Motorcycle trails beckon riders but rules need following

MANISTEE NATIONAL FOREST – With the arrival of the annual Blessing of the Bikes at Baldwin on Sunday expect to find local roadways, street parking, and local businesses filled with motorcycle riders - and in numbers expected to be in the thousands. For local businesses and motels, it’s a boost badly needed in an area with low employment woes.

But the arrival of the cyclists begins even earlier as riders come early to ride the trails and county roads prior to the massed motorcycle climax Sunday at the Baldwin Municipal Airfield.

Riders coming from all over the USA will find plenty of opportunity to sample the riding in the forested trails of the national forest thanks to specifically marked and maintained motorcycle trail ways totaling 214 miles of cycle trails for road legal machines. (Other trails for ORV riders also serve off-road enthusiasts but it is the trails designed for the big, road-ready motorcycles that arriving riders will find challenging.)

“All trail riders must adhere to a few rules if they ride them,” said Todd Jaunese, forest service trails officer.

“Trailheads will be marked with signs that call for motorcycles using these trails to be road legal, with both Secretary of State motorcycle licenses and ORV trail stickers.

“In addition, all bikes must have spark arresters installed. Most new motorcycles have these built in but many cycles used for racing and cross country do not. If your cycle does not have a spark arrester, one must be installed before riding these trails. Right now we are in a seriously dry and dangerous fire season, and many brush and forest fires in the past have been caused by cycles and ORV’s that lacked the needed spark arresters.”

While much of the action will take center stage at Baldwin during the Blessing of the Bikes, motorcycles will be running these trails all summer and fall. The Little O trail north of Baldwin, and the Horseshoe Lake and Holton trails near Muskegon will offer good trail riding opportunities this year. In the Baldwin-White Cloud Ranger District there are connecting links with DNR state forest trails, and there the same rules apply for riders. While motorcycles may ride of many ORV trails, motorcycle trails built specifically for these users are not open to non-state legal, road licensed bikes or ORV’s. (Trails built for motorcycles are narrower while ORV trails are built much wider.

Riders need to stay on trails or roadways. Off trail riding is prohibited unless marked open.

Again, check the trailheads for posted rules and specifics for motorcycles before heading down the trail way. Maps of the trails are available at the Manistee National Forest Ranger District offices in Baldwin, Cadillac, or Manistee during Monday-Friday business hours, or at trailheads.