There are plenty of above 50 temps left in October (possibly November) to get on the bike and pedal this fall. My rule, although not scientific, is sound advice on when/how/where to bike. If it’s 45 degrees, it will feel like 40 on your road bike with more speed and wind resistance. Instead, head for the trails and forests where slower speeds mean warmer core temperatures. Above 50, find a less traveled route on country roads where motorists are few. Hopefully you won’t get honked at or yelled at by blacktop-greedy drivers who do not know the two-feet rule. The share the road idea still has not reached a saturation point amongst drivers in the Mitten.
I’ve also encountered major angst from drivers, clueless and uninformed about bikers using the shoulder of the road vs. the parallel recreational path (aka bike path). Newsflash, paved rec paths are created for multi-purpose use: dad pushing baby in stroller, teenage on scooter or skateboard, runners, dog-walkers and yes bikers, but only those cruising at speeds under 15 MPH. Therein lies the problem. Road bikers routinely pedal at speeds above this and to well over 20 MPH. Apparently most drivers are not aware of this rule, evidenced by the number of times I have been yelled at, “Get on the f-ing bike path!” They take the time to roll down the window, spew irritated obscenities about taking up their precious road. And, I am just out to get some exercise, to increase levels of serotonin so I don’t turn into an a-hole, who does not exercise enough. Sigh. That said, spread the word and take the opportunity to share the road and the bike path. With a little education, cars and bikes can coexist.
Like any sport, biking has it caution points but the thrill of vibrant fall colors, big lake views and the wind in your ear outweighs the risks. And, bonus biking burns calories and like any exercise, it improves health and well-being. If it’s 10, 20 or 100 miles a week, any distance will earn a star on the non-coach-potato chart. Here are a few West Michigan route ideas.
Road or Cruiser Routes
Head to downtown Muskegon, park at Pigeon Hill Brewing or Unruly Brewing and join the 231 Coalition on Tuesday nights. They organize co-ed groups of all levels, various distances and speeds. The start is the Lakeshore path, passing Veteran’s Memorial Park then into North Muskegon, following Ruddiman out to Lake Michigan and Muskegon State Park. Feeling spry, add on the thigh-crushing section up Scenic Drive to BlockHouse Hill. On my road bike, I’ve approached speeds of almost 40 MPH coming down that hill. Truth, I prefer slower speeds so I can soak in the fall spray paint of oranges, reds and golden hues on the Lakeshore canvas.
Musketawa Trail to Fenian’s Irish Pub
There’s more true color just east of downtown Muskegon. Start at the Hilton Park Road intersection of the Musketawa Trail and head east toward Ravenna, through manicured cornfields and farmland then into Conklin (there is no stoplight in this town). Just past the grain elevator rack your bike at Fenian’s Irish Pub. It’s 12 miles to then 12 miles back after you’ve downed a creamy pint of Guinness, the best I’ve had outside of Ireland.
Dirt & Trail
The fall color tour is brightest at Owasippe, the Boy Scout Reservation that is home to Muskegon’s best single-track. The colors seem brighter based on the proximity of rider to the leafy displays. Close encounters with color! In some cases, the trails are cut inches away from hardwoods that line the path and finger around Lake Wolverine, a pristine body of water that sees zero motorized boat traffic. The lake serves as a glassy mirror reflecting all the color, which you can catch on one of the two bridge crossings. Tip: don’t look up while you cross the narrow planks, wait until you have safely crossed before gawking.