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Mid-Mitten Cycling Scenic Rides

Lower Huron Metropark to Lake Erie

(Here’s the first MidMitten Cycling route of 2015. I’ve been a little slower getting going this season — writing a novel will do that to you. Remember, if you’d like to subscribe just to my cycling posts, fill out the form at the end of this page.)

Forested bike path in Lake Erie Metropark
Forested bike path in Lake Erie Metropark

If there’s one thing Michigan has done right, it’s saving the last scraps of nature left over after clearcutting in the 19th century and industrialization in the 20th. On this route, you’ll start just a couple of miles west of one of DTW’s runways, pass within sight of a Mazda factory, and cross two freeways. Still, for most of the ride you’ll feel you’re away from it all, with many close-up views of the lazy lower Huron River, marshlands, the Detroit International Wildlife Refuge, and the entirely different natural world of Lake Erie. Connecting it all is a mostly well-paved set of bike paths. This route begins on the extreme edge of MidMitten Cycling territory (about an hour and twenty minutes from Lansing, according to Google Maps), but it’s worth the drive.

You could rush through this 45-mile round-trip outing, as my bike partner Rob and I did on one six-hour journey, but it’s probably better to break it up into two or more trips. The four separate parks along the way provide great opportunities for short trips with kids, but the urban stretches through the communities of Flat Rock and Rockwood are less well suited for young children. Alternatively, if you want to experience the whole route without doing the full 45 miles, you could set up a car shuttle, leaving one vehicle at Lake Erie Metropark, then taking the other back to the start of the ride in Lower Huron Metropark, for a total of about 22 to 24 riding miles.

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Mid-Mitten Cycling

Mid-Mitten Cycling Map

Introducing the new Mid-Mitten Cycling Map on GoogleMaps. Now you can quickly check if there’s a route close to you. Click on a bicycle icon to get the name of the route, a short description, and a link to my post describing it.

Right now there are fourteen routes: nine hilly rides, three scenic, and two kid-friendly. (GoogleMaps only allows two colors for icons, so a blue bicycle denotes a hilly ride, while yellow represents both the scenic and the family rides.)

Feel free to share the map with your Michigan cycling friends, and don’t forget to sign up to receive future bike routes via email by filling out the form below. Live in a part of “mid-Michigan” I’ve neglected? You can suggest your favorite rides in the comment section. I’m especially looking for scenic rides on quiet roads or bike paths and shorter rides on bike paths good for kids.

Stay up-to-date with Mid-Mitten Cycling by filling out the form below. Want all my bike-related posts? Check only “Mid-Mitten Cycling.” Want posts on a particular type of ride? Check the type(s) of ride you’re interested in (but not “Mid-Mitten Cycling”). Want all my posts on a wide variety of topics? Check “All categories,” but none of the others.

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Mid-Mitten Cycling

Subscribe to Mid-Mitten Cycling

Mid-Mitten CyclingHave you contemplated subscribing to this blog, but wanted only the bike-related posts? Now you can do exactly that, thanks to a widget called “Subscribe to Category.” Just fill out the form below with your email address, and check the boxes that represent your interest. You can subscribe to one or more types of ride, receive all my bike-related posts, or receive everything I write about, from biking to politics to book reviews to writing to alerts about my new fiction releases. It’s up to you!

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Mid-Mitten Cycling

The Beginnings of Mid-Mitten Cycling

What began with my obsession for finding the best hill climbs for my road bike has morphed into an all-around guide to the best bicycle routes in Mid-Michigan.

The first thing I asked myself upon moving from California to Lansing, Michigan, was, “Hey, where are all the hills?” For a cyclist who’s used to some ups and downs in the terrain, mid-Michigan doesn’t have much to offer. Pretty scenery, quiet roads, courteous drivers, and good lunch stops, yes. Hills, not so much. In the heart of the mitten, you can go for a 40-mile ride and climb only 300 feet; in San Diego, we would do that much just riding to the beach.

A planned trip back to California involving some cycling prompted me to look for some Michigan hills that don’t involve a three-hour drive from Lansing. What I’ve discovered: they’re out there, but they’re just a bit hard to find. And they don’t tend to be very long, so you might have to do some laps to get in a significant amount of elevation gain.

A massive oak along Williamston Rd.

Thus was born the idea for a section of the website covering the best spots for hill training in mid-Michigan (defined as about an hour’s drive from Lansing). Maybe you’re planning a trip out west with your bike. Or you’ve signed up for a triathlon in another state that includes some climbing. Perhaps you’ve signed up to do DALMAC and are worried about the infamous “Wall.” Or you just want to get stronger on your bike (hill climbing is one of the fastest ways to become a stronger all-around rider). This is a collection of routes that will help you achieve your goals.

