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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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News

In Memory of Jill Byelich

Jill Byelich flyer

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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.
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Hilly Rides Mid-Mitten Cycling

A Scenic Hill Ride, or a Hilly Scenic Ride?

42nd Street north of Augusta
42nd Street north of Augusta

This recreation-rich area west of Battle Creek doesn’t have the biggest hills, but the setting is undeniably pretty, with rolling farmland, MSU’s Kellogg Experimental Forest and Gull Lake as a backdrop. It’s also one of the few areas where you can put several climbs together in a loop, rather than doing hill repeats. Thus the conundrum: is this a good hill climbing route that happens to have some nice scenery, or is it a scenic route with some decent hills? I’ll leave that up to you, providing several options for your ride.

The route described here begins in the village of Augusta and heads into the hills just north of town. A double loop of 20 miles will give you about 800 feet of climbing (contrary to the gain reported by MapMyRide, which seems unusually suspect in this part of Michigan). If you want more climbing, you could do another loop. Or you could do up-and-downs on E F Ave. or on one of the steep streets right in town. On the other hand, if you prefer a longer scenic ride with more gently rolling hills, you could throw in a loop of about 12 miles around Gull Lake for a total of 32 miles.

Augusta Creek from E F Ave.
Augusta Creek from E F Ave.
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Family Rides Mid-Mitten Cycling

Kent Lake

View of Kent Lake through the trees
View of Kent Lake through the trees

I was surprised by the number of hills on this short jaunt around Kent Lake in South Lyon/Milford. The paved Kensington Metropark Hike-Bike Trail encircling the lake climbs 350 feet in 8.5 miles. But not to worry if you have small children – you’ll find plenty to do even on a short jaunt where the path is relatively level. If you want to tackle the whole loop, small children are probably better off in a child carrier or tag-along bike, and older kids will need multi-speed bikes.

The parking lot serving the lake’s west boat launch (off High Ridge Rd. just east of the park’s Kensington Rd. entrance) makes an excellent place to start. The path in both directions from this point is relatively level, and both the nature center and boat rental center are within easy reach. There’s a $7 entry fee for vehicles; an annual pass to all 13 Huron-Clinton Metroparks costs $30. 

Begin your adventure by picking up the bike path at the west end of the parking lot, then head north. Looking left across High Ridge Rd., you’ll probably spot people with binoculars gazing at a forested island on Wildwing Lake. The island is home to a heron rookery, and the wooden causeway that serves as a viewing platform is well worth a visit from the park’s nature center up ahead.

Wall display at the Kensington Nature Center
Wall display at the Kensington Nature Center

To reach the nature center, continue on the bike path a short distance until it begins bending to the right (east). You’ll notice signs for the nature center on the adjacent road. Look for an informal path through the grass on your left that will take you to a point across from the nature center’s parking lot on High Ridge Rd. Use extreme caution while crossing the road. (You could use this lot as the base for your Kent Lake adventure, but it might be busy on weekends, and you’ll have to cross the road either way.) The nature center (open 10 to 5 Tues. through Sun., 1 to 5 Mon.) has several displays about the fish and reptiles of southern Michigan, stuffed animals, an active beehive, and more. It also offers programs for families at various spots around Kent Lake.

If you want to visit the heron rookery, you’ll need to leave your bikes at the nature center, as the nature trails are for foot traffic only. Trails extend mainly north and east, but to reach the rookery, head left (southwest) from the center, then south on a gravel road (marked as Labadie Rd. on the map). This will bring you to the wooden causeway at the edge of Wildwing Lake, paralleling the west side of High Ridge Rd and offering great views of the rookery.

Shady bench with view of Kent Lake
Shady bench with view of Kent Lake

If the kids have their own binoculars, this is a great time to use them. You might want to ask any dinosaur experts in the family which dinosaur the herons remind them of (and if they’re really experts they’ll remind you that ancient flying reptiles are called pterosaurs, not dinosaurs). This wildlife viewing area also gives great views of the lilies and other aquatic plants growing in the shallow waters of the lake. On one visit here a sandhill crane was drawing a lot of attention as it nestled in low bushes next to the trail.

Back on the bike path, you’re now heading east around the north shore of Kent Lake. The trail passes through dense maple and oak forest, offering cool shade on a hot day. At points where the path hugs the shoreline, look for swans floating among the lily pads not far from shore.

In just under 2 miles, you’ll arrive at the Kensington Metropark boat rental docks, where the brightly colored duck and swan peddle boats are likely to grab the kids’ attention. They cost $15 per hour and seat four to five. Kayaks, canoes, rowboats and paddle boards are also available. For those who just want to dip their toes in the water, Maple Beach is just beyond the boat rental.

Kensington Metropark boat rental center
Kensington Metropark boat rental center

The steep climbing begins where the path rounds the point just past Maple Beach, a little over 2 miles from the start, so this is probably a good turnaround point for families with smaller kids on single speed bikes. If the kids really want more biking, you could return the way you came to the parking lot, then continue south and east around the lake. The path is relatively flat for about a mile in this direction, hugging the shore and offering more great views of the lake. The junction with the Island Lake Pathway makes a good turnaround point, giving you about a six-mile ride all together.

