Coffeeneuring No. 5 and No. 6: Weekends in Motion

We were busy on all of the weekends last month, taking advantage of October’s waning daylight and warm afternoons. That’s my introduction for this flashback post to rides a couple of weeks ago as I try to get caught up on my coffeeneuring reports.

For most of us, the last day to complete the challenge was Sunday Nov. 15. The completed submission reports are coming in fast to Mary from all over the world, so I better get cracking.

On the road to Poolesville under a bright October sun.

On the road to Poolesville under a bright October sun.

 

Coffeeneuring heralds both the start of October and gives us excellent reasons to get out on the bike as the night comes earlier each day (before the hammer drops and we turn the clocks back) and cold weather sets in.

On Sunday, Oct. 18 we combined coffeeneuring with a delightful impromptu ride that came together late in the week via word of mouth at Friday Coffee Club and on the interwebs.

I mentioned that we should undertake the latest irregular French Toast Ride. A number of folks thought this was a good idea, and by Sunday it was a real thing.

This is a simple out-and-back jaunt from D.C. to Poolesville, Md., a staple destination for local riders via River Road in Montgomery County. Then we put a theme on it by going to Bassett’s Restaurant in Poolesville and ordering french toast (or pancakes). Voila — concept ride!

The French Toast Riders. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

The French Toast Riders. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

 

The air was crisp with our first dose of fall cool, but no matter, the sun was out and our group of nine had a fun ride. We also had the pleasure of hosting Pittsburgh duo Noah and Sarah, who came to D.C. to ride the C&O Canal Towpath and GAP Trail back home.

Cool enough for layers and gloves.

Cool enough for layers and gloves.

 

Also along were mileage eaters Ted, Rachel, Eric and Rod, and our regular compadre Jerry S. In sum, a mix of friends new and old — that’s my kind of bike ride, folks. Some of us ended the ride at Room 11 in Northwest D.C. (see below) for some very good espresso drinks.

Back in Rock Creek Park. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

Back in Rock Creek Park. Courtesy Mary Gersemalina.

 

The weekend of Oct. 24 Mary saved her legs for the Marine Corps Marathon and was not up for a ride, so I coffeeneured on Saturday when I met up with Jerry, and other randonneur pals Eric (The Wise), Eric (The Younger), and the debonair Roger H. for a long permanent ride from D.C. to the Antietem battlefield.

Our randonneur group, at Gapland.

Our randonneur group, at Gapland.

 

We began and ended at an outlet of the Mermaid-logo coffee chain, about six miles from home, and I had  soy “latte” before we started — quotes because their version is a big sugary concoction with a dose of harsh burnt espresso thrown in. Anyway, I could claim it as a “not part of an event” coffeeneuring ride.

However, I’m not counting it because there are much better locally-owned spots in D.C. to publicize.

I’m going to count Sunday the 25th instead — sorry guys! Mary successfully completed her fifth MCM (way to go, whoo!) and we went coffeeneuring together. As we have arranged in past years, I rode the Co-Motion tandem to the finish line with her Sidi shoes and helmet.

On the 14th Street Bridge, Mary stops for a picture.

On the 14th Street Bridge, Mary stops for a picture.

 

After crossing the finish line and getting her medal, we pedaled up to Eastern Market for lunch and coffee. I find it romantic that Mary comes back from her big triumph with me.

Medal earned, Mary is ready to do some coffeeneuring.

Medal earned, Mary is ready to do some coffeeneuring.

 

I still have to comply with the coffeeneuring bookeeping rules, so here are the details.

Coffeeneuring No. 5

Destination: Room 11, Washington, D.C. Oct 18.

Beverage: Soy Cappuccino.

Distance: 76.4 mi. See my route here.

Company: Mary, Jerry, Noah and Sarah from Pittsburgh.

Bike Friendly? There is a rack outside on the sidewalk, and a window view of the bikes from the small room by the espresso bar. Thumbs up.

Observation: Room 11 is another repeat visit from past coffeeneuring. It’s a small place but they make some seriously good coffee drinks (from beans by D.C.-based Madcap and San Francisco-based Four Barrel roasters) and sell awesome bakery items, with a dinner menu in the evenings.

The cappuccino was terrific. I like an espresso or espresso drink after a long bike ride as a little reward. The cappuccino here and the company really made for a lovely end to the day. I just wish Room 11 was closer to our house.

