Sun and Fun at the N.C. 400K

Is there such a thing as the perfect brevet? Saturday seemed to hold, tantalizingly close, the chance to achieve the mythic, unattainable ride. For MG and I, the perfect brevet means a steady pace. No missed turns. Efficient use of controls, with just the right amount of food and drink and no wasted time. A lot of camraderie with our fellow riders on and off the bike. And tailwinds on the homeward leg.

MG and I enjoyed all those good things except one (can you guess?) at the North Carolina Randonneurs 400K. Mike Dayton, Alan Johnson, Branson Kimball, Jerry Phelps and co. hosted us for our second brevet with them this year and it was a classic.

John Bovine (l) and John Morris leading the start

See my full Flickr set or see the Slideshow.

The start took place under cool, perfectly clear skies at Morrisville and we rode out N.C.-style, with everyone sticking together for the flat miles down to Jordan Lake. I didn’t get an exact total but the group numbered around 20. North Carolina RBA Alan Johnson uses the same out-and-back course, each time longer, for his 200K, 300K and 400K, and it’s well known that the first hills come after the lake. So, everybody takes it easy and chats before the group splits up.

We stopped early at mile 20 to take off layers and the group went on. We rode mostly solo from there to the first control at Siler City and chatted with fellow D.C. Randonneur Lynn Kristianson. She was riding solo this day on her stylish Bike Friday with Gilles Berthoud front panniers.

Lynn K. on her Bike FridayLynn K. on her Bike Friday

The day by then was warm, with temperatures in the 60s with bright sun. We avoided the many friendly dogs who scampered out to bark at our wheels and caught up with John M. at the Siler City control. The last of the layers came off and from there it was off over shallow rollers to the 100K control in Seagrove, at the Citgo/Hardees. MG and I wolfed down hot ham and cheese sandwiches and contemplated the next segment, a 60-mile round trip to Ophir, which we were told held the real hills. Chuck, John and Byron were there in high spirits.

John M. rehydrates two-fistedJohn M. rehydrates two-fisted

We put the tandem into high gear and rode quickly to the turnaround, attacking the downhills. This part of the ride resembled the terrain on DCR brevets and we quickly found our rhythm, while marveling at the lush green North Carolina woods all around us. The main group was just leaving the turnaround near Ophir as we approached. At the control we visited with volunteer Dan Gatti, Jim on his recumbent Bachetta, and John B. on his early 80s Schwinn bike that he found very inexpensively on Craigslist and has put back into service. He told us how he had sewn his own saddlebag and crafted his own bag mount, and we were very impressed.

Dan and MG at the TurnaroundDan and MG at the Turnaround

We began feeling our legs on the return. Odd how that happens after 125 miles! After riding bits with John B. and Jim, we arrived in Seagrove to find Branson, Byron, and the rest of the first two groups having dinner. This time we ordered chicken club sandwiches. I had not been in a Hardees for 30 years, and now I’ve eaten in one three times in the last three weeks. They’ve improved a lot!

Chris Clunn and Branson recover at HardeesChris Clunn and Branson recover at Hardees

We dawdled and let the fast guys go ahead of us by 10 minutes. They planned to stop in Siler City for dinner and we planned to catch them there for the nighttime 100K. Then the captain of the tandem succumbed to “get-there-itis” and took a wrong turn. I had not properly loaded the maps onto my GPS and it would not show the roads we were using, but it still showed our location and the route I plotted.
Curiously, it showed our little location triangle moving away from the purple route line. We talked about how the road felt wrong but didn’t stop until the next intersection, some 3.6 miles off course. Fuming, we made our way back to the route. It takes time to get over 7.2 bonus miles, we discovered –about another 7.2 miles. I kept my computer in place but MG unclicked hers for the same distance we added in an attempt to wipe away the mistake.

Supposed to Read 177 milesSupposed to Read 177 miles

At Seagrove we arrived at last light and again found our buddy John M. and Chuck at the control. The Branson and Jerry group, fueled with Mexican dinner, tooled past as we prepared to launch into the night.

