Bicycling

  • Bicycling along Lake Michigan

    We all know Milwaukee for its beer, bratwurst and oompah bands. But not many people know it’s also a great place for bicycling. Sure, there’s a constant stream of bicyclists on the lakefront stretch of the Oak Leaf Trail. From Lake Michigan, bicyclists can veer off onto a secluded stretch of the Milwaukee River or head toward Miller Park on the Hank Aaron Trail.

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  • A slice of cheese country

    On Wisconsin's Badger State Trail, no one goes home hungry. Starting from the south edge of Madison, the 40-mile trail plunges into Little Switzerland, taking bicyclists past a gantlet of cheese shops, meat markets, bakeries and breweries. But the Badger is best known for its 1,200-foot-long tunnel, cut through solid limestone in 1887. It curves in the middle, so bicyclists without a good flashlight will find themselves in total darkness, their nerves shot by pigeons bursting out of hidden crannies.

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  • Great beaches on bike trails

    Feel like going for a bike ride, but it's just too hot? Pick a trail with a beach. Anyone who pedals more than a few miles during the dog days deserves a nice, cool dog paddle afterward. That’s what we got one muggy Saturday on the Lake Wobegon Trail in central Minnesota. From Avon, we rode westward between so many bouquets of purple prairie clover the trail looked landscaped. This gentle farmland, dotted with lakes, inspired Garrison Keillor’s fictional Lake Wobegon.

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  • Braking for blooms

    In late summer and early fall, bicycle trails burst with blooms. They're a favorite habitat for wildflowers because they’re on disturbed ground and have open, sunny edges. Many trails skirt lakes and bogs, but since most are on old rail lines, fires sparked by passing trains created openings for prairie species, too. Paul Bunyan State Trail past Lake Bemidji in northern Minnesota. One side is lined with water-loving plants — Joe-Pye weed, jewelweed and swamp milkweed, beloved by butterflies and bees.

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  • 15 great trails to ride in fall

    It was a classic fall weekend when we rode the Willard Munger State Trail in eastern Minnesota.

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  • 15 great trails to ride in spring

    In spring, everything moves so fast you need wheels to see it all. Two wheels are perfect, because bicycle trails are little nature corridors in spring. Warblers zoom back and forth, nabbing twigs for nests, and wildflowers bloom on sunny edges. You'll also want to check out new trails and see what's new along favorite trails.

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  • Bicycling in western Michigan

    The more I travel through the beach towns of west Michigan, the more I want to see. So I've slowed down and started touring by the seat of my pants — on a bicycle. rail trails, more than any other state. You can catch a trail all along the Lake Michigan shore, from Traverse City to South Haven.

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  • Towns of the Fox River

    For centuries, people have beaten a path along the Fox River: Pottawatomie Indians, pioneer entrepreneurs, escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad, city-bound commuters . . . and now, bicyclists. Thanks to a network of abandoned electric railways, this part of northeast Illinois is a hotbed of bicycle trails. They're all popular, but the 40-mile Fox River Trail past St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia includes an astonishing amount of scenery and attractions: a Dutch windmill, Japanese gardens and a lighthouse plus many forest preserves, gazebos and wildlife sightings, mainly herons and egrets lurking on the shallow river.

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  • Riding the Glacial Drumlin

    In the middle of southern Wisconsin farmland, there’s a mystery that rivals those of the Mayans and Anasazi. It noted the retreat of the glaciers 143 lifetimes ago and then directed me 1½ miles northward, to where, "17 lifetimes ago, an ancient civilization flourished.’’

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  • Bicycling in Iowa

    It's not as flat as people think, and it has an excellent network of paved county roads.

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  • Mankato meander

    Mankato is easy to overlook, even though it's home to a state university, gateway to the prairie and prominent in Minnesota history. Downtown is girdled by highways and train tracks, befitting Mankato's longtime status as a trade town. Its streets are quiet, except when the many bars throw a block party. Pipestone or the Black Hills use interstates.

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  • Bicycling through the Minneapolis suburbs

    For decades, the scenic bicycle trails around Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes have drawn people from the suburbs into the city. Now, it’s the city folks’ turn to visit. Hundreds of people daily ride the Dakota Rail Trail, which takes bicyclists past a chain of ponds, wetlands and bays on the north shore of Lake Minnetonka, through some of its toniest villages.

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  • Bicycling in Minnesota

    For Minnesota bicyclists, there are two seasons: winter and trail construction.

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  • 10 great places to ride 'n' glide

    On rivers, only salmon like to paddle upstream. People like to paddle the easy part, then get a shuttle from friends or outfitters. But there's another way to get back to your car — by bicycle.

