Bicycle trails, tours plentiful throughout state

Maybe you’d love a European vacation but can’t afford the airfare, or maybe you’d like to know Wisconsin more intimately but don’t want to bumble around on your own.

If the thought of exercising while vacationing sounds appealing, consider this: Europe in Your Back Yard, an Oct. 3-8 bicycling trip through southwestern Wisconsin. It is a new venture that is being presented by Bike Southwest Wisconsin.

The cost is $790 – not for budget travelers, and that is based on sharing a room. Single occupancy is an extra $165.

It is the attention to detail that makes this offering unusual. One price includes access to many sites, rural and urban, that are indicative of Wisconsin’s ethnic heritage. Lodging, breakfasts, lunches and admission to attractions are covered. So are special events, such as cheese and wine tastings, and guided tours that include a dairy farm and brewery.

The route begins and ends in Fitchburg, which is south of Madison. Paoli, New Glarus, Monroe, Mineral Point, Dodgeville, Spring Green, Little Norway, Blue Mounds and Mount Horeb are among the stops. That means exposure to Irish, French, German, Swiss, Cornish, Italian and Scandinavian cultures by the time the event ends.

Bicyclists ride 8 to 60 miles per day, depending upon the route and how hard they want to work. The route goes through towns and state parks, to an orchard and an outdoor museum, to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin and the funky House on the Rock.

For more, go to www.bikewi.com or call (888) 804-0688. Tour size is limited; the price goes up to $860 after July 15.

Tour sponsors include the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. A part of the proceeds will benefit the Second Harvest Foodbank.

These certainly aren’t the only group bicycling options that exist in Wisconsin. Another example is POWWOW (Pedal Over Wisconsin Week on Wheels) Bicycle Tours, which has been in operation 20 years.

Choices includes the June 20-25 Fox Valley Tour, which covers 389 or 348 miles (your choice), a circular route that begins in Watertown and goes as far north as DePere.

For more about the Milwaukee-based enterprise, go to www.wisconsinbicycletours.com or call (414) 671-4560. Basic cost is $399, which includes breakfasts, dinners and lodging (based on two to a room).

Tired of taking the same bike routes? A new book by Wisconsin native Steve Johnson, “Biking Wisconsin: 50 Great Road and Trail Rides” ($19.95, Trails Books), aims to help expand your options.

Choices include state-maintained trails as well as scenic country roads and routes that hug waterways such as Lake Michigan and Waupaca’s Chain O’ Lakes.

Route distance, degree of difficulty, average pedaling time and road surface are summarized. Points of interest along the way, from parks to cafes, are mentioned.

Bike shop locations and websites for Wisconsin bikers are included. So are route maps and safety tips.

Four particularly picturesque state trails that join each other are detailed in a handy “Bike 4 Trails” brochure that is available from the Department of Natural Resources.

The guide contains information about the Great River State Trail, from Marshland to Onalaska; La Crosse River State Trail, from Onalaska to Sparta; Elroy-Sparta State Trail; and “400” State Trail, from Elroy to Reedsburg.

Bike them all, and it’s 101 miles. To learn more, go to www.bike4trails.com.

There are oodles of bicycling events in Wisconsin, such as the May 30 Leinenkugel’s Chippewa Valley Century Ride, Chippewa Falls. Participants can pedal 35, 50, 75 or 100 miles. To learn more, go to www.chippewavalleyride.com or call (715) 288-6805.

Want to better the environment? Consider bicycling to work, church or to visit a friend. For more about how and why, go to www.bfw.org, the website for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, a Madison-based organization that wants to make the state a better place to bicycle.

The website also lists dates and contact information for many bicycling rides and races that will be in Wisconsin this year.

The 500-mile GReat Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River (GRABAAWR) will be June 26 to July 3; the route goes from Eagle River to Prairie du Chien. For more, call (888) 575-3640 or go to www.bikewisconsin.org.

The organization also organizes Sprocket’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Wisconsin (SAGBRAW), which this year will be Aug. 1-7, snaking 340 miles from Marinette to Port Washington.