Sweeping vistas of Lake Michigan and Traverse Bay, picturesque vineyards, and trails through the hillsides combine with award-winning wines and culinary treasures to make the Leelanau Peninsula heavenly terrain for a bike ride.
Thanks to Nick Wierzba, founder of Grand Traverse Bike Tours, riders can experience these wonders through his company’s guided and self-guided adventures.
“It’s the perfect spot for a tour company to take people out who are looking for something fun and who also want to experience the Traverse City area,” Wierzba says.
Operating year-round, Grand Traverse Bike Tours offers outdoor rides that indulge the senses. Its most popular program, the Leelanau Wine Trail Tour, takes riders onto a scenic trail, detours onto charming country roads, stops for tastings at up to seven local wineries (up to four on the guided version), and includes a catered lunch, van support (think wine purchase pickups), roadside assistance, and the opportunity to embrace the beautiful landscape.
“The tours are for everybody. You don’t have to be a seasoned cyclist to come join, and if you’re weary of the distance, the e-bikes are a great option to have fun and bring more people into it,” Wierzba adds. “Thanks to e-bikes, it’s been really fun to see groups of people of all ages. You’re able to get grandma out on tour, because she’s not riding on a regular bike. Now the different generations can have an experience together, enjoy the countryside, and taste some great wines.”
Wierzba’s programs don’t stop there. For those looking to bike to the lake, this season he’s repeating the popular Bike & Sail Tour. “We start at our shop here in Suttons Bay and cycle down to Traverse City, making a detour at Shady Lane Cellars for a wine-tasting. We then take a 72-foot schooner sailboat from Traverse City back up to Suttons Bay. We have dinner and drinks on board,” he explains.
There are also paddleboard and kayak tours, and when snow coats the area’s rolling hills, micro adventures are an option — such as the Vine to Wine Snowshoe Tour or the Sip & Ski Tour, which takes cross-country skiers on a 5.1-mile journey from a wine-tasting at Shady Lane all the way to Farm Club for a handcrafted brew and a bowl of its famous Bon Fuego.
The concept for the company began about 11 years ago. Wierzba, a Lansing native, was managing a bike tour company in California’s Napa Valley and looking for a way to move back to Michigan with his wife, who grew up in the Traverse City area. Looking to Leelanau, it seemed the stars had aligned for the entrepreneur as the number of Michigan wineries was growing and, unlike Napa, where his cyclists were often forced to ride on main roads, the Leelanau area had paved trails, allowing for safer journeys.
With that, Wierzba opened Suttons Bay Bikes, a bike and rental shop in downtown Suttons Bay that would become the home of Grand Traverse Bike Tours. “I wanted to bring that experience of using bikes as vehicles here,” Wierzba says.
Located on the beach and right off the Leelanau Trail, a gently rolling and delightful 17-mile converted rail-to-trail that connects Suttons Bay to Traverse City, the location couldn’t have been better.
His many customers certainly agree. Last July, for example, Maria Mallory, a Cincinnati-based travel content creator, was on a Michigan road trip with her husband when they decided to try a tour.
“It was a self-guided bike tour to three different wineries,” she says. Stopping at Shady Lane Cellars, Mawby, and Black Star Farms, “we really enjoyed exploring them at our leisure, even getting to bike over to a nearby dairy and eat their cheese dips and take some to go. The bike trail is absolutely stunning and very secluded. It takes you through lots of nature and is serene, quiet, and uncrowded. And a pro tip is to get an electric bike; you may want the extra push to go to the farther-out wineries.”
What’s a winter trip like? “It’s just so beautiful in the hills of the vineyards and the snow-covered grounds through the vines,” says Zeeland resident Karen Wieringa, who, with her co-workers, joined Grand Traverse Bike Tour’s guided snowshoe tour in February.
They started at Suttons Bay Ciders and then moved to Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, where she says they “had a wonderful lunch of delicious soup provided in a fun personal thermos.” They ended their adventure at a wine-tasting at Big Little Wines before hiking back to Suttons Bay Ciders.
“It was something that our entire group had never done before, so it was a learning experience for all of us. I think everyone had so much fun,” says Wieringa, adding that Grand Traverse Bike Tours “accommodated all of our needs and guided us along the way, which was so helpful.”
“At the end of the day, people are usually raving about their favorite winery or the new wine they discovered or how much fun they had on the bikes,” owner Wierzba says. “Quite often, people want to share that same experience that they had with their friends and family. They usually come back and bring more friends with them.”
Grand Traverse Bike Tours