wet and cold, even in relatively mild conditions. It doesn't matter if it is in the 30s or in the -40s, if you get wet down to your core, it is very likely going to end your ride early, and could be very dangerous. Staying dry by moderating your energy output, adjusting layers, protecting yourself in whatever way it takes, is critical to completing a winter ultra fat bike ride. That lesson served me well during many ultra races, where I learned to reduce layers and find that balance of staying warm while never being warm enough to sweat significantly. Amanda Harvey Clothing and gear choices are personal. There is no one perfect piece of gear that everyone needs. So experiment, borrow gear from friends, be open to things not being perfect but working good enough. When I was first getting into ultras I was stressed about getting the right gear, it kept me up at night. It's a slow process dialing in your bike, clothes, and boots. There's depth of stuff in the community, so if you need to borrow something, ask! We want to see new folks join this niche sport within a niche sport. Sue Lucas I'd say my #1 tip is do your research. Read everything you can about the race you are planning on doing. I know I read everything I could find on Arrowhead 135 back in the day. I remember scouring the old AH forum over and over again reading every post that was written. I also read all the race reports I could find and talked to race vets. By doing your research you are not going in blind to an event and you can learn so many things that can help you out in a difficult situation. Another big tip I would say is to believe in yourself. That Leadville 100 race quote by Ken Chlouber " You're better than you think you are, you can do more than you think you can" really sums up what people can do if they believe in themselves. I know that is always my race mantra and it's served me well. Paul Fickle The most important lesson I've learned from Winter Ultra's is to test your gear, especially clothes. Just like summer biking clothes, there are lots of fancy winter riding clothes that work well for a certain size range of humans. If you're outside that range they might not work as well for you. I've heard all kinds of rave reviews about different winter clothes from people and then tried them out on long winter rides and found them to be lacking. The clothes that will work best are the ones that fit you the best. Period. Don't cram or stretch yourself into that cool new thing. Ride with the clothes you have and find out for yourself! Do the work! It always comes back around to that. Do the work. There's just no getting around it. You'll never know how a thing works for you out in the cold long night until you've tried it. And I can't wait to try more! Trying Your First Winter Fatbike Ultra Throughout this series, we've talked through many of the risks, logistics, and insider tips for trying your first winter fatbike ultra. Every ride and ever rider is different, so do your planning and make sure to train and practice long before getting to the starting line. If you try your first event this year, let us know. We'd love to hear your story and hear the lessons you learned along the way.

