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!


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.

Build a bicycle, boys! The Rivendell SimpleOne.

The title seemed right after seeing the British band Elbow deliver a soaring show here in Washington where they played most of their recent album, “Build a Rocket, Boys!

The title of the album is the refrain in the song “Lippy Kids,” about the potential of youth. It’s worth a listen. Their show, uplifting and communal, was the perfect tonic after a few quiet weeks recovering from Paris-Brest-Paris.

I’ve worked through the lingering fatigue and physical issues left over from PBP not by riding, but by digging through the toolbox and getting a couple framesets turned into bikes — our kind of rockets, if you will.

First up is my new 58cm Rivendell SimpleOne, a singlespeed. It is Riv’s newest addition to their lineup of lugged, steel bikes, replacing the Quickbeam.

The SimpleOne at the Einstein Monument in Washington

See a full set of photos at my Flickr page, here.

This bike is made for racks and fenders, and was a lot of fun to build up.

I decked it out in a lot of parts from Velo Orange, including metal fenders, seatpost, saddle, rear bag support, hubs, one of the two rims, and a bell.

It also has Rivendell’s own Sugino double chainring crankset and a nifty front bag they sell called the Sackville TrunkSack that looks just great.

SimpleOne. The name says it all.

The setup initially included the big Ostrich boxy front bag formerly sold by VO — you can see the decaleur receiver still mounted — but I found it too big for tooling around town. I’ll save it for a touring rig.

Sackville TrunkSack, leftover decaleur, Nitto stem, bars and rack.

There was something satisfying about wrenching at home on the weekends after all the travel this year. I like tinkering with bikes almost as much as riding them!

Next up: MG’s Velo Orange Mixte. Stay tuned.

Wednesday Commuteblogging: Downtown Washington Edition

MG doesn’t work for a lobby firm but her office is down in lobby-ville on K Street in Northwest D.C. She has a pretty fair commute until she crosses Pennsylvania Avenue, and then the traffic gets thick for the two blocks north to her building. She usually rides her daily steed, a Novara Randonee, which she calls the pickup truck of touring bikes, or her Rivendell Quickbeam singlespeed.

Here’s a photo of K Street at Night, and one of MG’s co-worker, Bruce M. who is entirely comfortable riding at night without a front light — MG and I are going to give him one of our extras.

Bruce M. ready to rideBruce M. ready to ride

A view down K StreetA view down K Street from the Quickbeam

Bleriot S&S Packing

I rode my longer brevets, fleche and PBP this year on my S&S coupled 650b Rivendell Bleriot,  and thought it might be helpful to post photos of the packing process. See the photos on my Flickr set.

Bleriot S&S PackingBleriot S&S Packing

The value of an S&S frameset (or Bike Friday) is not just that you avoid punative airline fees, but also in the ease of travel overall. Moving a suitcase through an airport is a whole lot easier than a full size travel bike case, or a box. Fellow randonneur Alex Miller of Tennessee had a great idea. He uses two S&S cases. Pack half the bike in each case and fill in with clothes — it speeds up the packing and lets him say that neither case contains a bike, in the case of some airlines that charge you even if the bike fits within luggage size and weight limits.

Wednesday Commuteblogging: Night Edition

After slagging on D.C. drivers last week as suicidal, red light-running maniacs, this week TDR focuses on the joys of riding in standard time. You know, when the clocks are not set forward and the sun sets before the end of the workday.
MG and Ed on the MallMG and Ed on the Mall

MG and I usually meet after work and ride to the grocery store or around Hain’s Point on the Potomac River. We also enjoy Washington’s stunning night monument scenes. As cycling cities compare, D.C. is pretty good, thanks to the National Mall and trails along the Potomac River — especially during the winter.

Ed’s Atlantis at the World War II MemorialEd’s Atlantis at the World War II Memorial

Atlantis, again at the World War II MemorialAtlantis, again at the World War II Memorial

Ted Durant’s 650b Rivendell Travelo

Ted Durant, of Rona Components fame and the founder of Heron Bicycles, (now owned by TDR buddy Todd Kuzma) recently snapped up one of Rivendell’s prototype Bleriot frames and sent it out to Bilenky Cycle Works for couplers and lower seatstay rack mounts. Rivendell sold a group of prototypes under the label Protovelo, and Ted came up with the Travelo nickname.

I won’t go on again about the benefits of 650b wheels, but the neat thing about Ted’s bike is the clear powdercoat. What we see is the grey steel, buffed and then painted with clear powdercoat. Note the natural lug outlines from the brazing. Well done, Ted! See more photos Here

Ted Durant’s 650b TraveloTed’s 650b Travelo