Prepared For Anything: What You Need In Your Flat Kit

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With more riders putting in longer rides to prepare for the Traverse City Trails Festival, we take a look at what we bring in our flat kits.

This past weekend, we had dozens of riders out on the 40 and 25 mile Traverse City Trails Festival looking to get ready for July 20. Putting in big miles deep in the woods is fun, freeing, and a chance to explore trails that they may never have experienced before! The whole point of the TCTF is to encourage riders to take new turns, try new routes, and start to piece together more of the sixty miles of unmarked trails in the Pere Marquette Forest.

Taking on those remote trails does require a bit more forethought, however. As we rolled out for Saturday’s pre-ride, we noticed a a bit of a new set-up from the more experienced riders, and we thought it might be a good idea to share what riders bring for a three, four, or five hour ride in the woods.

The first thing we noticed plenty of riders grab is a hydration pack. They’re really handy to have for three big reasons. First, it’s much easier to drink with the tube while flying through singletrack than trying to reach down, grab a bottle, drink, and get the bottle back in the cage. Second, you can bring just about as much water as you’d ever need for a ride in the back. Many riders will run straight water in their pack and have a isotonic or sports drink in their bottle, often with more calories. Third, it’s another place to store the extra snacks you’ll want for such a long day in the woods. Being able to quickly and easily get to both food and water is a great way to avoid the dreaded bonk and prevent dehydration or heat stroke!

That extra storage also means you have plenty of room to bring the right tools and supplies you need to fix a mechanical issue even if disaster strikes on the most remote part of the course. Even when riding in a group, bringing tools, tubes, and even first aid is a really good idea.

  1. Tube and Air. Tubeless or not, bringing a spare tube and a way to re-inflate is elemental is riding safe. We recommend bringing at least one tube and a way to inflate it after a flat, whether it’s with a pump or a CO2. For rides like the TCTF recon, it’s worth bringing a second cartridge, just in case. A patch or two can also come in handy!

  2. A multi-tool. A 12 or 16 function multi tool can get you out of a lot of jams. A set of Allen keys can do everything from tighten a loose seat clamp to adjust your brakes.

  3. Chain breaker. A chain tool is a must for big days in the woods. In case of a broken chain, having a way to break a chain and use a quick link gives you a way to avoid a really, really long walk. Like a lot of these tools, it’s okay if you haven’t used them before or aren’t sure you can use it. If you have it, someone you’re riding with will almost certainly be able to help.

  4. Quick link. Always bring one. If you do break a chain, having a quick link will let you either fix the chain as good as new, or at least allow you to turn your geared bike into a singlespeed. Some people bring an 11 and 12 speed link, in case a buddy breaks down; just make sure you know which is which!

  5. Cell phone. The ultimate fix. Even if you don’t have service everywhere, you’ll be able to get to points in the forest with full bars. If you can’t make a repair, you’ll be able to call a friend and direct them to a safe place to get out of the woods. Phones are also a great way to allow friends and family to follow your progress and even get alerts in case of a crash or incident. Features like Beacon from Strava are a nice feature to improve your chances of getting out of the woods without calling Search and Rescue. If you use a GPS unit like Garmin or Wahoo, check with those companies to learn how to set up confidential live tracking features.

  6. EPI Pen and Bandages. First aid often gets overlooked, but bringing some basics is never a bad idea. Stuff a few bandages in your flat kit in case of light cuts and scrapped knees. We’ve even seen Band Aids pressed into service as patches! Zip-ties, tweezers, and gauze aren’t a bad idea, if you can find the space. If you’re allergic to bees, make sure you have your EPI pen with you; don’t put other trail users in a bad position by be unprepared. Plus, you may be able to use the EPI pen on someone who doesn’t know they’re allergic! With temperatures on the rise, bees are more and more active, and many hives are on the ground and may be disturbed by riders in more remote areas.

Be prepared keeps the rides fun. If you can bring it, bring it; you never know whose day you’ll save by having the right tools on hand.

43rd Annual North American Vasa: Thank You, Volunteers!

