My car rolled into Palos with two bikes on the back of my car, though I was the only one inside.
I was planning on riding my Single Speed mountain bike, but after taking the studded tires off and checking the brakes I discovered that no amount of sanding, alcohol, or even replacing the brake pads, could get the terrible oil soaked squeel of a winters commuting to silence.
I know, your first thought is “It is half way through August, and you just took your studded tires off your mountain bicycle?” Well, I live in BFE Dekalb, and very rarely have the option to use an automobile to get to the closest tiny little trail system 45 miles away. Trust me, this hurts me more then you know.
That day and the one prior, I was in one of those dark mental funks that normally only get to the core of my being during the harsh winter months. I really needed an escape, I needed to go ride a bike somewhere, and honestly the roads around my house do not suppress the dark aura, but actually feed it.
Quite frustrated, I threw the mountain bike on my car, thinking that maybe if I went and rode a few hours, I could bed the pads in, even though fifteen minutes in the parking lot did nothing at all.
I locked the shop, set the alarm, jumped in my car, and then ran back into the shop to grab another bike.
After the hour plus drive to Palos, I clipped in and rolled away from my car, with the feeling that I was entering the unknown.
I have ridden Palos plenty of times before, but only once in the prior 5 years, and there was plenty of new trail to discover. Also, this time I was on my cyclocross race bike, 33c tubulars and all.
There is that feeling I get sometimes, where I feel like I am getting away with something I shouldn’t do, but I am doing it anyway.
It is a complex melding of refreshment, caution, curiosity, accomplishment and unknown. I love it.
I hadn’t been on my CX bike to really push it for quite a while, and I needed to remember the limits of the tires grip and traction, as well as how it responds to my body language. I started off quite cautious, but with a big smile ear to ear. I was going to ride a loop of the Palos Meltdown course, since it was so well worn in and included the new trails.
As the double track gave way to tighter root strewn single track with some loose downhills I had to be very focused to pick good lines, bunny hop obstacles, and delicately bounce rims off of anything else in the way. The small tires set to 30-35psi didn’t have much room to compress before the rim hit rocks and roots, but by shifting body weight around multiple times a second the way a cars traction control works, I could navigate up and down everything pretty quickly, and I was having a wonderful time. Coming up the second ravine of the infamous trail called Three Ravines was the only spot I had to dab a foot, but I surveyed the line I took, and what other options there were, and kept on rolling down the trail.
I ended up following a group of mountain bikers around the new trail, completing the race loop, and then wandering around some of the other trails by Cemetery Hill.
After I had found water, I left for a second loop of the race course. I was having too much fun to stop.
I was feeling very in control of the bike, and was passing mountain bike after mountain bike on rooted single track. Granted, a few were wearing full face helmets and had full on enduro bikes. They must have been visiting from another state out west.
Back at Three Ravines I was clipping along much more comfortably and swifter then the first loop. I cleaned all three ravines comfortably, and kept smiling as I bounced over rocks and roots.
I finished the second race course loop on my 29 minus wheel size, for 25 miles of mountain biking on my CX bike.
Sitting in the drops of the bars, with a huge smile on my face, I couldn’t help but think about the next time I would get to make it out to Palos, and how I hope to have two bikes on my car that day.