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  1. #1
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Elroy to Sparta Trail

    Located in Bombadil country in Wisconsin it's said to be the first rail-trail conversion. It's still the most fun trail that I've ridden on.

    The trail is 32 miles long (more or less) and passes through 2 intermediary towns. The thing that makes it unique are the tunnels that pass through the biggest hills. The trail goes for about 5 miles up a 3% grade to a tunnel and down 3% for about 5 miles again to the next town so in 32 miles you do that 3 times. 3% is a grade where your eyes tell you it's flat but your legs are saying otherwise. The uphills, while not too hard, are depressing because you feel like you should be able to ride faster. The downhills are a blast for the same reason.

    I'm sure there are people who ride through the tunnels but I didn't see any. There is no way I was going to attempt it on our road tandem. The floors, which you can't see very well, are kind of rough and there isn't any real vertical reference to help guide you. I think that I might try riding it on a mountain bike with a big headlight.

    Most of the riders who were on our tour avoided the trail in favor of riding a little longer route with some steep hills. I'm very happy that we rode the Elroy to Sparta trail. (Actually we rode Sparta to Elroy but who cares?) To me it was the highlight of our trip.

  2. #2
    cycling for 50 plus yrs colorado dale's Avatar
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    I road Elroy-Sparta in June to ride my age on my 60th bday. The last time I had been there was on my girlfriend's 40th bday and first time she every rode a metric century so it seemed to be right place to return for my 60th.
    On way back we did get off at Norwalk on way back to avoid the 3/4 mile tunnel walk in bike shoes after a climb of a mile or two right out of Norwalk it was a beautiful ride the rest of way back to Sparta.

    I can't figure out how Sparta can claim to be Bicycle Capital of anything. There isn't even bike lanes to ride to the west side of town to the Walmart and West Side Liquors

  3. #3
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Hope you are having fun. How long are you in the state for? And do you have a plan for where you will be in and when? There's always a chance I could be in the same area.

    That trail is technically 32 miles long, but seeing as how it doesn't end and simply flows into other trails on each end, it is really a 100 mile long system, even more if you count the spur off to Camp Douglass out of Elroy.

    I actually like the "400" trail a bit more, that's the trail it connects to out of Elroy. I love the ride between Union Center and La Valle, through the wetlands and bluffs. Wonewoc has a good bakery, with low prices.

    The shorter tunnels on E-S are nice, but I'm not a big fan of the long one. 4000' of blackness and wetness is more than enough. A 1000' tunnel is fun, but each additional 1000' only takes away from the experience.

    Sparta does have a neat Bicycle Museum.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  4. #4
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil View Post
    Hope you are having fun. How long are you in the state for? And do you have a plan for where you will be in and when? There's always a chance I could be in the same area.
    You missed your big chance. I'm back home in Missouri now.

    I'll definitely be going back to Wisconsin, the only question is when. I love Wisconsin. I have a high school buddy who lives north of Madison. He restores native prairies. Mrs. Grouch and I visited one of his sites and listened to his explanations of how he does it. The process is more involved than I had imagined. We need to go back during a season when the wild flowers are more in bloom.

    The same tour operator has a Door County tour scheduled for next July. We might do that next summer. I haven't been to Door County in over 15 years. FWIW, the tour operator is PAW (pedal across Wisconsin). I don't make a habit of giving endorsements, but I think he does an outstanding job.

  5. #5
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    I remember you mentioning the trip some time back. I was even wondering when it was a couple of weeks ago. But I've been busy of late, daughter has a wedding coming up and we have a number of house repairs underway. I'll have some free time in Sept & Oct.

    Glad to hear that you had a good time. Wisconsin is a nice place to visit in the summer & fall.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  6. #6
    Senior Member tntyz's Avatar
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    Lifelong resident of Wisconsin here, but never did the Elroy-Sparta trail. Maybe some day . . .

  7. #7
    Senior Member RepWI's Avatar
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    I used to live in Elroy back in 76-78. The trail was fresh and unique to the country back then. I only rode it a few times as the black top country roads appealed to me much more at that time.

    Wisconsin black topped its roads decades ago to support the dairy farms of the state. That is why we are blessed with so many wonderful places to bike. You can ride 20 miles in some places and see only a car or two.

  8. #8
    Senior Member tntyz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RepWI View Post
    I used to live in Elroy back in 76-78. The trail was fresh and unique to the country back then. I only rode it a few times as the black top country roads appealed to me much more at that time.

    Wisconsin black topped its roads decades ago to support the dairy farms of the state. That is why we are blessed with so many wonderful places to bike. You can ride 20 miles in some places and see only a car or two.
    Yes, which is one reason I have never been a fan of riding the trails that we have available here.

  9. #9
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    I bike the Reedsburg to Elroy to Sparta to Onalaska to Trempealeau (actually Perrot State Park) several times per year. The 100 miles on limestone in one day plus a nice NW head wind will test your stamina.
    I have been doing that for over 15 years and we will see when I can no longer do that. I am 67.
    ---------------------
    This trail is fabulous because of the many different scenery you will see. The 400 trail follows a winding river with lots of wild life and a few nice little towns. Elroy to Sparta offers the tunnels but I love the big long hills up and down. To Onalaska you will see trains and lots of fields. Nice shade and always water and opportunity for eating.
    From Onalaska North you see Lake Onalasca and the big river Mississippi joint by the Black River. Very scenic and the trails are in great shape. The limestone trails are almost as good as asphalt as long as it does not rain.
    Motels and restaurants are along the way and on both end points.
    Great place. We are so lucky to have this resource.

  10. #10
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    Elroy- it's where we discovered fried cheese curds.
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