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Much has already been said about the glorious weekend that was. Over two days, multiple races, and countless kilometers of skiing and biking, the 43rd Annual North American Vasa is in the books.

The Vasa is a tremendous undertaking, and while it always seems to go off so seamlessly, it take a lot of work to make all the pieces fit together. There are myriad races and disciplines within each race, putting a lot of pressure on timers, aid stations, course marshals, and our ski patrol volunteers to ensure that everyone is taken care of. There’s a remarkable tight time table to make sure those volunteers aren’t exposed to the elements for too long, and there are dozens of categories’ worth of awards, sponsors to thank, and plenty of Short’s beer to drink back in the Celebration Zone.

We just wanted to thank the race organizers, our own John Roe very much among them, for all of their hard work in fitting all of these pieces together and giving our community another Vasa to cherish. Events like this serve as a way to reconnect and reconvene our winter sports community and includes skiers and fat bikers like nothing else on the calendar. And it’s important to point out that fat bikers are skiers, and vice versa; two of the podium finishers from last year’s fat bike race were on ski podiums this year, including Jorden Wakeley! Some athletes even opted to both ski and fat bike, like Keith Conway and Joe Leppeck. One crazy person, Dan Novak skied, rode, and woke up Sunday to ski again for the ultimate Nordic experience.

Of course, no matter how much the Vasa organizers take on, there’s no way they could do it all without scores of volunteers. This year, Kelley Peterson did an exceptional job of corralling the efforts of volunteers like our own Tom White and Steve Mentzer, plus dozens of others who spent not just Saturday helping, but much of the day Thursday, Friday, and Sunday to pull everything together.

The event saw participation by our wider winter sports community, including riders who might usually call trails like Glacial Hills or Cadillac Pathway home. The Vasa also drew riders from as far away as Detroit, Grand Rapids, Holland, and Marquette, showing off our incredible trails, expert grooming, and charming hometown. We really see these winter events as a showcase of how vibrant, connected, active, and enthusiastic northern Michigan is year-round, not just during tourist season.

So from everyone at NMMBA, thank you, volunteers, to manning aid stations and registration, course marshals and podium ceremonies. You’re the ones who make all of our events possible, and the ones who make them so much fun, too!

Full results from the North American Vasa are available here.

Volunteer of the Year Award and More From the NMMBA Annual Meeting

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Last night, trail lovers from all over northern Michigan made it to Timber Ridge in Traverse City for our our Annual Meeting. A ride, a meal, and a great way to roll into 2019!

We had over sixty riders brave slightly icy conditions to kick off the meeting. As members from across the region trickled in , the sun broke through the clouds as the temperatures limped just over freezing. While the trail was a bit slick, the casual, fun pace of the day made it a great chance for riders from as far away as Alpena, Lansing, and even the UP to chat, catch-up, and work up a healthy appetite before heading back to Timber Ridge for the meeting.

Right on cue, the taco bar from Red Mesa welcomed all riders back and allowed our President, Chad Jordan, a little time to prepare to update everyone on just what NMMBA has been up to, and what’s up our sleeves for 2019. Chad offered up news from the Traverse City Trails Network, the new Acme Bike Park (planned at the Bartlett Road trailhead on the Vasa Pathway), and welcomed new board member Tim Jenema to the team. We also learned more about the Cadillac Pathway’s new Pavilion, 11 miles of approved new trail, and Polar Bear fat bike series this winter!

Up at Glacial Hills, we have plenty to look forward to, including more and improved amenities at nearly every trailhead, a totally revamped way finding system to make navigating the trails easier and quicker, and maintaining some of the best trails in the state. Bike Leelanau, too, had a lot to look forward to, including the second and third phase of Palmer Woods, the ever-expanding bike library in Suttons Bay, and the Winter Sports Trail at the Leelanau State Park.

