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Hungry Bear Gravel, May 13th, 2023

Whether you have a hankering to ride the Hungry Bear 100, Snacking Bear 60 the or the Climbing Cub 30, all routes will serve up a challenge and give you a taste of the fortified gravel we have in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. From smooth rolling forest roads to steep descents littered with bumpy baby heads to eroded logging tracks, the three routes are a smorgasbord of million-year-old table scraps leftover from the last glacial period.

We finish at Tilly’s Pies and the Rivers Eatery Pizza. So there is pie at the finish! For those who want a piece of pie waiting for them, we will include the option to order a slice in registration. We will also have free “Bear Dropping” cookies for all riders.

The Hungry Bear was born in the days when gravel races were unsupported DIY events where you were lucky to get a paper cue sheet and find a tavern at the end. We are trying to hold onto that BYOB adventure vibe that comes with a little bit of trepidation.

While we now provide detailed GPS routes with turn-by-turn directions, there is no mechanical support or official aid stations out on the courses. There is a National Forest campground with a pump where you can get water around mile 50 on the long course, and Embark Maple Energy will be set up somewhere after the Hungry riders join the Snacking riders, but you are essentially on your own.

We still believe in the idea of self-supported racing, and as with all of our events, you are responsible for you. If you have a mechanical, you need to figure out how to fix it or hike back, we won’t come get you. If you get lost, you have to find your way back using your own devices (we suggest a GPS-enabled device).

Cellular service is spotty at best and many riders will find themselves with no service. We suggest you ride with a friend. While there are hundreds of other riders out there with you who might help if you need it, the buddy system is your best safeguard.

All profits from this event will be divided between the Cable Volunteer Fire Department and to promote riding in the Northwoods to a more diverse group of people. We have been really good at getting 57-year-old white guys to the start line, but not as good with women, and young riders and people of color are all but absent. I’m a 60-year-old white guy, so no offense brothers, but we will be using profits to try to diversify our start line and have several programs to do that, including free or reduced entry fees. For instance women only made up about 30% of our starlist last year, so they will get a 30% discount. And NICA racers and riders under 18 get free entry. We will share more details about these equity programs when registration opens.

The Routes for 2023 will be mostly the same as 2022 but will include the new Climbing Cub 30-mile option. All courses will remain open to traffic, and you will need to obey the rules of the road and watch for other road users. The final routes below are on RideWithGPS. Everyone is strongly urged to download the routes to their phone or GPS device prior to the race. If you prefer to use cue sheets and paper map, you can print them using the maps and links below.

You can use the free RideWithGPS app on your phone and download the routes below. You must download the routes to your phone, Garmin, Wahoo, or your vintage Humminbird Fish Finder, or they will not be available when you do not have cell service. You can ride using just the cue sheets if you have a computer on your bike to check mileage and keep the RWGPS download on your phone in case you get lost and want to get back on course or to shortcut your ride back to the finish.

Click on the route you plan to ride below to view it and download the route:

Click the green line in the map above to view the Climbing Cub 30, the blue for the Hungry Bear 60 and the red for the Hungry Bear 100.

Route marking and navigation: Historically the course has not been marked, but in 2022 I put out some minimal course markings with route arrows on the pavement and red and black plaid arrow cards on the gravel with long nails. The 2022 post event rider survey, the vast majority of people said this was unnecessary. It does take a lot of time, so I am not sure if I will mark the course again in 2023. It took two solid days of driving to put out and take down the markings below. I might do it again if I have time, but I might not.

So download the gps file of your choice to you phone, Garmin, Wahoo or other GPS head unit. You can use the RideWithGPS app for free and download the course for your event to your phone. Even if you only use your phone app in the event you take a wrong turn or get lost, I strongly advise everyone to have this downloaded. It is free using the Ride With GPS free account app, even if you do not have a separate GPS device. Cue sheets and paper maps are only so good when many of the roads have no signs.

Print the cue sheets yourself before the ride using RideWithGPS or use the links below:

Route Risk: There is NO mechanical or medical support on this route, you are on your own. We will not rescue you if you break down or get lost. If you do have an injury, you must call 911, but remember CELLULAR COVERAGE IS SPOTTY at best. Last year a couple very good racers crashed hard and ended up with broken ribs and needing stitches. They got some lucky assistance from fellow riders and nearby cabin owners who happened to be around. I mention this because there is risk anytime you ride and this event has extremely limited support. Ride within your abilities!

Aid Stations: There are NO official aid stations or commercial resources out on the course after you leave Cable, so carry enough food and water to finish. That said, Eric and Bree from Embark Maple have offered to host an informal aid station somewhere on the course yet to be determined where they will hand out free yummy maple syrup energy packs and probably have water in coolers. They will have their toddler Sylvan in tow, so he may determine how long they are out on the course. Be sure to stop to get some (Elderberry is my favorite flavor) of this awesome Wisconsin driftless area based company’s energy syrup and soak up a little extra stoke, which Eric and Bree have buckets of.

Water:

  • For the Hungry Bear 100 riders, there is potable water at the NFS Beaver Lake Campground around mile 50. I checked it this morning and it is working. I added a water POI on the RWGPS route. Even with these tips, many riders missed the campground last year. Will that be you this year?
  • Snacking Bear 60 and 100 riders: Eric and Bree from Embark Maple will be somewhere on the course with free samples of their great energy syrup and water. They do not promise a location or how long they will stay out there, but it is another option.
  • There is water around mile 16 at ROAM Adventure Basecamp on the Climbing Cub route.
  • There are many places to pump water from streams or lakes. If you are concerned, bring a water filter of some kind, like a Sawyer system or small pump. I love my MSR hyperflow filter and use it on every long ride I do in the warm weather rather than carry a bunch of water.

