Keeping the Wheels On: The DC Randonneurs 600K

Mary and I took a break from the longer brevets last year, mostly because of the 4 a.m. starts and being at new jobs that required us to be fully functioning on Mondays. This year we were able to plan ahead and made time for the D.C. Randonneurs 400K in May and the 600K this last weekend.

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Another fun weekend on the bike. Photo courtesy Mary.

 

There is a joke in randonneuring about randonnesia — where you forget the discomfort of the most recent big brevet enough that you sign up for more (I’m sure a version exists in all endurance sports). We had a version of that going into this year’s 400K and 600K, which is a good thing. We approached them with renewed enthusiasm for overcoming the logistical, physical and mental challenges.

We didn’t suffer too much on the Frederick 400K on May 20. It was the hillier version of the two that DCR ran this year, but we prefer hilly over flatter rides. You can see our GPS log from the event here.

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Outside Hancock, Md on the 400K

 

We finished in a solid 20:09 overall, falling short of the goal of taking only an hour rest per 100 miles, but there was a lot of climbing in the morning and some headwinds in the afternoon. We’re about an hour slower than our best performance of years past for the distance, which we could approach with less time off the bike. Maybe next year.

After having ridden 600Ks over the years, I’ve concluded our strongest rides come on the shorter brevets. Our legs tend to be heavy after riding the fleche and the 400K in particular. The overnight sleep stop on the 600K also makes a big difference — the better we feel on the first day, the sooner we arrive at the overnight and then get out on the road again.

This year we had a solid if not spectacular 600K. Here’s our recap. You will find our 600K GPS files at Garmin Connect: Day 1 and Day 2 (note: we turned the Garmins off for long stops), and my photos at Flickr.

Prologue

The weekend forecast called for the lots of sunshine and warm temperatures, possibly hitting the upper 80s. We got home early from work on Friday and had dinner before driving out to Warrenton, Va. to the start hotel, the Hampton. Ride organizers Kelly and Josie Smith greeted us in the lobby just as they were packing up from the advance sign-in, along with Eric Williams and Emily Ranson keeping them company.

We had no drama getting set up, which involves hauling the tandem off the car, getting it into the room and attaching the front fender, little bags and electronics, and stuffing in our rain jackets and other gear. As we have this spring, I had my Garmin Edge 1000 GPS computer up front and Mary had a Garmin Edge 810 on the rear top tube, both with OSM Cycle maps. We also carry USB batteries to recharge on the go; I ran mine off the battery the whole day and recharged Mary’s once along the way.

I made up custom courses in nine segments on RidewithGPS earlier in the week (see them here), and had those loaded on both Garmins. I like to break up the route in case one of the Garmins has a problem and shuts down, so that I don’t have to reload the entire route file. Plus, we get the Garmin fanfare noise and little “You Win” notice when we reach the end of each segment. Every little morale booster counts on these rides, haha!

One bummer was that our fleche team captain and fellow coffee stop afficionado Jerry Seager had to skip the event because of work commitments. We missed his good cheer.

An Early Start

The usual 20 or so of us attending DCR rides these days gathered for the 4 a.m. start. Having a Sheetz store nearby was helpful; Mary and I got a faux-cappucino to share and a breakfast sandwich for me. We also ate some Hippie Crack granola I brought from A Baked Joint bakery in D.C., which went down surprisingly well in middle of the night with soy milk. We both put on arm and leg warmers and light caps, but left our cold weather gear in our bags.

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Check in desk

 

Kelly and Emily were getting folks signed in, with help from David Ripton helping with lights inspection.

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Quiet anticipation

 

Right at 4, Kelly quietly sent us off into a cool, clear night.

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John and David ready to go

 

Compared to when I first started riding, riders are definitely more visible in the night. The quality of reflective gear and lighting has advanced a lot. It looked like a wall of white and red (some of the battery taillights were actually too bright) coming from the riders ahead of us.

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Roger and Bob

 

We rode with the front group as long as the rollers allowed, about 20 miles, as we steamed over the green hills and valleys toward the first control at Somerset, Va., mile 60. There were no services until there, but at this stage of the brevet season we can easily ride that far on pocket food and breakfast. We rode a bunch of miles with Bob Counts and Roger Hillas after the sun came up, as one gorgeous Virgina countryside vista after another came into view.

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Randos converge on Somerset

 

At Somerset the first group was still there, which meant we had kept up a good pace. I got some little country ham sandwiches and bottled ice tea, my go-to rest stop drink.

When we went to leave, Mary’s Garmin had shut itself down. It restarted fine, but reset back to zero so she had to add 60 miles to her distance total the rest of the day. The unit saved the lost segment data to internal memory and I was able to join it with the rest of the day’s track when we got home on Sunday.

On the way to the control at Dyke, mile 81, a driver slowed to warn us about a dog that had bitten a rider ahead, and then an ambulance passed. We were worried. It turned out to be a cyclist not on our ride, but we were saddened that somebody got hurt. At the control we learned Roger had talked to the fellow — “he was bleeding all over his Sidi’s,” Roger said, but said he wasn’t in bad shape.

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Theresa Furnari arrives at the Dyke store

 

Caleb joined us for the run to Crozet, mile 103, over the high point of the ride in the Appalachian foothills. We got there just after 11 a.m. and went to Green House Coffee by ourselves and had sandwiches, espresso and treats. Everybody else did the rando thing and went to the convenience store. It felt good to sit down and catch our breath in a relaxed setting. The nice staff filled my Camelbak with ice, too.

Mary in Crozet

A good rest stop in Crozet

 

The air was hot as we departed. The cue sheet did not mention any more stores until mile 178 (there were a number of them, I should have recalled) so we stopped again at Brown’s Store, mile 127, to get more ice for our Camelbaks, fearing we’d run out of water.

Jack Nicholson, Bob Counts and Pat O’Connor rolled up and took our surplus ice, and Gardner and Theresa pedaled past, showing strong time discipline.

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It’s hot! Time for more ice.

 

The terrain leveled off, we had a hot tailwind and by mile 164 I was overheated.  We stopped at the friendly LJ Store, where I got an emergency Snickers ice cream bar and ginger ale.

The Wheels Come Off

At Louisa, mile 178, I was in distress. I was nauseous and grouchy. The new Sheetz had a sitting area and I took a 20-minute nap while Mary fretted about my situation. Normally my stomach never bothers me. Dehydration, I think, was the culprit and nothing was appetizing, even though I had consumed more than 100 ounces of fluids in 60 miles. I didn’t think to get something moist and easy to digest, like a banana.

I finally managed to drink another ice tea and we decided to go to the control at Orange and see if I could recover.

We spent an hour in Louisa, which put a 30-minute dent in our plan to get to the overnight by midnight. Most of the people in our ride orbit were now ahead of us, not to be seen again today. It was definitely a low moment, not knowing if more trouble was ahead.

I Am Focused

The cooler evening temperatures and easy terrain made a huge difference, though. By 20 miles later in Orange, mile 199, my appetite had returned and we ate at McDonalds. I recovered and we rode steadily, though I was fighting drowsiness and saddle soreness at the end and counting down the miles.

