When the temperatures drop and the wind starts to howl it becomes a bit harder to motivate my roadie self to hit the grid for a long Sunday ride. Add to that the declining daylight hours and the need to push our start time back and we have some angry wives too.
But ever since getting my fatbike last winter, I’ve mixed things up a bit. I rode the Pugs quite a bit when the snow hit and when the roads were just too dicey to take a road bike out for a spin. It was a nice alternative to the trainer. I have explored neighborhood streets, parks, paths, gravel and areas of the UI campus on fatbike and it has been fun. I’ve gotten some good workouts too.
When I bought my fattie, my salesman told me about a group of guys who routinely rode fatbikes all fall and winter on Wednesday evenings. I’ve seen these rides pop up on Strava as “UCR” but never really understood what the hell it was. That was until this summer when I finally joined them for one.
The UCR or Urban Commando Rides are generally attended by members of the Champaign-Urbana Wild Card Cycling Team and are mostly organized by team member and fatbike enthusiast, Karl Crapse. There was great variety among the riders and the bikes. There were two of us on fatbikes, four or five on cross bikes and guy on a single speed MTB. There were guys/gals in their 20s and dudes who I presume are well into their 50s.
During the course of these rides we encounter a wide variety of road surfaces and terrain. While the majority will be on paved roads and paths, we do seek out gravel, grassy fields (with hills) and even a little urban single track. We may take advantage of natural or man made obstacles on the route to hone handling skills or in the case of the cross racers, mounting/dismounting skills. My favorite thing to do is ride along the railroad tracks, especially when there is a train coming (just kidding). But the tracks are fun. You get to see the city from an entirely different perspective.
As bikes and beers are natural bedfellows, the Wednesday evening rides begin and end at a local downtown watering hole that specializes in craft beer. There’s nothing quite like barreling through town with your fatbike posse on a little craft beer buz. It’s a welcome diversion from my usual roadie/triathlon sufferfests.
I’ve done a fair amount of solo UCRs. As a bike commuter I will sometimes expand my trip home from work to include some additional miles where I explore the city a bit. As with most cycling activities, it’s definitely more fun in a group.
The great thing about these rides is that everyone knows little nooks and crannies in the city a little better than the others so we can always try new routes. This keeps things fresh. If I had to describe a UCR in one word, other than “fun,” it would have to be ‘diverse.’ There is great diversity of surface, terrain, riders and bikes. I’ve been able to further expand my cadre of cycling buddies and gotten in some damn good workouts in the process. First and foremost, though, these rides are about the most fun I’ve had on two wheels since taking up cycling. The UCR will be a permanent addition to my cycling repertoire.