The weather was great in Illinois this past week. Highs were in the upper sixties all weekend long, which meant everyone was able to get outside.
Megan and I both got out and enjoyed a quick ride at the nearby Centennial trail. It is a great afternoon ride that we have done on numerous occasions. It is an all paved bike path for about 13 miles. A section of the path that was closed and under construction for all of last year had just opened up and we were able to experience it for the first time. It was a nice six mile stretch on the I&M canal which had water on both sides of the path. It was really fantastic.
We also had the opportunity to try out both of our fitness watches for the first time cycling. Her with her Apple Watch and me with My Fitbit Charge 2.
Both worked out great, but there were a few hiccups along the way. Megan's Apple Watch has built in GPS, but it seems that the Strava app on it has not yet leveraged that. We left her phone in the car so we missed the first few miles of recording for her. Instead we used the watch's built in fitness recording and that ended up working out great without the phone. Lets hope Strava updates their app soon.
On the Fitbit Charge 2, the connected GPS to my phone worked out well. I had to record the route using the Fitbit app instead of Strava, but the data did push over to Strava in the end, including the heart rate data. Very cool and something I hope to use more of in the future.
Fall is here and it is time for the Pumpkin Pie ride out in Ottawa Illinois. This is the second year that we have done the ride, but this year Megan had a true road bike. The weather could not have been better. It was about 65 degrees and overcast and we did the 45 mile ride. Megan did great and we had a really fun time. This is definitely going to be a regular ride for us.
The weather was great this weekend and Megan and I took the opportunity to do another ride from our "Biking Illinois" book. This time we hit up Barrington Hills, which is a well known biking area in Illinois. Lots of really quiet country roads nestled in with horse farms. It is quite a picturesque area.
The ride worked out that we were also heading up to the parents and in-laws places for an afternoon grill out so this was on the way. The ride was a ton of fun and I would love to head back to this area in the fall when the leaves change. Megan had some difficulties with the hills. We did end up cutting our ride a few miles short since she also got a flat tire near the southern end of the ride. We literally had just left a small ret area in the DuPage Forest Preserve when she got the flat. We were a mile away, but the road we were on had forest preserve on either side of us and almost no shoulder. We changed the flat there, but my small bike pump couldn't pump the tire back up to the 110 psi she needed for her bike. We got her back up to around 55 psi and worked our way back north on Old Sutton Road.
This past Friday, May 20th was national ride your bike to work day. I have been wanting to do this for the past several years, but rain and other factors at work have prevented that. This year however the weather promised to be nearly perfect and I had nothing conflicting with work that would prevent me from participating. So I went off this past Friday with my bike and some research from Google Maps to find the best bike route to get to work. The ride in for me is 17 miles each way, which makes for a pretty robust bike ride. It is doable, but not exactly something that is easy or one would do on a daily basis.
My ride was going great until I was about 2/3's of the way done, whereI ended up in the bicyclists worst nightmare. A car driver turned the corner off of the road heading into the entrance of a Mcdonald's and cut me off. I was just feet from the car. Thankfully, I didn't hit the car, but I did end up locking up my breaks and "high siding" the bike. I basically did a front flip on the bike, over the handlebars and onto the pavement. I hit the pavement pretty hard and my Strava map actually seemed to capture my crash, which you can see below.
It took me a few seconds to realize what just happened. The woman who pulled in front of me did ask if I was "OK", but she did not get out of the car nor did she actually apologize. Several other motorists asked if I was "OK" as well. Thankfully, I wasn't badly hurt. I had a nasty raspberry on my knee which was bloody, but really not that bad. I also landed hard on my shoulder and my back, which later in that day ended up hurting a lot. As of a couple of days later, they still hurt, but they are feeling much better, so I think I just bruised some ribs and my shoulder. The only other major casualty was the strap on my bag which tore off from the impact.
