Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Copper Harbor Ride Report

On the Edge trail has the best vistas of the surrounding hills.


The last post posed the question of whether Copper Harbor is better than Cuyuna as a mountain biking destination. Having never been to Cuyuna, I had to rely on the opinions of my 3 riding companions who have ridden Cuyuna numerous times. They decide that yes, C.H. is better, but that Cuyuna stacks up really well. They both have similar riding, the main difference being that CH has more elevation to work with, and so the descents are longer and more sustained.

My take on the riding in Copper Harbor? Hmmmm...here we go.
  • it's amazing.
  • it reminds me a little of a ski hill. The town at the base, the uphill trail climb, and then the choice of runs back down. 
  • I'm amazed how they managed to make climbing seem so easy, and fun. Really. The trail that you climb to access upper trails has enough downs mixed in that you have a blast, all the while going upwards. Weird.
  • Every time we sampled a new trail I came away thinking that it was the best trail ever, until we tried the next one. 
  • There were times I felt like the trail I was riding combined all the best elements of all the best trails I'd ever ridden. Yes, they were that fun. Perma-grins, the whole time.
  • Speaking of downs, in much the same way they designed the uphills to still be fun by mixing in some downhill sections, the downhills never felt crazy, out of control fast because they build in whoops and uphill features that result in super controlled, flowy perfection.
  • Berms. Oh the berms. They are awesome. 
  • Slope. These trails just go to show that you can have a great time on trails that never really exheed 3%(guessing, as I don't own an inclinometer). The bonus is that you always feel in control on the descents and they last longer. Basically, there are no fall line trail sections. Beauty.
  • There's quite a bit of boardwalk sections that add flavour to the network.
  • The town is remote. And has a flavor that is distinctly Upper Peninsula Michigan. 
  • If you haven't seen this interactive trail map, you should. 
So, what does it take to get a silver rating as an IMBA ride center?
  • volunteers
  • support from the land owner - Dept. of Natural Resources
  • money
  • The Flow Trail is the newest addition to the network. It's over 4k long and was built over 3 months, requiring the use of big machinery to rough cut it, tons of volunteers, and $85,000 - part of which was contributed by Bell Helmets as some sort of contest win.
  • I had the distinct impression while down there that mountain biking is exploding in popularity in the UP region. Nearby Marquette is aiming for 100miles of trail built by 2020, and Duluth is pursuing a similar goal. Judging by the wide range of riders on the trails, it appears that machined, fun, flowy trail systems are appealing to more than just hard core riders.
Are there any downsides?
  • it's 960km away (from Steinbach that is). The route includes some small highways, so it's tough to make time. It took us just over 11 hours, including all gas and pitstops. Cuyuna is under 500km away. Advantage: Cuyuna.
  • It doesn't have that epic, long trail, Ï'm in the middle of nowhere feel you get when riding in the Rockies. Advantage: Bozeman.
  • They have 30miles of trail, which may not be enough for a week of riding. Advantage: Burr Oak, BHP.
  • They are, however, in the process of building a 30 mile loop that will take in the tip of the peninsula, so I guess that would take care of the epic ride category.
  • Cuyuna, according to my friends, is more beginner friendly.
So there you have it.  Great times.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Copper Harbor Michigan - better than Cuyuna?

So I'm heading to Copper Harbor, Michigan for a fall mountain bike trip over the long weekend. I think it should be pretty stellar riding, if all the rave reviews online are any indication. It's  comparable to the Cuyuna Trails in Minnesota, except better. I can't wait to see what they're like.
Initially receiving an IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) “Epic Ride” recognition in 2009,  the Copper Harbor Mountain Bike Trails were designated as an IMBA  ( “Bronze Level” Ride Center in October of 2011.  This designation was trumped in 2012 with that of an IMBA “Silver Level” Ride Center, which currently ranks our trails among the top 5 in the world!   Points were scored on our variety and quality of gateway, cross-country, flow and gravity trails, in addition to being considered as a mountain bike friendly community, complete with a bike shop and a brew pub!
The photo above doesn't represent the variety of trails at C.H. as well as the vid below.