2016 Rapha Prestige


2016 Rapha Prestige

2016 Rapha Prestige Midwest-in retrospect

Town full of trolls.

For those of you that haven’t read about the 2015 Rapha Prestige Midwest go ahead and give it a read here. If you want to skip it let me give you a quick synopsis… It was about 100 degrees and almost the same humidity. It was a damp burning hell. So I guess, Rapha decided to move it up a little sooner in the year so the weather wouldn’t be so oppressive. April 30th, 2016 was close to the opposite in temperature but just as treacherous.

This year is it was up on the beautiful roads west of Madison, WI around the Blue Mound area.  This is the same Driftless Area as the first RPM just a bit further north. So it still has plenty of up and downs to keep everyone on their toes and having fun.

The weather that day called for…. RAIN. All day, rain. And a high of about 45 degrees. So yeah, it was gonna be just a lovely day in the saddle.

On the bright side the roads this year were almost all paved so we did have that going for us. Rapha likes to keep everyone in suspense on these rides and wait until the very last minute to give out the course. I kind of enjoy that part of it. It makes me over pack(and over think) and run around doing everything I can to CYA before the last day.

Sitting at the start at Cress Spring Bakery in the middle of nowhere the weather looked like it was going to clear up a bit.  After a few miles we removed layers, stached the rain jackets and were enjoying the day with our fingers crossed it would stay that way. That didn’t last. Soon enough the skies darkened up and began to weep. And weep. And weep. From that point on the rest of the day was to be enjoyed in the rain. Good rain gear made or broke the ride this year. I had recently received a Gore waterproof cap as a gift and it earned its keep that day. Without that and a solid rain jacket there is no way that I could have made it as long as I did.

Leaving in waves, we rode through some quaint little towns and through plenty of farm fields and end up missing a turn onto the Badger State Trail. We quickly figured out our mistake and flipped around and got back on track. Soon after hitting the limestone we came up to the Stewart Tunnel, a quarter mile long 21’ high and 14’ wide tunnel with a slight bend in the middle so when you enter it becomes completely black. None of us brought a light bright enough to light our route so we just slowed down and took out sweet time getting through. There was a group of folks hanging out in the middle just drinking beer and enjoying the lovely day we were having. I had my eyes locked on their little lights to help lead the way. It was amazing.

Almost to the first stop in Blanchardville the Comrade Cycles team caught us. Three of which on single speeds. Yep, single speeds. As they buzzed by I hollered, “What took so long?” Then they were gone not to be seen again until the end.

Once in Blanchardville we found our way to a small gas station with some warm food and drink and a table for us to disrobe from our wet gear. After loading up on snack, refilling bottles and the such we started to get ready to hit the road again. We probably stayed in the heat too long, it was hard to leave.

More rain.

From there the temps slowly dipped a bit as the wind picked up and the spirits dipped as well. That’s when we saw Tim, from the Union team, in a van coming by after he had dropped out. That gave me mixed emotions. Part of me was sad to see such a strong rider pulling the plug on a tough day, but part of me got a little bump from him holler out the window, "STAY RAD", at us to keep it up!

That didn’t last too long. Sean was really starting to feel the wet and the cold. His jacket was not being a team player with him and was long since soaked through. Now, if you know Sean you know he rarely show any pain, or any emotion for that matter. He can be on the front of a race, stoic faced and crushing. However, this day was different. With legs long since soaked and shoes heavy from the water built up in them we were all fading.

A golden field of dandelions couldn't lift Sean's soaked soul.

Everything got harder. The wind was starting to pick up making the flat sections almost as difficult as the hills that define the area. One of those hills broke me, that was it, I was going to do it, I was going to walk a hill. It was the first, and to this point last, time I had walked a hill. There was a lot in me that said to just stay on the bike and force your way up it, but too much had built up already and I didn’t care anymore, I was walking.

Not soon after we were caught by the rest of the Union Cycling team out there and their faces mirror ours. We ride with them to the last stop on the route in Ridgeway. Not a lot of talking went on, just heads down and working together to get though.

Once in Ridgeway, we stopped at a gas station with food and hot chocolate. At that point all of us were in a different state of mind. I wanted nothing more than to go inside drink the biggest cup of boiling hot chocolate I could and warm up my insides. Schratz and Kristina had a different plan, stay for a short as possible and just get back on the road and finish. And Sean had the bleakest of plans…  hitch a ride back to the start. And I couldn’t blame him. We were saddened to see him leave but understood his reasons completely. Had my jacket and cap not been doing their job I’m not sure I would have lasted as long as he.  We also discovered that the Union squad had made the same decision as Sean and take a ride back to the bakery.

