Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TART Trail Eastbound to Bates Road

Gloomy March Ride on the TART Trail:

Here's a route map from my GPS app on my Blackberry.

Here's a short synopsis video set to some music by the Greyboy Allstars.

Our friend Barton Kirk came to town today from Pittsburgh and emailed me looking for a bike to borrow and a ride to join. As you probably already know, he called the right guy. I'm itching to ride more now the Sun is setting so late.
Bart's a young lad with some serious riding chops. (Note the Penn State jersey.)

Knowing Dennis and I would ride fixed, I took the DBR carbon road bike (with real gears!) off the wall and topped off the tires, and within an hour we were all heading out from Gary Howe’s place on Lincoln Avenue for a little leg-stretcher.
Dennis (from Fixed Gear Gallery) surprised me with his brand new Nobilette track bike. He’d ordered it right off the floor at last month’s North American Handmade Bike Show in Indianapolis from Mark Nobilette himself.
Here's a video of Dennis describing the bike as he rides it.

As it turns out Mark and Dennis ride the same size frame and since building handmade frames on a speculative basis can get expensive, Mark tends to make his spec bikes in his size. Smart guy, and it sure makes Dennis a sitting duck every time he sets his eyes on one of Mark’s beauties. Dennis says Mark made him one of those Tony Soprano deals. You know; a deal he couldn't refuse.
Anyway, the bike is a nice battleship gray with some UCI track championship badges on the down tube. Old School and simple. It’s fillet brazed to perfection with a hard-coat powder finish. The seat stays are enormously beefy and when I asked Dennis how it rode, he simply thrust his forearm up in the air in that manly way to suggest... "hard as a rock." Dennis dressed it up with a Campy crank, custom powder-coated black Velocity Fusion wheels on Phil hubs, a Cinelli Ti Stem, NO brakes, yadda – yadda – yadda. You know. It’s Dennis Bean – Larson’s personal pet. Jeesh!

The day was gloomy, cool, and very windy. We decided to beat the southerly wind by transversing it east/west. So, we took a leisurely route that followed the TART Trail to its extent eastward out of town. It’s just eleven miles out and another eleven back.

The TART Trail, for those uniformed is a great resource here in Traverse City. In total its thirty some miles of mostly paved and mostly protected multi-use, (non-vehicular,) trail. Stretching from Acme to the northeast, through Traverse City, and all the way to Sutton’s Bay to the northwest. If you ride a bike in this region, you spend a lot of time on this trail. The trail passes behind many commercial sections of the community and rests either next to existing railroad track or on top of removed tracks for most of its length. Views of Lake Michigan abound, as do miles of deep woods with the occasional wooden bridge crossing streams or swamps. In the summer the trail is singing with birds, bugs, and wildlife of all sorts.
This ride did point out a couple of the very few problems with the TART Trail.

It’s the spring time and the trail had it’s accumulation of dirt and other detritus. That’s expected. It did focus our attention however on a some other dangerous features.
The section of trail that pops out near east bay on Five Mile Road leaves the protection of the railroad right of way and borders the road with no other protection. Then in this same section the trail crosses the road at an odd angle in a fast section of Five Mile. Immediately following this, the trail takes an abrupt 90 degree turn to align riders perpendicular to the railroad crossing. It’s a bit dicey. One of the most unfortunate aspects of the TART Trail is that the railroad right of ways were not obtained for the whole distance. At Bunker Hill Road the trail enters this busy roadway and climbs up hill for distance. This is too bad. It’s the main determining factor for families turning back at this point.

(Barton demonstrates a perfect Xcross dismount for the impending lumber obstacle.)
For those who push on past this obstacle, there is more gorgeous Northern Michigan scenery to be had. A mile and a quarter later we turn on Lautner Road, go another 4/10ths of a mile and recapture the trail.
This is a great part of the trail with a very long strait-away that begs the sprinter in you to jump off the seat. Another mile and 3/4 and the trail abruptly ends. Unfortunately the pavement ends awkwardly about 30 meters from M-72. It forces you to trudge through soft grass and sand. This technical issue also distracts you from the worst part of the ride. M-72 isn’t fun to drive your car on, and it’s incredibly intimidating to cross its 50 or so short feet on a bike, especially from the sand trap at the end of the trail. For those wanting to jump onto Bates Road and ride up through Antrim County, this is a challenging and hazardous intersection. There’s no marked crosswalk, no trail signs, and this is already a notorious section of road. So until this is somehow remedied, be careful if you venture this far on the TART.

Here's a video of the trio descending Bunker Hill Road with a still iced over East Bay in the background.

To make it clear, I’m a huge supporter of TART. I volunteer on many committees and for fundraisers. These comments are not meant to criticize TART. In fact it's meant to encourage and support their great works. I am all too familiar with the financial, and especially political, restrictions imposed on a group trying to make big changes like this.

Lastly, Dennis was sporting a very hip lightweight jacket hot off the presses at CHROME. They call it The Champ. The picture above shows Dennis demonstrating the cool reversible cuffs that change from discreet strips of fabric to super reflective night safety stripes in a jiff. The fabric is silky, but bombproof. I think it's made with some nifty pico-dynamic Kryptonite or some such nonsense. Check it out here.

Despite the trail issues, we had some fun and Dennis was along so Barton and I did a lot of listening. If you’ve ever ridden with the wizard, you know what I’m talking about. What else is there to say?

Take a peek at the map of the journey with the embedded Allsport GPS track at the bottom of the page. And if you're lusting over his new ride, you can check out the FGG store pages on Facebook, or Dennis's blog. Go to http://www.fixedgeargallery.com.

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