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Appetite returns in time for McDonald’s.

 

About an hour out from the overnight stop, blearily riding along and not paying attention, I said loudly, “I am focused!” Mary was naturally perplexed. I said I was declaring myself focused on getting to the hotel with no missed turns. This exercise seemed to work, though I had to repeat it occasionally, which became a bit of running joke.

We arrived to the hotel at mile 255 at 12:40 a.m., not far off our usual 400K pace.

Kelly and Josie had a nice spread of hot and cold food going in their room. Caleb was there taking a peaceful nap in advance of heading out into the night. After some chicken soup for me and chili for Mary, we got almost three hours sleep.

Day 2

We arose in the usual randonneur fog after short sleep, ate the last of our granola and got some bananas from Kelly and Josie (yep, still at work!), and checked out of our room. By 5:10 a.m. we were off just before first light, and I felt back to my usual self. I like the exit from Warrenton on this route because it trends downhill, making the initial miles go by without a lot of effort to start. Unsurprisingly, my Garmin advised me that my recovery status from my last ride was “poor.” Gee, thanks for that.

Our ride to Fredericksburg was pleasant though we had no sighting of any riders. I’d see a red light ahead in the dark but it would always be a driveway reflector.

The genial clerk at the 7-11 at mile 279 said some folks had come through about 40 minutes earlier, which we assumed was the first group that had slept. We saw from Instagram later that Caleb and Paul Donaldson had ridden out first.

We stopped to move a turtle off the road. It protested wildly about being picked up, but I got it into the ditch before it clawed me.

At Fredericksburg, around 9 a.m., we stopped at Hyperion Espresso for today’s sit-down meal and coffee. The air conditioning was delicious too. I was hungry enough to eat a cold tofu and cole slaw sandwich, which would be well off my radar, but that was all they had outside of pastries, and it tasted great.

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Not a convenience store.

 

The ride though the Fredericksburg Battlefield is always a highlight and we enjoyed the tree-lined, peaceful Lee Road and the little dirt footpath connector section. No randonneurs were anywhere in sight so we presumed we got passed at breakfast, and that was that.

We learned later that Roger Hillas saw us up ahead at one point before the battlefield but we caught a traffic light and he got stopped.

At Spotsylvania, mile 325, the sun was blazing. Choosing the Fasmart to control just on the edge of town, we bought a big tub of cold potato salad and cold ice and cold drinks. If it was cold, it looked good.

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Potato salad. Hot weather food.

 

We were cheered up a lot when Roger rode into sight and turned into the parking lot, but then he made a quick U-turn and rode away, apparantly not seeing us at all. Oh well!

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So long Roger! Photo courtesy Mary.

 

The chains were driving me crazy with noise, so I oiled them, but I forgot to reapply sunscreen to myself, so it was a half-victory on the tasks list. I suffered some sun exposure by the end but didn’t burn, but it was an risky mistake.

The Invention of RandoBall

There was a lot of Sunday morning traffic over the next 14 miles to the information control at the church at mile 338, on twisty and hilly roads. Everybody was nice to us, but it was pretty stressful. The traffic let up after that, yay.

At the church, Mary shot a couple of baskets, including a nice layup, and we enjoyed a shade break. Our progress was good and there was no more stops over the next 45 miles. We had plenty of fluids and food, and set our sights on the finish.

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383 miles and two points.

 

Our aches and pains were piling up, though, which made the last miles a challenge. My big pain points were the heel of my left hand, which stays on the bars most of the time while I shift the rear gears,  my seat from compression soreness, and my left big toe, which was throbbing for no real reason.

We had some breeze, thankfully, and kept up a decent rolling pace, taking just one shade break.

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Shade and some personal care on Summerduck Road. Photo courtesy Mary.

 

I liked the routing at the end via Courtney’s Corner, Shipps Store and Elk Run roads. It’s a peaceful stretch with good shade. After the usual turns and hills into Warrenton we arrived at 3:55 p.m. for a total run of 35:55. That’s a fine outcome for us, especially given the ride was 383 miles. For the record, we passed the the 600K distance, 375 miles, at 3:18 p.m.

Kelly texted us earlier and asked that we give him an arrival time so he and Josie could order pizza, and there it was in the room, still hot, along with plenty of cold drinks and other snacks. Nice going team! He also came down to greet us.

Epilogue

This year’s 600K was a return to form for us. As the years go by, keeping up with past performances is the primary goal for me.

It was unusual to not see anyone for all of Sunday other than the random sighting of Roger.  The ranks of the regulars have dwindled for DCR rides and it appears there is too much separation on a 600K for groups to form. I hope this trend changes.

Big thanks go to Josie and Kelly, and to Bill Beck and Emily  (with Kelly) for riding the checkout over Labor Day weekend. Also big thanks to Nick Bull, our hard-working brevet administrator, for managing another long spring series.

Our next big event is our annual summer trip, this year a 1,000-mile unsupported tandem tour from Albuquerque, N.M. to Boulder, Colo. starting July 1. The brevet and fleche miles should come in handy in getting over the summits out there.

Tech Notes

Our Avid BB7 disk brakes were annoying on this ride, with the disk pads tending not to retract fully on the front wheel for awhile after hard braking, skimming the rotor. This is unusual. I hope it’s just time for new cables and housings. We also had our rear shifting start to get clunky at the end. I’m thinking of going from 9-speed to 10-speed shifting, which we have liked on our other tandem for a few rides so far. I’m still sticking with bar end shifters, though. No matter how sore or cold my hands get, I can always shift them.

Our tires, Panaracer GypsyKing GravelKing 32mm smooth tread, remain a mixed bag. They roll and corner really well and mount easily but are stiffer than our standby, the 32mm Panaracer Pasela PT. I presume they are made that way to ward off sidewall cuts. It was noticable on the rougher roads in central Virginia. Maybe I’ll lower the pressure as they are less likely to pinch flat. (Sorry folks we are not going tubeless).

My new Voler Black Label shorts were a fail on Saturday. I’m between sizes and moved up to large after finding the medium was too tight, but the chamois was too big and caused some chafing. They are going back. I pulled out a pair of my Voler Caliber shorts for Sunday, which were fine. I’m not a big fan of the move to compression in sports clothing and I think Voler has taken it too far in their Black Label line.

 

 

The Unintentional Century

On Saturday big crowds were expected in D.C. for the protest march, but I’m in the news business and had no related assignment, so I was looking for an escape from the city. The forecast was for a mostly dry, mild day, and a long bike ride in the country was in order.

Mary graciously agreed to join me and we set off from Marshall, Va. on what was to be an 85-miler, though it ultimately turned into a longer and harder route than we expected. See the final ride at Ridewithgps. The route we intended has a shortcut via the low water bridge over the Shenandoah River that is usually passable – but I should have checked beforehand.

The day was gray, with some light mist, and lots of fog. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, though, so no worries. I always keep the generator front and rear lights running in daytime, but I was doubly glad for them today because of the fog. (Tech nerds: our setup is a Schmidt SON 28/disc 36-hole hub, running a Busch & Muller IQ-X headlight and a B&M Toplight rear light mounted to a Tubus rack).

