When it comes to anxiousness, to unbridled excitement in biking circles, it’s right up there with Whiteout.
But with more color. Fall colors.
Not that Whiteout is void of color. Quite the contrary. But held in early February, the annual mountain bike gathering in central Minnesota embraces winter, in both name and feel. After each year’s event, participants already are looking forward to the next go-around. Next year starts now.
So it is with the Mickelson Trail Trek. The 19th annual event is scheduled Sept. 16-18 through South Dakota’s Black Hills. But nine months before the event, bicyclists already are being encouraged to register: While the ride is “limited” to 600 participants, the field fills up fast, according to South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
The annual supported ride highlights the George S. Mickelson Trail as it winds through the heart of the Black Hills, from Edgemont to Lead/Deadwood. Growing in size each year, according to the SDGFP, the ride is open to anyone 14 or older. Preregistration is required and may be completed online by visiting mickelsontrail.com and following the “Trail Trek” link.
Registration before July 1, with an event wind vest and Buff headwear, is $190, or $160 without the wind vest and Buff. Registration after July 1 is $190, and merchandise is not available. Registration fee includes an annual trail pass, shuttle service, refreshments and one meal and snacks each day for the three-day event. Riders are responsible for accommodations and mechanical support. Registration cutoff is Sept. 1.
Riders will cover almost the entire trail, riding 109 miles over three days, from Friday, Sept. 16, through Sunday, Sept. 18. The event will kick off with a 44.5-mile ride, from Custer to Edgemont, on Day 1. Riders will be shuttled back to Custer after the first day and will ride 39.5 miles from Custer to Rochford the second day, again returning to Custer after the ride. On Day 3, riders will be shuttled to Rochford and ride 24 miles from Rochford to the iconic Deadwood trailhead. For the complete schedule of events, and other information, go to secure.getmeregistered.com/get_information.php?event_id=122965.
The Mickelson Trail, which runs along an abandoned rail line and was completed in September 1998, takes trail users from Edgemont to Deadwood and features seven trailheads in area towns, several bridges and rock tunnels, views of Crazy Horse Memorial and a connector trail into Custer State Park. Last year, trail users purchased nearly 20,000 annual and daily passes to bike and walk the Mickelson Trail, according to the SDGFP.
A majority of the trail does not exceed a 4-percent grade, but parts of the trail are considered strenuous. Dumont is the highest point, and the 19-mile stretch from Deadwood to Dumont is the longest incline. The trail surface primarily is made up of crushed limestone and gravel, which makes for an enjoyable riding experience. Much of the trail passes through National Forest Land, but parts pass through privately owned land, where trail users are restricted to the trail only.