Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

On Saturday, July 31, a few dozen riders will set off for the Mackinaw Bridge. Some will leave Traverse City for a 140-mile tour, while others depart from Charlevoix for an 80-mile spin. They’ll share the goal of raising funds and awareness for Norte, but they’ll also share in the experience of testing oneself. It’ll be hot. There’s likely to be a headwind. It’s all part of the thrill for Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends.

Riders will also share the encouragement of riding with others, including the man who kicked off Patrick’s Heavy in 2017, Patrick Cotant. He’s a kind and humble man, not wanting attention, and we’re thankful he sat down with us recently to talk about the upcoming ride.

🚴🏻‍♀️  🚴🏽‍♂️  🚴🏻‍♂️

Norte: Thank you again for hosting the annual Patrick’s Heavy. To start, please tell us a little about you and your family? 

Patrick: We moved here about ten years ago from Gaylord. My wife, Polly, and I celebrate 13 years of marriage this week, and we have an 8-year-old son named Fletcher. We moved here for work, and we wanted to live in a more family-friendly, walkable, and bikeable community.

N: When did you discover Norte?

In 2015, Polly heard Ty speak at Fulfillment, a storytelling event here in Traverse City. He talked about his passion for getting kids on bikes and the beginnings of Norte. At the time, they were just a group of bike trains connecting kids to area schools. When Norte started to balance bike meetups at F&M Park, we brought Fletcher, and his love of bikes took off. Polly soon started on the board, and we have both continued to participate and volunteer when we can.

N: What is Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends? 

I wanted to figure out a way to raise money for Norte in a way that was more than one person writing a check. I thought about it and put it out there to see if there was interest. If there was, then that could be an avenue to introduce others to Norte. I like riding bikes, and there are many groups in the area doing great things to raise money and awareness for causes like Kolo t.c. and fundraiser rides that have been around for years, such as Less Cancer. Those were my inspiration for doing a bigger bike ride for the fundraiser. I wanted something that would be challenging so that people would be like, ‘yeah, I’d donate to that cause, I think it’s a worthy endeavor,’ but also something that could bring more people in was the goal.

N: This ride will be your fourth. How has it evolved? 

The first year was solo and the hardest. I hadn’t ridden that far before. I didn’t know what to eat and drink along the way. I didn’t know how to pace myself. It was a good learning opportunity. I was motivated and excited to do it. And, I had to at that point—people had donated money.

I remember coming back into town along the TART Trail, and Ty was on one of the benches there. He started clapping. It was fun. We road the rest of the way. I got a little boost of energy the last few miles.

The last two years have been the most fun with other cyclists. Some of them I knew, but it is also a great way to meet people. I like the adventure, the challenge, and being out there being self-sufficient on a bike is liberating. It’s enjoyable.

N: What have you learned from the rides? 

You learn a lot about yourself and other things when you’re up to your max. For anyone, even if they ride a lot, it can be a lot of miles. Once you get past that 80-90 mile mark, things kind of change. I’ve learned to face adversity. Are you going to just fold up and stop? Or, are you going to summon the courage and the strength you need to do well and finish strong? To set a good example for your kids or whatever the case may be. That’s what I’ve taken from it. Focus on what you’re doing. You can do anything for a little bit. Set your sights on what’s ahead. The literal and figurative horizon.

N: You get a little philosophical talking about it. How does Patrick’s Heavy reflect on the goals of Norte‘s Youth Bike Programs? 

I saw a post today from the after-school Mountain Bike programs where one of the kids said, “Maybe our growth in our skills is a sign of success on its own.” That’s perfect. The after-school programs, with the coaches Norte has, I can’t speak for all of them, but they seem to be great people. Great motivators. They teach the kids to do the best they can and to give it their all. That in and of itself will make you feel successful and empower you to have confidence going forward. It’s a great thing for them to have as a lifelong skill.

N: How has Norte impacted your son? 

I think it has created independence. Fletcher is 8, and we have started to give him the freedom to range around and see his friends on the block. Yesterday we got home from soccer practice, and he wanted to go to the book store. He just went out to the garage; there was no, ‘are we driving or riding?’ If the weather is decent, he knows that riding is a good choice. He wants to ride his bike now. When he started, it could be a challenge. Now it’s what he loves to do.

N: What do you hope to get out of the fourth year?

There are already some people signed up. We have a more scenic route. Hopefully, now with more people vaccinated, we see more people participating. It would be great to raise $20–$25,000. Going forward, it’s somehting I look forward to continuing for years. Some people have said it is their favorite ride they’ve done. Again probably because it is a long ride and a big accomplishment for anyone; if you ride 140 miles, you should be proud of that. And, hopefully, enjoy it because that’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, we have the participation needed to continue to keep raising funds for Norte.

N: Why you? 

I just wanted to do something for an organization that meant something for Polly and me. Norte has helped many young people. Specifically, because Norte got our kid involved in his first group activity with other kids in a lifelong sport, that’s my motivation.

Registration for Patrick’s Heavy with Friends is $35, requiring $200 from pledges. The sooner you register, the sooner you start training. Group training is held every Saturday at 7:00 am, leaving Darrow Park in Traverse City.

COVID POLICY: Norte is committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We confidently deliver programs and events because our staff and families follow preventive measures and monitoring protocols for COVID-19. We also generally look out for each other and stay outside as much as possible. If you are unvaccinated, please wear a mask. We encourage everyone eligible to vaccinate as soon as possible. If you are not feeling well, please join us the next time when you feel better. Let’s work together and #stopthespread.

