The Wheel World

Bike tour spotlights barn quilts, fall colors

Carol Wagner, Leader Correspondent

Photo by Carol Wagner Matty Mathison and several others have been planning the inaugural Bike the Barn Quilts for over a year. Organizers have developed several routes of different distances for the event Sept. 28.

Matty Mathison was cruising through the Shawano County countryside on one of her regular 20-mile bike rides when the idea popped into her head.

One of the routes took her past several of the barn quilts erected as part of the Shawano Country Barn Quilt Project. She enjoyed seeing the old barns and the barn quilt colors in the distance.

“We have these beautiful barn quilts,” she told herself. “We should make a bike route to see them.”

Before long, a committee was formed, coordinated by Mathison and Nancy Schultz, the family living educator for the University of Wisconsin-Extension in Shawano County.

Working with the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce, which helped develop the barn quilt project with coordinator Jim Luenenberger, and Shawano Pathways, a nonprofit organization working to increase recreational opportunities by developing a greenway and trail system, the committee developed plans for the first Bike the Barn Quilts bike tour, which will be held Sept. 28.

“This isn’t just the first time, this is the first annual,” said Mathison, a member of Shawano Pathways.

The East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission helped map the four scenic and safe routes that will be used.

“We are catering to the avid cyclist as well as the novice,” Mathison said. “People can bike whatever they can.”

All routes begin and end at Memorial Park in Shawano.

The family fun ride route is three to five miles long and offers views of three barn quilts west of Shawano.

The guided tour route, with John and Nancy Koeller as tour guides, is 16 miles long and features 12 of the 8-feet by 8-feet quilts. It also follows a path west of Shawano.

A 25-mile route goes south of Shawano toward Cloverleaf Lakes to view 11 quilts, with the option of going another four miles to see five more quilts.

The 35-mile ride has 23 quilts on its route going to Gresham and back.

Each ride has a snack and water station. There are two snack and water stations on the 35-mile ride. Volunteers from the Belle Plaine 4-H Club, Wolf River Home Schoolers, and Home and Community Education will man the stations.

Bikes can be rented from Mountain Bay Outfitters on the Mountain Bay Trail. A support vehicle will be provided on each ride.

Participants should bring a water bottle and are encouraged to wear a helmet. Children 15 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

The event is scheduled rain or shine, but will be canceled if there is fog or lightning.

Mathison said many people, businesses and organizations are involved in making the event a success.

“For many years I ran the chem-free party at the high school and we were so well-supported by the community, and it has been the same for this,” she said.

Registration begins at 9 a.m. The 16- and 35-mile rides start at 9:30 a.m. The family fun ride begins at 9:45 a.m. The guided tour ride begins at 10 a.m.

The cost of each ride is $25 until Saturday; after that the fee goes up to $30 each. The family fun ride is $25 for a family of four.

All proceeds go to help support Shawano Pathways with its mission to promote tourism, economic growth, healthier living and family fun.


WHAT: Bike the Barn Quilts

WHEN: Sept. 28

WHERE: All rides, ranging from three to 35 miles, begin and end at Memorial Park, Shawano

WHO: For information, contact Matty Mathison at 715-304-9796 or, or the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce at 715-524-2139.

FYI: To pre-register, visit You also can register at the ride.