Friday, March 11, 2011

Edwardsvile, Illinois - Nirvana of Cycling

Outside magazine comes out with their best places to live edition.  In the best places to live for biking section, Edwardsville was not mentioned.  Not in the top ten, not even honorable mention.
I formally protest.
Outside magazine editors are biased against the Midwest.  They like places with "mountains" and "coffee shop scenes" and "eco-green, bike commuter transit-based rail systems".  Well, we don't have any mountains, but we have a lot of other good things.  Here's why we should make the top ten:
- Madison County Trails.  We have 85 miles of trails in the county system.  65 miles are paved.  We aren't even required to cross many roads.  Most of the busiest crossing have underpasses or overpasses. The Madison County system is also uniquely routed into several loops varying lengths, between 12 and 30 miles.  You can link up a few loops and have a long outing completely on the trails without re-tracing your path.  Bored with the Edwardsville trails?  Head to St. Charles and get on the Katy Trail.  240 miles across the state on the same trail.
- Southwest Illinois farm roads.  When you come to the end of the Madison County Trails, get on the farm roads and just keep going.  The roads are generally smooth and very lightly traveled.  Most people forget that once you leave Chicago, Illinois just doesn't have that many people.
- Races.  Edwardsville has the downtown criterium and the mountain bike biathlon, and nearby O'Fallon hosts a road race and criterium.  The original Tour de Donut race is just up the road in Staunton.  A well-attended triathlon is held in nearby Wood River every August.  Other popular triathlons are held in nearby Greenville, Carlyle, Belleville, and Springfield.  Biathlons are hosted in Highland, Hillsboro, New Baden, and Millstadt.  And that's just on the Illinois side of the river.  Over in St. Louis (20 minutes away), races are held throughout the season, including road races, biathlons, triathlons, mountain bike, cyclocross, and velodrome track racing.
- Recreational rides. So you don't want to race? Enjoy one of the many recreational rides throughout the Edwardsville area.  A dozen or more are held each year around Madison County with the ever popular Tour de Stooges leading the way.  The Gateway Council of Hostelling International sponsors several rides and Trailnet has even more.  Again, cross the river and you'll keep finding more rides.  During the season, there are five or more rides per month within 50 miles.
- Refreshments.  We have coffee shops just like those snobby Pacific Northwest people.  Edwardsville has a re-vitalized downtown area with many coffee shops, restaurants, and watering holes.  Coming back in from one of our epic rides last year, our group stopped at the winery just 30 feet from the bike trail.  And for the ultimate ride stop -- Fast Eddie's in Alton.
- Weather.  Granted, our winters can be a bit cool here.  However, last year I was able to ride outside every month of the year, and that was without deep arctic gear.  Mid-summer can be a bit toasty (or steamy), but our hot spells usually only last a few days.  Riding weather is generally very good starting in mid-March and lasting until mid-November.
- Scenic rides.  We don't have any mountains, but we have the mighty Mississippi river with bike-specific bridges.  The bike trails are through tree-lined corridors on former railroad beds.  Besides the bike trail routes, we have a lot of peaceful, bucolic countryside rides.  You’ll see lots of wildlife on any of these rides, including deer, turkey, bald eagles, bluebirds, cardinals, lots of other songbirds, squirrels, groundhogs, and an occasional snake.
Okay, I think I'm proving my point.  Outside Magazine, listen up.  This is the best bike riding spot in the country.


  1. You left out the GORC trails in town and nearby. Otherwise, I'm going to bookmark this and reread it whenever one of my out of town blogger friends posts something that makes me jealous. This is a pretty nice place to live and ride.

  2. I agree 100% Aside from the MCT trails there are other trails that add length a variety to any road ride. I like to ride up to Pere Marquette even though every time I do I have mechanical troubles. We should rate high on the list but we are not a "destination" so we get overlooked. Maybe there is something to be said for having the best kept secret in cycling.

  3. We are really fortunate. People drive a long way to ride on trails like the ones that run right through our town/university.

    See you on the trails.