Professor bikes 52 miles to campus every spring

For many, the signs of summer come in flowers blooming and warmer weather. For the math department at UW-Whitewater, this sign comes with Dr. Jonathan Kane’s annual 52-mile bike ride to campus.

Ever since Kane began teaching math at UW-Whitewater in August of 1980, he has biked from his home on the west side of Madison to Whitewater during spring exam week.

The idea first came to Kane when he wondered whether or not he could actually complete the 52-mile journey.


“It was my last day on campus in May of 1981 when I first thought of doing it,” Kane said. “I brought my bike in my car and then tried to bike home.”

Kane put his plan into action, but the bike ride wasn’t as easy as he had thought.

“The first trip was tough because I wasn’t in good enough shape and I left too late,” Kane said. “My wife had to come pick me up a few miles away from home.”

Despite the first year being so difficult, Kane continued with his 52-mile biking trip every spring for the last 32 years.

Kane usually makes his trips during exam week when his classes don’t start until later in the day, and when he can give himself a five-and-a-half hour time block. Certain years, Kane has made a roundtrip, biking to Whitewater one day and biking home a day or two later.

Professor Robert Horton, Kane’s co-worker and friend, has been working with Kane ever since he started at UW-Whitewater.

“I think it’s wonderful that he keeps up with this tradition, and the faculty all cheers him on,” Horton said. “I can’t remember a year where he missed this trip.”

On average, Kane can make the trip in four hours. His longest time was 5:30, and his shortest trip took 3:43. The trip usually takes one hour in a car.

Though Kane is no stranger to exercise, over the years he hasn’t prepared for the trips all that much.

“I try and make sure the last time I turned the pedals wasn’t six months ago,” Kane said.

The bike ride is usually the first big ride of the year for Kane and comes along with many unique stories.

“I have had years where I was caught in a thunderstorm and had mechanical problems with my bike,” Kane said. “I’ve also dealt with detours, bad wind and have seen plenty of animals along the way.”

Kane’s ideal weather for these trips is 60 degrees and sunny with a bit of tailwind. For the ride, he packs a spare tire, a piece of fruit and a rain jacket depending on the weather.

Despite his retirement coming up this month, Kane said he will try to keep biking as long as he can.

“Maybe I will still ride into Whitewater,” Kane said. “But who knows, maybe instead I will pick a new destination.”