We just finished up the 4th annual Tour de Chequamegon bike packing trip in Northern Wisconsin and we wanted to put a little recap up here on our site. This trip is one of the highlights of our year and always makes us appreciate what we do here at Fyxation. Taking 40 people out into the north woods of Wisconsin to ride bikes and camp is a ton of work, but is extremely satisfying for our whole crew and while we're officially on the clock, it doesn't feel like work to us.
The Tour de Chequamegon is an approximately 110 mile, 3 day bike packing trip on gravel roads in Northern Wisconsin that we've been hosting since 2016. The trip is designed as a fundraiser for the Wisconsin Bike Fed and while we are the hosts of this trip, the Bike Fed helps with some planning and logistics.
The trip is fully supported by our crew and this year we had 3 support riders on course at all times, 2 support vehicles and a medic following along by car just in case we encountered any incidents on the trail. Also included in the trip are 2 nights of camping, breakfast/lunch/dinner, snacks for the trail and plenty of beverages once riders make it in to camp. We provided detailed maps with turn by turn instructions but if you have Ride With GPS, you can download an offline version of the route and you basically have Siri type voice instructions keeping you on the trail. There is limited cell phone service up there but GPS works like a dream and takes the guesswork out of where your next turn is.
The ride leaves from the town of Cable, WI and immediately connects with some of the best gravel roads we've ever ridden. The Chequamegon National Forest has hundreds of miles of smooth gravel roads, ATV trails and singletrack that wind their way through dense forests and riders are treated to lakes, rivers, elk habitat and amazing vistas. The full course can be downloaded here at Ride With GPS - https://ridewithgps.com/routes/31183749.
This year we left early on Friday from The Brick House Cafe in Cable and while it was raining all morning, the rain stopped just as we hit the road. The ride starts off with a pretty long hill climb just out of town which is ironically, the hardest hill of the trip. A few miles onto the road we turned left onto a jeep road/ATV trail that was a bit soggy after the morning rain. This is the most challenging section of the trail and with the sloppy conditions, was a bit of moral buster for some of the crew. However, after about 12 miles and 1100 vertical feet we reminded the riders that the entire 3 day tour had about 3500 vertical feet which meant it should be smooth (ish) sailing from here.
Day one was about 45 miles and was a challenging ride for everyone on the trip. Once the group hits the road, things tend to spread out quite a bit. Former Fyxation Senior Mechanic and current employee at Feedback Sports, Steve Mehne, flew out from Colorado to take the lead support role on our trip. Steve is fast and trains in the mountains so he took a lead group out from Cable and we didn't see him until we got to the campsite that night.
In the middle, was Fyxation co-founder Ben Ginster who happens to live in Utah also flew out to help support the trip and get some miles on the bike. Ben's job was to float in the middle of the pack and make sure things went smooth. Day one was a challenging ride so Ben offered help where he could providing water, bars and moral support for the crew. We provide wraps that people can eat on the road so that riders can stop when they need to for a bit of nourishment while out riding. On day 1 people needed those wraps and riders would peel off to the edge of the trail to enjoy the scenery and the yummy food that was also provided by the Brick House Cafe in Cable.
In the rear, Michelle from the Bike Fed, rode with the group and swept the back of the ride to make sure nobody got left behind. Michelle had a great attitude and she is an experienced bike packer, so she was in a perfect position at the back of the pack keeping people motivated and moving along.
In addition to the 3 support riders, we had 2 vehicles on the course at all times to make sure riders were safe and had what they needed. The vehicles would ride ahead each day to set up camp, get food and firewood and make sure the group had everything they would need at the end of the day on the bike. After that, they would traverse the course to offer food, water, gatorade and tech support as needed throughout the day.
The amazing thing about this adventure is that you get to spend 3 full days on the bike and at camp with 40 strangers that at the end of the ride, feel like friends. Some people did the ride solo and some in groups but either way, everyone got along and had great conversations along the way. The group consisted of riders from Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota and the age range of the group was 14 - 76. Everyone is responsible for carrying their own gear during the course of the ride which makes those miles feel a bit longer and harder than a normal gravel but everyone on our trip handled the ride and their gear like a pro.
We'd wake up early each morning to get breakfast ready and we'd boil water for oatmeal and coffee. If you've ever camped before, camp food tastes amazing and while we didn't have the fanciest breakfasts, a hot bowl of oatmeal, a hot cup of coffee and some fruit were all the crew needed to tackle another day on the bike.
Day 2 was a quick 28 miles, sunny and amazing that ended at the Day Lake Campground in Clam Lake, WI. About a mile from the campground are a few great up north bars and a bunch of the group stopped in for some deep fried food, beers and a bit of college football. Day 3 was a bit longer coming in at around 38 miles and weather wise, was a pretty nasty day. Some of the crew saw the forecast and decided to take a shortcut and take the paved road back into Cable, which while it knocked a few miles off the journey, was still a challenging ride with long hills and a bit of wind and rain. The rest of the crew broke up into packs and took gravel roads all the way back to Cable. Day 3 is the most scenic day of the trip and features a bunch of lakes, an amazing stream in the woods and some beautiful forest. The final 10 miles of the day are on paved roads so just when you're feeling the most tired, the final stretch into town is smooth and fast.
Once back in Cable, we made sure that everyone signed in and that there was nobody left on the trail. The final riders made it back by about 2PM so most people were able to hit the road and drive home for a week back in the real world. Most of the Fyxation crew went back to Milwaukee as well but Nick and Ben, the co-founders of Fyxation, stayed behind for one last night at the Sawmill Saloon and enjoyed some amazing pub food, local beers and spent the night recapping the trip and already planning the 2020 ride.
Sorry for the super long blog post but it's hard to put in words how much fun this trip is. We made a ton of new friends, got to ride our bikes for 3 days in an amazing place and were able to support a great non-profit here in Wisconsin. We can't wait for 2020 and we hope to see many of you back on the gravel soon. Check out the ride Facebook Page and http://www.ridefyxation.com/ for updates.