Last fall I was leafing through the Wisconsin Bike Fed Mag and came upon the Tour De Chequamagon bikepacking feature that’s put on by Fyxation up der ya. Until then I had only done a couple overnighters, so when I read that this multi-day pedaled through a national forest, and was filled with gravel roads, I figured this route would be a perfect opportunity to step up my game. A full year later, and a mostly fun trip save for one major navigational hiccup, I hope to educate all you noobs now that I’ve gone pro.
Go here Tour De Chequamagon 101- Navigational Shortcomings on the 108.8 for an in depth review of the navigational part of the route. To the left is what most riders finished route looks like. Below and to the right is mine.
Bike- If I had to do it again I would probably take my hardtail MTB and use some 2.3 tires. I would’ve taken my Kona Big Honzo but it has little frame space and only one set of braze-ons. Hey Kona- if your listening- please put some more mounts on these bikes. 1 set these days is unacceptable. That said, my road bike with 35c tires worked okay. The rear tires spun out on some of the steeper uphills so I had to get off and walk, not a biggie for me. BTW, my road bike has only 4 braze-ons = 2 bottle cage mounts. I had to adapt the rest. (I’ll try and write up a post on installing a Salsa anything cage to a carbon fork without mounts).
Lists- I’m addicted to them, they give me something to do while I wait for my trip, it’s therapeutic and calming knowing that you’re still preparing, when you’re actually not. I started my bikepacking list 2 years ago and am still refining it. Here it is- Bike packing list – I can honestly say I don’t feel anything on this list was unnecessary for this tour. The only thing else I really needed was paper towels to wipe out my food cup.
Bike Bags- I own a Revelate handlebar harness but it simply was not fitting well with my bar setup, so I went to my LBS and bought the Specialized handlebar harness . The specialized harness clamps onto the bars, so it can ride higher and provide more clearance for the front tire and cables. I had a drybag with my sleeping bag, inflatable mat and pillow, pillow case, and tent. I used a two black voile straps sideways to keep everything from shifting towards the brake levers. I never had a problem with the specialized harness, and I was bombing down some washboard fire roads at 30mph with no suspension so I can’t really ask for anything more out of it.
My seatpost bag, half frame bag, and stem bag are all Oveja Negra. They are made well and didn’t give me issue but were a bit wet inside after my 75 mph 6 hour car ride home, not sure if that’s asking too much of them.
My seat bag is a Revelate Pika. I almost bought a Porcelin Rocket so I could bring the bag into the tent. After this weekend I’ve kinda decided against that. My seat bag was wet and dirty, and bringing all that into the tent didn’t seem appealing. Either way I would have to pull all my clothes out of the bag, so it really didn’t make sense (for me at least) to spend $200 on a new bag when it takes all of 30 seconds to transfer all the clothes from the bag to the tent.
****Final Thoughts on bags**** This is something you have to refine on your own, for your bike, and your needs.
Clothes- Start here- Andrew Skurka’s core 13 – and refine it for you and your kit.
- Down puff jacket (North face got on sale for $89 in spring). I only wore this at night in my sleeping bag when I woke up cold.
- Fleece top ($30 Target)
- smart wool long sleeve top ($70 at REI), expensive but it’s really comfortable, and I really needed a good wool base layer. (if that’s too much $$ for you see #4 )
- Cotton and polyester long underwear pants sleeping (kohls or Target $15)
- wool long johns (also sleeping) bought here – Varusteleka- at half price of USA, some of their pics are a bit weird but you really rack up the savings if you buy a bunch of stuff at once
- fleece balaclava – I don’t believe I took this off the entire trip. It’s irreplaceable and only $12.99 on Amazon. If your head gets hot simply pull the top down and wear around neck.
- leggings (Target $29) – Champion brand. Not sure if this is exactly what I used, they feel and look just like the underarmor cold gear line, but more than half the price. I also wore these the entire trip, sleep and on bike.
- Dry fit long sleeve shirt from prior 5k, wore on bike and slept in.
- Fox ranger shorts, wore on bike ($50)
- Padded chamois, never took off, slept in and wore on bike
- wool socks (Varusteleka), slept in.
