November 30th, 2020

UPDATE: 2020 Covid-19 Belated Thanksgiving!

Holy cow, what a year? Some amazing things have happened and some difficult things have happened. The Covid-19 worldwide pandemic has been a whirlwind of emotions. We always say that it isn't an adventure if things are going smoothly. This year there is a lot more adversity and a lot more heartache then we have been used to. It doesn't mean we won't prevail. It doesn't mean that the adventure is over. We learn from adversity: how to cherish our loved ones, how to make shit happen when things go wrong, and how to appreciate the things we know.

We are hoping to still host the Winter Shakedown this year. Registration will open mid-December.

We've pushed the event back to allow more time for the pandemic to slow. We are limiting our participant list to 20 individuals. Everyone will eat individually wrapped meals or snacks made in a clean kitchen. We will have running water for bathrooms and for washing hands. We will require masks worn while inside or near others. If you choose to stay the night, you will be sleeping outdoors.

Thank you so much to everyone who has checked in this year asking about the Winter Shakedown! We promise we are doing everything we can to make this event happen safely.

UPDATE: November 29, 2019 Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone! 

We're really excited for the first ever Winter Shakedown event hosted at Long Lake Recreation Center in Yankee Springs and have been working hard with the DNR, Barry State Game Area, and with Rick at the Long Lake center to come up with a route that will simulate stuff you might find in a winter ultra or when you're out on a winter expedition! It's our hope that this weekend will give you a taste of adventuring in the winter and we'll consider the event a success so long as everyone has fun and if we persuade a few of you to keep venturing out in the cold!

Course Breakdown:

We will provide a course map, cue sheets, and the course will be marked. We will also have course sweepers. We'll email a finalized route a week and a half prior to the Shakedown. Keep in mind that there are some spots in the Barry State Game area that we will clear before January, and that it's best to avoid the area between now and January 1st due to deer hunting season. Pre-ride in bright orange colors, between 11am and 3pm, with a bell and at your own risk. Please be respectful of the hunters as we are so lucky that they share their land with us!!

We have a mixture of forest road, gravel, hike-a-bike, singletrack, snowmobile, and hopefully some ski trail that we'll be able to utilize! Currently, there is less than 4 miles of pavement. Once we get some snow we'll have an exact route figured out. Until then, you can see the tentative plans for our ride on Saturday, January 18th, here

We will have soup and grilled cheese provided around mile 12 and 26. Due to the design of the course, you can stop the first, the second, or both times. If you're not feeling it, it's easy at this point to head back to homebase - but we know you can do this. You will only be required to melt snow with your camp stove at lunch once! An event volunteer will mark your task down as completed before you continue on. Depending on the weather, we will have an additional one or two aid stations where you can warm up around a toasty bonfire. We want to make sure everyone is riding safe and staying warm out there! 

Friday night and Sunday morning rides will be on the singletrack at Yankee springs with some fun bonuses. These rides will be no-drop group rides with leaders and sweepers for smaller groups, so we don't wind up conga-lining through the woods! You do not have to load your bike with all of your gear for these fun rides. We love riding when we first get to camp to make sure that our bikes are rolling smoothly, and we love going for an easy spin the day after a long loaded ride because our bikes feel SO FAST!

Fitting everything on your bike:

There are so many different ways that you can strap things on to your bike! If you're going the minimalist way, you can use spare bike tubes to strap a sleeping bag to your handlebar and you can strap a compression bag full of your clothes and a sleeping pad to your rear rack. Using a hydration backpack, you can carry food, a flat repair kit, water, camp stove, and tools. It isn't the most comfortable or effecient way to pack stuff, but it gets it done. 

