Such a big part of why we love Northern Michigan are all of the trails for hiking, biking, and exploring. We’ve got one organization to thank for nearly 80 miles of mountain bike trails, and one big day to bring our community together to celebrate them.
It’s not uncommon for a Keen company meeting to take place at a trailhead. We spend as much time as we can in the woods, making the most of a natural setting to inspire and encourage creative thinking. Those meetings inevitably lead to great bike rides; our crew, our clients, and our friends have all been dragged out on a bike and taken for a tour of the Northwoods.
Of course, we have to thank our local trail stewards for having such a wonderful ‘board room’. Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association has grown in the past twelve years to encompass trail systems in Traverse City, Kalkaska, Leelanau County, Bellaire, and Cadillac. They work to build, maintain, and protect these mountain bike trails to preserve sustainable, natural, non-motorized recreation spaces for riders, hikers, and families who want to explore the great outdoors. NMMBA spends countless hours each week to provide unrivalled trail experiences across the region, and they support to keep the effort going.
That’s part of what makes the Traverse City Trails Festival presented by Short’s Brewing Company. It’s more than just a race, and more than just a fundraiser, too. The TCTF offer 40, 25, and 15-mile route options, with riders being able to choose between racing or touring the 25 and 15-mile distances. This allows riders of all abilities and skill levels a fun, accessible way to get involved and learn how to piece together sections of trails that are unmarked and unsigned every other day of the year!
Those markings are part of what makes TCTF such an important event. Much of the 40 and 25-mile routes utilized unmarked trails. These trails aren’t on any map and don’t have a single arrow pointing the way around the loop the other 364 days of the year. TCTF is the one day riders can navigate with signage and start to learn how to piece these hard-to-discover trails together.
Keen is proud to support NMMBA and the trails that make Traverse City and Northern Michigan such a special place to live, work, and play. To learn more about NMMBA and the TCTF, make sure you head here.
It’s a weekend we look forward to for months. For the fourth year, we’ve gone all-in to support the mission of cancer prevention and the work of LessCancer.org. The annual Less Cancer Ride is an opportunity to give back, raise awareness, and explore mile after mile of new roads, new trails, and new experiences.
In years past, the event took two days to make the huge trek north from Flint to Traverse City. This year, Less Cancer changed things up to host the more riders on Sunday, but that didn’t mean we had Saturday off. Keen mobilized a dozen riders to pedal the 150 miles from Midland to East Bay Park in TC. A big day, to be sure, but well worth the effort for a cause that demands action.
Our friends at Traverse City Wine and Beer Tours greeted us at the crack of 5 am to shuttle our riders down south. Up.bike was back, hooking us up with their famous Adventure Hub to make easy work of getting all our bikes and gear down to the start. The sun was only just peeking over East Bay as we rolled out, and we were lucky to have perfect conditions; a cool sixty degrees at the start gradually riding to eighty-five just as we finished up. That, paired with a generous southwest tailwind all day, made every mile that much more enjoyable.
Starting from Emerson Park, we hopped on the Pere Marquette Trail, which we were able to take for nearly one hundred miles north. The trail was a blast to ride, keeping us away from traffic and keeping to a nice, quick clip. We ended up averaging over twenty-two miles per hour, with everyone taking a few pulls at the front to keep the pace moving.
We did have three pit stops thanks to our team of volunteers. Each time, we hopped off bikes and were greeted with generous plates, platters, and piles of food, water bottle refills, and plenty of spirited encouragement. The final stop, just ninety minutes from home, was a real life-saver!
The reward at the end was plenty motivating, too. Aaron Powers and Greg Zenn were hard at work for much of the afternoon, putting the final touches on a paella dish to feed sixty! Just as our riders made it into Traverse City and East Bay Park, they were just wrapping up the finishing touches on a real feast. Friends, family, and guests of the ride ate their fill, joining some hungry riders and talking about the ride Sunday, too!
Sunday’s ride was open to everyone, and we were really excited to see the event grow. Groups of riders took on routes ranging from fifteen miles to one hundred, with rest stops and support vehicles ranging all of Leelanau County. Those volunteers keep nearly one hundred riders rolling, and we were especially thankful for Nick, Keith and the whole crew at Suttons Bay Bikes for giving our riders one last stop on their way back to Cowell Family Cancer Center.
Now in its thirty-second year, the Cancer Prevention and Survivor’s Picnic serves as the perfect way to end a weekend of riding for the cause. The Cowell Family and Munson Medical Center have been strong and vocal supporters of cancer prevention and have always made our event and mission feel at home at their picnic. It gave us a wonderful chance to connect with riders, with volunteers, and survivors to talk about the work we’ve done, and to recognize that we have so much more to do.
The ride might be done for 2019, but the mission never stops. You can support LessCancer.org and show your appreciation for the hard miles and hard work put in over this past weekend by donating, and by keeping up with all-things LessCancer.
From everyone at Keen Technical Solutions, LessCancer, and the Less Cancer Ride, thank YOU for another weekend of pedaling the path to prevention, and we’ll be back at it in 2020!