Wool blend jersey and vest kind of day

Wool jersey and vest kind of day

 

This route features one big climb, Snickers Gap, but otherwise is made up of rolling hills. The temperatures warmed up into the low 50s.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

Bluemont Store. Snickers Gap ahead.

 

Snickers Gap was shrouded in fog.

The fog on Snickers Gap

The fog on Snickers Gap

 

We had an early lunch a few miles before Snickers Gap in Middleburg, which we thought would allow us to get around the course with just store stops.

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

Time out at the luxe Millwood store

 

All was going well until we got to the low water bridge at Morgan Ford Road, only to find it gone, with a new bridge under construction. This sad turn of events came later in the afternoon, which was a bummer. The only options were to backtrack over Snickers Gap, or go on to Front Royal and cross the Shenandoah River there.

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

And thus ended our plans to finish in daylight

 

We opted for the Front Royal option to keep things in a loop. Our thought was initially to take Rt. 55 straight back to Marshall, but that road is pretty scary leaving Front Royal and I talked Mary into taking Rt. 522, which took us over Chester Gap in thick fog and added a few more miles. Traffic was light and gave us plenty of room.

Our generator light did a great job on the descent, supplemented with a Light and Motion battery light, and we got off onto Hume Road without any issues.

From there it was quiet roads all the way back to Marshall, in and out of the fog banks. We never got really cold or wet, but it was still a relief to get back to the car, well after dark at 6:30 p.m.

Today (Sunday) I felt pretty tired but our pal and fleche captain Jerry S. talked me into a 35-miler out on the W&OD Trail out to Caffe Amouri in Vienna and back. The rain held off and it was a pleasant outing, and made an afternoon nap pretty sweet.

Jerry leads the way back to DC

Jerry leads the way back to DC

 

Next week: The DC Randonneurs club has their annual meeting and 68-mile populaire next Saturday, and that’s likely going to be plenty for us. I’ll make my 600-mile goal for January sometime this week and my legs are starting to feel it.

Winter Riding and Summer Planning

Ah, a three-day weekend. Better yet, on Sunday and Monday the weather was mild and dry. This is the time of year I find myself of multiple minds: trying to keep up the miles on the bike to get ready for the upcoming spring randonneuring brevets, and fretting over our summer tandem tour. A long weekend let me indulge both.

Friday morning started out pleasantly as always at the weekly Friday Coffee Club commuter cyclists gathering. The pre-work meetup is nearing its five-year anniversary, which we’ll celebrate later this month.

I’ve been keeping an eye out for the reopening of our original FCC location at Swing’s Coffee on 17th & G NW by the White House. It now looks like July or later according to the Swing’s site. A Baked Joint at 440 K St. NW has been a welcome temporary spot and we’ll continue there.

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

Friday Coffee Club Jan. 14

 

Saturday

A typical cold and rainy January day met us. I got out for a nice midday Freezing Saddles ride for a coffee visit with Jerry and Carolyn at Chinatown Coffee.

Rainy Day in DC

Rainy Day in D.C.

 

The rest of the day I worked on our summer tour. This year we’re returning to Colorado, but starting in Albuquerque and finishing in Boulder! The route is here – we start for Santa Fe on July 1 and finish on the 13th, about 950 miles later.  We haven’t ridden in New Mexico before, and in both states we’ll see some new terrain and towns, notably:

  • Santa Fe, Taos and Chama in New Mexico;
  • the Black Canyon of the Gunnison;
  • Monarch Pass to Gunnison;
  • Independence Pass;
  • Aspen and the Rio Grande Trail to Carbondale.

We’ll also return to some favorites: Durango, Silverton, and Kremmling, and another go at hauling the tandem over the wild & wooly Rollins Pass from Winter Park on the final day. This time, big tires are going on the tandem for that doozy.

The route was already drafted – the real work was making hotel reservations and buying our airline tickets. I always feel a little nervous locking down our July trip in mid-January, but it’s also nice to have everything lined up. I’ll make up cue sheets in the coming weeks and figure out the coffee places, bike shops and restaurants in the new towns.

Sunday

The skies cleared and we rode the Spectrum tandem to Frederick, Md. to one of our favorite area shops, the enchanting Gravel & Grind. Mel and James have created something really special and we always enjoy ourselves there. Everything is good (the coffee, food, bikes, stuff, and scene), but especially their welcoming vibe.

James, Mel and Mary

James, Mel and Mary

 

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

Books for Sale at Gravel & Grind

 

Mary, James and Me

Mary, James and Me

 

A randonneuring friend of ours has been talking to James about staging a fall randonneur brevet from the shop, so everybody could get some food and drinks and hang out afterwards. I hope it comes true.

The ride was a good one for us, at 117 miles without any extended climbs – perfect for winter when the wind isn’t blowing. Here’s the route on Garmin Connect or you can check it out at Strava.

The ride home was uneventful except for this very cool hawk on the side of River Road, near dusk. It calmly let us take photos. Thanks hawk!

A Hawk Surveys Its Domain

Hawk Surveys Its Domain

 

Monday

Mary and I each had dentist appointments and the skies were gray. I rode my Rivendell Bleriot, which sees far too little use these days, up to Clarendon in Arlington to turn in a very old Mac Mini for recycling (the PowerPC generation, if that rings a bell). The bike, unlike that old Mac, is just as good as ever, though it needs better fenders.

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

My coupled and repainted Rivendell Bleriot, still in 2007 PBP trim

 

From there I rode down to the Mall and went to the Martin Luther King Jr. monument, which was busy with visitors — appropriately so on this day.

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

Twilight at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

 

Spiraling Into 2017

When one gets obsessive about annual cycling mileage, Jan. 1 marks the abrupt end of one quest and the start of another.

Looking Out Over the Potomac

Looking Out Over the Potomac

 

I made it a goal around Thanksgiving to get to 8,000 miles in 2016, and dubbed the effort Project 8K on my Twitter & Instagram feed to motivate myself.

It seemed doable, with about 350 miles to go in December, my records told me. Then I found a big mistake in my log — I had uploaded a century twice by running two Garmin GPS units on a ride. Why? I was debugging a problem with my Edge 810 bike unit and rode with my GPS watch as a backup, and forgot that it uploaded the miles on the next sync some days later.

Taking that ride out was the only honorable thing to do. But it made my goal jump to 450 miles, no small amount in December with iffy weather and holiday time with family. I started putting in a few extra miles on the weekdays and rode a 200k with the DC Randonneurs with Mary on Dec. 3, which got me closer. But then I got sick and lost four days mid-month, including a weekend.

Things looked tight, but I got some miles at the Hains Point 100 and managed a solo century on the Dec. 23, which did most of the job. Along the way I got some very nice online and in-person cheering from the BikeDC gang as I posted my progress. Thanks all!

I made it to 8K on Dec. 29, fittingly riding around Hains Point after work with Mary and our mega-miler pal Judd joining in.

