The Festive 500 and Chicago Ride Guide

Rapha’s Festive 500 Ride to Redemption Challenge: Ride 500 kilometers between the 23rd and 31st of December. While 500k (311 miles) in about a week may be standard in summer months, in the winter and especially in Chicago it is what The Tenspeed Heroes would call, well, Heroic. I was skeptical, but with above average temperatures and little extra of what a friend calls “cyclocross” weight, I took this on. Seven rides over nine days are recounted here. Although it is a highly subjective tale filled with peaks, valleys and the occasional miscalculation, at the very least it is an archive of rides some Heroes like to do here in Chicago, and what happens when we occasionally leave in search of a little something else. You will find links to routes in each description. We hope to see you out on any of these rides at any time of the year. Thanks to Rapha and everyone else along the way. If redemption means tired legs and good stories, than I am redeemed.

12.23.2011 – The Calumet Fisheries Smoked Fish Ride – 56.41km

A ride to the Anthony Bordain touting, James Beard Award Winning, Blues Brothers Bridge Jumping Calumet Fisheries via Chicago’s majestic lakefront path and even more majestic South Side. After dodging Donks, you may even ride by the “The Worlds Best Velodrome” before stopping at the small fish shack on 95th Street. I suggest going midday and walking around back to see the smoker -this is where the magic happens. Beware wheelsuckers -with jersey pockets full of smoked trout on the way home, this is a ride for solo culinary Heroes or someone that doesn’t mind taking a twenty k pull. ◊map

12.25.2011 – The Holliday Ride – 55.17km

This is the kind of ride you do when you go to the in-laws house in Indiana for the holidays, eat Chinese takeout, baked egg casseroles, sausage lasagna, honey hams and au gratin potatoes. You ride recon on the roads closest to “moms” house and know the only constraint is being back in time to unwrap presents. Despite a ride through Zionsville, this is not the promised land. Save for the sunrise over soy fields there is little beauty here. All you get is wind, pinch flats and cold feet. If you’re lucky you pass a road named Holliday and get a decent picture of the sign; the irony of two L’s in Holliday on a Christmas morning ride makes this ride worth blogging about. ◊map

12.26.2011 – The End of the Line Ride – 115ishkm

Do you have friends that push you to do things you otherwise would not do? Do they ever tell you it would be a good idea to take a commuter train to the end of its line and ride your bicycle back on roads you have never seen through towns you have not been to? If not, you should. After fresh doughnuts and double yoke eggs at Lou Mitchell’s and a long train ride out, hop off at the last stop and find your way home through twenty miles of muddy paths, and any road that travels South and Southeast. If you bring an iphone to track your ride, make sure it appropriately dies one third of the way in to add mystery to your ride profile, and question whether this ride was 100k or 115k. Proper nutrition includes Bear Claw Danishes, Coke and Paydays at any gas station along route 41. Do not make eye contact with the guy looking at the peanuts. ◊map

12.28.2011 – The Ice Ride – 53.8km

This is in a sense another ride born of necessity -a before work training ride familiar to many a Chicago cyclist. Getting up at 5:30am and stumbling around for a missing shoe cover is not for everyone, but meeting Heroes out on Lake Michigan united in the common goal of sunrises, solid base miles and La Colombe espresso finishes ain’t so bad. For the most part, it’s a standard affair until wailing winter winds create an icy storm surge covering your only route on the path. Heroes can try and ride across it, but they will not look so heroic when they fall on their ass (this is, however, a convenient time to have a laugh and take a picture). ◊map

12.29.2011 – The Hour Record – 34.86km

Coppi, Merckx, Moser, Ritter, Obree, Merckx -just a few names that come to mind when we mention The Hour Record. Never mind near humanly impossible (superman in some cases) feats of speed and strength. On this day at the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook, IL I rode for one hour traveling a distance of 34.86km. A record, yes, because I have never attempted this before. Overall not bad on a half-wet velodrome stopping for self-timed portraits, but a bar set low enough to create a sufficiently false confidence for my next attempt and low enough for anyone else to match (this is a challenge). Records aside, the gps ride profile was a real bonus; as long as you know where the velodrome is, this is a ride no one can make a wrong turn. ◊map

12.30.2011 – The Loop: Wet Cement Edition – 91.92km

We all have a standby ride. For the Tenspeed Heroes much of this whole madness began with a little ride out in the Western Suburbs affectionately known as “The Loop.” Covering a distance of about 100k at its longest, The Loop winds through Chicago’s Western Suburbs and famed Fox River valley, traversing nearly 50 kilometers of crushed limestone path surrounded by lush marshlands, rolling prairie, and picturesque Illinois towns along the Fox River. This loop is ridden annually by Heroes, not once, but twice in the queen of gentleman’s races aptly titled “The Double Loop.” Having known my first and longest rides on this loop, my first taste of glory on the Double Loop, and many a warm summer’s day in the company of great folks to ride bikes with, I owe my weight in 50th Anniversary Campagnolo Super Record components to this ride. It was for these reasons, and also knowing this would be one of the last rides before selling my beloved Look 585 I chose to do The Loop on this day. It was the wrong day. You see, we are used to the pleasantries of a summer day, remarkably fast packed limestone and the company of Heroes to pull us home when we are tired. I did this ride alone after nearly 24 hours of rain in December. Now, if I am not mistaken adding water to crushed limestone is the basic formula for cement, so I basically rode at least way too far through a freshly laid cement sidewalk. If you are up for a challenge I would recommend this ride in these conditions, as the experience of wanting nothing but smooth cured tarmac is not unlike riding the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix (another “challenge” -thanks again Rapha!). My last loop on the old Look did however have its tender moments -a dense fog and near void of all human presence leaves this as one of the most memorable times on a bike.◊map

12.31.2011 – The Tenspeed Hero Team Ride: Make it to 500k Edition -90.66km

The final ride of redemption, the final day of the year, and the final ride for the Look was a Tenspeed Hero Team Ride up Chicago’s North Shore. At this point the dark moments are over and you seek the comforts of kindred spirits, familiar roads and fresh-baked muffins. Spirits are so kindred Heroes listen to you both bitch and brag about how much you’ve ridden this week, then pull you around for fifty miles and let you beat them in the famed Bahai Temple sprint. While the route does not vary much from week to week, this edition was special, putting in just a little extra to help a Hero meet his goals. This led us (and now you) on some small detours including through the Glencoe Grand Prix criterium, a ride to take one of the Heroes home at Chicago’s historic Marina City, and finally back through the West Loop for a well deserved and highly coveted JP Graziano’s Prosciutto sandwich. With sandwich in pocket I crested 500k (or 311 miles as you can see) just before reaching home. I was greeted as usual by my dog – the most kindred spirit I know. ◊map