Mountain biking around Marquette

paul.manninen and paul.manninen

Matt Calcaterra, an NMU graduate, has owned and run Lakeshore Bike since 1988, and has seen many a biking season come and go over that time. Contributing writer Paul Manninen recently sat down with Calcaterra to discuss how Marquette residents can affordably and safely take up the sport of mountain biking.

For some Marquette residents, when the snow melts, the mountain biking season begins.

“There has always been an incredibly high level of interest for biking in the Marquette area,” Calcaterra said. “The love of the outdoors and overall fitness level of Marquette residents make mountain biking the ideal choice of outdoor recreation.”

The season usually begins sometime between the beginning of March and the middle of April, or as Calcaterra simply put it, “as soon as you have one week of bad skiing.” The biking season usually runs through the end of September, but for some, the bikes don’t go back into storage until the snow falls again.

For those looking to get into this sport, the first step is acquiring the right equipment. A bike-shop-quality bike is recommended, as most department store bikes are not capable of off-road riding, Calcaterra said.

Most entry-level mountain bikes can be purchased for around $300, with an additional $35 for a professional level helmet.

As your riding skills advance, so does the cost of bikes. Most full suspension bikes start around $1,000, with some full carbon-fiber racing bikes reaching the $6,500 mark, due to their light weight and good dependability. These bikes are what Calcaterra refers to as “the Lamborghini of racing bikes.”

Once you have your bike, the possibilities of places to ride in the Marquette area are nearly endless. For a rider just starting their mountain biking experience, the Harlow Lake area has easily accessible trails, which allow for casual riding.

For the more advanced rider, Marquette Mountain offers more extreme free ride and downhill cross country trails, and also provides a chairlift in the summer. These advanced trails feature rockier terrain, along with sharper turns and elevation changes. There are also plenty of unmarked trails around Marquette Mountain as well as the Negaunee and Ishpeming areas.

On the more advanced trails, however, riders will undoubtedly encounter a heightened risk of injury. In order to lessen this risk, bikers are encouraged to wear protective attire while riding. This includes always wearing a helmet, Calcaterra said. Additionally, a rider should consider a pair of protective glasses and a pair of gloves to prevent injury, as well as protect from the elements.

Natalie Colvin, an avid mountain biker for nearly four years, takes extra precaution to ensure safety when riding.

“I always bike with a friend,” Colvin said, “I am not a fan of the thought of crashing on a ride and not having anyone to help me.”

Mountain bikes, like any other piece of exercise equipment, will eventually wear down with use. In order to keep a bike in the best shape possible, a rider will need to do some routine maintenance checks before and after every ride. Checking the brake pads is a must, as you simply cannot stop as effectively if they wear out. Proper tire inflation is also a necessity in bike maintenance, along with chain lubrication and gear function.

“The most common problem that people have is a flat tire or a broken chain,” Calcaterra said.

A bike will also need a professional tune up at least once a year, to check for any problems that may be overlooked or missed by an inexperienced rider.

In order to make sure that their bike is running at its optimal level, a rider should also carry a basic repair kit, which should include a spare tube, a patch kit, a chain tool and a tire pump.

Along with their bike, riders should also make sure that their body is properly maintained. It is a good idea to carry some type of energy food, as well as a bottle of water to keep hydrated. In case of an accident, a small first-aid kit is also a necessity.

As well as being a good source for physical fitness, mountain biking can be used as a way to escape the anxiety and commotion of normal life.

“Biking gives me an incredible sense of freedom,” Colvin said. “I love the feeling of accomplishment when I finish a challenging trail or stunt. It’s my escape from the stresses of life, and a chance to put all my energy into something.”