Me and Judd (courtesy Mary G)

Me and Judd (courtesy Mary G.)

 

Then, barely 48 hours later, I’m back at zero miles on Jan. 1. Geez! At least all the other mile/kilometer chasers were in the same boat. It was our good luck then that we had mild, dry weather on Sunday, and we took the tandem out to Adamstown, Md. for a long ride west to Shepherdstown, W.Va. and back.

Quiet Winter Roads

Quiet Winter Roads

 

I modified the Century of the Spiral Staircase to start in Adamstown to an 88-mile version that let us start a little later in the morning, and meet a local furniture dealer after the ride.

Glad to Be Out Riding

Glad to Be Out Riding

 

This century was one cued by tandem riders John Fauerby and Lynne Rosenbusch, whose death caused by a drunk driver on Halloween in 2015 remains hard to accept. Here’s a link to a memorial fund set up in their honor to promote the work of Bike Maryland to make the roads safer for all users.

Here’s their full 1o1.5-mile route, (input by our riding buddy Eric P.), and our shorter route.

Gapland, a Familiar Sight

Gapland, a Familiar Sight

 

To celebrate New Year’s Day I counted our firsts of 2017 along the way. Here are a few:

  • first tandem ride of the year;
  • first summit of iconic high point Gapland;
  • first lunch at Blue Moon Cafe, a Shepherdstown favorite;
  • first espressos at Lost Dog Espresso, another Shepherdstown favorite;
  • first hauling of the tandem down the spiral staircase to the C&O Canal Towpath in Harper’s Ferry;
  • first “she’s not pedaling” jibe by yet another smartaleck old guy;
  • first sunset together on the bike!

On the final miles we caught up to a group of randonneurs riding a 200K permanent. They had 30 miles to go with the sun going down and were happy as clams. Check out these smiles.

 

Randonneurs Katie, Emily, Mike, Steve and Nick

Randonneurs Katie, Emily, Mike, Steve and Nick

 

Our ride also got us going in the annual Bike Arlington Freezing Saddles winter riding challenge. This is my second year and I’m again shooting for perfect attendance. This is my chance to make up for never getting the attendance ribbon in elementary school, I always stayed home sick at least once.

Good luck and tailwinds this year, readers. We’ll be looking for you!

 

Back Roads Century: Hello Again PPTC

After a long time away, I rejoined the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club this year, specifically to ride the Back Roads Century.

The club moved it last year from its longtime location in Berryville, Va. to lovely Shepherdstown, W.Va., and routed it over the rolling hills of the state’s eastern panhandle.  The reviews were good and we know two of the organizers, Eric Pilsk and Rudy Riet, so that got me and Mary interested.

The forecast this last Sunday was mixed, with showers predicted, so Mary took the day off from riding while I grabbed a single bike and went out to Shepherdstown all by myself. I did everything I could to ward off the rain, such as bringing a rain jacket, carrying my rainproof camera and riding with full fenders, among other it’s-going-to-rain strategies, which involved a fair number of Ziploc bags. I even left my tinted sunglasses in the car and rode with clear lenses.

The rain never appeared, to everyone’s delight, and the support and route were terrific. I rode with a number of Friday Coffee Club regulars, just like at the 50 States Ride last weekend, but this time out on the open roads.

Here is the route at my Garmin page.  The full set of photos can be seen at my Flickr page.

Quick Stop at Lost Dog Coffee Before Leaving Town

Quick Stop at Lost Dog Coffee Before Leaving Town

I had to stop at Lost Dog, a Shepherdstown institution.  Here you can see the Rivendell Rambouillet I rode today.

Engle Molers Road

Engle Molers Road

The ride was well stretched out by the time I got on the route about 8 a.m. The hills did a good job in splitting up the big groups, which made for easy riding.

Mike R. and Me

Mike R. and Me

Mike was out there. It was our first time riding together with neither of us on tandem.

John Pickett Getting Down the Road

John Pickett Getting Down the Road

John had his Surly out and we shared a few miles.

Cindy and John on their Co-Motion Tandem

Cindy and John on their Co-Motion Tandem

These guys, like us, dabble both in the randonneuring and big event rides.

Jean and Dave and their cool Co-Motion Tandem

Jean and Dave and their cool Co-Motion Tandem

Jean and Dave always look like they are having fun. Today was no exception, and they gave me a nice draft on this section.

Gordon and Kay – Another Tandem Team

Gordon and Kay – Another Great Tandem Team

It was a delight to see Kay and Gordon, our touring companions from Labor Day weekend. They were decked out in red and black.

Lots of Food at the Rest Stops

Lots of Food at the Third of Four Rest Stops

The Pedalers did a good job at the rest stops. This one at mile 61 had hummus sandwiches and lots of mini-Clif Bars.

Last Rest Stop, Famous Potatoes

Last Rest Stop, Famous Potatoes

Though it was warm and humid at mile 83.5 at the Yankauer Nature Preserve, the potatoes hit the spot and got me back to the finish.

Eric Pilsk cresting one of the many small hills

Eric Pilsk cresting one of the many small hills

This coming weekend, Mary and I are off the bike for a trip to Pittsburgh to see my daughter, who is in her first semester of college at Pitt. We’re also going to the Thrival Festival to stand in a field with thousands of people and listen to modern music. See you next week!

The Feeling Returns

When inspiration strikes, the feeling is magical. After this weekend, I’m enthused about spending more time out on the open road, now that summer is ending.

How so? Last week Mary and I decided to ride a DC Randonneurs 300K course, the “Contrary Mother of All 300Ks,” as a two-day, no credit tour. We’re randonneurs in the spring, but the rest of the year, we veer more toward touring and centuries, and this one is a beauty.

The West Virginia town of Romney, nestled in the hills, is at mile 102 and has a good hotel and dinner options. The second day would be about 90 miles, just as hilly but not as long. See the routes: Day 1 and Day 2.

We also put out the word on the DC Randonneurs listserv to see if anyone wanted to come along. To our happy surprise, another tandem team joined us – Gordon M. and his wife Kay T., on a lovely black Co-Motion tandem.

Gordon and Kay

Gordon and Kay

 

I’ve known Gordon for 20 years but only recently met Kay, a very active rider who has a successful masters-level bike racing pedigree. They were married just three months ago and are enjoying newlywed bliss.

We met Saturday in Middletown, Va. in the Shenandoah Valley, and pedaled off to the north and west into the rolling hills. Mary and I stuffed the Carradice with a few essentials, while they carried lightly loaded panniers.

The weather cooperated wonderfully with bright skies, low humidity, and moderate temperatures in the 80s. This after forecasts earlier in the week talked about possible rain from a tropical storm moving up the Atlantic coast. For once, the storm moved away and we were left with perfectly clear late summer weather — whoo!

This route is rarely flat and we were a bit quicker up the hills, but Kay and Gordon came on fast on the descents and flats and were rarely far away. We stopped to enjoy the orchard views and lingered at the rest stops, including a well-deserved late lunch in Capon Bridge.