- Fox mountain bike gloves wore on bike
- Set of warmer gloves, split finger lobster type, (about $39 on Amazon). I left these in my trunk on accident. I had to hit the Clam Lake Junction gas station/ bait store in town near Twin Lake campground after night two to buy some gloves because hands were cold.
- Hiking pant- I got these on sale at North face outlet store for about $30 marked down from $79. These were useless. I don’t know why I brought them. I would have much rather had some type of insulated pant for camp and sleeping.
- Hat, beanie, skullcap of your liking
- Rain gear – I found a super lightweight columbia “flash forward windbreaker” that’s water resistant at the outlet store in the Dells for $29. Deal of the year, worked great and didn’t seem to trap a lot of moisture. I biked with it on for 3-4 hours straight. I didn’t have pants and refused to spend over $100 so I bought these $25 , definitely not ideal but they worked. Socks- I found a pair of waterproof socks on Amazon for about $25 and they work good.
****Final comments on clothes-***** My entire clothes kit was either on me or in my Revelate Pika seat bag (not intermingled with food since there’s black bears up there). I am going to look more often at Target for this stuff. If they have something usable it’s almost always half the price of the outdoor brands. Layers are king, but you know this already. I could’ve dumped the hiking pants and both long johns if I had one insulated pair of pants. If there’s even a hint of rain, bring your rain gear.
Food- With the exception of some nuts and stuff in my gas tank bag up by the stem I wore all the food on my back in a hydration pack. At night the entire hydration pack went into a dry bag and got hung in a tree to reduce the invitation of rodents and bears.
I went to Dicks a month ago and bought two mountain house meals which I never even used because they seemed really big once I started packing them- $20 I’ll never get back. Instead I used Andrew Skurkas beans, rice, and frito recipe. which worked out great. My wife actually got them ready for me and bagged the rice with the taco seasoning and the beans (bagged separately cuz they were the wet refried type). I also brought along a half block of cheddar, some salami/ summer sausage, triscuits, avacado, oatmeal, breakfast bars, instant starbucks coffee, oreos, and nut raisin and dark chocolate mix.
****Final comments on food**** I will probably add more rice to the rice and bean dinners to increase meal size. I brought sardines in a baggy so I didn’t have to deal with ridding myself of the tin. Bad idea- sardines were mush, and I threw them away. *Pro tip*- make you morning coffee first and if it turns cold before you finish it use the leftover coffee to make your oatmeal, no need to waste valuable caffeine. Bring more oreos!
Sleep- It got down to about 37 and rainy at night and my sleeping bag was a down mummy bag purchased from Eddie Bauer back when Eddie Bauer actually sold outdoor shit. I used this bag to go elk hunting when I was like 14 years old – – I’m 45 now, so I think the bag has lost some of it’s R value. I was a bit cold, but pretty much okay once I put my down puff jacket on. If I had some insulated pants I would have been pretty snug. My sleep pad is a Klymit Static V . I purchased it because it was the best combination of price vs. weight savings. It seems to work okay for my needs. My pillow is a mix of leftover gloves clothes and Klymit X-Pillow all inside a pillowcase I bring along.
****Final thoughts on sleep****
GPS and Navigational- This is just a list of my nav gear. Check my in depth article here on how I got lost and what you can do to avoid it.
I brought with me my iPhone 7s (and backup external battery pack), a Garmin etrex 20x, cue sheet laminated on bars, and a paper forest service map.
The Garmin was one of the most important items on my trip and also the most frustrating. I bought this a few months ago and started the arduous learning process. using it in it’s most basic of forms like setting a way point and going for hike is not that difficult. It becomes a bit confusing when your start dealing with all the different map download sites. Garmin now uses Basecamp to plan trips and sell maps, but I didn’t like it. A lot of people recommend gpsfiledepot.com, and then there is mapsource which is what Garmin used before. Then there’s the different file extensions- GPX, TCX, FIT routes and more. Apparently TCX tracks are the best but you cannot download them to the etrex 20, you need the more expensive Garmin Edge I believe. It’s all so confusing if you’re in a rush, and don’t expect much assistance out of the box – the Garmin unit only came with the most basic of instructions.
**If some bikepacking pro reads this I would like to kindly ask that you write up an in depth 101 on route navigation.**