Matter, Kylander-Johnson Take 2013 Chain Drive

June 18, 2013
mountain | race

Nearly three hundred racers from across the Midwest poured into the Keweenaw this weekend for the 19th annual Chain Drive Festival and opening of the U.P. mountain bike race season. Competing over distances of 16 and 30 miles, the race always proves to be a true test of skill and endurance, with technical singletrack giving skilled riders an opportunity to shine and wide open sections of two-track a chance for roadies to try and limit the damage.

Thanks to the tireless work of event organizers, the trail was in nearly perfect shape. Just a week before the event, pumps had been dispatched to water-saturated sections of the course to drain puddles and new sections of singletrack laid down to bypass recent logging operations. Mother nature came to the rescue as well with a few sunny days to dry up all but a few mud holes. An early-morning shower on race day left bridges treachuerous and root- and rock-covered sections unpredictable, however. Even so, racers reported near-ideal conditions.

The Winners
Taking his fourth Chain Drive title in as many years in the 30-mile race was Brian Matter of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Jorden Wakely of Grayling, Michigan, competing in his first Chain Drive, notched second place, outpacing Ishpeming rider Tyler Gauthier in the final miles. Chris Peariso, no stranger to Keweenaw racing, took fourth ahead of 17-year-old Pete Karinen of Painesdale.

Among the women, it was Sara Kylander-Johnson who once again climbed to the top of the podium in the long race. With perhaps more first place finishes than any other Chain Drive racer past or present, the Duluth-based racer was able to separate herself from up-and-coming pro Cooper Dendel of Marquette. Finishing third was former champion Diana McFadden of Duluth.

How it Happened:
A select group of five formed in the early miles of the race: eventual winner Brian Matter along with Jorden Wakely, Tyler Gauthier, Chris Peariso and Pete Karinen. As the quintet exited the first long section of singletrack some six miles in, they had already put close to a minute into a determined group of chasers which included a number of powerhouses, including Todd McFadden, Scott Kylander-Johnson, Mike Bushey, Aaron Swanson and Tom Carpenter.

Coming out of Drunken Sailor, the outer-most section of the race, the leaders eased up on the pedals to refuel. Led by Border Grill rider Tyler Gauthier as they crossed Lake Annie field, the racers prepared for the battle that was about to begin in earnest. At the midpoint of the race, a relentless series of climbs and technical descents awaited. Brian Matter, well acquainted with the course, moved to the front as the group of five exited the Christenson Road trailhead. Cresting the first climb less than a mile later, he had only Gauthier in tow, with Jorden Wakely digging deep to get back on. Down for the count were Chris Peariso and Pete Kerinen. By the time they leaders descended and reached the top of the next climb, Wakely had rejoined the pair at the front. Peariso and Karinen, hoping the leaders to relax, pushed the pace as best they could. Though they would never close the gap to the leaders, they came within a minute of them with as little as five miles to go.

Aware of the danger behind them, the leading trio pushed a high pace, Matter making his compatriots suffer time and again. The group crossed Swedetown Creek together with just three miles to go. The long, gradual climb to the finish left nowhere to hide, however, and Matter was able dig deeper than others, finishing half a minute ahead of World Snow Bike Champion Jorden Wakely and more than a minute faster than Gauthier. Peariso and Karinen finished just fifteen seconds apart, nearly three minutes down on the winner.

For Karinen it marked a coming of age. Holding his own in one of his first races among the elite men, Kerinen looked strong to the finish and will be a threat for many years to come - in the Keweenaw and beyond.

Among the women, Sara Kylander-Johnson and Cooper Dendel went mano-a-mano right from the gun. Riding nearly pedal stroke for pedal stroke for the majority of the race, the younger Dendel faltered in the closing miles as the more experienced Kylander-Johnson turned the screws when it mattered most. Though she trailed by just a handful of seconds as the pair crossed Swedetown creek for the first time with five to go, Dendel lost over minute after riding the punishing hills that laced one of the final sections of technical trail. After making the river crossing by foot, Kylander-Johnson took no chances and drove a solid pace to the finish, taking a second minute out of Dendel. Finishing third was another former CD champion, Diana McFadden. Andrea Matter of Sheboygan took fourth place finish and Nicole Alexander of Marquette claimed fifth.

The Chain Drive will be back next year the Saturday before Father's Day. Check out for the latest information on the race.

