NMMBA’s Traverse City Trails Festival: Summer Fun for a Good Cause

NMMBA's Traverse City Trails Festival: Summer Fun For A Good Cause

Last year, the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association joined our team as our go-to resource for course design and preparation. For twelve years, NMMBA has served our local mountain biking community as a dedicated, passionate steward of the trails, and for the third time, they’re bringing that experience and know-how to their very own event, the Traverse City Trails Festival.

Now in enjoying its third edition, the TCTF offers up one of the most unique trail experiences of the season. That’s because each of the forty, twenty-five, and fifteen-mile course take place almost entirely on trail that isn’t marked 364 other days of the year. Absent on a map and on any trailhead kiosk these trails exist as the notorious ‘unmarked’, with even the total mileage of these trails a somewhat vague and oscillating number in the sixty to seventy-mile range.

That’s why locals are just as eager as visitors to hop in this race or to simply tour it. Both options are available, and both use the only lightly-traveled trails marked so briefly to offer an incredibly fun day in the woods. The unique race also helps create more trail; new shortcuts, bypasses, and re-routes are often later incorporated into trail proposals submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The changes and additions allow NMMBA to retire old, unsustainable bandit trails and replace them with improved routes keep vital sections connected and rideable.

The Traverse City Trails Festival takes place at Ranch Rudolf, a rustic resort and campground that serves as start, finish, and party zone throughout race day. With the Boardman River passing just yards away from the finish banner, it’s become a tradition in this neck of the woods to finish off your race or ride with a chilly dip in the river before enjoying some barbecue food, beer, and the pleasure of friendly company.

For those really looking for a race, this one is as about as challenging as it gets. After some fast miles to spread things out, the forty-mile course offers relentless mile after mile of singletrack, punctuated only at length by a few dirt roads to gulp down some water, choke down a bar, and then dive back into the high ferns of late July. The forty-mile race is certainly a test of endurance, while the twenty-five mile serves as a more traditional cross country distance on par with Mud, Sweat and Beers, another local landmark.

Newer riders often elect to round up their pals and ride the twenty-five or fifteen-mile routes as a group, stopping for snacks, snapping photos, and hurrying only to make sure they get back to Ranch Rudolf in time to grab a beer for the bar shuts down.

All proceeds from the race go to support Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association and their efforts to build and maintain world class trails like Glacial Hills, the Cadillac Pathway, and the new Palmer Woods Trail in Leelanau County. For more on the race, and to get yourself signed up, head over to the race site.

November will be here before you know it, and with a few race days circled between now and then, you’ll not only build fitness but build an appreciation for the people and trails that make northern Michigan such an incredible place to be a mountain biker.

Course updates from NMMBA

Course updates from NMMBA

As the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association works to bring you the best Iceman Cometh Challenge course possible, we’re providing updates on current conditions through race day!

What a difference a week makes! Even with some warm temperatures, we saw just enough rain over the past ten days to have a huge impact on the course. In mid-to-late September, sand was the word, as it always is in early fall. This year was no different, and perhaps a touch worse; sections from Kalkaska to Dockery Road were, in the opinions of many, some of the slowest we’ve ever seen!

Luckily, a mix of cold nights and rain have gotten the course into great shape, and aside from the infamous sand pits that you just know are coming, there’s nothing out there that will make you feel like you’re at the beach.

Tom and the crew were out putting in the finishing touches on the new Water Bottle Hill Bypass. That new section of trail is bench cut and riding faster and faster every week. While it does criss-cross the old bypass, you won’t have any trouble staying on the right trail thanks to a few blue flags places at all the pertinent intersections. While the segment is too close to the previous trail to be accurate, this should give you a good look at where the bypass is on the course.

Another big confirmation from the weekend is that we’ll stick with the same Wall Bypass used in the 2017 edition race, taking a long, lazy bend left before the Wall and hopping on a few bits of two-track and singletrack before rejoining the 25km just about a half-mile from the infamous Boonenberg climb. That one-two punch is always tough, especially after a few fast miles from Williamsburg Road and onto the 25km itself.

Finally, the finale. While it’s unmarked and very tough to follow at the moment, you can count on a serpentine, sinuous sprint through some winding singletrack from the time you enter Timber Ridge, nearly leave it entirely, then come back to the line after going over and under two shipping containers!

While plenty of people were out enjoying the course, Melissa from Michigan Mountain Biking Association was at Timber Ridge helping put on the Iceman Clinic this past Saturday. 30 riders got a little instruction and a lot of confidence ahead of race day, and were treated to hot brats, chips, and a great time by MMBA and Keen Technical Solutions.

Support the MMBA today.

Support the MMBA today.

The Michigan Mountain Biking Association gathered their new board members and Chapter Advisory Council members for their 2019 strategic planning session on Sunday near the new DTE Energy Foundation trail in Chelsea, Michigan. It was an exciting day, spent talking about mountain biking in Michigan and planning about the future of the MMBA and the goals the group has for 2019.

The long-term future of the MMBA is bright, we have an energetic board with the ideas and vision to lead Michigan mountain biking forward and secure long-term funding for the organization. The short-term issue is cash flow…

The work the MMBA does is important to all of us. This summer MMBA executive director Melissa Werkman, the only employee of the organization, was instrumental in getting the obstructed license plate bill through the state legislature and signed into law. No longer can you be pulled over for having your license plate blocked by bikes on your hitch rack. Thank the MMBA for that one.

Now… you can’t specifically join the MMBA itself.

The MMBA wants you to join your local bike club, that money stays local and gets put to use on your home turf, providing your group with money for grooming, insurance and whatever else is needed right at home. Individual bike clubs like the Shoreline Cycling Club in Ludington and others listed at MMBA.org then choose to support the work of the MMBA by joining the Chapter Advisory Council. If your club isn’t supporting MMBA, talk to your board members, they should.

But what you can do is make a donation right now. Think about the work of the MMBA and how important it is to have an executive director with connections across the state and in our state capitol. Whether it’s the license plate law or negotiations with the DNR about trail access or E-Bikes, we need that representation.

Now take a minute and think about the price of a six pack of Bell’s Best Brown Ale, $10 or 12 bucks right? And worth every penny! Will you buy the MMBA a six pack to reward them for the work they’ve done this year? Is the work the MMBA does worth a six pack of Bell’s to you?

(Disclaimer: Melissa is not actually going to buy beer with the $10 bucks you send, she’s going to put it in the operating fund, you’re going to get a tax deduction as the MMBA is a 501c3).

We want everyone who opens this email to send the MMBA ten or twenty bucks, but we know everyone won’t, but if HALF of you follow through, then we can help the MMBA get through this year and give them some breathing room to do the work they need to do.



Transfer deadline is 10/12, MMBA Clinic for new riders on 10/13, Wave assignments on 10/19, Iceman Store closing on 10/26.

DTE Foundation Trail, two thumbs WAY up!

New to the Bell’s Iceman?

New to the Bell's Iceman?

New to mountain bike racing and the Iceman Cometh Challenge or Slush Cup? The MMBA is pleased to offer the first clinic geared specifically toward first time racers on October 13, 2018. This 4 hour clinic will include mountain biking fundamental skills and bike handling instruction provided by certified coaches, race prep and etiquette discussion, a course preview and a lunchtime cookout.  Register here