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- The Nxrth Was Just on the Northwoods Ramble Podcast: Behind the Scenes Chat With Josh
Josh from The Nxrth was recently a guest on The Northwoods Ramble podcast. He and Seeley Dave talked about a new bikepacking route Josh is publishing in Itasca County Minnesota, working from ROAM Adventure Basecamp in Seeley, as well as other gravel updates from the northwoods. Listen in here:
- Wisconsin Premier of 'THE LAST DAMN': La Crosse Film Screening Friday Aug 18
The Wisconsin premier of the 'THE LAST DAMN' is taking place on Friday, August 18 at the Rivoli Theater & Pizzeria in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The event is free and includes a Q&A with filmmaker Nick Kapanke. Learn more about the event and tickets here. For more info, follow the Facebook event. Checkpoint Zero Films recently released 'THE LAST DAMN' which follows numerous racers as they attempt to complete The Day Across Minnesota in 2021. Ben Weaver, a poet, musician, and DAMn veteran beautifully narrates this trailer with an excerpt from his poem 'The DAMn'. Created by local filmmaker Nicholas Kapanke, come join them for a celebration of the human spirit, togetherness, and the power of the bicycle to open our minds and hearts. Tickets are FREE! Event organizers are asking that you reserve the tickets you will be needing HERE. Please only confirm the seats you will need and if you are not able to attend please let them know 48 hours in advance so they can open those seats back up.
- Top 13 Reasons To Join Us At Gravel Pizza
The second annual Gravel Pizza Overnighter is coming on Sept 23-24. Riders can choose between one night and two nights. This community bikepacking event includes bikepacking, camping, welcome drink, Embark maple syrup, and a farm breakfast in the morning. To learn more and get registered, visit the Gravel Pizza Overnighter page. Top 13 Reasons to Join Gravel Pizza This community bikepacking event rolls through tangled waters and towering pines. Along the way, we'll make stops for cheese curds and again for a beer in Rock Dam before arriving at Wedges Creek for pizza, camping, music, and camaraderie. These are our favorite reasons to invite you to join us for fall bikepacking together: 1. Meet Other Bikepackers Ride with new like-minded people from all over the north. You'll have plenty of opportunities to ride with different people, join up with a new group, make new connections at the drink stop in Rock Dam, and sit around the fire sharing new stories at Wedges Creek. 2. Ride The Nxrth's Favorite Handpicked Gravel Grab Bag The Eau Claire County forest is my (Josh's) gravel home and I put together all of my favorite stretches to showcase the area and give you a bikepacking experience with constant variety. Rivers, lakes, hills, winding forests, and farms. Total mileage is ~45 and there's not a boring mile on the route. 3. Finish In The Pines At Wedges Creek This is a special place. It's tucked at the end of some beefy gravel roads and is surrounded by trees. Grab a drink and sit around one of the campfires and get to know new people while your pizza is being cooked. There are full bathroom and shower services so you can even freshen up for the evening. 4. Wood-Fired Pizza Is On The Menu After a day of riding, you gotta eat well and wood-fired pizza is tough to beat. Pies run about $24/each, they're made to order, and they've got dessert pizza on the menu as well. 5. Live Music From The Sliced Bread Jug Band As the sun is going sun is going down, enjoy music on the farm from the Sliced Bread Jug Band. Wedge's Creek has an outdoor stage with seating and campfires as well as an indoor event building in case of inclement weather. 6. Route Stops Include Cheese Curds & Beer Two famous gravel stops are perfectly spaced right on the route: Vojtik's Stockyard for cheese curds and ice cream and then AKA Lakeside for a drink on the lake in Rock Dam. 7. Constant Views Of Rivers, Lakes, & Towering Pines Bike through a rotating scene of forests and waterways. The Eau Claire river splits and we'll go by the north and south forks of the river. We'll also be hanging out at Rock Dam Lake for a drink at AKA Lakeside before the final leg of the ride. 8. Farm Breakfast Is Included Wake up at Wedges Creek for coffee, eggs, hash browns, sausage, and toast. After filling up, we'll pack up our tents and head back to the starting point via a shorter gravel route. 9. Add The Optional Community Night & Social Ride On Friday Add a second night of riding, camping, and stopping at Boondock's for drinks and apps on Friday night. This is a community night and will be a great time to get to know others before the riding on Saturday. 10. You Can Leave Your Cookset & Stove At Home No need to cook. The entire weekend is built around having places to stop and eat on the route. You can grab food at Vojtik's Stockyard for lunch on Saturday. Supper is pizza at Wedges Creek, then farm breakfast is included on Sunday morning before beginning your ride back to the cars. 11. Welcome Drink Is Included (You Rode Hard. You Deserve It) Park your bike and set up your tent then head on over to the bar and grab a free welcome drink. They've got beer and wine on tap which tastes amazing-er after a nice long ride. 12. Embark Maple Included Salted maple syrup is the perfect energy source for long distance rides. The sugar gives you energy and the salt helps you stay hydrated. Your includes 3-pack variety sample of Salted, Coffee, and Elderberry. 13. Fall Season Means Cooler Nights Summer is winding down and fall is gearing up. Enjoy cooler riding during the day and a flannel evening around the fire as chillier nights start to become the norm. To learn more and get registered, visit the Gravel Pizza Overnighter page.