 

Mocha. Cappuccino. Cookie. The good life.

Mocha. Cappuccino. Cookie. The good life.

 

Noah and Sarah, tourers and coffeeneurs.

Noah and Sarah, tourers and coffeeneurs.

 

Coffeeneuring No. 6

Destination: Peregrine Espresso, Eastern Market, Washington, D.C. Oct 25.

Beverage: Espresso.

Distance: 12 mi. See my route here.

Company: Just me and Mary.

Bike Friendly? Good. Sidewalk racks nearby and lots of poles and fencing. If you sit outside, your bike is within arm’s reach.

Observation: Peregrine is one of the premier espresso shops in D.C. and is a regular stop for us at Eastern Market. They serve strong, super-short shots and I normally get a triple (or, “triplo” if you are Italian). I like going there, but I’m glad they are a bit out of my normal orbit as I’d end up hanging out too much.

It was great to coffeeneur there with Mary, who was enjoying the glow of finishing her marathon (her third this fall).

Next Time: Coffeeneuring Finale in Philly!

 

 

Coffeeneuring 3 and 4: Mary and I Go Running in Harpers Ferry

Coffeeneuring No. 3

Destination: Lost Dog Coffee, Shepherdstown, W.V. Oct 10.

Beverage: Espresso.

Distance: 11.6 miles. See my route from Harpers Ferry here.

Company: Just me.

Bike Friendly? No dedicated bike parking outside, but there are racks along German St., or just lean your bike somewhere, it’s a mellow scene.

Observation: Lost Dog is a funky small college town place that makes really good espresso. There’s not much pretense. I’m a fan.

Early Saturday morning outside Lost Dog in Shepherdstown

Early Saturday morning outside Lost Dog in Shepherdstown

This weekend, Mary and I repeated a bike & run trip we made last year, again to Harpers Ferry, W.V., so she could participate for the third time in the Freedom’s Run Marathon on Saturday. In an unexpected turn of events, I decided to end a decades-long absence from running and signed up for the 10K option.

I ran quite a lot in high school and some in college, but gradually quit in my 20s and then got into cycling in my 30s. (Ha ha, see that I’m not telling you how long since then?)

As a New Year’s resolution, I set a goal to get my running legs back in shape, and complete a 10K in the fall. I ran two or three times a week, up to 4 miles at a time, and this was the run I targeted. Freedom’s Run is a smaller event with a lot of charm and support, and we like Shepherdstown — where the 5K, 10K and half marathon were staged — and where the point-to-point marathon finished.

Mary rode out Friday afternoon on the C&O Canal Towpath. I rode out the 67 miles after work on the alternate route, via the paved W&OD Trail to Leesburg.

From there I took back roads to Brunswick, Md., and then the C&O the last few miles to Harper’s Ferry, arriving at 11:30 pm.

Early Saturday I rode just before dawn to Shepherdstown, and arrived at Lost Dog as owner Garth was setting up inside. Two other runners were also waiting. He opened at 7:30 and I had a delicious espresso and some banana bread.

Then I went over to the run check-in at Shepherd University. I managed to finish the 10K in 54:27 (track is here) without injuring myself — I think/hope! My left knee has been achy but I got through without any pain.

Gathering for the 10K

Gathering for the 10K

A nice bonus was seeing Kirstin C., also known on Twitter as @ultrarunnergirl, who is a regular at Friday Coffee Club and an experienced ultramarathoner. She and husband/ultramarathoner Tom where there with her parents. Kirstin ran with her mom on the 5K course and we greeted each other as I stumbled past.

This was a big accomplishment for me. Thanks to Mary, of course, for the guidance and encouragement this year, and Kirstin, her parents, and Tom for the congratulations at the end.

Afterwards I went back to Lost Dog for another espresso and another treat, then rode out on the course and caught up to Mary as she hit mile 22.

Mary was smiling and having a good run. The day was perfect for running — dry and slightly cool, with bright sun.

She finished in 4:42, which is what she hoped, and looked great coming into the finish.

Nearing the end, mile 23, running strong.

Nearing the end, mile 23, running strong.

After some celebration and lunch at the Bavarian Inn, Mary took the shuttle bus back to Harpers Ferry and I got a third espresso (!) at Lost Dog to revive me before riding back to our hotel. I was tired, but the day was so nice and I decided I could manage the 11 miles. It was worth the effort.

