Wausau Is the Top-Ranked Small City for Bicycling in the Country — Get on Your Bike & See Why!

Written by Aaron Ruff

There’s never been a better time to ride a bike in Marathon County — especially now that it’s spring!

In May 2018, Wausau was ranked by PeopleForBikes as the top small city for bicycling in the country, and the 2nd best bike city overall — generating national media stories from Livability, REI Co-Op Journal, and Outside Magazine, among others.

Screen capture from PeopleForBikes.org.

But the Wausau area did not become a bicycle-friendly community overnight . . .

mpo-logoLed by groups like the Wausau Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Bicycle & Pedestrian Sub-committee, Wausau Wheelers, Central Wisconsin Offroad Cycling Coalition (CWOCC), local municipalities, and County government — our community has prioritized building better and safer bicycle infrastructure.

From the 105-mile bicycle route system to the addition of buffered bike lanes on Stewart Avenue in Wausau . . .

Stewart Ave. Bike Lane
Designated bike lane on Stewart Ave., Wausau. (Photo courtesy of Wausau MPO.)

. . . to construction of the 51/29 Trail (with awesome wooden boardwalk!) in Rib Mountain . . .

51_29 Trail Rib Mountain
51/29 Bike Trail in Rib Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Wausau MPO.)

. . . to the one-on-a-kind downhill bike park at Sylvan Hill Mountain Bike Park . . .

Sylvan Twisted Oak 2018-03-30
Twisted Oak (one of 4 trails) at Sylvan Hill, Wausau. (Photo courtesy of Gary Barden.)

. . . our community continues to expand both on-road and offroad bicycling.

CWOCC — the local chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) — is leading the way toward the vision of creating the greater Wausau area into an IMBA Ride Center — a designation recognizing the pinnacle of mountain biking communities.

According to Matt Block, CWOCC Board Member:

“Mountain biking is one of the fastest growing outdoor sports in the country. And it’s very encouraging to see local investment in new mountain bike trails right here in our community.”

In just 7 years — with the support of Marathon County government, investment from local foundations, numerous business sponsorships, club memberships, and thousands of volunteer hours — CWOCC’s efforts have generated nearly $600,000 into creating better mountain biking in the greater Wausau area.

Sylvan Hill 2017-12-11
Little ones can enjoy Sylvan Hill Mountain Bike Park, too. (Photo courtesy of Wausau MPO.)

In total, CWOCC maintains over 60 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails at 6 trail systems in Central Wisconsin:

Biking on Ruby Ridge at Ringle Trails. (Photo courtesy of Gary Barden.)

Please check CWOCC’s website for trail openings and conditions.

CWOCC hosts weekly group rides starting on Thursday, June 6, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. at Nine-Mile County Forest Recreation Area. Groups are available for all abilities and are a great way to meet others and learn the local trail system.

The CWOCC Youth Rider Program also starts June 6, 2019, and is a great way to engage kids in outdoor activity through mountain biking.

Youth Rider 2018-02-02
Youth Rider biking at Nine-Mile County Forest Recreation Area. (Photo courtesy of Gary Barden.)

Looking for the best places to ride in town instead of on dirt?

Check out Bicycle Wausau’s interactive bike route map and select “Family-Friendly Bicycle Excursions.”


Hope to see you out on the trails soon!


Aaron Ruff

Public Health Educator  |  Marathon County Health Department

Aaron Ruff is a Public Health Educator with the Marathon County Health Department and President of CWOCC. You can find him aboard a bike on his way to work, at a Wausau Wheelers group ride, or on the mountain bike trail. Email Aaron Ruff.

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