- Lakeside Camping & Community Gravel at the Inaugural Midwest Bikepacking Summit
The Midwest Bikepacking Summit is coming up Sept 7-9 in northern Wisconsin. The event is full of community rides, lakeside camping, and bikepacking in the beautiful Nicolet National Forest. Learn more about the event here and get registered to join. Words by Shane Hitz Photos by Dave Schlabowske To learn more, visit the Midwest Bikepacking Summit. Registration is $35 and includes the summit event and camping at Jake Lake on 9/7 and 9/8. In the Heart of the Nicolet National Forest The Nicolet National Forest is full of history. Everyone likes to ride in a place that has a rich history and a story. In the Nicolet riders will find abundant logging history. Wabeno in particular will be a spot of interest with its logging museum, an old 1800's train pulling a sleigh of logs and the giant Paul Bunyan statue. What I am really excited about is the location of the Summit portion of the event. Thursday and Friday's events all take place at Jack Lake Campground. On Thursday evening we will have a group ride through the Bogus Swamp area. Friday we will be having an expo featuring local organizations and vendors followed by the summit, an educational portion of the event with speakers on topics such as leave no trace, wilderness first aid, and the area that the route is on, plus group rides on the Jack Lake singletrack trail system in between the expo and summit. We will also have camping available for all that register for the event. Route & Region Highlights I designed this route around a few of my favorite restaurants. Those being White Lake Market, Weatherwood Supper Club, Waubee Lodge, Roadhouse 139, and Johnnie's Resort. Those are places that I would hope that everybody tries to make a stop at. I then went out and found the best dispersed sites and have an extensive list of POI's on the map for those. There are too many to list my favorites but check out the descriptions on the POI's to get an idea of what would fit for your needs and likes. The route also has great sections of singletrack which are nicely dispersed. Nicolet Roche, Strong Falls, and Otter Springs are the trails you will find. And there's Jack Lake at the start of the route, which isn't on the route but can be ridden from the parking lot before or after your ride. Lastly, are the high vistas on the route. Riders will find five vistas; Mountain fire tower (Wisconsin's only fire tower that the public can climb and on a clear day you can see Wausau 60 miles away from the top), Butler Rock, Big Rock, Thunder Mountain (can see the UP of Michigan from here), and Wisconsin's highest cul-de-sac. Riding Options We will have three route option. The first is a overnight option that is 75 miles long. Second is the SoNic loop which is 225 miles. Last we offer the full Tour de Nicolet route which is 365 miles. The SoNic i would recommend giving yourself 3-4 day and the Tour de Nicolet 5-7 days. When signing up we offer a clockwise and counter-clockwise option to better disperse people throughout the course. Social Time Bikepacking The social aspect is huge for this event. I wanted to bring people together who are like-minded. There are two group rides, the Thursday ride through Bogus Swamp and the group ride on the Jack Lake singletrack. There are also opportunities to sit around the campfire and chat with fellow bikepackers on Thursday and Friday nights. When we roll out onto the courses on Saturday you are likely to find yourself riding with folks who ride at the same pace as yourself and come away with some new friends. Rides for All Experience Levels You're encouraged to join whether it is your first time or a seasoned bikepacker. First timers will learn a lot about bikepacking from the summit portion as well as campfire talk with those that have done this stuff before. Seasoned folks will have the opportunity to meet new people and come away with new friends. If you are new to this you also may be excited and learn some stuff from Noelle Battle, the Executive Director from Bikepacking Roots, who will be here not only for the Thursday and Friday events but will also be riding the overnight loop and camping with that group. Those that want to take part in the camping on Thursday and/or Friday nights and want to ride the route go on over to the Midwest Bikepacking Summit to register. To reduce any barriers people may have we are only charging $35 which includes the Thursday and Friday nights camping at Jack Lake. We are also donating $5 from each entry as a carbon offset to Langlade County to plant trees in the county forest.
