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Bike Tour Downtown
Bicycling is an amazing way to explore a new place and to get around. In fact, when you're riding a bike, it's been said that you're moving at the speed of discovery. In urban environments like Grand Rapids, it can even be faster than driving! We've put together a few different routes that highlight some of our favorite hot spots in and around the downtown area.
Know Before You Go
Before you embark on your journey, there are a few things you should know.
Wear a Helmet
As we say at the Climbing Center, "Safety is Sexy". Helmets often get overlooked and can be thought of as unnecessary because no one ever plans to crash. However, they're one of those things that is better to have and not need it than need it and not have it. By the time you realize you should have one (mid-crash), it's way too late.
Check Your ABC's
The ABC Quick Check takes only a couple seconds to do and helps ensure your bike is safe to ride and not just tolerable but enjoyable.
- A (Air) - Make sure your tires are fully inflated. Not only will it make your bike roll more efficiently, saving you energy. Under inflated tires are more prone to getting flats. Pew Campus has a number of standalone Fixit stations where you can inflate your tires if low.
- B (Brakes) - Make sure your brakes are functioning properly. Brakes should be strong enough to cause your bike to skid on smooth, flat, dry pavement.
- C (Chain & Cranks) - The parts that drive your bike. Just make sure they're spinning freely (not excessively rusty, cracked, loose, or falling off).
- Quick Check - Look over any other parts for abnormalities (kickstand, handle bars, shifters, etc...). Consider taking a quick test ride around the driveway/ parking lot before going too far.
In Case of Emergency
Breakdowns happen. For some it will be on the first ride, maybe the fourth, perhaps the fiftieth but eventually, it happens to everyone. Being prepared gives you peace of mind to adventure freely. Here are 3 options to consider.
- Pack a small emergency repair kit. These typically include items to fix a flat: a spare tube, tire levers, patch kit, small air pump & depending on your skills, a small multi-tool. Of course you'll need to learn how to use them too.
- Take a charged cell phone. It's nearly impossible find an area without cell service in west Michigan and phoning a friend is a great option.
- Lock your bike to a nearby rack, walk to the nearest bus stop and catch the next bus back home until you can make arrangements with someone to go back for it. Unless the rules changed, GVSU students & staff ride for free on any line!
Know the Rules of the Road
Regardless of transportation method (i.e. car, bike, or on foot), we all interact with each other at various points along the way. Being considerate of other around you helps make the journey enjoyable for everyone. Follow these tips to set off on the right foot.
- Be as conspicuous (visible) as possible
- Wear bright colors
- use a white front light & red rear light, even during daylight
- Be predictable
- Ride in straight lines
- Signal your turns/ stops
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Even if you should have the right of way, don't assume you will be given it
- Leave one earbud out when listening to music
- Know proper etiquette
- Pedestrians have the right of way
- Stay to the right, except when passing
- Announce your intent before passing a pedestrian or another biker & always on the left
Learn more about these and other important rules of the road in
What Every Michigan Bicyclist Must Know
In Kent County over the past 5 years, 3.89% of crashes involving bicyclists happened on the sidewalk (or crosswalk) compared to .65% in the bike lane. Similar statistics are true across the state. This is generally attributed to bicyclists being more visible to vehicles when on the roadway.
Statistics generated from michigantrafficcrashfacts.org data query tool for years 2015-2019.
For simplicity, all of the routes below start/ end on the Pew Campus. While it's ideal if you live downtown already, getting there from Allendale is still a snap by taking your bike on the bus!
Bicycling is inherently dangerous. The routes listed below are suggestions for travel but do not guarantee any riders health or safety. The choice to ride any or all portion of the routes listed below must only be made after voluntarily and knowingly assuming all risks involved in this event. The immediate physical risk(s) associated are those correlated with normal, vigorous physical activity and those as a vulnerable roadway user. These risks include, but are not limited to, bodily discomfort and fatigue, muscular soreness, pulled or strained muscles, overuse injuries/soft tissue damage, bodily injury resulting from falls, bodily injury resulting from crashes with other path or roadway users, and the rare instance of abnormal changes/responses of the cardiopulmonary system to exercise. Adverse responses include abnormal blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and the very rare instance of heart attack, stroke, or sudden death. Before starting any fitness program, you should consult your physician or other health care professional to determine if it is right for your needs.
