Over the Bars has moved!

Yes, the new website for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin is finally live! All the content from this blog has been transferred to the blog on the new website.  The blog page still needs a bit of design work and we do not have the email subscription working yet.  You can subscribe via RSS though.  At least it is live and functional, so you can look for my daily posts again at here.

We plan to rename the blog as well.  Over the Bars was problematic when discussing fatal crashes.  If you have some ideas, let me know over there.  I did write a new post today, so why don’t you check it out.

Posted in Advocacy

Twenty years of the Chequamegon 40

I apologize to the regular readers who have written me looking for their daily fix of Over the Bars.  I have been working hard on a new website for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin (that will include a daily blog).  We hope to have the new website launched in the next few days, so stay tuned.  I have also been working behind the scenes on the Hoan Bridge issue, fingers crossed.

Pinch hitting today on Over the Bars is my friend Steve Smith, a fellow Milwaukee bike commuter who did his 20th “Race for the Cock” in the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival over the weekend.  For years Steve and a few other friends have had their own race-within-a-race for a traveling Rooster Trophy.  Steve is a good writer, so I asked him to share his experience at the Fat Tire 40 with us this year.  Below is his account of this year’s campaign.

See Tom Held’ blog for overall coverage of the race, which this year attracted pro Tour de France rider Christian Van de Velde.

By Steve Smith

Me (bottom left) and 1,900 of my friends.

As a 20x competitor in the Fat Tire Festival, Chequamegon occupies National Holiday status on the family calendar. I eagerly anticipate the annual pilgrimage to the hinterlands. It serves as a Daylight Savings Time of the cycling season, marking the psychological end of summer and beginning of Fall and Winter pursuits. It also brings the possibilities of racing on a 40 mile course that reads like a favorite book.

The antagonists are well known. There’s “Start Line,” which demands bikes to be placed in the paddock at 4:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m start  in order to avoid the scourges of    “Controlled Rollout”, a raucous affair that sends 1,900 competitors charging out of town at 25+ mph. Make it through the inevitable pile up and you get a date with “Rosie’s Field.” The deceptively grueling but important scamper up, over and through the field is a Bad Cop interrogation on your fitness and the rest of the day. Make it onto the wheel of the right “train” and you’ll be in Cable in no-time.

Racing fuel, "Up North" style, a carefully balanced diet of proteins and carbohydrates..

Having suffered a fractured patella (knee cap) almost one year ago, this would be a introduction of sorts to the characters of Chequamegon. I feared the power output and demands of dealing with the steep pitches of the thugish “Birkie Trail.” As such, I planned a more conservative approach for this year’s chapter. I would ride “easy” to Double “O” and then try to pile on the coals for the remaining 24 miles of the race, with an expected finish in the 2:40 range.

The bone dry and fast conditions helped the strategy play out nicely, with many of the hills rideable, if not downright dusty. I made it to “OO” in 1:00 and had plenty of gas in the tank….until I ran into a classic Chequamegon Ambush. Swapping out my empty bottle with one from my jersey pocket, I noticed that the extra full bottle in the cage was gone…a victim of the rocky/rutted descents of the Birkie Trail. Bombing down the back side of “OO” I watched with horror as the new/only full bottle rattled loose and exploded under my back tire! The math on that = ~23 miles and at least 1:30 to Cable x 2 sips left in the empty bottle!

I began to eagerly anticipate the Pirate Hill and shot of Rum (fluids!) and the next water stop 11 miles down the trail. Along the way, I was able to get a couple sips from other competitors kind enough to share.

A quick refill with 12 miles to go put me in good shape for the final scenes of the race: “Death Zone,” from mile 8-6, dumps riders back onto exquisitely painful Birkie Grinders. Settle that score and then prepare for Mile 2, the most difficult mile of the entire race. With mind anticipating the end (“Only TWO to GO!” volunteers cheerfully offer), legs are often in full revolt here in the Misery Mile. This year was no different for me, with stabbing cramps puncturing each pedal stroke up the short/steep grades.  Joe, a friend who’d been hunting me all day, passed me here adding to the misery.

The mercy of Telemark Hill came thankfully soon after, delivering me to the line in 2:38.

Wanted: podium girls for friendly rivalry, must be willing to work for pickled eggs.

