Grand Rapids Area MUT's

Grand River Bridge - Millenium Park

Grand River Bridge - Millenium Park

Dogs, no. I’m talking Multi Use Trails. We’ve got a bunch of these around Grand Rapids and if you don’t know them, you’re missing out. The grand-daddy of all is the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park. Stretching from Riverside Park in GR to Cadillac, it’s a gorgeous 90+ mile trail that's more than 60% paved. Overnighters can find campsites along the trail near Paris and an assortment of others if you’re willing to go off trail a bit. Favorite trip: Get someone to drop you off in Cadillac and ride the 90 miles back to GR in one day (slightly downhill). A 35mm tire width is ideal but you can do it on skinnier tires too. The gravel is mostly hard packed and between GR and Sand Lake it’s all pavement. I could devote a whole blog entry to this trail - another time.

White Pine Trail north of Sand Lake

White Pine Trail north of Sand Lake

The White Pine ties it’s southern end to Kent Trails via Riverside Park and the Seward Bike Path in Grand Rapids. That connection can get you to Millenium Park, Jenison, Grandville and even Byron Center by trail if you negotiate a bike lane or two. The Paul Henry Trail is also accessible with some minimal road contact. If you don’t mind a few miles of road, you can get nearly anywhere in the GR Metro area. Connector trails like the Standale Connector, Plaster Creek, M6 Trail, Grand River Edges and Oxford Street really make getting around fun. Almost forgot but Forest Hills has a trail network too.

Riding the Butterworth Trail with downtown in the background.

Riding the Butterworth Trail with downtown in the background.

Another major trail for GR is the Musketawa trail. You can pick it up less than 2 miles from the White Pine’s southern end as it now begins at West River Drive just north of the Deltaplex. From that point you can ride pavement all the way to Muskegon. Add a mile of bike lanes and you can get to the Laketon Trail, then the Lakeshore Trail which will carry you all the way to Pere Marquette Beach. In the summer, it makes a great day tour, including swimming and lunch before riding back to GR. That’s about 90 miles round trip but it’s basically flat. Plus there’s a great Taco truck in Conklin and a Pub on Sundays when the truck’s not there.

Musketawa Trail - Ravenna Bridge

Musketawa Trail - Ravenna Bridge

Some newer notable trails are the Spoonville Bridge Trail and the Explorer trail near Nunica. Both are relatively short at the present but are a lot of fun to ride. Easiest bike access is to take Maple Island south from the Musketawa trail, passing through Nunica, After the panoramic Spoonville river crossing, follow the Explorers trail back east towards 68th. You can ride roads with good shoulders until you cross the river again at Eastmanville and return on Leonard Street.

The Fred Meijer Heartland trail, the Clinton-Ionia-Shiawasee and the Kal-Haven each take a bit of riding to get to but are all outstanding trails. There are a lot more throughout West Michigan. Don’t be afraid to ride the gravel ones - it's mostly well packed and pleasant. Some riders actually prefer it. GravelMap.com is website for just gravel roads & trails. Google maps for cycling is a great resource too. Maybe even better is West Michigan Trails & Greenways magazine. It’s full of trail maps and well worth the price. You can purchase a copy at most bike shops. There are ice cream stops, restaurants, cafes and breweries just off the trail and waiting. Don’t miss that Taco truck in Conklin!

Coming soon: A list of our mountain bike trails. We’re living in a great place for bicycles of all types

Spoonville Trail over the Grand River. This entire lane is separated from traffic and for bicycles only.

Spoonville Trail over the Grand River. This entire lane is separated from traffic and for bicycles only.

OK. If you’ve read this far - here’s the taco truck in Conklin. It’s worth the ride.

OK. If you’ve read this far - here’s the taco truck in Conklin. It’s worth the ride.

Security in the city.

You hopefully don’t own as many locks as this.

You hopefully don’t own as many locks as this.

I hate locks. Looking through our bike bin, we have a bunch of them for our family. Not because I’m a lock collector. It’s because different situations have different lockup needs. I suppose I could use one lock for everything but I don’t. Here are my 3 lockup strategies.

1. Cable Lockup. Cafe’s are about the only place I use a cable lock. I only do this when I can see my bike the entire time, ideally when there’s nearby outdoor seating. Any cable lock can be cut fairly easily so I’m always cautious about using them. Light versions are small and easy to carry in a jersey pocket or seat bag. You can wear heavier ones around your waist. When biking with friends, using multiple cable locks might make things slightly more secure. Truth is I don’t trust any cable lock when it’s out of my sight. A friend had his heavy cable lock defeated last year, locked merely feet from a busy brewpub door. Be wary using a cable.

2. Chain Lockup. This is usually a highly visible place with passerby traffic like a pub front. I use a heavy Kryptonite chain lock. It’s likely as secure as a U-lock but way easier to lock 2 or even 3 bikes together. I confess I don’t always worry about locking the wheels (my bad). BTW: My chain lock weighs more than my U-lock. It’s also a pain to carry around. Ugh. Like I said, I hate locks

3. U-lock. This is the only way I feel safe when I have to leave a bike in a poorly watched area. I never like to lock up in these places but sometimes you have to. Weakness; It’s hard to lock up more than one bike with a U-lock. And it’s a pain to secure a front wheel. On the plus side, my mini U-lock fits in a back jeans pocket.

Any lock can be breached and bike theft does happen in the GR area. Take a good picture of your bike and a picture of the serial number too. If your bike gets nabbed, make a Police report ASAP and shout out on social media. Stolen bicycles sometimes show up on Craigslist, Offer-Up or Grand Rapids Bicycle Swap. There are usually a couple interesting recovery stories each summer. A friend even spotted his stolen bicycle being pedaled and followed the rider until he stopped and asked why. The alleged thiefs response: "I just found it on a street”. It was given back instantly and the “thief” walked away leaving the rightful owner holding the handlebars of 2 bikes.

I wish we didn’t need locks. I hope your bikes are always safe and secure.

U-lock combined with a looped cable for the front wheel.

U-lock combined with a looped cable for the front wheel.

Or you can always just take your front wheel with you.

Or you can always just take your front wheel with you.

More Bicycle Commuting…

Shiny new bike lanes. The bike computer is telling me something…

Shiny new bike lanes. The bike computer is telling me something…

Grand Rapids Active Commute week is over but there’s no need to stop. Over 4,000 trips were recorded and we reduced 19,000+ miles of automobile use. Those figures include busses, carpools and walking as well as other categories but a large component of those automobile miles were replaced using bicycles. Pedal Power!

Maybe you enjoyed bicycle commutes enough to continue. My morning rides were relaxing and easy - so much that I decided to keep doing them. Early morning bike rides are lovely even in the dark although good lights are a must. With the state of traffic around GR, riding a bike saves me time when heading into downtown. Saves parking fees too and I can lock up right in front of my destination. An added bonus has been my car gets little use and I haven’t needed to add fuel in weeks. Seriously! Can’t find the keys this morning either which is OK with me. No, I haven’t saved enough money for that new bike yet but it’s an idea...

If you missed out on active commute week, you might still try biking to work. Long days and warm temperatures make it easy to do right now. The next couple months are enjoyable to ride so why not just try a day or two? You might like it, even if you’re not a bike geek like me. Ride safe and be well friends.

A great way to start the day. Riverside Park.

A great way to start the day. Riverside Park.

Fellow commuter on the White Pine Trail.

Fellow commuter on the White Pine Trail.