Off-road bicyclists from across the Midwest are gearing up for another Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. Each year, in mid-September, hordes of fat-tired bikers descend upon the towns of Cable and Hayward in northwestern Wisconsin to face a gruelling test of endurance and agility.
The event features the rolling glacial terrain of the Chequamegon Forest, making the course as beautiful as it is challenging. This famous off-road bicycle event truly sets the benchmark for scenic beauty, quality and popularity.
The Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival began in 1983 and steadily built a nationwide popularity. The original group was just 27 hardy cyclists who lined up to face the unknown during the race’s first year. Today, a limited field of 3,100 is sold out annually.
Bikers are chosen by a random lottery in March. If you’re interested in participating in next year’s race, sign-up now.
The Fat Tire Festival is part of a larger event called the Chequamegon Festival, an event that is held the second weekend after Labor Day each year. This year’s event falls on September 19, 2015.
The weekend is filled with activities for the family to enjoy. Besides the fat tire fun, there’s also a bicycle toss, children’s bicycle parades and rodeos, all combined with the seasonal beauty of fall color in northern Wisconsin.
The event is an annual sell-out, drawing large numbers of people to the northwestern Wisconsin resort communities near the Chequamegon National Forest. (note- Old Rittenhouse Inn is located on Chequamegon Bay, about 40 miles north of the Fat Tire Festival finish line)
The main race event begins in downtown Hayward and finishes on the grounds of the former Telemark Resort in Cable, Wisconsin, where the other weekend events are headquartered.
Registration is limited to just 3100 participants who are selected by pre-registration lottery in mid-March. Participants range from national level professional fat tire riders to top regional racers to everyday cyclists. The competitors come from all over the United States, Canada and the world.
Since its inception in 1983, there are many highlights in the history of the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival. In the years following its debut, the race tripled in size twice. It was definitely the hot race on the circuits as “fat tire fever” hit the Northwoods.
After the 1986 race, mountain bike pioneer Joe Breeze of Mill Valley, CA is quoted in Mountain Bike bike magazine as saying “this is the best event I’ve ever attended. Not just off-road either this is the best bicycle event, period. ”
In 1990, Tour de France champion Greg Lamond joined the limited field of (then) 2250 other fat tire cyclists in winning his first mountain bike race ever. “I’m just here to have fun,” Le Monde said, a statement that was in line with the event’s philosophy.
Le Monde’s presence drew the eyes of the cycling world to the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival again the next year when he repeated as champion in a rain-shortened race.
In the year 2002 to the race celebrated its 20th birthday with a sold-out advance limit of 2500 riders, and the festival earned the title of the nations most popular off-road adventure.
As the event moves firmly into its fourth decade, it is stronger than ever. The registration limit for riders was raised in 2013, and there’s been talk of another raise for future races. As it stands, the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival is one of the premier off-road bicycle races in the country. It’s an event we’re proud to say is hosted here in Bayfield County, so book your rooms at the Old Rittenhouse Inn!
Check out these videos of the festival!