A metric (and then some) of our own

My original plan for this last weekend was to ride the Gravel Metric in Dekalb, Illinois on Sunday with my riding buddy Michael. Since we planned to drive down and back–it’s only a couple of hours away via the interstate–I reserved a van from our local car-share.

However, it’s been a tiring couple of weeks and I was wavering about whether to go. The very idea of getting up at 4am to get the van, drive to Illinois, ride for 4-5 hours, hang out a bit, and then drive back was more than I could stand. Turned out that Michael was of the same mind. And, since I’d be driving, there’d be no possibility of a post-ride beer or three.

So I canceled the van reservation and we made plans to ride on Sunday. Perhaps we’d ride the Badger Trail from Madison to Monroe and back. I’d suggested we take the fat-bikes, but Michael convinced me to ride something with fenders, as the forecast called for rain. For me, right now that means the Soma ES, as it’s the only bike in the fleet that’s both in running trim and fendered. This would prove a very good decision.

Here’s what we ended up doing:

The route

You can also check out the full details (since WP doesn’t like embedding things).

We left town via the Southwest Commuter Path, picked up the Badger Trail, and rode the paved and graveled portions south to French Town Road.

Badger Trail, which is somewhat flat and straight.
French Town Road, which is neither flat nor straight.

From there, we continued to Belleville (where we took a quick break) and then to Monticello (where we also took a quick break). South of Monticello we found the abandoned bridge and mill we’d heard about, but couldn’t ride it because the access road is now private property and gated.

After looking wistfully at the abandoned bridge over the locked gate, we moved on to the sight-seeing highlight of the day: a working dairy farm that also boasts a complete light-gauge railroad and a collection of old carnival rides, located at the corner of Feldt and Witterwyler roads south of Monticello.

The carnival farm marked our farthest point of southing. After we’d taken a few photos and had a good look at things, under close observation by the resident dairy herd, we headed back north and east. In the process, we discovered a few very pretty, new-to-us roads: River Road, Krueger Road, and Silver Road. These took us north to Nye Road and back into familiar territory and eventually back to the Badger Trail and into Madison.

A fine day of riding, even though–and perhaps because–the day started foggy and cool and turned rainy and somewhat windy. I ended up with 78.66 miles on the GPS, in 5:20 of riding time. In fact, the longest ride so far in 2011.


Besides not wanting to drive to Dekalb for the Gravel Metric, I’d also wanted to test out the bike and gear setup for a 200k brevet that I’m looking to ride near the end of June. The Soma ES in its currently configuration is nearly perfect for day-long riding, though there are still some minor adjustments to make:

  • The handlebars would be a little higher, so I’ll flip the current 100mm 6 degree stem.
  • The position of the Brooks B-17 needs some adjustment, as I was having a few minor saddle issues by the end of the day. This is most likely because I wasn’t using the usual VO seatpost, but instead a Ritchey Comp that doesn’t have nearly the setback of the VO.
  • Running the 25mm Marathon Plus tires at 85-90 psi is fairly comfortable, but I’d still like to see if I can fit a 27-28mm tire under the front fender (the rear is no trouble) for a bit more volume and cushion.
  • I’m coming to the realization that carrying everything in a saddlebag and in jersey pockets is not the most efficient way to be able both carry and reach important things like food, rain gear, and my camera. Considering a traditional rack+decaleur mounted front bag–something with roughly the same volume as the Carradice Low-saddle Long-flap in its smallest configuration (7-9 liters). Probably not in time for the brevet though; such decisions are not made that quickly.

These are all just tweaks and I could certainly get away without changing the tires or the baggage. However, there was one big failure: the Boure bib shorts. They were fine for about the first half of the ride, but then the pad proceeded to bunch up in a decidedly uncomfortable manner, while also rubbing on the insides of my thighs where my legs met the wider skirting of the B-17. Perhaps they are not long-ride shorts. I don’t have another pair of non-knicker bibs right now (that fit, anyway). This is the one problem I truly have to solve before the 200k brevet (and probably before the Horribly Hilly 100k as well).

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