Milwaukee to Madison Ride Report, Part I

On Friday, I rode the Salsa from Milwaukee to Madison and did it almost completely on bike paths:

  • First, you take the Oak Leaf Trail, which is about four blocks from my house, and ride the path downtown. Turn west at the Purple Door Ice Creamery.
  • Hop on the Hank Aaron Trail and ride by Miller Park, the Pettit National Ice Center, The Milwaukee Mile, etc.
  • That takes you to West Allis, where you jog through some streets and connect to the Ozaukee Interurban Trail.
  • That takes you to Wauwatosa, where you connect to the Glacial Drumlin State Trail, which pretty much drops you off outside Madison.

4 different Wisconsin trail systems and about 100 miles of engaging cycling.

Engaging is a mild way of putting it. Wisconsin weather in spring is just a bit nuts. I experienced tailwind, headwind, and side-wind at different points throughout the day. The weather was sunny, cloudy, rainy—and there was some pelting hail. I only saw one other cyclist before arriving in Madison, and then I saw hundreds.

This is what I love about cycling in Wisconsin: you never know what you’re going to get, and if you stay out in it long enough, you’ll get a bit of everything.

Much happened on this 9 hour ride, and I cannot cover it all in one post, so this will focus on one aspect of the ride: the overall wonder of bike paths.

Done properly, you can ride bike paths from Milwaukee all the way to North Dakota. Done properly, you can even ride bike paths from Milwaukee to New Orleans. I love riding my bike, but I don’t like dealing with variables such as vehicles that run on internal combustion engines. What do I have against them? Well, they’re big. According to the New York Times, the average car weighs over 4, 000 pounds. And big objects moving quickly put cyclists at risk.

I own 2 cars, so it’s not like I’m so fervent about disliking them that I don’t benefit from the practical convenience they provide. But I am in the habit of giving cyclists a wide birth when I pass them. And when I’m cycling, I can tell if the drivers passing me ride bicycles or not, because the ones that do are giving me a lot of room to pedal down the road.

Which takes us back to the beauty of the bike path. You don’t have to deal with automobiles, which enables you to focus on other things—like how beautiful it is in rural Wisconsin. And bike paths are growing exponentially. The Adventure Cycling Association states that, to date, “…over 11,000 miles of U.S. Bicycle Routes have been officially designated in 23 states.” That’s a lot of bike path. And lucky for me, a hundred miles of those paths are between Milwaukee and Madison.

Here’s a map of the paths. Think about all the places you can ride to, on your bike, on infrastructure designed just for it.

map of bike paths


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