Keweenaw Trails

Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival Retires

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After 20 years of drawing mountain bike riders to the Keweenaw, the Keweenaw Chain Drive Festival organizing committee has decided to retire the event.

“We’ve had a good run,” said co-founder and organizing committee member Dan Dalquist. “We feel the race has had a positive impact on mountain biking’s growth in the area in terms of local riders, the availability of local trails, and the large number of out of town riders we see here every weekend.”

Organizers say that the growth in the number of races in the Midwest was the primary factor in their decision. Just in the Keweenaw last year, there were four major mountain bike races during the summer.

“On many weekends, you have your choice of multiple races in the U.P., northern and central Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota,” said race director Lori Hauswirth. “Most of our riders come from those areas and they’ve told us that they have had to start making tough decisions about where to race.”

Over its life, the Keweenaw Chain Drive has drawn close to 5,000 riders to the area. Funds from the event have helped to develop and improve area trails as well as provide seed money for land acquisition to preserve access for the future.

Projects supported by Chain Drive funds over the years include:

  • Pilgrim River Watershed land purchase
  • Swedetown land purchase
  • Construction of Aunt Flo trail at Churning Rapids
  • Funding for various projects at Michigan Tech including dirt jumps, pump track, technical time trial loop, and the corkscrew structure
  • Pull-behind mower for the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club
  • Copper Harbor Trails Club mini-excavator
  • Coaching certification for kids ride leaders
  • Numerous bridges and boardwalks at Maasto Hiihto and Churning Rapids
  • Many tools and trail supplies

Chain Drive volunteers spend hundreds of hours each year on trail maintenance and have organized and led classes for children (and adults) to get started in the sport.

The Chain Drive organizers say they aren’t going away; they plan to broaden their focus to promoting mountain biking on a more regional basis.

“We plan to continue to meet as a committee, with a renewed focus on trail maintenance and development, and programs to get youth involved in mountain biking” Hauswirth said. “We will also play a key role in Ride the Keweenaw, an event focused on promoting all the area trail systems which takes place Memorial Day weekend.”

Organizers emphasized that all of this progress was made possible by hundreds of volunteers, participants, and also landowners that allow trails and trail development on their property.

“We also want to say a special thanks to UP Health System Portage, our title sponsor for years,” Hauswirth added. “Portage provided a lot of logistical support, since the race finished at their campus. More importantly, they also saw, early on, that events like the Chain Drive help to get both youth and adults outside and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Although the Chain Drive is no longer there’s still plenty of riding and racing opportunities to be had locally that support ongoing trail efforts including:

  • Ride the Keweenaw (Memorial Weekend)
  • Miner’s Revenge (Mid-July)
  • Great Deer Chase (Mid-August)
  • Copper Harbor Trails Fest  (Labor Day Weekend)

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