Coffeeneuring No. 4

Destination: Beans in the Belfry, Brunswick, Md., Oct 11.

Beverage: Soy Latte.

Distance: 68.4 miles from Harpers Ferry to D.C. Our route via the C&O Canal Towpath is here.

Company: Mary, and lots of touring riders and runners and walkers and their dogs and kids.

Bike Friendly? Yes. BITB has space for bikes out front and a hose for spraying off the dirt from the unpaved C&O.

Observation: Beans in the Belfry is about all you get for decent coffee along the C&O south of Shepherdstown, and they have good sandwiches and other lunch fare. We always stop there. You’re better off getting a latte (my choice today) or cappuccino rather than an espresso.

Leaving Harpers Ferry on a cool fall morning.

Leaving Harpers Ferry on a cool fall morning.

Mary and I got up tired on Sunday morning, but it was another cool, dry and clear day, so no complaints. We trundled the bikes across the bridge over the Potomac River and down the C&O to Brunswick for coffee and breakfast sandwiches.

Back at Beans in the Belfry, everybody's favorite stop in Brunswick, Md.

Back at Beans in the Belfry, everybody’s favorite stop in Brunswick, Md.

A bunch of C&O touring riders came in, leaving their hybrid-y mountain bikes with camping gear outside. We gratefully sat for a good while, pulled ourselves together and updated our social feeds.

Mary sports her marathon T-shirt. Well earned!

Mary sports her marathon T-shirt. Well earned!

Back on the trail, we made our way back to D.C. with a stop for snacks at the White’s Ferry store.

Rest stop under gorgeous skies at White's Ferry

Rest stop under gorgeous skies at White’s Ferry

The C&O Canal Towpath was busy with camping riders.

The C&O Canal Towpath was busy with camping riders.

The trail was pretty active with walkers around Great Falls, but otherwise we had smooth sailing.

Mary manages to keep smiling on the C&O, despite tired legs.

Mary manages to keep smiling on the C&O, despite tired legs.

My bike started making a weird ticking noise just as we rode into Georgetown for a celebratory stop at Baked & Wired, our regular haunt when we come in from C&O. With both of us having Columbus Day Monday off from work, we enjoyed the prospect of a full day to recover from the big weekend on and off the bikes.

There is definitely something satisfying about riding out to our weekend adventure — especially in the fall with the great weather we had.

Until next week!

Coffeeneuring 2015 No. 2: Mary and I Go to Baked and Wired, and See Ted

Destination: Baked and Wired Washington, D.C. Oct. 4.

Distance: 11.8 miles. See our route here.

Company: Mary for coffee and cake. Ted for a lap around Hains Point. A kingfisher bird.

Bike Friendly? Not really. There’s a lone rack across the street. We usually lock to the fence along the C&O Canal Lock nearby. A few outside tables and chairs let you watch your bike, but they are usually occupied.

Observation: The espresso here is high-quality. Mary got a gourmet hot chocolate. This is one of our favorite coffee stops — we always go there when we come into D.C. from the C&O Canal Trail or Capital Crescent Trail. Don’t let the line scare you off if you’re just having coffee.

Sunday was another dreary day in D.C., though warmer than Saturday, and the rain stopped. Mary and I finally got ourselves out the door in the afternoon, mostly to get some fresh air, and to snag another coffeeneuring outing.

I’d like to get 14 coffeeneuring rides in seven weeks — the unofficial perfect season — so this would complete the first weekend.

See the line back there?

See the line back there?

The many, many social media postings from the coffeeneurs around the country and overseas also gave us a lot of motivation. Twitter and Instagram have been so busy with all the updates.

We rode our single bikes around the Jefferson Memorial, past the few tour buses and Segway riders, who were sightseeing regardless of the heavy clouds and blustery fall wind.

Instead of riding north to the many hip coffee spots in the city center, we decided to go to one of our favorites over in Georgetown — Baked and Wired. They are known for their gourmet cupcakes, and have a line out the door on weekend afternoons to prove it.

The coffee side of Baked and Wired.

The coffee side of Baked and Wired.

But they also have a high-end coffee bar on the other side of the shop with its own much shorter line. They also sell some baked goods on the coffee side.

Hot chocolate on a cool day.