- Saunas, Enduro, & Durango in Episode 5 of The Northwoods Ramble Podcast
In episode 5 of the Northwoods Ramble podcast, Seeley Dave interviews Ben Welnak, who started the popular Mountain Bike Radio podcast. They ramble about the early days of podcasting, the movement to video and somehow get on the subject of saddles and suspension dropper posts. Ben talks about how he landed in Hayward after living in Colorado, the guys also ramble about the similarities between Durango and Hayward. They discuss Ben's very cool vacation rental properties and his sauna rental business. Ben's sauna rentals: Northwoods Sauna https://northwoodssaunas.com Ben's vacation rental properties: Up North Stays https://upnorthstays.com/ Turtle Flambeau Flowage Camping Sites: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/29314161 Marinette Waterfall Loop route collection: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/37377804 Dave also welcomes back TJ, who gives and update on the new green trail up to the top of Telemark and the new downhill runs that are part of the Trek Trails Powered by OTM at Telemark Village. They share a video of them riding, the new green trail up and back down, and discuss the next green and blue downhill trails that Rock Solid will soon have two crews building at Telemark. TJ also talks about a new Enduro series he is planning at the downhill parks around Lake Superior. TJ asks viewers to give suggestions on which trails to include in the Enduro Series via comments below on YouTube or by sending emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hotdish Recap: Climbs, Cramps, & Coke on Chris Stindt's 100K
The second annual Hotdish 100 recently took place in Winona Minnesota. Riders got full scoop of Minnesota culture and Driftless gravel on their choice of three distances. Chris Stindt chose his his tires the night before the race, forgot to get groceries, left late, and has a great story to tell about his 100K ride. Words by Chris Stindt Learn more about the Hotdish 100 from Wark's Cycling Service This summer was feeling a little quiet, but things lined up nicely for me to attend my newest local gravel race, the Hotdish 100. Chase Wark is a gravel pro who lives nearby in Winona, and offered this race for the second time. I have appreciated Chase participating and supporting the local events I’ve put on, so I was excited to return the favor. I said things lined up, but that basically means we didn’t have weekend plans out of town, and my wife didn’t say NO when I asked if I could go. However, she had work and volunteer plans involving our only automobile, so I had to decide if I wanted to catch a ride to the 100 mile race, starting at 7 am, or possibly consider the 100k at 9 am. Side note, Chase Wark is a bit of a beast on the bike, and earlier this summer he rode to, raced, and won a 100 mile gravel event. I decided to pay homage to him, and ride over to the 100k, race it, and then either bum a ride home or maybe even ride back. Alas…I am not Chase, as I’d soon find out. Or rather, be reminded of. I mapped out the route to the start, and then started thinking about actually racing. Chase shared a pre-race email about the course and said it was mostly hero gravel, with some fresh grading. I used my one ‘email a race director an annoying question’ and asked him if 35 slicks or 38 semi-slicks would be better. He said the 35 everywhere except the fresh. I had more follow ups, but as an event director myself, I knew not to bother him the day before the event with minutiae. Yes, I was figuring out my tires the day before. And...I went with the slicks. I’m ok in loose stuff, plus I wanted to go fast, oh and I had to ride 24 miles to the start. In the morning, things didn’t go exactly perfect. We hadn’t gotten groceries for a while. I don’t know why I didn’t realize we were out of eggs. No fried egg, egg sandwich, waffles, pancakes, nor milk for cereal. Sheesh. Finally found something, got myself together, and left 10 minutes late. Not a big deal, but I wasn’t exactly sure how long it would take to get to the start. Oh and then I remembered that there was construction on the main road I mapped out, and I needed to go around. Not a huge deal. Oh, and it was head wind the whole way there, and I wasn’t going super slow, but I was on 35c mondo endurance tires. I didn’t panic, but I did start to push the pace a little. I also couldn’t get my GPS to sync, so I was going off of memory, and couldn’t tell how far away I was. Haaa. Got there with 16 minutes to spare. I rolled up, got my number, chatted with Chase, thanked his fiance for all her support (I know how these things go and that means she did a lot), ditched my backpack and bar bag, loaded up my snacks and water, and rolled out to the start line with 2 minutes to spare. Whew! The first climb is nicely paved. The 100k is really about 60 miles, with 4500 feet of climbing or so. I am at the front doing a little work, but eventually when no one comes around I basically soft pedal until someone else comes by. We all chill for a second and then someone attacks finally. A small group gets away over the top, but typical for a bike race, no one wants to work together, and the stragglers catch back up. As we hit the second hill I realize it’s the one that was freshly graded. It’s also got up over 18% gradient, which combined with any gravel, and loose soil plus slick tires…well it was hard. I went full gas, and at the top looked back to see no one behind me! So I decided to roll it. Silly, really, in retrospect, but at the time I figured why not try. However, the top was rolling and the group finally started taking turns working together and I watched them get closer every time I looked back. Finally I sat up to eat and drink, and jumped on the train when it came by. I decided to play it smart and wait until later climbs to break away. The rest of the ride was classic rural Minnesota Driftless gravel. Fantastic! We went down a MMR (Minimum Maintenance Road) outside Lewiston that was…very interesting. Baby head sized rocks, steep loose gravel, ruts, and leaves covering much of it up. Turns out it was a decisive downhill that eventually split up the group. I caught a couple guys and started to drop them on the next climb back up. I caught one more guy and we worked together over the top, but the two behind caught us, and we all four rode together into Winona at race leaders. And then the cramps hit. Turns out I’m no neo-pro, and my legs are very mortal, ha! I kept shaking them and stretching, as our group grew by a couple more. Eventually one of the catchers launched a little attack leaving town and my legs seized up, and I watched everyone ride away. I spoke unkindly to my legs and shook them a lot and stood and sat, and eventually pedaled my way back to the first two stragglers. I saw 2nd place ahead on the final hill, but at this point there wasn’t anything left in my legs. I slowly made my way up, onto the pavement, and back down the final paved descent. It was great! At the finish I was out of fluids, and a bit toasty. I thanked Chase, and then chugged a Coke, immediately followed by a lemonade. I don’t think I’ve ever had two sodas in 2 minutes in my whole life. I grabbed a root beer to go, did a quick podium shot, and decided to try riding home. I felt okay, until halfway up the first gravel climb when my right leg fully locked up. I called Anna, and agreed to meet her. I thought maybe I’d still get to 100 miles. Slowly up the climb and across the ridge, with a nice tailwind, I was cruising along when boom both legs locked up. I stood for awhile, but realized I couldn’t coast all the way home, so I accepted my ride. Woof! 97 miles. Just a great all around day, playing bikes. If you get a chance - do the Hotdish! And ride some driftless gravel, it does not disappoint. I’m really glad I got to see some new roads, and maybe next year I’ll just to the 100 mile event.
