Ride to Madison yields more than just sore legs

Published8/30/2008 11:48 PM

I think it's only natural to want to test one's limits every now and then. For me, bicycling offers the perfect opportunity to see what my body can still do as the years keep rolling by.

On Aug. 14, I decided to ignore the ominous forecast of isolated thunderstorms and hop on my bike, determined to ride to my brother's new home north of Madison, Wis.


I'd done most of this self-designed route several times before, but it had been two years and I was a little apprehensive about the effort required.

For some reason, the first 15 miles felt tortuous and I thought about abandoning the trip, but as I got into a groove, the miles started flying by. A bee sting on an isolated road and a couple of previously paved roads that were turned to gravel ended up being just minor nuisances as my confidence came back.

Along my route I included a portion of Wisconsin's Sugar River Trail that runs from Brodhead to New Glarus. This 24-mile winding limestone trail follows the Sugar River and includes a covered bridge and a wildlife preserve.

Wisconsin charges a trail fee of $4 per day or $15 annually to ride on its trails. Passes can be purchased in towns along the trails; I got mine at a quaint bike shop in Brodhead.

Located at the southern terminus of the Sugar River Trail, it's called Earth Rider Cycling Boutique and Hotel. Along with what you'd expect to see in a bike shop, owner Sharon Kaminecki has extended the cycling experience to include a five-room boutique hotel offering comfortable overnight accommodations. I was really impressed with the atmosphere when I stopped in, and encourage you to visit www.earthridercycling.com if you're considering a southern Wisconsin getaway.

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I was also very pleasantly surprised with my first taste of the Capital City State Trail which circles around the southern portion of Madison. It is paved asphalt and wooded with some great scenery and hills. I switched from that to the Southwest Commuter Bike Trail which took me right downtown.

As I watched black clouds roll across the horizon ahead of me, I was lucky enough to only have to deal with ten minutes of drizzle. I ended up arriving safely at my brother's house with 132.4 miles under my wheels and a pair of sore legs that reminded me for the next two days how I'm not quite as resilient as I used to be.

Harmon Hundred: The 38th annual Harmon Hundred is coming up on Sept. 7. A noncompetitive tour through Northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, the ride is named after Phyllis W. Harmon, former Executive Vice President and Director of the League of American Bicyclists.

She started the Wheeling Wheelmen bicycle club in 1970 (sponsors of the ride) and has long been a nationally recognized figure in bicycling volunteerism and advocacy.


One of the longest-lived century rides in the country, the Harmon Hundred attracts a large Midwest participation and many use it to complete their first 100-miler. If you haven't prepared for a century ride, there are 25-, 50-, and 75-mile rides available as well.

The ride starts and ends at Wilmot Union High School in Wilmot, Wis. For information, call the Wheeling Wheelmen hotline at (847) 520-5010 or visit www.wheelmen.com.

Todd Underwood covers cycling in the Chicagoland area. To contact him, e-mail todd@peppergroup.com or write to him c/o Daily Herald, 385A Airport Road, Suite A, Elgin, IL 60123.


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