Since I didn't get to ride all weekend (long story), I had to go for a long ride today. I drove up to Old School Forest Preserve near Libertyville to ride the Des Plaines River Trail. After my motorist conflict on the Poplar Creek Trail, I looked forward to a trail with very few street crossings (the DPRT has many underpasses and an overpass or two). I took my mountain bike, which probably was a bad choice. My touring bike can handle crushed limestone just fine (I used it for all the rides in Biking Illinois), and it's much more comfortable than my mountain bike.
This ride reminded me of my first DPRT excursion back in 2000. I'd had my hybrid bike for just a few weeks, but I rode from Half Day Forest Preserve (about six or seven miles south of Old School) all the way up to Russell Road near the Wisconsin border (and a bit further north on a gravel access road, if I remember correctly). Back then, the DPRT wasn't finished, so my route included some unhappy miles on busy IL 21 (Milwaukee Avenue) south of Gurnee. The other problem I remember from that ride was not carrying enough food and water -- and stopping at a convenience story only to discover I didn't have any money. Since then, I make sure to stash a few dollars in the rack pack on every one of my bikes.
This time I was able to ride the trail all the way, which was much more pleasant. I planned to go an hour north and then turn around, but after an hour I felt decent and wanted to explore further. I watched the mile markers count down the distance to the state line. At every marker, I'd think, That mile went well; let's do another. At the 5-mile marker, I had to make a decision. Either I was going to go all the way, or I was going to turn around. Since I had ridden 15 miles and my longest ride this year was about 20, I figured I'd better turn around. I drank a bottle of warm Gatorade and started back toward Old School.
I made the right choice. After just a few miles, my hands were getting pretty sore. Even with bar ends, my mountain bike doesn't provide much variety in hand holds. Also, while my touring bike has the seat level with the bars, my mountain bike has the seat an inch higher than the bars. That means the mountain bike puts much more pressure on my hands. My feet weren't doing so well, either. Lately, I've been wondering whether clipless pedals are all they're made out to be. Aside from my little fallover on the Poplar Creek Trail last week, a number of people on the Touring e-mail list have reverted to toe clips or platform pedals recently.
Once I got south of Independence Grove (a lovely preserve with trails around a man-made lake), the miles passed very slowly. I was really struggling, spinning a low gear up the slightest hills. My feet were hurting, and my hands were somewhere beyond that. They were going numb, and I couldn't find a way to grip the handlebars that didn't hurt. Now I was really glad I hadn't tried to ride to the border and back. That extra ten miles would have darn near killed me today.
I completed the 30-mile roundtrip about 15 minutes short of three hours (that's total time, not "riding time" -- I don't have a cyclometer on my mountain bike), which was significantly longer than I had planned to ride. I paid a price for my enthusiasm, though. Eight hours later, there is still numbness in the heel of my left hand (though not as much as when I finished the ride). The bottoms of my feet are sore, as are my ankles. My ankles would probably be sore regardless of bike choice-- they always hurt when I push my mileage far beyond what I'm accustomed to.
I didn't realize until I got home that this is my longest ride since 2005, when I was in much better shape. Thirty miles is getting up into the range where I'd like to be, so today was very encouraging. I still have delusions of riding an invitational in the waning days of the season, though obviously not a full century (maybe this weekend's Pumpkin Pie Ride?). I won't be doing any long rides on the mountain bike, that's for sure.