Today was a much needed outdoor fun ride that didn’t involve humpin’ it alongside a 45 MPH road in the dark dodging cars. Ok, my training rides aren’t that dangerous/exciting, but you get what I mean. I need to get the 2 hour base miles in and I do enjoy riding even if its training, but I ride those training miles so that I can enjoy days like today.
My brother-in-law met me at my house at 1:30 so we could cruise down to Hamilton to meet up with a group coordinated by Velo City Cycles out of Holland for what they so eloquently call the ‘Crazy Bastard West Ride’. There were 15 of us today including 3 single speeders (8 mountain bikers total), 6 Fat Tire Bikers, and one courageous cycle cross rider. This was the first time I participated on this ride so I had no idea what to expect. I’ll be honest, rolling into the parking lot and seeing the cycle cross bike first thing made me seriously second guess my choice to bring my single speed over my new ride. As soon as we set off, I reacquired my confidence that the pace would be within my range, though.
Today was not a day for races or keeping your heart rate in a certain range. It was an adventure ride. I’ve learned over the few years that I’ve been biking that there are several different styles of rides. You’ve got your training rides, which are what they are, but are riding all the same. Then there are mountain bike trail rides where you’re riding established MTB specific trails. And finally there are adventure rides. Rides that you can go on for hours on end, just turning here and there to find where that path takes you. Though our route today may have been well known to some, chatter along the way revolved around what happens when we go this way or that way and where that takes you and how next week we can go there. I love these rides.
The Allegan State Game Area (ASGA) is a 50,000 acre public parcel (or parcels) of property acquired over the years with the proceeds of hunting license revenues and other state funds. The ASGA is riddled with old impassible two-track roads, utilized two-track roads, gravel roads, and even some abandoned railroad beds. We got a taste of it all, including some areas that were so wet and mucky that even the Fat Tire Bikers had to dismount and hike. And that cycle cross rider? He was a champ and made it through pretty much everything that the mountain bikers did.
There are currently no mountain bike trails in the northern section of the ASGA so we stuck to mapped roads. This still allows for some rough terrain as much of the two-track is not well maintained and used for mud bogging by the locals, and other sections of two-track have been blocked off to motorized use and have effectively become single track. The Kalamazoo River flows through the heart of the ASGA as well as several lakes and ponds that create some great scenery. I think it would be cool to find a way to open up some of this land to biking trails as a secondary use (hunting is its primary use and reservation).
The woods were beautifully covered in a fresh light layer of snow that, in most spots, quickly gave way to the earth beneath as we rode over it. Some spots had some accumulation and old hold-out snow that hadn’t melted in the last few weeks. These were the more challenging areas, but still a lot of fun. Near the end of our ride the snow started falling lightly again in large flakes. I pulled back into the parking lot with exactly 2 hours and 20 miles on my computer. We wrapped up with a chocolate chip peanut butter brownie that one of the guys graciously brought with him. Mmmmmm. Perfect ride.