- Iron Mountain Michigan Gravel Guide
Created inn collaboration with Andy Cabrera of U.P. Sport & Spoke Photos by Dylan Juchemich @jukendorf Where the Heck is Iron Mountain, Michigan? Iron Mountain is right on the border of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula. If you were driving from Green Bay to Marquette, this would be pretty close to your halfway point. Surrounded by tons of forestland, lakes, and rivers (including the Menominee River that divides WI and MI), it's a fantastic jumping off point for exploring hundreds of miles of winding, rolling gravel roads. But what really makes it a great destination is the wide spread of amenities in the several little towns all tucked closely together including Iron Mountain, Kingsford, Norway, and Niagara. Jump to Section Map Overview Gravel Routes Bike Shops Where to Stay Where to Eat Where to Grab Evening Drinks Where to Get Coffee Off the Bike Attractions History Lesson on Iron Mountain The area was originally inhabited by the Menominee and Chippewa tribes before being discovered by French explorers in the 17th century. The city was founded in the mid-1800s, during the height of the iron mining industry in the region. The first mine in the area, the Chapin Mine, opened in 1879, and was followed by several others, including the Cornish, Murphy, and Quinnesec mines. The city grew rapidly, and by the turn of the 20th century, it had become a major center of the iron mining industry, employing thousands of workers. In addition to mining, the city also had a thriving lumber industry, with several sawmills located in the area. The decline of the iron mining industry in the mid-20th century led to a significant economic downturn in Iron Mountain, and the city's population declined. However, in recent years, the city has made efforts to diversify its economy, and has attracted a number of new businesses and industries. Today, Iron Mountain is a popular tourist destination, with several recreational opportunities (like gravel 😊) in the surrounding area, including skiing, snowmobiling, and hiking. Where to Ride Gravel From Iron Mountain, Michigan Would it be wrong to say that everything in the U.P. is just a little bit different? You've got pasties, winter-hardened yoopers, and a whole buncha gravelly goodness that they just never got around to paving. And lucky you, because whether you're stopping on your way to Marquette or going all in on a memorable Iron Mountain gravel weekend, they have the terrain, wild rivers, and endless network of janky old logging roads to get lost on. Add the fantastic variety of brewery pizza, rooftop vibes, and ice cream in a barn, and you've now got yourself a destination to bring the whole crew up north for. Gravel Routes Out and Back to Solbergs | 13.4 Miles This one starts at the DNR gravel pit but you can also start right from town if you’re needing more miles. It’s pretty simple: go to Solbergs, have lunch or supper, and ride back. It’s a perfect slow social gravel ride with a midpoint destination. Solbergs is your typical small town bar with hunting vibes and deer heads. There are no pasties but they’ve got burgers, fries, and a fish fry on fridays. Link to Map. Two Lakes Loop | 13.9 Miles Enjoy the lakes and stay close to town. Lake Antoine is mostly paved and includes a bike lane so you’ll see a lot of runners and families with kids. Lake Antoine also has a campground and a natural spring where you can get water. Once you get to Fumee Lake, you’ll find more gravel and double track around the lake. There are no motorized vehicles around Fumee Lake so it’s pretty peaceful and if you’re wanting some singletrack action, there are mountain bike trails on the north and south side of Fumee Lake. Link to Map. Old Carney Lake | 27 Miles Start downtown and roll the pavement until you hit the gravel on Old Carney Lake Road. This route includes the popular Rock Dam Falls which is worth a stop. After that you’ll go by Rock Lake and Carney Lake. Carney Lake has a campground but Rock Lake is more clear and better for taking a swim. Link to Map. Lone Wolf Short Course | 35 Miles This lollipop route starts at the DNR gravel pit. Follow the nice, mostly hard packed gravel roads with a few pavement connectors. This route follows the West Branch Sturgeon River and has a lot of pretty views of the water. Link to Map. Norway Truck Trail | 41 Miles This is named after the road that takes you into Norway after meandering around in the Copper Country State Forest. Once you get to Norway, your ride is 75% over but it just might be worth stopping before heading back via Fumee Lake and Lake Antoine. Norway has some mountain bike trails as well as attractions such as hiking trails to see the river and falls at Piers Gorge, and True North Outpost with zipline and white water rafting plus there are a few places to grab a bite. Link to Map. Lone Wolf Long Course | 51 Miles Starting at the gravel pit, this route is similar to the Short Lone Wolf but instead of looping back, you’ll continue south to the upper pine creek area and the outskirts of Norway before the last few big climbs of the route. If you ride this and find that you’re feeling the spirit of the lone wolf, that’s probably because it passes the storied spot where James Morrow and his friend saw the iconic lone wolf, and the rest is history. If you only had time for one route, and want all the best gravel in a perfect distance, this is it. Link to Map. Norway, Niagara, & Wisconsin | 52 Miles Connecting all the small towns, this is nice and accessible gravel route from anywhere in the area. You’ll do the entire Norway Truck Trail and also connect Old Carney Lake Road and go right by Strawberry Lake. When you get into town, this route cuts through the golf course and then rides some singletrack for a little bit and also runs right by Piers Gorge. There is some pavement connecting the towns and a big climb coming back to Kingsford. When you’re in Kingsford, feel free to stop at 51st State Brewing or Contrast Coffee. Link to Map. Big Loop | 96 Miles Well look at you, you made it all the way to Way Dam Lake (and you might need the campground that's there). This route also follows the Ford River which is really beautiful in the fall and cuts through Felch for a stop at Solberg’s