  • 2022 TOUR DE CHEQUAMEGON & EQUITY SCHOLARSHIPS RECAP

    The Tour de Chequamegon is an annual 3-day supported and catered bikepacking trip along the Wisconsin route of the same name. This year, organizer Dave Schlabowske started an equity program for 2022 with Brooke Goudy & Devin Cowens offering 5 BIPOC and gender equity scholarships. See the event recap, photos, and way to support next year's event here. Story by Dave Schlabowske This year the Wheel & Sprocket Tour de Chequamegon started a week earlier than usual. With that timing and a warm dry summer and early fall, the colors were not as popping as in years past. And because the event was the same weekend as Cable Fall Fest, we started at Telehenge rather than from the town of Cable parking lot. That did offer a new opportunity for a great group photo next to the elevator shafts that are all that remain of the former Telemark Lodge. For the latest on the exciting future of the Telemark property, see what the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation has planned. Another change this year was a new grant program to try to increase diversity on the guided ride we lead each fall and tempt more people of color to visit and ride in the Wisconsin Northwoods. The program was created and managed by Brooke Goudy and Devin Cowens and by all accounts, the first year was a great success. Brooke and Devin and five BIPOC riders new to bikepacking joined the 30 other people who signed up, and everyone had successful rides and enjoyed the challenge of pedaling the hilly gravel roads through the Chequamegon Forest for three days the last weekend in September. I have to say, it was pretty cool to have such a stacked group of pro ride guides this year. In addition to Brooke and Devin, we also had Tom Schuler, Shane Hitz and local super volunteer Jerry Wright back! One of our experienced Wheel & Sprocket ride support crew came down with Covid and had to skip the event this year, so I filled in for him. That meant I was not able to ride along and take a bunch of photos like I usually do. So our pics are limited this year, but you can see all the images I took and download high resolution files on the event gallery on my photoshelter site linked below. This guided, organized ride, which follows the Tour de Chequamegon route, was designed to introduce people to bikepacking by removing some of the barriers that might keep people from trying it on their own. So while riders must carry their own gear, navigate the route and camp each night, the ride is supported by Wheel & Sprocket with ride guides to help during the day, a support vehicle with mechanics in case of a breakdown, and we cater the camp meals. For about two thirds of the people who join us each year, this is their first experience bikepacking in the forest so this is an ideal ride to include an equity program. The ride also attracts some more experienced bikepackers who just enjoy the glamping aspect of catered meals, great local craft beer in camp and the Wisconsin tradition of Brandy Old Fashioneds Friday night. The diversity grant program was such a success this year that Brooke and Devin would like to continue it next year and perhaps expand it to more than five BIPOC grant spots. We fund this program with profits from the Hungry Bear 100, a small gravel race in Cable, WI that I organize each spring. That race only attracts 200-400 riders, and we try to keep the registration price low, so the profits we can devote to this new diversity program are limited. In order to expand the program Brooke and Devin created, we will need to pay another BIPOC ride guide. To help raise the additional revenue for those and other costs associated with additional grant recipients next year, we are seeking some new sponsors, but also selling new Tour de Chequamegon shirts and hoodies. All profits from the the Tour de Chequamegon, Hungry Bear 100 and Life Above 8 merchandise sales will go directly to the diversity program expansion.

  • "THE FILTHY 50 HANDED ME A TERRIFYING CHALLENGE & I FINISHED IT": HOW LISA FELL IN LOVE WITH GRAVEL