Bigs & Littles, the Norte Experience

Bigs Littles

Bigs & Littles, the Norte Experience

Four months ago, on a frigid January afternoon, Cecilia Chesney, ED of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan, and I took a walk at the Civic Center together. She greeted me with a gift of a Packers hat. She’s a huge Green Bay fan and the team was about to face Tampa Bay in the playoffs. We then walked and talked about kids in our community facing adversity. I was thankful for the warmth and grateful for Cecilia.

Cecilia and I talked about the power of relationships and mentorship. We hatched plans to team up to do better as the year progressed. This Saturday, we will put that talk into action by hosting the first-ever Bigs and Littles Bike Day. This event will provide a happy, adventure-based experience for bigs and their littles. It’ll give a taste of Norte‘s Adventure Bike Club and the joys of developing the skills, confidence, and friendships that arise from exploring your community on two wheels.

‘m a massive fan of Big Brothers Big Sisters and their work. Since 1970, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan has brought smiles to children’s faces by matching them with adult volunteers in rewarding mentoring relationships. Mentoring is a powerful thing, providing an opportunity for someone to ignite and empower a child’s potential.

If you’re not a Big yet, why not? Cecilia’s team makes it easy to get started.

I’m excited to roll with Bigs and Littles this weekend and, hopefully, many times ahead. Together we can help lift children facing adversity and positively change their lives for the better, forever.


PS. If the organization you support is involved with youth development and is interested in partnering with Norte on a bike experience, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Bikes for All, All for Bikes 🚲

Bikes for All, All for Bikes 🚲

Norte‘s Bikes for All program is known for serving special needs students still attending school programs. Bikes for All works with TBAISD’s New Campus, Oak Park, and others. Bikes for All MeetUps — Tuesdays adds an option for those 26 and older whose social opportunities are limited due, in part, to aging out of school programs. While this first run was a small group of five, it proved the concept, and we hope to expand it.

A special thank you to Rose Coleman of the Grand Traverse Pavilions who loaned us “The Duet,” which accommodates non-pedaling individuals. The bike not only looks fantastic, but the experience also places the rider front and center so that they can feel the wind on their face and view the passing world unobstructed.

This summer, join us every Tuesday beginning on June 8 at 10:30 am, weather permitting. The fleet of adaptive bikes is limited, but we will be ready to ensure everyone has a marvelous time. Annie and I both would love to have too many riders — the more friends and smiles, the better.

As a Norte Board member, I feel fortunate to work toward Norte‘s mission of providing biking for all community members. It’s even more special doing so with Annie and her growing list of friends. Come on out, and let’s roll together!


Sue Paul, Norte Board of Directors

P.S. Norte is looking for volunteers to help us with our expanding Bikes for All programming. If helping ensure that everyone has an opportunity to ride bikes sounds up your alley, give us a shout. We’re also looking for gently used adaptive bikes in need of a good home.

If you’d like to donate financially to help grow the Bikes For All program, please made a gift and help us reach our 2021 goal.

$2,300 of $5,000 raised
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Donation Total: $50.00


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Giving Back and Changing the World

Giving Back and Changing the World

Recently, Joelle Mabey​ was perusing Norte’s website and saw that our More Girls on Bikes fundraiser hadn’t met its goal of $5,000. Having worked to help empower women as a teacher and through her charity work in Haiti, she didn’t hesitate to close the gap with a significant donation.

“For many girls, riding a bike is their first small taste of freedom. There’s nothing like the exhilaration of wheeling a bike out of the garage on a cloudless summer day to cruise around the neighborhood, hair whipping by her ears, and streamers fluttering from the handlebars,” described Joelle.

Joelle is hyper-aware that boys and girls ride bikes at about the same rate from ages three to nine. Then around age 10, the numbers of girls riding drop off considerably. As they reach adulthood, women make up only about 25 percent of people who ride bikes.

“When girls start hanging up their helmets, they’re getting left in the dust, both literally and figuratively,” she said. “The exercise and outdoor time that bike riders experience boosts moods, fights obesity and increases overall health. A recent study showed girls who either bike or walk at least 15 minutes to school scored higher on cognitive tests.”

Helping young women develop healthy habits and excel is one reason Joelle supports Norte’s More Girls on Bikes program. But the main reason may be the added significance of developing confidence and independence. When a young woman has more autonomy with how she moves around her community, she establishes responsibility and experience, boosting self-appreciation.

“When girls ride bikes, it’s more than just a fun way to pass the time—a bicycle is one of her first teachers,” said Joelle. “Achievements like learning to ride a two-wheeler without assistance are a lesson in balance, tenacity, and grit. It’s a way for her to see the benefit of falling and getting back up again. Navigating her way a few houses down on her bike teaches street smarts, the importance of personal safety, and independence.”

We at Norte firmly believe that you’re in perfect balance anytime you’re on a bicycle. That experience does wonders for self-esteem for people of all ages, genders, and abilities. Joelle supports Norte because she sees value in our focus on safe, healthy, empowering access throughout our programs.

“I believe I have the power to help improve the lives of others and count it as a privilege that comes with its own sense of obligation,” said Joelle. Over the years, she has donated and been involved with many causes, from Habitat for Humanity, Poured OutHands To HaitiCompassion International, and other humanitarian and disaster relief efforts.

“Acting on these powerful feelings of responsibility is a great way for me to reinforce my values and helps me feel like I am living in a way that is true. Sharing the experience of donating has also shown my children that they can make positive changes in the world from a young age.”

Thank you, Joelle. Our work is made possible by people just like you—people who see a need, a value, and who act on their sense of community and follow their heart and mind as one.

And, we couldn’t agree with you more, Joelle. More Girls on Bikes creates healthy, independent, confident, strong girls. And strong girls will change the world.

Ride on.
Team Orange.

