2019 Heck of the North Route Scout

Frank Lundeen thick into the 100 mile route

Frank Lundeen thick into the 100 mile route

This week I had the pleasure of scouting the 100 mile Heck of the North course with a new friend, Frank Lundeen. I could not have asked for a better chap to spend the day with. Thanks, Frank!

The Heck of the North 100 course is actually 108 miles this year. I added some bonus miles that will certainly change some people’s opinion of me. But I think this new design (based on the bones of many Hecks before) is a true classic. It has a bit of something for everyone. I will be naming “sectors” of this route similar to that of its original namesake, the grand Paris Roubaix. There are many miles of beautiful North Shore gravel. There are also a few miles of bone-shaking, frame pounding, tire testing two track. But I have designed it all to flow, in what I think, in a very rideable way. I hope you agree.

The price of adventure sometimes

The price of adventure sometimes


The 50 mile and 20 mile routes will remain the same as 2018. These, too, I feel are very good routes that offer a true taste of a Heck event. Sometimes I am able to leave well enough alone for at least two seasons in a row.

We will be offering one checkpoint at about the halfway mark for the 50 mile course. A light water stop and snack grab will be available for the 20 mile racers, too. Those tackling the 108 mile course will see a full water/snack checkpoint at mile 58 and most likely another at mile 85. Our amazing volunteers plus our friends from Otso Cycles will be assisting with checkpoints and finish line fun, too. Thank you to those folks!

As to gear and bikes…as always, ride the bike you know will feel fast AND comfortable for many miles/hours. I really gravitate toward 40 mm tires these days, especially for the rocky sectors of this year’s course. Have that rig of yours well tuned and supplied with the provisions you need for basic maintenance, nutrition and hydration (in between checkpoints.) This is a SELF SUPPORTED EVENT! Yes, we offer basic aid at a couple of checkpoints…but there are few others out there except your compatriots! Cell phone coverage is spotty at best. AND absolutely no support from teams, family, early supply drops or the like. Thank you for respecting this tradition. We do allow spectating and think that is pretty awesome (but no handouts from your sweeties.)

We will be handing out route cue cards at the packet pickup on Friday at Spokengear, 5-8 pm. We will also have a brief packet pickup on the morning of the event at the start area between 6:30 and 7:30 am. We do not offer gpx files because I strongly believe in the tradition of cue cards and gravel cycling. Please bring a working odometer of some fashion.

Please email me with any questions at jeremybkershaw@gmail.com. I, and many others, are happy to answer any questions about gravel cycling and the Heck of the North.

Ride the Good Line!

Jeremy Kershaw

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2019 Heck of the North

Photo:  Tone Coughlin

Welcome to the 2019 Heck of the North!

We are planning another special edition for this 11th running of our original North Shore gravel cycling classic. We look forward to seeing both new gravel cyclists as well as seasoned veterans. The Heck will offer 100, 50 and 20 mile routes to challenge you. Our participants are some of the most friendly, tough and talented cyclists in the world. Please feel free to contact me or one of our participants with questions you may have about gravel cycling or the Heck of the North.

Here are a few updates about 2019:

  • We will offer two different places to camp for free. We are encouraging riders and family to camp at the start/finish area this year. We recommend that you are self contained with needed water and food supplies. We will have porta-toilets and plenty of space to set up a tent, build a campfire, or park a small camper/van. This location is quiet, safe, close to all of the action and beautiful. Our second location is right on the north side of Two Harbors at our Heck “Basecamp.” This is property owned and generously offered to us by Rich and Lynne of Crushing Mechanics. This area is close to town, offers up to 20 participants a place to put up a tent and for sure a bonfire each night. Please see website for these two locations.

  • We are welcoming our friends at Otso Cycles this year. They’re going to be helping us at the checkpoints and finish line. Thank you!

  • Packet pickup will be at Spokengear Cyclery Friday, September 27 from 5-8. We will offer another pickup at the start area, Saturday September 28 from 6:30-7:30 am before the start of the event.

  • We will cap the event at 500 total participants. We are quickly reaching this limit. Thanks for respecting this time frame!

  • Please contact me at jeremybkershaw@gmail.com with any questions about the event, gear, bikes, etc. We’ll be happy to help out.