Perhaps the most poignant moment of the night, however, came from Steve Mentzer. Last summer, NMMBA decided to work on a new award to honor volunteer work. A small committee worked for weeks to put a name to the award, and the person we kept coming back to was that of our friend Dan Morley. We lost Dan to cancer in July, as many of you will undoubtedly remember. Dan lent his professional expertise to help us shape our bylaws and navigate legal waters for years as a volunteer, but it was his personal love of mountain biking that we will treasure. Dan was up for any ride, and distance, and few people have pulled more new riders into our cycling community; he was famous for getting friends to sign up for races before they even owned a mountain bike! It’s fitting, too, that one of the last things he asked for was someone to ride the redesigned Vasa Singletrack and capture some video so that he could see the changes for himself. Of course, he loved them.

And so, it is incredibly fitting that we awarded the NMMBA Dan Morley Volunteer Award to Dan Morley himself as a testament not just to his tireless work to help NMMBA over the years, but for the passion, enthusiasm, and joy he brought to the trails every time he went out to ride. We’ll always remember his trademark, “At dawn, we ride” and strive to continue our mission in his memory.

From the whole NMMBA family, thanks to everyone who joined us last night and helped us to get where we are today. Together, we can continue and expand out efforts to care for our trails and encouraged healthier, active lifestyles for kids of all ages. Thank you!

It's A Big, Big Weekend : Iceman, Memberships, and Palmer Woods!

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You’ve got plenty of things to look forward to kick off November in northern Michigan!

It’s a sort of Holy Week for mountain bikers all over the Midwest, but we all know, no one has it better than us! The Iceman Cometh Challenge is the biggest one-day mountain bike race in this hemisphere, but there’s a lot more to this final weekend of racing than just the iconic (and often grueling!) jaunt from Kalkaska to TC. We’ve got your itinerary planned!

Friday night’s SRAM Ice Cycle Expo kicks things off. Part packet pick-up, part flea market, part of the fun, the Expo serves as a chance for riders to see old friends, check out the latest gear and the best deals, plus make sure they’ve got everything they need for race day. For NMMBA, it’s a chance to see hundreds of members face-to-face, shake hands, answer questions, and connect with folks we often see blurring by while we work on the trails.

This year, it’s also YOUR chance to win one of seven custom stainless steel display stands from up.bike. Just join NMMBA or renew your membership online or in-person on Friday, November 2, and you might pick up a little something special!

We’ll also have trail reps from every trail system, plus special shirts, hats, and stickers from your favorite places to ride. Show the world your hometown trail, or the one you always hit when you’re in the area! We’ll have as much stock as possible to make sure no one goes home without a chance to grab a shirt from Cadillac Pathway, Glacial Hills, or Bike Leelanau.

And it’s Bike Leelanau that is going to keep you going Sunday. After you’ve emptied the tank on Saturday, you’ll be able to meet up with pals and relive all the action at Palmer Woods! That’s right, the long-awaited, much-anticipated trail is finished, and we’re all heading out to Glen Arbor to celebrate. The plan is to sleep in, then meet up around 1 pm. You can track all the event plans here. Put in as many laps on the 3 mile finished section as you feel like, take in the gorgeous colors of Leelanau County in November, and reflect on just how many amazing opportunities we have to race, ride, and enjoy the great outdoors in northern Michigan.

It's Michigan Trails Week with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources!

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This week is all about highlighting trails across Michigan, and since we’re pretty partial to a few in our neck of the woods, we’re going to highlight one trail every day.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has selected September 22 through September 29 to celebrate all of the incredible state-owned recreational trails across Michigan. The week is meant to offer information about the trails to help people learn about their history, their use, and what’s next for non-motorized recreation in their area. We’re proud to work with the DNR in managing and protecting our natural spaces, and to help with the week, we’ve put together a little info about each trail that we have-as well as what’s to come!

This week, watch our Facebook and Instagram accounts for stories, photos, and more from the following trail systems:

Tuesday: Cadillac Pathway
Wednesday: Glacial Hills
Thursday: Vasa Singletrack and Pere Marquette Forest
Friday: Bike Leelanau

We’ll focus on what trail conditions and terrain is like right now for each trail, but also offer some of the exciting things to come, including more miles of trail, new features and amenities, and events that you’re not going to want to miss.

Of course, if you really want to stay in the loop, make sure you become a member of NMMBA, and sign up for our monthly newsletter that’ll keep you up to speed on all things trails between Cadillac, Bellaire, and Northport!