    Lisa Gose-Nelson was sick of medical challenges weighing her down while sitting on the sideline watching her husband Chris' adventures. In 2021, she did her first Filthy 50 and proceeded to do eight more 50+ mile challenges since then including this year's 2022 Filthy 50. Read her story of overcoming challenges and finding the life-changing love of riding gravel. A year ago, I made a major life change due to a medical condition that cropped up with March 2020 Covid. I spent 8 months in chronic pain - partly due to a bad hand injury (bike crash) and partly due to expected post long-Covid consequences that flared a few very nasty, lifelong, auto-immune issues that I have lived with. People ask me what it felt like – I can’t explain it better than the pain was like walking or sleeping on fire and sharp rocks. I actually purchased eight new mattresses during this time period because I could simply not get comfortable. With the support of my family, I started to track everything I did including what I ate and all of the symptoms that followed food and drink I took in. Every day I wondered how I would live the rest of my life feeling the pain I did - I did not see it. It was a lot to get through and the good news is today I am 98% pain free. A little more than a year ago I re-dedicated my entire life to feeling better, eating better (mostly clean and vegetarian), having less pain, and embracing physical and emotional well-being. Part of that was taking a huge step forward in challenging myself to ride and exercise more, in new ways and to places that push my comfort level. I took on a new, less stressful career, and I learned how to sleep again. I had my bikes fit by Paulie at GO Physio – he gets physical challenge and bike fitting; he is skilled true Doctor of Physical Therapy. All of this brought me to the Filthy 50, 2021, I finished it on a tandem bike that my husband Chris and I bought for our 30th anniversary. I had never ridden a gravel ride and it changed my life. Funny enough it was also our first, true tandem ride and we are still married. I am a work in progress, we all are, and I hope we can all share our story and support and encourage each other. This past weekend I finished my 2nd Filthy-50 on the tandem bike. A week ago, I would have finished my first solo gravel at the Heck of the North - but more importantly I fought through unexpected flats on the route and had a third at the trailhead. I was mostly on my own, I worked out a plan to get back and had a great time, I was so proud of myself! Not only was this my first solo gravel ride; it was also the first time I changed tire tubes out on my own. Rookie mistake - I did not check the inside of the tube – that wire shard got me three times, live and learn! Here is the better part of the story - in the last twelve months I have finished eight 50 miles +, 1000+ high elevation endurance challenges, including some high elevation mountain hikes. Until the 2021 Filthy I had never achieved even one challenge that was 1000+ elevation. I have taken on strength training, positive mental conditioning, started to bike camp on the Fox bike camping race, increased my Pilates practice and I am officially ready to start my instructor training and certificates with Basi Pilates – they have a focus on healing and inclusion. The Filthy handed me a terrifying challenge and I finished it. When 900+ people start the ride and finish to talk about it is exciting! Starting this at age 53 is a whole new world and is refreshing. Why I got into gravel - frankly I felt like I was missing out sitting on the sidelines watching my husband Chris and wanted my own story to tell. Being in the elements, outside and away from everything brought my appreciation back for being in the moment. At the beginning I thought I would like to listen to music when I am riding on gravel. Now I like hearing the crushing sound of rock and the wind noise and feeling the air - it brings a gritty sense of joy. I extend a heartfelt thank you to Trenton J. Raygor (Filthy-50) and Jeremy Kershaw (Heck of the North and the Fox), Dr. Paulie Glatt (GO Physio), Tonka Cycles and my life partner Chris Nelson and all of you who are the most embracing and supportive people and inspire me with your incredible power and inclusivity! My gravel bikes: 2022 Surly Midnight Special and a 2021 custom Co-Motion Java Tandem