Hot chocolate on a cool day.

Today we got a soy cappuccino for me and a hot chocolate for Mary. We also got a rare empty table outside, where we enjoyed our drinks and a fabulous piece of mandarin orange coffee cake.

If there is a theme to our 2015 coffeeneuring so far, cake has been a part of both outings so far, so there you go.

Mary and Ted, on Hains Point.

Mary and Ted, on Hains Point.

We rode back towards the Jefferson Monument, and decided to go see how much of Hains Point was underwater from all the rain. Our Friday Coffee Club pal Ted N. was out on his Surly and we rode a lap at conversational pace.

The flooding had receded, so no swamps to report, but Ted pointed out a kingfisher bird that was hunting along the water. That was pretty cool.

Us.

Us.

Ted.

Ted.


 

Until next weekend!

 

Coffeeneuring 2015 No. 1: Mary, Jerry and I Go to DC’s The Coffee Bar

Destination: The Coffee Bar, Washington DC

Distance: 7.2 miles. See our route here.

Company: Mary, Jerry, Carolyn, John A., a big piece of cake, and friends.

Bike Friendly? Thumbs up. Racks outside, a front outdoor sitting area to keep an eye on the bikes.

Observation: Low-key neighborhood hangout spot. Great for a casual weekend outing. The coffee is spectacular.

Coffeeneuring season has returned, and in honor of this auspicous event, I’ve oiled the chain and pumped up the tires here on TDR. I’ve been on a long hiatus from blogging, waiting for inspiration and motivation. There’s nothing better than Coffeeneuring to get back in the saddle, so to speak.

Mary (the very inventor of The Coffeeneuring Challenge) and I were signed up to ride the Seagull Century on the Co-Motion tandem, but the organizers canceled the big annual event because of the dire weather forecast.

There we were yesterday, hanging around the house, when Jerry S. emailed about getting together to inaugurate the Coffeeneur season together. The big rains didn’t materialize, though the day was grey, cool and misty, making it perfect for a little ride in DC and some hot beverages.

Jerry and Mary and the streets of DC.

Jerry and Mary and the streets of DC.

 

I paused in my push to complete the building of my new Velo Orange Campeur touring bike. This bike is going to be my daily commuter and grocery-getter, with the occasional foray into the country. It replaces my 1992 Cannonade T-700, whose frameset has been hung up. It had some problems I got tired of dealing with.

We do most of our country riding on the tandem these days. I’ll probably take the VO to Harpers Ferry this coming weekend to the Freedom’s Run event, where Mary is running the marathon and I’ve entered the 10K.

Back to yesterday: Jerry came by our place and we talked bikes and Nitto front racks for a few minutes in The Dining Room Bike Shop. Off we went with Mary through mostly-deserted streets of DC. I rode my Rivendell SimpleOne singlespeed bike, which doesn’t get much use but is always a pleasure to ride.

The Coffee Bar on a Saturday afternoon.

The Coffee Bar on a Saturday afternoon.

 

The Coffee Bar is billed as an “eco-chic coffeehouse offering seasonal specialty drinks alongside bagels & pastries in a cozy space,” housed in an old hardware store. I’ve coffeeneured here before.  The vibe is hipster&laptop, but the staff are all really nice and the espresso is top notch.

It’s a good landing spot for apartment-dwellers in the Logan Circle area who wear nice clothes and appreciate good coffee and tea.

A Portrait of the Coffeeneur.

A Portrait of the Coffeeneur.

 

We saw two other riders we know there, and John A. came out to sit with us. He had already claimed credit for his coffeeneuring trip of the day at another place, so this was a bonus-level stop for him.

Mary, Jerry and John (and your photographer in the window).

Mary, Jerry and John (and your photographer in the window).

 

We spent a pleasant hour outside in the fall air discussing the nature of the states that are in the Midwest (Dakotas? Kansas?) until Carolyn and friends rode up after brunch, and that led to some nice conversation about bikes and city riding.

We complimented Carolyn on the fine chocolate and raspberry cake that she made, which Jerry had brought along for us to sample.

All together now. Coffeeneuring!

All together now. Coffeeneuring!

Oh, the coffee: I had an espresso (which was excellent) and a soy cappuccino (which was also excellent). Highly recommended.

