How do you say “Chequamegon”?
Every September since 1982, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival has turned the sleepy town of Hayward, WI into the center of the midwest off-road existence. Though the 40-mile flyer is not widely labeled with the ubiquitous "epic", the race represents something wholly unique. We pointed the van north to find out what makes it a true original.
With the best of summer behind us and the long winter approaching, fall in the Midwest is your last chance at cycling adventure. That’s why we’re headed to Hayward, and a forest of changing leaves.
Our first stop is the Winter Co-op, in of all places, Winter, WI. The smoked meat section is enormous for a decidedly small grocery. Provisions secured, we drive deeper into the woods, emerging at our postcard-perfect lodging: A lakefront view, taxidermy, and an old cabin made from the same pine as the forest.
Race morning’s nerves are settled by familiar faces at the start gates. Old friends, new friends, old bikes, new ones. The reverent silence for the national anthem is crushed by the start signal: a cannon boom.
2,100 riders roll briskly out of town and cross Rosie’s Field, where “Flight of the Valkyries” blasts from unseen speakers. The pack accelerates into the woods; a herd of giddy mountain bikers screaming up and down rollers at road bike speeds.
The race is a blur of punchy climbs, loose turns, and trying to stay upright in a tidal wave of riders flooding up and down a freeway-wide course. With luck, you’ll make the climb up Fire Tower Hill, and if you’re smart, skip the hand-up from the random troop of pirates (that’s not water).
Local legends are made at the front of the race, and tall tales are spun at the back through the steady stream of those who return annually for a ride in the woods that’s nearly as old and essential as mountain biking itself.
We're inspired by the great athletes who ride Trek bikes, from world champions to weekend warriors. They remind us to dream big, and motivate us to do our best.