There we also ran into the Half Acre Cycling team as they were warming up inside.  Tim Coghlan, of Rapha, came into the gas station with disparaged look on his face and a truncated route. The new route took the sand and limestone path that was right out the door to Blue Mound to drop off some miles(and elevation) but still giving us the ability to finish the route by the power of our own two legs. We took that option.

The three of us teamed up with the remaining three of Half Acre to reunite Rad Acre and finish the ride. The bike path was brutal. Hours of rain and sandy limestone do not make up for very solid ground. This is the first time that my decision of riding on 28’s took its toll, at least that’s what I’m going to blame it on. Jen, Johnny and Kristina were put the hurt on and I was doing my damnedest to stay with the group.  Kristina was especially smashing it in the sand, like a demon chasing a lost soul.

Finally back on pavement we gave the final decision on the route, standing at a "T" intersection with the choice to go UP Mounds Rd for the out and back or turn right and go four and a half miles to the bakery. With the wind picking up and all of our digits getting colder by the second we decided that cutting the out and back out was going to be our choice.

The final stretch, no more turns until the bakery. Knowing the end was near we took full advantage of the amazing paved rollers ahead of us.  Half Acre had the same idea, dropping us on the final miles. We bombed down the last few miles.  The speed of the descents topped with the freeze wet temps made every effort to control our bikes & brakes a fight for survival. Windy and rain spitting in our tired happy faces, we finally rolled into the parking lot.  Wet, cold, tired, done, happy.

From then on it was all smiles. The fine gentlemen running the food truck were handing out Dixie cups of chicken broth and it was the greatest chicken broth any of us had ever had. With a quick change into dry clothes we were all starting to get a little color back in out cheeks along with food and drinks in our bellies.

With ten months of reflection, I decided it was an amazing adventure on some incredible roads in some less than ideal conditions. Not often do I decided to ride my bike 95 miles in the rain in 45 degree temperatures, but then, I wouldn't have had this tale to tell. Without the stellar team of Jon, Kristina and Sean it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun.

Cold, wet, tired; Kristina post RPM

Words by Joel, Photos by Joel & Kristina





A few weeks ago or a fellow adventurer, Eric Alexander sent us a message. “Wanna ride from my house to New Glarus Brewery with Kelly(Alexander) and Bret(Metz)?” Well yes, yes I do.  

It was to be three days of mixed terrain, some camping, some beer drinking and whatever else we came across.

Eric was the route master on this one with a few last minute changes we decided to start on the I&M Canal Trail in Seneca, IL. With that start it would give is about 75 miles for the first two days and a shorter day to finish it off.

There was a lot of fence sitting by all of us the coming days before as we watched the weather. We finally decided to just do it, suffer whatever weather came our way, and have fun.

I’ve never done a bikepacking trip, or a multi-day bike trip of any kind, so I had a lot to learn. My ride of choice is my SSCX. Mostly because it is the only bike I own with rack mounts, but also because the route was relatively flat and I just really like SS. I went through the entire bike with a fine tooth comb, cleaned, lubed and tuned everything. The one issue I thought I may have would be tires. The tire had seen a lot of miles and they showed it, but I figured they had 200 miles left in them(they didn’t).

With a tent, sleeping bag(not sure why I brought that), mat, some clothes, tubes, tools and a spare tire I ended up with a pretty hefty bike. At the last minute Eric saved me and let me borrow two panniers to get the weight off the top of my rack and down to the sides.

The night before there was some decent rain and strong winds but things were sunny and humid by the time we hit the trails. There were some puddles, some trees down but nothing us avid adventurers couldn’t handle.

A few miles in and we knew that the rain wasn’t going to be the worry of the trip, it was the heat. With Garmins showing 90-95 degrees and humidity to match. Minimizing exposure was key. Luckily the I&M has lots of tree cover and we were on the right side of the sun.

Our first stop was in La Salle,IL where we looked for a brewery but ended up at Haze Smokehouse. Beer and BBQ? Twist my arm. After loading up and some delicious grub, some mid-ride beers and topping off the bottle we were back on our way.

Not much further west is the end of the I&M. We took a few great scenic roads and connected up to the Hennepin Canal Trail. This was to be our route for the rest of the day and into Saturday.

Eric and Bret had done some digging on where we would be able to camp Friday night and that led us to our last stop to refuel in Wyanet, IL. As any good country town there was Casey’s for us to stock up and a little(read huge) diner down the road to get some food in our bellies.