Afterwards Mary and I got pizza dough and other stuff at the grocery store and went home, under more mist. Twitter was buzzing with people posting their Coffeeneur outings yesterday, and I was glad we got out on Day One to join them.

Coffeeneuring 2014: The best of Washington & Philly

Let me get something off my chest: I love coffeeneuring! And, not just because it is the creation of my lovely and strong spouse, Ms. Coffeeneur herself, though that certainly helps.

MG created The Coffeeneuring Challenge, but sometimes wonders if she should keep it going. Heck yes, I say!

I’m glad to be a part of it. I am one of the original coffeeneurs who have completed all four editions, and I don’t want my streak to end.

One of life’s simple pleasures is to ride to a coffee shop — in any season, but especially in the fall after all the year’s big events are done and the temperatures cool down. Good coffee shops are a real oasis among the urban jungle and offer a welcoming respite from the road when we tour.

What made this year special was that the coffeeneuring season coincided with a mostly-warm East Coast autumn, and included our 2nd annual jaunt to the Philadelphia Bike Expo, where we stopped at two of our favorite places in that fine city.

I’ll dispense with the further pleasantries and get down to recapping my final four rides. My great plans to blog each ride were waylaid by my job and my need for sleep, and of course, coffeeneuring outings. My earlier rides are here and here.

Adding the love at Nagadi Roasters.

Adding the love at Nagadi Roasters.

 

Coffeeneur Stop 4: Nagadi Coffee Roasters, 9325 Fraser Ave., Silver Spring, Md.
Oct. 25
Distance: 53 miles
Bike Friendly? Enough. Located in a warehouse complex, there’s no bike racks but plenty of places to lean the bike.

Our touring friends Steve and Lynn invited us up to their neck of the woods to Nagadi, a small roastery that opens its doors in the mornings. The owner has a couple of chairs and a table in the front of their workspace, but not much else.

Steve and Lynn. It was great to see them.

Steve and Lynn. It was great to see them.

 

I rode up from our place in Southwest D.C. solo (MG sat this one out) via the Metropolitan Branch trail and then zig-zagged at the direction of  my GPS computer. It was hard to find, set off in a group of warehouse spaces near Linden Road with no obvious signage. Steve came out to the road and waved me in after I stopped to call him.

After some warm greetings, I ordered espresso, the true test of a high-end coffee roaster. The espresso beans were were carefully ground on a custom machine and weighed before a shot was pulled.

It was about perfect. Strong yet smooth. Tons of flavor and a heart-quickening kick.

 

Seriously good espresso.

Seriously good espresso.

 

I bought a bag of whole beans to take home. It wasn’t cheap, but was worth the trip. I rode back via the Sligo Creek Trail, which was new to me, and treated myself to a bonus stop the The Coffee Bar in Northwest D.C., which was awesome as always.

Rating: Five stars.

 

My Rivendell Atlantis on the Sligo Creek Trail

My Rivendell Atlantis on the Sligo Creek Trail

 

Coffeeneur Stop 5: Compass Coffee, 1535 7th St N.W., Washington, D.C.
Oct. 25
Distance: 8.5 miles
Bike Friendly? Not so much. Typical D.C. urban setup, no dedicated bike parking. I locked to a fence guarding the adjacent property.

Compass Coffee, sparse bike parking.

Compass Coffee, sparse bike parking.

MG got up early to run the Marine Corps Marathon and I was on my own until she came around the course and I had a chance to cheer for her. I rode up 7th Street Northwest in warm weather to check out Compass, a new shop that opened this fall just north of the Washington Convention Center.

Compass Coffee, modern interior.

Compass Coffee, modern interior.

It has a big airy room and modern furniture, and built-in espresso machines at the service bar. A gleaming roasting machine sits in the rear behind glass. There was a lot of thought put into Compass in terms of aesthetics.

I decided to employ the espresso test again and Compass passed handily. The pull was excellent, full of flavor. I didn’t get too much warmth from the staff, but they looked pretty busy trying to get the shop up and running for a busy Sunday morning ahead. Service was fast and efficient.

I wouldn’t hesitate to return, though they do need a bike rack out front. After my stop there I had plenty of get-up-and-go to find MG on the course. She had a great run, as always.

Rating: Four stars.

MG got the finisher's medal!

MG got the finisher’s medal!