Riding along the Capon River

Riding along the Capon River

 

Dinner at a local place that shall go unnamed in Romney was slow and kind of odd, but it gave us time to get better acquainted and learn more about each other’s bike collections. I’m afraid I took the prize for boring everyone with the nuances of 650b bikes vs. gravel grinders vs. singlespeeds, and so on. (See? I’m doing it now!)

Day 2: Sweet and Scenic

 

Sunday dawned a little overcast and cool. Mary and I rode by ourselves down into town to the Sheetz for a coffee-type drink and breakfast sandwiches, while Gordon and Kay lit out on the course toward Lost River ahead of us. The motorbike guys at the Sheetz asked us about the tandem and I found out a little about Honda Gold Wing touring motorcyles. Word is, the engines last forever. “The Cadillac of motorcycles,” one guy said.

A brief derailleur adjustment and photo stop

A brief derailleur adjustment and photo stop

 

On the way to Lost River we rode over one hill after another on quiet roads, with just the occasional herd of cows and sheep looking on. One little dog came out to chase us, but I was certain the chain would stop it at the road’s edge. Then we noticed the chain wasn’t anchored! It gave a hearty chase, dragging the chain. That pup won the day’s prize for spirit.

Speaking of dragging chains, we kept dropping ours past the small front chainring on uphills, and had to stop a few times to pull the chain up onto the ring and fiddle with the front derailleur. The hills were steep enough – one was 16 percent – that we really needed to use that ring, and were glad when we got things working correctly. Relieved is more accurate, actually.

The Lost River Grill was supposed to stop serving breakfast at 11:30 AM and we arrived right then, trailing Gordan and Kay by 20 minutes. He talked them into keeping the breakfast menu going a little longer for us. I had purchased a little bottle of maple syrup at the South Branch Inn in Romney and was thrilled to order a waffle to justify carrying it over the hills. Unfortunately I left it there by mistake, still half-full. Oh well. It was delicious syrup and worth having it.

We climbed up Wolf Gap and the Garmin GPS unit went haywire trying to route us, beeping madly about a turn that did not exist, and finally just shut down at the top of the climb. No matter, we’ve blasted down that descent a few times and know the drill. The Spectrum tandem handled the sharp turns with aplomb and we got down to the Larkin’s Store in Edinburgh with smiles on our faces.

The smiles turned to frowns when we discovered the store was closed for repairs from a fire. We read later that a drink cooler caught fire and the owner saved the structure by getting everbody out and closing all the doors to limit oxygen. They’ve promised to re-open, I hope soon. That place is a main stop for the randonneurs and other riders in that part of the valley. We made do with some pocket food and didn’t need water, so all was well enough.

Larkin's is closed, but repairs are underway

Larkin’s is closed, but repairs are underway

 

Back Road never fails to entertain and was lovely and challenging with its many rollers and wide views. I just wish there was a crossing of Rt. 55 without having to ride on it for a few miles first – fast traffic and no shoulder make it a little scary. We got back to Middletown in good shape, and greeted Gordon and Kay who looked fresh and happy as they rolled into town.

Yes, that was fun!

Yes, that was fun!

 

Mary and I went to dinner at Roma Italian at Stephens City, which made for a satisfying end note to the weekend.

Sometimes things just work out well without drama. I took a lot of inspiration from Gordon and Kay, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves – and Mary, who rode strong as always.  This weekend was a great finale to a fun and active summer.

Kick that Rut, the 2016 Version

At the beginning of the year I don’t make resolutions so much as I try to do something about the ruts I’ve fallen into. This is known in the Felkerino-Gersemalina household as the “kick that rut right in the butt” examination.

Ian, Ted and Me. Courtesy MG.

Ian, Ted and Me. Courtesy MG.

As adulthood continues on (thankfully!), ruts become a problem, it seems, as I try to figure out this living thing. Someone recently told me the trick to aging gracefully is not to die from the neck up.

In 2014 I realized I had spent too many years solely riding the bike as my main form of fitness exercise.  That was entirely justified, I figured, as I loathe gyms and my attempts at swimming are laughable.

I was a runner in high school and college, but had dropped it long ago in favor of cycling. Like, 30 years ago. So last year I decided to buy some running shoes, a GPS watch, and see if I could get my legs back in shape. Plus, MG and my daughter DF were running and I was sort of jealous.

It took a long time of mixed walking and running just to be able to run continuously without knee pain, and then run three miles. I finally got there in early March, finishing a 5K. My next goal was a 10K in the fall, which I accomplished in October.

For the year I managed 353 miles over 101 runs and didn’t ruin my knees.

My goal this year is to stick with it and run a 10-miler or half-marathon by the fall. I’ve enjoyed running again, expecially the contemplative aspect, so I expect to get there.

The other rut last year was planning my cycling life around the quadrennial Paris-Brest-Paris 1200K randonnee. I had gone the last four times dating back to 1999, with MG joining me in 2011 on tandem. It was a lot of fun, if exhausting.

We decided that it was an event we’d sorely miss in 2015 — FOMO, it only comes once every four years, and all that.

Yet we didn’t feel like flying to Paris just for a four-day event that we’d done before, and spending a ton of money and blowing two weeks of vacation in the process.

We took a pass and tandem toured for the third straight year, this time for two weeks in Montana and Idaho. That was right for us, though we really missed being there with all our fellow randonneurs in France.

On the other hand, Missoula was cool and we loved visiting the Adventure Cycling Association HQ.

We’ll try to go to PBP in 2019.

This year? We’re going to tandem tour again, likely two weeks from Sacramento to Portland via the Adventure Cycling Association’s Sierra Cascades Route. After riding the past summers in Colorado and the northern Rockies, it’s time to see other mountains by bike.

We’ve heard great things about Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake and the whole route. Plus we know some coffeeneurs in Portland and hopefully we can meet up before we return home.

We’re also going to try to put in more winter miles than last year, when circumstances and weather got in the way. To that end, Mary and I signed up for the Bike Arlington (Va.) Freezing Saddles challenge.

It runs from Jan. 1 to the beginning of spring. You get 10 points for each day you ride (1 mile minimum) plus a point per mile. They put you in teams weighted with both high- and low-mileage riders, so there is some friendly competition.

The competition is based on data uploaded to Strava, so we’ve both fired up our dormant accounts and linked our Garmin accounts. Last year I captured every bike ride, run and fitness walk on Garmin via GPS, so I’m in the groove.

MG is going to have to start using her phone or Garmin watch more than she has, but she’s already liking the “kudos!” you get from Strava.

I’d like to get 600 miles a month through March. We’ll see how that goes — my fallback is 150 miles a week when certain events don’t get in the way.

We’re also going to ride the DCR Fleche this year after skipping last year. We’ve glommed onto a new team and plans are being made with a certain English gentleman who loves to draw up routes, so stay tuned for more.

This weekend MG and I rode our first rando ride of the year, the easy RaceYaToRocco’s 102mi/165K RUSA permanent from Frederick, Md. to East Berlin, Pa. and back. Here’s a map and our GPS data.