There are nine hilly routes so far, and I’m still looking for another one within an hour or so of Lansing. I’m always open to tips. If you know of any well-paved hills with at least 100 feet of climbing in the area, drop a comment below, or email me at lahogue AT gmail DOT com. Later, I plan to add a few bigger hills a bit farther north (but not “Up North”).

Next, I realized maybe not all cyclists are as obsessive about going uphill as I am. So I hit on the idea of sections covering Best Scenic Rides and Best Family Rides, again all within an hour or so of Lansing. Those sections are just getting started. The whole thing could turn into a guidebook with between 30 and 40 suggested rides, either published traditionally or on my own.

I hope you’ll follow me as I discover what Michigan cycling is all about. And if you have any suggestions for the best routes, please leave them in the comment section below.

 

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Mid-Mitten Cycling Politics

What Bicycling Can Teach Us About Privilege

Excellent post from fellow Lansing-area blogger A Little More Sauce on what white people can learn about our own privilege from the distinctly unprivileged position of riding a bike on streets that systemically favor cars. Check it out here.

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Mid-Mitten Cycling

Jill Byelich Tribute Ride

Some photos from yesterday’s tribute ride for Jill Byelich and the rally at the state Capitol that followed. Jill’s husband, Jordan Byelich, gave a moving speech to the crowd at her gravesite. At the Capitol, there was one bit of good news from John Lindenmayer of the League of Michigan Bicyclists: both the state house and senate have now passed Nathan’s Law, which provides for more education to encourage bicycle awareness in Michigan’s drivers’ ed classes. Governor Snyder will sign the bill next week, on Nathan Bower’s birthday. Work is still needed on the proposed Vulnerable Roadway Users Law. Next year, LMB will begin a campaign to pass a five-foot passing requirement. Currently, Michigan is just one of a handful of states that has no requirement for motorists when passing bicyclists.

More photos of the ride, which drew over 100 cyclists on a chilly fall day, are available in a gallery from the Lansing State Journal.

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Hilly Rides Mid-Mitten Cycling

Climbing in Kzoo

6th Street hill
6th Street approaching the infamous hill

It doesn’t take much searching through southwest Michigan cycling forums to discover that 6th Street in Kalamazoo Township offers the biggest hill for road cyclists in the vicinity. Even 20 miles east, at the Custer Cyclery in Augusta, this is the hill they recommend for roadies who want some climbing. And at 200 feet in 0.8 mile, with grades of as much as 9 percent, it is a big climb. But there’s a lot more to the area than one big hill, notably the exceptionally scenic Kal Haven Trail State Park. I got so distracted with the bike path that I nearly forgot about the road climbing.

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Mid-Mitten Cycling Scenic Rides

Falling Waters Trail

  • Starting Point: Teft Road Trailhead (directions below)*
  • Distance: 9, 13, or 22 miles
  • Elevation Gain: negligible
  • MapMyRide Route
photo of Lime Lake
Lime Lake: pretty on the surface

The Falling Waters Trail is emblematic of so much in Michigan: beautiful on the surface, with just a soupçon of industrial ruin beneath. Yet it’s well worth an outing, whether you want to do just a portion of it with the kids or tackle the whole thing. The adventurous can extend their ride into downtown Jackson on the Inter City Trail and urban streets or do some hill climbs in the suburbs.

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Hilly Rides Mid-Mitten Cycling

Jackson Neighborhood Hills

The first summit: the high point on Glen Dr.
The first summit: the high point on Glen Dr.
Categories
Mid-Mitten Cycling Scenic Rides

Gull Lake Loop

W.K. Kellogg Manor House
W.K. Kellogg Manor House

I decided to ride around Gull Lake on a lark after doing a bunch of hills to the south. From its south end, the lake looked small, although the number of boats docked at the marinas should have been a clue to its true size. Fortunately, the lake isn’t too big, so it only added about 12 miles to my day. That’s pretty short as a stand-alone bike ride, but there are plenty of other activities around the lake to fill your day.

The lake’s size was not the only surprise. It was also exceptionally pretty, even by Michigan lake standards. Another surprise was the W.K. Kellogg Manor House, which I had no clue about. For a minute I thought I had fallen into a T.C. Boyle novel (especially just after seeing the eerie Brook Lodge). Then I realized The Road to Wellville focuses on that other Kellogg, J.H., the one with the weird (not to mention racist) notions of sexuality, eugenics, and racial purity.