Full results at:

Race photos: xmatic @ and

Ride the Keweenaw May 24 - 26

May 20, 2013
Author: Lori Hauswirth
mountain | trails

Ride the Keweenaw is coming May 24th, 25th &26th! We know everyone is anxious to get out and it looks like Memorial Weekend the trails (and riders) will be ready. The 3rd annual trail event will kick off with an informal gathering at the Keweenaw Brewing Company on Friday evening and continue on Saturday with guided group rides at Michigan Tech, Churning Rapids and Swedetown Trails. Also on Saturday a free jump clinic at the Michigan Tech Jump Trail. Saturday evening riders will head up to Copper Harbor to enjoy music at the Mariner and on Sunday hit the trails for group rides and a ground breaking of the long-awaited Phase 1 of the Keweenaw Point Trail. Sunday evening is the Copper Harbor Trails Club Fundraiser BBQ social featuring Fitz BBQ and music by Frank An Da Beanz.

The BBQ is a fundraiser and we ask you please help us plan by clicking the paypal link and reserving your plate on the Ride the Keweenaw information page.

The complete schedule is available here:

If all trail systems are NOT ready to be ridden due to the late snow melt we reserve the right to adjust the schedule accordingly. Please watch the facebook page for updates -

All the ride events are free of charge. Thanks to Cross Country Sports, Down Wind Sports and the Bike Shop for providing food and beverages at ride locations on Saturday.

Hope to see you at all or any of the weekend activities!

SoKe Fall Bike Fest

Author: Rob Peters
September 06, 2012
mountain | road

Greenland, MI
SoKe Trails Group (Southern Keweenaw) is organizing a free Fall Bike Fest to celebrate the last day of summer and the first day of fall.

Tentative schedule of events:
Friday September 21
7:00 p.m.: Night mountain bike ride; the mine will be open for riding! This is the only day we will allow riders underground other than the Miner's Revenge. Bring a light!
9:00 p.m.: Bonfire! Bring your hot dogs and s'mores as we reminisce about the summer of 2012.

Saturday Sept 22
10 a.m.: Road ride on some beautiful Southern Keweenaw roads. Distances will vary from 30 miles to around 75 miles. The longest route will take riders all the way to Porcupine Mountains and Lake of the Clouds. This is a non-supported ride so there are no aid stations and you will need to navigate the roads with a map. Maps will be provided. There are several places where riders can stop for food and drinks along the way, so bring some cash or carry your own provisions.

All Day:
The Adventure DH and XC trails are open everyday and will be open for riding. XC riders may want to take a trip down to the Porcupine Mountains to ride their trails (link: Porkies trail map map)

You can keep up to date with the events on the SoKe event listing:

We would love to expand this event in the future but that requires a lot of help from volunteers. If you would like to help out in any way please contact us at or email me directly at

I would like to have a couple road leaders who can lead a ride if anybody is interested. We are also looking for sponsors if anyone would like to donate anything for the event. Even a free event costs us money to put on.

Thanks, and we hope to see you September 21!

Copper Harbor Gets Some (More) Love

Author: btk
June 25, 2012

Freerider Andrew Sandro made the trip to Copper Harbor for this year's Ride the Keweenaw over Memorial Day weekend which marked the opening of Copper Harbor as one of just seven IMBA ride centers worldwide. A video produced by Trek and released last week is testament to Copper Harbor's status as a mountain bike destination.

2012 Keweenaw Chain Drive Preview

Author: btk
June 11, 2012
mountain | racing

Preparations are in high gear for the 18th annual Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival scheduled for Saturday, June 16. The race, which also marks the kickoff to the 2012 U.P. mountain bike race season, starts in downtown Houghton at 10 a.m. Eastern and, depending on one's tolerance for pain, finishes either 16 or 32 miles later high on the hill in Hancock at Portage Health. One of the area's marquee sporting events, the race is expected to draw well over 300 racers from across the Midwest, including elite and professional riders who will be battling for a share of $1000 in cash.

Contested on the always challenging, almost always undulating Maasto Hiihto and Churning Rapids trail systems, the course features a little bit of everything: smooth and flowing single track, eye-watering descents, sustained climbs, rock gardens, river crossings and fields of springtime flowers. But, particularly for veterans of the race, this year's edition holds something new: surprises. The past several years the course has largely been the same, with the exception of the occasional addition and removal of pieces of trail. In order to accommodate a new piece of trail constructed this spring and to shake things up, however, race organizers have turned the course on its head: while racers will encounter few changes in the first and last twenty minutes of racing, the tasty filling in the middle will now be laced with the tangy aftertaste of lactic acid and the otherwise pristine Keweenaw air tinged with the acrid scent of smoldering brake pads.