  • JUST YOU & THE WOODS WAY THE HECK UP NORTH: POINTED NORTH'S HECK OF THE NORTH PORTRAITS

    The 2022 Heck of the North took place on Saturday October 1st in Two Harbors, Minnesota. Josh Kowaleski of Pointed North Photography was at the mile 97/47 capturing mid-ride gravel portraits. Enjoy this mini gallery... Photos by Josh Kowaleski. To see the full gallery of portraits, visit Pointed North Photo.

  • BIKEPACKING ROOTS' NORTHWOODS ROUTE

    The ~600-mile-long Northwoods Route is a circumnavigation of the western half of Lake Superior, primarily following gravel roads, relatively smooth two-tracks, rail trails, and short sections of pavement through thick forests and along countless lakes of all sizes. Route developed by Bikepacking Roots and featured here with their permission. This loop has been created to be inviting to riders on both mountain or gravel bikes, and riders will find that resupply options are relatively frequent along the way. Singletrack alternates and trail networks along the way offer options for riders looking for more technical riding opportunities - loaded or unloaded - and to experience the many unique trail systems built near communities along the way. The loop is closed by utilizing the passenger ferries that travel to Isle Royale National Park to cross Lake Superior. This connection requires some planning since the ferries do not run daily, and the lake crossing will require an overnight stay on Isle Royale (see the FAQ below for more information on these ferries; note that bikes are not allowed anywhere on Isle Royale other than at the docks and main campgrounds). We also encourage riders to spend an extra day or more on Isle Royale to experience some of the many miles of hiking trails. See additional Northwoods Route information and download the guidebook and full 350+ waypoint/POI GPS file on Bikepacking Roots' website: Bikepacking Roots is an 8,000-member-strong 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing bikepacking, growing a diverse bikepacking community, advocating for the conservation of the landscapes and public lands through which we ride, and creating professional routes. 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. TheNxrth.com 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.

  • MARIA DREWS ON CYCLING, MOTHERHOOD, AND TRAINING FOR HER FIRST GRAVEL RACE

    Balancing the responsibilities and changes of motherhood is a lot of pressure. Here Maria Drews shares her thoughts on prioritizing hobbies, relationships, and reclaiming parts of her life that are just for her. Look for her at next weekend's Red Granite Grinder which will be her first gravel race. Follow Maria on her YouTube channel.

