Biking in Madison Wisconsin

I guess you could call this a ride review, but I don’t know it that would be completely accurate. Biking in Madison Wisconsin has been a big part of my life; because I’ve lived in Madison for my entire life, and go to school here now too. Madison Wisconsin is one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, and on many ranking lists, is listed as one of the most bike friendly, progressive, and nicest places to live.

The great thing about being a cyclist and biking in Madison Wisconsin is that the city and surrounding towns like Verona, Middleton, and Fitchburg have all made real efforts to promote cycling as a means of transportation for both commuting and recreation. I ride my bike to work and to school, and can easily ride pretty much anywhere within a 40 mile radius of where I live (mayyybee a little bit less right now, but I’m getting stronger every day).

The city has added bike lanes, bike paths, and even bike boulevards where bikes are allowed to use the full lane on a two way road. Because of this, biking in madison wisconsin is much safer here than in almost any other city in the country.

Madison has a great, bike friendly attitude as well. You notice it through the little things, the details that aren’t there in other cities with cycling initiatives. Many stores are members of the bicycle benefits program offered by The bicycle benefits program gives discounts and other perks to its cyclist members, who enjoy biking in Madison Wisconsin enough to join the program and commute to work. Employers are also very bike friendly. Many have bike racks in sheltered areas for their employees, and my boss even has a shower to clean up and a full kitchen that I can use. That way, I don’t smell like I just got off the bike for the rest of the day.

Madison is just a great place to live in general. We have cold winters, but beautiful and warm springs, summers, and falls. Even so, you can still ride in the winter. Just ask the all season cyclist over at He’ll be able to give you the scoop on how to bike in all kinds of weather, even the coldest winters or the hottest summers.

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Planning your First Bike Tour

Planning your first bike tour can be intimidating. Before deciding on gear, food, how you’re going to carry everything on your bike, or even how you’re going to sleep at night; you need to plan your route. Ideally, you base how much and what you bring on the temperature, terrain, and other climate and geographic factors.

For you fist overnight bike tour, you don’t need to go very far or be gone for very long. We read about the Race Across America (RAAM), and we think that “wow, that’s pretty awesome. Maybe I’ll do that someday”. And indeed, maybe we will. But just because you set your mind on running a marathon doesn’t mean that you should start your running career with one. In the same way, the Race Across America is an achievable and admirable goal, but shouldn’t be your first priority. Instead, I recommend a three day ride, with the following (flexible) criteria in mind:

  1. Never ride more than 75 miles away from home:You do this because should something happen to you or your equipment, it’s not too difficult for you to call a friend or family member and have them drive to where you are and pick you up.
  2. Remember the rule of threes: Even though you’re only going to be gone for three days, it’s always smart to bring three of every replacement part, whenever possible. This doesn’t necessarily apply to things like tires, but extra nuts, washers, patch kits, and tubes should be easy enough to pack extra. Remember: 2 is 1, and 1 is none. When you’re on the road, plan for the worst case scenario, and you won’t have a problem. Plan for the best case scenario, and Murphy’s Law will hit you like a ton of bricks.
  3. Avoid excessively difficult terrain: Try to plan your route to follow roads and topography that are similar to where you train. Because you’re only planning a three day ride you don’t need to worry about a drastic change in climate and temperature (for example, going from the mountains to the flat desert, or the other way around). However, If there’s an area near you that’s much hillier or more technical than what you’re used to, you won’t have as much fun as if you had planned less difficult riding conditions.
  4. Don’t skimp on the tires: This is the one gear specific point on the list. If you’re riding on a road bike that has 23mm or 25mm slicks, you’ll want to invest in a pair of at least 28mm or 32mm touring style tires. These can also be found on websites like Nashbar under the heading “City Bike Tires”. These tires might be found on a hybrid style bike, and their compromise between mountain bike knobs and road bike slicks make them ideal for touring, where you can encounter a variety of different kinds of paving, or even lack thereof. Investing in a spare folding bead tire to carry along with your three extra tubes will give you some peace of mind and the ability to get yourself back home if anything happens to one of your primary tires.

Finally, remember that it’s not a race. Many times, people start out on a tour planning to ride 10 hours and 130 miles per day. I promise you that in all likelyhood that if you had to you could do that, but you won’t want to. Touring isn’t about speed, but about being able to ride all day, enjoy the country side, and commune with yourself, the machine, and the road. Racing around at 35 km/hr stopped being an option when you added a rack and 40 pounds of gear to the back of your bike.