It was hard to get up early, drive an hour to Frederick, and start out in the cold — I’ll acknowledge that up front. Getting in the base miles now means we’ll have more fun on the spring brevets and the fleche, though. Plus, we like riding in the winter once we warm up. Tandeming is always fun with MG.

Cold and damp, let's ride a century

Cold and damp, let’s ride a century

The weather was dreary to start — cold mist, in the 30s — but dried out mid-day, though the day was quite gray and foggy.

If you're wearing a buff, let it be reflective!

If you’re wearing a buff, let it be reflective!

The ham-and-bean soup at Rocco’s Pizza was a welcome warmup and tasted great. The folks there have been and always are nice to us randonneurs, and Saturday was no exception.

Rocco's, the randonneur destination

Rocco’s, the randonneur destination

We also had a nice visit at Gravel & Grind bike and coffee shop in Frederick before driving home.

We took the Co-Motion Java touring tandem, and it rode like a champ, comfy and confident. Nothing daunts that bike.

One tough randonneur

One tough randonneur

The new go-faster Spectrum tandem rides nicely needs a bit of tweaking next Saturday back at Tom Kellogg’s place in Pennsylvania before we’ll put it to hard use. Once I finish outfitting with the final bits I’ll write up a post with lots of flattering photos.

Today it was unseasonably warm in DC and I got out for a Freezing Saddles ride with Ted N. and we met up with Ian F. on Hains Point. I was tired but it was fun and we saw MG while she was out and her run.

MG, Ian and Ted

MG, Ian and Ted

If you too are riding more this winter, keep up the good work and let us know in the comments how to follow you on the social media.

If you are local to DC, see you out there!

Our 2013 Colorado Tandem Tour: Part 1

MG did such a good job posting on Chasing Mailboxes about our progress during our July 4-12 Colorado tour (see her posts here) that I waited until we got home to put down my own thoughts about our experience.

We had a great time on this tour, and it marked a new step forward for us as a team: it was the first self-contained touring trip we had done far from home.

We have taken the tandem to randonneuring events in other parts of the U.S. (and France) and ridden self-contained in Virginia and surrounding states near home in Washington, D.C.

Going to Colorado to see friends and ride by ourselves was a new experience. Many questions had to be answered: where to stay, where to ride, how to get the bike to and from our start and end point in Boulder.

I’m happy to say all went well. The time we’ve spent randonneuring and touring helped us a lot in terms of determining the right distances and limiting our gear to the essentials. Our new Co-Motion Java tandem performed flawlessly, the weather co-operated and we were treated well throughout by drivers. In sum — a very fun and satisfying trip.

Summer vacation!

Summer vacation!

First off: Photos! Ours are uploaded at Flickr mine here and MG’s here.

You can see our routes at my Garmin GPS page here.

Prologue

This tour started taking shape over the winter. We were inspired to return to the state after seeing the northern parts during the High Country 1200K randonnee with MG last summer. I previously rode the central mountains on the Bicycle Tour of Colorado in 1997, and wanted to see them again with MG on tandem at a more leisurely pace.

I contacted with our randonneur friends Tim Foon Feldman and HC 1200K organizer John Lee Ellis in Louisville, Colo., near Boulder, to talk over possible routes. Tim has drawn up the Haute Route 1200K randonner course, which I used as a template.

One of our goals was to take advantage of Colorado’s well-maintained dirt roads that the Java tandem would allow us to traverse with larger tires.

With their help I whittled the days into shorter versions with hotel stops. I included one of the six 200K-ish rides that Tim has made up from his 1200K: the 134-mile Trail Ridge 200K from Louisville through Rocky Mountain National Park to Kremmling, Colo.

It would be our first and longest day on the bike, going over the highest point on our tour at 12,200 feet of elevation with about 10,000 feet of climbing.

Route drafting led to hotel reservations, then vacation requests from work and airplane tickets. Colorado is a busy place during the summer — it was essential that we get everything locked in by early May.

We like Southwest Air to Denver because they allow two bags free per person and fly direct from Washington Dulles airport. The Java with S&S couplers broke down into suitcases that we could check without an additional fee.

From Denver a regional transit coach bus is available to Boulder, which lets one avoid renting a car.

We arrived late on July 3 after work. Tim would not let us take the bus and instead picked us up at DLA and took us to his and wife Donna’s lovely house in Louisville. They keep two cats, nice bikes, a lovely back yard and have a keen appreciation for good conversation, food and espresso. Tim likes to ride and ski, Donna likes to ski and hike.

We had a lot to discuss about the outdoors life in the Rocky Mountains.

Tim gets the shot on the Lefthand Canyon climb.

Tim gets the shot on the Lefthand Canyon climb.

After assembling the Co-Motion Java Tandem (provisional name: The Big Cat) on July 4 Tim joined us for a 50-mile checkout ride up Lefthand Canyon to the local holiday gathering. The bike came together well — it was our first time traveling with the Java. Later all of us went to a backyard party in Louisville and watched impressive local fireworks.

4th of July at Lefthand Canyon

4th of July at Lefthand Canyon

On Friday MG and I ventured into Boulder to greet our pals at Vecchio’s Bicicletteria on fashionable Pearl Street, enjoyed espresso at Ozo Coffee and at Atlas, and then rode out to Mary’s Market & Deli in Hygeine. This is something of a local cyclist stop and riders came and went often. Rain stopped us briefly on the way back and then dissipated quickly.

A year later, we're back: Vecchio's Bicicletteria.

A year later, we’re back: Vecchio’s Bicicletteria.

Saturday our tour started. Here’s our rundown, in a review format.

Day 1: Boulder to Kremmling via Lyons, Estes Park and Trail Ridge Road.
Mileage: 134
Road Surface: Paved
Difficulty: High
Conditions: Sunny
Route and elevation profile: here.

Day One: Off to Trail Ridge Road!

Day One: Off to Trail Ridge Road!

We rode this segment as a randonneur permanent ride — The Trail Ridge 200 — with a total time of 14:20 to complete the course. The challenge was to get to the Granby control on the other side of Trail Ridge Road, mile 107, in 11 hours 28 minutes. That seems like plenty of time, but we were on the button most of the day as we slowly climbed the first 70 miles from 5,500 feet to 12,200 feet.

We left just before 7:30 a.m. and Tim joked that we should leave Estes Park, mile 45, by noon. He was not kidding. The climbing to that point, at 7,540 feet, got us there at 11:20 a.m.! We found the long uphills on Rt. 36 very tough. After a quick lunch and drinks at the Safeway, we entered Rocky Mountain National Park for the big push to the top.

The ascent up renowned Trail Ridge Road was at once thrilling and nerve-wracking. Holiday weekend car traffic was heavy and with little shoulder, and dropoffs to our right, I kept one eye forward and one on my rear view mirror. I wanted to ride out in the lane but had to give way often as groups of cars would pass. All this made MG nervous about riding off the edge.

A rest stop on the way up Trail Ridge Road.

A rest stop on the way up Trail Ridge Road.

We stopped at turnouts to regain our composure and catch our breath. As we rose above treeline temperatures fell into the low 50s and the wind picked up — vests and jackets came out for each of us.