  • DETAILS: 4-RACE SNOW CROWN SERIES OPENS OCT 9 WITH 150 CAPACITY

    Registration for the Snow Crown 2023 race series opens Sunday, October 9th at 10:00am central. 150 spots will be open for series entries. Can’t make all 4? That’s ok, they take the best of 3 races. Also, series riders get entry to the end of year party (Green Bay Country Club) and prizes. The Snow Crown series is here to remind you that winter doesn't have to suck anymore. Giving you something to look forward to, they just announced the opening of the 9th annual 2023 4-race series opening this weekend on October 9th at 10am. Individual race registrations are also available, but you must register for the series in order to be eligible for series prizes. The race is a point based competition taking your best 3 scores with categories all the way from beginner to elite. 1 point for each place that you finish (1st place = 1 point, 10th place = 10 points, etc.) and the lowest scores win. The events are exclusively fat bike events and all rigs must have 3.8" tires or wider. Snow Crown Series Race Dates and Locations: January 7 | Shelltrack: Manitowoc, WI January 21 | Fatty Shack: DePere, WI Feb 4 | Fat Camp: Suamico, WI Feb 11 | US Fat Bike Open: Green Bay, WI Equal Prize Payouts For Men and Women in Every Category Okay, this is pretty neat. The races and community around this series are fun enough but they've also got prize payouts that are equal for men and women and they're also equal for all four categories of Novice, Intermediate, Advanced, and Elite/Pro. So equal prizes are truly up for grabs no matter who you are and no matter what category you're in. To learn more about the Snow Crown series or to get registered, visit their website.

  • SEWING BAGS & BIKING WITH WOLVES: JAMES MORROW OF MORROW PACKS TELLS ALL

    James Morrow is a bike bag maker and race director in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Today we chat about bags, races, fatherhood, and how hobbies turn into more than hobbies. Morrow Packs on Instagram Photos: Studio 13, Ryan Stephens Photo, and Rob Meendering You're in the U.P.? Whereabouts and what's it like up there? I started Morrow Packs in Iron Mountain, MI (my wife’s home town) but have since moved to Negaunee, just up the hill from Marquette. Iron Mountain is beautiful country (I mean, it’s the U.P. right?) it has that small mining town feel, laid back. Not a big cycling community presence, but it’s on its way with many new single track trails right in town. Tony and I and a handful of other mountain bikers grouped up and actually built a couple of trails up on Millie Hill with permission from the local trail network: Berm Cruise, Berm City, and Section 30 (the jumpline). As much fun as it was helping create trails and building, it is very nice to have Marquette and Ishpeming trail networks just outside my back door now. Now to just ride and volunteer. How did you get into making bags and what made you take the leap from hobby to business? A couple summers ago my brother in law (Tony) and I started riding together a bunch and started dabbling in bike-packing. Buying a bag here and there, but once they were all on the bike, they did not compliment the bike at all (bikes are supposed to look cool). After asking around to a few different bag builders what the process and cost would be for some custom bags, it just made sense to take a crack at it. We had just had a baby girl and I was at home a lot so why not fire up a new hobby with all my free time. (That one was a joke). The leap to a legit business all comes down to the demand and not wanting to hide anything from “the man”. What's the Lone Wolf and what made you bring the race to Iron Mountain? The Lone Wolf Gravel Race was a route that Tony and I would ride often. We could leave right from town and hit gravel within 10 miles and get way out of town for a few hrs. It’s mostly truck trail and is pretty remote for 30 miles. Spring of ‘19 Tony and I were riding the route when we ran up on a very large “mangy” grey wolf trotting in the same direction as us. It took a glance over its shoulder at us (he was not spooked) and hopped off the road as we cranked it up to get passed him. Yes, very unnerving hoping he didn’t want to pass us. So yeah, it is a beautiful route that I thought had to be showcased. And now you know where the name comes from. We had a great turnout of amazing people, about 78 signed up and 64 showed up and all finished. We ran it through the non profit cycling team I had started a year prior, Iron Hills Cycling Team, and used the proceeds from the race to purchase helmets for kids in the area. We were able to get about 20 Helmets on kids with the help of the local bike shop U.P. Sport and Spoke. We plan on doing it all over again this fall too. Lone Wolf is scheduled for October 8th 2022. Lone Wolf Race Video Video by: Trent Lutzke You're a full time Dad; how do you juggle business, events, creativity, and fatherhood? Without the support, love and patience from my amazing wife Jen, I cannot do any of these things. She is awesome and believes in me. Love you darling! I just keep moving forward and having fun with it all. The moment it starts feeling like work I’ll back off. But for now I’m enjoying making bags for so many cool people and their bikes, planning a race that people come to and enjoy, riding my bike, and of course being a husband and father.

