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  1. #1
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    Question for the Wisconsinites

    I was born and raised in Sheboygan and have spent the last 21 years in Portland, Oregon. I enjoy riding a bit of everything from lift assist to long XC days, but focus mostly on techy trail days with 3-4k of climbing as of late.

    We are considering moving back for a number of reasons and I am wondering where would be the best place to relocate if we did so. Seems like somewhere near Madison might be best. We have also looked at Milwaukee, but the riding options seem pretty limited. I would really like to minimize time in the car in order to ride. I like what the local advocacy group in Madison has going on, as well.

    I also enjoy craft beer, live music, and good food. We have a nine year old so school options need to be considered.

    Thanks in advance. If anyone is heading out West I'm happy to give some riding advice for out here. Also, RIP Bart Starr.
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  2. #2
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    If you are considering that neck of the woods, have you looked into Marquette, Michigan? Or Duluth, MN? Both sound like excellent riding communities now.

    Sent from my moto x4 using Tapatalk

  3. #3
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    Don't know if this helps you any, but Madison just won an grant to create a mini-Duluth Traverse:

    Madison Bicycle Adventure Trail Network in Madison, Wisconsin ó This project will aid the Madisonís 2018-2023 Parks & Open Space Plan by planning a network of connecting mountain bike trails throughout the city. Madison has 270 parks and 98% of residents live within a half mile of public greenspace, but the city only has one mile of mountain bike trail. The plan aims to put trails close to home in communities across the city, while also connecting riders to existing trail systems in nearby Verona, Fitchburg and Middleton. The project will also greatly benefit Madisonís three NICA teams, who anticipate increased participation and rider diversity when practices can be held nearby.
    Overall, the Upper Midwest MTBing scene is really strong and really awesome. We may not have the mountains, but we do have some of the best (and funnest) trails in the country.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by CycleKrieg View Post
    Don't know if this helps you any, but Madison just won an grant to create a mini-Duluth Traverse:



    Overall, the Upper Midwest MTBing scene is really strong and really awesome. We may not have the mountains, but we do have some of the best (and funnest) trails in the country.
    It sounds like Madison has the exact same issue as Portland, virtually no singletrack in the city that you can ride your bike to. Is "mountain-biking" a bad word there, too?
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  5. #5
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    check out la crosse--I used to have miles of great trails with good climb 1/2 mile from the garage when I lived there (Onalaska).

    I currently live not too far from Sheboygan, and while there are a couple places, the riding is fairly sad on the east side of the state--lotta mud, lotta flat.
    Last edited by steadite; 05-27-2019 at 03:37 PM.
    whatever...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by free-agent View Post
    It sounds like Madison has the exact same issue as Portland, virtually no singletrack in the city that you can ride your bike to. Is "mountain-biking" a bad word there, too?
    Oh god no. Mountain biking is a very good word in most locations. Here in the Upper Midwest, the problem isn't getting access, its largely finding the money to build what you have gotten access for.

    I've been to Portland and even rode there (Sandy, Powell). Portland sucks for access and the way mountain biking is treated. WI has no Marcy Houle, Nick Fish or Amanda Fritz.
    By and large WI and MN have tons of in town riding (MN has better in town riding, FYI). There are some adjacent to Madison, like Quarry Ridge (technically in Verona), Pleasant View (technically Middleton) or Dawley (for beginners only; county land, though connected to Quarry Ridge) as well as Blue Mound, just west of town.

    What Madison is trying to do is is take their parks, who haven't had MTB access and add it to the parks and connect them up into one seamless system. Duluth, MN has this system which is known as the "Traverse" but is actually a trail that connected up their existing trails in various parks into a single 105 mile in-town system. Madison is trying to create a miniature version of that. That is, build singletrack in parks and then use paved or new dirt trails to connect up those parks so you can ride from one section to another. It makes more sense if you see a map of Madison.

    https://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/find-a-park/map/

  7. #7
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    Move up north or be willing to drive a couple hours.

    Plus Madison is really expensive and crowded.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by CycleKrieg View Post
    Oh god no. Mountain biking is a very good word in most locations. Here in the Upper Midwest, the problem isn't getting access, its largely finding the money to build what you have gotten access for.

    I've been to Portland and even rode there (Sandy, Powell). Portland sucks for access and the way mountain biking is treated. WI has no Marcy Houle, Nick Fish or Amanda Fritz.
    By and large WI and MN have tons of in town riding (MN has better in town riding, FYI). There are some adjacent to Madison, like Quarry Ridge (technically in Verona), Pleasant View (technically Middleton) or Dawley (for beginners only; county land, though connected to Quarry Ridge) as well as Blue Mound, just west of town.

