There is this route, it's unlike most of the routes west of Chicago. Typically the rides tend to be flat and straight, following the "grid" that is north central farm lands. However one man decided to explore the forgotten river valley roads of Illinois and create a 65 mile "all road" excursion. His name is Chad, and this is his ride.
The ride is about 50/50 of road to gravel. It starts out in the beautiful Silver Springs State Park, which in itself, doesn't seem to fit the barren flat prairie land that surrounds it. Art nerds would be delighted to know that the Mies van der Rohe "Fransworth House" is just across the river from the park, and can be seen from the parking lot.
Along this route there is some strange scenic things you'll find. A crashed plan in a field, a statue of Yogi Bear, Pheasant farm, more monster climbs, and dogs that will chase you.
Once out of the park, we begin to feel which way the wind is blowing. It's headwind, it's ALWAYS headwind. On this particular spring morning, it's a chilled strong headwind, which feels as if you're standing in front of an air conditioner in the middle of winter. Chills to the bone. Knock moral down a few notches.
The 1st half of the ride takes you on rolling paved roads of Yorkville and Norway, Il. All the while thinking, "shit. I could have done this on my road bike". However, once in Norway we truly begin our journey through some strange resort that leads into hill-billy huts along the river. Pavement turns to gravel, then the 1st real climb of the day, on loose, golf ball gravel. "Oh, this is why I'm not riding on 23s", you think to yourself as you ascend a beautiful tree dense 15% grade climb. On your 1st time up this hill, all you focus on is the bass of your heart in your ears. Trust me, it's beautiful, even with the abandoned televisions in the valley. The ride continues up, down, and round winding around the Fox River, moving in and out of gravel & paved roads.
There are other climbs, most kind of wind around and are paved. Most and much longer and stepper than you'd imagine. With climbs, also come flowy, magical descents.
The gravel can be anything from hard packed dirt roads, to THICK soft sandy gravel which gives the feeling of riding on an old worn out mattress. The pavement can be new hero asphalt, to kitty litter mixed with tar.
On this ride, we brought along Bailey & Allison from Comrade Cycles. These two are kindred spirits of adventure and new roads. Bailey climbs exceptionally well from someone who lives in Chicago. Allison rides with such wonderful enthusiasm, it's infectious and makes you really appreciate that you are outside doing what you love, despite the wind. Keith, who splits his time between SRAT and Intent also came along looking to go hard the whole time to build strength for his 1st Ironman later this summer.
As the day goes on the wind seems to be changing directions to be in our faces. With a lack of natural geography and crops, the wind will control you and break you if you're not prepared to suck up and spin. Eventually we were awarded, TAIL WIND. Time to turn on the gas and crank the knob to 11. Nothing like blasting a flat straight away at 35+ mph, making cars work to get around you! It seems we'll have a tailwind for the last 15-20 miles. With a tailwind that strong, you feel like a cycling god, moving at incredible speeds with little to no effort.
The final stretch is down a paved rolly flowy little road called Finnie. The road feels as if you're riding through a vineyard out west, rather than a soybean field in the mid-west. Rolling fields, creeks, and farm houses tucked in the hills gives the appearance of a story book scene. With the tail wind, we talk about upcoming rides, this past cyclocross season, the up coming cyclocross season.
Rolling back to Silver Springs we get a clear view of the Farnsworth House with the leave yet to pop on the surrounding trees. Hungry and tired, we all converge into the parking lot. Huge smiles across Bailey and Allison's face. They rarely ride this far south, and this was their 1st, but not last time experiencing The Chad Ride.
We hope to bring more people out on this route this summer. Keep your ears to the ground.