By utilizing the routes or portions of them below, you hereby for yourself your heirs, executors, administrators, and assigns, WAIVE AND RELEASE any and all rights and claims for negligence, injuries, damages, equipment, facilities, staff training, or losses that may incur involved in your travel, specifically Grand Valley State University, its respective employees, agents, representatives, successors, and assigns for any and all activities connected with the above Special Event. If you are a Grand Valley employee (faculty or staff member), you understand that you waive any and all rights or
benefits under the State of Michigan Worker’s Compensation laws for any injury incurred as a result of your use of the routes below.
Back to Nature
About This Route
This route takes you on a relatively flat ride through some of the most beautiful paved trails in the GR area. The route kicks off on bike lanes through some low traffic streets. After the first mile or so, you'll find yourself on the Kent Trails leading into Millenium Park which is the main feature of the ride. Millenium Park is one of the nation's largest urban parks. It spans 1,400 acres of large natural spaces. Facilities include a 6 acre beach with splashpad & boat rentals & nearly 18 miles of trails.
Distance: ~10.5 miles
Timing: ~60-75 mins (at a casual pace w/o stops)
Attractions Along the Route
- Kent County Recycling & Education Center
- John Ball Park/ Zoo
- Grand River
- Millenium Park
Restrooms & Water
- Public Restroom & drinking fountains just west of I-196 at Kent County Park (~2 mi mark)
- Restroom & concessions at the main beach pavillion in millenium park (seasonal availability)
Up the Adventure!
Before reaching Millenium Park, you're actually riding on the Kent Trails system which is a 15 mile non-motorized pathway. Stay on it and you can ride as far south as 84th street in Byron Center! Get off the trail on 44th street, head west and enjoy a variety of dining & shopping options or catch a movie at the Rivertown Mall. Go all the way to the southern terminus & you'll be less than a mile from the Tanger Outlets and 1.5 miles from Inside Moves climbing gym. Kent Trails also connects to the Fred Meijer M-6 trail which links to the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail. A great day of riding for anyone looking to log some miles.
NW Grand Rapids Ride
About This Route
The west-side is the best side and this route highlights some places we think you'll like. This route is much shorter in mileage compared to Back to Nature but the time it takes to complete will depend on how much you decide to indulge in the features along the way. Unlike the first ride, this route is almost exclusively on bike lanes.
Distance: 6.5 miles
Timing: 40 mins (at a casual pace w/o stops, but you should stop & sniff around)
Attractions Along the Route
- Grand Rapids Public Museum
- Gerald R Ford Presidential Museum
- Ah-Nab-Awen Park
- Grand River & the Fish Ladder
- Roots Brew Shop (coffee)
- Bridge Street Market (& a slew of great eateries)
- John Ball Park/ Zoo
Restrooms & Refueling
- Public Restroom & drinking fountains at Ah-Nab-Awen Park.
- Grab a coffee at Roots Brew Shop, pop into the Bridge Street Market for all your grocery needs, or have a seat at any of the restaurants along Bridge Street (Knickerbocker?!)
Up the Adventure!
About .8 miles into the route, cross the Grand River at the 6th street bridge. Once across, you'll ride north through Canal Park and want to pop onto Monroe Ave when the trail runs out. Stay on Monroe/ the bike lane for about 1 mile and you'll find yourself at Riverside Park, one of the nicest parks for riding/ running/ disc golfing in GR. If you're feeling crazy, the Riverside pathway connects to the southern end of the White Pine trail which goes all the way to Cadillac (about 80 miles!). A more realistic ride for mere mortals like us would be to take it to Comstock Park to catch a baseball game. Even Rockford is a reasonable ride for a 1/2 day adventure.