    What Madison is trying to do is is take their parks, who haven't had MTB access and add it to the parks and connect them up into one seamless system. Duluth, MN has this system which is known as the "Traverse" but is actually a trail that connected up their existing trails in various parks into a single 105 mile in-town system. Madison is trying to create a miniature version of that. That is, build singletrack in parks and then use paved or new dirt trails to connect up those parks so you can ride from one section to another. It makes more sense if you see a map of Madison.

    https://www.cityofmadison.com/parks/find-a-park/map/
    I thought I recognized your mtbr handle. I like the idea of connecting parks/greenspaces. It's a great use of space, especially if the park trails and connectors have some interesting aspects to them including some tech challenges with optional B Lines.
    We tried that with the Springwater and Esplanade a while back.
    Thanks for the feedback.
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  9. #9
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    Personally, I think the trail access from Milwaukee is better than Madison. Many of the trails that are in/near Madison are only a few miles long which makes it hard to do any endurance training. I live in the southwest suburbs of Milwaukee & have 2 trail heads (John Muir & Emma Carlin) in the Southern Kettles that are 35 minutes away (they total a 32 mile loop, and each of the trail heads have loops ranging from 1-12 miles, or you connect the systems for the 32 miles). Alpine Valley is 25 minutes and has the most climbing in the area & a 9 mile FUN climby loop on a ski hill. Minooka Park is a short (5 mile) loop 10 minutes away. Tosa Trails link a 4 mile loop & 2 mile loop with ~4 mile connector (flat easy riding) and those are about 15 minutes from me. Alpha trail is a 3 mile loop about 15 minutes away. Camrock is 1 hour (20-25 minutes from Madison) and offers a 7 mile loop of fun semi-technical stuff. New Fane is about 55 minutes north and has a 5.5 loop with shorter options that are flowy. 80 minutes north is Greenbush which is a rockier trail in the Northern Kettles. Pleasant Valley in Cedarburg (35-40 min north) has ~4 miles. I've never been to Glacial Blue Hills in West Bend about 40 min north. Little Switz is about 30 minutes north of the city & has the lift access & downhill stuff. There are also trails in Silver Lake about 50 minutes south that I believe are up to around 8 miles. 40 minutes south is the Grand Geneva that has a 7 mile loop. They also have Canopy trails (~10 miles) where I've never been. I am very happy and never get bored with all the options for switching up my rides.

  10. #10
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    I won't rehash what has already been said, but what your seeing in the posts above is a good listing...albeit only a partial listing...of what is available in the Madison and Milwaukee regions.

    I can only speak specifically to the Madison relocation, as my wife and I made the move here eight years ago from the Washington DC metro region. In truth, it's been a pleasant surprise in terms of riding options and my weekly ride time has increased exponentially over what I used to get in weekly while living, working, commuting in/around the nations capital.

    Couple of things that I recommend to anyone looking at this area though...

    -Madison is a great small city, but can have big city prices and frustrations, thus I always suggest looking in the outlying communities to the west, east or south. You can get far enough out that housing prices drop dramatically, but still only be 15-20 minutes out and still have good schools, communities, etc.
    -Madison has a great airport, IMO (I'm thru MSN airport weekly for work and can't say enough good things about it!)
    -Trips, family or otherwise, to just about anywhere in the state...or to the UP of Michigan or Minnesota...are easy from Madison. I do a bunch of overnight solo camping/riding and a few "family" trips each summer and fall to spice up the riding a bit. Nothing requires any mega long driving and most all the locations are family friendly enough to keep the wife and all three kids happy with other activities.
    -The area has a long history with road and triathlon...my advice is don't fight it, but find a way to incorporate some road riding into your regimen to keep you sane in the wetter seasons (like all this spring so far!).
    -Get a fat bike and keep riding all winter long! Lots of options already, with more and more opening up every year.

  11. #11
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    If Madison, currently living on the East side of it has more trail access (No one has mentioned Camrock, easily the best trail located between Milwaukee and Madison).

    If Milwaukee, the West Suburbs have more trail access.

  12. #12
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    I live 60 minutes east of Minneapolis in Menomonie. Although there is only 5 miles of singletrack in town, another 30 minutes east in Eau Claire we are provided with 4 different singletrack systems adding up to around 40 miles, and paved trails everywhere. Plus, it is much cheaper living than Madison/Milwaukee, lower crime rates, and lots of craft breweries!!