Instead of following a generally clockwise course, both race distances will spin around Churning Rapids in a counter-clockwise direction. For 16-mile racers, the new challenges will be minimal. For 32-mile racers, they will be plentiful and painful. Common to both courses are the elimination of Brooks Gorge (a beautiful piece of trail, but one which as been left out this year), the elimination of a particularly nasty ramp in the final five miles, and the addition of PowPow (familiar to 32-mile racers) and the addition of Aunt Flo (a mile of machine-built berms and bumps, guaranteed to bring a smile to anyone on two wheels) and Uncle Schmunk. Last year's River Trail finish remains the same.

The bulk of the 32-mile course will be ridden the reverse of prior years. Drunken Sailor, Phinney Creek, Great Oaks, Upper/Lower Basswood, Ville Maki, Spring Creek. Most ride equally well in both directions – some better, some not so much. The race will be new to everyone, however. Veterans and first timers will both need to turn off the autopilot and tune into (and have faith in) the trail markings.

How does the course ride? In prior editions of the race, the course was front loaded with singletrack, With the new layout, both climbing and singletrack will come mainly in the second half, particularly for the 32-mile racers. Instead of being throttled by traffic in the early technical trails as in the past, there will be nothing to stop a racer from burning a few too many matches before the going really gets tough. Popping out of Drunken Sailor at the 16 mile mark once marked the end of the nasty climbing and technical trails. Now it marks the beginning. Whether racers will find it easier or more difficult than in the past remains to be seen. But with the new course and new trails, it's certain to be as much fun and just as painful as ever – and possibly even more so.

Singlespeed: The changed layout may be advantageous to singlespeeders. With many of the wide-open and fast downhills replaced with technical descents, it will be easier for the derailleur-liberated to keep up. The hills that get piled on in the latter part of the race may make the choice of gear more all the more important.

Further information on the race can be found at the Keweenaw Chain Drive website. (Registration Friday evening and Saturday morning and the Frankin Square Inn in downtown Houghton.)

Winter = Fat Bike Season

Author: btk
January 1, 2012
race | snow bike | mountain

Though the 2011-2012 winter got off to a slow start, Mother Nature's New Year's resolution just might be lots of snow for the Keweenaw, at least if the start of the year is anything to go by. And, for snow bikers (and skiers) in and around the country's third snowiest city, that's something worth cheering about.

To the uninitiated, snow biking may be a passing fad; to the converted, it's a great way to keep pedaling all year round. Extra-wide tires float over snow that would stop a regular mountain bike in its tracks. Low air pressure in the tires cushions the ride and makes for a larger contact surface, adding stability and minimizing trail impact.

Given the relative newness of the sport, riding options are still somewhat limited in the Keweenaw. One highlight is the Michigan Tech trail system, where nearly 15 kilometers of groomed ski trail and ungroomed singletrack are open to fat-bike bikers. Restricted to purpose-built snow bikes only, the multi-purpose trails in Tech's network of ski and mountain bike trails offer an excellent opportunity for in-town riding. Ranging from wide and hard packed (skating trails) to narrow and winding through wooded terrain (classic ski trails and singletrack), there's a bit of everything. For details on what's available and on what types of bikes are allowed on the Tech trails, see the recent article at There are several other Nordic trail systems in the area, though no others have opened their trails to winter bikers. Please stick to what's open and help ensure that we enjoy a bit of groomed trail in the future.

The Keweenaw's vast network of groomed snowmobile trails, while tempting, is best avoided: snow does a surprisingly good job at damping the sound of the more quiet 4-stroke machines. And, moving at speeds in excess of 70 mph, there's little time for a snow biker to bail. There are miles of less-traveled two tracks packed down by the the occasional backcountry snowmobiler that offer safer (though not necessarily safe) options than the main thoroughfares, but regardless – if venturing out into terrain shared by motorized vehicles – ride with care and use head and tail lamps. For more tips on winter riding from a seasoned expert (in particular, on dressing for winter riding), check out Danny Hill's primer at

With snow biking taking off and more than a few bikers competitive by nature, it's no surprise that there's a full docket of racing on taps in the Midwest, and the Keweenaw isn't without its share.