Path & bench
Kent Lake bike path on the east shore

For those continuing around the lake from Maple Beach, head up the hill, climbing steeply for half a mile onto a broad ridge jutting out into the lake. From the summit, the path descends before turning left to cross a park road, then descending steeply above a finger of the lake. Warn the kids to stay on their brakes in this steep section, as the speed limit is 10 mph.

You’ll begin climbing again almost immediately at the bottom of this hill, ascending through open grassland on a rather bumpy section of pathway. Just beyond the summit, a little over 3.5 miles from the start, a path branches left to another worthwhile side trip, the Kensington Farm Center. At a little under halfway around the lake, the farm center makes an excellent stop for a break.

Kensington Farm Center
Kensington Farm Center

The center also offers the chance to see live farm animals including goats, cattle and draft horses, maple sugaring demonstrations in March, and a 150-year-old restored barn. You can even take a hay ride on weekends and holidays (noon to 4; $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors, free for kids under 2).

Back on the trail, the path dips steeply once more, then crosses a narrow neck of Kent Lake on a bridge shared with Buno Rd. Just beyond, where the path runs next to a cloverleaf of roads at the junction of Buno and Huron River Pkwy., look for a path intersecting from the left. This is the Milford Trail, a paved bike path that leads 4 miles to Milford and scenic Hubbell Pond. Even if you don’t want an eight mile side trip, the wildlife viewing station at Windfall Bay just half a mile north on this trail makes a worthwhile jaunt. There’s a display showing the different birds and animals you’re likely to see and a free spotting scope you can use to view the ospreys (fish eagles) nesting on a platform a hundred yards off shore.

Splash-n-Blast
Splash-n-Blast

Back on the main Kent Lake bike path, the trail runs through wooded hills, traveling between Kent Lake on the right and Huron River Pkwy. on the left. At 5.75 miles, you’ll arrive at Kensington Metropark’s Splash-n-Blast. This water park features two 250-foot circular slides (for kids taller than 48 inches) and splash zones. The facility is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. May 24 through Labor Day and costs $5 for adults, $4 for kids 2 and over, and free for kids under 2.

From the water park, the path turns more to the west and the roar of the I-96 freeway grows as you approach this ribbon of concrete. At the point where you’re closest to the freeway, a path forks to the left, passing under the freeway and entering Island Lake State Recreation Area. The Island Lake Pathway extends for 4.25 miles through a mix of open grassland, cedars, huge oak trees, and a rare (for southern Michigan) stand of pines, ending at a parking lot with a beach volleyball pit. This may not be a worthwhile detour for most families, but the recreation area offers alternative parking for those with a state Recreation Passport who want to avoid paying the county park entry fee.

Geese and goslings
Geese and goslings

Continuing on the Kent Lake path, at 8.5 miles you’ll return to the lot where you started. If the kids are up for more adventure, there’s still plenty to do: you could try your luck at the fishing pier, launch your own boat from the ramp at the lot’s north end, or just have a picnic at one of the shelters. Whatever you choose, you’ll have a perfect Michigan day at Kensington Metropark.


 

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Hilly Rides Mid-Mitten Cycling

Kensington Road

Kensington Hill from below
The hill on Kensington Rd., viewed from the bottom

My heart beat faster when I saw the elevation profile for Kensington Road on MapMyRide. This hill east of Brighton has a 160-foot climb in half a mile, making it one of the steepest I’d discovered in mid-Michigan so far. And my heart beat faster again when I actually rode this route, but for entirely the wrong reason: all the huge gravel trucks zooming by, combined with the narrow road with crumbling pavement at the edge, were jacking my adrenaline more than the climb itself.

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Mid-Mitten Cycling Scenic Rides

You Don’t Have to Go Up North to Find a Tunnel of Trees

Diamond Rd.
Heading south on Diamond Rd.

Mid-Michigan is known for its flat farmland, but we do have some pretty scenery, especially where roads pass near rivers, lakes, and state recreation lands. We even have roads overhung by canopies of oaks and maples so we can feel like we’re “up north” right here at home. The foliage adds variety to a long ride and welcome shade on a hot day.

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Hilly Rides Mid-Mitten Cycling

Rides of Spring

Barry Rd. barn
A rural scene along Barry Rd.

Riding the trainer in the basement over the winter, pretending I was following the pros on the TV, it was easy to imagine I was a hero on the bike. But on my first ride of spring, starting out into a headwind, going 14 mph downhill, those illusions were quickly dashed. I’m just a 52 53-year-old duffer who can’t even keep up with his former self, let alone any serious rider. And riding outdoors is far different from any workout a trainer can provide.

Ah well, I told myself, it’s 50 degrees and the sun is shining – the whole reason I’m out here, really. I decided to just enjoy the ride, moving my hands to the drops to better slice through the breeze. Wind resistance is the hill training of the Midwest, my California friends warned me, and the folks at Lansing Bike (and Ski!) Party say the same.

