August brings about the sneaking suspicion that summer might not last forever. We've put together a few routes for you to check off your list before the days get short, the temps get cold and you end up doing Out'n'Backs before Iceman.
It's a staple of summer and one of my favorite routes out there. The Maple City Loop is my default County ride; not too far, not too short, some great climbs and wonderful views. Plus, there are a lot of ways to tack on climbs and miles at nearly any point, which makes the route a short of skeleton upon which you can build some meat onto.
The 'bare bones' version is simple. Up and out of TC via Carter Road. Carter is a gem. It combines the full elevation of the more challenging M-72 climb, but without the traffic and more narrow shoulder of the first mile of M-72 itself. Carter winds its way up past some neighborhoods, with no traffic to speak of and friendly neighbors giving a sleepy wave on your morning ascents.
It links to M-72 where there is a six foot wide shoulder, so it's plenty safe the remaining mile to the top. It also brings you onto some of the steeper sections of the climb, which hit 8-10% in spots before getting a bit more gentle over the top.
It's an easy descent off Hoxie and down through Solon, with two choices for your second climb. The traditional Kasson Road climb is a tale of two halves; gradual and fast turns into steep, slow and grinding over the top. The alternative is to take Kasben Road, itself rolling, and take the left up Valley Road. It's a great climb that's not as steep but perhaps a bit more enjoyable.
Both roads will bring you to Maple City Highway, which is more imposing in name than in traffic. The road has little traffic and a nice shoulder, and it's a fast and fun downhill into Maple City. If you're peckish, there's a gas station and a nice wall to sit by.
The traditional route is to head east up Bellinger, back to the northern part of Valley and across back to Kasben, but it's a great jumping off point for a new, longer version of the route that extends it from 40 miles to 55. Head north and take a left on Hlavka for one of the coolest climbs in the County. It's like riding into a wall for the first 200 meters, but it relaxes slightly before offering up a number of gradient changes over the top. It switches back and bends like something out of the Pyrenees, and you can really test your legs before it eases up and brings you onto Bohemian Road.
Heading down Trumbull, you've got a chance for one of the best kept secrets in the County. The mini Alp d'Huez is unforgettable, tough and unmissable. Averaging nearly 10% in gradient, with stretches at 13% as you near the top, it has true switch backs at the base that look like the winding ribbons of Mount Vernier in France.
Back, it's a quick left at La Becausse and into Burdickville briefly before arriving back in Maple City and heading back over some of the same roads as the way out. The last looming challenge is Philosophy, the nearly 4 mile drag out of the Solon valley and over the ridge to Traverse City.
There are some great little places to stop, too. Bunting's in Cedar has all your normal gas station fare, but bakes their own treats, has smoked meats from Pleva's across the street, and goods from local artisans as well. You're never far from Glen Arbor, but just at your turn in Burdickville is a spot with ice cream, scones, cookies and coffee to fuel up for the rest of the leg. And why not take your sweets to the Old Pioneer Park on Dunn's Farm and eat with a view of Glen Lake?
The original Maple City Loop is available here.
You can can check out the longer, hillier version here.