From the Dairyland Dare and Wright Stuff Century to Mondays Around Monona and all those Bombay Bicycle Club tours, there are so many bicycling events in and around Madison that it's remarkable how distinct one ride is from the next. To illustrate this, the Bicycle Crank has isolated two rides from the coming month for an exercise in comparison and contrast.
What: Bike the Barns, Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition's annual bike tour for locavores and moveable feast for cyclists. "It's not a race," emphasizes Gini Knight, MACSAC's community program manager. "You can take all day."
When & Where: Saturday, Sept. 11, departing Token Creek County Park between 8:30-9:10 a.m. and stopping at three farms along a route of about 62 miles - most on low-volume secondary roads northeast of Madison.
Why: "It's pretty hip to know your local farmer these days," says Knight; Bike the Barn benefits MACSAC's efforts to subsidize community-supported agriculture shares for people on low incomes.
Celebrity Wattage: Ben and Jonny Hunter are the visionary guerrilla gourmets behind Underground Food Collective, a partner in the event.
Food Factor: Wholesome goodness: seasonal local fare (meats, veggies, herbs, eggs, blueberries, organics etc.) prepared by Underground Food Collective, plus Sassy Cow ice cream.
Scenic Value: Passing orchards, wetlands and cultivated acres of rural Dane County "and noticing the small beauties," says Knight, is one of Bike the Barn's great pleasures.
Entertainment Value: Connecting the dots between small-scale direct-market farming and sustainable economies, some people spend an hour or two at each stop, Knight notes, "taking the farm tours, mingling with people."
Registration: $65 (plus at least $50 more in pledges) for what amounts to three meals on two wheels plus one after-party. Limit 550; the event has filled each of its first three years.
What: Ride the Drive, which closes most of John Nolen Drive and parts of nine other downtown streets to motor vehicles - and opens them to bicyclists, pedestrians, in-line skaters and others among the car-free public.
When & Where: Sunday, Aug. 29, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., on a six-mile loop extending along John Nolen Drive (between East Lakeside and South Blair streets), the first eight blocks of East Washington, around the Capitol Square, down State Street to Lake Street to Dayton to Bedford to North Shore Drive and back to John Nolen. Join at any point.
Why: Much of downtown Madison is transformed into something akin to public plazas, affording relaxed middle-of-the-road perspectives on the central city.
Celebrity Wattage: Blinding, due to a scheduled appearance by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. Even after a disappointing 2010 Tour, and despite a broadening federal probe into doping allegations against him, trying to glimpse the anti-cancer crusader may be like viewing the Mona Lisa: "Wherever he goes, he gets mobbed," says Steve Doniger, community services manager for presenting co-sponsor Madison Parks.
Food Factor: Oscar Mayer hot dogs + Metcalfe's Market + State Street coffee shops and restaurants + pedal-powered smoothies + Jamerica and other food carts on East Wash = Yum galore.
Scenic Value: Via bike, foot, skates or stroller, familiar streets look, smell and sound different without cars and trucks.
Entertainment Value: Musicians and other performers, obstacle course, parade, bike polo, primers on helmet-fitting and Safe Routes to School - plus bouncy castles, Art Cart and other kid stuff.
Registration: Free. (Donations, volunteers welcome.) No fixed ceiling on number of participants.