Mary and I got out there this weekend and completed the D.C. Randonneurs’ Shenandoah 600K brevet, and are finally qualified for Paris-Brest-Paris in August.
We’re happy to report the ride went very well, despite some rain and headwinds. We enjoyed the company of our fellow riders, who inspired us to stay focused on forward progress, and made the miles pass by with good camaraderie.
Next we take a couple of easy weeks and then begin a monthlong block of training rides to peak again for PBP. We also have to break in our new coupled Co-Motion tandem, which has yet to see action as the fork is being modified to include mounts that were specified in the order but left off.
This route is my favorite 600K among the D.C. Randonneurs lineup. I like loop routes over double loops that come back to the start at the end of the first day. It feels like a two-day tour!
This one, by the late Lynn Kristianson, is special in that it includes some of the best back roads through the verdant and hilly Shenandoah Valley. Everybody has to work, though: by the end there’s 22,000 feet of climbing to conquer, and more than a few steep pitches, some of them in the final miles.
Day one heads south to Buchanan, off Interstate 81, mile 195, where we make the turn. Our overnight stop was at Raphine at mile 244, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. On Sunday we made our way back to the start/finish in Middletown.
This course is an old favorite of ours, even if the hills just keep coming – or is it because of them? Every one of those hilltops reveals another eye-catching vista. The descents are thrilling, especially on tandem.
Car traffic is generally low and there are still enough stores to resupply along the way, despite being what organizer Roger Hills reminded us at the start was a “very rural” route. We pedaled along in little hollows and along creeks that drivers on the interstate would never know about, hidden in the hills.
Weather was a mixed bag. This route is a beast in summer heat, but we got a reprieve: showers were forecast for the weekend, with a cool northeast breeze. The tradeoff was temperatures in the upper 60’s and tailwinds on Saturday, and we got hit with only a few light showers.
We kept our rain jackets in the saddlebag and rode in our wind vests and arm warmers. Our arrival in Raphine at 10:33 p.m. was about an hour earlier than in past years, when heat would normally slow us.
Sunday we faced occasional headwinds and more sustained periods of rain, which made descents a slower affair than we’d prefer. Temperatures were in the 50s in the morning and included a couple hours of cold drizzle. I had to put on my rain jacket to ward off hypothermia coming down off Buffalo Gap in Augusta County. Another couple of hours of rain and winds blew in at the end of the route.
Overall, we stuck within our goal of no more than an hour off the bike per 100 miles, with 3.5 hours of in-ride rest stops over the two days. We had a longer-than-usual overnight stop of 5.5 hours, as we took advantage of the early arrival in Raphine to get three hours sleep and time to eat and visit with our fellow riders.
The turnout was low, just 10 riders total (not including Roger and Paul Donaldson, who pre-rode the weekend before), but the mood was strong. Six of us stayed close and rode long stretches together on Saturday and stayed in proximity on Sunday.
Notably, our small group was evenly split between male and female riders: Mary and me, Gary Waggoner, Chip Adams, Anni Galdames and De’Anna Caligiuri of Pittsburgh. Anni and Chip are headed with us to PBP in August; De’Anna is off to the Lap of the Lake 1200K next month in Ontario.
Following close behind were Chris Newsom, Jack Nicholson and Kelly Smith. Nicolas Renet rode near us on Saturday but wasn’t feeling well and did not start again from the overnight.
Thanks to Roger and Paul for organizing the ride.
Ahead: PBP Training Rides
We’ve blocked out some rides starting later this month to get our legs reinvigorated for PBP. They include a roundtrip from Cumberland, Md. to Pittsburgh over the July 4 weekend via hilly back roads and the GAP Trail.
We also plan to ride in late July the famous/infamous hilly Kit’n’Kish 600K permanent from Frederick, Maryland into the steeps of central Pennsylvania, with about 21,000 feet of climbing. We rode it last year before the Coulee Challenge 1200K. See Mary’s post here.
Care to join us? Reach out in the comments section!
Bike & Gear Report
We took our Co-Motion aluminum 650b tandem and we appreciated the low weight compared to our steel tandem. The move to SRAM SL-500 10-speed bar end shifters and rear GX long cage clutched derailleur continues to pay off. We had crisp shifting throughout.
The bike nagged us with occasional clicking noises when we stood on the pedals; I suspect the cassette lockring wasn’t tight. My shop said it was loose the last time I had the bike examined for this same noise.
I probably need to put a slightly wider spacer behind the big cog. Or it could be a bad bottom bracket bearing. Or a toasted hub bearing. With tandems, drivetrain bearings have a hard, short life.
On the positive side, I came away with no hand numbness at the end – kudos to Velo Orange for the Nouveau Randonneur 46cm bars. Igor at VO gave me a set to try out and they get two pain-free thumbs up.
I also used my new Garmin Edge 1030 computer, having moved the Edge 1000 to backup status because of short battery life. The 1030 had amazing run time. I plugged in the external battery to recharge at mile 223 and the internal battery was still at 38 percent.
That equated to less than 5 percent drain per hour, with Bluetooth enabled, heart and cadence sensors connected, and GPS only (no Glonass or Galileo). I turned off the backlight during the day and used just enough brightness to read the unit during darkness, with an 8-second timeout.
Mary uses our old, smaller Garmin Edge 810 (it fits on the top tube nicely) which routes well but needs a recharge after 12 hours or so. It shut down once during the ride around mile 230 but restarted without losing the track.
I cleared out the memory so hopefully it was just a corrupted file. I want to get her a new Edge 830 but the early reviews are spotty and I prefer to hold off on new Garmin products until bugs are addressed. I commented as much on Ray Maker’s Garmin software problems post on his DC Rainmaker blog.
I’m still on the fence about the Gravelking 650b x 42mm smooth tires we are using. They are great in the dry and have a good feel but we have flatted three times this season on wet roads. We picked up a tiny sharp stone on Sunday that burrowed through the rear tire tread; at least it happened during a lull in the rain.
I’m also still on the fence about the Brooks Cambium C17 saddle; it feels harder the longer the ride. I have a Berthoud leather saddle on a single bike that I’m going to try during our upcoming training rides.
With that, thanks for reading! Let us know if you are going to PBP.