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  • Bicycling in bluff country

    It was a sunny day in southeastern Minnesota, and everywhere I looked, there were Babes. They were the Fat Bottom Girls Cycle Club from Des Moines, also known as Babes on Bikes, and they were having a swell time riding the smooth, scenic trails of the Root River Valley.

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  • Biking in Minneapolis

    For more than a century, people have marveled at the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis. It's not so much the beauty of the lakes, though they're glorious. It's more the fact that ordinary folk can walk, bike, swim and play around them — all of them. It almost wasn't so. Back in 1882, landscape architect Horace Cleveland had to argue his case for putting aside land on the city's lakes, creeks and river.

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  • Chicago by bicycle

    Everything that’s worth doing, you can do along Chicago’s lakefront. Seniors in Speedos climb out of Lake Michigan after swimming laps. Chess players hunch over boards in a 1957 pavilion that looks like the Jetsons’ carport. Young people gather for beach volleyball and paddle kayaks in the shadow of yachts. Overhead, a biplane pulls a flapping beer banner through the sky.

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  • Summer in Madison

    In summer, it's hard to know what to do first in beer- and bicycle-loving Madison. Bike along Lake Monona, or on the Capital City State Trail? Have a beer and listen to blues on the lakeside terrace of the Memorial Union, or sit in the Bier Garten of Capital Brewery? In summer, this college town is in its element. Its Great Taste of the Midwest in August is the largest beer festival in Wisconsin and the second-longest running craft-beer festival in North America.

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  • Pedaling for a pint

    What pairs best with beer? These days, a bicycle.

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  • Bicycling the Central Lakes

    Cruising along western Minnesota’s Central Lakes Trail, it’s tempting to keep a scorecard. Egret, five. Blue herons, seven. Beavers, three. Turtles, two. Loons, three. Pelicans, 20. Giant concrete coots, one. Lots of warblers, hurtling over the trail like guided missiles, and warbler-sized dragonflies. Chipmunks racing the bike across blacktop. Patches of wild rose, and fountain grasses waving their pink heads in the breeze.

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  • Cycling in coulee country

    There's a beautiful pocket of Wisconsin that dairy farmers would have had all to themselves if it hadn't been for a few renegade bicyclists. In 1967, Wisconsin made a bicycling trail out of an abandoned rail bed that it had devoted to hikers until it saw that most of the users were on bicycles. That trail, the Elroy-Sparta, sparked a national race to convert unused rail beds into trails. rail trails. Of those miles, more than a hundred skirt the edge of coulee country around La Crosse, a dramatic region of high ridges and valleys untouched by glaciers.

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  • Bash on a bike trail

    Autumn is a great time to try out a new bike trail, not only because of fall colors and invigorating weather but because so many small towns throw harvest festivals in September and October.

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  • Bikes, birds and bogs

    The pelicans and cormorants of the Trempealeau National Wildlife Refuge are used to train whistles and the distant popping of trap guns. But they're even more used to the whir of bicycle gears. Here, the 24-mile Great River State Trail starts in the refuge, skirts Perrot State Park and goes through the river town of Trempealeau before entering the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge and then the prairie outside Onalaska.

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  • Towns of the Heartland Trail

    On the first Sunday in August, hundreds of people clog the only street of the Restaurant Capital of the World. Dorset claimed that title because its restaurants outnumber its houses. Still, the eateries in this lakes-country oasis will be hard-pressed to make enough quesadillas and snowball sundaes for everyone who wants one at Taste of Dorset.

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  • Bicycling to Lake Wobegon

    To a bicyclist setting out on the Lake Wobegon Trail, there are few signs that this is a storied landscape. There’s a lake surrounded by cattails and frequented by fishermen and canoeists. There’s another lake across the road, where teen-agers flirt and toddlers play in the sand. Down the trail, a clump of showy lady slippers pops out of the weeds. A great blue heron rises from a slough with languid flaps. A painted turtle scrapes at the dirt next to the trail, making a nest for its eggs.

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  • The belle of bluff country

    In an isolated bluff-country valley, reached only by small, winding roads, lies one of Minnesota's favorite getaways. Only 750 people live here, and they can't afford to advertise much, so most visitors come via word of mouth.

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  • Rolling through the Iron Range

    The Iron Range never has been for anyone who didn’t want to sweat. Ever since iron ore was discovered on the shores of Lake Vermilion, this strip of Minnesota has drawn people who wanted to work. One of the world’s richest deposits of iron ore lay under the forest, and waves of Finns, Slovenes, Italians, Swedes, Croatians, Poles, Germans and Serbs came to shovel it out.

