Xtreme Mountain Biking

The honeymoon drew to a close with a day at Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula, the farthest north point of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We drove three hours from Ontonagon to Copper Harbor and treated ourselves to one fancy meal at Harbor Haus Restaurant where we had Crab Cake, Lake Trout, Steak, and Creme Brulee.

copper harbor

In the morning we checked in for our mountain biking guided tour reservation at the Keweenaw Adventure Company. We heard about the Copper Harbor Trails from our host at Superior Shores Cottages and decided to plan a day trip. The Copper Harbor Mountain Bike Trail System ranks as 5th best in the nation and 11th in the world. The Keweenaw Adventure Company offers mountain biking and sea kayaking and are very highly rated on Trip Advisor.

Our personal guide, Ryan, sized us for our dual suspension mountain bikes according to our weight and height and went over the routes we would ride. While we have a lot of cycling experience with our road bikes, this would be our first time mountain biking. He decided to take us on an easy route for a warm up before the intermediate uphill routes.

trail map
Photo Credit: Copper Harbor Trails Club

An interactive trail system of the routes is linked here. The trails are completely man-made to complement the natural formations of Copper Harbor’s terrain. There are cross-country, gravity/downhill, and flow trails created with dirt paths, rock formations, berms (large turns), and boardwalks.

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Photo Credit: Keweenaw Adventure Company

When first warming up on the cross country course, the dual suspension and fat tires were smooth and fast pushing off rocks and small inclines. I loved the superhuman thrill of the bike’s speed and felt like I was part transformer as I took the lead on the intermediate section climbing up the mountain. Derek wasn’t starting quite as strong in the first 30 minutes because it turned out he was climbing in high gear and working twice as hard. It was definitely a workout and we would not have been able to complete this ride if we didn’t have our cardio endurance from running.

We liked having a guide because he took us on a 2 1/2 hour route of many different trails without us getting lost or colliding with oncoming traffic. The trails are single-tracked so that climbing riders have the right of way with those descending. Many of the trails also connect with more advanced trails and expert jump sections. Some of the trail names that we rode were Bullwinkle, Woopidy-Woo, Here We Go, The Flow, and On the Edge. It was very exciting and we were having the time of our lives.

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Herein begins the decline of Ashley’s mountain biking skill set: There came a point when I took a turn too fast and panicked braking suddenly on my front tire which sent me off the bike and into the dirt. I shook it off and got back on my bike laughing until it happened again two more times. I then gave up the lead position so that the others wouldn’t run into me in case I should dismount again.

We learned that mountain biking on a “real” mountain really requires three essential prerequisites:

1) Physical Fitness– Endurance to bike continually with no true rest from the incline

2) Fearlessness – Being a Thrill-Seeker who is committed to the trail without any doubts

3) Bike Handling- Having the technical skills to react quickly with ease to sudden changes in the terrain

I was doing great with my fitness and fearlessness despite my clumsy bike handling until I kept falling off my bike and looking down the edge instead of ahead on the trail. Once I lost my confidence, I started dismounting even more with a total of 7 falls off of my bike. The worst of these was head first off a berm (large turn) into the brush below with the bike falling on top of me. I never got to the point where I wanted to cry but the experience was losing its magic charm and becoming a feat of survival.

Derek, on the other-hand, seemed to forget that he was afraid of heights and was biking marvelously. I kept getting back on my bike (not just because I had to) but because I knew that this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I was not going to quit on. The “Flow” was the fastest section of the ride with very smooth hills completely downhill so that you never had to pedal but just free fall with the trail.

You can watch some of the experts tackle these trails on YouTube on the link Copper Harbor Mountain Biking. youtube pic

We absolutely loved mountain biking with Keweenaw Adventure Company and really can’t compare it to anything that we have done before. However, the next time we take on an extreme sports challenge we will be sure to put in some practice time with bike maneuvering before hitting the trails again.

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