Friday, November 1, 2013

Riding Bikes on Mackinac Island

There are no cars allowed on Mackinac Island, so once you get there, you have a few options for getting around. You can walk, take horse-drawn carriages, or ride bikes. My mom and I chose to ride bikes.

There is an eight-mile perimeter trail that goes around the perimeter of the island. It is all flat, which is nice, and even if you take stops to take pictures, it will take you about one hour and 30 minutes to do.

You don't have to bring your own bike as there are plenty of bike rental shops on the island. We used the Mackinac Island Bike Shop for our rentals. I chose this rental company because it had the best prices and you got a bike basket and bottle of water!

Arch Rock
When I rented bikes at the Grand Canyon, the employees there helped me find a bike, adjust the seat height, put on the helmet, and adjust the gear/speed settings, and then they made me do a test ride around the parking lot to make sure that the bike was okay for me. So, I kind of expected that same helpful treatment when renting a bike on Mackinac Island. Not so much.

I can't speak for any of the other numerous bike rental shops on the island, but the Mackinac Island Bike Shop was NOT helpful. They literally just handed over a bike and a helmet and then sent you on your way. So, my mom and I had some issues getting our bikes to actually be comfortable before we started.

British Landing
And then once we got started, OH MY. There are no cars allowed on the island, but there are horse-drawn carriages, walkers, and TONS of other people riding bikes. Most of those bike riders HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY'RE DOING. Two children almost ran right into me, and I, of course, yelled at them both while their parents just laughed. We had people stopping right in the middle of the narrow two-lane bike path that goes around the island's perimeter. There were people who would pass us and not announce that they were coming up on our side. It was just ridiculous.

There was a nice mile or two stretch of the path that had NO ONE on it, and that ended up being very nice and peaceful. But I'm not sure that I would want to do it again.
Skull Cave

Also, if you plan on riding your bike around the rest of the island (not just the perimeter trail), you better start training now. There are TONS of hills. It was almost painful to walk up and down them. But I'm glad we walked instead of rode.

Another bit of advice, you don't have to wear a helmet if you don't want to. Plenty of people were going helmet-less. BUT, with so many people riding around, I think for safety sake, you should really just suck it up and wear a helmet. Especially if you're riding with kids!

There are still some cool things to see if you do the perimeter tour. There's Arch Rock, a natural limestone formation Nipissing post-glacial period. You'll also come across British Landing, site of a War of 1812 operation; Skull Cave, a shallow cave carved during the Algonquin post-glacial period; and lovely views of the lake.

And, of course, we are glad we did it. But it certainly wasn't the experience we were expecting. Has anyone else rented bikes on Mackinac Island? I'd like to know what your bike experience was like on the island.

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