Registration: Hungry Bear registration will open soon.



Waivers: There is an online waiver, but riders will also be asked to complete a short personal responsibility checklist and sign it when they pick up their race plates.

Race Plates: Riders can pick up their race plates at Tilly’s Pies/The Rivers Eatery in Cable, WI on Friday between 3 PM and 7 PM. Click the button above to view your assigned number.

Timing will once again be done using Webscorer and the cell phone/tablet app. To ensure your time is recorded, check in with an event organizer at the finish.

Start Location: The race will start in the Cable Municipal Parking Lot.

Finish Location: We will be set up at the Rivers Eatery/Tilly’s Pies visible on the map above. The RWGPS app/gpx tracks will lead you to the finish. You must check in at the finish to guarantee your time is recorded. We are not using automatic chip timing, so we need to manually record your time.

Start Time: We will be in the Cable Municipal Parking Lot to start the official Webscorer race clock at 8 AM but riders can start at any time. Riders who think they will need eight or more hours to finish are strongly encouraged to start early. Riders who start after 8 AM will need to let the event organizer know their overall time for accurate finish times. Results will be adjusted after the race. 

Parking: Do not park on Cable streets by homes or businesses while you are out riding! We cannot park by the volunteer fire department or block any allies or entrances around it. 

Park in one of the following locations:

  • Town of Cable Municipal Parking Lot (start area)
  • In the lot behind the old school next to the municipal lot.
  • In the Cable Community Center Parking Lot on Spruce/County M
  • In the Cable Recreation Park parking lot on Cable Sunset Road

DO NOT PARK ON THE STREET BY HOMES OR BUSINESSES IN CABLE while you are out on your bike! Those spots are reserved for customers and residents.

Results: We will post the results, but it might not be the same day of the ride. You can ask at the finish how you did if you can’t wait to find out.

Prizes, awards and podium ceremony: Ha, you are at wrong race, sorry.

The Party and bib pcik-up on Friday night and the post-race gathering on Saturday before the race will be at Tilly’s Pies and The Rivers Eatery. All riders will get free Bear Droppings and have the option to order pie so they have a slice waiting for them when they finish.

History: Born from the mind of Mick Endersbe, original owner of The Rivers Eatery with his wife Beth, he envisioned putting together the loop that leaves from Cable, WI, and circles right back around to the pizza joint. Mick chatted with former local Tim Krueger, who now runs Esker Cycles and Terrene Tires, and they devised a route that takes you through a full 100 mile course, that has absolutely no support, no stop lights, and excellent scenery.

Tim’s business has grown, and after five years he has transferred ownership to Seeley Dave to run, who promises to keep the event’s family reunion vibe. As with all Life Above Eight events, the Hungry Bear will have our Up North For Good ethos at its core, so profits from this race will be donated to further cycling in the area.

The Spirit of the Hungry Bear is not a manifesto, but a gestalt that some embrace and other eschew.

There are hundreds of fun, well-organized races and rides in Wisconsin with well-stocked aid stations, swag bags stuffed with goodies, expert on-course medical and mechanical support, courses so well marked you can’t possibly get lost, age-group prizes, fierce competition, award ceremonies, podiums and registration fees nearing $100. The Hungry Bear has none of those things.

While we do very have basic timing, these are more timed rides than races. The top finishers earn bragging rights, a sense of accomplishment, and a handshake or hug, but nothing more tangible. The Hungry Bear was started when many gravel races were DIY, free, and almost underground events. It retains that minimally organized, self-reliant spirit and probably feels more like a family reunion than a typical bike race

The organizers of the Hungry Bear charge a minimal fee to cover permits, porta-potties, insurance and other event expenses. ALL the remaining funds are donated back to promote the community that hosts us or other worthy local causes. The event organizer and volunteers take no money or compensation of any kind from the registration fees.

For 2023, we will once again make a sizable donation to the Cable Volunteer Fire Department. Remaining profits support a still-evolving equity program to promote more diversity at the start line and encourage a more diverse group of riders to visit the area. The event organizer is working with NICA and several well-known equity leaders in the cycling world to develop this program. As soon as we have more details, we will share them publicly. These equity leaders will be compensated for their valuable time and invaluable insights in helping to develop this program.

The remaining profits are going to pay a very talented illustrator to create some cool designs for apparel that can be sold to raise money for local trails, promote bicycle tourism in the area and further support the evolving equity program.

With all the wonderful organized races and rides in Wisconsin, if this crunchy event is not for you, we encourage you to register for something more your speed.

That said, we are very grateful to everyone in our extended Hungry Bear family for the support they give by paying the fee to race/ride, for embracing the Spirit of the Hungry Bear and for coming Up North for Good. This shoulder season event gives local businesses a nice bump when things are slow.

The longer I live in the area, the more I learn about where I fit with nature and the local community. I love it and want to share it with others, but it is impossible for me to forget that land I ride on was forcibly taken from indigenous people with a deep symbiotic relationship with and respect for the earth. Those people remain our neighbors in the Northwoods. I hope that we can still learn from their rich understanding of the natural world and forge an equitable relationship for a more sustainable future.

Tailwinds,

Seeley Dave

Photo courtesy Embark Maple Energy
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