On cool mornings nothing is better than taking that first stride on your bike and beginning an upward climb on a rather intimidating and large hill. For me, this hill is in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula on US 41. Even more rewarding than the climb is the thrill of coasting down the hills in the area at speeds that could in some circumstances exceed the speed limit. The wind whips my face and I’m always thankful that I had decided to wear riding glasses to avoid bugs in my eyes, although I probably consume at least one or two on my long rides.
Biking in the Keweenaw is an experience in itself. In the Upper Peninsula the shift from summer to fall has already started. The leaves are fading from their former green glory and soon the hilly landscape will be covered in an absolutely astonishing array of reds, golds, and yellows. What better way to see the terrain than to do so while bike riding? The Keweenaw Peninsula in the northwestern portion of the U.P. offers an amazing amount of bike trails for the extremely intrepid mountain bikers, as well as smoothly paved routes for road bikers. Regardless of your affinity for either kind of bike, the ability to experience the colors of fall will take your breath away. The ubiquity of mountain biking locations in the U.P. is outstanding; the rugged hilly terrain proves perfect for testing the abilities of even the most dexterous riders. Areas renowned for the biking courses and trails within the Keweenaw are: Copper Harbor, Maasto Hiihto/ Churning Rapids, Tech Trails, Black Creek, and Swedetown.
For college students within the area, the Tech trails are right on the campus of Michigan Technological University in Houghton. The courses on site are great for beginner trail riders as well as experts- there are three skill levels: beginner, intermediate, and technical. All trail names reference John Tolkien, which is quite entertaining while mapping out the course of the ride. For the university students these trails area great place to let off steam or provide a rush of adrenaline.
In addition to the Tech Trails, approximately fifty miles north, Copper Harbor trails are perfect for the extremely adventurous riders. The trails are internationally recognized, and there are a copious amount of trails that are exhilarating for some riders and terrifying for others. Don’t let the entertaining names for the courses such as ‘Flying Squirrel’ and ‘Woopidy Woo’ fool you, the 35 trails accessible for biking during the summer and most of the fall are intense to say the least. The wooden narrow bridges and the sharp turns test the agility and bike riding finesse of all the riders that are daring enough to attempt the treacherous trails. Rugged riding events occur here during the year such as: Women’s Weekend, an annually occurring summer event, as well as the Copper Harbor Trails Festival. The 20th annual Copper Harbor Trails Festival took place in early September during Labor Day weekend. Sponsored by Bell’s Brewing, this event drew people in from all over the area. Eager riders of all ages were excited to demonstrate their tricks and skills, while participating in the technically demanding races. Event types include the XC (cross country) 17 and 27-mile race, the DH (down hill) races, Enduro, and even dock jumping events. Call it crazy or call it formidable, these riders know how to fly.
However, if mountain biking isn’t your cup of tea, and you would rather be coasting down hills going between 25-35 miles per hour, don’t despair. The Keweenaw is avowed for it’s beautiful landscape, which is great for road biking. Fortunately, there are just as many smoothly paved roads to ride as there are trails. One road event in particular is inspired by this season’s colors. On September 28th the road biking event known as the Copper Country Color Tour will occur. This year marks the 40th annual celebration of the bike ride and includes distance options of 50K, 100K, and the most intense 200K-which is equivalent to 124.27 miles! At 7 A.M., eager bikers will begin their ride from downtown Houghton and (depending on their distance of choice) will be guided along their route by yellow signs extending all the way to Copper Harbor. There are five official stops during the ride and food will be provided to keep the bikers satiated with enough energy. For those of the riders attempting the 200K, once reaching Copper Harbor, pasties will be available. This heavy Yooper specialty can provide enough nutritional fuel to allow the riders to make their way back to Houghton where the finish line will be located at the local Keweenaw Brewing Company. From here an after party of pizza and beer (for those aged 21 and older) awaits!
Whether you’re a mountain biker or road biker, you prefer jumps or smooth intense speeds; the Keweenaw is a phenomenal place for biking. Both kinds of biking create a sense of empowerment and freedom for the rider. It is an exhilarating feeling; if you haven’t tried biking, I highly encourage you to do so. Fall is the perfect opportunity for this activity, and what better place is there than our lovely Michigan?
–Katherine Baeckeroot, Contributing Writer