for a drink or burger. Link to Map. Bike Shop U.P. Sport & Spoke Iron Mountain's lone bike shop and it's perfectly located downtown to start your rides with a public parking lot right behind the shop. They're a Salsa and Trek dealer and are right next to Moose Jackson with Spiros, Jean Kay's Pasties, and Odd Fellows also right there. Grab some maple syrup energy, a spare tube, and get even more local riding tips from the team there. They helped put this gravel guide together and are experts on gravel adventures. Where to Stay Edgewater Resort Pick one of several little country cabins that line the Menomonee River where you can even go fishing with a Wisconsin license since it’s right on the border of the two states. Pine Mountain Resort The beautiful resort has onsite dining, drinks, golf course, and pool. If you’re there in the winter, they also have downhill skiing as well as the largest ski jump in North America. Marriott Towneplace Suites This is a brand new extended stay all-suite hotel in downtown Iron Mountain with free hot breakfast. Camping Rivers Bend This campground has been around for 40+ years and is nestled along the Menomonee River. They have RV and tent sites as well as a few glamping options. Lake Antoine Campground Right on the shore of Lake Antoine this campground is also close to downtown. They have swimming, boat launch, RV, and tent sites. Where to Eat Spiros Downtown Restaurant This place is, you guessed it, right downtown. It’s a favorite spot for food with a great menu and the best burgers. They have outdoor seating and a tasty wine selection. Odd Fellows They offer seasonal courses and farm-to-table dishes highlighting the agriculture all around Iron Mountain. They have a constantly changing menu based on what's growing, and offer a beer and wine selection that is otherwise unavailable for hundreds of miles. Moose Jackson This is a nice place for lunch and also has a coffee shop with over 15 custom roasted international blends of coffee and a full espresso bar and European style bakery. Henry’s Steakhouse This one is located a stone's throw from Iron Mountain in Kingsford and is where you’re going to find the best steak as well as an early model of Henry Ford’s Model T. Jean Kay’s Pasties Don’t you even think about going to the U.P. without sitting down for a pasty. If you’re new to pasties, the most popular is steak or steak with rutabaga and they’ve even got breakfast pasties for your dawn patrol gravel rides. Carlos Cantina Carlos Cantina is a family owned and operated Authentic Mexican restaurant located inside the beautiful historic building in downtown Iron Mountain that also houses Sol Blue. Carlos Cantina offers guests a casual, family friendly atmosphere including a wide variety of Mexican beer and a full bar. Crispigna’s Italian Market Using the same family recipes for over 90 years, you're gonna fine authentic Italian foods, and specialty meat and cheese (gravel charcuterie ride anyone?). You may also want to grab a fresh roll from the bakery and shove it in your jersey pocket on your way out of town. Dessert The Ice Cream Barn It’s right on the highway. Easy in, easy out. Live animals, ice cream, and an actual barn. You always gotta stop for ice cream, so do it. Where to Grab Drinks in the Evening 51st State Brewing This is Kingsford and Iron Mountain’s first brewery and the name is inspired by the U.P.’s various attempts to secede and become it’s own state. Enjoy the patio here and possibly the area’s best best pizza. Sol Blu Housed in a historic downtown building, this is your central taproom with beer, spirits, and food. Sandstone Terrace Honestly is there anything better than a rooftop bar in the evening during the summer? Grab some food from the bar or from Carlos Cantina then gather around the fire. Where to Grab Coffee Contrast Coffee In Kingsford, this is where the yooper coffee spirit is fully alive. You’ll need a stiff smack in the face with a cupa caffeine before the early morning rides and this is where to get it. Moose Jackson With a European style bakery and custom roasted blends and espresso bar, you should have some fun exploring Moose Jackson’s craft coffee. Organic Grounds Coffeehouse Located in Kingsford, Organic Grounds serves coffee, espresso, gluten-free treats, and healthy organic options. Off the Bike Trout Fishing I haven’t done it, but I can tell you that bike fishing is a thing and Iron Mountain has it. You’re more than welcome to strap your folding fly rod to your bike and go searching for trout streams or just take a day off the bike and see if anything is biting. Piers Gorge A beautiful gorge shaped by the Menominee River, Piers Gorge showcases its unique beauty with cascading drops resembling "piers" over rock ledges. These drops form four sets of rapids, with the largest one named Mishicot Falls, standing approximately 8 feet tall. Accompanying the pretty scenery is a well-maintained hiking trail that stretches alongside the ledges and drops, extending for a distance of 1-2 miles along the river. There is an elevated overlook that provides a great view of the falls, while those seeking a closer experience can venture down to the water. This area is also popular for white water rafting. Millie Mine Bat Cave This is a deserted vertical iron mine and now serves as a sanctuary for one of the largest bat colonies in North America housing up to 1 million bats. Don’t worry though; the mine shaft entrance is protected by a specialized steel grate that prevents humans from accidentally falling in while allowing the bats to come and go freely. 51st State Brewery Yep, we already mentioned this one but it’s worth a stop and a mention here. Bike right over after a ride, grab some local brews on the patio from the place that has occasionally wished it was just its own state. Fumee Lake Natural Area Fumee Lake Natural Area spans over 1800 acres and boasts unique features, including Fumee Lake and Little Fumee Lake, offering five miles of untouched shoreline. Home to eagles and loons, it serves as biking, hiking, picnics, and wildlife viewing. True North Outpost An adventure HQ located in Norway with options for guided trips, gear and rentals, for outings including white water rafting, rock climbing, mountain biking, canoeing, a more.
