Did you know Michigan is second in the nation for rail-to-trail conversions in the nation, and that we here in northern Michigan host the largest single day mountain biking event in North America (The Ice Man)?
Much has been written about mountain biking opportunities in both books and news articles in recent years, but there hasn’t been much for road cyclists detailing places to ride and new opportunities.
That is until now.
Robert Downes’ new book, Biking Northern Michigan, details 30 well researched rides across the northern Lower Peninsula that accommodates a variety of bikes. Each ride recommends the type of bike best suited for the ride. Some of the rail-to-trail rides are best suited for hybrids, cruisers and mountain bikes. Eighteen of the rides are on back roads, often between villages or circling around lakes. The rest are rail-to-trail rides and one island, which is Beaver Island, mostly sandy, dirt roads, where you will need a hybrid or mountain bike. The route between Traverse City and Kalkaska follows the Ice Man and a spur of the North Country Trail. You will definitely need a mountain bike.
Downes, who has ridden all over the world and put thousands of miles on his bike in northern Michigan alone, offers not only great maps and descriptions of the rides, but also includes lists of essential gear and a long dialogue about safety issues. Most of it is commonsense garnered through years of riding, but worth noting.
Each ride is accompanied by a well detailed map, which in the case of the TART Trail even includes dangerous intersections to be aware of. Many of the maps include alter native routes to higher traffic routes. Both routes are included on the maps with detailed descriptions in the text.
Each ride includes a quick synopsis including the distance and whether one way or round trip; a recommendation of the types of bikes best suited for the trip; the essentials that detail certain things you need for that ride and potential problems to watch out for along the way; traffic, is it heavy, light or none at all; and difficulty, is it easy, semitough or hard, and challenges.
Ride descriptions include not only the route, but lots of interesting highlights of things you’ll see along the route; historical sites, special developments, places to find a great burger and beer, ice cream, great view points and scenic picnic locations.
Although the book is not geared towards mountain biking Downes does offer some big tire options listing nine mountain bike treks in northern Lower Michigan with just a brief description on each one and where it’s located. No maps.
For planning a trip or just looking for a new area to ride in our northern region of the state this book offers the rider who likes roads and rail-to-trails a good selection of choices packed with information.
The book is available through local book stores, Brick Wheels in Traverse City and signed copies online at planetbackpacker.net.