This year the Wheel & Sprocket Tour de Chequamegon started a week earlier than usual. With that timing and a warm dry summer and early fall, the colors were not as popping as in years past. And because the event was the same weekend as Cable Fall Fest, we started at Telehenge rather than from the town of Cable parking lot. That did offer a new opportunity for a great group photo next to the elevator shafts that are all that remain of the former Telemark Lodge. For the latest on the exciting future of the Telemark property, see what the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation has planned.
Another change this year was a new grant program to try to increase diversity on the guided ride we lead each fall and tempt more people of color to visit and ride in the Wisconsin Northwoods. The program was created and managed by Brooke Goudy and Devin Cowens and by all accounts, the first year was a great success. Brooke and Devin and five BIPOC riders new to bikepacking joined the 30 other people who signed up, and everyone had successful rides and enjoyed the challenge of pedaling the hilly gravel roads through the Chequamegon Forest for three days the last weekend in September.
I have to say, it was pretty cool to have such a stacked group of pro ride guides this year. In addition to Brooke and Devin, we also had Tom Schuler, Shane Hitz and local super volunteer Jerry Wright back! One of our experienced Wheel & Sprocket ride support crew came down with Covid and had to skip the event this year, so I filled in for him. That meant I was not able to ride along and take a bunch of photos like I usually do. So our pics are limited this year, but you can see all the images I took and download high resolution files on the event gallery on my photoshelter site linked below.
This guided, organized ride, which follows the Tour de Chequamegon route, was designed to introduce people to bikepacking by removing some of the barriers that might keep people from trying it on their own. So while riders must carry their own gear, navigate the route and camp each night, the ride is supported by Wheel & Sprocket with ride guides to help during the day, a support vehicle with mechanics in case of a breakdown, and we cater the camp meals.
For about two thirds of the people who join us each year, this is their first experience bikepacking in the forest so this is an ideal ride to include an equity program. The ride also attracts some more experienced bikepackers who just enjoy the glamping aspect of catered meals, great local craft beer in camp and the Wisconsin tradition of Brandy Old Fashioneds Friday night.
The diversity grant program was such a success this year that Brooke and Devin would like to continue it next year and perhaps expand it to more than five BIPOC grant spots. We fund this program with profits from the Hungry Bear 100, a small gravel race in Cable, WI that I organize each spring. That race only attracts 200-400 riders, and we try to keep the registration price low, so the profits we can devote to this new diversity program are limited.
In order to expand the program Brooke and Devin created, we will need to pay another BIPOC ride guide. To help raise the additional revenue for those and other costs associated with additional grant recipients next year, we are seeking some new sponsors, but also selling new Tour de Chequamegon shirts and hoodies. All profits from the the Tour de Chequamegon, Hungry Bear 100 and Life Above 8 merchandise sales will go directly to the diversity program expansion.