Mountain Biking is Good for the Soul!

Fellow adventurist Eric Erickson has been an avid mountain biker for the past decade and has some fun trails planned for yours truly this season. I asked Eric to put into words what mountain biking means to him and to let us in on some the adrenaline he has experienced on the trails. Here is a couple of Eric’s adventures! Enjoy!

It’s all about getting lost in the woods with a group of good guys around you. Not literally but figuratively that is what mountain biking has been in my life is just that the adventure of being out in God’s creation, pushing your physical side and having solid meaningful fellowship with a band of brothers while cranking on the pedals together. Getting those wheels turning, dust and dirt flying with the wind whipping in your face is nothing short of medicine for the soul and clarity for the mind, its something I need, crave and appreciate each time I hit the trail.

I have been mountain biking in the West Michigan area since about 2005 when I connected with some guys from the church I started to attend with my family. Weekly single track rides over the years turned into weekend rides and then in the past two years taking on some Michigan mountain bike races together.

Last summer after riding since early spring eight of us from our riding group decided to do our first larger race the Ore To Shore up in my homeland of Marquette Michigan in the Upper Peninsula. Six from the crew, including myself, settled on the 28 miler with two madmen from our group signed onto the 48 mile race. As with any adventure its not just about the event or race itself but the journey that it comes with, the not knowing whats next or how the day will play out, that is the best part when you get a bunch of guys together on a trail and away from everyday life.

The Ore To Shore is a epic race with over 2000 riders following old logging roads and iron ore trails from Ishpeming and Negaunee to Marquette MI. Our crew went up a day early to ride some of the local trails before the big race and stayed at my brothers house only a mile from the shores of Lake Superior. After starting out the day on the wrong trail that took us up a very jagged rocky trail the guys definitely got a taste of the gnarly UP terrain. As we made our way through the scenic trail called “The Gorgeous Trail” alongside the Carp River, we peered down onto the flowing river about 200 yards down the steep grade as we carefully pedaled our way along the narrow trail high above. Winding our way down we caught glimpses of the sun shimmering on the rapids below and peaks of the bright crisp blue sky above the thick canopy of tamarack and evergreen trees.

After an incredible morning ride of about 9 miles we decided to save our legs and lungs for the race the next day so we headed into downtown Marquette for some local fare. I had to take them to a local favorite with much history abounding at the Vierling Restaurant known for their famous lunch and their in house brewed blueberry beer. Next we crossed the street to take in the Ore Dock Brewery and got a very competitive Foosball tourney going among us before heading out to Black Rocks on Presque Isle to cliff jump into the 50 degree Lake Superior “refreshing water”.

Race day was upon us and being the first big race for all of us we didn’t know exactly what to expect. Taking off with over 1000 other riders is an adrenaline rush, scary and intense all at once. As I pedaled hard into the first big turn onto a two rut road the bottle neck killer emerged, riders were going down left and right and I picked my way up the middle to make my own way to finally break free. My riding partner Jon pushed me the entire race as we jostled positions back and forth. For 28 miles I cranked up the hills, tore up the sandy single track, flew incredibly fast down long winding logging roads towards the welcome sight of the finish line filled with crowds clanking cowbells encouraging a strong finish.

It’s an awesome feat to complete a race like the Ore to Shore but it’s the camaraderie of guys that got us into the race in the first place and its what got all 8 of us across the finish line. As we cheered each other on, high fived and hugged afterward while sharing stories of the race while enjoying my brother’s home brewed craft beers around a campfire later that night a peaceful tired feeling beset us all. Through it all we had a common bond, a bond not just in cranking out miles on bikes, sucking in dust and climbing rocky crags but also in the Christian belief we shared. We prayed before and after each ride that year and the Ore to Shore was the pinnacle of the season for us all. God brought us there together and gave us the strength to finish the race well.

Now that we had the racing bug 2015 posed a challenge for us all, how many races would we push or pressure each other to do? The earliest race that kicks off the season is the Barry Roubaix sponsored by Founders Beer in Hastings MI hailed as the largest gravel road ride race in the world.

A simple text thread from the six of us over the winter started with just two signing up for the Barry Roubaix but the great peer pressure got six of us on board. This past weekend we got our gear faces on and all finished the race after grinding out many long hills over the scenic farmland countryside of southern Michigan.

When you want to just get away and focus on a single task at hand in this age of over stimulation and multi-tasking, try getting lost in the woods on a mountain bike with a group of guys, its good for the soul!

Here are some links to the races Eric mentioned above:

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