Then comes what is becoming the best part of Chequamegon.  The scorecard attestment ceremonies circulate between Coops Pizza (taco pizza), Norske Nook (peach pie), The Sawmill (beer, live music) and The Moccasin (supplementary hydration, pool tables).

By Sunday, the book goes back on the shelf for another year.

Posted in racing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

First Annual Fed Fest

Technically, Kevin Hardman, the Exec. Dir. of the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin, hosted the first Fed Fest at his Wauwatosa home in 2010. Earlier this year when the Bike Fed staff began planning for Fed Fest 2011, we all agreed it needed to be something that would be more inclusive or our 3,500 members across the state.  We decided to let our state ambassadors and other local organizers figure out what they wanted Fed Fest to be in their communities, but try to tie them all together during the same general time period and give them a unifying identity.  This year there were five locations for Fed Fest activities.  If you did not have a Fed Fest near you but would like to participate next year, shoot me an email and I will make sure you get included in the early planning next summer.

The Bike Fed is doing our best to bring together the large and diverse community of people who ride bicycles in Wisconsin.  Every year more than 2.5 million people race, recreate, train, tour and commute on roads, paved trails and single track in towns, villages and cities from south to north and east to west. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in our local trail issues, our training or just biking from point A to B and forget that we all share common values and benefit from speaking with a unified voice. While people have many different reasons why they ride, we can all agree that Wisconsin is a better place to live because it is a better place to bike.

Appleton Fed Fest

The inaugural Appleton Fed Fest had much to celebrate about bicycling, here in the Fox Valley and statewide.  New bikes lanes in Appleton and “Scott’s Get Up & Ride Challenge” surpassing 1 million miles brought about 60 people to the celebration from a coalition of groups including Bike Fed members, “Challenge” riders, local leaders with the Fox Cities Greenways, and community members passionate about cycling.  To acknowledge the work of the Bike Fed over the past year, a representative from Congressman Ribble’s office presented the Bike Fed with a “Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition”.

But no Fed Fest would be complete without a ride, and two separate rides followed some of the new bike lanes and routes around the city and were joined by two Appleton Police Department officers.  People gathered afterwards for a picnic in the park, complete with delicious Million Mile Cake!  Way to go Wisconsin bicycle commuters and thanks to Scott Paper for organizing the Scott’s Get Up & Ride Challenge. The first Fox Valley Fed Fest brought together many who care about cycling in the area and state for fun, food, and rides!

- Scott Riley, Fox Valley Ambassador     


Eau Claire Fed Fest

Forty two people took part in Fed Fest in Eau Claire this year.  Notables included Derek Parr, Eau Claire Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission’s vice-chairman,  Brad henderson, Safe Routes to School Coordinator/advocate and nearly 20 members from local cycling club EC Velo. Before the group ride, people discussed how we are all bicycling role models every time we go out for a ride.  We can make  positive change in our community if we simply lead by example and obey the traffic laws when on bicycles, but also when we drive our cars.

The discussion also highlighted ways that citizens can get involved and have a voice to drive changes in our local infrastructure and general cycling encouragement.  A good time was had by all and we look forward to an even bigger Fed Fest in 2012

- Matt Andrews, Eau Claire Ambassador  


La Crosse

The La Crosse community celebrated Labor Day weekend with our inaugural La Crosse Bicycle Festival. Friday through Monday, riders gathered in Cameron Park to begin unsupported bike tours, guided by beautiful maps of the Coulee Region which included several options for routes and turn by turn directions.

Saturday and Sunday, the city streets were filled with families and friends taking urban rides. There was an architectural ride, an ice cream shop ride,and a coffee shop ride each day. Each of the urban rides were led by local bicyclists. Sunday night people gathered on Pearl Street to listen to several bands. Next year’s festival promises to be even better, so plan on coming to La Crosse for a ride.

- Carolyn Dvorak, La Crosse Ambassador


Madison Fed Fest

Madison hosted Fed Fest in conjunction with Moving Bicycling Forward in Madison, at which Mayor Paul Soglin’s meeting to discuss the future of bicycling in our state capital.  More than 250 people attended the speech by the Mayor and other local officials.  Afterword they pedaled over the The Brink Lounge for a Fed Fest pizza party.  You can read more about that event in this earlier post.


