BY MIKE MCFADZEN
Most readers of Silent Sports own at least one bike. Maybe you’re a roadie, a mountain biker, a commuter or ride a fat bike … or all of the above! The Midwest is blessed with awesome biking opportunities regardless of genre. These opportunities didn’t happen by chance. Many bike and ski clubs spend endless hours working with communities, legislators, shops and individuals to make biking, and skiing better for all of us.
The Bike Federation of Wisconsin
The granddaddy of Wisconsin bike organizations is the Bike Fed of Wisconsin. The Bike Fed is a nonprofit organization that represents its 7,500 members – myself included – and the 2.5 million residents and visitors who ride in Wisconsin.
“We are the only state organization that looks out for the interests of everyone who rides a bike,” Bike Fed Executive Director Dave Schlabowske told Silent Sports. “The Fed is constantly working legislatively and educationally for pro-bike advocacy. Our legislative successes this year include increased penalties for failure to yield violations that effect bikers and walkers. We are currently working on laws to help categorize e-bikes, which are technically illegal on Wisconsin roads.”
Schlabowske feels networking with individual bike clubs is critical, as the Bike Fed’s goal is to make Wisconsin more bikeable.
The Bike Fed hosts events throughout the year including Wisconsin Bike Week, the Santa Rampage, Saris Gala and others.
“One of our big events is the Ride Across Wisconsin (RAW) which starts August 11, 2018,” according to Schlabowske.
The Santa Rampage is one of the wackiest events you’ll ever see. Think hundreds, possibly thousands of biking Santa’s cruising in downtown Milwaukee. To join or find out more about the Bike Fed visit bfw.org.
Local Bike Clubs
Let’s get local. There are tons of great local bike and ski clubs. Some organize rides, others take on a myriad of activities including advocacy, education and trail development … you name it! I don’t have the space to talk about all of them, so I’ll highlight a couple clubs located in Oneida County, Wisconsin.
The Oneida County Biking and Walking Trails Council (OCBWTC) is a 501c3 organization whose focus is to make Oneida County more bike and walk friendly.
According to OCBWTC Secretary Tom Rulseh, OCBWTC emanated from the Oneida County Health Department, which was seeking ways to engage the public in healthy recreation.
I met Rulseh at a town board meeting in which OCBWTC was seeking approval for additional signed bike routes.
“Signed bike routes raise the prominence of bikers on roadways,” Rulseh told Silent Sports. “People are more likely to bike where they feel safe. We look for opportunities to work with towns by paying for the signs and even installing them.”
At that meeting, the town board approved one route but nixed the other proposed route. Rulseh wasn’t discouraged, saying “We’ll continue to work with the town.”
OCBWTC is finalizing a landmark project that will map every bike, ski and snowshoe trail in Oneida County. An online version will be available soon according to Rulseh. For more information on OCBWTC, visit bikeoneida.com.
Another get-it-done Northwood’s club is the Rhinelander Area Silent Trails Association (RASTA). The club is involved in a wide spectrum of non-motorized activities, including trail and facility development, youth cycling, winter bike and ski trail grooming. Their presence is significant. I’ve personally witnessed RASTA’s work firsthand. I met RASTA members working the Raven Trails (mountain bike) last September and talked with a groomer while skiing the Cassian Two-Way Ski Trail in March. RASTA has installed bridges, re-routed trails to be more sustainable and maintains ski and bike trails season long. To find out more information on RASTA, visit rastatrails.org.
Should I Join?
Support your local bike and ski clubs. Make a donation, consider joining or volunteer. Make your little part of the world a better place to bike and ski. Your membership not only enhances local recreation, but it may open a new door to group rides, new riding buddies and a great way to socialize with like-minded people.
My wife and I visit the Wisconsin Northwoods frequently, so we decided to join both RASTA and the Oneida Trails Council!
Note: E-bikes are regular bikes with battery powered pedal assist.