Category Archives: Bicycle

Knock Knolls Mountain Bike Trails

Knock Knolls Mountain Biking

There aren’t too many mountain bike trails in the Chicago suburbs. Palos, Saw Wee Kee, and Deer Grove are probably the most well known. A few years back, Knock Knolls in Naperville was pretty well maintained and offered a bit of challenging terrain and obstacles. For the past few years, Knock Knolls has seen it’s share of obstacles being removed making it less of a challenge. Many of the larger log piles have been taken out or cut down and the bowl area has been filled with branches rendering it completely un-ridable. However, although not as great as it used to be, Knock Knolls still offers quick flowing singletrack within close proximity to where I live. I only live about 8 miles from knock knolls to I am able to ride there, do a few loops and head back home.

There is virtually no elevation change at Knock Knolls, the challenge pretty much lies in seeing how fast you can flow through the trails. There’s a few hikers and runners that use these trails but they are horse-free.

A great place for an after work ride. It’s nice to have a simple trail like this for days when I don’t quite have the energy to push it at Saw Wee Kee, or the money to fill up my gas tank and drive out to Palos.

My favorite route at Knock Knolls is a 4-mile loop I’ve outlined in the map above. I usually ride this loop a few times through changing up my direction through the singletrack sections from loop to loop.

For more information on Knock Knolls Trails, check out the Knock Knolls Page on CAMBR’s website.

Kettle Moraine South Mountain Biking


This weekend I took a trip up north to La Grange Wisconsin. The southern unit of Kettle Morine consists of two groups of trails: the John Muir Trails and the Emma Carlin Trails. Along with these two sets of trails, there’s a 5 mile connector trail which joins the two sets. One great feature of these trails is that each trail is designated one way so you don’t have to worry about any oncoming traffic, even on the connector trail (which is actually 2 one way trails). Since this is a state forest, you will need to pay for a trail pass and parking in the lot. The way I see it is that this is a great trail system and If I have to spend a little to keep it protected and in great shape, it’s not that bad.

The John Muir Trails offer 5 loops. The longest of the John Muir loops is the 10 mile outer blue loop which has some pretty steep climbs, rocky descents, and really narrow switchbacks.

The Emma Carlin Trails are much shorter than the John Muir Trails, however, they seem more technical. The 4 mile green loop of the Emma Carlin section is probably the most technical of all trails I’ve ridden in southern Wisconsin. Although it’s only 4 miles, it’s some of the steepest, rootiest, and rockiest terrain of this area.

My favorite section of Kettle Moriane is the 5 mile Connector trail which leads from the John Muir Trails to the Emma Carlin Trails. On a weekend, the 2 sets of trails can get pretty crowded. Most of the crowds just stick to one trail group and never make it out to the connector trail so it’s not used as frequently as the 2 trail groups. I think the connector trail offers some of the most diverse terrain of the area. From open fields, to pine forests, to rocky ledges, and open straight aways.

So this happened…

Critical Mass Bicyclist Assaulted by NYPD

The officer seen in the video is Patrick Pogan, a third-generation cop and son of a retired New York City detective. According to Officer Pogan, the cyclist rode his bike straight into him, knocking them both down and causing a “laceration” on his arm. The cyclist Christopher Long, a 29-year-old resident of Bloomfield, New Jersey was arrested for attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Bill DiPaola, a director of Time’s Up, told the Times he arrived just after Long went down. “He got up and was dazed. They put their knees on top of his head and were smashing him into a phone booth.”

After the video surfaced, the cop who clearly lunged out at Long was stripped of his gun and badge pending an investigation. But in discussing the video with the News, an unidentified NYPD source says, “The video is bad – what can you say?”

I would say that cop Patrick Pogan’s testimony and the video clearly show someone is lying. Either the video is lying, or Pogan is lying.

What do the cops have to say about all this?
Equally as interesting as Pogan’s testimony were some of the comments on this Police Forum praising Pogan’s actions. Some people really let power go to their heads because it’s about all they’ve got.

Hit by another car.