The U.P. snow bike season kicked of New Year's Day with the Fit Stripper in Marquette, the first of a series of four races held at Marquette's Fit Strip. Racing continues later in the month with the Noquemanon World Championship Snow Bike 25k race on January 29, the day after the Noquemanon ski marathon, also in Marquette.

The week following the Noque, action moves over to the Michigan Tech Trails in Houghton, where snow bikers will compete in the 15k Low Pressure Loppet as part of the Keweenaw Nordic Festival. Contested on the challenging Michigan Tech ski trails immediately following the Copper Loppet, a 15/30k freestyle ski race, bikers and skiers will be able to see how they match up, at least on the day of the race.

Later on in February, the Copper Harbor Trails Club presents its annual snow race, which is taking the from of a triple header this year: backcountry ski race in the morning, backcountry snowshoe race at high noon, and a backcountry anything (including snow bikes) race in the afternoon, each run over the same 8 mile course. Compete in one, two or all three races. Given Copper Harbor's challenging terrain, fat bikers are sure to have their work cut out for them. After a day of panking by skiers and shoeshoers, the trails are likely to be in top form for bikers. And, If anything can be said about Copper Harbor events, it's that they're always a good time. Check out the club's website for details.

Scheduled for March 3 in cooperation with the Copper Dog 150 dogsled race is the inaugural Red Jacket Cyclotron: an afternoon of snow-bike criterium racing in downtown Calumet, to be held on the snow road laid down on 5th Street for the departure and return of the dogsleds. A number of short events are planned, ranging from standard criteriums (short laps on a closed course), to four-cross (four riders head to head, winners advancing in a double-elimination bracket format), and a miss-and-out, where the slowest riders on each lap are pulled, until one rider remains. Details on the event coming soon.

The Keweenaw Fat Bike Racing season concludes on March 11 with the Great Bear Chase Snow Bike Race, to be held the day after the annual ski race by the same name on the Swedetown ski trails in Calumet. The fat bike race, billed as the Midwest Snow Bike Championships, offers two race distances: 10k and 25k, with the 25k using the same course as the ski race. This may be the last hurrah before snow bikers get the itch to bring their skinny tired mountain bikes out of storage. Or maybe not... there's sure to still be plenty of snow biking left in the season.

Trail Review: Pilgrim River Watershed Trail

Author: btk
July 21, 2011

Still a work in progress, the Pilgrim River Watershed Trail located on the outskirts of Houghton is shaping up to be a gem of a trail. Jurassic-size ferns, mature hardwood forests and a few miles of hard-pack trail along an undulating ridge line and tranquil river lay hidden in the woods just a few miles from town. Though these trail features can be found on other Keweenaw trails, one needs only ride few feet onto the Pilgrim River Trail to realize that this was cut from a different cloth. Steep pitches, no sign of the ancient bedrock found in much of the area, decaying stumps of an old-growth forest and the occasional interlude with the Pilgrim River give the trail a feel of its own.

Though only approximately three of the planned approx. ten miles of trail have been constructed to date, the out-and-back ride takes a reasonably fit rider forty-five minutes to complete. A relatively new trail, it's still a bit bumpy in places. With a bit more traffic, it should smooth out nicely. There are no rocks that might make a full-suspension bike a necessity, but one would make for a more comfortable ride. If you're thinking of riding it on a singlespeed, consider a 32x19 given the numerous steep climbs.

The trail is made possible through an effort between land owners and conservation partners who are working together to purchase the development rights on nearly 1400 acres of land in the Pilgrim River Watershed. Once purchased, the land will remain a working forest and be available for quiet recreational activities such as fishing, hiking and mountain biking. For further information on the project and details on how to contribute, visit

The trail head is is located at the intersection of Pilgrim and Paradise roads, less than a mile from the main trail head of the Michigan Tech trails: Link to Google map of trailhead

Copper Harbor to Host 2011 Great Lakes MTB Summit

Author: Lori Hauswirth
Updated May 24, 2011

The inaugural Great Lakes MTB Summit, a traveling event to showcase the extensive mountain bike trails systems of the upper Great Lakes and provide opportunities to network with national and regional trail advocates, is scheduled for Copper Harbor in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Event dates: Friday, May 27th through Monday, May 30th in coordination with the 2nd Ride the Keweenaw Weekend. Details available soon but plan for the following:

Friday: Advocacy Day at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge with speakers on Trail Development, Economic Impact of Traills, Building Club Capacity, Leveraging Limited Resources and more. Followed by a group ride and social gathering at the Mariner in Copper Harbor.

