The cycling world on the North Shore is dynamic. The leaders of the biking community are constantly looking for different ways to bring in new riders and tell the experienced ones about routes that they might not have considered. Whether bumping around on the gravel roads in the woods or rolling seamlessly on the lakeside Gitchi Gami bike trail, pedaling in the North Woods continues to attract new groups and businesses.
The Fireweed Bike Cooperative in downtown Grand Marais is the newest project of the town’s mayor, Jay Arrowsmith-DeCoux. After talking about the acquisition for most of last summer, he finalized the purchase at the end of March of this year. He wasted no time making the shop his own and welcoming people into the space. A few weeks after announcing the official purchase on Facebook, Arrowsmith-DeCoux held a large sale to bring in as many people as he could from the town.
“It was so cool to see so many people from the community in a bike shop. They were all really interested in buying bikes and getting tooled up for the summer. That was easily the coolest thing thus far,” said Arrowsmith-DeCoux. “That and getting my new sign dropped off.”
Part of rebranding the store was choosing a new name: Fireweed Bike Coop. He chose the word ‘fireweed’ because of the fond memories he has of the rides and runs he went on during his time living and working up the Gunflint Trail.
“I wanted it to be something that had a local flare to it. I wanted it to be something that you would find when you’re out riding,” he explained. “One of the things I remember when I lived at Wilderness Canoe Base was seeing a lot of fireweed in the ditches. That came to me as a catchy name and I like fireweed; I think it’s really pretty.”
Arrowsmith-DeCoux expects to begin running shuttles to the Pincushion Mountain Trails this summer. Becoming a member of the bicycle cooperative will allow customers to utilize the community stand to work on their respective bikes and the washing station after the particularly muddy feats.
Another new storefront with an interesting twist is SpokeNGear and the Cedar Coffee Company in Two Harbors. The store, which just celebrated one year of opening its doors, is a combination bike, coffee and bag shop. Dan Cruikshank, SpokeNGear’s proprietor, has a long history with cycling and producing outdoor gear.
“When I turned 50 I rode at least 50 miles a week, for 50 weeks. That experience solidified my passion for biking,” he explained. “When [my business partners and I] sold Granite Gear, I naturally wanted to get into a business in the cycling industry. My original idea was to make bicycle bags for adventure biking, touring and commuting.”
What followed was the development of a brand that reflected his interest in both nature and science. The combination of the words ‘cedar’ and ‘aerodynamic’ created the name Cedaero for his bag manufacturing company.
“The idea for the bike shop was to support the bag manufacturing and the coffee shop was to support the bike shop. I figured that the three businesses together would complement and support each other, and create a community around bikes, coffee, food and the great outdoors.” he said.
Selling the gear is only part of the mission of the crew at SpokeNGear. Providing opportunities for customers to spend time in the saddle is also a top priority.
“We love to ride the gravel roads in Lake County. We host a Sunday gravel ride most weekends,” said Cruikshank. “We meet at SpokeNGear around 1:45 p.m. or earlier if you want to fuel up in the café. We depart shortly after 2:00 p.m. and ride between 20-40 miles, usually a different route every week.”
While there are other bike and coffee shops around the country, he thinks they have the first bike/coffee/bag shop. Cruikshank also recommends the single-track trails in the COGGS system in Duluth and the Gitchi Gammi Trail between Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock.
The Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club in Thunder Bay offers a range of events for anyone interested in developing their skills in the sport. With just about 200 members, the club’s biggest event is the Shuniah 40 Miner mountain bike race. After the success of the inaugural event in 2016, the race is back for round two in September. There are three main distances: the short course at 12km, the medium course at 24km, and the long course at 48km. The 6km Mini-Miner is a new addition for the younger riders.
“Blacksheep mountain biking may have been founded on a desire to provide high caliber racing at a local level, but racing isn’t the only thing offered,” explained club vice president Will Takacs. “We host group rides, BBQs, skills clinics, bike orienteering and the crowd favorite, race for the cheese—a cheese fun relay.”
After being involved with the Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club for about 10 years, Takacs knows his stuff when it comes to getting technical in Thunder Bay. The proximity of the trails to downtown is one of the many benefits of mountain biking in the area.
“The best part of riding in Thunder Bay is the diverse, technical and challenging trails,” he said. “We have a great community of mountain bikers who love to ride and some excellent volunteer trail builders who keep our trails in tip-top condition.”
A 501-c3 nonprofit chapter of the International Mountain Biking Association, the Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) aims to improve cycling for the Twin Ports. One of the recent undertakings is the Duluth Traverse, a “multi-use, single-track trail that is purpose built for mountain biking and completely spans the entire length of the City of Duluth.” The entire traverse currently runs approximately 42 miles and includes 70 percent single-track. The portions that aren’t single-track are gravel roads, double-track or paths.
The Lutsen 99er mountain bike race has seen immense growth since the first bikers braved the course in 2011. After adding a new distance to the offerings last year, there is now a 99-mile length, the new 69-mile distance, as well as the 39-mile and 19-mile courses. This year, the race horns will sound on the morning of Saturday, June 24 with awards, music and a celebration to follow.
By Casey Fitchett