This morning while riding my bike home from my girlfriend’s house I was hit by an automobile. I was riding along a bicycle path and crossing the street at a red light when a car making a right turn decided it was his time to make the turn. When I proceeded to cross the street he was stopped so I figured it was safe to go. Luckily most of me had cleared his car when he hit me. He knocked my rear wheel about 4 feet into oncoming traffic. I didn’t go down on the ground. I was able to get up and move out of the intersection. as I approached his car to tell him I would split the difference and accept $100.00 for replacing my rear, he drove off and was gone. (Probably didn’t help that I yelled “@$$ hole” at him. You tend to lose any credibility when you yell obscenities at anyone)

As I stood there in awe that he could just drive off after hitting me, a giant 4-miles-to-the-gallon, off-road pickup/nature destroyer that was behind him pulled up and the redneck driving leaned out of the rig and told me I should keep off the road. Keep off the road? I was merely crossing the street. I didn’t know that if you buy a bicycle you are limited to only riding it in any areas where you don’t have to cross the street. Let’s see, that would limit me to a 500foot loop of sidewalk surrounding my townhouse. Sounds like fun.

As gas prices rise more and more people are supposedly supporting the bicycle cause. I don’t see it. I am getting the same response from cars that I get when I was commuting by bike from work to school in the city of Chicago 8 years ago which is that the roads meant only for cars I have people say to me “You ride your bike everywhere. That’s good more people should do it, especially with gas prices and the environment”, but the drivers on the road seem to have another attitude.

When it comes down to what the law is versus what will keep me alive, I will go with the safer route. Maybe at some point cyclist/driver laws will be more common knowledge but until then I’d rather not rely on the laws for safety. Unfortunately rules of the road don’t mean anything if others don’t follow them. But for all intents and purposes, at the beginning of 2008, the state of Illinois passed a law requiring all motor vehicles to allow a minimum of 3 feet between them and a cyclist when passing. Although this law doesn’t really apply to my predicament, I only mention it because although Illinois has this law. I don’t know of anyone who isn’t a cyclist that’s heard of it.

Bike Messengers get a bad rap from everyone for having attitudes, especially towards automobiles and pedestrians. Anyone who commutes by bicycle can probably see why. I’m always getting frustrated by cars. I’ve spit on cars, purposely scratched them, screamed into car windows at drivers, among other things and the one thing I can tell you is that it doesn’t do either me or the other person any good. All it does is ruin the rest of my ride and I am more apt to be agitated and run red lights, block traffic and put myself in harms way just because I am pissed off. It’s not worth it. Some people are just idiots.

So what can we do? When I was hit today, I can only hope other cars saw it. The more the better. Maybe it will remind people that there are more and more cyclists on the road and cars need to allow room for them to. There are safe ways to ride. I am always skeptical about riding on bike paths vs. riding on the road because although roads have more car traffic, a car can usually see you better if you are directly in their line of vision. Since I was riding on the path it is my responsibility to make sure drivers see me vs who has the right of way. I probably could should have waited till he acknowledged that I was crossing the street. When it comes down to a well protected car vs and out in the open cyclist, it doesn’t matter who has the right of way. If there is a collision I am likely to be greatly injured and the driver of the automobile is likely to not be touched.

Specialized Stumpjumper Upgraded

Just picked up my Stumpjumper Mountain Bike from the bike shop today. I was having some parts installed. This was an upgrade I initially planned when I purchased the bicycle in 2005.

Specialized Stumpjumper

First think I did was swap out the Shimano Hollowtech Crankset for a Truvativ Stylo Team Gigapipe with integrated Bottom Bracket. I use the Stylo Team on my Schwinn hardtail and it’s a great crank. It’s much stiffer that the hollowtech that came with the bike. And the integrated bottom bracket seems like it will be less trouble to keep clean.

Next, I had the shifters and rear derailer switched out. Originally I was running an XTR rear derailer with deore shifters. I never really got used to the trigger shifters. I’ve always preferred Sram’s higher end twist shifters over rapidfire. I put on new Sram X-0 shorty twist shifters and a X-O rear derailer. Again, I’ve come to rely on Sram products and their smooth shifting. I also like the fast that it is easier to skip-shift with the twist shifters. I can jump 3 rings In one twist as opposed to 3 pulls of the trigger on a trigger shifter. I’ve heard people talk about having problems with accidentally shifting when they are going over obstacles because they twist the handlebars. I’ve never had this happen in the 8+ years I’ve been riding twist shifters.

Last, I upgraded the brakes. I went from Avid V-Brakes to Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc Brakes. Initially I was planning on upgrading to Hydraulic Disc as opposed to Mechanical but from a cost-point, I decided I’d go with mechanical for now. I am running a 200mm rotor up front and a 160mm in the back (originally I installed 200mm rotors in front and back but I’ve since switched to the smaller rotor in back). I also switched out the brake levers to Avid SD Ti.

