Exploring New Wisconsin Dirt: The Trails of the Kettle Moraine

A great place to start and the more technical of the two trail loops in The Kettles.

The midwest is flat. Maybe around here they should call it hillbiking, but that just isn’t very snappy, is it? By no means should this discourage an intrepid explorer, it’s just worth bearing in mind when you go out looking for new gnar to conquer. When I moved out here to the Madison, WI area from Philadelphia in January I was snowbound and looking for any biking I could get into. To keep up my game I tried riding a cyclocross bike in the snow and slush, lifted some weights (here and here), and even got a chance to jam it out indoor-style. Taking that into account, any singletrack in the area I hear about gets me in a tizzy.

Enter The Kettles. The Kettle Moraine State Park is an hour southeast of Madison. For the uninitiated, a moraine is a glacial feature made a long-ass time ago by a big chunk of ice. The pertinence in this case is that there are topographic features to shred that are more exciting that the predominant prairie landscape. For you “coasters” out there a little info: prairies blow for mountainbiking.

But fear not: The Kettles have some of this:

…some of this:

…and if you’re feeling squirrely there’s some technical stuff like so:

I know, I know: we’re not grooming you to be the next World Cup champion, but that’s not what The Kettles are for. You can string together a 25-mile loop by connecting the Emma Carlin and John Muir trails and get this: they’re one way! A radical concept but the benefit is that even if it’s a hot, busy Sunday like the day I went you barely put a foot down or change your pace to pass or be passed. It’s as if you’ve got the whole forest to yourself. The only people I saw were one guy taking his sweet time (passed him at a wide spot very politely) and two trail runners who by regulation must traverse the trails in the opposite direction of riders. Fantastic! Everything was sweetness and light – I swore I saw a unicorn sipping from an enchanted pond at one point during the session.

See what I mean?!? It’s glorious!

So you’re not going to get your rad on with burly jumps, tons of air, big log crossings or rock gardens. This is a place to crack the throttle, lean just a little further over in the turns, and get as much as you can out of the plains. Which can be quite a lot, thank you very much. Kettle Moraine: Prairie-dise.

Info here, here, and here. Now go hit it but watch out for the chipmunks, they’ll dart right in front of you for thrills.

Bonus pic #1: dusty day legs

Bonus pic #2: Where are you going to put that?

Bonus pic #3: Packing it in

Bonus pic #4: Giddyup

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