If this were a normal spring, people would be starting to travel to the Northwoods to enjoy the outdoors. The state, however, is encouraging people to stay in their own communities and avoid travel for recreation. But for those of us who live up here, the Northwoods offers hundreds of miles of biking trails and country roads that make great cycling routes.
Jamee Peters, vice president of the Langlade Area Mountain Bike Association (LAMBA) describes the type of trails available in eastern Langlade County.
“The mountain bike trails that we have are what we call single track riding designated for mountain bikes within the Nicolet National Forest and some other public lands and some private lands,” Peters said.
Nicolet/Roche trails, which LAMBA manages, are best suited to more experienced riders. “Roche” is French for rock, and the trails wind their way through the boulder strewn glacial moraines providing challenges to even the best riders.
Other somewhat less challenging mountain bike trails are at the Jack Lake Campground, north of Antigo just off Highway 45.
These trails normally are ready for use around May 1, but Peters notes that mountain bike trails should never be used when muddy as it does ruin the trail for others. But if these trails are unavailable, there are many other biking options.
“The beautiful part about Langlade County,” according to Peters, “is that there are so many public roads off the main highway. You’ve got the Crocker Hills area, which is county land and also some timber company property. There are many lanes within the Chequamegon/Nicolet National Forest that are appropriate for riding.”
Mitch Mode, owner of Mel’s Trading Post in Rhinelander, notes the diverse riding options also available in that Oneida County.
“Biking in the area is pretty broad-based. There is really something for everybody if they want to ride a bike,” Mode said.
According to the DNR’s Recreation Partnership Section Chief, Missy VanLanduyt, one of the most popular trails in the region is the Bearskin State Trail.
“The Bearskin is about 22 miles long. It is a former Wisconsin Valley Line railroad. It runs between Minocqua and the county line. It is really popular with hikers, cyclers, and runners in the summer. Interestingly enough, there are actually 16 trestles or bridges along the trail,” she said.
If other exercise options are not currently available to you, and you are thinking about pulling down that bike that has hanging in the garage for years, Mode has some ideas about how to get it ready.
“Get the bike down, probably put some air in the tires and kick some dust off the bike. They may be well advised to get a tune-up on the bike. Make sure the breaks are good, shifting OK, make sure the tires are holding air. If it needs a tune-up, we can look at it or any other bike shop in the area can do the same.”
All bike shops are designated as essential business, so they can be open. Most shops in the region, however, are not fully open but are still offering bike tune ups. Mode describes how they are doing tune-ups in his shop.
“People call up, let us know when they are going to be downtown. We open the doors for them, get the bike in, disinfect it so nobody has to be concerned on that end.”
The biking industry has offered some guidance regarding biking in our era of social distancing.
“I think it is important,” according to Mode, “to keep physical distance on the bike. I think it is important that you not ride immediately behind the person in front of you.”
That would include drafting, which is popular among road bikers. Mode recommends that such a practice be temporarily discontinued.
VanLanduyt offers biking advice when using the State trails.
“We are asking people to follow those guidelines and to practice social distancing and to stay within your communities. Pick up after yourself and your pets and that is the way we are going to be able to keep the rest of the trails and the state parks and forests open. That was primarily why we had to close the properties in the south and we want to keep the ones in the rest of the state open.”
Another advantage right now is that you can ride the State Trails without a trail pass. So if you live in the region, you are encouraged to use the trails and get the physical and psychological benefits of exercising in the fresh air. Mode explains.
“Its good exercise, it feels good, you get fresh air in your face, and come back feeling tired in a good way, that these days is not a bad thing.”
Peters especially appreciates the mental benefits of riding.
“For me personally, I find it really helps me to get out in the fresh air, ride and get away from the feeling of ‘we have to be confined.’ It makes me feel free. It unclutters my mind, which is important anytime.”