When the opportunity to farm sit a friend’s land is presented, Carmen Aiken’s response was a quick affirmative, but the getting there would take a little longer. On a loaded up Omnium Cargo Bike, Carmen enjoys the scenic route through the Driftless while sharing local encounters and reflections from the road.
Years ago, when I expressed my aspirations to become a cycling photographer, a very talented friend helped me put things into perspective. “Remember,” he said, “What you are trying to achieve is the equivalent of wanting to be an NFL photographer while living in Japan.”
I knew what he was saying was not to discourage me; he had also worked for various cycling outlets over the years, writing and occasionally shooting with well-known names in professional cycling. His frequent flyer miles were piling up, and it was merely a side hustle. “You can do it,” he told me, “but as someone once told me, you must accept living like a dog.”
Back in June of 2021, I found myself way up north in Duluth, Minnesota. I was there with my teammate Kait Boyle for a Backcountry Bike Challenge fundraising event for the local advocacy organization, Cyclists of Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS) and to ride the Duluth Traverse. COGGS had been working on the 45-mile-long Duluth Traverse for years, building and linking together trails on the highlands above town, and we wanted to experience what they had created. But this was also a trip back to where I spent quite a bit of time as a kid that grew up just a couple hours to the south near Minneapolis, albeit in a decade when there were far, far fewer trails in the area. I’ll save the story of just how impressive the Duluth Traverse is for another time since you’re probably here to read about Wildflower Bicycles’ beautiful bikes rather than beautiful trails. But first, let me share why I was especially excited to visit the shop of a new-to-the-Midwest frame builder and the only one in the Duluth-Superior area.
We missed the mark on the beginning of the BFF Wisconsin, which began September 10th and runs til the 19th, but you can still buy tickets and participate at the Bicycle Film Festival.
First off, let’s acknowledge the Chippewa land this article takes place on. The Chequamegon Bay that is visible from the middle of the ride, “encompasses the spiritual center of Anishinaabe nations.” You can learn more about the local Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa here.
Just a few miles outside of Bayfield, Wisconsin hides a compact but wonderful system of trails that weave their way around Mt Ashwabay. These trails were masterfully crafted by CAMBA (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association). After sampling their handiwork in the Cable/Hayward area as well, I feel like I can say that I found the Mt Ashwabay system to be some of the most fun trails I have ever ridden in the Midwest and some of CAMBA’s best work.
The Musky 660 and Touring the Northwoods of Wisconsin
Photos and words by Kevin Sparrow
Last summer I bought the Twin Six Ti Rando and after sharing my stoke with the bike I received an email from Jesse of T6 that said, “I’m recruiting you for the Musky 660 next year.” At the time, I had little idea what that meant but it sounded like the perfect prolog to a long tour of Wisconsin, my home state. The Musky 660 is not as official as it sounds. It’s just a ride with a starting point (T6HQ in Minneapolis) and a destination (Copper Harbor Michigan) with no specific route to stick too. It was true to it’s name, the ride is 660 kilometers (423 miles) long.