MG and Ed at SeagroveMG and Ed at Seagrove

A nearly full moon emerged and we enjoyed a tailwind all the way in. We shared the segment with the two Johns, Schwinn and Surly, and made good time. One last brief stop at mile 30 to refuel and put on a jacket and that was it — we mostly solo’d into the finish at 1:36 a.m. for a 19:36 finish and 255 miles completed. RBA Alan, who wisely chose sleep, had us sign and time our cards at his house and leave them in an envelope on his front door. We saw Branson headed home as we arrived and finished with Lin Osborne, who nicely took our photo.

Lin gives the Randonneur SaluteLin gives the Randonneur Salute

We’ll keep seeking the perfect brevet, but we felt good about our finishing time. It was about right for us compared to our past 400Ks. We were a little extra happy with the result since we did not ride a 400K together last year and wondered how we would fare after a year off.

No doubt our success was aided by Alan and everyone in the NCR bunch, who extended their friendly hospitality on our two brevets with the NCR group this year. We had a lot of fun and hope to get back there soon.

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4 thoughts on “Sun and Fun at the N.C. 400K

  1. Hey Ed & MG,

    Really enjoyed both of your accounts of your NC 400k. Nearly made myself late for work today reading both stories and checking out the Flickr photoset. I used to look at TDR only occasionally, but since I had the chance to meet the two of you at the PA 200k, and I figured out that you are rando-ing on a tandem, I check out the site several times a week for the latest update.

    I have a question for MG about the Brooks saddle on your Co-Motion. Do you ride the men’s/unisex version of the Flyer? I love my new (this winter) B17, but my stoker (oh yeah, and wife!) Barbara has declared her Champion Flyer “S” – the women’s model – to be an instrument of torture and has demanded it be replaced by the old, trusty Terry Butterfly. Trouble is, I don’t recall her being much more comfortable on the Terry on our NJ 400k & 600k last year…

    The women’s model of the Brooks appears to be significantly shorter and wider than other women’s specific saddles like the Butterfly, and I think therein lies the source of her discomfort. Judging by the bruising on Barb’s posterior, it seems that the Brooks is digging into her at the widest part of the saddle. I wonder if she’d be better off on the “men’s” version.

    My B17 has been a revelation for me – I have been able to pedal in comfort and focus on the ride, instead of my aching butt, and I’d really like the same thing for Barb. Though I’d certainly never tell her which saddle to ride, I’m convinced that a Brooks leather saddle is the answer for cycling long distances in comfort. I think we just have to find her the right one and spend a little time breaking it in…

    I’d appreciate any input from either of you on MG’s experience with her Brooks saddle, men’s vs. women’s specific model, etc.

    We’re gearing up for our PA 400k this coming Sat. – on our fifth wedding anniversary! What better way to celebrate…?

    Ron & Barbara Anderson
    Hamilton, NJ

  2. Ron,

    Where do I start with the complicated topic of finding the right saddle for long rides on a tandem!??? I have found that what works for me on my single bike does not work on the tandem… it’s somewhat apples and oranges… or maybe Braeburns and Pink Lady’s would be a more appropriate comparison.

    I have found that for me, the Brooks Champion Flyer “S” (the one Barb considers an instrument of torture) is the most comfortable saddle for me on the tandem. Because I like to sit farther back on the bike (i.e., I use a seatpost w/ setback and then shove the saddle as far back as it will go), and I like my saddle tilted up a significant amount, I find the shorter nose and wider saddle preferable to the unisex model. (Also, I think the antique brown color and copper rivets are outstanding!)

    Prior to the Brooks Champion Flyer “S,” I used the Champion Flyer unisex on the tandem, and it created an uncomfortable amount of friction in the front because of the longer nose. However, this year I rode a fleche on my single Bike Friday, used a regular Flyer (not Champion), and it was SOOOO COMFORTABLE. Perhaps you could try a regular Brooks Flyer and see how that works.

    My first two years of riding and randonneuring w/ Ed, I rode a Terry Butterfly w/ a Thudbuster seatpost. That was ok, but overall I experienced more chafing. AND after riding it on the Cascade 1200K, I had so much pain in the front that I am unable to describe it here on this blog! I think “instrument of torture” would apply! Since then, I have not been able to ride the Terry Butterfly comfortably.

    I chafe less on a Brooks and the friction in places I do not want to have friction is also less!

    So in summary I suggest looking at saddle tilt and setback, and maybe check out a regular Flyer. Good look and happy anniversary!!!

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