What we thought was a campsite was only 6 miles away. We topped off again and headed out. We arrived at Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park a little bit later. What we found was a closed Visitors Center, some running water and a pavilion or two. We decided to just crash under one of the pavilions as we couldn’t find any actual campsites there and didn’t want to leave the running water. We all hosed off and sprayed down with bug spray and got setup for the night. It was hot, sticky and zero wind. Needless to say no one slept too well.

We were all up around 5:30-6 and started getting ready for the next day. Eric had his Jetboil café press so we did get to have some delicious morning coffee to get us moving.

We weren’t as lucky with the shade on day two, this time the shade was on the other side of the river. 12 miles in I noticed my rear tire was getting a little low. I crossed my fingers, aired it up and continued on. It didn’t last. I swapped out the tube a few miles later and noticed that my tires were not in a good way. We rolled on.

We had breakfast(Casey’s snacks) in the fine little town of Tampico. The birthplace of one President Ronald Regan. I bet you didn’t know that, but there is a museum for you to check out.

When we got to Rockfalls/Sterling we took a break for me to swap my rear tire and to grab some food. We found another little brewery and this one also had Thai food, go figure. After a beer and Pad Thai I downed a Coke and I was a new man.

From there to Freeport was all roads. We jig-jogged around the busy roads and ended up on Freeport Rd(go figure). What a great road it was. It was miles of constant rollers with everyone being a little bit higher than the next. With a 60 lb SS it was about bombing each descent and carrying as much speed up the next was the name of the game.

At what seemed to be the last crest before Freeport we took a breather at a church to see if anyone needed to top off bottle before the final stretch into town. As we started to roll out some clouds were coming in and the temp dropped 10-15 degrees, the rain was coming. And it was perfect. Not too heavy but cool and oh so refreshing. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

It died off a few miles before getting to Freeport so we were able to dry off a bit before we got to Freeport Bicycle Co. There was Stu waiting for us so we could hang out there, get a shower and a night of sleep in the air conditioning.

We ended up spending the night in the shop. We were like kids in a candy store just checking out everything and talking bikes all night long. And even a tiny bike to ride around on! We are forever grateful to Stu for letting us crash there!

We woke up refreshed and looking forward to our easy day to the brewery. We decided to cheat a bit and leave all of the camping gear at the shop and do the last 47 miles with just the essentials. With a nice heavy diner breakfast in our bellies we got back on our steads and headed out of town for the Jane Addams Trail and headed due north.

It’s a beautiful trail that is well covered and good and mossy making for a bit of excitement/slipping around. Once we crossed the IL/WI border the trail becomes to Badger State Trail but that is about all that changed.  We took it to Monroe and stopped for one last fill up and that’s when my front tire went.

I had brought one spare tire with me and I thought that was one too many but I was wrong. My front tire had a 10mm straight down the center tread that I booted with a ziplock, put a fresh tube in and crossed my fingers it would last 20 more miles.

Not too long before New Glarus the Badger State Trail turns into the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and that is where you find the Stewart Tunnel. Stewart Tunnel is a 1260 ft long tunnel with a 2 degree curve built into it. That makes it so when you are near the center you cannot see light from either end. Last time I was in the tunnel was during the Rapha Midwest Prestige. That time the temp was around 45 and it was raining most of the day. We had also not brought any lights so, you know, that was interesting. This go around was different. It was an amazing 65 degrees or so and foggy from all the humidity. We just wanted to stay inside. With lights this time we took our time exploring the tunnel and some of its “beautiful” art work on the walls.

IMG_20160724_152247021 (1).jpg

That was the last stretch. Right after the tunnel we jumped on the roads for a few last hills before getting to New Glarus. With a booted front tire I was a bit skeptical of the descents and took it easy. Soon enough we could see the brewery sitting majestically atop a hill in the distance. I was excited, we had done it, we were there, I couldn’t contain myself and bunnyhopped any bump in the road ahead.

With one last hill I decided I HAD to smash it up to the top. Leave it all on the road. At the top we met our savoir, Eric’s dad, Rick. He was just having a good old time waiting for us to roll in, hear our story and drink some beer with us. With some beer in out bellies and a lot more in the trunk of the car we loaded up and started our car ride back home.

On the way home we stopped in Rockford at Prairie Street Brewing Co. If you like good food and good beer stop there next time you’re around.

It was a great trip with great people. We all had some suffering and we all had a blast. Next time we are working on making it a two day trip with less bags and more speed. Y’all are welcome to join!    