  • GRAVEL PIZZA: FULL RECAP & GALLERY

    The Gravel Pizza Overnighter took place on September 24-25 in Eau Claire and Clark County Wisconsin. A community bikepacking event, we spent two days exploring off-grid gravel, cheese curd and beer stops, and camping at Wedges Creek pizza farm. Read below for a full recap and event galleries. To see more about the 2022 Gravel Pizza Overnighter, check out the rider portraits and Katrina Hase's event video. The Group Rollout We all mingled before the ride dialing in our gear setup, packing our maple syrup, and getting pre-event portraits. I was definitely feeling nervous about how our first event would go and what to expect from the fragile weather forecast we seemed to be in. Riding through the woods in a pack always feels a little magical. Before the event I really only knew two people and had a wonderful time meeting new riders, hearing their stories, and working through the gravel and hills together. Our first 5 miles were on ATV trail without any major hills so we could start out riding in a nice group. Day 1: Meeting Everyone Over Curds, Beer, and Gravel I gave a fair warning that mile 4-5 had a nice section of sandy hike-a-bike and tried to prep everyone for the slow start. But afterwards a gal told me that I oversold that section and she was even hoping for a more challenging sandy section. So of course, I'm taking notes for next year (kidding). The weather was crisp with a little bit of morning mist still in the air for the first hour or so. The gatherings for cheese curds at Vojtik's Stockyard and beer at AKA Lakeside were great breaks and gave everyone a chance to meet each other and share riding stories. Camping at Wedges Creek To pack light, I brought my rain fly but no actual tent. With the misty weather, I thought I might be sleeping wet. But the ground was pretty dry so I set up camp and grabbed a drink from the farmhouse bar. We happened to be at Wedges Creek for the very last pizza night of the year. In celebration of the closing pizza season, the owner Jeff blasted a 10" pumpkin 700 yards into a field with the most massive cannon I've ever seen. The barn had live old time bluegrass playing Old Crow Medicine show and Charlie Daniels Band covers. Once it got dark, it started to rain for the first time so the bonfire crowd moved indoors for dessert pizza and a little bit of dancing. Day 2: Soggy Riding and Goodbye Until Next Time So on the ride home, it totally poured. I mean we got hammered with rain. The wind was relentless and the rain poured. But the weather couldn't make up it's mind so of course it turned into a gorgeous (and hot!) blue sky sunny day without a single cloud before completely closing up and drenching us all over again. Thankful that the pouring rain didn't unleash until Day 2 of riding, we packed up, said our goodbyes and now look forward to future gravel adventures.