Saturday will be Trail Building Classes in Copper Harbor and 'Ride the Keweenaw' guided rides in Houghton (Michigan Tech Trails), Hancock (Churning Rapids Trails) and Calumet (Swedetown Trails). Saturday evening will be music and beer in Copper Harbor.

Sunday will be Demo Day in Copper Harbor, 'Ride the Keweenaw' group ride at 1pm and an advocacy dinner at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge.

Preliminary schedule:
Great Lakes Mountain Bike Summit/Ride the Keweenaw Weekend
Friday, May 27th – Sunday, May 29th
Friday, May 27 at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
For Summit registration, visit ($15 inlcudes lunch)
11:00 a.m. Scott MacInnes, Municipal Support of Trail Development
(Coffee and snacks provided)
11:30 a.m. Scott Chapin, Economic Impact of Trails in the Midwest Region
11:30 a.m. Chris Bernhardt, IMBA Trail School
12:15 a.m. Unknown, Working with Land Managers
12:15 a.m. Hansi Johnson, Building Club Capacity
1:15 p.m. Lunch
1:45 p.m. Mike Van Abel, Executive Director of IMBA (Keynote Address)
2:15 p.m. Aaron Rogers, Leverageing Limited Resources for Trail Development
Hansi Johnson, Cayuna Project
3:00 p.m. Building the Dream Trail, The Future Vision for the Keweenaw
4:30 p.m. Group Ride, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
7:30 p.m. Social Gathering at Mariner North in Copper Harbor (atendees on own for food and drink)

Saturday, May 28 at Various Venues
9:00 a.m. Ride the Keweenaw – Michigan Tech Trails (Guided Group Rides)
10:00 a.m. Trail Builders Unite! At Keweenaw Mtn. Lodge(Coffee and snacks provided, Sandwich Bar $5)
11:00 a.m. Aaron Rogers and Chris Bernhardt, Advanced Trail
School including Use of Mechanized Equipment.
12:00 p.m. Ride the Keweenaw - Churning Rapids (Guided Group Rides)
3:00 p.m. Ride the Keweenaw – Swedetown Trails (Guided Group Rides)
7:00 p.m. Music and Beer in the Copper Harbor Park

Sunday, May 29 at Copper Harbor
10:00 a.m. Demo Day in Copper Harbor Park (Shuttle service provided)
1:00 p.m. Ride the Keweenaw – Copper Harbor (Guided Group Rides)
6:00 p.m. Social Hour at the Keweenaw Mountain Lodge
7:00 p.m. Dinner at Keweenaw Mountain Lodge (cost: $35, event supports the Copper Harebor Trails Club - Keweenaw Point Trail Project)
- Mike Van Abel, IMBA Executive Director, as Opening Speaker
- Raffle
- Silent Auction
- Door Prizes
- Closing Ceremony

Registration required for Friday's summit and Sunday's fundraising dinner.

Visit the Great Lakes MTB Summit Facebook page and Copper Harbor Trails Club website for further details and lodging info.

Crust Season!

March 20, 2011

Cross-country skiers have long savored the short-lived, but blissful spring ski season. Warm and sunny March and April days combined with crystal clear and frigid nights cast a glaze of crust across the fields and forests, allowing skiers of the skinny ski persuasion to throw off the shackles of groomed ski trails. All the makings for all-day adventures. Of course, there is a Cinderella aspect to exploring on the crust. If you're not home before the thermometer hits 32F, you better be prepared for slow travel as the magical crust transforms back to its unforgiving, springtime slush.

It turns out that what works for skiers works for bikers as well. Of course, the crust needs to be a bit more robust to support the weight of a biker. But when the weather cooperates, as it did this past weekend on the Keweenaw, it makes for an early-season treat. Crispy snow, curious wildlife, forests only vaguely familiar in their coat of white. While a full-on winter bike (e.g., Surly Pugsley) might open even more doors, a standard mountain bike with wider tires (2.4") fared surprisingly well, the occasional endo notwithstanding.

With sub-freezing temps predicted for this first week of spring, it looks like it'll be a while before the trails are clear of snow. Until then, we'll be looking for more crust to explore. By ski and by bike.