Planning to Circumnavigate a Large Body of Fresh Water

No other planning can proceed unless you know where you are going and to figure that out you’re going to need a route.

It’s been done before, a few hardy souls periodically attempt to bike the distance around all of Lake Michigan and fewer still have had the foresight and wisdom to record their experience for those who might follow.

This site,, records a tour of the lake with the most detailed route I could find. I converted the route into segments and recorded a new version of the original on the website,, and posted it here.

It should be faithful to the original with the slight advantage that it breaks the tour down into 11 segments.

Today’s research revealed that coastal winds are considerably more intense than inland winds. Checkout the graphic image below and be assured that the red represents a score of “outstanding”. Outstanding is a relative term. If you are a prospective wind farm investor, the coast is where you want to stick your turbines and outstanding means you can generate a lot of power. If you’re out close to the water on a bike, it means something similar: you’re going to have to generate a lot of power to overcome the wind. Yikes! The morbidly curious can navigate to the Michigan Power Study by Dennis Elliot (2004), the source for the graph below:

This automatically creates a vicious tradeoff between routes that take a wider loop around the lake, to keep distant from the whippy winds along the cost at the expense of, well, distance. Look up above at the stats box. I think 977.9 miles is enough. Don’t you?

I found this site, Windfinder – Wind map, wind forecast & weather reports, with all the wind data on Lake Michigan’s coast that you could hope for. You can lookup those daytime hours when the wind is most fierce. Mostly its calmest at the break of dawn and when the sun sets. Paying attention to wind predictions should make it possible to plan my efforts when the wind is at an ebb and save my legs for hauling a bike and a trailer up hills..

The breakthrough discovery of the day was how to get from the upper to the lower peninsula of Michigan via the Mackinac Bridge (hint: you cannot bike across it). It is true that you can ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island and then ferry from the island to Mackinaw City. But this roundabout method obligates you to buy fares from two separate independent ferry companies who will only sell you a two-way ticket (it gets expensive).

Mackinac Bridge

The solution is to hire a tow truck! Check out this delightful revelation on Reddit, which appeared in a post just a few short months ago.


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