La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival Coming September 2-5, 2016
Four-Day Festival Highlights Road, Mountain, & Historical Tours Throughout Region
LA CROSSE, WI — Explore La Crosse invites newcomers and residents to celebrate bicycling in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with the 6th Annual La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival, September 2-5, 2016. This free event, centered around Cameron Park in historic downtown La Crosse, allows participants the opportunity to enjoy four days of on- and off-road cycling, including road rides ranging from 30 to over 80 miles. The festival is intended to show off the world-class bicycling in La Crosse and throughout the Driftless region.
The long list of activities include mountain biking, urban rides, guided historical tours, ice cream rides, coffee rides, short family-friendly outings and a special gravel adventure. All of these events — both self-supported road rides and guided interest tours — will leave from the registration tent in Cameron Park, unless otherwise noted. Details are on the bicyclelacrosse.com website.
Registration for all the rides is entirely free, thanks to sponsorship from Mayo Clinic Health Systems and other local supporters. Premium registration is also available for participants to get the full experience of the Bicycle Festival. Premium registrants receive special discounts, offers, gifts, event t-shirt, and priority on limited availability rides. All volunteers receive complimentary premium registration.
The 2016 Bike Fest doesn’t officially begin until Friday, but volunteers will be on-site for registration and packet pickup at Moon Tunes on Thursday, September 1st. Moon Tunes is a free summer concert series in Riverside Park in downtown La Crosse. “Woodstock Reunion” will be on the open-air stage.
Riding begins Friday morning with the Stoddard-Chaseburg Loop, a short (38 mile) and mostly flat ride southbound out of La Crosse along the Mississippi. The ride continues east up a quiet rural farm valley. A challenging climb up and over County K makes the return exciting. This road ride, like all other long rides at the festival, is self-supported: riders pick up maps or download turn-by-turn directions, and can leave Cameron Park at any time Friday morning, stopping at marked convenience stores or rest stops along the way. Some volunteer Ride Ambassadors will also lead groups out of town for the featured daily rides, though riders can leave on their own.
Other Friday rides include the optional road ride which travels to Goose Island and Stoddard. It’s a 31 mile loop and is considered the flattest road ride on the schedule. Friday also includes a 14-18 mile Advanced Mountain Bike Ride through Hixon Forest and the Upper Hixon Trails.
This year’s festival also includes the first-ever “Meat and Greet” which will be held at Earl’s Grocery and Saloon, located at 401 3rd St S, La Crosse, WI 54601. Enjoy meat from Bubba’s Meats and a tap-takeover by Pearl Street Brewery. Make sure to stop by and meet fellow riders, whether local or visiting.
Saturday’s featured ride is the Coon Valley Coulee Express, a 56 mile ride. A small climb to Barre Mills starts the route, but this is just a warm-up to four challenging climbs up and down the ridges of the Driftless region. The next-to-last climb of the day is a “Driftless monster,” up Sveum Ridge Road out of Coon Valley, with grades as steep as 17-18 percent and a scenic switchback though an old farm at the top.
Other Saturday rides include an 8:00 am coffee ride which is a leisurely morning ride with coffee stops. Along the way, riders will explore northside neighborhoods, the city trails through the marsh, and a newly built bicycle/pedestrian bridge. The 12-mile route finishes in plenty of time to shop and enjoy the Cameron Park Farmer’s Market. New this year is the addition of Beer By Bike Brigade to the festival schedule, a bike riding pub crawl that will meet up at the Riverside International Peace Park at 4:30 pm for a night of fun that starts at 5:00 pm.
Sunday’s featured road ride heads into Minnesota. Known as the Driftless Region’s Most Scenic Ride, this route has four big climbs, including steep and scenic Tschumper Road. But cyclists are rewarded with many rest stops and stunning views of the Mississippi and Root River valleys.
Other rides on Sunday include Apple Blossom, a quick 35-mile scenic loop out from La Crosse through Minnesota’s apple orchards, with one fairly gradual climb, great views over the Mississippi, and a sweeping descent into La Crescent. There will also be a yoga ride that heads over to Root Down Yoga for a Karma Class, an Ice Cream ride, and the Dark La Crosse Tour, an evening exploration of the city’s sometimes-notorious past. The ride is an easy two miles, but subject matter may not be suitable for children.
Sunday also features a special event: the 7th annual La Crosse Gravel Classic, a 56-mile road race and/or bike tour. The unique road-racing format is done in six parts on the gravel backroads of Minnesota, just across the Mississippi River from La Crosse. The ride is set to begin at 8 am and is free, but requires riders to register online or at the Cameron Park registration tent.
The festival winds up on Monday with a long featured ride, Tri-State Metric Century. Though it is 64 miles long, it gained the nickname “World’s Laziest Ride” when the Wheelmen rode it in the 1980s: it avoids all the major climbs in the region. The long and gently-rolling course heads through Minnesota to Iowa and occasionally into Wisconsin. It might appear easy, but many small hills over the 100 kilometers add spice to this long tour of the Mississippi River valley. The optional ride on Monday is Barista’s Epic Coffee Ride, a 44 or 55-mile journey across the Mississippi and along the Root River Valley to Houston, MN, where Barista’s Coffee House provides a convenient stop at the halfway point. There will also be another Pedal Paddle Ride on Monday morning, to Goose Island and onto the quiet backwaters of the Mississippi River.
For a full Bike Fest schedule, including more information on all rides and festival events, visit www.explorelacrosse.com/bikefest. This page includes links to detailed route descriptions at
www.bicyclelacrosse.com, a website which promotes year-round road riding in the Driftless Region and provides resources and information, including downloadable routes and maps, to local cyclists.
For more information about the La Crosse Area Bicycle Festival and bicycling resources and events in the La Crosse area, or to volunteer to help, please visit www.bicyclelacrosse.com.