Route Breakdown

Section 1:

Starting off at Lake Huron the route goes right into a narrow gravel cottage drive where riders will need to stay no more than 2 abreast. This scenic section parallels the lake and offers pleasant views of the sun rising over the marsh. Expect fast rolling roads with a mix of gravel and pavement for this first section. As the courses zig zags along Lake Huron, you’ll catch a few views of the lake before really beginning the westbound journey at mile 17. Enoy the cool lake air and low sun before the day warms up and you get inland!

You won’t notice it but the course very slowly gains elevation from mile 19 to 32 as you pedal quite gravel and paved farm lanes. This is a good section to stay in a group, conserve your energy and cover some miles. From mile 31 to 40 you will slowly descend until you cross the Tittabawassee river and then begin climbing imperceptibly until the checkpoint at Gladwin. There are lots of straight sections and quick miles before Gladwin along with a couple busy crossings so be sure to keep your head up at all stop signs and busy roads. The checkpoint occurs around mile 54 in Gladwin. This is by far the fastest section of the route. It’s a good section to start off a 204 mile traverse of Michigan with.

Section 2:

You may feel like this is the flattest route you’ve ever ridden in section 1, but soon after leaving Gladwin you’ll be greeted by a nice long grinder of a climb. Welcome to section 2! In this section you discover that there are indeed hills on this route. You’ll also spend much more time on quiet gravel roads with very little pavement versus section 1. Before too long you will notice that the open farmlands have been replaced with more woodlots and trees offering their shade. This is the time to settle into your own pace and where the journey really begins. The rolling hills will test your legs after the speedy vibes of section 1. Enjoy the rural scenery as you carve a path west and slightly north. There are more curves and sweeping turns in this section. You may also encounter some softer sections of dirt road as you near Leota where the off-road vehicle traffic is more present. The harder packed soil of the first 70-80 miles begins to give way to sand based soil and drier conditions. At mile 103 you’ll arrive in Marion and checkpoint 2. While this is the halfway point in mileage it is probably only the 35-40% mark in terms of effort for the route. Be sure to conserve energy in section 2 because section 3 and the Manistee National Forest await you…

Section 3:

When people talk about challenges or what makes this course difficult you will always hear about section 3. While it may be the most difficult by far some may argue that it is also the most beautiful! While sections 1 and 2 are roughly 50 miles in length section 3 is closer to 65 miles. This section will take you the longest to cover and many people increase the amount of water/nutrition they carry into section 3. You’ll encounter more quiet rural roads as section 3 begins and some considerable climbs. The rolling terrain can be a bit relentless in the first 20 miles of section 3. Pacing and hydration/nutrition are key at this point. If you fall behind now it’s going to only get tougher. Enjoy the wide open vistas that the hills offer in this section as you hit the highest terrain of the route and the “backbone” of Michigan. You’ll hit the highpoint of the route around mile 116 along with some thrilling descents. After the big climbs you get a pleasant reprieve on the paved White Pine Trail from mile 125 to 127. Take it easy on this stretch, eats plenty of snacks and top up on fluids. Around mile 128 you are greeted by the forest roads and two-tracks on the Manistee National Forest and the fun really begins! The gridded roads of the farm country are replaced by serpentine routes through the dense forest. These sections can vary from hard packed logging roads to soft and sandy ATV tracks. Clay Hill Church offers a respite in the form of potable water near Hoxeyville. This stretch may be paved but it makes up for the fast surface with big rolling climbs. The section from mile 147 to 158 is one of the most thrilling with the Pine River corridor but also offers up the most sand traps of the route. You don’t get the good without a little bit of bad!

There is a break from the tough forest roads in section 3 after you climb away from Low Bridge and cruise through Wellston. Enjoy these first gravel and paved roads before tackling the last tough double tracks near Pine Lake. You can thank us later for the pavement of Udell Hills road that slopes gently downhill to checkpoint 3 at Big M.

Section 4:

The checkpoint at Big M differs greatly from the large parking lots and wide open spaces of Gladwin and Marion. Here at Big M you’re surround by mature hardwood forest and protected from the wind. This is your last chance to stock up on what you need for the final push to Lake Michigan. You’ll climb gravel bike friendly singletrack up and out of Big M. The first several miles are a real treat before you top out on Koon Rd. On a clear day you can just make out Lake Michigan on the horizon! Once you take in the view be sure to focus all of your attention on the descent. Each valley has sand and loose soil so be cautious with your speed. The track all the way to Skocelas road can be a bit sandy and treacherous at times. Be patient, stay upright and soon you’ll be rewarded with a bit of pavement.

The course slowly departs the heavy tree cover of the national forest and works its way into the farmlands near Lake Michigan. The temperatures typically begin to subside a bit and you may experience a shift in the wind as you near the Great Lake. The open farmland and flatter terrain will be a welcome sight after the hills and sand of section 3. This is the homestretch so to speak and depending on your pace the sun may be lower in the sky or close to setting. It’s a beautiful area to take in the sunset and enjoy the cool lake air. The gravel gives way to smooth pavement with around 6 or 7 miles to go. Soak in your accomplishment and take it all in as you make the turn onto Lakeshore drive. It won’t be long before you’re greeted with the finish arch at Stearns Park on Lake Michigan!