  • We will be using cue cards for navigation. There will NOT be gpx files or maps of the course available. We do this for a few reasons. I know that many would appreciate a gpx file. At this time, I am sticking to the tradition of using cards to navigate a gravel cycling event. I’m that guy. Thanks for respecting this decision.

Thank you for being part of the Heck of the North experience. I hope you enjoy the challenge, routes, community and and beauty of the North Shore in Fall.

Ride the Good Line!

Jeremy Kershaw

2019 Heck Epic Update

A particularly good section toward the end of Day 1. Enjoy!

A particularly good section toward the end of Day 1. Enjoy!

Here we go!

We scouted key sections of the 2019 Epic course yesterday. As always, one of my favorite activities in life. 2019’s course features some of my favorite parcours on the North Shore. Rolling, small roads. Red Pine lined two-track. And a few miles of rough stuff to keep people honest.

I will supply gpx files a week before the the start date. We will also mandate that racers carry a paper cue sheet, as well, supplied at the MANDATORY July 19 meeting. Regarding the meeting, we look forward to seeing you at Spokengear/Cedar Coffee in Two Harbors at 5 pm on Friday, July 19. We will discuss any updates to the route or event, answer questions and otherwise enjoy the company of a great group of people.

As to gear, bikes, what to bring…a few thoughts. By now, you should have your bikepacking rig pretty well dialed. I am a HUGE proponent of proper bike fit/comfort. It is the #1 concern for this style of riding (and frankly, just about any type of cycling.) The goal is to be comfortable for many miles. Any twinge, rub, or ache will only intensify as the hours/miles pass by. Seek the advice of an experienced rider/fitter for issues! Tires…I have settled on a 2.2 inch tire for most of my cross-country needs. A balance of speed (efficiency) and shock absorption. Yes, you could get away with riding a gravel width tire on this course…but you will regret that decision on many sections of this event. Fat tire? Well, also doable but really not necessary.

As always, riders are required to carry their OWN sleep system for the event. Some of you are riding with your partners. This is great! But the individual ethos still applies. Please observe these rules. Racers are allowed to assist other riders on course. But please come prepared (knowledge and gear) to take care of yourself during the event. I highly encourage participants to enjoy the company of others…that’s what this event is about. At the same time, The Heck Epic is about testing yourself and knowing that you have the ability to go it alone and thrive.

We will have aid stations on both Day 1 and Day 2. Day 1 will be at about mile 70 (the town of Finland at about mile 45 has cafe, grocery) with water and snacks. Day 2 will be located at about mile 56 (water and snacks.) At about mile 100 on Day 2, is a small tavern/convenient store for last minute needs before the finish.

Supper on Saturday, July 20 in Grand Marais is on you. I will set up a list of recommended places to eat with probably a discount or two, as well. There are many great choices and our camping location is within easy walking distance of this beautiful downtown.

Breakfast on Sunday morning will be at the campground pavilion. We will have an ample spread of coffee, breakfast sandwiches, fruit, yogurt and granola provided in large part by our friends at the Java Moose . I think you will be well fueled for the day. We will roll out by 0700 or as soon after as possible on Sunday, July 21.

Please email me (jeremybkershaw@gmail.com) with any last minute questions. Thanks for being part of the Heck Epic experience.

Ride the Good Line

Jeremy Kershaw

2019 Le Grand du Nord Route Scout

There will be snow

There will be snow

Without a doubt, one of my favorite parts of the job is scouting the routes for a given event. I love the discovery. I love how all five senses come alive. It’s always filled with adventure for me as I see first-hand how the courses feel. More than anything, I love the anticipation of sharing these amazing North Shore routes with you.

This scout was marked by Spring peepers calling from the bogs, snow on the dark side of the roads, and miles of beautiful Northwoods gravel. Lots of moose tracks, wolf scat and migrating birds, too. Here are my take-aways for each event:

20 Mile: This Le Grand du Nord 20 mile course is going to be more challenging than the Heck of the North’s 20. In particular, there is 1300 ft of climbing and it comes on quickly! But the course is a great introduction to gravel riding. It’s mostly unpaved, mostly really nice gravel road. The scenery is classic Northwoods with a few good views of Lake Superior. There will be a checkpoint at the halfway point with water and snacks. You must check in with the volunteer there (no matter how fast you are traveling!) The 110 mile riders will be sharing this leg of the course with you (so don’t be surprised if you see a few going past the checkpoint.) I hope your 20 mile experience is a good one!

