Commuting From The Commuter Challenge Meeting In Madison By Trail

With the (semi) completion of the Hank Aaron Extension, it is now possible to ride between Milwaukee and Madison almost entirely on trails.  Yesterday, Bike Fed super volunteer and commuter challenge maniac Barry Mainwood and I had a meeting in Madison to discuss taking next year’s Endomondo powered commuter challenge national.  Jacob Nordenhoff Jønck flew in from Endomondo’s offices in Denmark, Rob Gusky was here from Kimberly Clark (the primary sponsor of the challenge) and we also had Scott Williams fly in from the League of American Bicyclists and Lou Fineberg of Bike Pittsburgh.

The meeting was early enough in the morning that Barry and I decided to pedal home. Kevin Hardman was kind enough to play chauffeur and drop us and our bikes in Madison because he had a meeting in Lodi to discuss the U.S Bicycle Route System. The meeting went well, and we think the new national commuter challenge is going to be great.  If Wisconsin could log more than a million miles in the first year of the challenge, imagine what we can do as a nation after we tweak the website.

Jacob and the team at Endomondo have already worked with Rob from Kimberly Clark to make a ton of improvements to the website that will make it easier to sign up, make logging miles even easier, improve the leader board and a host of other tweaks.  At the meeting, the advocacy crew bombarded Jacob and Rob with suggestions to make the Endomodo powered site really work for a national challenge and work even better for the business, local and state challenges.

Any lepidopterists or entomologists know why a caterpillar crosses the trail? We had to dodge dozens of wooly bear caterpillars once we hit the gravel section of the Glacial Drumlin Trail.

After the meeting, while most of the group was discussing eating lunch at the Great Dane in Madison in honor of our Danish guest, Barry and I slipped into our Bike WI jerseys and hit the trails for home. The weather was perfect for the start of our ride: mid fifites, sunny and a slight tail wind.  Who could ask for more in November?

As soon as we hit the Glacial Drumlin Trail in Cottage Grove we had to weave in between dozens of Wooly Bear caterpillars inching their way across the trail. Wooly Bear Caterpillars are the larval form of the tiger moth.  According to folk lore, you can predict the weather by how fat the stripes are. The wider the middle brown section is (i.e., the more brown segments there are), the milder the coming winter will be. Conversely, a narrow brown band is said to predict a harsh winter. Another question for the bug experts: does this guy (or gal) have a wide stripe, normal stripe or skinny stripe?

It seems like between groundhogs, the sun and a caterpillar, we should able to tell with reasonable certainty what kind of wax to use for the Birkebeiner this winter.

We also had to dodge bird watchers on the trail.

A rare moment with me in front of Barry. Turns out biking 7 miles each way to work and the grocery store on weekends is not enough to give you the fitness to ride with guys who actually train.

A more typical view for me on the second half of the ride home.

Barry puts the hammer down and I hang on for the ride.

The ride was pretty uneventful until we reached the Bicycle Doctors in Dousman.  When we stopped for a refreshment, Barry noticed he had a flat rear tire.  Between his cold fingers (the temperatures had started to drop) and his dirty, in need of tuning drivetrain, it was one of the slowest tube replacements in history.  But I didn’t mind because I was able to wander around the Bicycle Doctor and ogle all the cool bikes.  I was particularly drawn to the fat bikes as you might guess.

Once we hit Wales, the trail is slightly downhill for quite a while.  I did not bring enough warm clothing and was unprepared for the temperature drop once the sun went down.  Barry carried a windbreaker in his Bontrager messenger bag, so he was kind enough to ride in front and let me take advantage of the easier ride in his draft and the relative warmth out of the wind.  He was also kind enough to keep the pace between 20 and 23 mph so I could hang onto his wheel.

They say bad luck comes in threes, so I kept with tradition and managed two more flats on the ride home.  Luckily we had supplies with us, so we did not have to make the call of shame to either of our wives or my boss.  That would not have been good under any circumstance.

Darkness on the edge of town. Barry still pulling on the New Berlin Rec Trail.

The moon helped light our ride, but Barry had a sweet 300 lumen Light & Motion Vis 360 helmet mounted light.  I have been considering one of these for night mountain bike rides as a supplement to the handlebar mounted 800 lumen Supernova E3 Triple (review to come soon) I have on my Schlick Northpaw.  While the E3 is bright, it is really helpful to be able to see around a turn before you turn the bars and helmet mounted lights allow for that.

The light would also be useful now that daylight savings has dropped the cloak of darkness over my commute home from work. The Light & Motion system is super bright, has multiple power levels and even a flashing mode. Barry told me it was the best money he has ever spent on a commuter accessory. Matt from our Milwaukee office has the Vis 360 and he loves it too.

Both Barry and I have done the ride from Madison to Milwaukee in under three hours on The Bone Ride, but riding as a pair on the trail rather than in a big group on the road is slower, especially at night, with multiple flats, in the cold and with me way out of shape. The whole 83 mile ride took us four hours and 30 minutes (not including stops).  Even with minor cases of hypothermia, we both had a great time.  It was wonderful to be able to ride about 75 of the 83 miles on trails, away from traffic.

Barry was using his Garmin Edge 705 to record our ride. Check out the awesome stats and map he was able to make simply by logging the trip via easy download to the Endomondo site (note I had to ride a couple extra miles more than Barry to get to my house, hence my 83 miles).  You can do the same with most any smart phone using their apps.  The adventure ride with Barry was fun, but after I got warmed up and ate some food, I am now psyched for next year’s commuter challenge.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 11 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave lives with his wife Liz and daughter Frankie in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's west side.

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