Monday, August 17, 2009

Eki and I rode the Heck of the North course on Sunday in full conditions

My intrepid training partner, Tim Ek, and I rode the Heck of the North course on Sunday in conditions way more interesting than those @ WEMS La Crosse, a couple weeks ago. WEMS decided to cancel their race due to less than perfect conditions, of course we never considered whether to go or not to go...In advance, having taken the time to write up the copious paperwork justifying the need for mechanized transport and thus ultimately securing a variance from the DBD Honor Board allowing limited use of my car to pick up Eki and then secure coffees from an all-night gas station, we started the ride at 5:00 a.m. near the shores of beautiful Lake Superior. With virgin cue sheets in hands, amid full conditions including strong winds, rain, and lighting, our hearts soared as we embarked on a reconnaissance of Jeremy Kershaw’s opus number one, The Heck of the North!

Seven hours and twenty-two minutes later amid rain and wind we returned to our starting point satisfied that we had experienced a true work of art. A course that reflects both the remote beauty of the back roads of the Northland and the commitment of a creative man’s need to express his love of two-wheeled adventure. Among other non-compulsory organs, Eki and I have both had our tear ducts surgically removed to save weight and to steel our emotions, but even so, upon the conclusion of this practice ride we experienced incomprehensible trickles of saline solutions leaking from our eye sockets. The sensation was both troubling and euphoric.

At the onset, I mentioned that the sky was full of electric power which caused Eki to respond, “No worries, we are on rubber.” The primary goal was to test the course for accuracy and potential problems or concerns using the cue sheets. It was an epic ride with full on torrential rain and strong winds. We rode at a good/steady pace and never really took any breaks. As stated above, it took us seven hours and twenty-two minutes. I'd guess that the top guyz will be able to do it in around 6.5 hours, if good weather, but it will take many riders nine or even ten hours+.

The course is primarily gravel in nature, intermixed with a nice complement of asphalt, and it does not hold any big hills (although it is not an easy course). There are three sections of ATV/snowmobile trails that represent tough challenges. One point-0f-interest is only about 50 yards long but it is a full on muddy swamp with itch weed, other long grasses, crazed horse flies, etc. forcing us to wade through it with the water up near our shorts and bikes on our shoulders!!! The experience had the effect of causing us to reflect upon the Golden Age of mountain biking when there were no man-made bridges and thus men were forced to often carry their bikes across natural barriers. It was a wonderful memory. The second section also comes before the half way point and involves two miles or so on the North Shore Trail, it had sections of very high grass (grass up over the bike and some swampy ATV ruts). This section is mostly rideable. The third section comes near the very end of the course and involves about a fifteen minute effort through a renegade ATV trail that is very rocky, grassy, hilly, swampy, and full of other stuff just waiting to rip off somebody's derailleur or cause a flat. So in total, there is probably only about 5 miles of off-road but I would advise racers to go slow through these three sections and be prepared to get generally wet and feet soaked.
I am SURE that the fastest times will involve 'cross bikes with skinny cross tires, but in full conditions (like yesterday) a 29er would not be a disadvantage. Also the course would not be prohibitive in terms of being near the front for a strong guy on a single speed equipped with a stout gear ratio.

Through out the ride Eki and I marveled at the seemingly remoteness of the course and the obvious creative work that Mr. Kershaw has dedicated to this fine course and endeavor. We both proclaim with heartfelt gusto: BRAVO Jeremy, Long Live Kershaw, HOORAY Heck of the North!!!

Postscript: There are those that will claim that by pre-riding the course, Eki and I now enjoy a significant advantage. To these detractors, I say…”Well, that maybe true, but at least we are not a bunch of socialists!!!” Also it is noteworthy that Eki, a true White Knight, refused to take a ride in my car at the course conclusion in that he was convinced that the DBD variance was only for the start, thus did not include permission for a return trip, and consequently by excepting a ride would be tantamount to a compromise in DBD dogma. He road his trusty steed home whilst I drove my car in guilt. His purity is an inspiration to us all…

Get your entry work in NOW!!!!!


  1. Aw, heck! I really wish I could make it up for the Heck of the North. Another time.

  2. Maybe next year! The Heck might not fall on the same IB date again. Keep buggin Charlie for a group ride this Fall anyway.

  3. Having put forth your efforts, would you find the course to be tandemable?

  4. it's fine you know the two can do ALL the

  5. Hey Chris: I do think that a tandem would be appropriate and super fun. However, I would anticipate having to walk a good part of the last ATV/Snowmobile trail. Yet, as mentioned in the write-up, in general while these three ATV/snowmobile short sections would be daunting on a tandem, the vast majority of the course would lend itself to fast travel on a tandem. Realistically, I would estimate that two competent guyz on a tandem set-up for gravel could ride all but about a combined 20 minutes of the course. And if we get a prolonged period of dryness that figure would be significantly decreased.