C2C Bike Edition

Since the start of the paddle race there have been a few individuals who wanted to go on the Campus to Coast journey using their bikes. Various routes have been used in the past, but there is one that has a good potential to become the “official” Campus to Coast bike route:

The route is 221.7km/137.8miles long, and has a total of 901m/2956ft of vertical accent. It follows the river as closely as possible while keeping in mind to provide a pleasant cycling experience. This means low traffic roads and popular cycling routes have been prioritized. The route is also designed so that one is able to stop at the Campus to Coast paddling aid stations and camp grounds if necessary – except the last campground at the “Grand River Park” between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven. One can include the Grand River Park, put it turns out that cycling on that side of the river is not a very pleasant experience.  So if you are biking this while the Campus to Coast paddling race is happening you could talk to the organizers beforehand to see if they let you use the infrastructure (water/campgrounds) that they put in place specifically for the race. However, there are plenty of opportunities to refuel along or close to the route (gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, fast food). Especially, Grand Ledge, Portland, Lowell, Ionia, Ada and Grand Rapids should serve you well in case you need anything during normal business hours. Keep in mind though that there is no convenient way to get food/water between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven. Back to the details of the route:

The route starts at the Rock on MSU’s campus and utilizes the Lansing River Trail to get from campus to the Lansing dam (C2C checkpoint) and a little bit beyond. After a short stretch on Grand River Ave, the route turns into a quiet subdivision and then follows some back roads, some are dirt, to Grand Ledge (C2C checkpoint). Continuing from here there are some long stretches of gravel roads intermittent by short paved sections until one reaches Portland. Here one can hop on the local non-motorized trail system and follow it through town and a little bit beyond until one had to return to the road to get to the Portland Municipal Dam (C2C checkpoint). The stretch to Lyons is also mostly on gravel roads and leads close by the Webber and Wager dams (C2C checkpoints) if one wants to cheer on the people on the water. After Lyons (C2C checkpoint) everything is paved and the long-ish stretch to Ada includes a very nice road ride through the Ionia State Recreation Area and goes by another C2C checkpoint. The Grand Rapids Triathlon uses part of these roads for their annual triathlon, so it is well taken care of for the most part. After reaching Ada the route turns North for the big loop along the river to Grand Rapids. Ada’s bike pathway which is just along the road can be used for quite a while until one has to return to the road. Not long after that one gets spoiled by the protected two-way cycling highway just North of downtown Grand Rapids. The 6th street dam is the last C2C checkpoint before the finish in Grand Haven that you will come across if you are using this route. It is very tempting to stop at Founders which is also very close to the route. You will not be able to miss their establishment as you leave downtown Grand Rapids. If you stop at Founders or not, we are not there yet. From here the Kent Trails (the equivalent of the Lansing River Trail) provide some relaxed non-motorized paths. Just as the Lansing River Trail, the Kent trails have spots that are flooded at times – so don’t be surprised. The last stretch is back on the open road and resembles a very popular cycling route for Grand Rapids cyclists. I hope you saved some power for the hills in this section. There is a somewhat unpleasant crossing of Lake Michigan Dr (45) but that is the only obstacle from a traffic perspective. As you get closer to Lake Michigan be prepared to face the breeze from the lake. The headwind from the lake makes it not only harder to complete the journey to Grand Haven, it also might bring cooler air. For the last part of the journey from Spring Lake to Grand Haven I would recommend to study the map carefully, otherwise you might have a rather terrifying moment with impatient drivers on a highway bridge. They have cycling infrastructure that makes it possible to get across the bridges without a big headache. It is not ideal because it is too narrow for proper two way pedestrian and bike traffic at times, but it is still a far better experience than sharing the road. After you made it across the bridge you are there: Grand Haven. Now, get out to the lighthouse and take a picture with your bike! (It is windy out there!)