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Love Thy Local Trail System

Love Thy Local Trail System

As a Chicago based team, mountain bike riding can be quite the challenge.  Our nearest trails are in Willow Springs at the Palos Forest Preserve.  Here's a fun fact, there are people that build and maintain them for our enjoyment!  They are CAMBr, the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers, and these volunteers giving their time and effort are the reason we have these trails to ride. 

So perhaps you ride regularly or were convinced to take your cx bike to give a it try a few times, in either case you know that when you go, you just park and ride.  No fee for parking or trail pass to purchase.  What a world!  Well here is our pitch:  support the work CAMBr is doing by becoming a member (basic is $35).  CLICK THIS LINK  

Trees fall and they clear em, berms created, and trails fixed (when those bad peeps ride them while wet and create terrible ruts).  In the last year alone, major developments on a new trail, Stonehouse, further connecting and extending the current system have taken place.  Check it out on this new map.   They also host training rides, kids days, plan trips to other trails systems, as well as host the Palos Meltdown race.  Side note: you can also throw in some muscle on work days, create those trails you ride!  

We all know those nights spent staring at the radar are just as filled with days riding.  So take a few minutes and a few dollars and become a member.  Increasing the numbers also shows the powers that be how important these trails are to the cycling community and that our numbers are large.  This helps fortify the case that bike trails are good and should not be nixed.

Thank you for joining.  We look forward to seeing you out there.  Just make sure to check the conditions first. 

Look at this fun stretch of Stonehouse.   How do think those rocks got there?  And look at this fallen tree on Turf, who is gonna clear it out? 

Look at this fun stretch of Stonehouse.   How do think those rocks got there?  And look at this fallen tree on Turf, who is gonna clear it out? 

McLeody with a Chance of Pulaskis: A Trail Work Day Report

Last Saturday, a group of team members joined up with CAMBr to host a joint trail work day at Palos Forest Preserve. Despite the weather, which was cool and cloudy, spirits were high. We convened in the Pulaski Woods parking lot at around 9 am. CAMBr distributed equipment and divided the group into work teams of 8 or 9 people. Some of our teammates hopped into the back of a pickup and headed out to the far reaches of the park. Some others of us, including me, walked down the green trail a bit to work on some singletrack.

I can’t write too much about the section of trail on which we worked, because it’s top secret (well, just not finished yet). Suffice it to say that it’s a sweet little stretch of trail—smooth and flowy with a couple of features to keep things interesting. It had been raining the previous night, so the ground was wet and muddy. The moisture softened the ground, which helped us groom the trails. Several of us swung Pulaskis (axes with flat-headed picks on the other side), clearing roots and setting up the boundaries of the trail. Others came along with McLeods (giant hoes with big, toothy rakes on the other side) to smooth out the trail and work the grade. The idea was to shape the trail so it drained well without contributing to erosion. To do this, the trail had to be cambered to the grade of the ground ( by about 5 degrees in the direction of the downhill). That shape allows water to sheen over the trail while maintaining the fidelity of the trail itself. Brush was cleared on the uphill side of the trail; loose dirt was cleared on the downhill side. The brush would catch crud that the water carried downhill toward the trail. Moving the loose dirt to the downhill side prevented it from washing back onto the trail and causing puddles.

As we moved down the trail, we identified really soft areas and looked for ways to build better drainage into the trail. The pick side of a Pulaski digs a mean little trench for just this purpose. Trail work is really about working the details while keeping the big picture in mind. Facilitating drainage helps the trail dry out quicker. It also prevents puddles and wet spots, which is important because riding through puddles makes the erosion worse. Riding around puddles widens the trail. In a pinch, ride through the puddle, not around it (though it’s better to just ride the trails when it’s dry).

The final section of trail we worked on held the most promise for fun. This top-secret area provides a singletrack bypass for the big grassy hill by the Pulaski parking lot. We spent part of our time digging trail into the grass. That part was a lot less fun than digging drainage trenches, mostly because we had to dig out the roots while leaving as much of the dirt intact as possible while still maintaining that 5-degree camber—lots of precision for a McLeod. The other part of the time was spent getting muddy and digging more drainage for a really soft spot in the trail. Aside from the drainage, we moved some pavers into place to keep the trail intact and provide a safe path over the mushy spots.