- Is Nobody Bike Touring Anymore? 6 Reasons Touring is Declining While Bikepacking is Exploding
Traditional paved bike touring has had a decline in the last decade while bikepacking is still accelerating. What's causing the shift and how do we even know that this IS a trend? Here we break down some of these trends and offer a few guesses as to what might be contributing to it. Words and photos by Josh Rizzo When I originally got into bike travel, the only version of it that I ever thought of was bike touring. Paved rides on low traffic roads using a rack and panniers was the only concept in my mind. The bikepacking.com website didn't exist until 2012 and I'm not sure that the word was even used within cycling communities very often prior to that. I switched my main interest from touring to bikepacking around 2018 and have since then hardly thought about bike touring at all. My monthly Adventure Cycling subscription (traditionally, their emphasis has been on bicycle touring, though they cover a lot of bikepacking as well) lapsed around that time and I soon switched to the Bikepacking Journal. Though I still use a rack and panniers occasionally for local rides around town, picnics, or commuting to a co-working space with a laptop and lunch, I haven't used them for overnight bike adventures in over 5 years. Now before I get too far, the traditional use of the words "Bike Touring" doesn't exclude bikepacking trips. Any seasoned bike travel enthusiasts would be very quick to point out that people have been bike touring off-road LONG before "bikepacking" existed in mainstream cycling vocabulary. People have been traveling off-road on gravel, double-track, and mountain bike trails all over the world for probably as long as the bike has been around. Case in point, Adventure Cycling Association who has been the leader in bike touring coverage is the original creator of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route which is now probably the most famous route in the bikepacking community. So it's not completely fair to put "bike touring" in a box that doesn't fit it. But in general, "bike touring" has often referred to paved bicycle travel using traditional racks and panniers. I got curious about the trend in bike touring vs bikepacking and here is what I found on Google Trends using filters "USA" and "Web Search": Interest in "Bike Touring" over the last 20 years Interest in "Panniers" over the last 20 years Interest in "TransAmerica Trail" over the last 20 years (TransAmerica Trail is a coast-to-coast paved bike touring route in the USA) Interest in "Touring Bikes" over the last 20 years Interest in "Bikepacking" over the last 20 years *note that bikepacking.com was founded in 2012 Interest in "Bikepacking Bikes" over the last 20 years Interest in "Frame Bags" over the last 20 years *Side Note: So Why Does Autocorrect Still Not Recognize "Bikepacking"? When looking at these charts, it's important to note a few things. First, Google Trends data only goes back to 2004 and the data from the early years are almost always hard to rely on. The spikes are inconsistent and they rarely match the rest of the trend line that follows. Second, 20 years is overly generalized. If you zoom into just the past 5 years, these lines can start to hint at telling another story or showing an increase that otherwise looked like a flat line on the 20 year chart. Third, this is a tiny sample of query phrases and you can definitely find growing terms related to bike touring such as bike front rack. But it's interesting to look at, no? This brings us back to the first question, is traditional paved bicycle travel with rack and panniers (which we're generalizing with the term "bike touring") losing interest while bikepacking is steadily growing? And if it is declining, why? Why would interest be switching from bike touring to bikepacking? I'm not a bike industry professional. I don't have any hard data on sales and manufacturing of different categories of bike gear. Plus I really have limited connection to the bike touring category altogether. This site is primarily focused on unpaved bike adventures. So consider this an unprofessional, outsider's guess. But as an outsider, here are few things I think could contribute to this trend. 1. Advancements in Gear Traditional rack and panniers usually don't work great on long, rough, unpaved trails. When I originally learned about bikepacking, it seemed laughable to try to squeeze a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, clothes, etc. into the comparatively tiny bags on a bikepacking rig. It's almost impossible to unpack a pannier'd bike and repack it into a set of modern bikepacking bags. But the necessary gear as well as the bags used to carry the gear have come a long way. Now it's fairly simple to get everything you need onto a bikepacking setup because everything has gotten smaller and lighter and the bags have gotten stronger, more versatile, and include many inexpensive options. The gear and packing systems have gotten a lot more accessible which could be opening doors for more people to embark on pannier-less off-road adventures. 