P.S. On Friday, girl power could lead the charge in the Kids vs. Adults — A Bike-Off. It’s National Bike to Work Day, so let’s see what the adults can do against the kids! And, on Sunday, our VIP Slow Roll meets up at 2 pm at the Clubhouse. If you’d like to join the VIP circle in time for the VIP Slow Roll and meet individuals like Joelle, please review our Otwell HubColectivo, or Business Champions pages to see what’s right for you.

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Bike There—Adventure and Empowerment Await

Bike There

Adventure and Empowerment Await

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a bicycle. I also don’t remember anyone teaching me how to ride. My older brothers and sisters must have taught me, but I suspect their pedagogical method was along the lines of, “Keep up or stay behind.” In reality, they probably ditched me often. But the way I remember it, I not only kept up with them, I bravely struck out on my own and left them in the dust.

That’s the power of the bicycle. It’s a machine like no other. It can transform a mere mortal into an uber-efficient, supremely balanced, go-anywhere supernova. The bicycle is empowerment. It is independence. It is freedom.

Many of the most important life lessons I’ve learned I learned while riding my bike. I was a typical Generation X latchkey child. Adult supervision wasn’t something I had to worry much about. For the most part, our neighborhood’s pack of kids was left to their own devices, roving from house to house searching for food and following our curiosities that expanded outward from the subdivision as we grew older.

Having a functional bicycle was a ticket to a larger world full of adventure. When I was about eight, I was inspired by a calling from deep within: a calling for candy that could only be sourced two miles down the road at Lake Ann Grocery.

I remember coming to the end of my subdivision where the quiet street meets the county road, stopping to contemplate my options, and then gunning it. Up the big hill, along the straightaway, and past long stretches that, back then, were only woods. It was much farther than I expected it to be. Passing cars were a welcome relief; they might be able to save me from the bears I was sure were going to come out of the woods at any moment. The fear of wild animals pushed me, and the temptation of that candy bar pulled me to remarkably high speeds, given that I was an eight-year-old on a makeshift single-speed with a banana seat.

I was relieved to roll into the bustling village of Lake Ann. I sat in the park and enjoyed my Whatchamacallit before heading home. However ill-advised by today’s safety standards, that trip was an early lesson in perseverance and determination. I struck out on my own to pursue my goals, overcame my fears and physical limitations, and achieved my chocolatey aim. At the time, it felt like absolute freedom. It was also my little secret, and there is power in secrets.

As I grew more confident and upgraded to a 12-speed Ross Signature, I struck out farther. As a teenager, I regularly biked the 15 miles to Traverse City to hang with the city kids. I learned to climb the hills, using all my strength. I learned to ride fast and learned back roads to limit my exposure to traffic. A few years later, the bicycle remained my go-to transportation choice throughout college and allowed me to save money quickly without owning a car. I had a ticket to ride.

The pushie crew at Minuteman Messenger in Melbourne, Australia, 1997

After graduation, the bicycle became my livelihood for a year abroad. I landed in Australia with $300 and a work visa good for one year. In two weeks, after stretching the truth about how well I knew Melbourne’s streets, I landed work subcontracting as a bicycle messenger—a pushie.

Still, today, delivering express packages by bike remains one of the most empowering jobs I ever had, and it introduced me to new people every day, from CEOs on the 55th floor to co-workers struggling with addictions and families to feed. We even had a retired CEO join our crew. He was slow, so we gave him the dregs. I was able to pay off a modest student loan with my earnings and head to China. Thanks, bicycle.

This is all to say: May is National Bike Month, a time to celebrate the elegance, value, and gift of the bicycle. Established in 1956 by The Bicycle Institute of America, National Bike Month showcases the benefits of human-powered movement by bike and encourages everyone to give it a try. For me, bike month is a chance to reflect on the riches I have enjoyed thanks to this handy, accessible, and equitable tool.

How are you celebrating Northern Michigan Bike Month? And, what’s your story? Do you remember your first destination by bicycle? Your first time out alone? Please share with us on social media or send me an email. I’d love to hear how the bicycle has impacted your life.

Bike There!

Advocacy and Communications Director

Top image: The Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York 📸 kriosusa

*A version of this column was original published in the Northern Express. 

P.S. Coming up for Bike Month, tonight’s Ride of Silence, this weekend’s  24 Hours at the Civic Center, and next week’s Eats by Bike Week—get your bingo sheet for the latter and the #BikeThere

2021 Bike Month Poster

Download your Mike Erway Design poster for Bike Month.

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Building Stories One Bike at a Time

Building Stories One Bike at a Time

The Red Schwinn is a super cool bike. But, truly, it’s so much more!

The end of Old Hickory Lane had a cul de sac with a tiny creek. It was more like a tiny drainage ditch, but it felt like something unique and mysterious. It was my destination. I packed a small backpack with chapstick, a stuffed animal, and a snack, likely sliced apples.

I felt invincible, adventurous, independent, brave. I was determined to reach the creek all by myself, on my red bike. It was a dream. I felt empowered. This journey wasn’t the first bike adventure of my life, and thankfully, not even close to being the last, but it was memorable. And it began with my red bike — The Red Schwinn.

I was the fourth child to experience the joys of The Red Schwinn. Now legendary within our family, this red treasure has given this same sense of freedom and adventure for 11 children and counting. The trusty Schwinn was purchased for my older sister, Julie, in 1973 by my grandmother. I imagine my Nani made this purchase with great excitement. Julie was her first grandchild, and this bike was expensive at the time. She could not have anticipated the lasting memories and impact her gift would have upon five of her grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

My older sister is now 52. Her three children all experienced the freedom of The Red Schwinn. Up until 2008, the bike still had the original solid rubber tires. McLain Cycle and Fitness swapped them out and gave the bike a once over before my own three children had their turn.