We packed up the tools and headed back to the parking lot by around noon. With the trails so wet, we couldn’t do our planned trail ride. Instead, we retired to well-earned lunch and beer. Lunch was sandwiches provided by CAMBr. Beer was a full keg of Gossamer Golden Ale courtesy of Half Acre Brewery. CAMBr provided a bunch of preems to promote trail work. Each work day they raffle off a gift certificate for Thomson bike parts. They also had a full wheel-barrow of fuel stabilizer, so if you need any of that, come to a trail work day and get it for free. Aside from the stem and fuel stabilizer, working two days will get you a call-up at the Palos Meltdown. Five work days will earn you a free race entry. Ten work days will get you a 30 second head start at the race.

OK, so I made that last one up. But trail work days are an important part of giving back to the cycling community. The trails at Palos Preserve are the best in the Chicago area. But, they don’t build or maintain themselves. Get out there and work on the trails with the fine folks at CAMBr. It's a lot of fun and you'll develop a healthy appreciation for the trails themselves (not to mention the people that are out there each week building them). The full list of work days is <a href"">here.</a> When we’re not racing, that’s where you’ll find us. And if you’re lucky, we might have some preems of our own to distribute.



Dirt Jumpin' Fun

I know we've said we participate in all disciplines except gravity MTB and BMX.  But that list got shorter this weekend when teammates Evan Thom and Ben Popper headed out to CAMBR's Settin' Down Roots event and took on the pump track.

Without even a single lap of pre-ride, Evan laid down some awesome times and took second in the U15 division. (photos: <a href="">Amy Dykema</a>)  His first race ever and he won $100!

Ben had a pretty good time too.

I'd bet that's not the last we see of these guys playing on the jumps.  Stay tuned.


HAC/CAMBR Joint Trail Work Day at Palos: May 8

Please join members of Half Acre Cycling and <a href="">CAMBR South</a> on Saturday, May 8 for a trail work day. We'll meet at 8:45 at the <a href=",-87.894906&spn=0.003188,0.010461&z=17&iwloc=0004844cec95077f1bf18">Pulaski Woods parking lot. </a>You’ll get your hands dirty, make our trails a better place to ride, meet some cool new riding partners, and sample some of the finest trail the greater Chicago area has to offer. For this trail work day, we’ll be working at the <a href="">Palos Forest Preserves</a> in Willow Springs, IL. Besides being the location of an experimental nuclear reactor in the early 1940s, the Palos Forest Preserve is home to nearly 50 miles of mountain bike trail.

After a morning of trail work, we’ll enjoy our handiwork with an inclusive group ride. This will be a ride for all skill-levels and a great chance to try mountain biking if you’ve never done it before or haven’t in a while. Women are especially encouraged to join us. Stick around for a picnic lunch and get to know the men and women of Half Acre Cycling and CAMBR as well as other local trail riders.

Things to do: Arrive at 8:45 am ready to work and have fun (exact location TBD, check <a href="">here</a> for details). Directions to the Mountain Bike Staging area: From I-55, exit at LaGrange Road (Route 45) south. After a mile, turn right onto Archer Ave and go south for about 3 miles. Past the cemetary, turn left on 95th Street (east). Go past the next stop sign, then take the next right onto Wolf Road. The MTB Staging Area is in Pulaski Woods #2, which is the third grove on your left.

Things to wear: Comfortable, loose fitting clothing (long-sleeve shirts and long pants) to protect yourself from the ticks; insect repellant; a hat to protect yourself from the sun; some solid boots; work gloves; eye protection; and a hydration pack.

Things to bring: Your bike and gear for a post-work-day group ride; a change of clothes; a picnic lunch (CAMBR will provide food as well); a post-ride beverage (HAC will supply some of that); and a friend or two.

Questions? Contact Paul-Brian at