Fort Custer MTB loops, Garmin track
The Trenches on the Red loop. I believe these were actually
used for combat training at one time. They weave through the place
and now make great half-pipe material for riding.
I first had to replace my rear tire. I bought new Nokians but hadn't gotten around to swapping them out yet. I was replacing them because the studs and treads are worn down. But to my horror, I discovered the tube was bulging out of the rear tire in multiple places. The side casing was rotten and splitting apart. One split was nearly an inch long. Must be due to running uber low pressure that the thing didn't explode. I went to a local bike shop to pick up the cheapest non-studded knobbie they had, a Bontrager Connection. Felt like really soft rubber with sharp knobs. Might make a good snow tire.
Section of Green trail on far side of lake
Pulling into Fort Custer, I was bumming. There must have been 4" of crusty snow in the woods. Usually that dooms riding. There was one car in the biker parking lot, and just one set of tracks in the light dusting of new snow. The singletrack was actually in superb riding condition. There was enough biker/hiker/skier traffic on it before the rain came, so what was left was hard as pavement in most places yet not icy. It was totally hammerable material. And hammer I did. If I couldn't ski mountains for three hours, I was going to shred singletrack for three hours.
The Red trail with typical dark overcast in W. Michigan
There are four color-coded loops at Fort Custer, Red (10mi), Green (7mi), Blue(6mi) and Yellow (~5mi). Red and Green are the good stuff, narrow singletrack with some mildly challenging features. Blue is wide singletrack around a pair of lakes, Yellow is beginner material on doubletrack. I hit red-green-blue-red-yellow. Red was too much fun to ride just once. Hammered everything. Never saw another rider on the trails but saw a couple getting ready to ride when I came back to the trailhead one time. This was snow riding at it's best, probably the best snow ride I've ever had. I rode 37.8 miles with about 2140 feet of climbing in 3.3 hours. The non-studded rear tire worked amazingly well, although it did slide around a lot on 20mph doubletrack turns with powder over ice. I managed to stay upright the whole time.
This wasn't the only ride I've gotten in this week. En route to Michigan, we stopped in London, Ontario. There's a MTB trail there called the Fanshawe Lake Trail. It is 15 miles of mostly singletrack around the lake just outside of town. Mostly buff stuff that begs for speed, and on a cold, blustery Christmas Eve morning, there were just a few people on it. There was a faint snow coating on it that did not diminish traction whatsoever. Cathy and Aaron chased down some "Canadian Tylonol" in town for my mom while I rode. I was very fortunate to squeeze this ride in. It was my second time riding the loop. The first time was many years ago, and since then some interesting sections have been added with built up stunts. I finished the 15.1 mile ride in 76 minutes, nicely satiated. We only had four more hours on the road to reach west Michigan.
Skinny benchcut on the Fanshawe Lake Trail. Frozen rock hard.
Some snow is moving into the area now, but it doesn't sound like it will be enough to get XC skiing going, and it will certainly be too much for rollerskiing and off-road riding. We're here only a few more days anyway, so hopefully the same rain that came through here doesn't ruin skiing at Waterville.