Written and Photographed by – Andy Oleson
So about 10 years ago I made a pact with myself to go out every year on my birthday and do a 100 mile ride regardless of the miles I had or had not put on prior, maybe as a way to hold on to my youth, or to prove I still have it in me to get out and do the long rides. Well this year was no exception, other than this year I was going to tackle it on a Fat-Bike! I was all geared up and ready to go earlier in November, I had taken the day off of work and the weather looked to be beautiful I was ready to go…….Then out of the blue, I was called out of town on a business trip, it looked as though my B-day ride may not happen this year, as you never know what the Midwest weather holds this time of year. When I got back from my trip I checked the upcoming weather and planned on going out on the warmest upcoming day (I really don’t mind the cold and the snow, I commute in the stuff all winter long, but a long distance ride is a little different) So the 25th was my window of opportunity it was suppose to be 45 degrees and sunny, with light winds.
I mentioned I try to do a 100 mile ride regardless of the miles I have got under my belt for the year, and this year has been a good one, I already have four hundred plus milers, and a bunch of eighty milers, so I figured I’d step it up a little and set my sights on trying to make 200 miles! Yeah I know a lot of people go out and do ultra endurance races of well over that kind of mileage, which someday I may try, but this was my birthday ride, no points, no trophies, just me trying to go as far as my legs will take me.
The night before I loaded up the Salsa SS Mukluk with my gear and lights, pumped up the Big Fat Larry’s to 22psi, and settled on a 36×16 gearing to get me through the next day. I rolled out of bed at 4:45am to start my day with a brisk 30 degrees slap in the face. You may look at this picture as out of focus, but it pretty much looked that way to me, as my eyes still weren’t awake!
A couple of goals I had set for the day were, firstly try to make it 200 miles, secondly was to make it to the Illinois/Michigan canal trail and explore that, and third was to hopefully make it all the way to Starved Rock state park and ride some single track. The first 20+ miles were cold and dark, and all I could hear in the silence of the morning was my BFL’s crushing the gravel beneath them, as the sun came up and the temperatures rose, I could sense it was going to be a great day.
One other goal I had was to enjoy the ride, I’ve been called a hammer head in the past, wanting nothing more than to ride as hard as possible all the time, today it was about stopping here and there to enjoy the moment.
The ride was fairly un-eventful as far as any problems or nasty weather popping up, but one thing I noticed was how much more enjoyable it was being on my Fat Bike unlike years past were I would punish myself on a road or cross bike, even at 22psi the Salsa Ti Mukluk ate up all the bumps and gravel roads with ease.
One of the many locks along the canal
Having made one of my goals to get to the Illinois/Michigan canal trail I was treated to a beautiful trail system with some great history to it, I highly recommend to anyone in the Midwest to make the trip there, and I’m sure in the summer it is even more spectacular! Next Stop Starved Rock State Park……..Well almost, the time was getting away from me and I decided to cut my trip a little shorter, so I set my sights on making it to Buffalo Rock State park, were I took in a great view overlooking the Illinois River, and some rock bluffs.
I made my turn around point a 93 miles, and started heading home. I stopped at a Casey’s mini-mart to stock up on Gatorade and some Amazing Homer Simpson Sized Jelly Dounuts! Mmmmmmm, I was fueled and ready to go. At about mile 140 or so, it started to hit me, that hey, this is no regular 100 miler like I was used to! I was starting to feel the burn! My thoughts turned to the Growler of Winter Tartan beer that was waiting at home for me, and a nice warm shower! As the sun went down so did the temperatures. Turning the pedals and staying warm became my new main goal, because I was damned if I was going to throw in the towel and call my wife to come and save my ass.
Although I didn’t accomplish all my goals I was more than happy with what I had accomplished and called it a day at 175 miles – solo on a single speed Fat Bike. Which leaves the double century goal out there for next summer!
Oh Yeah………That Beer never tasted better!
Editor’s Note: Happy Birthday Andy! Wishing you many happy returns! ~g