Sunday, July 11, 2010

Palos, city riding and other delights...


Okay, so last Monday I remounted my (maybe?) trusty 29er and headed for the much heard of but as-of-then untried "Palos." It seems to officially be part of the Cook County Forest Preserve District, but these guys seem to do a lot of the work involved in keeping up the trails. Closing some, reopening others, making little bypasses when something is eroding too much, that sort of thing. I will say now, nice job guys!

Before I could attempt to ride though, I had to spend a bit of time Sunday de-winterizing my bike. I had last ridden it probably in January. It had Nokian studded ice tires on still (which look so comically small compared to the Conti Mountain Kings that normally go on), a VERY crusty, rusty chain and just needed a going over. I did a deep chain cleansing and lubing, changed the tires, spent some more time tinkering with the rear dropout situation, which was time very well spent. My bike is built around an On One Inbred frame like this:

As you can see, it has rear facing dropouts like you would most commonly find on a single speed bike. Some very mad, mad people (including the wonderful guy I bought this from) apparently ride mountain bikes that way. I cannot fathom how this is done and I currently have this bike set up as a 1x9 speed with a 12-32 cassette in the rear and (I think) a 32-tooth cog in front. Anyway, when I first set the bike up for some reason it didn't seem like the rear wheel would sit all the way up front in the dropouts. SO, I used a trick I read about somewhere on the always trusty interwebs about putting some chainring bolts in there to move the stopping point back some. This caused me to have a problem where, when I really pedaled hard, the wheel would slip a bit because it just wasn't that great having the wheel seated up against the outermost point on a circle instead of being fully nestled inside of a semicircle. Does that even makes sense?! Anyway, on my shoulder separating ride from last fall, I had to stop every couple of miles and tweak the wheel. Not that inspiring to do. SO, I took another crack from scratch with the brake position and such and got it seated all the way up to the front of the dropouts and working well. Still have a little bit of disc brake rub I have to try and futz with soon, but it's not really a big deal beyond the mental zone where I think "this is slowing me down!" Still, I'll have to sort that out soon.

At any rate, the bike performed just splendidly on this trip. I did not eat it in any serious way (did one very comical slow-motion semi-wipeout on a log pile, but nothing except a touch of pride was wounded). Palos is really, really fun and is also in pretty great shape in my limited experience. It looks pretty taken care of. JBI, my guide and riding buddy, has been riding there for years, so even though it had been a good while, he still had a pretty good bead on what was where in there. There are lots of places to drop in and out from these service roads (or maybe it was just one road, I dunno!) and I would have been completely lost without him. We rode for a good 2+ hours and my shoulder did not particularly trouble me and I was careful but still managed to move along at a pretty good clip and have some thrills and chills like one would hope.

Here are some pics:

Dudes at the first stop:

Typical scenery in the non-insane roller coaster parts (why I could stop and take a pic!)

Here's a trail we tried that turned out to be closed (it was a pretty bat cave style entrance to this one and it took a while to be sure that the trees we kept coming across where actually meant to make you not be riding! JBI thought it had been recently reopened as he remembered it from a long time back, but after about 10 unride-throughable barriers we admitted we probably weren't going to get back to anything good without just going backwards. Doh!)

Here is (one of?) the service road(s?) that we came out onto a few different times.

Here's something you don't see everyday:

There are 2 old nuclear reactors buried under us! Follow the link above to see what these looked like. They look like large parts of a building, not just some kind of vat. CRAZY!
Beautiful ride down to the little lake (after a pretty big climb up to the crest:

My pretty raw legs (quite a few thorny bushes on the closed trail part):

And my bike, resplendent in the afternoon swelter:

We even got to catch up with the ice cream man about 5 minutes after we stopped riding and were just puttering around the car. NICE! I had a watermelon and lime Bomb Pop with candy seeds! Looking forward to going back soon.


Actually, I'm not all that crazy about it. Unlike many of my aerospoke front-wheeling, spoke card back-wheeling, carabiner, little caps, no brakes seats too high on a small frame, rolled up jeans, toe-clip sporting brethren and sistren (?!), I'm not really enamored of the gritty, glamorous danger of city riding. In spite of Chicago's #10 ranking in Bicycling mag's bike-friendly cities report, it still seems like a pretty dangerous place to get around by bike. While our bike lanes are nowhere near as disrespected as NYC's Kafka-esque circus of joggers, delivery guys, salmoning riders and cell-phone chatting walkers, it's still not great. Actually, when in bike lanes, things are usually pretty reasonable, but there are still a lot of streets without them and it's hard to rate a city on the amount of drivers who look at you as nothing but a pure obstruction between them and where they want to go. I think to discover that you have to just live somewhere, not cross-reference several lists from other groups and talk to local experts and bike shop owners. Many, many, many people in Chicago simply could give a sh*t whether you are a traffic cone or a human being. I had one woman lay into her horn the other day when I was riding down the street at about 23 mph, right at the speed of traffic and when I pulled up to her at the red light that she had to stop at maybe 3 seconds up the road from where she had to honk and asked "why are you honking at me?" She replied "You out there in the middle of the road like you a car or something. Why don't you get over on the side where you suppose to be?" I began to have discussion about how under IL law, I am required to ride in the roadway and I could actually ride right in the middle of the road if I liked and I was going at the speed of traffic anyway, but then she began throwing up hands and yelling and I just threw a few obligatory expletives at her (maybe not obligatory, but hard to keep in) and just rode off. Of course, she never got as far as me again, but I reckon she had to tap her brake back there or something and over what, a bike!?

Another min-van driving mom-ish looking woman in our neighborhood just was literally throwing up her hands today at one of Chicago's infamous angled intersections because we too were in it waiting to make a left-turn. I reckon she thought we should be on the sidewalk were we belong as well.

My friend Keith was hit about 4 weeks ago, not through neglect but through a good aim and careful timing by some gangbanger dudes who, coming the opposite direction down a neighborhood street, moved over to box him in against parked cars on the right and opened both driver's side doors to send him flying through the air. Just what we all need, thrill-killers. Right?

Here's another great one for Illinois.

Though we certainly don't have a monopoly on ignorance!

We did apparently get a new law signed last week making it a class A misdemeanor to "crowd or throw missiles" at a cyclist, but judging by the sentence given to Armando Reza for drunkenly trying to run over cyclists, I'm not holding my breath for the dawn of a new day of safe cycling from this. Even making it a class A misdemeanor to potentially kill someone with your car is too much for people like this gem of a human being. I'll do my best to stay clear of this suburban bell. Actually, I'll just go ahead and never enter Orland Park, I'm sure that'll work just fine for both of us.

In other Chicago living notes, I always know that summer is in bloom when I take a ride down the lake shore and see all the drinking fountains with their heads knocked clean off, spewing that great Lake Michigan water that we love to use so much of 4 to 6 feet in the air all day and night. Mmm, mmm good!

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