Spring Thaw Pedal

March 10, 2021




I am in my office, tapping keys to the rhythm of the snowmelt dripping off the roof and soaking into the saturated ground. The birds are back, too, even Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal. Their calls mix in with the drip, and a chorus begins, announcing the arrival of spring. The Mitten can’t thaw fast enough, though. My two-wheeled steed is racked in the garage and ready. 

I will the drips to come faster and watch the snowbanks start to recede. Temperatures push above 40, and it feels gloriously warm. I tilt my face to the sun and breathe in. Snow, water, and mud coalesce in west Michigan while I impatiently wait for the day my bike tires can meet the trail.

So while we wait for the trails to thaw, let’s look ahead to getting back in the saddle, hearing the wind in our ears and remembering the wonderful sensation of soreness in our quads.  Michigan is fast becoming the terrific bike and beer state. Ride the trails, soak in the outdoor air, then support the local craft beer and food scene. The restaurant industry won’t mind a little trail dirt and could certainly use our business (and hefty tips) to get back in the game.

NCT (North Country Trail, Hesperia section)
The North Country Trail is an amazing resource that traverses the entire length of our state. To access one of my favorite sections, head north of Fremont and east on Highway 20. There’s a small trailhead parking lot on the south side of the road. Mount up, cross the highway, head north and get intimate with pine and hardwood forests, rivers, and wetland views. It’s an out and back, so be mindful how far you go out – if you go 10 miles, that’s 10 miles to pedal back. It’s not a technical track but a great option to log some miles for spring training. For more on the NCT and other bikeable sections, find maps and info here: https://northcountrytrail.org/

Brewery Pairing: North Grove Brewing, Montague 

Owasippe Scout Reservation (Twin Lake, MI) 
The O is an oldie but goodie! It’s gone through many transformations and reroutes to arrive at the marked blue and black loops that exist today. As one of my close-to-home tracks, The O has a special place in my biker heart. Choose the 9 or 12-mile loop or a combination for traditional hand-cut single-track with plenty of roots, tight tree encounters, and a solid line-up of cuss-inducing hill climbs. Throw in some sandy sections and pristine views of Big Blue Lake and Lake Wolverine to round out a very picturesque ride. Bikers share the trails with scout groups, so be sure to check the website for dates when trail usage is permitted. 

Brewery Pairing: Fetch Brewing, Whitehall or Pigeon Hill Brewing, Muskegon

Fort Custer and Maple Hill Trails (Kalamazoo, MI)
Southwest Michigan is loaded with an abundance of trail options and a bevy of craft breweries. With the mother ship, Bell’s Brewing, at the epicenter, we typically add in Maple Hill for five miles of fast and flowy and Fort Custer for 20+ miles and more diverse terrain. Follow Ft. Custer’s color-coded loops for easy rolling or more challenging routes. The Blue and Yellow loops are great for novice riders, while the Red and Green are rated intermediate. SWMBA can help you plot your time in the saddle: https://www.swmmba.com/

Brewery Pairing: Latitude 42, Bell’s Brewing & Eccentric Café 

Big M and NCT connector (Wellston, MI)
Worth the drive; I love a good day trip to Big M’s varied trail system. All the loops are well-marked and roll through scenic canopied hardwoods. Big M’s 25+ miles rewards riders with easy pedaling sections and hill climbs that lead to fast whoop-inducing descents. Bonus, the trails connect to the NCT for more mileage, and some use this area as a starting point for a bike-packing route on the NCT. There are two trailheads, one-off M-55 and the other at Udell Hills Road, to stage your ride. 

Brewery Pairing: North Channel Brewing Co. Manistee

Arcadia Dunes in CS Mott Nature Preserve (Arcadia, MI)
Traveling to and from the trailhead, be sure to stop at nearby Inspiration Point along M-22 for epic views of Lake Michigan atop a dune bluff. You’ll be inspired to pedal the 9 miles of smooth, hard-packed flow trail tucked in the dense foliage of the preserve. Though there is plenty of climbing, I barely noticed as the descents naturally position you atop the next roller. It has sumptuous curves and rolls along ridgelines, helping you harness plenty of speed. Instead of two loops, save some energy to walk the dunes at the Baldy Trails for a unique sugar sand experience.

Brewery Pairing: Stormcloud Brewing, Frankfort

Here’s the link to a previous blog with more bike and brewery pairings for some additional lower Michigan favorites.  Michigan (The Great Bike & Beer State) For more trail information and ideas for your next ride, follow and support your local trail advocacy groups around the state. Ride on two-wheeled friends. 


Michigan’s Edge


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