Michigander: Daniel Ryniak, Trail Bike Rider
Daniel Ryniak is one of those folks that you could talk to for hours on end and still long to hear more of his stories. As an avid trail bike rider and adventurer, Daniel cannot get enough of the outdoors. He goes for a total immersive experience, packing up little more than his hammock, coffee and Chapstick. “I have ridden over 2000 miles in Michigan. I rode my bike across the state five times as well as from Ohio to Reed City and back,” Daniel shares.
We were able to chat with Daniel after he stopped in our shop to pick up a state of happiness patch. Read on for tips and tales of the trail (and a few close encounters!)
Did you grow up in Michigan?
Yes, I did! I grew up in Clawson. My home base is now Berkley, Michigan and my wife and I absolutely love it. The Berkley schools are fantastic and we love being able to walk to the shops, restaurants and Clark's Ice Cream!
However, my day job is very demanding. I have found that hopping on my bike and getting out into the woods is an amazing way to recharge.
What do you like about biking?
I used to just like biking until I started riding the rail trails, now I love it! The rail trails get you safely off the road- plus you get to see some nature. They are long enough to get you to a destination and they cut through some awesome small towns and bigger cities. This makes it easy for resupplying and checking out the restaurants and shops.
Do you have a favorite trail?
My favorite trail so far is the Kal-Haven Trail. It starts in downtown Kalamazoo and goes to South Haven on Lake Michigan. Along the trail you will pass some bridges, tall glacial moraines, blueberry farms and cabins. Then it ends at a beautiful beach on Lake Michigan.
How do you decide where to ride?
For the last few years I have loved the idea of using my home as a trailhead. I have been drawn to routes where I can bike to a camp without using a car. I also try my best to avoid riding on roads at all costs.
Some of your rides are in nature and pretty long! Do you have any tips for a novice bike rider?
If you are interested in longer rides immersed in nature, I suggest starting with an easy overnight trip. Keep it simple and short. This will help work out kinks in the bike and your camping gear. If you do set out on a several hundred mile adventure, where you are on the bike for ten hours a day make sure you stop often to check out anything that piques your interest. This will give yourself a break off the bike and something fun to explore!
Have you had any challenging experiences while biking?
The whole experience is quite challenging so when unexpected things arise they don’t seem out of place. One time, I had to hold my bike over my head while crossing a river because the bridge was out. Another time, before I knew the importance of bringing a repair kit, I got a flat 30 miles from any store. I have also had to repair my bike with some rusty wire I found on the trail.
Bridge is out! Trails can have some unexpected challenges.
Daniel Ryniak, braving the elements.
Any funny memories?
I’ve been chased by animals! One time I was chased for several hundred feet by an angry canada goose that didn’t want me on his trail! Last year I had the biggest farm dog chasing me! I could hear his breath behind me and when I looked back he was right at my side and gaining on me! I had to give it 100% to move ahead.
Do you camp while biking?
Yes, I camp along the trail. When the trail goes through a town and I see hotels it is hard to fight off the temptation of getting a room with a hot shower. But I have yet to do this.
What do you pack? I’m assuming you have to be very selective on what you carry with you.
Coffee and Chapstick, these are the most important items I pack. I am pretty selective on what I bring, but you would be surprised on what you don’t really need. Some people pack things they think they need “just in case” something happens. I always ask myself how bad it would really be if I didn't bring a certain item. My pack list is very basic: bike tools, water filter, rain gear, hammock, cold clothes, warm clothes, first aid kit, 4 to 5 pounds of food, a small stove & pot, coffee and Chapstick. And some more coffee- just in case. (laughter)
Where do you set up your campsite? Any advice?
I camp in a hammock. I find it easier than a tent for quick setup in limited areas since you only need two trees. You don’t have to worry about flat ground. Most of my camping is dispersed camping which is allowed in state and national forests. The best advice I can give is make sure you leave no trace at all. This will keep things available for everyone to enjoy.
Other than biking, what else do you do in your spare time?
Beyond backpacking and bike camping, I love camper camping with the family. My family built a camper out of a cargo trailer. My daughter is a natural fish and will swim in a lake for hours so we normally go somewhere with water. Some of my family's favorite pastimes are catching frogs, toads and salamanders.
I’m admiring the canvas bike bag you made! Do you like to create things too?
Hey thank you! I do love to make stuff. I dabble in metalworking, woodworking, sewing, leather, and old mechanical junk.
Is there anyone who has inspired you or who you are thankful for?
Of course I am very grateful for my parents for always bringing an outdoor element to my upbringing. When I was a kid my mom would always yell at my brother and I “GET OUTSIDE!” when we were laying around the house. My dad was a big lover of fishing and he would take me along so I could hike around the lakes.
If a friend was visiting Michigan for the first time, where would you recommend they visit?
Besides Berkley and Detroit, I’m a big fan of the Huron-Manistee National Forest. There are a lot of great hiking trails and I have found a bunch of secluded camping spots in the Forest. One of my favorite trails in the lower peninsula is the Jordan River Valley Pathway. It is an 18 mile loop with a camp half way.
What is something you are looking forward to?
I would also like to take the train to Chicago and ride back this Fall. I’m also hoping to ride to New York City or Washington DC from Berkley in the next few years. I am very interested in riding over the Appalachian mountains.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance is a great resource for finding hiking and biking trails in Michigan.
I absolutely love seeing Peninsulas merchandise and designs all over Michigan! Your designs are amazing!! I’m glad we had the chance to chat. It was fun.
I agree, I enjoyed talking with you and I feel like I’ve learned a whole lot too! I think with your advice, I might be brave enough to take my bike on a longer trail! For more of Daniel Ryniak's travels, visit his page @grandpa_sweater on Instagram.
If you, dear reader, explore the outdoors and everything the great lakes state has to offer, be sure to share your adventures with us by tagging #mipeninsulas. And of course, if you are ever in the Cross Village or Berkley, Michigan area, stop in and see us!
All images for this article were provided by Daniel Ryniak.