Dueling Blackborows

JayP and Ben Weaver take on the Beargrease Sled Dog route

Jay Petervary announced this week that he and fellow long-distance fat biker Ben Weaver are going to take on an expedition that Jay has been eyeing for years: the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon route in Minnesota.

The Beargrease is a 250-300 mile race (the route shifts from year to year) along the north shore of Lake Superior and has a storied history as the longest sled dog marathon in the lower 48. To his knowledge, Jay says no one has ridden the route in its entirety on a fat bike. He wants to create an established route for possible future events, similar to the Iditarod Trail Invitational, in a way that strengthens the connection between user groups and celebrates the small communities that exist along the route.

“I want to build relationships between user groups because I’ve seen how important that is here in Idaho,” Jay says. “And I would love to inspire someone to create an event on the route and after this, I’ll be able to provide information to them about it.”

Jay, who is one of the most successful ultra-endurance racers in the country, did not want to approach the route in his usual ride-as-fast-as-humanly-possible way.

“I usually do expeditions alone,” Jay says. “But as I get older I want more shared experiences in life. I was already asking Ben Weaver all about the area, so it made sense to go ahead and invite him along.”

A musician and wandering soul based out of St. Paul, Ben has been exploring the Superior National Forest for more than half his life, and that local knowledge will be essential as he and Jay travel the route.

“Hills like backbones and shoulder blades rise up out of Lake Superior left from the glaciers,” Ben says of the landscape. “There is a lot of elevation in the area. Not mountains but short punchy spurts.”

They will both be riding the Salsa Blackborow, the premier cargo fat bike with ample carrying capacity and amazing snow stability. Last winter Jay won the 1000-Mile Iditarod on the Blackborow and now it’s his go-to expedition fat bike.

This year the Beargrease marathon will be held as a point-to-point, and the exact route for the race will soon be published. Jay and Ben plan to disembark on the morning of January 26, a day earlier than the sled dogs and, depending on conditions, they might finish before the dogs or be caught by them late in the ride.

“The fact that both dog teams and bikes are human-powered and operate at a fairly close pace feels important,” Bens says. “Any time there is a way to foster relationships with similar yet different approaches there is an opportunity for everyone to have something to gain.”

Jay estimates the nearly 300 miles will take the pair three days to ride, although if the temps are too warm or if there is significant snowfall it could take longer.

“I am honored to be working on this with Jay,” Ben says. “We both view ourselves as ambassadors to the sport of bikepacking. We have very different experiences and backgrounds but the mission is the same: to push what can be done on the bike and inspire others to do the same.”

Jay says he and Ben will each make compromises to work better as a team.

“We’ll be riding in a brisk fashion but this isn’t a race. It’s experimenting with an exciting new route by bike,” Jay says. “And we’ve agreed: Ben can’t bring instruments and I have to sleep at night.”