West Allis Fed Fest

The Twilight on the Hank Ride on Saturday, September 10  was part of the this year’s Milwaukee area Fed Fest – a statewide celebration of the Bike Fed’s accomplishments. The setting sun cast long shadows as the 45 cyclists left Benno’s in West Allis and headed west on the Hank Aaron State Trail.

The riders turned around at 94th Place and rolled east while the Harvest Moon rose in darkening sky.  Helmet high native grasses and wildflowers flanked the trail along the Menomonee River on the Marquette, Sigma, and Harley loops. When the riders turned west at 6th and Canal Streets, a blaze red sun was sinking behind a ribbon of pink clouds along the horizon.  The Domes were sporting crowns of purple neon. As if in welcome, the pedestrian bridge lights came on just as the riders approached.  Miller Park twinkled.  Everyone’s blinking front lights led the way back to Benno’s for food and drink. - Barbara Blick, SE WI Ambassador 

Posted in Advocacy, Rides | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Steel is Real Ride Redux

Pee Oui leads out the Steel is Real ride.

There were too many cool bike rides over last weekend.  From Bike and Dine in La Crosse to Gnome Fest in Neillsville (also home to Chatty Belle, the worlds largest talking cow) down to the Steel is Real Ride in Milwaukee, there were fun and off-beat bike rides going on in very corner of Wisconsin.  As much as I would have liked to, I could not be at all of them.  Stay tuned as we are hoping to share reports from across the state through our Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin state coordinators.  If you attended one of those rides and want to send in some photos and an update, shoot me an email to info@bfw.org.

The crowd outside Cafe Hollander for the raffle.

Classic style, Pee Oui got these knickers came from Jerry at Rainbow.

Until then, I took some photos on the Phil Van Valkenberg’s (AKA Pee Oui Roubaix) annual Steel is Real ride in the Milwaukee area.  This year Pee Oui has taken ill, so a few friends stepped in to make sure the ride happened.  Pee Oui managed to make it to the first stop at Cafe Hollander on Downer.  A bunch of folks donated prizes and swag for the ride to have a raffle.  If you were one of the people who won a gift certificate from Ben’s Cycle, contact me to get your card.

People originally wanted to raise money for Phil, but he said he would prefer the cash go to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.  That was super generous of him and is just one more example of how he has given so much to our cycling community, from his cool pub crawls to his guided trips to the Spring Classics in Europe.  Thanks to Phil and everyone who donated, the Bike Fed raised $105 dollars on the raffle.

Note the plates on the bicycle friendly metal grate lift bridge on McKinley.

Pee Oui gets a little help on the hill.

After the prizes where drawn, we headed west to Pabst City for our second stop at the Best Place. Pee Oui stuck with the group, styling in his vintage plus fours and leather cycling shoes. Despite being ill, he danced on the pedals of his ’49 Raleigh.  With a little help, he even managed to overcome the close ratio SA hub and the hill on McKinley to get to this historic pub at the Pabst Brewery.

From Pabst City, the ride continued west without our fearless leader, down into Piggsville and the bike friendly Valley Inn.  I can recommend their yummy bacon cheeseburgers and home-made chips. I always like Phil’s rides because he draws together a very diverse crowd of people who love bikes and a really diverse bunch of bicycles.  He also organized the Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee.

Mascot

Welcome sign

Heavy metal

So many cool bikes with cool details

Waterford proves steel need not come with a weight penalty.

Testing our metal off road.

I led the crowd out from under the shadow of the Wisconsin Avenue bridge in Piggsville and on the visit Tosa Fest and Cafe Hollander west on State Street.  Most of the crowd stuck to the Oak Leaf Trail for the ride west, but a few of us ducked into the woods in Doyne Park to test our iron horses on the single track.

From Wauwatosa we headed to a classic south side Milwaukee tavern, Dick and Gloria’s Cocktails and Dreams.  We managed to include a bit of the Oak Leaf Trail, Milwaukee’s signed bike routes and the Hank Aaron State trail on the ride over. Kathy the sharp-tongued bartender was more than a match for thirsty crowd as she served up cold, cheap cans of Pabst, Blatz and Pepsi.