After picking up the bike I headed out to the local trail for a test run. I’ve been dying to get out to some singletrack this year. All my rides thus far this year have either been on street or crushed limestone so it was good to hit the dirt. It was a little muddy and the trails were still pretty soft from the recent rain and the cold weather we’ve had, but I was able to get in a decent ride. The bike feels great. I feel like I will still have to get used to the new components but from a first impression, I am happy with my upgrades. The Stylo Crank feels much stronger than the hollowtech. I don’t feel it creaking and flexing anymore. The Sram X-0 shifting is far more superior to my old XTR(2005 style)/Deore setup and the brakes took a little braking in but I feel like I have much more stopping power. Seems like the new components offer a pretty substantial weight difference as well.

Bicycle Review // SE Lager Fixed Gear

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I purchased an SE Lager back in December and been riding it quite a bit. This is my first fixed gear bicycle and I greatly enjoy the feel of it. Originally I bought this bike for the purpose of commuting to work everyday and for going on rides with friends who tend to keep a slower pace than I am used to. But every time I am going to go for a ride whether it’s 5 miles or 40 miles, my fixed gear Lager has been my first choice for anything that isn’t dirt.

This past weekend I had my first long distance ride on the Lager at 60 miles. This is also the first time I’ve been back on a rigid fork in about 8 years as well. Although I am unable to coast with the Lager and almost all decent grade climbs require me to get out of the saddle, I really haven’t had any problems. The whole no coasting thing took me awhile to get used to but after spending December through February indoors on my rollers, I was ready to hit the streets. For the first few weeks of riding it was a pretty big adjustment getting used to pedaling through bumps in the street I would usually coast through. The steel frame seems to flex a bit over the bumps to dampen the blow though. Even on crushed limestone paths the Lager handles well. I am totally sold on fixed gear riding for road.

When I jumped back on my Mountain Bike with a suspension fork after riding the Lager every day for about 2 months, It also took some readjusting. for the first few miles coasting seemed totally foreign and almost unnatural. I also noticed that with the combination of a rigid fork and fixed gear when climbing I really throw my weight to the very front of the bike almost so that I am leaning over the handlebars. This climbing stance seems to allow me to apply a good amount of leg power to the cranks. Climbing in this position on my front suspension freewheel bike was almost impossible because I couldn’t get as much power out of the cranks and with all my weight forward, my fork was bobbing like crazy and absorbing most of my speed.

All in all I definitely think both freewheel and fixed have their place as well as rigid and suspended. I am extremely happy with the lager and I think for the price ($300-$400) you can’t go wrong. I am using a 46 tooth Origin 8 Track Crankset with 165mm arms in the front and a 17 tooth fixed cog in the back. Seems like a decent gear ratio that I feel comfortable with. I switched the tires out to Continental Contact 700cx28. The tires are a bit on the heavy side but thick enough to ride through glass. perfect for my commute, riding on the littered streets of downtown aurora, or the crushed limestone on the Illinois Prairie Path. I also changed out the saddle to an E3 Form Gel. It’s a decent low profile saddle that is reasonable priced and good enough for longer distance rides, without being too bulky and causing chafing like the SE saddle that came with the bike.

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Weblinx Moves // My New Commute

Weblinx Inc., where I work, has moved from 68 Main Street to 165 Kirkland Circle. We are still in Oswego so the move shouldn’t affect too many people. My office is almost double the size and came with some sweet 60’s Mod furniture.

My new bike route to work isn’t too bad. luckily there is a route that allows me to avoid the busier streets. My commute is much shorter now. before I was facing a 10 mile commute each way and now the commute is about 4 miles each way. While I’ll miss the long ride, there’s no excuse for me not to ride to work everyday.

My new commute

Mayor Daley on our side

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley recently proposed fines of $150-$500 for any motorist endangering the safety of cyclists on the road. Finally! I’ve been hit by cars in the city and It’s not fun. Most motorists that I know complain about cyclists taking up space on the road. I really don’t know what the problem is. Get a smaller car so you can share the road with bicycles you hummer driving espresso latte blue tooth…

>> Read Chicago Sun-Times Article

Sheldon Brown Rest In Peace

Sheldon Brown – July 14, 1944 – February 3, 2008

sheldon2.jpgBicycle enthusiast and expert mechanic Sheldon Brown died of a heart attack on Sunday, February 3rd. Though I never met Sheldon Brown I’ve often consulted his website and articles for technical advice. Especially in terms of fixed-gear bikes. Sheldon was one of the most knowledgeable and well known bike mechanics out there.

>> Read Article on Bike Snob NYC

>> Sheldon Brown on Wikipedia

>> Sheldon at Harris Cyclery