Meet The Man ‘Tracing’ Michigan on a 2,400-Mile Bike Journey

By Isaac Constans

July 18, 2023

There’s no history of someone following the state’s borders continuously on bike. Now it’s being done, and all for a good cause.

You may have already seen him on your local morning news—clad in padded spandex, a helmet, sunglasses, and clipless cycling shoes. And if you haven’t yet, there’s a good chance he’ll be pit-stopping in your town as he endeavors to cycle Michigan’s entire perimeter in less than a month.

The story writes itself. Avid bicyclist Tim Ward is the president of Michigan Legislative Consultants. He became so emotionally invested in the cause of one of his clients that he decided to spin his weary legs and spend a twelfth of his year raising awareness and funds. 

Now under the banner of TraceMIRide, Ward uses his bicycle to peddle the greater good of Chance for Life, a 501c(3) that helps formerly incarcerated people regain their footing in society. 

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“The ride is to get people’s attention,” Ward said in an interview last week. “The goal is to get them to know about Chance for Life and what it’s doing to improve people who are coming back into our communities.”

At stops throughout the state, Ward is speaking with state and local officials to educate them on the Chance for Life mission and about rehabilitating returning citizens—or recently incarcerated people who are now back in society.

“That’s not a light ride. He is taxing himself,” said Tom Adams, Chance for Life president, in a promotional video for the ride. “He’s feeling our people as he’s making that ride, that impact. He’s been visible with this. What more can you say?”

But while Ward may not have set out on two wheels in a quest for personal fame, his 22-day, 2,400-mile ride packs a distinction of its own—there’s no record of any person having traced Michigan by riding their bike.

Ward swears the goal of TraceMiRide wasn’t to invite comparisons between himself and riders of the 110th Tour De France, who are on their own 21-stage, 2,100-mile odyssey. Fewer mountains and MPHs, sure, but Ward is on pace to outride the professionals in mileage.

How did Ward gear up for such a herculean feat?

“It’s not just about the miles and the endurance, but the ability of the muscles to undergo different kinds of stresses,” Ward said.

Seven years ago, Ward took up cycling. He became so immersed in the activity that he hired a coach, Chris Fisher—a former professional cyclist who lives in the Leelanau Peninsula area. 

Their training regimen has been intense and methodical—seven days a week in season, five days a week in the winter, with two other strength training activities. In the months leading up to TraceMiRide, Fisher geared the training toward longer distances.

Physical exhaustion is only half of the battle.

Ward had to map out the route and plan where to stay during the three-week journey. He did so with the help of his trusty Ride With GPS app. Then, he reached out to friends he’s made in work and life throughout the state to fine-tune his map and get a few riding buddies for a day or two.

Matt Makowski, a returned citizen who worked with Chance for Life, is one such riding buddy on the journey.

They also had to arrange sleeping arrangements and stops. Since this is a fundraiser, they’re rolling with an RV and staying in state parks and campsites to tamp down costs.

Malcolm Campbell has the official title of gear crew chief, but those three words hardly encompass Campbell’s role in this operation. A long-time friend of Ward’s, he’s the trusted right-hand man—trouble-shooter, campsite-setter-upper, pit crew, traffic safety engineer, and more. If you navigate to TraceMiRide social media channels, you’ll see high-resolution, smoothly edited videos in the feed. That’s Campbell too.

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On just day three, one of Ward’s wheels got caught in railroad tracks, contorting the feather-light carbon structure. Within seven minutes, Campbell came with a replacement ready to go, and, in true Tour de France style, they swapped the wheel and got Ward back riding. 

“We couldn’t do this without him,” Ward said.

Ward is now in the Upper Peninsula, where he’ll spend 11 days touring along the Great Lakes shoreline and then up (and down) the Porcupine Mountain ridges on the state’s border with Wisconsin. There’ll be more scenery and fewer social stops here—despite containing most of the state’s Great Lakes shoreline, the Upper Peninsula is home to just 3% of Michiganders.

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Ward said this is what he’s most excited about—the chance to venture where he never has before in Michigan. That and, of course, spreading the word and flying the flag of Chance For Life to the state’s furthest corners and highest points. 

You can follow Ward’s journey on Facebook and Instagram. Find out more about Chance for Life and donate here.

And if you’ve ever run or ridden a race, you’ll know that a cheer from the crowd can be as good as any energy drink. Ward says he’s already had passersby recognize him and call out—it reminds him that the campaign is working.

So if you see Ward on the road, please honk, wave, and give at least three feet of space when you pass.

“It gives you a nice boost to know that people are supportive and are recognizing the program because that’s what this is all about,” Ward said.

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