The big woods of northwestern Wisconsin will become an epicenter of the mountain biking world this weekend, as the Chequamegon MTB Festival rolls out for the 39th time. Catering for everyone from big-name riders to kids covering their first miles on two wheels, the 16th-17th September event has been designed with the entire family in mind.
The headline race of the weekend is the Chequamegon 40, taking place over a 40-mile course (restructured from previous editions) comprising snowmobile routes, forest roads, and the famous Birkie Ski Trail. Race organizers say that, “while not a technically demanding course in terms of tricky switchbacks and narrow singletrack trails, the race course will wear you down with the never-ending changes of terrain and surface conditions.” Reigning champions Cole Paton and Melisa Rollins are both coming back to Wisconsin to defend their 2021 titles.
For anyone who doesn’t feel like going the full 40 miles, there’s a “Short & Fat” event that condenses the challenges of the Chequamegon 40 into 16 miles. And even kids can get involved in the action, thanks to the Little Loggers continuous loop course which allows younger riders to complete as many laps as they like.
Away from the tracks, there’s plenty more to enjoy beyond the riding, with craft beer, savory food truck eats, and a weekend of live music – along with 100 miles of CAMBA trails to explore by bike or by foot.
Four decades of history
The Chequamegon festival has come a long way since it first took place in 1983, with just 27 cyclists on the start line. It began as a group of locals looked for a plan to draw tourists to the area outside of the ski season, and came up with the idea of a bike race on the American Birkebeiner ski trail. If ever there was a case of the right people, in the right place, at the right time, coming up with the right idea, this was it,” says the official Chequamegon MTB Festival website. “Mountain bikes were coming into popularity, the American Birkebeiner trail offered a challenging race course, accommodations and volunteers were plentiful, and it doesn’t get any more beautiful than Northern Wisconsin in mid-September.”
This year’s edition promises to be significantly bigger than that first race nearly four decades ago, but the Wisconsin location remains a spectacular place to ride bikes. And if you can’t make it this year, don’t worry – the 40th edition of the festival is already scheduled for 16th September 2023.
For more information about attending the festival, visit the official Chequamegon MTB Festival website.