This weekend, Jason Lowetz and Jon Throop will take on a spirited loop of Lake Superior, hugging the coast, winding through the forests inland, and enjoying nature at a clip of about 18 miles an hour.
Lowetz has a special connection to the UP, growing up in St. Ignace and spending many a family camping trip across the bridge. Two winters ago, he took some pals up for a winter excursion, with four days in frigid temperatures on fat bikes. Now, he's headed back in the peak of summer for a far more ambitious adventure.
And he's called in one heck of a traveling companion. Jon Throop is a survival expert (ask him any weed in the Midwest, he'll tell you what it looks like, where it grows, and whether it indigenous or not) and, in spite of what you just read in parenthesis, a brilliant conversationalist. He's one of the most talented riders in Traverse City, and we can't think of a better character to spend that much time with while facing changing weather, terrain and morale.
The route itself is daunting. It's just shy of 1,200 miles around the lake, with a shocking 35,000 feet of elevation. So much of the north side of the lake is deeply scarred by glacial cliffs and dunes, it's non-stop climbing and descending. We thought that much of the route would be relatively flat, sticking as close as possible to the coast. But Canadians didn't put much stock into roadways close to the water, and even west of Marquette, the trek takes our riders away from Mother Superior and into the rugged wilds of the UP woodlands.
There's also a little bit of a time crunch. The goal is to ride about 200 miles a day, leaving Brimley State Park on Friday. They'll be back to Sault Ste. Marie by the following Thursday if all goes according to plan. It will be self-supported, with both riders carrying their own supplies and tents, sleeping where they can, and wildly aiming for campgrounds whenever possible or on schedule.
What bikes do you ride for such an undertaking? Sweet ones. Jon Throop will be aboard a fresh constructed Focus Cayo, outfitted with bags from Revelate Designs and Timbuk2. Lowetz will be putting a new BMC Roadmachine01 Ultegra to the test, using Revelate and Surly bags, and bike packing specific sleeping pad and bag. He's assured us (and more importantly, Jon) that they will be as snug as a bug in the proverbial rug.
Save this post, and we'll be updating it daily on their progress, trials and tribulations, successes and emotional breakdowns!
It's go time! The boys spent the night camping at Brimley State Park, just south of Sault Ste. Marie. It was a long drive north after a busy day Thursday of last minute adjustments to gear and equipment. The load outs ended up being a combination of necessities, emergency goods and a few creature comforts, including Lowetz's favorite pair of crocs. The first leg is expected to be just over 200 miles heading west through Marquette, with some rolling terrain becoming more pronounced in the afternoon. The weather is looking good and it's going to be important to stay on schedule today.
You can follow the ride LIVE thanks to Wahoo Fitness here.
50 miles in at a healthy 18.7mph pace on the opening morning! The only stop was to make a quick saddle adjustment on Jon's bike. The guys are staying low and fast. Hoping to make the very best of perfect weather on the way west to Marquette.
Day One is done! After two flat tires and a rescue stash of supplies, including a new tire. The Seney Stretch was a bit much, so improvised with some gravel roads and routes with less anticipated traffic. The took in 226 mile and 4500 feet of elevation, although the road surfaces took a toll on the average speed more than the climbing. With Day Two entering more Copper Country and the edges of the Porcupine Mountain range, there's going to be some ramps to take on.
Another 220 miles and they are well into Canada. Somehow, they were allowed into the country, and while Throop almost immediately lost signal and his Strava, Boss Man's Strava is getting updated every day.
The weather has been absolutely incredible for the guys, with temperatures in the low 60s and peaking out in the mid-70s most days. The sun is brilliant, and though much of the day was straight into a headwind that took the guys well below their more typical average speed. For the opening few hours, they were just trying to hold 15mph because of the wind and elevation, plus a few gravel stretches that rattled bones but kept them off the busier roads heading into Duluth.