My Night Bison


My Night Bison

Awe yeah, the Night Bison!  It's almost become the unofficial start of "fall cycling" here in the outskirts of Chicago.  Blasting through the gravel grind of the Illinois farm-scape, at night, in the dark, with the blinking lights of modern windmills in the horizon.  

Having left my house later than I wanted, I arrived, parked, and started to put my gear on.  Riffling through my back pack, "GOD DAMN IT.  I FORGOT MY SHOES"!

Looks of "awe shit" came across the faces those near me getting their own gear on.  There was a small collective effort to try and get me riding.  Shoes too big, wrong cleats, road shoes, and plat form (yuck) pedals were offered.  I was over it and ready to just spend the next 40 minutes driving home.  Matt Wagner wasn't going to have that, he made sure to let me know he would NEVER let me live that down.  UGH.  

A couple of texts to my girlfriend, thanks Sue, I was on my way to meet her with my shoes and head back.

6:45pm I was on the road...going the wrong direction.  After trying to navigate the Blackriver app to try and figure out what the right direction was and a phone call later I was headed full gas in the right direction, alone.

Not long after hitting gravel I was already encountering cyclists heading back due to mechanicals and flats.  This happened a few times within the 1st seven miles!  Yikes guys.

After awhile of singing DMX and Billy Idol at the top of my lungs, I brought my jam box, I finally started to catch people.  I would fly up behind groups, hang for a second, and leap frog to the next group for the whole night.  If you saw a blur of pink, purple, green, and teal, that was me. I caught the Alexanders and Wagners at the stop.  Even after the that, I soon dropped my Metal friends and kept pushing.  Less than 20 miles ain't shit, I thought.  I just kept hammer away, blasting Lana Del Ray.

Eventually I caught another Stay Radder, Graeme.  He was pumped to see me, he also looked beat from trying to hang with some of the other groups.  Without saying "good bye" I just kept pushing on, with a brief hello to my Half Acre buds.  With a final sprint down the pavement I made it to the finish, just missing my crew by 10 or so minutes.  Nuts.  Still, what a fantastic night after such a rough start.  

I basically did the whole thing on my own.  No taking pulls with anyone else, just me, myself, and I.  The way I like it.  Really, being alone for so long let me really appreciate a wonderful sunset, bright stars, and the Milky Way in the sky.

Sorry for the crappy pictures.  It was dark and I had gloves on.

Sorry for the crappy pictures.  It was dark and I had gloves on.

Thank you every one at Axletree for all that you do.  I could take or leave the Gravel Metric, the other ride they put on.  However, the Night Bison is really something special.  Always a great way to close out the summer.



Ament100 in the books!


Ament100 in the books!

Lets start from the beginning.

A while back there was this crazy young man who liked to go out to the corners of the state of Illinois.  This man was name Chad Ament.  He would go out to the "driftless area" with his compass and maps and chart out rides.  Constantly telling everyone they needed to go out there.  This is the area of the state around Galena.  The undulating landscape feels more like riding Shockwave at Great America than the Tron like grid of the farming waste land we associate with Illinois.  We'd go out there as well with him, 1st to mess around, then for the 1st Ten Thousand, and then soon more trips and rides/races followed.

Chad left.  Moved on to the world of Colorado.  However, he left an impression on us to explore and share with other like minded adventures.  Hence ILLmanzo was born, then changed to Ament100 in honor of Chad.  This was originally meant to be an alternative to driving to Minnesota for Almanzo.  Many of us have done that legendary ride and love it.  If you haven't, you should make the trip and DO IT.  We also have been tasked with sharing this unknown pleasure of Illinois with like minded cyclist.

A couple of weeks ago was the 2nd, I guess now annual, Ament100.  With way more people planing to attend than frankly, I was comfortable with. This course wasn't made of bullshit crushed limestone.  There would be 20% descents down rutted out gnarly gravel, almost 180 degree turns on unmarked roads.  Both mental and physical strength would be tested. Cell phones would be worthless. Almost nowhere to refuel or get help.  I was super worried.  Like REAL worried some jack ass would show up on 23's and brake his collar bone, or someone would starve out there.  I reach out to Axletree for some advice.  They hooked us up with some waivers and some sound legal advice.  I slept a lot better after that.  Thanks Dean!

With a hasty booming speech, we were on the road!  Probably too fast.  I'd left the rest of the SRAT behind in the parking lot.  Joel and Jon picking up, Sean and Kristina changing.  Sorry.  I'm impatient.  All those people milling around made me uncomfortable.  I have issues with large crowds of people.  I'll work on it.

