The Chainlink

Where would you (should I) go on a 8-10 day tour starting and ending in Chicago?

I'm trying to plan a good route for a tour next month. We have the flexibility of doing 7-10 days.

We'll be riding fully touring bikes with 700x32c wheels with plans to camp every night. Probably don't want to do more than 60 miles a day, although it's not a hard constraint. The question is - where should I go? I found a nice route on here for going to Madison in 3 days, but then from there I wasn't sure what to do. Maybe it's not a good first part of a 7-10 day tour, so I should consider something else entirely. Maybe part of the Grand Illinois Trail? I'd really like something scenic with nice camping, but really I just want to get out there and ride. Suggestions?

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Decisions, decisions.

 

A trip to the West side of Michigan.

Up to Milwaukee.

Down route 66 to Bloomington/Normal.

Southwest to Starved rock.

Thanks for the suggestions. I should add that I'd prefer to do a loop and not an out and back trip (just so we can get more variety).

How about Chicago-Madison (trails or road).  You can take the Metra to Harvard, IL too, and it'll be about 100 miles by trail or 70 via road.

Madison- Milwaukee (mostly trail, Glacial Drumlin)

Milwaukee-Chicago (combo of trails). Or Milwaukee to Kenosha, and then Metra back to the city.

Here's the route I took this Memorial day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 2 ferries that cross lake michigan one from milwaukee to muskegon and one from manitowoc wi to luddington mi. I've ridden up to milwaukee and then down from muskegon for a four day ride, mostly trail and makes a nice loop trip.

If you do go to Madison, consider heading west or southwest into the driftless area.  There are rail trails for when you want an easy ride, or you can branch off the trails at any point onto very hilly roads that were being considered for the cycling events had Chicago won it's 2016 Olympic bid. 

E.g., head 50 mi west from Madison on the Military Ridge trail to Dodgeville.  Or head 50 mi south on the Badger or Sugar River trails into the New Glarus / Monroe / Brodhead area.  In any case,  be sure to take some off-trail trips. 

 

I do not, however, recommend the Cheese Country ATV trail (South from Dodgeville / Mineral Point to Monroe) with 700x32 tires. It's really beat up, and the ATV traffic is worse than anything on the local roads.

 

If you go south from Madison, you can loop back to Harvard and ride Metra back into Chicago

You could take the Amtrack up to St. Paul and ride back using the various Wisconsin trails mentioned above. The 400 mile trip would be about seven 60mile days. Throw in a cople rest days and you've got yourself and nice trip.

 

Wisconsin state parks have a policy of never turning away bike tourists, even if the campground is sold out. So, don't worry about reservations (at state parks only).

Grand Illinois Trail. Riding through some the nicer areas that Illinois has to offer (as compared to central Illinois). Combine it with some sightseeing (Starved Rock state park, Galena, etc.) and 8-10 days seem reasonable, given your daily goals.

or

Route 66 trail. If you take the train to St.Louis, you probably could do the entire trail in 8-10 days. It takes you thru dozens of small towns (and some bigger ones). Lots of route 66 things to see along the way.

Last year we Amtracked to Pittsburgh, rode the tandem through the GAP trail + C&O Canal trail (best rail-trails ever btw) to Washington DC, and Amtracked back. That was an amazing trip and I highly recommend it. The ride took us 5 days, plus a couple days sight-seeing in Pitt and DC.

 

Mostly free camping, no maps needed, shaded and wooded, swimming spots every day, flat trail but it cuts through the Allegheny Mountains, passes right by Falling Water (Frank Loyd Wright House), Ohiopyle, and Harper's Ferry.

Kevin,


What kind of tandem did you use? A road tandem? Or something a little more utilitarian? I've heard that in spots the trail is pretty rough.


Kelvin Mulcky said:

Last year we Amtracked to Pittsburgh, rode the tandem through the GAP trail + C&O Canal trail (best rail-trails ever btw) to Washington DC, and Amtracked back. That was an amazing trip and I highly recommend it. The ride took us 5 days, plus a couple days sight-seeing in Pitt and DC.

 

Mostly free camping, no maps needed, shaded and wooded, swimming spots every day, flat trail but it cuts through the Allegheny Mountains, passes right by Falling Water (Frank Loyd Wright House), Ohiopyle, and Harper's Ferry.

We used the tandem in my profile, a Schwinn Duo-Sport, with 700x35 tires, and Carradice Camper saddlebag, and two small Ortiebs on a lowrider in front. We packed super-light. It was so hot we didn't need sleeping bags, rain gear, etc. Most of the people we met were surprised about our "road" tandem and the tiny amount of gear we packed; they warned us that we we're under-biked for the trails. meh, it was fine. if we had a stiffer tandem I may be singing a different tune, but we made it out fine.

 

The Gap trail is just wonderful - perfectly graded (not gravelly), wide, and wooded. I haven't ridden a better rail trail.

 

The C&O was indeed spotty at times. It was more like a "two-track." But, it was dry and the trail was empty so we didn't have any problems riding around the occasional rut. I thought the terrain made the ride more fun! There was also a Stimulus Bill reconstruction project at what i assumed were the worst parts of the trail

I did a 7 day ride in June; 460 miles (60-70 per day).  Went up to Manitowoc, took the slow ferry to Ludington, and then rode down the coast of MI and back to Chi thru IN.  I actually started riding in Kenosha;  I took the Metra there due to scheduling issues with the ferry (I had to be there by 2pm on my second day, so I rode to Pt Washington on my first day, rather than Milwaukee)
I did the same ride as JeffB in reverse two weeks ago: left my apartment in Logan Square on Friday morning, rode through NW IN and up to Ludington (stopping in New Buffalo, South Haven and Muskegon on the way), took the (yes very slow) ferry to Manitowoc, spent nights in Sheboygan and Milwaukee, and was drinking a beer at the Handlebar on my way back into town the following Thursday afternoon. It was a really, really nice ride, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a week loop out of Chicago. A good mix of rail trails and reasonably low-traffic roads the whole way around, though I took higher traffic options pretty frequently to make better time. I rode between 30 and 95 miles each day averaging I think 70 almost exactly.

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