Riley Trails Mountain Biking

 

Sunday Paige & I went for a mountain bike ride. Paige was really tentative on her new bike earlier this summer, but ever since our trip up to the U.P. where she biked around with some new found friends at the campground, she has gained a ton of confidence.

Riley Trails was the first trail I mountain biked on in Michigan when I started riding. It’s really flat and the trails are wide which actually makes it a fantastic place to bring youngsters who are just learning to ride. There are plenty of roots and trees, however, to make it exciting and challenging to a kid. The trails are more like a spider web than a loop which was also perfect as I was always able to stay relatively close to the car to head back before it was no longer fun for her. As soon as she started asking when we would be done, I could promise her that it was only a few more minutes away.

The landscape at Riley Trails has changed considerably over the last 6 months as the DNR has unfortunately had to enlist loggers to take out diseased and threatened trees. The property has gone through many stages over its life; first logged by early settlers for housing and trade; replanted with pine trees for future harvesting; a portion of the property was used as a dump; and a smaller chunk on the South side at one point was utilized as a gun club (the hunting type). The most recent logging has left some significant damage to the trails due to the heavy equipment trekking throughout the property. Fortunately, those areas are now starting to smooth out with traffic.

None of the serious mountain bikers that I ride with make it a point to end up at Riley Trails, but for us ‘Northsiders’ in Holland, Riley Trails is a fantastic place to just let loose in the woods and introduce the next generation to trail riding.

Advertisements

U.P. North

We took a fantastic trip to the U.P. over the 4th that included Tahquamenon Falls, Whitefish Point, Mackinac Island, and the Soo Locks. We had absolutely perfect weather, and plenty of time over 4 days and 3 nights. It was our first foray into ‘camping’, which ended up being perfect for us. I decided to capture the trip through multiple camera and video devices including my iPhone 4s, Kodak Zi8, and GoPro Hero2. Here’s how it ended up:

Olive Shores County Park

I’ve also been meaning to post something about a family hike we took a while back just north of Holland. The Lake Michigan shoreline is packed with great little day parks where you can park, hike a little, and hang out at the beach for the day and Olive Shores County Park is no exception.

The day we went wasn’t exactly what you’d consider a sunbathing day, so we decided to just hike the stairs and walk the beach. The park recently went through an overhaul that included a new parking lot, visitor’s center, and stairs down to the beach complete with several scenic look-out areas. The parking lot is actually lower than the peak of the dune, so you climb stairs before descending to the beach. So in other words, you walk up hill both ways…kinda like your grandparents did going to school when they were kids. There’s also modern restrooms here, so it is definitely kid friendly during the summer. Expect to see people making the rounds on the stairs as its also a great place to get your sweat on.

At the bottom of the stairs on the beach, you’re greeted by a large sitting deck with a placard describing how the park came to be, and the really unique story about how the cottage that sat on the deck’s foundation was used in Tom Hanks’ movie “Road to Perdition”. The cottage was used near the end of the film when Tom’s character took his son to Michigan while he returned to ‘take care of some business’. The beach itself is very spacious because the water levels of Lake Michigan have been so low for the past few years. If walking the beach is your thing, you have both North and South options with a southern walk bringing you by the Consumer’s Power coal powered electric plant and to the mouth of the Pigeon Lake channel just a few steps further.

If you make it over to my neck of the woods to hit the beach, just be mindful that this park is a county park not covered by the State of Michigan passport sticker so you’ll have to pay a nominal day fee to check this park out. Outside of that, it’s one of the jewels of Lake Michigan and worth checking out.

 

Michigan Mountain Biking Race Season!!!!!

This weekend has been wild for me as I think through my final preparation for my first race of 2013 next Saturday. While it sure doesn’t feel like race season outside, I’m getting a firm boost of excitement with the Absa Cape Epic kicking off this morning and next week’s Barry-Roubaix (technically a cyclocross race, but mountain bikers are welcome). I celebrated with hot lap to Dunton Park with my daughter (7.1 mph average) for some playground fun in the warm sun. I wasn’t planning on riding hard today, but she kept pushing me to go faster 🙂

Epic Ride

 

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a pre-ride in of the new Barry-Roubaix course this year. It travels about 95% of the same roads as last year, but the race start/finish has been moved to Hastings, MI rather than the Yankee Springs State Game Area campground. It actually changes the course quite dramatically because Hastings is essentially on the opposite side of the race loop from the historical start/finish. The major concern this year has been course conditions as the killer gravel road race utilizes several seasonal roads that either don’t get plowed, don’t get plowed often, and/or are in the shade limiting the sun’s ability to melt snow off the road. I’ve been scavenging and devouring up every pre-ride report I can find. If you, too, are looking for some idea of what you’re in for, here’s a link to a Flicker page from today, and here’s some YouTube footage (6 part series) from last weekend.