Starting with some hills.

Mississippi River

Spring in the mid-west is often fraught with peril and inconsistent weather.  Two weeks prior, it was sunny and and 65 all day.  The day of the ride the high would barely reach mid 50's and chilly 20mph headwind from every which direction and almost zero tail wind.  Even so, there still were SIXTY people that showed up, more than half we didn't know.  Some even from Iowa (sup fellas?)! Weather is often the hardest test of any cycling event.  How to dress, working in the wind, & sunscreen.  Still, the sun did manage to come out towards the end of the day and warm the hearts and faces of the gravel hardened folk.  


Rolling emerald green hills striped with the amber colored gravel roads filled the country side.  All manner of wild & farm life would be seen.  Lamas and cattle, to snakes and bob cats.  Yes BOB CATS.  Turkey vultures would circle all day as if an omen to those who would reach their dark place.  The gloomy dark clouds of the morning would eventually turn into the happy little Super Mario Bros. clouds of our childhoods.

How many coins are in those clouds?

Best climb in the state, Chad's Climb.

I yo-yoed around, hooking up with different groups.  Thanking people and taking pictures.  I'd drop people.  I'd get dropped.  I'd work with people.  I'd ride alone.  I meet new people and tried to give route advise about this hill and that hill, or I'd miss a turn.  Thats how my day went.  

While talking to riders both during and after, the general consensus was that everyone had a blast.  People would roll in looking like they just wrestled a wolverine and won. Stories would be told of legs cramping on this hill or that hill, or OH SHIT THAT JUMP IN THE ROAD, or losing cue sheets and asking for directions.  Which, by the way, you're welcome.  If I had it my way, nobody would have printed off cue sheets.  I think there wasteful and you should be enjoying the ride not worrying about missing a turn.  We owe a huge thanks to the Schneebergers!  They were there with a camera and that wonderful oasis that brought many folk back from the brink of expiration.  Thank you Nathan and Morleigh you're our Angles in the Outfield! 

Cookies?!!  Get outta my way!

Due to the varying paces, people kinda meet up and ate where ever post ride.  Perhaps next year we'll get more organized and get some Port-o-Pottys and figure out a post ride grub hub.  Maybe we won't do it at all.  Maybe we'll do that post card thing that Grumpy Grind does. I'm just happy it went as well as it did.  As far as I know, no one was hurt, no one had any real mechanicals.  Best of all, everyone had a good time...as far as I know.

If you have any thoughts, ideas, or stories you'd like to share hit us up at rad1adventure@gmail.com 

Thank you for coming, thank you for not getting hurt or lost, and thank you for having fun! I told you it would be hard.



Ament100 Updates.


Ament100 Updates.

With the ever increasing interest in the epic ride formerly know as ILLmanzo, now Ament100, we've decided to team up with our pals over at Axletree to help with some of the legal issues that may arise.  With that PLEASE PRINT AND SIGN this Waiver.  We will have a few in the Apple Fort parking lot.  We also ask that you ride like respectful citizens.  Not riding 10 wide in a pack, obey street signs, and give at least a smile to those you pass along the route. 

Again, this 100% self supported.  YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN.  There won't be some magical Rapha truck with coffee and snacks waiting for you at the top of a hill.  After mile 38, there is NOTHING.  Cell phones don't really work out there, so ride SAFE & SMART.  These is ZERO sag. If you are hurting, tough shit, figure it out! So here is the Ride with GPS link and a couple of notes:

  • You can cut a gnarly decent and 5 miles out at mile 22 (recommended if new to this area)
  • The only food stop is in Hanover, mile 28
  • You SHOULD top off your water at the campsite around mile 38.7 (Blanding Landing)
  • There are killer climbs right after both of those stops, so maybe hold off eating until you get to the top.
  • The course is probably 50/50 gravel to pavement.  DO NOT RIDE A ROAD BIKE.  I have seen people break collar bones on the gravel out there riding skinnies.  
  • There are no bathrooms at the start.   So go before you get to town.
  • That town is a SPEED TRAP!  Dial it back when you get close.

We will start in the town of Elizabeth Il.  It's super small, so parking is limited.  Please look at the parking map below and CARPOOL as much as possible.

102 N Main St, Elizabeth, IL 61028 if you need an address to get you there.  Stay Rad will be taking waivers in the parking lot kitty corner.  Once we get your wavier, feel free to roll out. 

Pink are the open spaces.  

Finally, I'll leave with some words my father left me with,  

"The only person you can count on, is yourself."