Not everyone has a Nani to buy them a bicycle or inherit one passed down from generation to generation. However, our work here at Norte can help create other stories, traditions, and memories. We’ve already started to see them develop with repeat patrons to Norte‘s Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Library. We already have young riders on their second or third bike in its short history, and they are all smiles when introducing the program to a friend or younger sibling.

As we roll into Northern Michigan Bike Month and summer of adventure ahead, there’s no better time than now to check out the bike library. Bikes can be checked out for as long as needed and returned when a child is ready for a new chapter and the next size up.

As for The Red Schwinn, it waits patiently and dutifully for the next generation in our family. The last member to ride it was my daughter Ella. Sometime shortly, but not too soon, one of my three children will pass it on, and another generation of independence and freedom will begin.

Keep it rolling!

Jill, Director of Operations

P.S. For adults looking to celebrate Bike Month, we also have previously loved bikes for sale and a few Essential bikes ready to roll at the Wheelhouse. Come see us, 10-6, M-F, and Saturday, 10-2.

2021 Bike Month Poster

Download your Mike Erway Design poster for Bike Month.

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Ready for Spring, Ready to Roll

Ready for Spring, Ready to Roll

Ben Boyce previews the Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale happening Sunday, May 2.

Right now, Norte‘s volunteer mechanics are busy fixing up used bikes for spring. They turn more donated bicycles into ready-to-ride bikes for our bike libraryEssential, and to sell every day. The money raised through our used bike sales supports Norte‘s busy season ahead.

This Sunday, May 2, we take that experience to another level with the annual Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale. Our goal, to be honest, is to clean out the Wheelhouse and make way for another year of bikes, programs, and adventures. It’s also a great way to jump-start Northern Michigan Bike Month.

The yard sale is an excellent time to repurpose an old bike — or two — and get rolling. We sell used bikes of all ages, types, and sizes, including many that are not-all-that-used. We will also have a few fixer-uppers priced to move, in addition to bike accessories that we have accumulated over the year—need a used car rack?

We also invite the public to clean out their garage and sell a used bike themselves. Individuals are invited to sell their bike or bike accessory for a small table fee of $10.

If you needed another reason to visit Norte this weekend, it might be your first chance to meet our newest staff member and proud Wheelhouse Manager, John Deely. John has big plans for the Wheelhouse, and coincidentally, his plans require more room, so the yard sale is perfectly timed.

With John at the helm, the Grand Traverse region can look forward to a new and improved Norte Wheelhouse. A more organized, useable space will help us grow our youth and adult programs, increase Norte‘s volunteer base, and grow the Community Bike Shop. All helping build a happy, healthy, strong community.

Help Norte spread the bike love and find your new favorite bike thing at the Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale.

Let’s roll!

Ben, Program Director

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24 Hours for Our Favorite Place

24 Hours for Our Favorite Place

Moving Norte from the Schmidt Family Garage to the Grand Traverse County Civic Center in 2017 wasn’t my idea. However, looking back, it’s proved to be one of Norte‘s best and wisest decisions—thank you for the nudge, Ashlea.

Right in the hub of Northern Michigan, this active and thriving park has provided nothing but good fortune to Team Orange. In return, I firmly believe our presence has brought renewed energy, interest, and activity to the Civic Center. There’s a vibrancy nowadays at both the south and north end, home to the Norte Clubhouse and the very orange Wheelhouse, respectively.

From these doors, we continue to roll out transformative programs for hundreds of young riders and families. We provide community services like the Community Bike Shop and sling bikes through the Kids’ Bike Library. We plan to keep this up for years to come; we also plan to invest in this home. As we’ve highlighted before, we will soon build a world-class pump track, and we’re working towards a new Education Center. To do so within the boundaries of this fabulous park would be a dream come true.

24 Hours at Civic Center Title Sponsor Logo

Register Today

That’s where 24 Hours at the Civic Center comes in. The event began as a mash-up of Eastern Elementary’s Jog-a-thon and the American Cancer Association, Relay For Life. Norte‘s 24 Hours at the Civic Center celebrates one of my favorite features here—the loop—while helping folks meet their movement goals and raise funds for both Norte and the Grand Traverse County Civic Center.

The idea is simple. Pledge a 30-minute time slot over 24 hours to walk, roll, skip, or generally move around the one-mile track. Enlist friends and family not only to consider joining you but to support your effort financially. The money raised will be invested back into Norte and improvements at the Civic Center.

We have big plans at NorteJoin us beginning at noon on Saturday, May 15 to noon on Sunday, May 16, to celebrate this bright future at the Civic Center. Visit 24 Hours at the Civic Center for the details and to register.

Let’s roll!

Ty Schmidt, Executive Director




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Walking and Rolling, Safely into Spring 😷

Walking and Rolling, Safely into Spring 😷

Last month, as I walked into the Hagerty Center in Traverse City, a sense of community spirit swept over me. It was not just exciting to see people; it was inspiring to experience citizenship. We’d gathered not only to protect ourselves but out of civic responsibility to protect our community from COVID-19. A vaccination needle never felt so good. I trust that we’re finally in the homestretch of this pandemic.

But we’re not quite there yet. In the race between the coronavirus’s variants and collective immunity, the variants are in the lead. Northern Michigan remains at extremely high risk. Our positivity rates remain in double figures, and hospitalization rates hover near capacity. Michigan is again leading the nation in cases with alarming weekly trends.

Thankfully, we continue to learn more about how to contain this virus every day. We know so much more than we did a year ago about which preventive measures work. Those measures are now daily habits. As Norte enters spring programming, we will continue to implement these precautions to protect Norte staff, our young riders, volunteers, and the wider community.

We ask everyone to stick to the swiss cheese approach. Recognize that each protective action you take is another layer of prevention. Even after vaccination, these precautions are necessary to stop the spread and to stop further mutations. All of us need to stay vigilant and patient as people get vaccinated, and case numbers decline.

We continue to monitor the data and place public health front and center. We’re limiting access to the inside of our buildings, requiring masks for all visitors, and encouraging everyone to become vaccinated. We require masks from start to finish for our bike programs and events and will continue to social distance, wash our hands, and monitor our health. If you have a child in our programs, please help us by going over the rules with them using our COVID-19 Precaution Sheet.

We’re going to get through this challenge, and we’re going to continue to thrive. And, it starts with all of us putting our civic pride on full display. Let’s keep rolling, friends.

Together we can #stopthespread.

Gary, Advocacy and Communications Director

P.S. Please follow the latest CDC guidelines and keep abreast of Michigan’s latest data and information at the state’s coronavirus portal. Learn more about the vaccines and where you can get your free shot at COVID-19 Vaccine



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Ready to Join el Colectivo?

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Happy Kids

Ready to Join el Colectivo?

Are you the key to a happier, healthier world?

Here at Norte, we know that children hold the key to unlocking lives of independence, confidence, and happiness. Our programs help kids develop the habits of moving more, sitting less, and being leaders in their neighborhoods.

Norte kids are physically active as a part of everyday life: walking to school, biking to the park, rolling to the library or the beach. Their adventures inspire parents, teachers, principals, and neighbors, and it all results in the glorious cycle of happy, healthy, and strong communities.

Community members and parents hold the key to ensuring that Norte‘s work continues to build a happier and healthier world. This month, we invite our supporters to become sustaining monthly donors by joining el Colectivo. Please help us reach our goal of 100 monthly donors by the end of April. Join a circle of givers committed to keeping Norteresources and programs accessible to all.

Donate Monthly/El Colectivo Button

If you’re able, a small donation of $3/month will help us keep our resources and programs accessible to all. Become a monthly Norte donor and join el Colectivo, a group of incredible people committed to happier, healthier, and stronger communities.


Ty, Norte Executive Director

P.S. If you have any questions about how your monthly donation helps, don’t hesitate to reach out. You can email our newest team member, Wes, at wes@elgruponorte.org or stop in the next time you’re near the Civic Center and say hi—join the effort!


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The March Forward Continues

Norte’s 2020 Annual Report

Despite the urge, we’re not quite ready to bury the tumultuous year of 2020, so today, we roll-out Norte‘s 2020 Annual Report. With stories, images, and graphics, we offer a glimpse into the story of last year. We recognize the difficulties while celebrating the successes.

To tell the year’s story, we invited board members, coaches, and core staff to contribute their perspectives on the year. In these pages, we thank hundreds of donors and fantastic volunteers, in addition to Norte‘s seasonal bike coaches and the growing team of Business Champions. All of whom we depend on to keep rolling towards our vision of happy, healthy, strong.

The stories we’ve collected in this 24-page report aren’t the only stories we experienced. There are far too many to retell in one account. For example, sidewalks and shared streets were a big part of 2020—including a heartfelt story about sidewalk chalk art. We also joined with critical partners for a future Three Mile Trail and a more accessible East Bay Township.

Check out the Report Button

There are some untold but revealing stories we left out of the report as well. For example, one particular page quickly rose to one of our most visited and useful, as Very Orange Norte Mask took off. Thank you, Ms. Arnold, of Customs By Susan, for keeping us safe. Similarly, when we started selling used bikes, visits to the online used bikes + accessories page skyrocketed. The web page ended up the most viewed page of the entire year (the store is still open, by the way).

Notably, the annual report is a way to look forward. It gives us a chance to take stock of what we achieved, build on what we learned, and further dedicate ourselves to keep it rolling. We trust you’ll enjoy reflecting with us.


Gary, Advocacy & Communications Director

P.S. Thank you to Chelsea Bay Dennis for contributing her design talents, for everyone who contributed stories and content, and for everyone who helped pull the 2020 Annual Report together.



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Life is always better on a bike. Just ask Amy.

Volunteer bike coach, Amy Strom, with her golden retriever Milo.


The temperatures might be in the teens outside, but here at the Clubhouse and Wheelhouse, we’re gearing up for spring and summer. One activity underway is tuning up bikes to put more people than ever on two wheels this year. If you are interested in helping, step right up.

We’re also preparing for more kids than ever in our spring and summer bike programs. After School Adventure Bike ClubSpring Mountain Bike, and Summer Bike Camp registrations are underway. Last year, we learned that safely calling young riders together for a few hours of outdoor adventure is a welcome relief for life’s challenges and stresses. Not only for the kids but for the adults who signup to coach them.

Recently, I reached out to one of our newest volunteer coaches from last year, Amy Strom, to ask her for some words of wisdom for anyone out there considering coaching. Her response makes me think of spring and puts a smile on my face.


I can attest that there is a place for any volunteer at Norte, regardless of their biking skills. Last fall was the first time I volunteered. I knew teaching mountain biking to older kids was not in my wheelhouse (pardon the pun), but I was thrilled to see that they needed assistant coaches for younger riders. I gave it a try and loved it!

I’m a novice on a mountain bike but an expert at advocating and promoting fun, safe activities for kids. Assitant coaching was a great experience. There is a need for more coaches, especially those who enjoy being the bike train’s caboose and purveyor of positive energy and encouragement.

Getting kids outside, interacting with each other, playing, exploring nature, overcoming fears, and developing new skills, both on and off the bike, is a gift to children and their families. It’s a privilege to promote and witness this as a volunteer. There are so many trails, parks, and beaches to explore, and it’s always better on a bike with a gaggle of giggling kids.

– Amy Strom

Amy is an active-for-life model citizen. You’re likely to find her out trekking with Milo (shown above) or out biking with her family and friends. Amy and her positive spirit are what we’re looking for in coaches and coaching assistants.

As we ramp up for our most ambitious year yet, we need over 120 coaches and coaching assistants. We have 12 trailheads spread across six counties, from Benzie to Charlevoix, and young riders in the hundreds are just biting at the bit for some adventure.

Are you interested? Check out our openings and apply today. If you have some basic bike skills and an interest in seeing more kids move, we have a place for you. I promise, seeing our young riders gain confidence and strength while having fun is pure joy. As Amy alluded to, the giggling is contagious.

Let’s ride!

Ty, Norte Excutive Director

P.S. We’re excited to hear from you. We need both paid coaches and volunteer assistant coaches, like Amy. Each position has unique qualifications and time commitments. If you have any questions, let us know. 


Safe and Responsible

Ready to suit up and be counted?

Matt Jones Winter Bike

Real winter is finally here, let’s get out there and enjoy it.


I love to ride a bike. I don’t love driving a car. Naturally, those preferences led me to become a bike commuter, and increasingly so over the years. I’m now more into the habit of grabbing my helmet instead of the car keys. At times, that meant slogging it out through the wettest Seattle hill climbs, the sauna-like afternoons in Thailand, or, now, the snowy trails and streets of Traverse City.

I don’t recall ever wishing I was in a car. The reasons are myriad. For one, I like letting my mind wander while I pedal. I like breathing steady under my own effort. I like seeing things and chatting with people. I also like changing the oil and buying gas less frequently. More than anything, I still really enjoy riding my bike.

Working at home this winter has cut down on my commuting time, but I still make an effort to get out and ride. I know many of you share my affinity for winter bike riding, and I invite those who haven’t quite embraced it to give it a try. Maybe it will become a habit.

Winter Bike Commuting isn’t complicated, but it has a few challenges you won’t find during the rest of the year. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Drive and ride. I recognize the value of a motorized lift, and in the winter, I usually load my bike onto a car to drive to the TART Trail. This move is for safety as my commute includes Three Mile Road. Someday we’ll see a safer connection from East Bay into Traverse City, but for now, I’ll choose to be multimodal rather than white-knuckling it down Three Mile.
  • Dress in layers. It’s freezing out there, but with the right clothing, you’ll be toasty inside. I’ve found wearing a base layer made from wool, coupled with a windbreaker, my $5 Norte Buff, and a thin hat under my helmet takes care of my core. Roomy, thick mittens give me enough dexterity to shift and brake, but I will add pogies (handlebar pockets) when it gets frigid since my hands are historically cold. For the winter, I swap out the clip–in shoes for flat platform pedals and hiking boots with heavy socks for my feet—partially for warmth but also for quickly putting my foot down.
  • Watch the ice. It is not to be taken lightly. Riding bikes with wider tires and slightly dropping the tire pressure will help improve traction. If you can afford them, studded tires are excellent for providing traction in the snow and ice. Hugging studded mountain bike tires is exactly like hugging a cactus, but that’s what I’d like to do every time they save my bum because they mean that much to me. They cost a little extra and are worth every penny.
  • Plan ahead. The winter bike commute is slower. You can’t expect to make up time by pushing harder. If it isn’t the conditions slowing you down, it’s the 15 extra pounds of clothing and studded tires. You can also blame the extra effort on the air density, which I fully intend to do next time someone asks. Our friends at Ice Bike ran the numbers on this very topic: This Is Why You Are Cycling Slower in the Winter.

If you’re a winter bike commuter, consider committing to ride this Friday for World Winter Bike to Work Day. If you’re not a regular winter bike rider, consider giving it a try. Commit to ride by entering your location at WinterBiketoWork.org and put northern Michigan on the map. The more people who embrace winter biking (and walking), the more normal it will become.

Whatever your reason for riding through the winter is, thanks for sticking with it. I’ll see you out there.


Ben, Program Director

Safe and Responsible

Doing Better, All Winter Long, Everywhere

Jean navigating snow in crosswalk downtown Traverse City

We applaud the City of Traverse City for continuing to improve on a decade of improvement. Ten years ago, the City didn’t give wintertime sidewalk and trail clearing priority. Over the years, they gradually invested in additional equipment and labor to clear more sidewalks and maintain access to numerous multi-use trails. As they continue to look for ways to improve, we welcome recent discussions to strengthen the snow clearing efforts and policy.

Norte is committed to helping. We are in our third year of The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment. The program connects neighbors to neighbors in the spirit of community interdependence. It’s aimed at residential neighborhoods helping individuals who want to keep their walkways open but need help. The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment works because people stand up, say they want to help, and pledge to do so. In addition to helping neighbors, Neighbors clear crosswalks and bus stops.

This year we’re adding another layer and looking to connect people who support winter accessibility with Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority. The DDA, TART, and Norte collectively seek volunteers to become Snow Angel AmbassadorsThis will be an elite force to attack trouble spots downtown to improve accessibility and reduce ice and snow build up.

The DDA invests thousands in removing snow from downtown. Local businesses invest in clearing the sidewalk in front of their storefronts. The Snow Angel effort asks for help to clear pesky, hard-to-reach sidewalks and crosswalks where snow berms make crossing a nightmare. There hasn’t been much snow this year, but Punxsutawney Phil did see his shadow yesterday, and snow is in the forecast. To join, text WINGSTC to (231) 622-6171.

Still, it’s not enough. City Commissioners deserve our support as they consider clarifying the snow clearing policy. After a substantial snowfall, adding a specific timeframe provides clarity and expectation when a property owner must clear the sidewalk. If they model it after a city like Madison, Wisconsin, property owners could sign up for notifications when snow needs removing. Adding clear expectations is a good step forward, and a notification program would be a helpful addition.


Email City Commissioners support for the effort


There are over 80 miles of sidewalk in the City. Keeping clear passage during heavy winters is impossible without all of us chipping in where we can. There are champions among us, for sure. Those individuals who wake up at 5 am to snow blow entire blocks, chip ice off bridges, and shovel entire routes around schools. We can thank them by doing our part a little more.

For a destination like downtown, where every trip ends in a walk regardless of whether you drove, rode the bus, or walked, clear sidewalks and crosswalks are necessary. In our neighborhoods, clear sidewalks mean people can safely and comfortably access friends and local businesses. Clear sidewalks mean freedom to move and inclusion for everyone—throughout the year.

A walkable city is a happy city. Here’s how you can help



Safe and Responsible

Measuring Inspiration Three Hours at a Time

Bike Camp Photo

Each spring and fall, we’re fortunate to spend three hours a week with some amazing kids. The young riders who participate in Youth Mountain Bike Team or Bike Más inspire us all as they inspire each other—with friends old and new. These three hours are full of laughter, riding, running, exploring the wilderness, and getting up close and personal with local landmarks.

We’re also highly interested in what happens during the remaining 165 hours of their week: classes, homework, laughter, music, family time, and other active pursuits. How these hours are spent is different for every student, even within the same family.

Why are we interested in these other hours—the time not spent in Norte‘s saddle?

Our programming’s ultimate goal is to create active-for-life students who are confident and independent participants in and for their community.

We aim to foster “healthy, happy, and strong” as a life-long pursuit. And being “ready-to-learn” directly prepares our students for what’s next in their education: whether today, tomorrow, or next year. The lessons learned at Norte extend far beyond the hours shared riding bikes together. The habits learned in these three hours of riding are investments in the other 165 hours of the week.

Jessie Quote

Independent kids won’t only be free and strong on the trails; they’ll be fearless leaders in their schools and communities. What they discover during after-school rides leads to questions about the region’s history and turns into family excursions, led by the young tour guides excited to show off what they learned at Norte.

Whether we spend three hours per week or per year together, we want to see how the skills your student has taken away from Norte programs have impacted their life. That’s why we send the occasional email asking you to check in with us in the form of a survey. We appreciate immensely all of your insights and feedback. It always provides motivation and inspiration.

We invite you to look through our past surveys and responses on the reports page. Here, we have post-program statistics for the 2020 Summer Bike Camp, the Fall 2020 Youth Mountain Bike Season, and the camp’s academic in-school impacts months later.

What goes on in the other 165 hours? From the look of the responses, it looks pretty fantastic.

Here’s to happy, healthy, strong, ready-to-learn, active-for-life, incredible Norte kids.

Communications Coordinator, Norte


View Norte’s Program Reports


Happy healthy Strong

Let’s See What We Can Do, 2021

Frozen Rabbit runners, one with bunny ears, in front of the Norte Wheelhouse.

Before we get too far into the New Year, let’s reflect on the accomplishments of 2020. Specifically, on Norte’s advocacy efforts, which never stopped. Indeed, they broadened and deepened to include public health messaging, access to essential transportation, and opposition to racism.

In the effort for more equitable communities where people of all ages feel safe, comfortable, and welcome to walk and roll where they wish, we saw progress.

We see action and need towards improved accessibility for all everywhere, from street design to construction zones, to schools and parks and businesses. If you’re interested in helping your community move towards these goals, let me know. I’m here to help.

If you want to learn more about Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy and find your role in the effort, consider enrolling for the 2021 Advocate Academy (we start on February 4). You’ll walk away understanding better how decisions happen, how to have a positive impact, and have connected with natural allies.

As our Executive Director wrote last week, we need action and imagination. The time is now.

So, welcome, 2021. We’re ready for you. Let’s see what we can do.

Advocacy Director, gary@elgruponorte.org

P.S. Learn more about the 2021 Advocate Academy, hosted by Norte and the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Registration for the February start date is now open



Happy. Healthy. Strong.

Action and Imagination to do Better

2020 Holiday Lights in Traverse City Michigan

Norte is committed to continued hard work, persistence, and engagement to find solutions.

As I reflect on 2020 and look towards the new year, I’m reminded that our gorgeous corner of the world—Northern Michigan—isn’t immune to ongoing global challenges. 2020 made that abundantly clear.

Before the pandemic, the crises of climate change, inequality, racism, health were ever-present. These will only persist without action and imagination.

Action and imagination to do better. With haste. Not tomorrow. Today. We can no longer wait for the right time or proceed with business as usual.

Norte is committed to this hard work, persistence, and engagement. We act for better health, connections, and solutions and imagine a time when we have access and opportunity for everyone.

In 2021, Norte will press on with this sense of urgency. Right now. Everyday.

Notwithstanding an impactful year of new riders, happy and active families, and loads of smiles, we’re not satisfied. And we’re enthusiastic about doing more today.

This is our undertaking—our fight.

Will you join us? Make a donation today, and let’s press on for a bright, healthy future together.

From our family here at Norte to yours, Happy New Year.

In health and hope,

P.S. The easiest way to join Norte with a donation is to text “ORANGE” to 44321 or donate online. We appreciate your support.  

Photo: Kaischa Smith


Happy. Healthy. Strong.

How Can We Help?

Back of snow shovel with Norte and Northern Lumber logo stickers.

Snow Falls, We Shovel. A short PSA from Norte.


There’s one definite take away from this strange year. And it’s that helping each other is supreme. It is also one of our core values here at Norte. As Lauren wrote here last week, we’re always asking, “how can we help?” The pandemic only reinforced that commitment. We stopped, brainstormed, rerouted, and picked up with slightly different tactics and goals.

One early question was, how do we still provide children the much needed time outside with their friends and keep it safe? Well, we mask up, wash our hands—a lot—and keep them moving at safe distances.

Another question, how do we still give back to our community for the annual Cranksgiving? The answer, we change the start to a remote location for each team, send a manifest via text message, and instruct teams to deliver the goods in a decentralized manner to the Wheelhouse. This massively successful day contributed over 3500 lbs of food to area pantries.

There’ve been countless other questions. Numerous small ones; a few large ones. How do we still help people in need of transportation? Provide support for schools? Offer an advocacy class for teens? How do we see the magic lights of the holiday together without a gathering of bikes, lights, and smiles? Each time, we found a way.

Now we ask, how do we help keep our communities accessible when the snow starts to pile up? We know the streets will be plowed, but what about the sidewalks and bus stops?

The answer. We shovel. Together. 

I love shoveling. It wakes me up. It’s an easy way to get outside when the couch is it’s most appealing. It’s a chance to breathe in the crisp air, give myself a boost, and, with a little extra effort, help my neighbors.

By taking care of the sidewalks and the paths in front of our homes, we make winter brighter for others. This includes the neighbor walking to the store, children dashing to the sledding hill, health care workers walking to another shift, and delivery champions dropping off that last-minute gift.

We’re in this together, folks. In the next few weeks and months, join me by lifting your shovels to the sky, letting out a cry of joy, and clearing the way for a magical new year for all—one shovel load after another.

Happy Holidays. We love you.

Program Coordinator, Norte

P.S. The Great Northern Michigan Shovel Experiment is live. If you need some help or if you can help, let us know. Norte will make the connection.



Happy. Healthy. Strong.


Together We Stand, Northern Michigan

Norte Northern Michigan Region

Lauren Dake reflects on standing together as a community in Northern Michigan. 


This past weekend I enjoyed the first ski of the season on the Vasa trail. As I glided into the trailhead, a smiling face greeted me, “do you work at Norte?” The skier next to me asked, nodding to my very orange Norte winter hat.

“Yes, I do,” I replied.

“You all do such great work for our community. We love what you do,” my new friend and favorite person exclaimed.

Thank you, Laura. I speak for all of Team Orange when I say we love what we do, too. It puts a smile on our faces when people light up at the sight of Norte gear. It is a validation of our work and recognition that what we do is from caring about others and dedication to making our community better—happy, healthy, strong communities.

In a short six-years, Norte has grown-out from a handful of young riders tooling around Traverse City to now working with communities across the Grand Traverse region. We’re now encouraging active-for-life kids and families in Northport, Kalkaska, Suttons Bay, Elk Rapids, and the list keeps growing. We firmly believe that everyone deserves a happy, healthy, strong community, and we are here to help make that happen.

One of our strengths at Norte is that as Team Orange expands its reach, we understand that no two towns are the same. Each community has unique needs and community dynamics. When we develop our programs in different corners of Northern Michigan, we engage and listen to the community’s needs and scale. We do our best to adapt.

It is an honor to be Norte’s Outreach Coordinator during this time of growth. One of my jobs is to foster connections across Northern Michigan. I’m here to listen and ask how Norte can help. We’re confident that Norte programs and voice bring neighbors together for a happier, healthier, stronger region—from bike libraries and summer camps to slow rolls to Cranksgiving.

The Grand Traverse region is our home, and together we stand. And, yes, Laura, we love what we do, and we love you too.

Outreach Coordinator, Norte

P.S. If you’d like to help secure Norte’s work across Northern Michigan, the easiest way to donate is to text “ORANGE” to 44321 or visit elgruponorte.org. We appreciate your support. 



Happy. Healthy. Strong.



What’s next? Here’s the plan.

Family on Bikes at the Civic Center

Norte responded to 2020 and ​the ​new challenges​ of the pandemic​ in innovative ways and deeper resolve to happy, healthy, strong. As a result, we reached more families than ever across the Grand Traverse region.

Here are only a few reasons to celebrate 2020 and look forward to an incredible 2021:

Happy, Healthy, and Strong for Everyone

Norte’s illustrious board recently adopted a two-year strategic plan to assert our priorities and guide our path forward. Everything that Norte does daily works towards one of the following focus areas, each with primary goals and actions for the team:

  1. Active for Life Kids
  2. Happy, Healthy, Strong Communities
  3. Grassroots Advocacy
  4. A Leveled-Up Team Orange

We affirm that living happy, healthy, and strong is for everyone. One specific area we’re emphasizing in this year’s strategic plan is accessibility and equity. Norte thrives when our programs and the community campaigns we support are rich in diversity and further equity.

If you share our goal of a happier, healthier, and stronger Northern Michigan, please consider a gift to Norte today. Please read through the Norte Strategic Plan and reach out to me if you have any questions.

We are moving forward as a community. We increasingly understand that an active, connected community is a resilient community. Norte, with your support, is at the forefront of this progress.

With resilience and gratitude,


Ty Schmidt, Executive Director

P.S. The easiest way to donate to Norte is to text “ORANGE” to 44321 or visit Elgruponorte



Happy. Healthy. Strong.