After eating enough ham to sink an aircraft carrier, I wondered how my anticipated afternoon ride would go. My plan was to ride my bike from my house down to the Shore Acres Bike Park to ride a few laps. My parents offered to entertain our girls for the afternoon and return them to us at our house after their evening church service. Ever family conscious, that offer excited me because I wouldn’t be leaving the girls alone with Courtney for the afternoon while I took a 2-2 ½ hour ride.
Upon leaving my house, I noticed that the wind was coming directly out of the west, which for a north/south ride meant that I’d feel it both ways for the most part. From my house I have to travel east to get around Lake Macatawa before heading south and west through town to connect with the route down to the Saugatuck area. The first 7 miles of the trip follows along the shoreline of Lake Macatawa which is really scenic. Southshore Drive is a winding, rolling, two lane road that passes by the large homes situated on Lake Macatawa’s shoreline.
Once out of town, the primary route down to Saugatuck, if you’re not taking the highway, is 64th Avenue. This road typically carries a fair amount of traffic at 45 miles per hour (or faster), but the shoulder has to be at least 6 feet wide most of the way so I never felt squeezed or in danger. Yesterday afternoon’s traffic also seemed relatively quiet, so it was a comfortable ride. I typically see cyclists on 64th Avenue, and was really surprised to only see one cyclist going the opposite direction on the way down.
The route includes a series of gradually increasing elevation with a few short declines so that your end elevation is slightly above that of Holland. Coupling that with the steady wind present yesterday, the ride south can be a good workout. It had been about a year since I’d taken this route, so I had forgotten about the elevation gain.
Just to the west of the direct route, 66th Avenue has also become a popular route for cyclists as it cuts along the Lake Michigan shoreline, goes right by Kelly Lake, and winds around Gilligan Lake before cutting you back east to either 65th or 64thfor the last couple of miles down to Blue Star Highway (the main drag into Saugatuck).
The temperature was in the mid 50’s yesterday, so I was wearing cycling shorts, mountain bike shorts over top, smart-wool ankle socks, my long-sleeve Under Armour, and a bike jersey. This ensemble ended up being about perfect as I was never really cold and never really hot. My ears always get cold fast, so I did wear a mid-weight beanie under my helmet just to keep the wind off my ears. My hands don’t get cold too easily, so I wore my long-sleeve mountain bike gloves which are vented and the ones I wear all through the summer. Unless I’m racing, I always bring along my Camelbak hydration unit because getting water out of it is easier and it adds a bit of weight (I figure it’s like running with weighted shoes or swimming laps with a t-shirt on).
It took me about 40 minutes to get down to Shore Acres Park. The parking lot was about ¼ full, mostly with disc golf players who were peppered throughout the 40 acre course. The mountain bike trail begins near the parking lot entrance and for the most part winds around the outer edge of the park. Occasionally it appears to cross a disc golf hole, so I took extra precaution not to interrupt anyone’s game. Being the first weekend I’d ever ridden the trail, there were definitely tricks to learn about it. It is a fun, but technical trail with tight corners, switchbacks, and a few loose sandy areas. Though the underlying park is essentially located on a dune, the trail is mostly hard pack. The new trail we cut in on Saturday was rough, but I could tell it was easier to navigate with each pass and that it shouldn’t take too long with average traffic to wear it in. After 3 laps, I headed back home.
What goes up must come down was a welcome concept as I cruised back north on 64th Avenue. I was able to keep a pretty consistent 20-21mph average. I am running a Specialized Renegade tire on the rear and a Specialized Fast Trak tire on the front of my Epic so carrying speed on pavement is a heck of a lot easier than it was on my Paragon which had some burly tread. I sacrifice a little traction in muddy trail conditions, but I haven’t felt like I’ve lost any speed because of it, yet.
The wind that was in my face heading west on Southshore helped push me back downtown where a quick turn north and then west for a short 2 miles brought me back home with 2 hours and 17 minutes on my odometer. I wouldn’t call the ride a training ride, but it wasn’t leisurely, either and it was nice to spend a couple of hours pedaling on a gorgeous Easter afternoon. The Yankee Springs Time Trial is in 2 weeks and I’m feeling good right now….or is that just the ham?