54 Mile: This new 54 mile course is a one of my favorites to date. For safety reasons, I have avoided Hwy 61 and the Gunflint Trail for all courses (except for a 1/2 mile section for the 110 mile riders) this year. This change presented some initial challenges, but after a creative re-work, I have come up with alternative routes that I feel are better than the originals. This course highlights two amazing stretches of gravel road. There is approximately 2600 ft of climbing and the roads are all in good shape. The checkpoint will be at mile 30 with HED Cycling present making fresh crepes with toppings. We will offer our usual table of race food and water, too. I can’t wait to hear what you think of this new course.

110 Mile: As I mentioned above, I removed Hwy 61 and all but a 1/2 mile section of the Gunflint Trail from the courses this year. After scouting the course yesterday, I am convinced that I have laid out a classic Le Grand long course. In particular, you will experience beautiful stretches of gravel roads that showcase the best in North Shore riding. This year’s course has just over 6000 ft of climbing. I included a new, three mile stretch that should be a “character builder” for most riders. As of yesterday, there was snow on the furthest reaches of the course…but I suspect most should be gone by the big day. The course will pass by the official checkpoint twice: at mile 38 and 79. HED Cycling and our dedicated volunteer crew will be taking care of you with fresh made crepes, standard race food and water…and pizza (on your 78 mile pass through.) I have never seen so many moose tracks along the side of the road with plenty of wolf scat piles, too. It’s a beautifully wild course and absolutely one of my favorites in the country. I hope you have a great experience on this 110 mile adventure.

If you are still looking for a place to stay, call Visit Cook County for ideas. My friends at Cascade Vacation Rentals offer great places for extended visits. And I love the Grand Marais Municipal Campground and Marina for tent camping (it’s walking distance from the start line and right on the Grand Marais harbor.)

Thank you for making the trip to the event. I hope your Le Grand du Nord experience is a great one.

Ride the Good Line

Jeremy Kershaw

A young moose on course

A young moose on course

One of the many roadside waterways on course

One of the many roadside waterways on course

Miles of Northwoods gravel

Miles of Northwoods gravel

Basecamp at the Grand Marais Municipal Campground and Marina

Basecamp at the Grand Marais Municipal Campground and Marina

Le Grand du Nord Prep!

Andy, Ben and one awesome checkpoint

Andy, Ben and one awesome checkpoint

HED Cycling knows crepes!

HED Cycling knows crepes!

It has been a typical Northland Spring. Just when you think Winter, snow and cold have been replaced by the warmth of the sun…bam! Another dose of snow and cold. So it goes.

We are scouting the routes this week. A full photo report coming soon. Stay tuned.

As to Le Grand du Nord prep, we are putting the finishing touches on some great details.

  • HED Cycling will be back at the 54 mile course checkpoint (for that distance only.) We love having this team here firing up fresh made crepes and the best toppings to pair with them. Only at Le Grand du Nord! Thanks Andy and his awesome crew at HED. And HED will be generously offering a set of their famous Ardennes wheels.

  • All riders will receive a specially designed gift from Heck of the North Productions and Cedaero

  • Our friends at Voyageur Brewing Company are hosting Friday registration and Saturday live music. Have a pint on us, listen to great bands and share your stories from the day.

  • We will give away really cool gifts from Loll and Epicurean, two amazing North Shore businesses.

  • If you need top notch bike repair, parts and service while in Grand Marais, go to the best, Fireweed Bike Coop.

  • If you’re still looking for accommodations or things to do and see while in Grand Marais, your one stop shop is Visit Cook County.

  • Remember to join us for a showing of Ben Weaver and Keenan DesPlanques’ movie about riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail, “Music for Free.” 7 PM at Grand Marais Art Colony

  • We will be honoring select riders with gifts from Wintergreen Northern Wear, and Cedaero

  • A special thanks to Anton at Taiga Design + Build in Grand Marais. He and his crew are generously offering pizza support for the 110 mile riders at the Pine Mountain Rd Checkpoint. Thanks, Anton! (plus…he and his crew are amazing builders/designers. Check them out while in town.)

  • Coffee is being covered by Fika Coffee. Stop by their beautiful shop in Lutsen.

So much more. And as always, for me, it is about the course, the people and challenge. I think we have a very special edition of Le Grand du Nord this year.

Ride the Good Line

Jeremy Kershaw