The long range forecast for next Saturday is currently sunny with a high in the low 40’s and a low of 30. Considering we’ll be starting at or shortly after 10a.m., I’m guessing its going to be on the lower end of that range. However, with the sun and warming temperatures, it could cause whatever snow is on the road to soften and create some major road suck as well as make them squirrelly. Top that off with snow forecasted for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday this week, and this has all the makings for one painful race for the record books. Someone I was talking to said this could be one of those races that everyone talks about for decades and those who participated will be able to boast “I rode THAT year”.

As far as the Absa Cape Epic goes, today marks the beginning of the 7 day event with the prologue. There are a few teams riding in honor of Burry Stander, the South African professional mountain biker who had won the last couple of Absa Cape Epic’s but was tragically killed by a taxi this winter while training. His teammate, Christoph Sauser, is partnering with last year’s Olympic Gold Medalist, Jaroslav Kulhavy for this year’s event under the team name Burry Stander SONGO. They proceeded to hammer the field this morning, opening a gap of 1:06 in just 55 minutes. As a comparison, Burry and Christoph took the prologue by just 13 seconds last year, but went on to win by 27 minutes. I have to believe that there were some emotions driving today’s action as Kulhavy pulled Sauser from line to line. Here’s an intro to the Cape Epic and this year’s race course.

Although MY first true mountain bike race won’t happen until the Yankee Springs Time Trial in late April, I’m beginning to ramp up the adrenaline and excitement.

On the Bike

“Don’t forget your bike shoes.” It’s a familiar statement that I repeat while I’m going through my mental checklist before every ride. Unfortunately, not everything that makes the list, makes the car. So, today I rode Bass River in my hiking shoes. There’s two challenges with this, really. The first being the obvious that you’re not connected to your bike the way you’re used to which affects your climbing technique as well as your navigation over obstacles. The second is that my insulated booties don’t fit over those bulky shoes. Still, I was 30 minutes from home and had a lot to accomplish out on the trail so I made the best of it. The video is below.

Bass River is a 4 mile mountain bike trail that makes up for its lack of elevation change with it’s technical challenges requiring strong handling abilities. There are two loops, though the first loop crosses the main entrance to the trail head about 3/4 of a mile into the trail. This makes for an ideal situation for someone who doesn’t have all of their equipment because you’re never that far away from the car in case you get cold or its not working.

I was out to accomplish three tasks today: get a video of one full loop; get 90 minutes of trail riding in; and figure out what Strava segments exist for a small event I’m planning in May. I’m happy I was able to accomplish all three (though I could have ridden a bit harder with my bike shoes) and enjoy a fantastic winter day out in the woods.

As a quick video note: you may hear me chatting if you turn the video up real loud. I had downloaded an app on my iPhone to record a voice-over for the video, but once I got home I was unable to find the file on my phone to merge it with the video. I’ll be exploring this a bit more.

 

 

Off the Bike

Despite my seemingly one track mind on biking, I do enjoy getting outside for any reason. I took a walk with my 4 year old the other day to check out Lake Macatawa.

Lake Macatawa Angel

Lake Macatawa Angel

If it stays cold enough, we’ll be able to walk all the way accross the lake on the ice. Where Avery is laying has historically been under water, but over the past couple of years lake levels have been dropping, so a lot more shore area is exposed. This particular spot is just around the corner from our house and is a great spot for launching kayak’s. There are several streets in Holland that just dead end right into the lake creating these undeveloped public access points. This is one of those spots. I’m looking forward to launching my kayak from here next summer.

Trail Building

I worked last Saturday on the new Upper Macatawa Cycling Trails in Zeeland, MI. Once complete, the new trail will offer 6-8 miles of single track along a beautiful wooded ridge that includes several ravines. I also took some video of the work with my iPhone via One Second Epic. Check it out: