The second leg of my recent trip to the Upper Penninsula of Michigan took me to the east side and the tiny hamlet of Moran, home of Bearclaw Bikes. Moran is near the gateway to the Eastern UP not too far from Mackinac Island Ferry but far enough away to fly completely under the radar totally void of cell coverage or wifi…just the way Chet likes it.
I received some directions that sounded like a riddle from Jason Lowetz, the Owner & Founder of the Bearclaw Bicycle Co. When I pulled up to the totally nondescript building, there was no sign that this was the secret lair of Chet Bearclaw. When I walked up to the door, I saw a serious lock and surveillance camera, so I knocked and Ed let me in. Jason had told me that he’d be in California during my visit. That worked out well because I would be riding his TŌWMAK. Ed did a quick check-over on the bike and removed the three modes of wildlife deterrents that Jason had on his bike. I asked Ed about the bear spray, air horn, and pepper spray and he said that the local wolves have been getting a little too comfortable with humans. While Ed put the final touches on Jason’s TŌWMAK, I prowled around and took some shots of TŌWMAK’s and a bunch of other stuff that we shouldn’t show you. The crew was there building up bikes for customers so I made my exit as soon as the bike was ready to go. Ed made sure that I had a fully charged SRAM AXS battery and he pointed out the ~1600 gram HED wheelset that I’d be riding.
Jason had asked me where I planned to ride and I knew that I wanted to ride the TŌWMAK on the limitless sandy-gravel roads that stretch from Moran to Sault Ste Marie. I asked Ed where he’d recommend and he pointed me in the right direction. Moran is situated at the southern border of the Mackinac Wilderness in the Hiawatha National Forest. I took Ed’s advice and parked the truck up on East Lake Road and headed north into the Mackinac Wilderness.
East Lake Road has all kinds of dirt Forest Service Roads that shoot off to the east and west. I kept on stubbornly heading north into the wind. I was having a difficult time learning to use the left shifter to control the AXS derailleur. The shifting worked beautifully, however my brain could not wrap itself around shifting the rear derailer with the right and left shift buttons. By the end of the first ride, I got the hang of things. This was my first ride with AXS.
I had just spent the previous day and a half riding Todd Poquette’s Made U.P. Lake Ehfect prototype. Whenever you ride someone else’s bike, you naturally compare their setup to what you ride on your own bike. The really odd thing about this trip’s double bike demo was that both bikes fit me very well. I literally didn’t need to adjust the seat height or anything else on either machine. Todd’s bike was a little taller and wider than what I ride and Jason’s setup was a bit narrower with more bar flare. You have to be adaptable to be a good test pilot.
The TŌWMAK’s front end seemed a bit steeper than the Lake Ehfect. I like a bike that puts you on the ball of that front tire and the TŌWMAK’s segmented Ti fork felt nice and supple. Thanks to the light HED carbon wheels the bike accelerated and felt incredible at speed. I didn’t have to outrun a pack of wolves but I got to get acquainted on a cold windy gravel ride. that made me want more!
The next day, I headed up to Brimley with a plan to ride along Waiska Bay and out to Bay Mills Point and Point Iroquois Lighthouse. I love to go to and explore on my bike and the shore of Lake Superior is one of my favorite spots to do just that!
I rode a couple of miles on the beach to see how AXS would handle the sand. It worked extremely well, but I didn’t want to push my luck so I kept it short. It was another sunny, cold, and windy day so I also kept out of the water. On my way back, I took a detour to Monocle Lake. The access road still had snow on some sections and I had a ball getting all sideways on the way to the partially frozen inland lake.
The TŌWMAK surprised me with how well it handled the soft sand and just ripped along Lake Shore Drive on the way back to Brimley.
I had a great time checking out Jason’s TŌWMAK. If you’re looking for a drop bar omni-terrain Ti platform for any adventure or any wheel size you should check out Bearclaw Bicycle Company up dare in da’UP!
For more information about Bearclaw visit – https://bearclawbicycleco.com/