Crossing to the south side of the tracks

Just four blocks west of the loneliest mile in the world.

Sticking to the South Side, we pedaled east down Lincoln, to the nation’s oldest continually operating two-lane bowling alley, Gene and Marcy’s Holler House.  Put in service in 1908, this cool little Polish tavern is often included on pub pedals (the bicycle version of a pub crawl?) because of its history, cheap Polish beer, and little Marcy’s charming hospitality.  The Holler House is a great place to plan a party.  Just call ahead so Marcy can get a neighborhood kid to set pins as the lanes are not automatic.

Sadly, I had to call it quits after the Holler House, as I needed to get to Benno’s in West Allis for the Fed Fest Twilight Ride on the Hank Aaron State Trail.  I will give a report on that ride in a post later today or tomorrow. If you stuck with the Steel is Real ride until the end, please comment below with a report on how the last two stops to Cafe Central and Hollander went. In the mean time, I have a few more photos below from more of the 2011 Steel is Real Ride.  Thanks again to everyone who bought a raffle ticket and came on the ride.  I have already penciled in the date for next year’s Steel is Real Ride and when Phil is feeling better and can take the reigns again.

Mark leads "down under" over the Marsupial Bridge

Pee Oui's message of the day

It's pronounced just like it is spelled.

The oldest two lanes in the nation, sans teenage pin setter

Classics still rolling

Fat tires and skinny tires are welcome

Posted in Rides | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

It’s summer somewhere

By Dave Schlabowske

See you next summer, summer

I’m enjoying biking to work without getting all sweaty, but I must admit that I did not get down to Bradford Beach as many times as I would have liked to this summer. Summer on a lake in Wisconsin is a wonderful thing. The ocean is great, but it isn’t really any better than our “third coast.” This summer the water in Lake Michigan was really warm every time I went there to swim. That has not been the case in recent years.

I will also miss seeing the full bike racks at the beach. So while I will embrace the arrival of fall, I share this Australian bicycle company’s cycle chic video for all the beach bums in Wisconsin who will miss the sand, the smell of suntan oil and the otherworldly feeling when you experience your first few seconds underwater after you dive into a lake.

Bondi Beach Cruisers from +61 Collective on Vimeo.

Posted in Cyclechic, video | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Madison continues to invest in bicycling

Written by Amanda White, Associate Director

Wednesday night, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin demonstrated that he gets that bicycling is a good investment even in difficult economic circumstances. Before a packed house, Mayor Soglin announced his proposal to increase funding for bicycle projects and programs in 2012 to $4.4 million, up from $4.1 million in 2011. He made the announcement at Moving Bicycling Forward in Madison, an event hosted by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin in which the Mayor and other community leaders’ gave their perspectives on helping Madison achieve 20by2020 (20% of trips made by bike by the year 2020).

While this was great news to the more than 250 bicycle supporters who packed the room and poured out into the hallway, the message that investments in bicycling are even more important during tough economic times is one that municipalities around the rest of the state would be wise to consider.  Madison continues to see the benefit of their history of investing to make the city a better place to bicycle and the leaders are keen to continue to reap the economic return in terms of jobs and the improved quality of life benefits the city has enjoyed.

Mayor Soglin’s tone was serious and to the point.  He did not mince words when he said it was no fun putting together this budget.  Soglin said the constraints placed on Madison by the State combined with debt service from municipal borrowing leave the City with little choice but to cut planned increases in services and programs across the board. Still, he managed to save many planned bicycle projects, which dollar for dollar produce more jobs and higher economic returns on investment than traditional road projects.

“We have to look at the possibilities that bicycling opens up in terms of recreation, in terms of sport, in terms of commuting.  At the same time, we have to put it in terms of all the other challenges that we face,” Soglin warned.  Here he mentioned the recent spate of assaults on the city’s trails indicate there are social problems that need to be addressed.  The Mayor also noted the need for a comprehensive transportation plan that emphasizes land use while it considers all modes of transportation, walking, bicycling, transit and motor vehicles.

While it was great to hear Mayor Soglin and the other community leaders sound off in support of bicycling in these tough economic times, at the same time it was humbling to witness the vast turnout of so many citizens committed to cycling. The variety of people was also indicative of the broad, bi-partisan support for bicycling in our State Capital. Attendees included college students, young professionals, seniors, a sizeable number of women, and even a few toddlers, and there was also a noticeable lack of spandex in this crowd!

