From the Driftless to Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin has many organized bike rides in summer
Wisconsinites have always known how to take advantage of summer weather.
After all, this is the home of the nation’s first rail trail, the Elroy-Sparta trail;the headquarters of Trek, one of the biggest names in bicycles; and the Tour of America's Dairyland, one of the biggest competitive road bike series in the country.
Pretty good for a state that’s frozen a large percentage of the year. Here are a few other favorite road bike events that are accessible to everyone, well-organized and fun, and maybe enough to push you past what you usually do.
Ride for the Arts
The marriage of bicycles and arts continues. This is a great early season chance to stretch out your mileage, no matter what your starting point is. It’s cheap, well-organized and relatively flat. Plus, when else do you get to ride over the city's Hoan Bridge?
This supports a great cause — various arts organizations around Milwaukee. You can collect extra pledges, but it’s not required. Over the years, the UPAF ride has raised more than $10 million for Milwaukee’s performing arts community.
The longest route runs from downtown, over the Hoan and back, then up past Port Washington. The Hoan isn’t that big of a hill, and the view from the top is special.
After the Hoan you wind your way up the lake, past old and new mansions, with glimpses of water between. The rest stops have fruit, energy bars and energetic workers. At the finish, there’s a party on the Summerfest grounds with live music, hot dogs and beer.
Details: June 2 at Milwaukee Summerfest grounds. Distances of 5, 12, 25, 45 or 70 miles. Registration is $50 for 5- and 12-mile routes; $60 for 25, 45 and 70 miles; and free for kids 12 and under with an adult. upaf.org
Food is a highlight of this race, with restaurants catering everything from barbecue to pizza. You raise money for Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, another great cause. In addition to the entry fee, you have to raise from $50 to $200 in pledges, depending on which distance you ride. The race has raised more than $15 million to fight childhood cancer over the years.
The course has rolling hills but nothing too severe. It’s sometimes wooded, sometimes farm fields, and the event features celebrity riders. Last year, I saw Brett Favre out there.
There’s a party with food at the finish and a breakfast beforehand. Did I mention there’s food?
Details: June 1, Trek headquarters in Waterloo. Distances of 17, 34, 66 or 100 miles. Registration is $50 for adults and $25 for youth age 21 and under. trek100.org
Horribly Hilly Hundreds
You don’t really appreciate Wisconsin’s Driftless Region until you ride up its hills, two and three miles long, with the long trip up Blue Mounds State Park at the finish. Organizers recommend you have at least 27 teeth on your back cassette, and believe them. The shortest route has 5,700 feet of elevation gain; the longest one is over 10,000 feet. Those are Tour de France numbers. At the Blue Mounds finish, I kept looking for a flat spot to catch my breath, but it never came. Many people have to walk their bikes on that part. But if you’re looking for a challenge, this is it.
You might have to plan for 2020; there’s a lottery for admission that starts in February and ends in March. But as the event gets closer, many riders decide they’re not ready or can’t make it, and you can often find people willing to give up their spots.
There’s a party at the end with food, beer and a picture spot for bragging rights.
Details: June 15, Blue Mounds. Distances of 100, 150 or 200 kilometers. Registration is $95; the 2019 lottery is closed. horriblyhilly.com
Race the Lake
Here’s a chance for recreational riders to try a race. Various heats offer a range of paces, not all of them fast.
The first 40 miles is a flat, fast, scenic trip along the west side of Lake Winnebago; often the fog will be lifting off the lake just as riders go by. Then there’s a good-sized hill at High Cliff State Park, and the rest is rolling hills.
At the finish, there’s a meal and an awards ceremony. And beer.
Details: Aug. 25, Fond du Lac. 88 miles for individuals or relay legs of 8 to 21 miles. Registration is $30-$60. dutrirun.com
Yes, you have to run, too. Dousman may be the most successful of the local duathlons, with more than 200 finishers last year, and it’s generally not hard-core. The run parts are flat, and the 2-mile tape measure is generous. The bike has some rolling hills, but nothing severe.
There’s sort of a small-town party atmosphere in downtown Dousman, too.
Details: Sept. 21, Dousman. Consists of a 2-mile run and a 20-mile bike. dutrirun.com
Here are some other quality events recommended by longtime riders:
- Riveredge Ride: June 23, Riveredge Nature Center, Newburg; 8, 17, 27, 42, 56, 76, 100 miles. riveredgenaturecenter.org/bikeride
- LeowStrong Bike Ride: June 30, Marinette; 9, 25 and 50 miles. bamc.org/foundation/leowstrong
- Scenic Shore 150: July 20-21, two-day, 150-mile trip from Mequon to Door County. Also a 25-mile option July 20. events.lls.org/pages/wi/2019ScenicShore150
- Best Dam Bike Tour (MS 150): Aug. 3-4, Pewaukee; 50, 75 or 100 miles each day. nationalmssociety.org/bike
- Grand View Firehouse 50: Aug. 3, Grand View; 50- or 33-mile race. firehouse50.org/ride-the-divide
- Ride Across Wisconsin: Aug. 17-18, La Crosse to Green Bay; 225 miles, one day or two. (Buses from Green Bay on Aug. 16). rideacrosswisconsin.com
- Ride To The Barns: Aug. 17, Camp/Quad, Hartford; 30-plus or 60-plus miles. tallpinesconservancy.org/ride-to-the-barns-2019
- Chris Kegel's Slow Roll: Aug. 25. State Fair Park, Milwaukee; 10 miles. Free and easy pace. chriskegel.com/chris-slow-roll
- Door County Century: Sept. 8, Door County Fairgrounds, Sturgeon Bay; 30, 50, 70 or 100 miles. doorcountycentury.com
- Cranberry Century Bike Tour: Sept. 15, Marshfield; 100, 64, 40 or 20 miles. caamevents.com/event/cranberry-bike-tour
Contact Pete Sullivan at (414) 224-2875 or email@example.com.