How do you pack things on your bike without mounts for a rear rack? You can use a rack that attaches to a seatpost, or you can use a seatbag designed for bikepacking. Salsa has many seat bags and frame bags listed on their website! Dan and I have both also used the Bindle rack from PDW, and it's a great option for shorter riders who don't have much clearance between their seat height and the top of their rear tire. If your bike has mounts on the front fork, you can use the Salsa Anything Cages, water bottle cages, or the Blackburn Outpost Cargo Cage. All of these accessories are available at Grand Rapids Bicycle Company, who is holding a sale now through December 7th! All purchases over $100 get 20% back to spend in store in February. Get yourself some gear now and go back and get more after the Shakedown to keep on exploring and adventuring! GRBC also has some select 45nrth boots listed at 50% off - so be sure to peruse their site or stop in and say hi to their staff. Dan works at the Fulton location, so feel free to visit him and all of his coworkers if you need help selecting gear for the Winter Shakedown!

Keeping your biscuit warm:

One of the most difficult things to do during the winter is to stay warm. It's a really tricky task to make sure that you're warm enough at the beginning of a ride without overheating once you get riding! Sweat = cold. If I feel like I'm getting too sweaty, I'll dial it back a notch so I can ride without overheating and getting cold. Start out a little chilly and to add or subtract layers as you go. Sometimes you'll need to vent up a climb or in the woods and you'll need to add a windbreaker on a descent or on a wider stretch of road. It gets chillier in valleys or near water and warmer in the sun. If I stop to eat lunch or to adjust something on my bike I like to grab an extra jacket or puffy coat to put on so I don't get cold while I'm stopped. 45nrth does a great job by providing a temp guide for suggestions on what to wear in specific weather - be sure to check it out to get some ideas for the winter! Layering wool next to the skin and covering that up with insulating or windbreaker products goes a long way. Remember that everyone is different and will require a little different apparel - I usually need to wear more layers than Dan does, or I need to wear more if it's dry out and less if I'm working hard and slogging through deep snow.

When you're thinking about your toes and wondering if they'll stay warm, remember that air helps to insulate. Don't pack your shoes full of 4-5 layers of socks and expect your toes to stay warm that way. Choose a boot that has some wiggle room in the toes so that you can keep your tootsies warm. I like to get off of my bike and walk if my feet get cold to bring the circulation back into my toes. Keeping your shins warm with gaitors or tall wool socks will also help to keep your feet warm - place a hand warmer in between a layer of socks over the front of your shin to get a little warmer. Put a handwarmer on the swell of your back to warm your kidneys if you're really cold. Staying hydrated, eating fuel, and avoiding too much alcohol or caffeine will also help to keep your feet warmer. To the other women joining us: it's easier for us to get dehyrated when we're on our period so plan to drink more water than you normally would. 

Bonus tip: keep a winter hat and a candy bar with your sleeping bag. If you get cold in the middle of the night, eating and wearing a hat will warm you right up!

How do you get a finisher's patch?

Thanks to our friends at Salsa Cycles, we have event patches that you will earn over the course of the weekend! The patch is a fun way to commemorate your success and your hard work when practicing all of the winter skills out there. Put it on a bike bag, jacket, hydration pack, or pin it to the wall at work to remind you that you're a bad ass and stronger than you think you are! Show it off! How do you get this awesome patch? You've got to complete three things.

1) Gear check. Pass gear check and you're one step closer to your patch. Find the gear you need here.
2) Water boil. Use your camp stove to melt some snow and to bring it to a boil. 
3) Finish the route. Boom. Easy.

The main focus of the event is not on distance but on practicing with your gear. We want to help give you the tools to go out and to play in the winter! Done with the right gear and finesse, it's our personal favorite season to camp and to ride. The route may have some tough spots where you will push your bike. That's okay, everyone walks their bikes occasionally! (Feel free to ask me about my over-dramatic 15+ hour stretch between Rohn and Nikolai during the 350 mile ITI...) While we don't plan on making you push your bike, it may happen up a hill or if we have a lot of snow. Don't get discouraged because it's all part of the adventure! 

What's a great thing about the Winter Shakedown? You can use it on your resume when signing up for a winter ultra like the Tuscobia 160 or the Arrowhead 135. Yessss! 

Thanks so much, everyone! Have a great rest of your weekend! Please don't hesitate to ask any questions regarding the route, gear, the weekend, or anything related to winter riding at all. :)

Best wishes,
Jill Martindale