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    La Crosse is on the rise again with some existing trails at Upper Hixon being rebuilt by Rock Solid Trail Contractors in 2018, and a crew from Rock Solid building as I type this for Phase 2 of of Upper Hixon (DH Trails). Upper Hixon (formerly known as HPT) has a solid mix of old school hand cut XC and now new school Flow / DH. There are also more access trails from town in Lower Hixon. We also have a new 6 mile system being planned on at Granddad's Bluff Park, phases 2 & 3 of this plan will add an additional 5-6 miles. Plus Winona MN is on the verge of a 20+ mile system that should be built over the next few years. Viroqua (Vernon Trails) is also expanding annually. Levis Mound is 1.5 hours from La Crosse. Bottom Line is there is a good mix of what could be considered Urban Mountain Biking in La Crosse since all the trails are located on City Park Land. www.ORATrails.org for more trail information

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by fuzzymusketeer View Post
    I live 60 minutes east of Minneapolis in Menomonie. Although there is only 5 miles of singletrack in town, another 30 minutes east in Eau Claire we are provided with 4 different singletrack systems adding up to around 40 miles, and paved trails everywhere. Plus, it is much cheaper living than Madison/Milwaukee, lower crime rates, and lots of craft breweries!!
    I'm looking around to transfer within my company and Menomonie may be an option. Here in Austin, TX we have zillions of trails for year round riding if you don't catch fire in the summer months. Good to hear that there is some singletrack in the area. Area looks great for trail potential. Seems like in MN and WI, xc skiing and hiking is the thing to do, but I can't live on urban or rail trails alone. Thanks for the info.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlienSP View Post
    I'm looking around to transfer within my company and Menomonie may be an option. Here in Austin, TX we have zillions of trails for year round riding if you don't catch fire in the summer months. Good to hear that there is some singletrack in the area. Area looks great for trail potential. Seems like in MN and WI, xc skiing and hiking is the thing to do, but I can't live on urban or rail trails alone. Thanks for the info.
    We have year-round riding too. Its called "fat bikes".

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by cabanaboy View Post
    Move up north or be willing to drive a couple hours.

    Plus Madison is really expensive and crowded.
    We have an up north home near some of the best trails and one in Middleton. In Middleton I ride 2 mi on nice pathways to 5-15 mi single track rides.

    We know other areas with family at CO resorts, Hood River & Norcal. It's none of those or the months each year I used to spend in the Tetons but it has been great for career, outdoor life and raising kids. The brewery within earshot allows dogs 6 days a week and has MTB and road rides 2 days a week.

    Yes, housing is expensive where we are. It's getting worse where for example the 3 new residents round us all came from each coast or Phd work for jobs or retirement here. That's just the ticket price for not living in Redneckistan.

    In winter I do same trail rides on fat bike. With Blackhawk in that network I can choose to ski or bike depending on conditions. Blue Mound is 17 mi away. If you know how to ride it you have more vertical than any ski area in the state or the region except for the tip of the UP. You can also head there on your gravel bike.

    The proximity to Blackhawk also ended up with the good luck of 3 kids in an outdoor lifestyle. I was lucky to have 3 kids who thought other sports were kind of stupid when you have ski jumping, alpine, biathlon, Nordic and MTB trails a few minutes or a bike ride from home. There's spring creek fishing near by too.

    Yes Madison is finally probably moving on off road cycling but look at Middleton public meetings. Middleton gets sh_t done. Current Middleton budget for the developing Olympics training center and new off road cycling trailhead is $420,000. More got approved and done there in the past month than Madison's done in since they kicked original StumpJumper bikes out of their parks 30+ years ago. That group (Olympics dev center) could have chosen Madison properties but they had the sagacity to do it where the people get stuff done, and get along.
    ƃuoɹʍ llɐ ʇno əɯɐɔ ʇɐɥʇ

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    I have never ridden in the SE part of the state so I cannot speak for that area. In my opinion, the NW part of the state is where you want to be. Eau Claire has many options for riding and is very close to Hickory Ridge trail system in the Chippewa County Forest. You are also only about an hour away from Levis Mounds which is rated as an Imba epic system. 2 hours to the north is the CAMBA system in Hayward/Cable, which has over 100 miles of single track, and a lot of climbing(by midwest standards). Duluth would be another great option as there is a ton of riding options there and you are only 90 minutes roughly from the CAMBA system. All these areas have great cycling scenes with microbrews, coffee shops , bike shops and more.
    EDIT: I would also have to mention Marquette/Ishpeming area in the U.P. There are some of the most techincally challenging trails in the area.
    Last edited by mtbguy123; 06-23-2019 at 06:29 AM. Reason: adding marquette area

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    I'm late to the party here. You could also consider the Fox Valley. We are working hard to add to our trail systems and out local IMBA chapter could use more senior membership to help us do more organizing. We recently re-opened Calumet County park trails and will be adding a more miles there as we work with the park around the escarpment. Our plan is to add some DH there if we can generate the funds to bring in Rock Solid or Witek.