  • JEREMY & DAVID ON "THE GOOD LINE" & FINDING THE SWEET SPOT IN LIFE

    When I first watched The Good Line, it became an instant favorite. The challenge of endurance gravel cycling combined with the beautiful honesty of life struggles makes it inspiring and relatable. In this interview, I talked with David Cowardin, the producer, and Jeremy Kershaw, owner of Heck of the North Productions. The Good Line is a short film by Blue Forest Films that follows Jeremy Kershaw, owner of Heck of the North Productions, as he processes the balance of endurance cycling, mental health, and the relationships that mean the most. Watch the film and read the full interview with David and Jeremy here. How did "The Good Line" story come together? David Cowardin: I loosely followed Jeremy’s gravel cycling events for a few years and two things immediately attracted me: the beauty of the routes, and this concept of riding the good line. I reached out to Jeremy and expressed an interest in shooting a short film about one of his riders and what motivates them to participate in his events. I was interested in finding someone who wasn’t necessarily participating to win, but rather someone who was participating to fulfill some other need or desire. After a few email exchanges, it quickly became evident that Jeremy was the person I was meant to feature. He was open, honest, and thoughtful … all of the things I look for when considering a story. Jeremy Kershaw: When David approached me with this idea, I jumped at the chance to work with him. Without a doubt one of the best parts of this experience for me was being part of David’s interview process. His questions were well conceived and that whole period of talking about the events and my life in cycling was powerful for me. It sounds selfish but I mean this in the most open sort of way. I think he did a great job of blending the verbal story into the visual film component. I loved the swimming scene. How did you come up with that & what role did it play in the film? David Cowardin: That scene was my favorite as well. When I interviewed Jeremy, he described his Great Divide adventure almost as an awakening, or a rite of passage from one level of self awareness to another. My goal with that scene was to visualize that awakening and take Jeremy off the bike. Watching Jeremy fully submerged in the river for several seconds, I thought, would be an effective way to let the viewer stop and feel what Jeremy was going through mentally. That feeling of being breathless and trapped, but to emerge from that low point feeling clean and whole again. The swimming scene was also the only scene that I decided to direct. The blend of documentary-style filming with a more directed scene like that was a lot of fun for me creatively. It allowed me to introduce a little of my own creative voice. We joke about that scene now because we filmed it in late September when the air and water temps were quite low. Jeremy felt his body temp drop quite dramatically and we had to blast the heat in the car and Jeremy wolfed down the tin of almonds I had in the console. I now refer to that spot as hypothermia hole. Jeremy Kershaw: Indeed, it was an intense experience, both physically and also for the story. I knew it was a logistically challenging shot for David and his other assistant for the day. It was without a doubt the coldest I have ever been. I think it took me three hours to fully re-warm! But as David describes, I knew it was a crux move in his story (though I had no idea how exactly he was going to weave it in.) All I knew is that my actor’s union was going to be contacting him for my catatonic condition afterward, lol. The songs in the film were perfect. How did you pick them? David Cowardin: Seth Bernard is an artist from Michigan that I was loosely familiar with. He combines music with activism around issues like clean water and racial equity. After casually listening to one of his tunes, I knew it was right for The Good Line. I found the Chris Coleman tune on a music licensing site while searching for something a bit darker and ethereal for the swimming scene. Jeremy Kershaw: LOL. Turkeys in the rain. Every time I hear that I’m not sure what to think. But the piece at the end just seemed to fit perfectly. What do you hope people feel after the film? David Cowardin: I hope people feel inspired to reflect on their own life experiences and perhaps how outdoor recreation has or could influence their lives for the better. I also hope people are left with a strengthened sense of empathy for others. Jeremy Kershaw: I think a great story has the power of universal connections. David took parts of my life and made it into a really solid story. It is a testament to his creativity more than anything I did in my life. We know, by the feedback that we have received, that it hit a nerve in many who watched. I’m proud of that and I hope people feel less alone, more connected. David, a lot of your films have deeper themes around personal growth, deep reflection, and outdoor beauty. What do you hope to accomplish with your storytelling? David Cowardin: That’s a good observation and one that is becoming more clear to me as well. As a storyteller, I’m really interested in showing what makes a person uniquely them, and the way I approach that is by telling a very specific story. Storytelling is also personally fulfilling for me. I love the process and I love learning from the subjects I work with. It’s my own version of the 100-mile gravel ride. How did the general community around Heck of the North and North Shore cycling receive the film? David Cowardin: The film was received quite well. A lot of people have mentioned how relatable the story is to them and some have even shared in detail some of their own similar experiences. That’s a great sign to me. It tells me that this film has created a space for people to feel a sense of belonging and community. Jeremy Kershaw: Right. I am touched by the people who have written to us, sharing their experiences with the film and their own lives. It was a leap of faith for Avesa and I to let this out into the open and we both feel like it took on a life of its own after being released. Again, another sign that David created a story worth viewing. David, I heard you gave Heck of the North a shot after doing the film. How did that experience go? David Cowardin: After filming the Heck of the North in 2019, I was very excited to participate in one of Jeremy’s events. My bike experience is mostly limited to commuting and shorter distance mountain biking, so I began trying some longer rides to get a feel for what it’s like. I got hooked and signed up for the 2020 event, which was cancelled due to the pandemic. I was finally able to participate in the 2021 Heck and was not prepared either physically or mentally: I dropped out at the 57-mile checkpoint due to knee pain. It was still a great experience, though. My favorite moment was when a fellow rider decided to slow down a bit and ride next to me and chat. He asked me about my bike, a beefy Surly ECR, and from there we talked about things strangers, let alone men, typically don’t talk about, but because of the environment Jeremy creates, it felt totally normal. It was, I think, a mini therapy session for the both of us. What gear did you shoot the film with? David Cowardin: The Good Line was shot primarily with a Panasonic EVA1 camera. The drone shots were captured with a DJI Mavic 2 Pro. My friend, Jasper Meddock, helped capture drone shots during the 2019 Heck event in addition to driving my vehicle while I filmed from the back. Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the Good Line? Jeremy Kershaw: Well, I’ll tell you that this past year has been a challenging one. I know it has been for many. I admit that I come back to this line, this idea on a regular basis in my own life, frequently. Where am I at? How are things flowing? How does this compare to the Good Line I have felt before? It’s dynamic and always needs to be reevaluated. I would never pretend it is the only way to view life…but it sticks for me and I think it helps me get back to that sweeter spot in life. Maybe that’s what gravel cycling and endurance events have taught me the most. They remind me on a daily basis that I can get through some pretty tough conditions. But when I can’t do it alone, I’ve got good people nearby to help me out. I hope that is the community we foster in our events. To learn more about Heck of the North or register to ride one of the events, visit their website. David Cowardin owns Blue Forest Film; visit his YouTube channel or check out his website for more information.

