The Salt Creek Bramble

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. 

Cyclocross 2015 - Dan Ryan Woods

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.

Post Cyclocross Introduction

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. 

Trail riding in Chicago

So apparently there is some decent trail riding in the Chicago area. After purchasing some new brakes for my Trek 820 and stripping off the unnecessary parts I took it out to Palos Park in Willow Springs. This park has about 20 miles of gravel wide track and single track trails

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.