Article and Photos by John Woo (intro by Brett Ratner)
One of the things that's great about being a Chicago-area cyclist is that you have countless miles to roam on a bicycle. Between the the bike paths, breweries, botanic gardens, arboretums and countless hot dog stands, if you can't think of somewhere to ride, you're not trying very hard.
That said, it's good to get out of Chicagoland once in awhile and see what other areas offer as far as riding is concerned.
Arguably the best way to accomplish that is by taking part in supported century rides. Many of these take place in the late summer/early fall and are great fun.
In exchange for paying a small registration fee (that generally benefits local charities and organizations), you get (depending on the route you choose) up to 100 miles of clear roads, well stocked rest stops, and SAG trucks ready to scoop you up should you experience a mechanical or other issue. In addition to a great day of riding, you can claim bragging rights for completing a "century," which is considered a rite of passage for many avid cyclists.
One of the best century rides in the area is the annual Apple Cider Century. Requiring just a quick drive over to Three Oaks Michigan, ACC let's you experience rolling hills, picturesque landscapes and mild early fall weather. If you haven't done this ride, it's worth putting on your calendar for 2016.
This year, Chainlinkers John Woo, Shay McAllister, Tenzin Will, Inyo Man, Andy Moss and Michael Brosilow made the trip. Since it also happened to be Woo's first official century ride, he was kind enough to share some details and photos from the experience, as well as his tips on where to stay, nutrition, and otherwise surviving 100 miles on a bike.
How to make a great ride even better? Stay at a cool cabin the night before!
In my jersey pockets, I carried peanut butter cups, granola bars, Skratch Labs water mix, refreshing wipes, trail mix, and usually had a spare peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I had two Polar Ice 22oz water bottle with Powerade in them. I went through only one bottle between SAG stops but liked having extra in case.
A key to surviving a long ride is preventing leg cramps. In addition to staying hydrated and fed, Woo used these products to keep his quads and calves in tip-top shape.
I also carried Sportlegs and Hammer Endurolytes. Sportlegs are a supplement containing Vitamin D, Calcium, Magnesium, and Lactate to prevent cramping. Hammer Endurolytes contain Sodium, Chloride, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Vitamin B-6, and Manganese to replenish electrolytes. I took a dose at every SAG stop and they worked wonders to help be continue pushing on.
Woo and Will enjoying smooth Michigan roads.
Departing Three Oaks at 7:30am, I took off for the 100-mile trek. What can I say…absolutely beautiful. Riding on a beautiful day through Pure Michigan was amazing. Some roads were rougher than others but not nearly as rough as dirt or gravel. There were many hills and they obviously got tougher as the mileage went up, but what goes up, must come down. Trust me, the downhills made up for it. I learned to say “SHUT UP LEGS” on this ride and must say that it helped when my IT Bands started hurting and when some uphills became a bit too “up”.
Another thing that helped was tagging along with another rider or group and maybe drafting off them for a bit. I did find that riding alone for most of the back half allowed me to maintain my own pace when keeping up with someone else would make me think I’m trying too hard to keep up with them.
An upside of getting on the road early is that you can enjoy the sunrise.
The views were stunning. Fields, trees, fields of trees, cows, chickens (I swear, one chicken even crossed the road in front of me…to get to the other side), long bridges, what more can I say? You had to be there. Along the lakefront heading to New Buffalo were huge houses, the next one bigger than the last. I wanted to stop and take pictures, but I had a ride to finish.
The last two miles was grueling. Flat and seemingly never-ending but once I crossed the finish line, it was all worth it. It was extra rewarding to have passed 2000 miles for the year with this ride. I sat down for a bit, drank some Pepsi and water, went into the school to get my certificate and enjoy some delicious spaghetti (choice of meat or marinara sauce), salad, and apple pie. Ask for a double-serving of spaghetti. They’ll give it to you.
To the victor goes the spoils.
I’ll be doing this ride yearly and recommend it to anyone. There are so many options to cut you ride short and head back if anything happens. I was lucky enough to have no problems with my road bike. My Brooks Cambium C15 paired with padded shorts took as much care of my sit bones as possible on such a long ride.
100 miles in the books. We predict many more rides like this are in Woo's future.