Biking Is Fun AND Business On Mackinac Island


If you follow me on Instagram or my non-biking twitter feed you might have noticed a few sailing-related tweets or photos of spots up in northern Michigan recently. In mid-July, Mr. Ding was part of  one the annual sailboat races  up to Mackinac Island – which he has done before. He’s an old hand when it comes to Mackinac Island.

 If you’ve spent any time in the Midwest, you’re probably familiar with the island as a popular tourist destination – it’s a small island tourist town, beautiful, quaint, historic, and has banned motorized vehicles from the island (except for emergency and construction vehicles) since the 1890s. I believe they do allow snowmobiles in the winter these days as well.

There are 4 or 5 bike rental shops on the 3.8 square mile island, that will rent you a bike so you can ride around town or along the 8 miles of roads that circle the island. It’s a lovely car-free ride and if  Mr D. has time for some biking before he heads back to Chicago from a race, he has been known to rent a bike for a day and tour around the car-free island roads.

This is from an island ride after the 2010 Chicago to Mackinac race.

This is from an island ride after the 2010 Chicago to Mackinac race.

Biking around to see the island, smelling the lilacs, taking in the limestone formations, and eating some fudge, are some of the great and easy bikey things you can do on Mackinac.  But have you ever stopped to think about all the day-to-day work on the island, all the deliveries,  all the effort to make it a historic, picturesque place, that also has to be done by bike or horse?   Freight ferries arrive on the island early in the morning before the first tourist ferries arrive,  and horse-drawn carts and bicycle-drawn carts get busy delivering goods so that the hotels, restaurants, and shops are fully ready for the tourists.  UPS trucks are ferried over to the island, unloaded at the docks and their cargo sorted onto horse-drawn carts (with the driver riding along) or on bike carts.

A UPS truck on the ferry to Mackinac Island (photo via

A UPS truck on the ferry to Mackinac Island (photo via


(Flickr link

We didn’t take this photo…. it comes via Flickr but is exactly as Mr. D has described seeing many times when he has been up there. (Flickr link

Freezers full of ice cream come over on the ferries, get hoisted onto horse-drawn carts, and taken to their respective ice cream shops.   And bikes are handy vehicles for all sorts of everyday tasks.


The flowers on the island always look perfect – and here’s the bikey reason why.

Like the bike-based window-washing company or cargo-bike delivery business here in Chicago , there are lots of work that takes place on Mackinac island by bike.   If you ever make a stop on the island, take some notice not just of the flowers and beautiful scenery, but notice how everyday commerce takes place too.


Tandem bikes ready for rent on Mackinac Island.

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