Coffeeneuring 2016: Ride 1

Coffeeneuring Ride 1: October 21, 2016

Destination: Bagel Beanery-Breton, Grand Rapids, MI
Drink: Magnum Roastery Breton Rd. Blend
Distance: 10.9 miles
Bikes: Surly Ice Cream Truck & Surly Pugsley

We’ve had a slow start to our Coffeeneuring season and our first ride comes late in the second week. It’s definitely starting to feel like fall in Michigan with cloudy skies and the changing colors. With fat bike season around the corner, it was about time for a shakedown ride.

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The first destination is a repeat from last year to the Bagel Beanery on the southeast side of the city. We took a wide loop into neighboring East Grand Rapids on our route south. On the side streets, we had quite a few more hills than we see on the established cycling routes in the area. Luckily, the fat bikes have really great climbing gears.

We arrived at the Bagel Beanery just before the lunch rush and snagged a quiet table overlooking the bikes.

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Coffee at Bagel Beanery is self-serve and we are always overwhelmed with the choices. Luckily, we know the options well and quickly decided on our first drinks of the Coffeeneuring 2016.

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We both went with the Breton Road Blend or as they describe it, “the lighter side of dark” roast. With our coffees and bagels (Everything and Tomato Basil) neatly arranged, here’s our pre-meal pic:

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The ride home was pretty uneventful but the sun did peek through the clouds a few times to keep us warm. Not a bad start to our 2016 challenge.

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AAA 200k Brevet

September 17, 2016

Route: Adrian, MI to Albion, MI and back
Distance: 125  miles
Bikes: Soma Stanyan & Soma Grand Randonneur

After watching the weather all week hoping the forecast would change, we drove down to the Jackson, Michigan area to attempt our first 200k of the year. We knew one thing: it was going to rain. The day started early with hot coffee and bagels as we headed to the start point in Adrian, MI. I don’t think the organizer expected it, but a half marathon was starting from the same location that morning so finding the other riders proved to be a challenge.

Eventually we found the ride organizer and acquired our brevet cards and cue sheets. We had expected over 25 riders but only 5 riders started the brevet. It was already raining as we rolled out at 8AM towards the first control at around the 20 mile mark. The small group of riders quickly broke apart with each rider at a different pace. Despite years of solid performance, one of our taillights died in the first stretch. Luckily we carried some spares we were product testing for our business.

The group of riders came back together after that first control and the rain really picked up. We were so focused on riding that we almost missed a few turns. Luckily, the ride organizer was in our group and knew the route well. The route was generally flat but this section certainly had the most climbing. It was tough but at least we knew it would be downhill when we returned.

After about 4 hours and just after the second control at Mile 45, we stopped for lunch at Subway with 2 other riders. We still felt good and stayed on top of our energy bars so we split a sandwich and continued on. After a rough stretch on a busy road , we turned onto the most pleasant part of the route, the Falling Waters Trail. The rain reached its peak just we pulled up to an information control. In randonneuring, an information control is typically a question that can only be answered if a rider is in the right spot. In our case ,we had to note the numbers on a tractor crossing sign.

Before we knew it, we were off the trail and struggling through bumpy roads and a bit of fatigue as we headed to the turnaround at a park in Albion, MI. Here’s a short narrated video just before we started moving again.

After the turnaround, I remembered to use the camera a bit more. Here we are on the Falling Waters Trail heading back to Adrian. The rain had finally stopped for the day but the clouds were still looming.

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Falling Waters Trail at about Mile 75

As we left the trail, we began to realize that we had not consumed enough water or food since the turnaround and our energy levels dipped. We stopped at a gas station to reload on water but forgot to eat once again. Finally, we found a quiet place to pull off and we calculated what speed we needed to maintain to finish in time. We quickly realized that we were well ahead of schedule and slowed down our pace to relax a bit. The second to last control and the 100 mile mark arrived before we knew it.

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Control #5: The Panther Pit in Addison, MI

We stocked up with more water in Addison, MI and felt energized to attempt to finish by 7PM.

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Devil’s Lake in Manitou Beach, MI. A brevet highlight.

The sun finally came out and we sped along through our favorite part of the course between Round Lake and Devil’s Lake in Manitou Beach, MI. We even made a short video while riding:

To make our 11 hour finish goal, we had to pick up the pace a bit at the end. Somehow, after 10 hours on the bike, we finally found a rhythm and it almost was effortless for the final 15 miles. We got back to the start point and ran inside to have our finishing time logged. It was exactly 7PM. Our total time from start to finish was 11 hours. The car was stocked with food and drink for the finish and we quickly made a major dent in our supplies. As the sun set, we began the long drive home to Grand Rapids and are already looking forward to the ride again next year.

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The completed brevet card with our new tail light still burning strong

Thank you Tom and the Detroit Randonneurs for a great fall ride.

Ride Report 8/21

August 21, 2016

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.

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First rest stop as we road North to Grand Haven.  Beautiful tree lined roads along the shore are not uncommon!

 

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Looking East over the Grand River
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Views from a river-side park in Grand Haven
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Bird watching at Spring Lake
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Our Northern turn around point was a great lakeside park.  From the roadway, visitors walked along this winding path to reach the lake.
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Once by the lake, we were treated to great vistas of the lake, sand dunes and the surrounding forest.
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This picnic bench provided a great place to enjoy some snack while taking in the views

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.

Ride Report 8/14

August 14, 2016

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.

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Typical Gravel Roads

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.

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Covered Bridge over 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.

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View from the Bridge

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.

Ride Report: 7/2

July 2, 2016

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.

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South Haven Water Tower

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.

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Ship entering South Haven harbor

After taking in the sights by the harbor, we enjoyed our sandwiches at some benches which offered great views of the lake and lighthouse.

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South Haven 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.

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A great sunset to finish off the day

 

 

Ride Report: 6/5

June 5, 2016

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.

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Harbor in Saugatuck, MI

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.

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The “Speakers Bench”

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.

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West Side Park Vista

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.

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Covered Bridge along Kal-Haven Trail
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Section of trail near 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.

 

Ride Report: 5/7

May 7, 2016

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.

Covered Bridge in Ada, MI
Covered Bridge in Ada, MI
Through the covered bridge in Ada
Through the covered bridge in Ada

From there, we continued on some paths along the Thornapple River and took a short break on a bridge over the river.

 

View of Thornapple River from Bridge
View of Thornapple River from Bridge

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

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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.

Grand Rapids Bicycle Company Ada, MI
Grand Rapids Bicycle Company Ada, MI

 

Getting fancy with the photography
Getting fancy with the photography