  • PRIVATE PROPERTY & GORGEOUS GRAVEL: LAST CHANCE AUTUMN RIDING AT THE RED GRANITE GRINDER

    The Red Granite Grinder is a perfect way to close out your fall gravel riding season. This year's event gives you access to private property segments and trails that aren't open to the public. In this interview, we talk with Shane Hitz about how he dreams up such unique courses. The 2022 Red Granite Grinder takes place on October 15 and includes 12, 50, 85, and 144 mile races. New for this year's event are free group rides on Thursday and Friday and a special Red Granite Grinder beer release party on Friday. Head to Red Granite Grinder to learn more. Interview with Shane Hitz, Race Director of the Red Granite Grinder This event goes beyond drawing a line on a map. How do you come up with your route and getting exclusive access to private property? Coming up with a route as long as the 144 and 85 is very labor intensive. The current route for the 144 and 85 took me over 1600 miles of biking in the year leading up to the 2020 race. First thing I do is get a general idea of where most of the gravel roads are located. I then break up a larger picture of that area into small chunks in the general area of where I want the route to go. For example, on the 144 mile route, I wanted to go up to Lincoln County in the New Wood area. I drew up a 50 mile loop and rode that. Of course the first time out on a small loop like this it is not going to result in a perfect loop every time. But I do gain knowledge of what exactly is out there to work with. In the example of that 50 mile loop I did in the New Wood area, I actually went out there fatbiking the area for the first time on a cold January day and ran into multiple dead ends, even getting yelled at from a land owner for only just looking at his forest property. Luckily I ran into some local bobcat hunters who told me about a property that I may be able to get permission to use and they also knew that the two track in that property connected to another public road! I then went back home and looked on satellite, saw the two track they were talking about, called the landowners, and then rode it in the spring. The result netted us with a continuous 2.5 mile section that is on the current route. This was the process I use for just this small section. Now that my routes have been around for a couple years I look at satellite imagery or take mental notes of two track I see while riding the routes and then look at land atlases to find out who owns it and then I just take the chance at asking the landowner. Sometimes they say no but sometimes they say yes and are actually just excited to be part of the race. This year I got access to a section that is new for 2022 just by stopping on my bike and talking to a farmer who was out by his machine shed! What's your favorite part of the course? I always love the Averill Creek Fire Lane and love the creek crossing on that fire lane. Red Granite Grinder racers do not know this but in June that creek crossing is one of the most mosquito infested areas I have ever been through. Knowing you do not need to deal with those suckers is positive thoughts to think about when crossing on a crisp mid October day. Another fun thing about this section is that someone created a Strava segment titled "Self Mutilation". I love when people create fun names like this! Another section that I am super excited about is bringing an extremely fun section to the 50 mile course. Willow Springs in the town of Maine gave me permission to use their corn maze before it is open to the public. While I was out scouting this corn maze on my single speed last fall I saw a perfect two track that ran east into the neighboring farmer's land. I asked him if he would be interested in letting me use his property, again by just going up to him in person. He told me to jump in his UTV with him and he took me on the tour of his property and then he told me to ride my bike around and find a good line. The result of this little tour with him turned into one of my most exciting sections for the 2022 year. And I already put a Strava segment on it! You're definitely playing with dice by having an Oct 15 Northern Wisconsin gravel race. What do you want people to get out of the race? I don't feel like I am playing with dice with the time of the year. This is the time of the year when the singletrack starts to close down with the freeze/thaw cycles yet we have some of the best fall colors hanging around. The weather can be a challenge but most racers embrace that part of it. Looking back two years ago, we had snow coming down on the morning of the race. With the race starting in downtown we had a magical scene in the glow of the city lights. Nine mile forest was a winter wonderland. By the afternoon the snow had melted and according to racer feedback, most racers came away with one of their best riding memories. This is also a great time for some as it is possibly the last big ride of the year. To answer the second part of that question, I hope that most racers come away with the pride of completing this challenge whether they are a seasoned rider or someone who is brand new to gravel or gravel racing. I also hope that they come away with an appreciation for the hills that we have around Wausau as well as the fascination and wonder that comes with exploring new trails that are never open to the public. Didn't you break some bones this year? Are you back in the game now and will you be riding? I did break some bones this year. I had a mountain biking accident and broke five ribs. I was lucky enough to get back in the saddle pretty quickly and started doing gravel centuries two or three weeks out from the breaks. It took me a little longer to get back onto the single speed and even more time to get back on singletrack but I feel pretty lucky to have gravel in my back yard to rehab on. Race weekend: What are the best places to stay, eat, drink, and take in Wausau? For people who are coming into town for the race weekend, the best place to stay is right at the start and finish line at the Jefferson Street Inn. You just cannot beat the location of being right at the start line. Another great hotel that we have in the racer guide is the Hilton Garden Inn in Rib Mountain. As far as eating and drinking, Wausau is very lucky to have some great locally owned restaurants. There are a number of them downtown including Red Eye and Malarkey's where you can pick up dinner and a beer, Politos Pizza, and The Mint Cafe. Just a short distance from downtown is the super popular La Taqueria, as well as The Great Dane, and the unique atmosphere and great pizza at Wausau Mine Company. For people that want to do more riding along with their gravel adventure they can get on to some of our great singletrack trails in Ringle, Nine Mile, or the Underdown trail systems. Or if you want to check out the fall colors by way of water, bring the kayaks and paddle up the slow moving Rib River and launch in places like Oak Island or Gulliver's Landing. In addition to all of that we have some great hiking opportunities whether it is on the trails on Rib Mountain or the Ice Age Trail just outside of town. Also, I don't know if you heard this but this year we are adding some gravel group rides to the race weekend. On Thursday we have a 60 mile ride in the most northern section of the 144 and on Friday we have an easy 25 mile gravel ride with very little elevation change. Also, Friday evening on the square downtown we are having a special Red Granite Grinder beer release from Red Eye followed by a local rock band along with early bib pick up. So as you can see we have a big weekend of gravel coming up and we are super stoked to see everyone again this year!

  • VIDEO: KATRINA HASE'S GRAVEL PIZZA OVERNIGHTER

    Katrina Hase and her husband Tony joined last weekend's Gravel Pizza Overnighter. Katrina may have forgotten her helmet, but she remembered her GoPro. This video covers the gravel, pizza, and camping from the entire route. Enjoy. Video by Katrina Hase

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