The Sota Wheel Race is a solo and unsupported 1,200-mile paved bikepacking challenge around Minnesota. The 3rd edition of the SWR starts at 7:00 am in White Bear Lake, MN on Sunday, June 18th, 2023, and finishes at the same location whenever you get back, provided it is within the 14-day cutoff time. Providing you get back within the 14 days allotted. Yes, there is a cutoff, but do the math. That is less than a century a day for an ultra-race. A place to push yourself. The clock does not stop. There is no prize money; there are no awards. The course was curated to set athletes on an adventure along four specific geographical regions of Minnesota; traveling through river valleys, rolling prairie and farmland, lake country, winding river roads, and the forested hills and ridges of the Superior Upland. Read More.
The 2022 route lives here:
Please note: the course is subject to change & will be finalized a couple of months before the start. 2023 route WILL be slightly modified.
The Sota Wheel Race course has a number of distinct sectors with very different characteristics.
The sectors are:
1. The River Valleys of the Driftless Region
2. Rolling Prairie of the Dissected Till Plains
3. Lake Country and the iconic Great River Road
4. The Superior Upland; including the North Shore
There are five (5) control points on the route; they are NOT manned. (details to follow)
The course will start and end in White Bear Lake, MN
more about the route.
This challenge was inspired by other ultracycling and bikepack races including: the Trans Am Bike Race, and the Transcontinental. Similar to these races, the rules for the Sota Wheel Race are relatively simple and largely self-regulated. For more information on the rules head to the rules page.
As with Minnesota itself, this course has a number of distinct segments with different characteristics. The route that I have curated sets participants up for a serious epic adventure through unique and beautiful sections of this state.
Segment One travels through Minneapolis and St. Paul before the route throws down on the southeast trek following the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. WI35-Great River Road is an amazing road full of scenery and rolling hills. The first 250 miles travel through the Driftless Area; an area that escaped the glaciation period during the last ice age. Because of this, cyclists will be challenged by steep, forested ridges, and hills in and out of deeply carved river valleys, a gravel road or two and be witness to more than a few rivers, creeks, streams, and waterfalls.
Segment Two will take you through the Minnesota River Valley and past Mankato into the Dissected Till Plains. In Southwest Minnesota, you will ride past farm fields and prairie grasses on seemingly flat, lonely country roads. Multiple wind farms can be seen in the distance as you pass small town after small town. Granite is strewn over this section of the state in between the tall, prairie grasses. There is a unique beauty to this agriculturally-rich land but lookout, the wind can certainly catch you out on the prairie! This will be a challenging section, from Mankato to Pipestone up to Alexandria and Lake Country. A challenge created by the wind and the monotony of the space. Respect that.
Segment Three heads from Alexandria to Grand Rapids. Lake country will begin to appear near the end of the previous segment, in route to Alexandria; here you will hit the Central Lakes Trail and enjoy some car-free bliss for ~60 miles before heading north up the Great River Road. The Great River Road follows the Mississippi River and passes by lake after lake after lake. This is the Young Lake Plains, an area that formed during the last ice age and deposited thousands of lakes through the region. The majority of lakes that make Minnesota the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" can be found here. The eastern part of this region contains a great deal of both hardwood and softwood forests, and once had rich iron ore deposits. Most of the route parallels the Mississippi River; even past a former iron ore range; now Cuyuna State Park.
Segment Four travels through the Superior Upland and North Shore before you enter back into East Central Minnesota. Participants will ride almost the entirety of the Mesabi Bike Trail; 75 miles from Grand Rapids to just outside Virginia. Cliffs and rugged ledges, harder trails than you may expect, await you closer to the shores of Lake Superior. But before you zip down to the shore; you will wind through the Cloquet Valley along low, rolling hills surrounded by aspen and birch. After this racers will pedal down the legendary Munger Trail from Duluth to Hinkley before making their way back to White Bear Lake and the finish line.