The 2018 Heck Epic Route Scout


The return of the Heck Epic in 2018 has been something I have been looking forward to ever since we finished the 2016 event (Two Harbors-Ely-Two Harbors.) We felt something special with this smaller event. More time connecting with riders. Maybe the challenge of more miles through Northern Minnesota? We loved the idea of more self-sufficiency (bringing one's own sleep gear.) And the hosting towns are some of the best in the country. 

After finishing the 2017 Tour Divide, I personally craved something that would give me that spark of overnight racing through wild country. 

In this scout for the 2018 Heck Epic, that spark ignited a fire. I am so excited to share this event, this landscape, with you. 

So without giving away too much, here are a few points that I thought would be worth sharing as you prepare for your own journey race. The Heck Epic.

  • I was, frankly, awe struck at the beauty of these routes. They represent some of the best Northern Minnesota country I have found. I just didn't want to stop riding when I returned on Sunday. 
  • Day 1 is about 111 miles. Day 2 is about 117 miles. Day 2 has a bit more pavement (so those extra miles are on the "easy" side.) Ironically, one of the "hardest" sections for me was the least technical. Everyone has their own demons they wrestle during events like this. So it goes. 
  • I will be providing cue cards AND gpx files for the event. All riders will be required to carry the cue cards. I will provide the .gpx file a week before the start. Cards will be available at the MANDATORY meeting on July 20.
  • This is a timed event. Riders are expected to carry a 10 mph average at the minimum. 
  • Both day's routes feel like they are blocked into roughly ten mile sections. A long day in the saddle can be tough to process for even the most seasoned long distance rider. I found the roads and two-track to be refreshingly varied (all of them beautiful in their own unique ways) and measured in a way that was easy to go ten miles at a time. (Sometimes the best thing to do is ride in ten mile sections, or chunks.) 
  • Both days's routes are primarily gravel road. There is little pavement, and even that provides a nice change of pace with beautiful scenery. There are two short sections on Day 1 that have a bit of loose, rubbly travel. Day 2 has a five mile stretch of the same thing. 
  • I continue to recommend tires at least 40 mm wide. I ran my Tour Divide tires (Continental X King Protection 2.2's) Yes, most of the roads are gravel tire friendly. But the added weight of gear and the float that wider tires provide will make you feel more alive when you get to Grand Marais and back to Two Harbors. 
  • Day 1 has a well-stocked grocery store and tavern/restaurant at mile 46 (on course) and then another tavern/restaurant (roughly 1 mile off course) at mile 64. Our volunteers will provide an aid station at a strategic location somewhere on the last half of the Day 1 route. We will provide this location to you before the start. 
  • Day 2 has (the same) tavern/restaurant at mile 45 (1.5 mile off course) and then another tavern/small convenience store at mile 105 (on course.) There is water available at mile 55 from a Forest Service campground. Epic volunteers will have an aid station set up in the last half of the course for water and snacks. 
  • Cell coverage is spotty at best. 
  • As much as I love traveling solo, it would not be a bad idea to ride with a buddy for safety, support or company. You ARE allowed to aid another rider. But "outside" support from non-racing friends, family or teams is forbidden. 

I will be offering a video of my rig and gear plus some insights on bikepacking travel this coming week. Should be entertaining. 

Please feel free to email questions ( I can't wait to see you on July 20 for the MANDATORY meeting at Spokengear Cyclery & Outdoor in Two Harbors! 

Ride the Good Line! Jeremy



Le Grand du Nord 2018

This has been a busy week of scouting and planning for the 2018 Le Grand du Nord. Every year we do our best to make the event unique, challenging and a highlight of your gravel cycling calendar. I think we are on track for a great one this year. 

First off, the courses. The 120 mile event is a new classic built on the beautiful bones of the 2016, 2017 100 mile course. The added 20 miles are a mix of remote two track, downhill rolling gravel, and forested road. There will be a few miles that challenge your rhythm and let you know you are not in Kansas any more. Two mandatory checkpoints will be en route. As well as the Salsa Chase the Chaise lounger (secret location just for the 120 milers.) The course is a North Shore stunner and one of my all time favorites. I hope you like it as much as I do. 

The 66 mile event is the perfect mix of challenging and flowing gravel roads. It, too, is built on the 50 mile course from previous years. In addition are 15 new miles of gravel that represent some of the best roads in the Grand Marais area. There will be one checkpoint featuring HED Cycling's touch on the best, made-on-location crepes. It was a huge hit last year and we are thrilled to have them back (and there will be the usual in nutritional offerings, as well.) 

And the 20 mile course is looking great. A good way to see what all this gravel cycling business is about, the course offers a unique mix of gravel and rural paved roads plus sweet North Shore views (and one good hill!) This might be just the way to introduce a friend to gravel cycling.  

Voyageur Brewing Company and Le Grand du Nord are excited to bring one of my favorite musicians, Charlie Parr, to Voyageur Brewing for a free show at 7pm on Saturday, May 26. Heck of the North Productions (Le Grand du Nord, The Heck Epic and The Heck of the North) wants to grow the music and cycling connection at all of our events. Relax with friends, family and a great beverage and take in some amazing music. 

Le Grand du Nord is a challenging event. Please come prepared to take on the adventure of riding remote, North Shore gravel. Have a back up plan in place. Bring your tools and cycling computer. And don't forget to be great cycling citizens. Our riders are some of the toughest, friendliest and conscientious in the country. Be kind to our volunteers and the good people that call Grand Marais home. They are amazing hosts. 

See you soon and ride the good line! 

Jeremy Kershaw