From its rails-to-trails to bike lanes and bike share programs, Wisconsin is an excellent destination for anyone eager to get out and enjoy the outdoors with pedal power. Here are five of the best Wisconsin cities for bicycling.
The capital city sets the platinum standard (according to the League of American Bicyclists) for bike infrastructure: dedicated bike lanes, painted bike boxes at intersections, off-road paths, bike racks on public buses, commuter paths that extend into equally bike-friendly communities of Fitchburg, Monona and Middleton. Trails are even maintained in winter for commuters.
The Capital City Trail, the Southwest Commuter Path, and the Cannonball Path operate like expressways, giving riders quick and easy off-road passage throughout the city. Finally, when you want to get out of town, the Badger and Military Ridge State Trails, each 40+ miles, run through scenic countryside as far as the state line.
If you stay on the road, you have over 85 miles of bike lanes throughout Wisconsin’s largest city – and that doesn’t even count the Oak Leaf Trail, a 108-mile loop primarily of paved paths. The Lakefront Path, as the name suggests, has lovely Lake Michigan views, while the 14-mile Hank Aaron State Trail heads west from the shore all the way to the next county. The city also hosts some creative annual events such as the Pirate Bike Ride. (Don’t forget your eye patch and parrot!)
Greater Milwaukee’s bike share program, Bublr, is outstanding, with bike stations throughout Milwaukee, Shorewood, Wauwatosa and West Allis and an online map showing real-time bike availability. Soon the city and surrounding counties will complete the Route of the Badger, a 500-mile bike network that will connect all the communities surrounding Milwaukee and even on to cities as far away as Madison, Sheboygan and Chicago.
La Crosse is another award-winning biking community, and the prefect jumping off point for road cycling in the Driftless Area, the rolling hills and coulees left untouched by the last glaciers. From downtown, start at Riverside Park at the confluence of the Mississippi and La Crosse Rivers, and ride the Three Rivers Trail out to a loop trail through a marsh area.
Watch for biking events such as Pearl Street Brewery’s Tour de Pearl. Take a long ride on the Great River Road which follows the Mississippi north and south of the city. For the best view in town, pedal up to the Grandad Bluff scenic overlook. Or, if singletrack is more your style, head to the Human Powered Trails at Upper Hixon Forest for 9 miles of mountain bike trails and a pump track.
In 2015 Wausau was awarded bronze from the League of American Bicyclists. Ten numbered bike routes are marked throughout the metro area with signage one might expect for a highway. Seven “Fixations” serve riders who may need simple repairs or a bit of air for their tires, and the city hosts biking several biking events.
The owner and brewer of the bike-themed Red Eye Brewing is an avid cyclist and there are occasional rides and meet-ups that bring fellow cyclists out for food and drink after their rides. If you want to get out of town, the Mountain-Bay State Trail connects Wausau all the way to Green Bay. Now that’s a bike ride!
In Wisconsin, two-wheeled treks aren't just meant for summer. Learn more about winter fat tire biking and keep pedaling year-round!