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When it comes to bike racing, Minnesota is a great place for some truly unique races. Minnesota is littered with beautiful roads and great trails so it only makes sense that bike racing has become quite popular. Especially where we are located in Northern Minnesota we have access to some of the best bike races in the nation. I want to lay out some of our favorite events in Northland worth riding this biking season and what bikes we suggest racing with. 



With the harsh winters we experience and the hardships it puts our roads through it’s no surprise that gravel racing has become the go to when it comes to racing bikes with drop handlebars. The two big gravel races in Northern Minnesota we like to race are The Heck of the North and the Le Grande Du Nord. A great way to start your season off is to race the Le Grande Du Nord at the end of May. The race begins in downtown Grand Marais right next to Lake Superior, the race begins with a few miles of pavement as you work your way up into the Sawtooth Range where it turns into well maintained forest service roads. You have three different options for distance in the race, 110 miles, 54 miles, or 26 miles. The majority of all three races are ridden on either forest service roads or pavement,  if you’re brave enough to race the 110 mile course you will have to tackle a 5 mile section of rocky double track. 

The Heck of the North takes place at the end of September and it is another unique Northern Minnesota race. Called the Heck of the North for a reason it’s not an easy course, similar to the Grande it does have three distance options as well. There’s a 105 mile, a 56 mile and an 18 mile race. Different to the Grande it has you riding through several sections of rough double track; if you’re racing the 110, you’ll have to tackle two passes through the North Shore straight trail, a rough yet beautiful section of double track. If you’re not quite up for the full distance then the 56 mile race is the ticket for you. You’ll still get to experience some fun double track in the beginning but the majority of your ride will be on beautiful gravel roads. The 18 mile race will still bring you through a few miles of double track and gravel roads before finishing on the “Alger Grade Forest”. The last few miles of the course that all racers will experience is a 3 mile section of double track Dubbed the Alger Grade Forest a nod to the Arenberg Forest of Paris Roubaix infamy. 

For Gravel racing there are a good number of bikes we sell that would handle the variable terrain that you are sure to find in the Heck and Grande really well. Our top choice being the Trek Checkpoint. The Checkpoint is ready to race,lightweight, comfortable, and ready to handle any kind of rough gravel or logging roads you might run into while out gravel racing in the northland.  


Cross Country 

Aside from our beautiful gravel roads and unique sections of double track we also have some incredible single track mountain bike trails. If you want to tackle some trails all over Minnesota then your best bet is to sign up for the Minnesota Mountain Bike Series. There are a total of 10 races all around Minnesota with the first one taking place May 19 and the last one September 1st. These races are set up as laps, oftentimes the race laps will be about 5 miles and depending on how hard you want to ride you can choose how many laps to do. These races are a ton of fun and a great way to meet people from all over the State who love mountain biking.

Here in Duluth we also have an awesome cross country race that was put on for the first time last year. The Rad Race or Race Across Duluth is a 45 mile race that takes you from one end of the city to the other on the Duluth Traverse. Starting from the bottom of Lester park you’ll bike all the way to the bottom of Mission Creek. It’s a long day on the bike but a perfect way to see our city and the trails we have. 

Finally the Lutsen 99er is a mix between a cross country race and gravel. Starting at the Lutsen golf course at the bottom of Lutsen Mountain you can choose between The Lutsen 99er, 69er, 45er, or 29er. All of the courses feature a mix of paved roads, forest service roads, snowmobile double track and single track. Similar to Le Grande Du Nord you’ll be riding through the beautiful Sawtooth range on roads that see more moose traffic than people. And once you’re done racing riders and spectators enjoy food, drinks, and bike vendors showing off all sorts of awesome new products. 

Cross country bikes are a ton of fun, we live in a place with lots of hills so having a bike that’s capable on descents but will also fly up the hills is ideal if you want to explore all the ride areas in Minnesota. With all the brands that we offer you have a lot of choices. Even though it’s hard to pick, my favorite of the bikes we offer is the Santa Cruz Blur Trail. With 120 mm front suspension fork and 115mm of travel in the rear suspension it’s the perfect bike for riding the wide range of cross country trails we have in the Northland. And if you want to get a bike that’s a little bit more race oriented the standard Blur has a little less suspension and remote lockout so it’s perfect for a race like the Lutsen 99er or the RAD race.  


Bike Packing 

Two bike packing races brought to you by the same people that put together the Heck and Le Grande Du Nord are The Fox and The Wolf. The Wolf being the longer distance of the two is a 3 day bike packing race that happens in late July. Starting in Two Harbors you’ll ride 111 miles to Ely, Day two you’ll ride 108 miles to Grand Marais and finally on day three you’ll ride 105 miles back to Two Harbors. 

For those who don’t want to tackle riding a century everyday, the Fox is the way to go. On day one you’ll ride from Finland Minnesota to Grand Marais, it’s 71 miles of mostly well-maintained gravel roads until you hit the pavement riding into Grand Marais. On day two you’ll ride 64 miles as you work your way back up to Finland. However you aren’t just turning around and riding the same course back, it’s 50% different from the first day, you’ll ride a couple of sections of double track but it is primarily well-maintained gravel roads.

When it comes to bike packing you’ll need a bike that is capable of carrying all of your gear and is comfortable for long days on the bike. The Salsa Cutthroat is my top choice, with mounting points all over the bike you’ll have no problem hauling your gear. As far as comfort goes the Cutthroat is about as comfortable as it gets for drop handlebar bikes, it’s got super wide 2.2 inch tires and wide drop handlebars which adds up to a comfortable and confidence ride when descending loose gravel or ripping down a section of doubletrack. The Cutthroat is the perfect bike for long days in the saddle. 


Here in Duluth the Coggs organization puts on the Duluth Enduro Series, it is a free event but you have to be a member of Coggs and if you’re riding bikes anywhere in Duluth you should sign up anyways! Races happen throughout the entire summer featuring trails all over the city. From Hawks Ridge to Spirit Mountain and everything in between. IF you’re interested in the enduro series follow Coggs on social media for event details. 

Another local enduro race series is hosted at Mount Du Lac. The Big Evil Mountain Bike Race Series happens throughout the whole riding season, the first race is already behind us, but don’t worry they’ll have a race each month with the championship happening in September. If this sounds like fun and you want to see what kind of racing Mount Du Lac has to offer make sure to check it out on their website.

When it comes to Enduro racing it’s important to ride a bike that is capable of handling the technical downhill trails that we have at places like Spirit Mountain and Mount Du Lac. But at the same time you want a bike that can pedal efficiently so when you have to climb back up the hill. A bike we offer that I think does a beautiful job of balancing these two needs is the Santa Cruz Megatower. With a 170mm of travel in the fork and 165mm of travel in the rear suspension you’ll be ready for any crazy terrain you might run into, but at the same time its relatively steep seat tube angle and size specific geometry allows it to pedal up hills like you wouldn’t believe. 

Hopefully this guide will help you decide on what races to sign up for in the future. We have a lot of awesome riding in Northern Minnesota and racing is a great way to experience all the wonderful different kinds of biking we have to offer. In this post I primarily laid out the races in Northern Minnesota but if you find yourself wanting more, there are some awesome races in Wisconsin and Michigan as well that are for sure worth checking out.