Destination: Look-Out Park Distance: 4 miles Bikes: Surly Pugsley & Surly ICT
With the start of a new year, we decided that a bike ride was in order. Luckily the weather forecast was promising with warmer temperatures and plenty of sun. This change in weather was a welcomed change since the previous days have been fairly gray and chilly. Since being in Grand Rapids, we had learned about an interesting vantage point near downtown which was rumored to offer great views of the city and surrounding landscape. With a destination in mind we pedaled our fat bikes through the local neighborhoods and quickly arrived at Look-Out Park.
Bikes with city in the background
Since this was are first time at the park, we spent some time exploring and taking pictures
View of the city from Look-Out Park
Warmer temperatures had melted a considerable amount of the snow in Grand Rapids, which allowed what little vegetation there was to be visible. The skyline from this direction was refreshing and offered a new perspective on a city which I’m learning more about every day.
Enjoying the views from the park
After hanging out at the Look-Out for awhile, we headed back to our neighborhood, enjoying the architecture of the homes around the park. We were able to get one last photo near the highway which passes through town.
Route: Holland, MI to Grand Haven, MI and back Distance: 85 miles Bikes: Soma Stanyan & Soma Grand Randonneur
As the end of August nears, my brother and I are fitting in the last of our summer rides before the fall season. For years, June through August was our “ride season”, but this year we have the chance to extend our adventures into the fall. This summer, Sundays have been ride day since we both have that day free. With nothing but time, we headed towards Lake Michigan and embarked on another great day of riding the shore. Holland seems to be our new favorite lunching pad for rides. However, instead of heading South from Holland, we went North for a change. After fueling up on bagels and coffee, we set off into the cool morning air. As the ride mileage indicates, this was going to be one of the longer rides of the season. That being the case, we were diligent in our planning of food/water stops. The key to this ride was to always stay hydrated/fueled so that our minds could focus on enjoying the ride. Another bonus to taking plenty of stops is the opportunity to photograph moments along the ride. Biking along the shore of Lake Michigan offers no shortage of photo worthy scenes. The following photos highlight our favorite stops along the ride.
After reaching the beach side park, we headed back south along the same general route. By the end of the ride, we could tell we’d spent almost the entire day on our bikes. However, careful planning and plenty of food and water kept our spirits high, making for another great day on the bikes.
Route: Grand Rapids, MI to Lowell, MI and back Distance: 44 miles Bikes: Soma Stanyan & Soma Grand Randonneur
Sometimes the best bike rides are the ones that you haven’t planed for or are even thinking about. That was the case for our latest ride based out of Grand Rapids. It was Sunday, just after noon when a friend of our asked if we wanted to join in on a out and back ride to a county park 20 miles east of town. Since we both had the afternoon free, we decided to join in. Our friend also mentioned that this route would involve some gravel roads, something my brother and I had little experience with. Rolling out of town was a familiar route, which involved lots of busy street crossing and sharing the roads with higher speed traffic. The route out of GR was often the reason we had not ventured into the surrounding towns by bike, due to the unknown road conditions (traffic and bike friendliness). However, with the three of us all riding in a pack it made navigating the busy roads manageable. Once out of GR, our ride transitioned off the pavement and onto the Gravel! Recent rainfalls had created a nice hard pack gravel in places, allowing for smooth and dust free travel. Out in the “country”, beautiful homes dotted the rolling landscape. It was a welcomed change coming from the busy streets of the city to the quiet gravel roads of the countryside. While in some sections we rode on paved streets, a majority of the route was on gravel.
Once we arrived at Fallasburg Park in Lowell, we got to see one of the few remaining open covered bridges in Michigan. It was a busy weekend afternoon with lots of people enjoying the nice weather along the Flat River.
Having a new and interesting destination such as this is a great way to design a bike ride. I always enjoy having a ride destination, no matter how simple it may be.
As we departed from the park, our route home was sightly different, which meant new sights and roads. The route we took was not particularly hilly, but certainly involved some climbing. With climbs also come descents, which on gravel roads can be a new experience, requiring more focus and attention to the road surface. While the gravel is fun to ride on, I really enjoy rides that have a a mix of road surfaces. Having this variety really adds to the experience of the ride. Hopefully we will continue to venture onto mixed surfaces in the future and have more gravel ride reports.
Route: Paw Paw, MI to South Haven, MI and back Distance: 74 miles Bikes: Soma Stanyan & Soma Grand Randonneur
It’s 4th of July weekend and the weather is great! My brother and I had been planning on undertaking a long training ride from Paw Paw to Lake Michigan and back. What was especially exciting about this ride was the uncharted territory that we would be riding. While our family has been visiting South Haven for years, we had never biked there from the family lake house. Traveling on new roads and routes is always enjoyable since they are accompanied by new sights and terrain. One consequence of riding new roads is the “unknown” factor, however. About 10 miles into the ride (seems to be a theme!), we stopped to grab a quick drink and shed some layers. We had just crested a hill and began to roll down a gentle slope. As we talked casually, the sound of a barking dog disrupted our conversation. As we glanced left, a dog charged off the porch of a road side home and bolted towards us on the road. We’ve had dogs run after us before but never like this. Our ride speed increased as our adrenaline kicked in. As we sprinted our hearts out, the dog kept pace. While the chase my have only lasted a minute, the event stuck with us for the entire day. It’s moments like this that make a ride memorable (for good or worse). With the dog incident behind us, we pressed on to South Haven. Our goal was to not make any more stops until we reached the lake. Doing so was a good way to train for longer mileage in the saddle.
