The World Is Not Flat. Neither is West Bloomfield.

If you think this area is flat, you probably haven't gone for a long bike ride through West Bloomfield.

I think people generally think of southeast Michigan as being pretty flat.  Growing up we drove every summer it seemed to visit relatives in Omaha.  That whole ride was flat, at least until you got to the Missouri River and then everything was hilly.  In fact, I never understood the road signs that say "Bridge May Be Icy" until the first time I drove an hour into Pennsylvania.

We don't have the rolling terrain like Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  But this area is by no means flat.  That is one of the bigger challenges I'm facing when I go out riding.  Consider Orchard Lake Road.  It slopes fairly gently most of the way north from 14 to Maple.  That's the easy part.  Maple to Walnut Lake is another story - it starts sloping up, then a bit of a downhill by Orchard Lake Middle School.  You then hit a fairly steep up hill that crests about a 1/4 mile south of Walnut Lake.  One time I continued north past Walnut Lake.  I don't know how I made it up the hill to get to the High School.  Walnut Lake definitely has ups and down from Orchard Lake towards Drake, and Drake does too, especially between Maple and Walnut Lake.

For now, I'm avoiding Maple between Middlebelt and Inkster.  That has some pretty steep ups and downs.  It has sidewalks most of the way, but not for about a quarter mile heading east from Middlebelt.  I'm not confident enough to ride on a major road for that long.

I don't think you notice these hills as much when you are walking.  I definitely noticed them when I ran, but I notice them even more now.  When you are walking or running, you just have yourself to push up those hills.  But when you are biking, you've got the weight of the bike to push up too.

The bike paths don't make it easier - they seem to have more extreme ups and downs the major roads.  I'd like to have a conversation with whoever thought that was a good idea.

For now, I'm handling the hills by downshifting to lower gears.  I'm making it up them, but every now and then I'm not sure if I will.  I'm hoping that as the weight continues to drop off, and especially if I get a lighter bike, that I won't think twice about tackling a hill.

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Rabbi Jason Miller August 23, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Joel, How could you have thought West Bloomfield is flat? Have you ever driven down Maple from Middlebelt to Inkster before? That's a big hill! Lone Pine between Middlebelt and Orchard Lake?
Joel Ungar August 23, 2011 at 12:44 PM
I don't think until I got on my bike did I realize how not flat West Bloomfield is. And as you pointed out on Twitter, Bloomfield Hills and Farmington Hills isn't either. Westbound 12 Mile from Middlebelt to Orchard Lake is very challenging for me too. Have to figure out where to ride tonight.
Dave August 23, 2011 at 08:10 PM
Joel, I'd like to invite you out the the West Bloomfield Trail. Currently the trail is 4.5 miles long with very little grade change. The trail is a very good ride with opportunities for some of the best views in West Bloomfield. The trail was once home to the Canadian Railroad. Hop on at any number of places. The trail is accessible from Orchard Lake Road just north of Lone Pine Road or if your on the west side of town try parking at the West Bloomfield Woods Nature Preserve on Arrowhead Road, south of Pontiac Trail, just east of Halsted Road. If coming from the Sylvan Lake area you can park at Sylvan Manor Park, just south of Orchard Lake Road on Woodrow Wilson. The Parks and Recreation Commission maintains the limestone trail and its a beautiful ride with no cars to worry about. The Commission recently purchased an additional 2.5 miles of rail road that runs west to Haggerty Road. Look for that section to be under construction in the spring of 2012. The West Bloomfield Trail is a part of the Lake to Lake trail system, Route 1 which will eventually join the City of Port Huron on Lake Huron to South Haven on Lake Michigan. Stop in to Parks and Recreation and our staff can provide you with a map of all West Bloomfield Parks and specifically the West Bloomfield Trail. Just for your information there are 9 other similar trails in Oakland County all part of the Lake to Lake Trail. Happy Biking.
Joel Ungar August 23, 2011 at 08:18 PM
Dave - thanks for the suggestion. I know the trail well from my running days. I haven't biked up there yet as I haven't wanted to deal with Orchard from Walnut to Lone Pine again! Plus I have to remember how to get my bike carrier onto my car again. I like the idea of such a long trail!


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