Air is getting thin up here. Courtesy MG.

Air is getting thin up here. Courtesy MG.

The mountain and valley views were spectacular! We had never gone that far into the sky on the tandem and the payoff was immense. The kind comments we got at the Alpine Visitor Center store just past the summit were very much appreciated.

A mile from the top. Courtesy MG.

A mile from the top. Courtesy MG.

It was all downhill to Granby, but we had to cover the 37 miles in a little over two hours to stay within the ride time limits. We pressed hard all the way down the twisty descent and through Grand Lake, and arrived with about 12 minutes to spare. There’s nothing like a deadline and a descending profile to get one to go fast!

On our way to Kremmling.

On our way to Kremmling.

After a rest stop in Granby, the rest of the 27-mile route to little Kremmling continued trending downhill. After the busy Trail Ridge Road, we had Highway 40 mostly to ourselves. We thought we had to get to Kremmling before 9 p.m. to get food at the local grill, so I called in an order for 8:45 p.m.

MG and I resolved to make it happen. After a day like this, we were going to be famished and did not want to go to bed hungry.

A soft evening sun bathed our faces as we shot west through Byers Canyon and over cattle lands. I got out my camera to photograph the passing freight train and the engineer blew the whistle and waved.

We saw a guy running with a follow van as part of a coast-to-coast cancer fundraising challenge. A car passed once every so often. Hills glowed.

A lovely early Saturday evening ride.

A lovely early Saturday evening ride.

Kremmling appeared in the distance and the clock struck 8:30 p.m. just as we rolled into town. Success!

We got our brevet cards signed at the Rocky Mountain Bar & Grill and they served us dinner. Turns out they did not close until 10 p.m., so we had time to eat there. I ordered dessert too.

Our hotel was the nearby Allington Inn, which was kind of pricey but new and very comfortable. It was a long day for touring, but one of our most memorable ever.

Day Two: Kremmling to Glenwood Springs
Mileage: 89.5
Road Surface: Paved, hardpack gravel, paved bike path
Difficulty: Medium
Conditions: Sunny, hot — low 90s.
Route and elevation profile: here at Garmin Connect, and here at Ridewithgps.

After breakfast and a passable espresso at the Moose Cafe in Kremmling, we tooled over the days only long climbs via the hardpack gravel County Road 1, which runs along the Colorado River. At Mile 27 we descended to the outdoor concert venue and river access point known as State Bridge Landing. After a few miles of paved road we turned onto the hardpack Colorado River Road to the 20-mile bike path into Glenwood Springs.

County Road 1: Next stop State Bridge Landing.

County Road 1: Next stop State Bridge Landing.

Along CR 1 views of the Colorado River and dry scrub land stretched in all directions. Trucks carrying inflatable boats and kayaks made a regular appearance as we mixed in with the river rat and fishing enthusiasts.

State Bridge, a little outdoor entertainment and camping enclave where the party crowd was just stirring at 11:30 a.m., offered the only notable rest stop. We feasted on tasty blackened fish sandwiches and sodas from a vendor truck and took some snacks to eat later.

Overlooking the Colorado River.

Overlooking the Colorado River.

Colorado River Road was hot and dry, but the river’s growing size and strength kept us entertained. There was almost no shade and we stopped to take advantage of the shelter at the Burns post office and then again at a bend in the road with some trees. We left State Bridge with three full water bottles, full 70-oz. Camelbaks, and Cokes for the Burns stop, which got us through this long stretch without services.

The Glenwood path took us into town but was a narrow in places and had occasional foot traffic, so we had to keep our speed in check. At Glenwood we went directly to our Courtyard hotel across the river from the tourist area near the springs and we missed the sights.

That was OK by us. After the big ride Saturday and the heat of Sunday, we were pretty tired. We stayed put in the hotel area for the evening and ate dinner at a chain place nearby. Next time I want to see more of Glenwood.

Day Three: Glenwood Springs to Paonia
Mileage: 77
Road Surface: Paved roads, paved bike path
Difficulty: Medium
Conditions: Sunny, afternoon headwinds.
Route and elevation profile: GPS at Garmin Connect, Route at Ridewithgps.

The first two days caught up with us this morning and we struggled to get in sync about breakfast. We went into Glenwood’s older downtown for espresso and food with a couple of pointers from Yelp.

But, nothing looked right at first and we (really, me, since I was on the espresso mission) u-turned a couple of times trying to decide what to do, while avoiding urgent Monday morning car traffic.

Finally we went into a touristy coffee & lunch place and got truly terrible espresso. This put me in a bad mood.

We found a good breakfast place next door, however, and noticed another coffeenhouse nearby, The Bluebird Cafe. It was the real deal and sold me a very tasty doppio.

A few years of touring has taught us that mornings can be stressful when we’re tired and hungry and have no exact place to alight. This knowledge helped us avoid a tandem team meeting, and it was all behind us soon enough.

The bike trail south of Glenwood Springs.

The bike trail south of Glenwood Springs.

After a few miles south on the bike path with some local roadie cyclists, we stopped in quaint Carbondale at Ajax Bike & Sport. Aaron and gang gave us some excellent local knowledge and encouragement.

A great stop in Carbondale.

A great stop in Carbondale.

Next stop: a second espresso and treat at lovely Bonfire Coffee. Next time we’ll consider overnighting in Carbondale if possible rather than Glenwood — much quieter and easy to navigate.

By this time it was late morning and we still had most of the day’s ride ahead, with 8,762 ft. high McClure Pass at Mile 38. Colorado Rt. 133 gradually ascended to the base of the climb, then pitched up more steeply for three miles to the summit.

"-- Job". We covered the same route today as this year's Bicycle Tour of Colorado.

“– Job”. We covered the same route today as this year’s Bicycle Tour of Colorado.

We hit the climb after one more stop in the little resort community of Redstone for snacks and drinks. One the way up we saw a few touring cyclists headed down, but did not find out their group. This climb was not bad and we enjoyed awe-inspiring views in all directions. After photos at the top we blasted down, convinced we could practically coast all the way to Paonia.

A tour group was coming down McClure Pass as we ascended.

A tour group was coming down McClure Pass as we ascended.

On top of McClure Pass. Big payoff for a relatively pleasant climb.

On top of McClure Pass. Big payoff for a relatively pleasant climb.

Not true, of course. While we had a downhill profile, there were enough hills and a strong southern headwind to keep us working. The big coal mine at Somerset loomed and beyond that was little Paonia, a community based on a mix of coal jobs, farming and the local/organic food movement.

Near Paonia, really bad railroad tracks on Bowie Road.

Near Paonia, really bad railroad tracks on Bowie Road.

Imagine a small town where the local businesses are still thriving and people move there to get away from city life. That’s Paonia. Our B&B Fresh and Wyld Farmhouse Inn was a lovely retreat from chain hotels and we had a terrific local food dinner at The Living Farm Cafe.

After getting an ice cream cone at a nearby parlor, we stopped at the pizza place to chat with some folks watching the Tour de France on TV and drinking beer. MG and I strolled a mostly quiet main drag before heading back for a great night’s quiet sleep. This was one of those touring days where we felt at one with the road, the sky and air, and found a community on the upswing.