Via the newly paved section of the Van Buren Trail, we made our way into South Haven. The downtown section was busy with vacationers on the holiday weekend. We stopped in town for some lunch and brought it with us to the lake shore. On our way, we took a detour down by the harbor. As we watched boats enter and exit, one of these vessels caught our eye.
After taking in the sights by the harbor, we enjoyed our sandwiches at some benches which offered great views of the lake and lighthouse.
While difficult to leave views like this behind, we got back on the bikes and made our return trip to Paw Paw. We used a slightly different route to get back, giving us more opportunities to enjoy the quite county roads of southwest Michigan. At one point, our route took us on a section of gravel roads. While challenging at times, its always fun to change up the riding surface on longer trips. Our return journey was pleasant thanks to low winds, fair temperatures and no dog chases! With the miles ramping up on our training rides, we continue to prepare for even longer rides in the future. It can be difficult at times to get one’s mindset, the weather and a good bike route to all sync up at once. Luckily, this day brought all these together, resulting in a fantastic summer time ride.
Route: Holland, MI to South Haven, MI and back Distance: 67 miles Bikes: Soma Stanyan & Soma Grand Randonneur
Start Wolters Woods
The first Sunday in June looked to be a great day for a ride. My brother and I loaded up our bikes in Grand Rapids and headed over to Holland, MI. From there we would make our way south to South Haven following roads and trails along Lake Michigan. This section of the coast is quite familiar to us, since we have ridden it on multiple occasions. As we departed from Holland, we made use of the Beeline trail which weaves its way south to Saugatuck. The recent rain fall had left parts of the trail wet but still navigable. However, rain storms also tend to wash debris onto trails which can cause sharp, tire puncturing objects to litter the pavement. Unfortunately my tire managed to pick up a small piece of glass and left me with a flat tire (only 10 miles into the days ride!). Luckily we replaced the tube and were back on the road in no time. After hopping off the trail, we rolled into Saugatuck. The downtown section had some neat sights including this harbor.
A tradition of ours has been to stop at a small park in the heart of downtown Saugatuck. It was at this spot on our first ever self supported bike tour (summer 2013) that our GPS died and left us questioning weather we could finish the last three days of the tour with paper maps. Since then, we’ve made a point of stopping at this park when ever we ride through this part of Michigan.
Our ride continued from the bench towards South Haven. With sun shining bright, we were kept warm and dry, making for a pleasant day to be on the road. Since we have ridden this route multiple times, it is filled with familiar sights and rest stops. Another tradition of ours is to visit West Side Park which is our final stop before reaching South Haven. This park is situated on a bluff that over looks Lake Michigan. A great place to relax and take in great views of the lake.
From here we stopped for lunch in South Haven and began to work our way north towards Holland. To make the return trip different, we took the Kal-Haven trail out of South Haven. Riding this trail is always a welcomed experience. One of the best spots along it is the covered bridge near the trail head in South Haven.
After connecting back up with surface roads, we made our way back to Holland. The days ride was going to be the furthest of the year so far. As we neared our start point, we could definitely tell this had been a long ride. While both of us were tired, the ride was a great way to spend a beautiful Sunday in June. The ride also helped us get back into the mindset of longer distance riding and motivated us to keep training for even longer rides throughout the summer.
Destination: Ada, MI Distance: 10 miles Bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker & Soma Grand Randonneur
With rain in the forecast, we weren’t sure if a ride was going to happen today. Despite some early clouds, it turned out to be a great day for a ride. My brother is in town for the weekend so we explored the paths around Ada and Cascade.
We began the ride in downtown Ada and got to cross the historic covered bridge there right away.
From there, we continued on some paths along the Thornapple River and took a short break on a bridge over the river.
After some rough paths we arrived in Cascade at the riverside park some of you may recognize from a previous post. At the riverbank, we met a new friend
With a snack and water, we headed north along Cascade Road to Ada Drive. Ada Drive is quite a downhill to downtown Ada and before we know it we were back where we started.
Destination: Thornapple River Song stuck in my head: Paint Me a Birmingham-Tracy Lawrence Distance: 24 miles Bike: Surly Long Haul Trucker
It’s been a slow start to the this year for riding but I finally had a free weekend with amazing weather. Despite working in the area, I have done very little riding on the south side of the city. On this ride, I was able to explore both a new part of town and a small stretch of a a rail trail.
Starting at a trailhead in Kentwood, I began the ride on the Paul Henry-Thornapple Trail. It’s always nice to start a ride on a quiet, low-stress trail rather than a busy road. The trail ends at high-speed, but low-traffic road that I followed east towards the airport. Along the way, I passed the former Steelcase pyramid office building.
Traffic began to pick up as I rode on but luckily there were wide shoulders as I looped around the south and east sides of the airport on my way to the Thornapple River. As I followed the windy, hilly roads along the river’s bank, I took a short break at a small park by a hydroelectric dam on the river.
Leslie E. Tassell Park
Trucker along the river
Statue along the river
After a tough climb out of the river basin, I was back on quiet roads with the wind at my back all the way to the trailhead.