By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 05, 2010 at 9:02 AM

As the weeks between now and Memorial Day dwindle, we Milwaukeeans are finally starting to trust Mother Nature enough to get our summer gear out from storage.

The number of bicycles on the streets is increasing by the day, and this is good news for Kate Rawsthorne. She runs Brew City Bike Tours, a local company that leads groups of 5 to 20 on three-hour trips that explore the different sectors of Milwaukee's unique offerings: beer, food and history.

The microbrewery tour, known as the "pub spin," highlights Milwaukee's famous macro-brewing past while letting the group taste the city's current microbrewery culture. This one's only for riders 21 and older.

The food tour is called "bite and bike" and includes Milwaukee-specific foods like cheese and sausage, but also traces the ethnic influences -- German, Italian, Mexican -- that make the city the diverse melting pot is it today.

Rawsthorne calls her historical tour, "Milwaukee 101," an evolutionary one. "I show examples of what Milwaukee was and what it's become," she says. Riders will visit Lake Park, the Milwaukee Art Museum and various historic Downtown sites.

Brew City Bike Tours works with Crank Daddy's Bicycle Works to rent bikes for those without their own wheels. Including bike rental, the tours cost between $45 and $55. For riders providing bikes, the cost is $20-$30. (The price includes all your beer on the microbrewery tour.) Discounts are available for kids under 12, seniors, Milwaukee residents and for groups of four or more.

Rawsthorne launched the company last May and says she was blown away by last summer's participation. She guided more than 150 riders, both residents and visitors, through some of Milwaukee's most cherished and interesting areas. This summer, she's looking to hire two additional tour guides as to provide more rides.

She's made a few improvements to her rides, too. She's expanded the brewery tour to include Great Lakes Distillery and Sprecher, rather than just Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee Ale House and Cafe Hollander, making it more of a ride around town. She's also introducing long-distance touring rides for those looking to train.

And all of her rides are family-friendly, she says. "Kids love the History 101 ride. I had some 6- and 8-year-olds on the ride and we made it interactive for them. They get to answer questions, so it becomes more of a game rather than just a lecture."

Brew City Bike Tours is taking its first ride of the year this weekend. The first pub spin of 2010 leaves from Crank Daddy's, 2108 N. Farwell Ave., at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 7.

Tours run Wednesday through Sunday and generally begin at 1 p.m. All riders must wear helmets.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”