April 9, 2012

Featured Bike Ride Route: Paoli

The ride to Paoli has been described as "cliche" for Madison road cyclists, but its popularity is well-founded. Paoli deserves another look, because the Badger State Trail's completion in 2010 made it much more accessible to the broader cycling public.  No longer do you need to sweat a truck overtaking you at 55 mph on a narrow highway biking out to Paoli.  The completed rail trail frees you from the stress of traffic almost all of the way out there.
Although I had biked the Badger Trail many times, even taking it all the way to Illinois once, I had never stopped in Paoli or made it a destination itself. Paoli is a relatively flat, 30-mile round trip from Capitol Square, which is an approachable distance if you're getting into longer rides out of town. This rail-trail route is also easy to navigate. After taking the ride to Paoli and back, you may feel confident enough to visit destinations further along the rail trails, such as Mt. Horeb or New Glarus.
Badger Trail
On an unseasonably warm day, I recruited a friend to make the trip with me. I had on some touring gear: SPD clipless shoes, helmet, and bike shorts concealed by a knit skirt - though, these things weren't necessary for the trip. My friend, Abigail, was comfortable without wearing any bike-specific garb. Her Trek hybrid was a good match for my Fuji Touring as we pedaled along chatting.
Sayles Road
We got off the Badger Trail just before the paved section ends and took some low-traffic roads on rolling hills the final miles to Paoli. We saw several other cyclists enjoying the summer weather in March.
Once in Paoli, we stopped at the Creamery Cafe for ice tea and fresh baked goods. Along with a handful of places to grab a snack or refreshment, Paoli has a park next to the general store which has long served as a place to rest, picnic, and meet up, as well as begin and end a road bike loop.

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