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Five Best Bike Routes around UW-Madison

It’s Bike to Work Day here in Madison and as a resident bike commuter I was asked: “How would you describe the UW-Madison biking experience?” It’s a trickier question than you might think.

May 18, 2016

Madison prides itself on it's bike history and bike-friendliness (depending on the day of the week, you'll probably find it in ranked atop some list of bike-able U.S. cities). But that doesn't capture the experience of biking on campus. Riding around here is a collection of tiny moments, woven together with all the things that make this such a special place for Badgers. If you were to create a tour of those moments, this is what it would look like.

Capitol Square

Distance and Elevation Change: 0.6 miles, 30 feet
Best Time to Ride: Saturday morning, during a Dane County Farmers' Market
Why it's Great: Biking the Square, outside the pedestratian stream, is the perfect way to take in the market without getting caught in the commotion. And every biker knows the satisfaction of whirling past a crowd of people stuck in traffic; it's part of the reason they're so insufferable.

Just look at these poor people stuck in the congestion of the market.

State Street

Distance and Elevation Change: 0.56 miles, 36 feet
Best Time to Ride: Friday nights
Why it's Great: Timing the stop lights on this ride is the Holy Grail of biking on campus, but there is an extra touch of joy when you also get to eavesdrop on individuals' hopes and dreams for the evening on a Friday night.

And it's downhill! It's the simple pleasures, isn't it?

Lakeshore Path

Distance and Elevation Change: 1.86 miles, 59 feet
Best Time to Ride: September, right before the start of classes.
Why it's Great: John Muir, who attended UW from 1880-1883, put it best: "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." Plus, if you ride this in September you'll get to vicariously relive your freshman year as you pass the packs of new students walking the path.

Be weary of the dirt in your chain, though.

Langdon Street

Distance and Elevation Change: 0.47 miles, 56 feet
Best Time to Ride: Saturday mornings
Why it's Great: Langdon in the morning gets great light to take in the stately architecture (they really are, have you seen those houses in the daytime?). The residue of Solo Cups and other evidence of the night before and bleary-eyed students slowly making their ways to MacTaggart's add entertainment to the scenery.

It's a different kind of scenery from Lakeshore Path.

Observatory Drive

Distance and Elevation Change: 0.73 miles, 98 feet
Best Time to Ride: Sunday afternoons in the fall
Why it's Great: Fall is the easiest time to sell people on why campus is so great: memory of winter is the furthest away and everyone loves colorful foliage. Picnic Point shows off during this time and Observatory is the best place to take it in. This route does have some uphill, but the decent near Helen C. White is worth it.

Car engine noises as you wind around the bend are encouraged.

Where's your favorite place to bike on campus?

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