The sky above me spun slightly while I stared up from a weedy stretch of grass in the woods. I was flat on my back, legs tangled up in a fallen mountain bike. After a quick survey of my still in-tact bones and lack of pain, I had a gut-busting, serious laughing spell.
I took my grassy break during a trip down the trails in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost part of the Upper Peninsula. Copper Harbor, a town of only about 100 year-round residents, sits at the very top of the Keweenaw. My group of three (courtesy of Pure Michigan) was following a guide from the Keweenaw Adventure Company on the Copper Harbor mountain bike trails—a more than 25-mile system with the brag-worthy designation of an International Mountain Bicycling Association Silver Level Ride Center, meaning these trails are one of the top five in the world. Check out this video for a taste of what bikers experience on the trail:
The trails use a diamond ranking system, much like skiing ranks. Each path is known for something, whether it’s the two-diamond Flying Squirrel bike jump or the hair-raising On The Edge trail that takes bikers down the edge of Brockway Mountain, along a ride with stunning views of Lake Superior and a 735-foot drop to lake level.
If you don’t have your own bike, the Keweenaw Adventure Company is the ideal starting base. It’s located in Copper Harbor and has trail maps, rental bikes, helmets, and a shuttle to get you up the mountain.
We were on the bunny hill equivalent of the mountain biking world—the De Deet, one of the easiest trails in the system. And that’s why I was laughing. I’d been on a bike before. Maybe not a mountain bike, but I’d definitely been biking. And here I was, on a beginner trail, sacked out on the ground. This trail was not going to defeat me.
I pulled myself up, stifled my laughter, and climbed back on the bike with new resolution. I had renewed confidence. Well, for about five minutes, until I fell again. And again. And several more times. Nobody tells you how hard it is to get up hills, and when you can’t figure out the gear system… you’re basically screwed.
So, that was the day I learned I can’t mountain bike. Rock climbing? I’m on it. Hiking? No problem. Even swimming, it doesn’t faze me. But put me on a bike and a downhill trail, and I’m a complete disaster. After my seventh or so spill over into the trees, my frustration won out and I walked the rest of the way. But for those of you who are better bikers than me (as I’m sure most people in the world are), these trails are not to be missed. Whether or not I fell a totally ridiculous amount of times, the exhilaration from speeding down a hill, feeling the wind rush cool against my face, and enjoying deep breaths of incredibly fresh air made all my struggling worth it.