Stay tuned: I’ll detail the final four days in Part II.

We bid farewell to our tandem companion, the Co-Motion Speedster

The Speedster and us at Rambouillet, France

The Speedster and us at Rambouillet, France

 

MG and I arrived back in Boulder, Colo. at the end of the Colorado High Country 1200K last July and happily dismounted our trusty coupled steel Co-Motion Speedster tandem. Little did we know that day would be the last we’d turn the pedals on our steel stallion.

 

Day 3, Colorado High Country 1200K. (c) Bill Beck.

Day 3, Colorado High Country 1200K. (c) Bill Beck.

 

During packing the next day, I discovered a deep scratch through the weld at the junction of the stoker seat tube and the top tube. I didn’t recall any mishap that would have caused it, and it was not in a straight line. That was a bad sign.

 

From Wyoming to Colorado on the High Country 1200K. (c) Bill Beck.

From Wyoming to Colorado on the High Country 1200K. (c) Bill Beck.

 

After getting it home to Washington and then to our shop College Park Bicycles, manager Charles P. quickly confirmed my fears — the tube had cracked. Inside the seat tube we discovered more cracks at the junction of the top tube.

 

The evidence, between the Sharpie marks.

The evidence, between the Sharpie marks.

 

This discovery seemed to explain a random clicking we heard from that area over the previous few months. I’d grease the inside of the tube and it would go away, but then come back again.

I was reminded of Rivendell Bicycles’ founder Grant Petersen’s praise of steel bicycle tubing, in that it fails slowly. Thinking back to the start of the clicking problem, we probably put 4,000 miles or more on the bike with the crack developing, including the 750 miles over the Colorado Rockies.

This was sad news for us. We had purchased the Speedster as a custom in 2006 with plans to ride Paris-Brest-Paris on it the following year. That didn’t work out, but we got her over to PBP in 2011 and had a terrific ride. By the time we finished the High Country ride we had something like 25,000 miles on it.

Highlights of our time include events large and small, brevets, lots of mini-tours of up to two weeks, and of course those relaxing Sunday coffee rides out to Potomac, Md. and jaunts with friends new and old.

 

In the Shenandoah. (c) Bill Beck.

In the Shenandoah. (c) Bill Beck.

 

What happened next?

The bike went back to its birthplace in Eugene, Ore. where Co-Motion co-owner Dwan Shepherd co-operated (ha!) fully with us on a warranty resolution. He gave us the option of a free repair or a very generous credit toward a new frameset.

A new frame was tempting because we had at times wanted to use bigger tires — beyond 700 x 32s — or put heavier loads than we could on the Speedster. As the name implies, the Speedster is intended primarily for lightly loaded road riding.

My attention was drawn to the revamped Java 29er tandem Co-Motion unveiled in 2011, which could take big 700 x 2.0 tires that will let us explore dirt roads and less-technical trails. I learned that Phil, the main mechanic at College Park Bicycles and a tandem rider, had ordered the Java with a lateral tube for extra strength.

 

The new tandem is here.

The new tandem is here.

 

We decided to go with that option ourselves, and Dwan made it work out financially for us. He also included some design elements I wanted, like downtube shifter bosses and brazeons for a Nitto small front rack.  It will be perfect for brevets and such, while also being stiff enough to take four panniers over mountain roads.

MG is still sad about the loss of the Speedster, because it fit her so well. We got the longest rear top tube that would still fit in an S&S travel case and for her the extra room let her stretch out and lean forward. It’s longer than any production tandem, including our Cannondale MTB tandem, A.K.A. The Lead Sled.

The new tandem arrived this week and is being built up by Phil and we’ll get it out on the road soon. We changed the color from the Speedster, to a more subtle Pewter. Notice the oversize top tube.

We’ll always have fond memories of the Speedster, though. So long, friend, you did well!

Rivendell Bicycles’ Grant Petersen in Washington

Last Thursday MG and I had the pleasure of joining a small group of friends and kindred spirits to meet Grant Petersen, the owner and founder of Rivendell Bicycles in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Grant was at College Park Bicycles in College Park, Md., adjacent to the University of Maryland campus, on the latest stop of his tour to promote his new book about practical cycling called Just Ride.

Grant signs Leslie T.’s book, with Colin and Mary Lauran.

 

Grant is in a good mood after a nice ride.

 

Grant went on a local ride with a group from the shop and then a small group of us gathered in the dimming light in the parking lot for an informal talk and q-and-a session. Shop owner and bike impresario Larry Black started things off with a short talk about his own history as a bike shop owner before ribbing Grant for writing “fried” instead of “friend” in his signed copy.

 

Larry talks about all sorts of things. Grant is amused.

 

Larry pretty much didn’t mention anything about Grant being an ahead-of-his-time advocate for cycling as transportation and recreation, and as a maker of lugged steel bikes for people who don’t race. Larry did talk about how he sold bikes that competed with Bridgestone when Grant ran that company’s U.S. operations before founding Riv in 1994.

Anyway, Grant just giggled at Larry, signed his book again, and then talked about the substance of his new book. It grew out of another 90,000-word book he wrote that neither he nor his publisher particularly liked, so he started over. Grant ended up with the 89 short essays in the book on regular bike riding, fitness and a few controversial topics like racing (or, un-racing, as Grant puts it) and lycra.

 

Grant takes a question from the group.

 

A highlight was when pal Joan O. asked him about the section in the book about burpees, a squat/pushup/jump full-body exercise that Grant recommends to cyclists in addition to the exercise they get on the bike. We all got a good chuckle out of that. And, Grant looked in excellent shape.

 

Grant prepares to execute a burpee.

 

I asked Grant whether he feels any pressure to make his bikes more detailed in response to the resurgent hand-made bike builder scene, which he gently deflected with a comment that other people are doing good work in that sense and he was glad to stick to his own aesthetic.

Afterwards I urged Grant to make the Riv tandem he’s talked about in the past — and he assured me it will happen at some point. He did say folks like us may have to buy in before production will happen. I also asked that the rear top tube be made to 29 inches or longer. For taller stokers, that allows a good forward reach.

To my surprise he said that length, long by current tandem standards, would be the minimum. He might go longer so that stokers could use upright bars if they want. That was music to my/our ears! We pretty much have to buy a custom to get a long enough reach for MG with most manufacturers using 28-inch or at most 29-inch rear top tubes.

Far from the image some have of him as an opinionated cycling idologue, Grant came across as a thoughtful, moderate person who is not against anything in particular. He’s mostly an advocate for cycling that is as he put it, “not work” — as in, not working toward a speed goal or a fitness goal. Rather, he suggested we work on our strength and weight loss through off-the-bike exercises and save cycling for fun trips wherever we care to go. A fine idea!

Many thanks to Larry Black (sorry for the teasing, Larry!) for bringing Grant to the D.C. area. And if you’re reading this, Grant, please join us at Friday Coffee Club in downtown D.C. next time you are in town.