Barry Rd. West
Barry Rd. West

I turned onto Barry Rd. and picked up a tailwind, trying not to get cocky as I began to move faster. I started up the first climb, the 75-foot Barry Rd. West. I had done this hill a couple of times before, and it seemed no harder now than it had in the fall. I credited that to the tailwind, not my spring conditioning.

Rolling along for another mile or so, I came to the top of the main climb of the day, Barry Rd. East. Lansing-area riders agree, this half-mile climb of about 100 feet is the best hill in the area. The road dropped to a short flat, then dropped again out of sight. Picking my way down through the shaded patches of persistent snow, I discovered not one but two false summits punctuating the climb. That would be both good and bad – steeper climbing sections, but unwelcome short rests in between. No getting into a steady climbing groove on this hill.

Three Lakes
Three Lakes along Barry Rd.

I paused at the bottom of the climb where a small stream crossed under the road, taking in the view of the snow-covered Three Lakes to the south. After a winter of temps in the single digits, I shouldn’t have been surprised at how warm 50 degrees could feel, with the sun glinting off the open water of the inlet stream and the snow beyond. Now that I was standing still, the wind didn’t seem so strong.

But there’s only so long you can bask in the sun when the hills are calling. I turned the bike around and headed for the climb. My first time up I tried to stay in “survival mode,” shifting down early and often until I was in an easy gear, then spinning the rest of the way up, finally standing for the last and steepest pitch. Not too bad, I told myself.

The second time around I tried attacking the hill, shifting to harder gears on the flats and standing up most of the way. Reaching the top in a little over three minutes, totally gassed, I couldn’t help thinking about the guy on Strava who’d done the same climb in half the time. Who was he? A god? Probably just someone half my age. Yet it seemed impossible.

Barry Rd. East
The first two bumps on Barry Rd. East

Putting my ignominious beating from my mind, I continued along Barry to turn right on Lounsberry, following a rectangular circuit MSU Bikes manager Tim Potter had suggested. The road plunged into a little valley then quickly scaled the other side. Kicking on the uphill, I was pleased with my recovery from the Barry Rd. climb. Then the route turned right and downhill once again, and I felt the elation of speed and the endorphins coursing through my body. This is what riding a bike is all about. I looked down at my computer and saw that I was averaging 15 mph for the ride, the same as I’ve been doing since I bought my first road bike fourteen years ago. Not bad for an old guy on a spring ride.

Enough with comparing myself to others! I had forgotten the one weird trick that got me into endurance sports in the first place, nearly 30 years ago: the idea that you’re never competing with the person next to you (or with other MapMyRide and Strava users), but only with yourself. And that’s a subject for a future post.

These days, truth be told, I’m not even competing with myself, but just looking for that endorphin kick. Mission accomplished, I headed back to the commuter lot where I had left the car, descending a false flat with the wind at my back, easily exceeding 20 mph, once again a hero in my own mind.

DIRECTIONS

The directions for this ride are simple: navigate to the intersection of Barry Rd. and Williamston Rd., then head west until you reach the top of the hill in about one mile. Turn around, descend, repeat as many times as you like. As always, be cautious making the U-turns.

If you’re driving to reach this ride, the commuter lot at Woodbury Rd. and I-69 offers convenient parking. You could head straight south on Woodbury for 2 miles to Barry Rd., but here’s a more scenic and less-trafficked alternative: follow Woodbury south for a half-mile, then turn left on Braden, right on Dunn, right on Foster, and left on Barry.

The Barry Road hills are about a 24-mile roundtrip from the Lansing area, using Burcham Dr. in East Lansing, the Inter-Urban Pathway, Haslett Rd., and Green Rd. to reach Barry Rd.

If repeating the same half-mile climb gets boring, you have several options. To do Tim Potter’s suggested square circuit, begin at the Williamston Rd.-Barry Rd. intersection and head west on Barry. Turn right on Lounsberry, then right on Milton. Milton will become Lovejoy, and you’ll continue straight ahead to Williamston, where you’ll turn right to complete the square. That makes for a 5K loop (3.1 miles) with about 130 feet of climbing, and no U-turns required.

Another option is to do out-and-backs on Barry Rd. between Williamston Rd. and Foster Rd., letting you do both of the big hills on Barry Rd. One lap would be nearly 5.5 miles with 200 feet of climbing.


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

Dreaming of Spring Rides

Barry Rd. Hill
Barry Rd. Hill

One day of nice spring weather and already I’m dreaming of warm weather riding. Yet it’s still a bit too snowy, icy, puddly, and pot-holey to make riding safe, let alone fun. So for now I’ll content myself with thinking about climbing the biggest hill I’ve found in the Lansing area. This is Barry Rd. out near Williamston Rd. Three steep pitches punctuated by two level sections over six-tenths of a mile.

Lansing cyclists, do you know of any other hills in the area? (Paved roads only, although to call this section of Barry Rd. “paved” might be a bit of a stretch right now.)