Bike Riding in Madison

Ok, I’m not some "hippie, I have to bike everywhere because oil is evil" person – far from it but as long as Madison has put in some really great bike paths, why not use them?

Trek BikeI have a 2010 Trek FX 7.5 which is a hybrid. I love that bike. My mountain bike was stolen last year, so I had a good reason to get a new one, I guess. It’s got road bike tires, which I had to get used to. I remember getting stuck in a railroad track once and got a few scrapes as I was thrown off my bike. With the Trek mountain bike, I never had to think about that. Anyway, it’s fun and a nice bike – so much lighter and a joy to ride.

I probably only do like 600-800 miles a year. So just like twice a week when it’s nice out. I either start at my place or put the bike in the RSX (it fits in the back, so no bike rack needed – nice!) and start at Olbrich. I hop on the Monona Lake Loop and do a modified route which takes me out to the UW Hospital, Campus and up State Street. I need a change in scenery or I get bored, so that’s my route. It’s like 18-23 miles depending on where I start. It takes around 2 hours, so it’s a good "get away" from my day and a good way to de-stress and get some exercise.

Madison Bike Trails

There are some really great trails in the Madison, WI area. You can get some printable bike maps from the city if you a interested in seeing them. I would encourage you to develop your own, too. I think they have these pre-defined trails so that it’s both safer for bikes and cars. You do hear about bike/car accidents throughout the summer. It’s best to stay off busy streets if you can. There are a number of railroad tracks that have been removed through the years and they have been converted to bike paths and they are just beautiful to ride. You get to see the city from another angle than from in your car. They’re great.

Some Annoyances

Ok, here are some things that bug me. The big annoyance is cars. Not that bikes have to have the ultimate rule of the road – I’m not like that at all. It’s the courtesy thing that I hate. Here’s how it works:

You’re biking on a bike path and you come up to a stop where you have to cross a road. If you’re anywhere near downtown Madison, a number of things can happen and some are unexpected:

First, you wait for a car or two to go by and then you continue on your way. Simple.

Second, the driver of the car feels like they have to bow to the people who are not using gas (because of their guilt of global warming or something stupid) and then they proceed to slow down and finally come to a stop and wait for you. You, as the biker/cyclist, are not sure what they’re doing but then you figure it out. This old thing. Of course, most cars do not do this and this is indeed not the rule of the road, so since they are not going to start going until you go first, you have to make eye contact with them and make sure that they are coming to a complete stop before you go. You don’t want to be unsure because there are some crazies out there, too. Once you’re sure they have stopped, you can go on your way. Whew!

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the annoyance here is that the second way probably takes as much if not more time than the first way plus it’s not as safe. If these lefty, "green thinking" people were really green and wanted to save the earth, they would keep going. Why? Well, to bring a car from speed down to 0 and then back up to the previous speed takes more energy (gas, oil, electric, coal, cooking grease / whatever you use) than if they would have kept going – even in a Prius! Duh! For me, what I care about is that it takes more time and there’s a safety concern because they’re not acting in a consistent manner.

One thing you learn with activities like downhill skiing and taking a car on a track with other cars at high speed is that consistency is everything. When you do what’s expected, it’s MUCH safer for everybody. When people are inconsistent and act unexpectedly, there could be major problems.

I explained this Madison phenomenon to my brother and he had a good idea/solution, which I’ve been using. When you come up to a stop and suspect that this might happen, do not make eye contact with the car. Look the other way. Fix your shoes. Take a swig of water. They’ll think you’re just stopping and then hopefully will not be "nice" to you and you’ll have a better ride.


Well, that’s my rant / what really grinds my gears. :-) Again, Madison is a great place to bike. There are endless paths and the lakes are just gorgeous. Even going at night (with a light on the bike, of course) is fun when it’s warm. There are even some nice places to stop, take a short swim, and then continue on your way. Make sure you wear a helmet and have a bike lock. Happy cycling!