IMG_3371This is an awful picture of me, but the only one I have from yesterday’s outing.  As you can see, I made it up but not over the big rock.  Dang.  My friends, Mike and Jon, rolled over it like it was a little bump in the road.

Took me three tries, but I made it over.  I was having such a good ride, no way was I going to let that big rock throw off the ride.

I have vacation days to burn, just in case you might be wondering why I was off traipsing through the woods on my mountain bike with friends instead of working.  My boss approached me a few weeks ago and encouraged me to take some days off.

“You don’t get paid for them if you don’t take them.”

So my friends and I took advantage of a perfect, sunny, 68 degree day to take a short jaunt to the Kettle Moraine forest region of southern Wisconsin.  The Kettle is about a 90 minute drive, if it is that far, from the western suburbs of Chicago.  There are some wonderful mountain bike trails there — the John Muir and Emma Carlin trails.

It is real obvious that all of the riding that I have been doing is paying off.  Almost all day, I was either leading in or was right on my friend Jon’s back wheel.  Mike was along for the ride, a good road rider but still learning how to handle a mountain bike.  Jon and I can carve a trail while barely touching our brakes, but Mike ends up in the woods if he tries to do that.  He does, however, go up and over most obstacles real well for a noob.  That rock in the picture was nothing for Mike to negotiate.

My phone app showed five hours, sixteen minutes of ride time with over 32 miles of singletrack covered, roughly a 6 mph average, close to 2500 calories burned.  It doesn’t sound like much, but you would think differently if you tried to keep up with us.  The Emma Carlin portion of the trail is a huge amount of climbing over very rocky terrain.  Most of the trails had a lot of rocks and roots to negotiate.

We were treated to pine, cedar, oak forests along with green meadow to cross in between.  At one point, we disturbed a flock of what must have been at least twenty wild turkey.  Twice we stopped at scenic overlooks that gave us an awesome view of the Wisconsin hill country.  We didn’t stop much or for very long when we did.  The day was for riding, the sights right there as we pedaled along.

Our longest stop was for lunch at a pleasant deli and bike shop close to the John Muir trailhead.  Fueled up, we hit the trails for another two hours before loading up Jon’s van and heading home.

Saturday will bring another morning of riding, our usual Palos forest preserve ride.  In a few weeks, October 22-23, it’s our annual guys mountain bike trip to Brown County State Park, Indiana.

I am feeling so good on the bike right now.  Jon and Mike both commented yesterday about how it is real obvious having a new bike has raised the bar for me.  My weight is down quite a bit (I don’t know how much, but it has to be more than ten pounds).  That also makes a big difference in performance as well as endurance.  Had I tried a five plus hour day like yesterday a few months ago, I would have been dead tired and sore when I got home.  Last night and this morning, I felt like I could have climbed on the bike again for another few hours!

More bike stories to come….