2. A Minimalistic Approach This piggy backs off the previous point. But I think people have come to want experiences where they can bring less and need less. In some cases, bikepacking can be simpler than pannier'd and paved bike touring. The bags are smaller and we've gotten accustomed to bringing fewer things and this minimalistic approach may have become more attractive. 3. It's Part of a Larger Shift from Road to Gravel Go ahead, check out Google Trends yourself and see the growth of interest in "gravel biking" compared to declining interest in "road biking". It's pretty staggering. I knew gravel biking was growing but I didn't realize that road biking interest was declining like it is. 4. The Desire for Alternative Adventures I am NOT saying that bike touring is not adventurous. Nor am I saying that it is less adventurous than bikepacking. But I think the allure of old forgotten fire roads and connecting minimally traveled dirt trails has given bikepacking a reputation for a new kind of adventure (not actually new. These roads and the people who ride them have been around forever, but for many of us including me, they're a new style to explore and they take us to new, alternative places). Because bikepackers are often studying satellite images to specifically find unpaved roads, it naturally leads to exploring places that just aren't on the radar if you're traveling with panniers on a the paved grid. 5. Environmental Considerations Bikepacking often promotes a closer connection with nature and a lower environmental impact compared to traditional bike touring. With increasing awareness of environmental issues, some cyclists may choose bikepacking as a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to explore the outdoors. 6. The rise of bikepacking communities When I say "communities" plural, I'm almost entirely referring to the rise of bikepacking.com starting in 2012. I'm sure other readers will be quick to point out other sites like The Radavist, Bikepacking Roots, Bike Gear Database, and other Youtubers and gear review sites, but bikepacking.com tends to be the clear leader in bikepacking. They've published 400+ routes including over 100,000 miles. Stunning professional photography, gripping adventure stories, and highly detailed route guides has cultivated a global class of bike adventurers who are hungry for similar experiences. What Happens Next for Bikepacking and Bike Touring? To me, the most interesting graph was simply the term "bikepacking". It rapidly ascends starting around 2012 and is still on a steep upward spike. Will the trend continue or are we nearing the peak? Will traditional bike touring make a comeback after we've all had our fill of dirt roads and the allure of smooth sailing on rolling paved roads wins us back? I don't know but I'm excited to find out. One thing that will always bring both bike touring and bikepacking together is the curiosity for new places and the hunger for adventurous experiences. Wherever the trails goes next will be its own new adventure.
- The Eau Claire Gravel Guide is Live [SNEAK PREVIEW]
Today we're sharing a brand new Gravel Guide for the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area. This guide includes top-to-bottom tools for planning an incredible gravel weekend and downtown escape in Eau Claire. It will be available publicly later this year or join the Adventure Team tier of our Patreon to get early access NOW. Eau Claire, Wisconsin is located at the confluence of two beautiful rivers and is a launchpad for three distinct gravel biking adventure clusters. Discover new gravel roads, happen upon unexpected rural gathering spots, then make it a full experience with downtown Eau Claire's vibrant city adventures. Inside the Eau Claire Gravel Guide 6 routes in 3 distinct gravel areas 260 miles to explore 4 top lodging picks Breakdown of 7 best restaurants 5 spots for evening drinks 3 spots for coffee 5 non-bike activities that locals love to make it a full weekend adventure Brick oven pizza camping destination Join the Adventure Team tier on Patreon to get early access to the Eau Claire Gravel Guide Now
- Mammoth Gravel Loop Extended: Katrina Hase's 3-Day Ride From Her Front Door
Katrina and Tony Hase recently rode an extended version of the Mammoth Gravel Loop for a 213-mile trip right from their home near Hugo, Minnesota. Take a look at Katrina's recap video and photos here. Day 1 [45 Miles] We rode from Hugo to St. Croix Falls, camping at the Big Rock Creek campground. Day 2 [77 Miles] We headed northwest along the St. Croix River, through Governor Knowles State Forest, which had some sections of tricky sand. From there we headed east to Grantsburg, WI and entered the gorgeous Crex Meadows State Wildlife area, where we saw swans, Sandhill Cranes, Blue-winged Teal and other waterfowl, deer, turtles and more. We ended the day at Banach Lake Campsite, a single site that requires you to book in advance (we booked it through AirBnB). The site has a picnic table and open pit toilet, but no water, garbage or other amenities. Day 3 [91 Miles] After breakfast in Webster at the Chuckwagon Diner (highly recommend!!), we started out on a long slog down the Gandy Dancer trail, a rails-to-trail project that preserves a nice portion of land on either side, but gets a bit repetitive for riding. After lunch at 3 Arrows Coffee Company in St. Croix Falls, we headed back to Hugo on a variety of surfaces.