So of course I had to ride home from work at the end of the day. Thankfully, the ride home was without incident. It was however pretty tiring though. Overall and interesting experience to say the least. Perhaps I'll do it next year, or perhaps not. Can't quite say at this point.
This past Christmas I received the "Road Biking Illinois" book and two weeks ago Megan and I got out to do our first route in the book. We did the Salt Creek Bramble which was a nice ~35 mile bike ride around the western suburbs. The weather could not have been nicer and the ride was pretty great, hitting up some nice trails through the forest preserve and hitting up some nice neighborhoods. I didn't realize when we firsts out from it that we would be going as far north as Oak Park.
The only major complaint in the book is that the street names changed often from town to town, even while staying "straight" on the road, so there was a lot of stopping and referring back to the book to try and get our bearings. We made a nice stop at the "Brown Cow" ice-cream shop in Forest Park to recharge our batteries a little bit.
The western side of the ride had a nice detour through Fullersburg Woods, which I would like to go back and walk at some point while also hitting up Graue Mill. We tried to find it in the area, but we couldn't and the woods there has a nice crushed gravel path that I think would be great for an afternoon walk. Great ride for anyone in the western suburbs. Hit up my Strava link to get the route and do it yourself.
So I had my first taste of cyclocross this weekend on Saturday. Cyclocross is, lets just call it offroad bike racing. It is apparently very popular in the Chicago area.
My first race was in the Dan Ryan Woods yesterday. I was placed in the 4/5 Men's Group, which is basically the beginners group for the race. Races last about 30 minutes and the laps are determined by the pace of the top riders. So basically, that means that the race will end right around 30 minutes, not after a set number of laps.
I was the only rider using a mountain bike for the race. Most people were utilizing cyclocross bikes, which are basically a road bike with a few modifications to allow for some off road wheels. Let me state that cyclocross is hard. I feel like I am in pretty good shape, but this was just brutal. It is full out as fast as you can for 30 minutes straight. The course has significant climbs on it and my lungs were literally burning. I could not get enough oxygen to my body through this race.
So I finished in basically third to last place. There were a couple of people behind me and then I think three or four who did not finish. I have to say I am proud of myself, because there was a point there where I wasn't sure if I would be able to push forward. I think I'll definitely go out and do some more cross races. They are fun, but I don't see myself going and spending $800+ on a cyclocross bike. There are some people out there with just way to crazy of physical conditioning.
So yesterday I attended a two hour cyclocross introductory class. It was hosted at Caldwell Park downtown. I have to say that after just a couple of hours, that I find the whole thing to be awesome. It was a very similar excitement level that I had when I first started riding my motorcycle.
The course had about fourteen people attending it. I would say that the bikes there were a an even mix between people who had cyclocross bikes, those who had mountain bikes and those who had road bikes. The clinic was put on by the BFF Bikes riding team and they ran us through three exercises that covered the basics of cyclocross.
We started off by working on the start line. All of the riders lined up close together to simulate a real race and we practiced getting off of the line in an explosive manner.
The second exercise was dismount, and carrying your bike over obstacles and the third exercise was a cornering exercise. For each exercise they gradually worked the group of to faster and faster speeds and forced us to ride tighter and tighter together. We ended the day of with a follow the leader exercise where we gradually sped up to riding as fast as we could. We did have one crash during the course when a woman riding next to me passed me and then low-sided in a corner. I inevitably ran into her unfortunately. She was fine, but she might have a bruise on her back where my tire ran over her.
Overall I had a blast and it is something I will have to get into this fall. I did note that I definitely have to get some SPD pedals and a pair of more rugged MTB shoes to do this though as my feet were slipping off my pedals all over the place.
Overall I had a pretty good time. Unfortunately some pretty hard thunderstorms rolled through the area and I ended up having to camp out under a picnic shelter. The single track trails are only open when try to prevent erosion so my trip was cut a bit short. I definitely plan to head back out here in the coming weka and give my Trek some reason to stretch its legs.