Tour de Chequamegon
A taste of the best Wisconsin Northwoods gravel.
In the spirit of adventure…
This 110 mile route is 90% gravel roads, most of which are well maintained and fairly hard-packed. To give riders a taste of the other riding options in the area, we included 3 1/2 miles of rough, looser ATV trail, a similar length of easy CAMBA single track and the last 12 miles are on low-traffic, rolling, freshly-paved town roads.
I developed the Tour de Chequamegon with my pals at Fyxation Bicycle as a way to introduce bikepacking to our Wisconsin Bike Fed members who have not tried it yet. Everyone on our inaugural Tour de Chequamegon Bikepacking Weekend loved the route, so I contacted Logan and asked if we could drop a pin and literally put Wisconsin bikepacking on the map!
The 1.5 million acre Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is most famous as the home of the American Birkebeiner, the Fat Bike Birkie, the Fat Tire 40, IMBA Epic-rated Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association trail network and of course the world’s largest musky at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. What is less known is that the virtually car-free forest roads through the rolling, unglaciated area, combined with 47 well-maintained campgrounds scattered around the forest make for a great bikepacking destination.
To give riders a taste of the other riding options in the area, we included 3 1/2 miles of rough, looser ATV trail, a similar length of easy CAMBA single track and the last 12 miles are on low-traffic, rolling, freshly-paved town roads. Think of the ATV trail and single track as amuse-bouches, gravel as the main course, and the pavement as desert.
The Tour de Chequamegon is designed to be a self supported ride, but you won’t be alone. We have a well trained support crew that’s been doing this ride for years that will be riding along with you that consists of 3 support riders, 2 support vehicles and a medic just in case. We have a lead rider that rides with the fast group up front, a rider in middle that floats among the different groups in the middle of the pack and a final rider that makes sure no one gets left behind. In addition, we have 2 support vehicles on the course at any given time carrying food, water and tools to help out if anything comes up on the route.You can ride as a group or on your own. You’ll just need to have your daily provisions, camping gear and basic bike repair gear on hand (tubes, levers, multi-tool…). You don’t have to carry your cooking supplies or meals (with the exception of ride fuel) as Fyxation has that covered. At the end of the day, we’ll meet the group at camp and have meals, refreshments and a warm campfire ready. Fyxation has done the recon and this is our 5th year hosting this amazing ride and those who join us are in for a treat. Please note that we limit registration to 40 riders and the spots tend to fill up pretty fast.Below are some helpful tips and details about what to expect on the ride.
THE ROUTE AND DAILY MILEAGE
Note the daily mileage is not very long, but with the hills and soft gravel, it is still a good ride. We did that intentionally so we can sleep in a bit, ride at a conversational pace and have plenty of time stop along the route for photos and relax next to the lakes when you get to the campgrounds. Of course if you want to crush it, there are hundreds of miles of gravel forest roads in every direction, so feel free to go explore and get some extra miles in. Everyone is expected to carry their own water, tent, sleeping gear, clothing, and incidentals, but you don’t have to bring food. All food and beverages are included in the price.We hope everyone will stick together in a group and we will lead the ride at a conversational pace, but your pace is up to you. People should however bring the route on a GPS, Garmin, Phone App like RideWithGPS, etc. You can also draw the map on paper, use the RideWithGPS cue sheet and follow mileage on a cycle computer to know when to make turns. Be aware there is no electricity, so your phone or Garmin must last the entire trip. I use a Shutter Precision hub dynamo and Bush + Müller Luxo U dynamo powered light that will also keep my phone charged. I then have the route downloaded to my phone from RideWithGPS because there is no cell coverage for much of the route.
WHAT BIKE SHOULD I BRING
On our very rainy recon trip to scout the route (read soft gravel), I rode a Fyxation Crusher carbon gravel bike with 36mm tubeless tires at 48psi and loved it. You can find a more detailed description of my prototype bike and personal build on ridinggravel.com. Since that review I have swapped the front wheel for a Stan’s Notubes Crest Mk3 built around a Shutter Precision PD-8X-M dynamo hub with 12mm thru-axles and Mequon-made Wheelsmith spokes (natch). That powers a Bush + Müller Luxos U dynamo light and usb charger (from Peter White Cycles). Steve took the new Fyxation Quiver Disc with 40mm tires run at a similar pressure.Seriously though, bring any bike of any brand you have that rolls well on soft gravel. You can bring a cross bike, hybrid, mountain bike, fat bike, touring bike, etc.
WHAT GEAR SHOULD I PACK ON MY BIKE?
Google bikepacking gear list for three days and you will find plenty of different suggestions. Below you can see what I typically bring, but you don’t need to bring a cook stove, kitchen kit or coffee making stuff. Fyxation will handle all that. I typically just ride in Swrve Knickers and Ex Officio boxer briefs, but I also bring a kit to change into if I want. For our reconnaissance trip for this route, I brought a Borah Teamwear complete Spring Classics Series Cow of Wisconsin kit, including bib shorts, long-sleeve wool jersey, short sleeve jersey, long sleeve OTW midweight jacket; Marmot Precip rain jacket with hood, a pair of cycling tights, lightweight pants for around camp (I pack Club Ride jeans) a couple pair of socks, very small and lightweight tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag (choice varies depending on weather forecast), bike pump, extra tubes, multi-tool, pocket knife (only if cooking since tool has a small knife), toiletries, helmet, camp towel, three water bottles and a small flask of good rye whiskey.
WHAT ABOUT FOOD?
You do not have to bring food for the camping trip as breakfast, lunch and dinner on the ride are included. When you register, please select any food preferences for vegetarian, vegan or gluten free. Each afternoon, the crew from Fyxation will arrive at our campgrounds ahead of us with cold beverages and hot meals, so you only need to carry your fuel for the day’s ride. In the morning Fyxation will provide camp breakfast and something for you to take with you on your ride for lunch. We will also bring a supply of hydration mix and bars to eat along the route. There is fresh water available at each campsite so you can fill up before you head out on the ride. If you run out of water, we have 3 support riders and 2 support vehicles carrying additional supplies if needed.
WHAT WILL THE CAMP CULTURE BE LIKE?
We are hoping to round up a couple local speakers to share some wisdom about the forest with us while we sit around the campfire. We will have some craft beer and other non-alcoholic beverages, but this is NOT a raging party with bike jumping through the fire. Feel free to bring a book or go hike or ride around the camp sites and explore a bit.
Cost $495. This price includes full ride support, campsite fees, all meals including breakfast, lunch and dinner and hot and cold beverages at the campground. We pride ourselves on having some of the best camp food around and lunch and dinner are catered by Chef Heather from the Brick House Cafe. The cost also includes our professional support crew that year after year, makes this a safe, fun ride for everyone involved. Register at the link below:
Camping on a lake every night
Black Lake Campground
Day Lake Campground
Twin Lakes Campground
The Rivers Eatery
Deb’s Why Go By