Joy Ride

By Tom Pink

Man riding bike on trail in forestWhether you use a bicycle for transportation or exercise, or if you enjoy the socialization provided through touring or riding in small groups, many bicyclists would argue that Cloverland’s service area provides some of the best places in the state for pursuing their passion.

I’ve been riding a bike around our community for over 30 years, mostly for cheap transportation, but also as part of a workout regimen and even to get into hunting spots not accessible by motorized vehicle. As a kid, I would use my bike to get everywhere, jumping over obstacles - or friends - via ramps, and pulling those same daring friends around the neighborhood on skateboards and roller skates.

Even with all those years of experience, I still feel like a novice when I talk to area bicyclists who clearly find joy simply from getting on a bike and starting to pedal.

“Bicycling is something I have done all my life,” said Roger Blanchard, chair of Bike Friendly Soo (BFS), a group of bicycle enthusiasts formed in 2016 with the goal of making bicycling in the Sault and surrounding area as safe and comfortable as possible. “I like the freedom that comes with it and the ability to go long distances. It’s good exercise that isn’t hard on the joints.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Roger Blanchard of Bike Friendly Soo rides on one of the new bike lanes.

Compared to other communities in the state, the Eastern Upper Peninsula’s bike trails are still in the process of becoming established. With considerably fewer automobiles on the road around here, just about any road in the region provides a place to explore. Some of those roads are already bonafide bike trails, with routes published on community websites and in hard-copy guides
published by BFS and others. In addition, the EUP is home to thousands of miles of logging trails, abandoned railroad grades, state and national forest trails, and off-season cross-country ski trails, many of which are great for mountain bikes.

“We’re working at getting bike lanes on area streets, preferably protected lanes, which are much safer,” said Blanchard, who serves on the city of Sault Ste. Marie’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. The group hopes someday to have the Sault designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community through the League of American Bicyclists.

BFS and other groups, such as the newly formed Mackinac Trails Network in St. Ignace, are also working to promote the trails on the U.S. Bicycle Route System. This national network of bike routes includes trails that run through the EUP from St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie plus another from St. Ignace to Iron Mountain.

Whether the kid in you who discovered bicycling years ago is looking for long expanses of roads to stretch your legs, or trails that test your strength and endurance, the Eastern U.P. has miles of enjoyment waiting for you.

Search “bike routes” on the Michigan Department of Transportation website to find out more about the Michigan spurs of the U.S. Bicycle Route System.

Search “mountain biking” on the Michigan Upper Peninsula website to find out about off-road trails throughout the U.P.

Contact Bike Friendly Soo for copies of its Bike Routes guides for Sault Ste. Marie or the EUP at the Bike Friendly Soo website.