My randonneuring career started in Montreal. Physically, the idea of riding 200 kilometers seemed feasible. And the start location was just across the St. Lawrence, about 15 kilometers from where I lived. Since moving to Madison in 2015, I have only plenty of long rides. But only one of them was an official brevet. The reason? The local randonneuring club is based in Richland Center, almost 1.5 hours drive from Madison. Being carless, this made the logistics of getting to the start of their rides very challenging.
An alternative to brevets are permanents: Same distances, same time limits, but you do them at a time of your choosing. When Randonneurs USA, the national organization, revamped their rules for permanents, I decided to finally create my own permanent route, starting right in Madison: The Sugar River 200k.
Start and finish are at Pacific Cycle, on the Southwest Commuter Path. You can easily reach the start by bike, and if you arrive by car, it's easy to find parking there. The route heads south, very loosely following the Sugar River downstream into Illinois. You ride on the Badger State Trail (trail pass required) until its paved section ends, and then transfer to quiet rural road. The first control is a gas station in Albany, and shortly after the control the unpaved section of the route, on the Sugar River State Trail begins. The surface is crushed limestone, but because the trail doesn't see a lot of use, grass will often take over a lot of the trail. Generally, the trail is easily rideable even on relatively narrow tires during the summer and fall. In the winter, spring, and after big rainfalls, take an on-road detour.
The trail ends in Brodhead and you're back on roads again. We're getting close to the Illinois border now. The only sign of the border: A sign for "State Line Road," and all the roads now have numbers. You don't go very far into Illinois: The southernmost control is a gas station near Lake Summerset, a gated community around an artificial lake.
Overall route is flat, but the terrain around the border has some ups and downs. We now go west and north toward the next control in Footville. The roads here are very sparsely traveled. Evansville is not a control, but if you're tired of gas station food, the route takes you right past a Piggly Wiggly supermarket.
We continue northwest until we get to the next control in Oregon. There are stretches of on state or US highways in this section, but they add to less than a mile total and have paved shoulders. The official control in Oregon is a gas station. My recommended alternative for a stop: Firefly Coffeehouse just across the street. It's a great cafe with delicious baked goods, sandwiches, and cheese boards. They do close at 3pm however, and so depending on your pace, this may not be an option.
Rather than taking the direct route back to Madison, we now head toward McFarland. This involves a beautiful stretch on Rustic Road 20, Dyreson Road. The highlight is a one-lane truss bridge across the Yahara River. McFarland is the last control before the finish. Just where you transition onto the Lower Yahara River Trail, take a photo of the Andrew Larson Park sign. The remainder of the route is all on bike trails, including Wisconsin's longest boardwalk. On weekends, these can be busy with people walking and biking, so be prepared to take it slow.
If you have any feedback on the route or the cue sheet, please leave a comment here