- Beach-to-Beach Gravel: 4 Things You'll Love About the Brand New Coon Fork 40
The Coon Fork 40 is a new beach-to-beach gravel ride adventure that was recently announced and will take place on August 26 in Augusta, Wisconsin. The Nxrth is collaborating on this event and we want to give it a warm introduction and invite you to ride with us. Race options include 28, 44, and 88 miles. Learn more about the race and register at the Coon Fork 40. The inaugural Coon Fork 40 gravel ride is coming up in August where you can traverse deep swaths of pine forests, classic Amish farm country, and picturesque Wisconsin waterways on beautiful gravel roads through Eau Claire and Clark County lands. It's the backyard gravel roads I (Josh from The Nxrth) love escaping to for weekend gravel rides and also happens to be on the same roads we ride for Gravel Pizza in September. Not sure what bike to ride? Anything is fair game — a gravel bike, mountain bike, fat bike, or a road bike with beefier tires would all do the trick. Three Routes to Choose From The Coon Fork 40 features a deeply wooded signature route of 44 miles with 1,600 feet of elevation. You’ll see classic Amish farms, waterways both big and small, and plenty of towering Wisconsin pines. Want something longer or shorter? They’ve got it. How about 28 miles and 1,000 of elevation? Or maybe go all the way to 88 miles with 3,000 feet. There’s something for everyone, and all rides feature 85% or more gravel riding with a few paved connectors. All rides feature the Halfway Hang stop at roughly the mid-way point at Rock Dam with snacks, music, the beach, and more. 4 Things You'll Love About the Coon Fork 40 1. Group Rollout at the Hidden Waterfall Bridge I've ridden these roads a whole bunch of times and actually did't know this bridge over Coon Fork Creek existed. Get off grid with us and explore new bridges, towering pine forests, janky double track, rolling gravel, and of course the lakes. 2. The Halfway Hang at the Beach in Rock Dam Plan a midway stop in the lakeside town of Rock Dam at the wooded lake beach pavilion for the Halfway Hang. Whether you stay for five minutes or forty, with tunes and good vibes all around, here you can refuel with free snacks and beverages, or cool off with a dip in the lake thanks to changing rooms right on site. 3. Finish Line After Party at Coon Fork Beach After crossing the finish line at the hidden waterfall bridge, make your way back to Coon Fork Beach for the after party. Invite the whole family or friend gang to join you for music, food, fun, beer, and swimming. Plus awards for top finishers in their categories. After riders enjoy their free beer and brat, support CORBA through additional food and beverage purchases. 4. Friends, Family, and Camping Camping is available at the Coon Fork starting point as well as the Rock Dam halfway hang. You can bring your family and friends for the whole weekend or just the after party at Coon Fork beach with playground, restrooms, food, and drinks. Learn more about the race and register at the Coon Fork 40.
- Handcrafted Salami from the Driftless Region Born for Frame Bags & Pro-Level Gravel Charcuterie
Driftless Provisions makes award-winning salami with humanely-raised heritage pork right in Viroqua, Wisconsin. We've been throwing it frame bags to bring on gravel charcuterie rides and share some initial thoughts here. Driftless Provisions produces Pork, Venison, and Bison salami in Viroqua, Wisconsin. To learn more visit Driftless Provisions or follow them in Instagram. From the Root Cellar to Your Charcuterie Board HQ'd in Viroqua, Wisconsin, Driftless Provisions is all about the art of local, thoughtful, and definitely awesome salami. They're deeply rooted in the connection between the land, animals, farmers, and people. Founded by Ryan and Kristen Wagner, their journey began where all good journeys begin, in a root cellar. It was there that Ryan learned the art of salami and developed unique profiles that pay tribute to European traditions while embodying an American spirit. Inspired by the area's rolling landscape, trout streams, and small family farms, Ryan's vision was to share the heart of the Driftless area by bringing it right to tables near and far. Gathering around the table, enjoying good food and drink, and sharing stories of the field has always been at the heart of their mission. Driftless Provisions' dedicated team works together to create premium products that not only celebrate the land, animals, and farmers, but also invite people to experience a taste of the Driftless themselves. Sourcing & Ingredients Their products are all created around the idea of thoughtful sourcing and the use of pure, simple ingredients. Pork is exclusively sourced from Berkshire hogs, a heritage breed raised without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or animal byproducts. Locally sourced grass-fed beef, honey, and maple syrup are common ingredients throughout their salami line. In 2022, Driftless Provisions completely eliminated synthetic nitrates from its entire product line and maintain a commitment to never use artificial additives and fillers. Does it Pass the Gravel Charcuterie Test? We've recently been enjoying the beautiful art of gravel charcuterie and took Driftless Provisions out on several rides. It has been lovingly Voile-strapped to fork blades and slipped in a couple frame bags for mid ride snacks with friends and lakeside destination rides with family. Salamis come in 4.5oz packages with a 1oz serving size. That's pretty much the perfect size for shoving in a half frame bag. It's plenty of meat for a few people but it's not too big to fit around your pump, spare tube, and multitool. Bring a knife or you're going to have to eat it like a barbarian and charcuterie should clearly be kept fancy. Even if you ride like a houligan, you should eat like royalty. All this needs for pairing is a nice hard cheese. You can build your spread out however you like, but even keeping it simple with just salami and cheese makes for a memorable mini-dining experience. Sure, there are plenty of salami options in the grocery store, but I love the simple high quality ingredients from Driftless Provisions. It's a premium taste with a whole bunch of flavor and meat options. And I love that it connects me right to some of our region's best land for bike adventures, the Driftless region with it's beautiful hills, rivers, trees, and community. To learn more visit Driftless Provisions or follow them in Instagram.