The Heck of the North routes (100 mile and 50 mile) this year are really cool. In fact, maybe my favorite to date? Every year I ride the course to map the turns and determine the feel of the course. And every time I am left thinking how lucky we are to be able to ride bikes in this part of the world. I hope you agree.
Here are the take-aways from this year’s route scout:
- The Heck of the North is eclectic. Being a mental/behavioral health RN, I often make analogies during my scout rides about the rather bipolar nature of the course. Even borderline. There are long stretches of beautiful gravel that make you love life, your bike and all living things. There are sections of two track, littered with cobbles, ruts and wash out that make you hate yourself, your stupid bike and the idiot that introduced you to all things cycling. There are moments of elation, almost tears of joy when your music synchs to your rhythm and you are flying on your bike. And there will be dark, dark places…parts of your brain that will have you battling your inner demons. Thank me later. The Heck of the North will take you there. And if it doesn’t, then I need to work harder.
- The Heck courses are freshly re-designed. The 55 miler is 75% new route. The 105 mile course is also 50% new. Both stay well north of Duluth this year. So no more Lester Park/Seven Bridges Rd. Thanks to our friends in Lake County, we have crafted awesome sections in areas once thought unreachable. I love this new country. I hope you do, too.
- The course, primarily the 105 miler, has several sections with rather large puddles. We have had a lot of rain up here of late…and even if it does not rain before the event, expect to get wet feet.
- Bike meet fenders, fenders, meet bike. Unless you love having a crack full of glacial silt, consider fashioning some sort of rear fender for your rig. Puddles. Big ones. And your friends behind you will thank you.
- OK. Yes, this is very much a gravel bike event. It is predominately gravel or two-track. And there are a few stretches of pavement. And yes, the 100 mile course has three of our famous Heck snow machine State Trail sections. But the smart money is still a gravel oriented rig. There could be an argument made for a hardtail or even dual suspension 29er if you are hoping to be one of the first people across the line. Why? Because there are a few short sections that are really rough with baby-head cobbles or overgrown with grass or wetness or other gnarliness. And that squishy rig of yours might just allow you to power through more gracefully, and faster than a rigid gravel bike. But be sure you are comfortable on that thing for over 100 miles. My money is still on a non-mtn bike rig for the vast majority of riders.
- The North Shore State Trail is used three times in the 105 mile event (and zero times in the 55 mile event.) The trail sections will be mowed but they are wet in places. Expect to hike-a-bike at least a couple of times. Expect to get your feet wet. And if you have not experienced these trails before, I like to think of them as portages, just like in the Boundary Waters. They break up the day. They connect you to other places that would be hard to get to otherwise. And they are scenic. But there is nothing glamorous about them. They are not flow trail. But they help make the Heck the Heck. Endure. And they are what we have up here in place of hills.
- Tires. Please do yourself a favor and leave your pretty, Czech Republic-hand crafted, prairie-gravel 28 mm sew-ups at home. Start at 35 mm and think of 40 mm as probably the sweet spot for this course. There will be times that you want your fatbike tires. But like I said, the course favors something in the 35 plus range for speed, float and comfort. You have been warned.
- The 105 mile course will have an aid station at mile 50. The 55 mile course will have one at mile 23. Both will offer Skratch Labs hydration and plain water. Both will feature Honey Stinger waffles. The checkpoint for the 105 mile event will have a porta-jon, plus more traditional snack items. The checkpoint at mile 23 is only for the 50 mile riders. For those riding the full, please respect this and continue on to your checkpoint at mile 50.
- The route is pretty remote. Cell coverage is spotty. There are no services along the route (for either.) Be advised.
- There will be a time cut off for the 100 mile riders. I am allowing 5 hours to get to and leave the 50 mile checkpoint. Any riders arriving after that will be asked to stop. The second half of the event is difficult to sweep…and plenty tough. If you think you might be close to this time frame, please consider your ride options from the checkpoint. And this is purely a safety issue. I value my mid-pack and slower riders tremendously. You’re a lot more fun to ride with. But again, the safety thing. Thanks for understanding!
- Please email me at email@example.com with questions.
- Thank you so much for being part of this event. I hope you have a great ride. See you at the finish line. Jeremy Kershaw