By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 31, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Kate Rawsthorne is what you might call a bike tourist.

Although she doesn't claim to be a hardcore bicycle expert, she's always loved long bike tours, having traveled on two wheels through places like Paris, Ireland, Switzerland and Croatia.

After years of global trekking, she's recently relocated to Milwaukee only to discover the city lacked the type of regular organized rides she craves.

So, of course, she started her own.

"I think (bike tours) are the perfect way to see a new place," she says, "Or even a place you've been to before -- it offers a new perspective. You see different parts of the city than you do when you're in a car."

And thus, Brew City Bike Tours is born. Rawsthorne leads groups of 10-15 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 and for groups of four or more.

Rawsthorne says bike tours are on the rise, in part due to the popularity of eco tourism. The fact that Milwaukee, and other cities nationwide, are becoming increasingly more bike friendly, is also helping pedal pushers feel safe and welcome in an urban environment.

"I also think that focusing on local businesses when you're traveling has become a priority for a lot of people, so this really combines those things. Plus, people don't always think to pair being active and being on vacation, but once they start, they just get hooked."

But Brew City Bike Tours aren't just for out-of-towners. Milwaukeeans can get just as much out of the ride as their guests and be a tourist in their own town. Plus, Rawsthorne says, "It takes some of the pressure off you to be the entertainment for visitors."

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.”