By Jenee Gregor
The trails have thawed and so have the wintery souls of Michigan. The sun is shining and drying out those bike trails that have been barren since the fall and winter.
There are so many reasons not to ride in the winter, while some brave the cold and bundle up. Fat-tire bikes give more traction in the ice and snow, although the wind and the chill can’t be fought. For most, the winter is the off season.
“I just moved to this area and I haven’t been biking since,” said Koby Conrad, a motocross racer and mountain biker. “I’m excited to try some trails out here.”
On the first day of the sunshine in spring season, by Mother Nature’s standards, it’s hard not to hit the trail in a hurry when it’s been seemingly dry and nice. The weather is warming up, and there will be good weather days with bad trail days when a ride should be skipped.
“Human Erosion,” is the term that is used when the trails are ridden when it’s too wet, explained Jeff Stowers an employee at Tree Fort Bikes in Ypsilanti, and a former geology-minor at Eastern Michigan University.
“The top layer of frozen soil holds moisture,” Stowers said. “Luckily our trails dry out fairly fast because of the glacial sediment.” The frozen or wet soil is easy to break up and cause human erosion, so riding in the wet and muddy conditions can really harm the trail. So keep in mind in the upcoming rainy spring season.
“Riding a wet trail wrecks it, and if a trail’s wrecked, a couple of things happen,” said mountain biker Laura Rossitter, author of “The Mountain Bike Guide to Summit County, Colorado” and “Mountain Biking Colorado’s Historic Mining Districts.”
“First, other groups look negatively on mountain bikers, which is the last thing we need in our quest as legitimate trail users. Second, it destroys the trail to the point where it’s no longer rideable,” said Claire Martin, in an article published on the American Trails Training Partnership website.
ATTP recommends taking a dirt-road ride on those muddy days instead. They can withstand the tread of the bike tires and can be an endurance ride. Taking into account there hasn’t been too much rain and Michigan trails dry out fairly quickly, it is the time to hit them before the rain comes again.
It’s the first time that it’s been really nice since that one day in January, mentioned Juan Osorno, an employee at Tree Fort Bikes on Whittaker. There are many trails in the southeast Michigan area:
- Rolling Hills Park
This park in Ypsilanti has a five-mile mountain biking trail that is on the easier side. It has a lot of turns, but doesn’t have too much change in elevation.
- Sharon Mills Park
This park has a 3.8 mile trail that is rated as being beginner friendly. The trail runs through open fields and meadows, near the Mill pond.
- Potowatomi Trail
This is a 17-mile loop, in the Pinckney Recreation Area, that is highly rated and is claimed to be one of the best trails in the state according to the Michigan Mountain Bikers Association.Even though it is a long trail, there are big climbs and down-hills, and it is more challenging mentioned Stowers. It dries more quickly because of the sand in the soil.
- Brighton Recreational Trails
There are some great trails in Brighton Recreational Area, they range from beginner trails like the Appleton Trail, to their advanced trail, Torn Shirt.
- Island Lake State Recreation Area
There are a few trails here, namely Yellow and Blue trails which are known in the community for their good maintenance and medium skill level.