This week is the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin's Bike to Work Week. In celebration of this event, OnMilwaukee.com will run new bike-related stories each day.
If anything can be learned from the foot-dragging this spring had been doing this year, it's that we have to take every advantage of the fair weather that we can get. Many of us are probably trapped in long commutes or in dark, overly air-conditioned offices, and it's important to back away from the computer monitor and step outside; getting out by bike is a good way to re-energize yourself with a little sun, a little wind on your face and a bit of a heart rate boost.
Here at OnMilwaukee.com, we decided to check out the highly praised river trails just outside our door. The river trails are one of the many trails that has Wisconsin sitting firmly in the Top 10 Bicycle Friendly States in 2011, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
There are actually two trails that run along either side of the river and each are about three miles long, depending on where you decide to turn around. The eastern side is a little more straightforward while the western bank is a bit more technical. The western side has more log piles to run over and a few more hill climbs. The east side gets a bit rooty at times is a little easier to roll around on. And remember, these are multi-use trails, so when traversing them by bike, make sure you give way to the hikers, joggers, dogs and fishing folk.
Since this was our first time out together as a group, and because we wanted to make it back to work in a condition that would allow us to finish up the day's tasks, salesperson Ian, programmer Nick and I took to the eastern side, dropped in by the new UWM dorms and worked our way up toward Capitol Drive.
There were a few technical spots that caused us to pause and a couple of muddy spots that made us thankful we had brought an extra change of clothes, but even with all the obstacles we quickly found ourselves at the Banzai drop – a large, eroded pit beyond Locust Street. It looked almost impassable, dropping steeply on one side and rising just as sharply on the other, but Ian braved on and found a path safely down and almost halfway up the other side, which gave the rest of us confidence to give it a try.
We spent about 45 minutes on the trails and despite being in the middle of a major metropolitan city, it was easy to forget. You're covered by trees, bordered by a river and surrounded by wildlife. When we got back to the office we found our second wind. We were able to shake off the mid-day drag and work with a little more peace and a little less restlessness.
A few tips on navigating safely through the woods:
1. Always wear a helmet and eyewear (unlike Ian in the photoset). There are many unforseen obstacles for the beginner and a fall or a fallen branch may be around the next corner.
2. Always roll over obstacles as perpendicularly as possible. Attacking at a lesser angle may cause your tire to follow that line and slip out from under you.
3. These trails are shared with many others, so when tackling them by bike make sure you give right of way to the hikers, joggers, dogs and fisher folk.
4. Bring a spare pair of clothes. Even on the driest days there are still a few of those mud puddles that refuse to leave.
5. Prepare to fall. This isn't a flat course and there are obstacles. Falling is pretty easy most of the time in mountain biking – dirt is a lot more forgiving than pavement – but it can still be hazardous.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.