    What we lack in elevation and trails we make up for in location. All of the great riding everyone on here talks about is not a super long drive from here. We regularly go to Levis and Marquette and the Kettles and Madison and Cable/Hatward, etc...

  19. #19
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    Thanks for the reply. My wife and I graduated from UW-Oshkosh so that is always an option. Cheers!
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  20. #20
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    Madison is culturally most like Portland. Two mountain biking area are within 1/2 hour (Blue Mound and Cambridge)

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueCheesehead View Post
    Madison is culturally most like Portland. Two mountain biking area are within 1/2 hour (Blue Mound and Cambridge)
    Well its raining as much as Portland lately. 2 other options that are able to be reached from the paved bike paths are Quarry Ridge and Seminole.

  22. #22
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    You mention Wisco, but honestly the Twin Cities may be the best choice for trails and culture out your door, with the most active trail development. You'll have [relatively] quick access to Duluth trails, which [in comparison to OR] offers the only lift-access and legit gnar besides Marquette, MI. Then you have lift access 1hr away at Welch Village, and Cayuna, Levis Mound and Camba all within 3hrs. Then if Afton ever gets its act together and taps into the Vail Resort resource handbook, they could make some great trails. Good on Madison for trying, but sounds like they'll be dual purpose XC ski/bike trails, we all know how that goes. The Madison area trail network always seemed lackluster, considering how they tout themselves such a biker city, and the behemoth Trek literally right there. Just an example, why hasn't Trek opened their private trails, or pushed to develop trails at the most obvious local terrain - Devil's Lake?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by motard5 View Post
    You mention Wisco, but honestly the Twin Cities may be the best choice for trails and culture out your door, with the most active trail development. You'll have [relatively] quick access to Duluth trails, which [in comparison to OR] offers the only lift-access and legit gnar besides Marquette, MI. Then you have lift access 1hr away at Welch Village, and Cayuna, Levis Mound and Camba all within 3hrs. Then if Afton ever gets its act together and taps into the Vail Resort resource handbook, they could make some great trails. Good on Madison for trying, but sounds like they'll be dual purpose XC ski/bike trails, we all know how that goes. The Madison area trail network always seemed lackluster, considering how they tout themselves such a biker city, and the behemoth Trek literally right there. Just an example, why hasn't Trek opened their private trails, or pushed to develop trails at the most obvious local terrain - Devil's Lake?
    There's plenty of tough trails around Madison, Quarry Ridge for one. I wouldn't be so hard on the Trek factory, they are big sponsors of High School mountain bike racing, from loaning kids bikes to putting on clinics that also provide bikes to anyone that needs one.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JPL65 View Post
    There's plenty of tough trails around Madison, Quarry Ridge for one. I wouldn't be so hard on the Trek factory, they are big sponsors of High School mountain bike racing, from loaning kids bikes to putting on clinics that also provide bikes to anyone that needs one.
    Tacking onto what JPL65 said above, I'd urge anyone thinking Madison-area trails are lackluster to check them out again if you haven't been in a year or two. The work done by Jeremy Witek and an amazing group of volunteers at places like Quarry Ridge, Pleasant View, and Blackhawk (membership required, but it's inexpensive and more than worth it!) have upped the offerings immensely. Combine that with what has just recently opened at Cam-Rock and you've got a killer mix of easily accessible trails for daily riding.....and still have CAMBA, Levis, 9 Mile, Marquette, Copper Harbor, Cuyuna, etc. for those epic weekend or week-long trips.

    RE: Devils Lake, or any other busy state park for that matter....that's a Wisconsin DNR issue and stonewall. Until mountain biking has a seat at that table (i.e., a legit legislative effort in this state!), you're not going to see any decent mtb trails at the state parks that make the meat of the DNR's annual budget off of out of state tourists.

    As for Trek and their private trails....It'd be awesome if they were to open them to the general public, BUT they're private out of liability issues. Sadly, it's the society we live in!

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    Quote Originally Posted by free-agent View Post
    I was born and raised in Sheboygan and have spent the last 21 years in Portland, Oregon. I enjoy riding a bit of everything from lift assist to long XC days, but focus mostly on techy trail days with 3-4k of climbing as of late.
    You want this type of trail riding then look at the Wausau area and north. Nine Mile, Ringle, Underdown (Epic ride area), Camba, Washburn, Jack Lake etc. Plus enough snow for fat biking in the winter and puts you closer to Marquette, Copper Harbor and Duluth trails.

    And as noted above...Madison /Milwaukee is overcrowded and pricey.

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