Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Short But Swe...Hey, is that an Elk!!?

I mentioned earlier today that I was going to go check out a new bike path. And I did. I changed into my riding gear, filled my water bottle and bolted out the door from work a little early today. I headed over to the Busse Woods trail system in the Ned Brown Forest Preserve out in the west suburbs. It is the closest bike trail I have found from where I work at a mere 7 miles away.

Let me say that I based my decision to visit this bike path exclusively by its distance from work and from my beautiful daughter's school. I wanted to try out a new place that I could drive to from work, take a quick ride, and then go pick up the beautiful daughter. I didn't really read much about the trail. I looked at the map and noticed it had a lot of small lakes surrounding it, so I assumed it would be a fairly scenic ride. But that is really about as much thought as I gave it. So, this afternoon, as I cruised along this really, really pretty path, I wasn't really expecting to see anything paticularly out of the ordinary. But I rounded a turn, and quite suddenly, I got a whiff of the distinct scent of large animals. That's when I thought to myself, "Did I see something on that web page about Elk?"

And it was just about that time that I spotted one, and very nearly put the Fuji into the weeds.

Yes. There are elk in them there woods! In a huge fenced in area mind you, so it's not as if they can just meander out onto the path in front of you, but they will still catch you by surprise if you are the type of person who didn't really read all the information about the preserve, and aren't really expecting to see a 700 pound animal with a rack of antlers as wide as a soccer goal while out huffing and puffing on your fancy little bike near Schaumburg, Illinois.

Anyway, if you look at the map, you'll see a big red loop of a trail. That is the trail I road. I wasn't really sure how long one lap would take me, nor how long it would take for me to drive from the preserve to my beautiful daughter's school. So, to play it safe, I stuck with just one lap today. I tried to make it a good, quick one, but wasn't able to do as well as I would have liked. The lap was only 8 miles, and I only managed a 15 mph avg for the lap. I must remember to have something more substantial than a water bottle of FRS (Go Lance!) and a Payday bar as my only meal of the day, while on the way to go biking.

But - I was able to check out the bike path, which is just beautiful by the way, and I now know how to get there and how to get from there to the BD's school. Next time I can probably safely do two laps. I may head out there one day to check out the other paths and just spend some time taking in the scenery, but, in the meantime, it is at least a viable option for getting in a ride during the week after work. I don't see ever having enough time to many laps in order to put miles on the bike, but it may work out well as a place to go for a quick sprint.

And I got to try out the Swagman bike rack, both on the bumpy secondary streets of Chicago while driving to work this morning, and at highway speeds this afternoon while going to pick up the BD from school. It seems to be a fairly well built unit that is completely bolted together. There are no rivets to rust and break. But the bike can and does sway from side to side a bit while in the rack. I have a couple of ideas of how to minimize this and I'll be sure to report back should I find one that works. But, aside from that, the racks are still a bargain compared to the big name racks like Thule and Yakima. When I set out to put a rack on the Subaru, I priced out these racks first and was just completely shocked at the prices. I shopped for used racks for quite a few weeks, but even used, The name brand racks go for more than the Swagman pieces do new. I picked up 2 new Swagman racks for under $100 shipped and a set of new off brand cross bars to attach them to the Subaru from Ebay also for under $100. That will do just fine, thank you. Links to Swagman and the Ebay cross bars for car that have factory installed roof rails are in my links.

I forgot to bring the bike computer in with me tonight, but the numbers were weak. Still, I rode hard enough that make my lungs still feel nice and warm this evening, and my legs ache. And any time spent on the bike is quality time. Especially when you bail out of work early to go do it.

I'm thinking my next new route will be in the dirt and mud of the Des Plaines River trail. I can pick it up really easily from home, and I hear some parts of it have been kept fairly raw for the knobby tire crowd. Sounds like a fun way to build some leg muscle!
  • 7.89 miles
  • almost exactly 30 minutes
  • 15.0 mph avg.
  • 21.7 mph max.

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