The Chainlink

Over the years Matt M's organized a number of trips from Chicago over to Madison. This year; tragedy! Matt can't manage it. I've done the last two trips and am familiar with the route and the logistics so I'm going to see if anyone else is interested in making the ride this year. Reply to the post or send me a message if you want to go.

This is a three day two night trip from Chicago to Madison that takes place over Memorial Day weekend so many people would not have to take time from work. It's roughly 172 miles with stops at two campgrounds. The trip is not supported so you need to carry your camping gear, clothes, towels, food, water and repair parts. From Madison there are regular buses from the University to O'Hare and Chicago's Amtrak station downtown.

Saturday - 76 Miles - That's 76 miles from my place near Loyola. From home your mileage may vary. At Winnetka the Green Bay Trail heads north to Highland Park and from there the McClory path crosses the state line and ends near Kenosha, Wisconsin. From there are a series of bike lanes and trails to reach Cliffside Park north of Racine.

Sunday - 58 Miles - This day starts with riding on rural highways from Cliffside to reach the park system surrounding Milwaukee. Dedicated trails and the park's streets go around the south-west side of the city and connect to the New Berlin trail to Waukesha. From there the Glacial Drumlin trail heads west toward Madison. Roughly halfway along the trail is the next overnight stop at the Rome River campground. It's about two miles away from the trail and is reached over another rural highway.

Monday - 46 Miles - The final leg of the trip follows the Glacial Drumlin trail to its end at Cottage Grove, about eleven miles from Madison. After two more miles of highways the Madison bike lane system goes all the way to town, to the university campus and the Student Union, where bus tickets back to Chicago are sold.

The trails are mostly crushed stone so along with carrying all your stuff a very narrow tire isn't recommended. You'll need to pack long sleeves and pants in case the nights get cold, and non-bike clothes to wear at the campgrounds and on the bus back. A jacket and pants for rain is also suggested, just in case. Of course there's the tent, sleeping bag and an air pad if you want to sleep comfortably. Don't forget other camping supplies like matches, cups, utensils, and paper towels. Plus you'll want soap, towel, toothbrush, and so on to keep clean. I find a shower at night after setting up camp works best. Each day starts as early as possible so getting cleaned up before going to sleep is doubly helpful. Bring sunscreen or borrow someone else's; few things are more painful than sunburned legs.

How to get all this on the bike? If you haven't been on a tour before you'll want to get a rear rack and some waterproof panniers to carry your clothes, spare tubes, food electrical cords and so on. You'll need to also find a way to tie your camping equipment to the rack since the tent probably won't fit in the panniers. From an earlier trip you can see the variety of equipment. I do recommend fenders in case of rain or even just for wet trails. From Amazon or local stores a rack and basic panniers can be gotten for about a hundred dollars.

Have your bike checked over to make sure it's ready for the trip. Particularly make sure the wheels are true and bearings are adjusted.

Cliffside Park's campground is very modern with a big new showering facility that has hot water and is a real joy. Rome River is a bit older and a little more primitive, but it does have all the facilities.

Food. This is a bit tricky. There are restaurants along all the trails and places at Kenosha and Waukesha for lunch, but for dinner there's only one restaurant near Cliffside and a few hit-and-miss places at Rome that may or may not be open. Plus there are no good options for breakfast either way. For this you need to bring along some freeze-dried/dehydrated food and use hot water to make a meal. REI has a lot of options and from my experience are surprisingly good. It's safe to bring two lunches and two breakfasts along with other energy bars or anything else to munch on along the way. For heating water for cooking, I'm going to bring a small camp stove that will boil water.

Cost. Camp sites are $25 a night at each location, split between the number of riders. The Glacial Drumlin trail is a toll road that costs $4 a day for two days. You need to put some money in a box and take a tag saying you paid. The first twenty miles of the trail from Waukesha are patrolled and they check for a tag so it's worth just paying the money. Finally the bus back to Chicago is $30, with an extra $10 charge for the bike. That's under $100 for the trip, not including restaurants and food/drink/snacks you bring.

Bus. Van Galder runs buses roughly every two-three hours between the student union at the University of Wisconsin and downtown Chicago. There's a separate bus from Madison to O'Hare. You can buy the ticket ahead of time or at the student union. I've never had any trouble getting a ticket at the booth as the bus is not very crowded. The earlier the start from the Rome River campground the earlier the bus back to Chicago. Last year we managed to get a bus that left around 2:30PM. It's a 4-5 hour trip back to Chicago and the bus stop at the Amtrak station downtown.

Can I do this? The distances and weight of a loaded bike seem daunting, but anyone that's done a few forty mile plus rides can do it. Hills are gentle when there are any, and as this isn't a race the pace is slow enough to ensure no one should be wearing themselves out. Once rolling a loaded bike will keep going so you spend less energy than you'd think.

Clothing is a personal choice. I don't have dedicated biking clothes other than a helmet and some padded gloves. To be on the bike all day you'll need what makes you comfortable riding for a long time. Take a few forty mile rides and see what doesn't leave you blistered and chafed. Plus it'll build up your endurance.

This trip is not supported (unless you can convince someone to drive along with all your stuff) but you're not on your own. Last year a member's bottom bracket started to come loose and we had to find a bike shop near Milwaukee to tighten it back up. We ride in a group and make sure no one drops back too far. Plus phone coverage is good all along the way so you're never out of touch.

So if you have no other obligations for the Memorial Day weekend send me a message or reply to the thread.

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Sounds like a blast! :) I rode to Milwaukee a few years ago but would love to this Madison ride. Can't this year but maybe another year...

How about an ride organized for Fall? Not around BIKE!BIKE!

Hey!  How was it?  :-)

No real interest over Memorial Day. I was going to go myself but the weather looked pretty bad and given the weather Wisconsin had over the long weekend I'm glad I didn't go.

I've already got a two week vacation planned in September, but maybe there'll be more interest in mid-late October after the summer heat ends. In the meantime I'm going to try to get to one of the Illinois Beach camp outs.


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