I found the meeting to be an incredibly motivating event and I hope the attendees did as well. There were many moments during Tony Fernandez’s presentation, that the audience spontaneously applauded bicycling projects and efforts of the city. The positive energy and excitement from the audience pulsed throughout the room.

I came away from the meeting inspired by the huge number of committed attendees and very optimistic for the opportunities to move bicycling forward in Madison, despite difficult budget times. We have a lot of work to do as we strive for 20by2020, but with such a supportive, committed bicycling community, I’m sure we will unite together and achieve great accomplishments over the next few years. I look forward to working with all of you.

In case you could not attend, below is a short recap and a video of the Mayor’s speech.

Mayor Soglin began the evening’s presentation by sharing his vision for bicycling in our community. The Mayor’s key points included:

  • Difficult economic times – The Mayor explained that Madison is in difficult economic times.  He cited previous years’ spending and new burdens placed on Madison by the state as reasons why drastic cuts are needed.
  • Overview of projects proposed in the capital budget – Mayor Soglin explained that his proposed 2012 Bicycle and Pedestrian Capital budget is an increase from a budget of $4.1 million in 2011 to a proposed $4.4 million in 2012. He then went through and listed some of the projects that are included. These projects can be found in the Mayor’s 2012 Proposed Bicycle & Pedestrian Capital Budget.
  • Bike path safety – There has been an increase in the number of assaults on some of Madison’s bike paths which has Mayor Soglin concerned. He’s going to work with the police department to address some of these safety issues. Mayor Soglin explained that these incidents on the bike path reflect a larger issue of neighborhood safety and child development in at risk communities. He stated that we must take care of our children and work to provide safe, healthy neighborhoods in Madison.
  • Bike parking – The shortage of bike parking downtown is also a concern of Mayor Soglin’s. He understands the need for more bike parking, but available space in our downtown is limited. There is much competition for space including sidewalk cafes, benches, etc. One issue the Mayor’s office is currently working to address in regards to bicycle parking is mopeds parked in bicycle parking areas. Currently, state law allows scooters to park in bicycle parking stalls. The Mayor wants to change this policy. He stated that he is exploring the option of a local ordinance that would restrict bicycle parking but would alleviate this issue. He hopes the ordinance will go to the Ped/Bike/Motor Vehicle Committee soon. The Bike Fed is also working with the Mayor’s office to change the state ordiance to allow local communities to decide whether they want to allow scooters to park in bicycle stalls.

Tony Fernandez, Civil Engineer for the City of Madison, gave an excellent update on the bicycle projects that the city has implemented in the last year and insight into upcoming projects. His presentation with diagrams and projects pictures can be found here: 20110907.TFpresentation. A few of the exciting new connections over the next 1-3 years include:

  • Cannonball Trail – a connection from downtown to Fitchburg.
  • Starkweather Creek Path (west branch) – a connection from the east side of Madison to Sun Prairie.
  • Diagonal crossing at Atwood & Dunning – the city’s first diagonal crossing that would give bikes and peds a special signal to cross at a diagonal.
  • Glacial Drumlin Connection – this is the last link in a non-stop 140 mile connection from downtown Milwaukee to downtown Madison.

Our other dynamic speakers included:

  • Brian Munson, Vandewalle & Associates
  • Paul Muench, Urban Land Interests
  • Toni Gnewuch, Dream Bikes
  • Amanda White, Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin

Here are some links to other media coverage:

A big thanks the Chris Fortune and his team at Saris Cycling Group for helping the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin organize the meeting and thanks to the City of Madison for sponsoring it. Much appreciation to Paul Muench and Urban Land Interests for offering the use of the room. We also thank Jamie Forrest and Trek Bicycle Corporation for the excellent event photos.

Posted in Bicycle Funding, Bike facilities, video | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Giggle now

Thanks to LAX Tim for the tip on this one.  After yesterday’s pretty serious post I thought it would be nice to have something silly to share. You are not allowed to take this seriously. Anyone know who the rider/singer/dancer is?

Posted in video | Tagged , | 3 Comments