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  • Twin Cities history ride

    had to come here. Today, one of the easiest ways to travel this route is by bicycle, and paved trails line both sides of the Mississippi from Minnehaha Park in south Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul.

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  • Mountain biking in Hayward and Cable

    In the forest around Hayward and Cable, it’s easy to catch speed fever. This is where the world’s best Nordic skiers compete on the Birkie Trail, famous for its relentless ups and downs, and mountain bikers race on the CAMBA trails, known for 270-degree switchbacks and such obstacles as a boulder called the Volkswagen. In this pocket of northwest Wisconsin, endurance athletes streak through Chequamegon National Forest year-round, training for the next big race on more than 300 miles of marked trails.

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  • The Fire Ride

    Pedaling along a beautiful state trail in eastern Minnesota, bicyclists never would guess it once was hell on earth — twice. In 1894, a 4½-mile-high wall of fire incinerated Hinckley and Sandstone along the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad line, now the Willard Munger State Trail. In 1918, another inferno destroyed Kettle River, Moose Lake and Cloquet. Hundreds of people died, and dozens of villages were wiped off the map.

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  • More miles to ride

    In spring, bicyclists start looking for a good trail — and it’s always most fun to try a newer one. Gateway State Trail, following a trout stream and gently descending through wooded bluffs.

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  • Bicycling the Bunyan

    It's as wide as seven axhandles and a plug of tobacco, and as smooth as a flapjack griddle. It unfurls over a landscape dotted with lakes created, according to north-woods legend, by the tracks of a giant lumberjack and his faithful blue ox.

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  • Red Cedar ride 'n' glide

    There are certain bicycle trails that inspire loyalty in those who ride them. For many, it’s the trail that’s closest to home. For others, it’s the trail that runs by a really fine restaurant. And for some, it’s the route with the most wildlife.

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  • Riding the Dakota Rail Trail

    It's easy to see why the Dakota Rail Trail is the most popular bicycle trail in Minnesota. This 25½-mile trail between the Minneapolis suburb of Wayazata and rural Mayer winds through the labyrinthine bays and isthmuses of Lake Minnetonka better than any car can. It's shady, scenic and paved, so it's beloved by in-line skaters as well as bicyclists.

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  • Bicycling in St. Paul and beyond

    Minneapolis, having once been named Bicycling magazine’s No. 1 best city for bicycling, is better known for bicycling than St. Paul. As usual, St. Paul is overshadowed by its larger twin. But you’d never guess it from the throngs of bicyclists on the popular Gateway State Trail, on Summit Avenue through town and on the St. Paul Classic tour, started 12 years before the Minneapolis Bike Tour and the state’s largest bike tour. Like Minneapolis, the capital city has paved trails around lakes, past historic landmarks and along the Mississippi.

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  • Two trails from Two Rivers

    In summer, overheated tourists head for the Cool City. Swimmers can cool off with a dip from Neshotah Beach, a great strip of sand, but there’s an even better one five miles north, where Rawley Point Lighthouse towers over the dunes of Point Beach.

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  • Tours on two wheels

    If you like to ride bikes and you live in the western Great Lakes, you've lucked out. miles of rails converted to trails.

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  • A trail for Old Abe

    The can-do spirit of the 19th century can be felt everywhere along a 19½-mile stretch of the Chippewa River. Ezra Cornell bought up logging and mineral rights in the area, which became the logging center of the world in the 1880s, although the profits went to Ithaca, N.Y., where he’d founded Cornell University.

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  • Savoring the Seven Lakes Trail

    Most people think bicyclists ride for exercise. But really, it’s for the ice-cream stop. In western Wisconsin, the Stower Seven Lakes between Dresser and Amery, has everything you’d want on a bicycle trail. It’s got scenery. It’s got beaches and picnic spots. And in Amery, it has the soda fountain of your dreams. Just look for the place with all the people.

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  • Bicycling in Wisconsin

    When people think of bicycling in Wisconsin, the famous Elroy-Sparta State Trail often is first to pop into their minds. But the state has added many, many trails since the Elroy-Sparta debuted in 1967, and it's time to try them. All of the trails listed below use finely crushed limestone, except as noted. They're suitable for touring bikes, though a wider tire is best. Chip-sealed trails are like asphalt but softer, and can be nearly as smooth because they don't become pitted. State trail passes are $5 daily, $25 annual; passes also are good in winter on ski trails. Rates on county and city trails vary; many are free, including the Interurban and Oak Leaf.

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