And just like that the Upper-Midwest gravel race season is over and let the fat bike races begin! My gravel season began early in May with the Hungry Bear in Cable, and it ended in October with my first Ironbull Red Granite Grinder in Wausau. See some of my photos from the 144 mile race and check out the post-race interviews I recorded for the Northwoods Ramble Episode 9 below. I really enjoyed seeing the Red Granite Grinder and might sign up for the 89-mile route next year.
The race has 12, 50, 85 and 144 mile options. The longer courses include a nice mix of pavement, gravel, two-track, and even a little single track. The race starts in downtown Wausau with a police lead out where the 144 and 85-mile racers then grind 800 feet up Rib Mountain and white knuckle (or hike-a-bike) a technical downhill. That monster climb really separates the wheat from the chaff. The 50-mile course is more pavement than gravel, but does include a section that goes through a corn maze!
The courses seem to change a bit each year, and this time the long routes went through some private land that you can only ride during this race and on narrow land bridges between some beautiful minnow ponds. In keeping with the typical gravel race ethos, riders are responsible for any mechanicals, but the race does include some aid stations, and even a drop bag locations on the two longer courses. The aid stations were manned by local volunteers who brought a little something special to each rest stop. There were even grilled cheese sandwiches at one aid station!
Wausau’s famed Redeye Brewing taps a special One Lap Pony keg of their yummy craft beer for the event. There was live music at the finish and something I have never seen at a race before: an automated bicycle chain wash and was machine, The Vonbuckinator! There is a video of the machine in action in the podcast below at around 25 minutes 30 seconds.
Something else that made the Red Granite Grinder unique was the option to sign up for two free women’s clinics the Friday before the race. The clinics were run by ultra specialist Laura Weismann-Hrubes, who races for Broken Spoke but is also an ambassador for Embark Mape Energy, made in Viroqua where she lives.
It rained most of the day Friday, which resulted in a number of women who signed up as no-shows, but those who were there seemed to get a lot out of the clinics.
To skip my podcast introduction and jump to the Red Granite Grinder interiews, go to 12:11 in the video below.
The 2024 gravel event calendar over at The Nxrth.com is already filling in, and the fat bike calendar is full of fun winter races. Josh also added a couple cool new pages to The Nxrth.com with the global Winter Fat Bike Ultra page and the Fat Trails map page that shows locations for all the groomed fat bike trailheads in the midwest.
Although is is another rainy fall day as I write this post here in Seeley, I am enjoying the fact our precipitation remains in liquid form as we move look forward to Halloween. I’m pretty happy to still have fall colors in the trees and wet, but unfrozen gravel forest roads to ride. Winter can wait a bit yet this year!
Also in this episode, I catch up with Ben Welnak at his cool Seeley Oaks A-frame Airbnb about this year’s Acorn Mast, deer hunting, and fishing Slab Crappies on Moose Lake with Drew from the Sawmill and recants a tall tale or two about wolves. The intro and hyperborean update on Life Above 8 is recorded in his ‘Merica garage for a change of pace.
- Sawmill Saloon
- Tour de Chequamegon
- Manitou Suspension Bar Stools
- Iron Bull Red Granite Grinder
- Travel Wisconsin
- Embark Maple Energy
- The Vonbuckinator
- Up North Stays
- Northwoods Sauna Company
The show is best viewed as a video on Spotify or YouTube to see the routes and gear we review, but you can stream just the audio if that is more convenient.
Below is a list of the Bikepacking Gear Lending Library Equipment I have available to loan as of this podcast. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in borrowing any of it.
- 5 Salsa EXP Anything Cradle
- 5 Salsa EXP Dry Bag for Anything Cradle
- 5 Relevate Designs Terrapin 14L Seatpack
- 5 Big Agness Copper Spur HV UL2 Bikepacking Shelter
- 5 Exped Synmat Ultra 1R Mummy air mattress
- 5 Enlightened Equipment Apex 50° Quilt
- 5 Trekology pillows
- 5 BRS 3000T Stoves
- 1 (so far) Alpacka Raft Caribou RTS
- 1 (so far) Aqua Bound Whiskey 4 Piece Paddle