 

Coffeeneur Stop 6: Volo Coffeehouse, 4360 Main St., Manayunk, Philadelphia
Nov. 8
Distance: 30 miles
Bike Friendly? Not really. There are some places to lock up on the sidewalk.

For the second year in a row, MG and I took out single bikes by car up to Phoenixville, Pa. and rode the Schuylkill River Trail into the city to attend the Philadelphia Bike Expo.

The trail comes into lively Manayunk just before downtown, and Volo is a regular stop for the recreational and sport riders heading to and fro from the city. The interior is bright and clean, if cramped with lots of tables full of people out and about on a brisk autumn day.

Volo has a line, for a good reason.

Volo has a line, for a good reason.

We got there around the lunch hour and the line was long but their service was very efficient.

Very happy to be here.

Very happy to be here.

I had a soy latte and lo, it was good. They just know what they’re doing there. I like to explore new coffee places by bike, but some, like Volo, will always have a place on our coffeeneuring itinerary if we are passing by.

The show was a lot of fun. We attended both days and stayed overnight at a downtown hotel.

Outside the Philly Bike Expo.

Outside the Philly Bike Expo.

On Sunday we had morning coffee at tony Elixr Coffee with the sweet gang from Velo Orange, who let us tag along to dinner with them the night before. An artist left postcards out that she was to send after you dropped it in a box. I sent one to my daughter, that felt kind of cool.

Rating: Five stars.

 

With the Velo Orange folks at Elixr.

With the Velo Orange folks at Elixr.

 

Coffeeneur Stop 7: The Wydown, 1924 14th St. N.W., Washington, D.C.
Nov. 15
Distance: 8.6 miles
Bike Friendly? Sorta. Planter fencing out front suitable for locking.

MG and I decided to take it easy on the final coffeeneuring weekend, and rode out from home for a fun-odyssey to check out The Wydown, which MG had read about, and Slipstream, an ultra-modern combination coffeeshop and cafe, both on 14th Street Northwest.

We stopped first at Slipstream. No bike parking, but we were able to lock the bikes together outside the expansive front glass doors. The setup was confusing; the front area is a cafe with tables and table service, while there is a takeout coffee bar farther back.

A mixup ensued in figuring how to get served. We ordered at the bar in the front area (I unwisely waved off the menus offered to us), then after awhile with no espresso coming, I motioned to the server that we’d order from the back bar — or so I thought. Then he brought our drinks in fancy glasses, just after I put in our order at the back bar.

The guy at the back bar had not pulled our shots, and was cool about my mistake. He gave us our pastries and an extra macaroon cookie for the trouble.

It turns out items ordered from the front bar are pretty expensive — not the $3 espresso posted on a sign when you walk in. That’s for the back bar. The bill for two double espresso shots ($8.50) and two pastries ($4 each) with tax was $17.60. I’m not used to a place with different prices for the same thing.

The espresso was fantastic, I’ll give them that. I mean, it was awesome. But Slipstream got knocked out of my coffeeneuring lineup this year with the funny business.

We did run into a BikeDC acquaintance there, Andrew, who works nearby. He told us the place had grown on him. I’ll give them another try sometime and pay more attention.

Hey it's Andrew at Slipstream.

Hey it’s Andrew at Slipstream.

The Wydown, farther up 14th Street, was a more straightforward high-end coffee experience. Get in line, place your order, pay, wait to hear your name called.

We locked up the bikes to planter fencing outside The Wydown.

We locked up the bikes to planter fencing outside The Wydown.

It’s a small modern place that was filled with folks on their Saturday morning outings. We had more espresso, which came quickly and was just great. It had more of a high-volume feel, space was tight, but you felt kinda cool going in there.

Rating: Four stars.

The Wydown. No surprises. All good.

The Wydown. No surprises. All good.

 

And so ends another fun year of coffeeneuring. Too bad. Can’t wait for 2015.

I’d like to thank my spouse MG, my parents, my teachers, all the gentle people at Friday Coffee Club (Rootchopper! Mr. T in DC! Bilsko!), and everybody else out there who get around by bike and keep these fine coffee establishments in business.

See you on the road and in line for espresso/coffee/tea/and hot chocolate, fellow coffeeneurs!

Schmidt Dynamo Hub & Edelux II: the TDR review

During the last few years, MG and I have seen a growing number of our randonneur brethren adopt generator hubs and connected lights for our night-time events. The trend started taking off in the 1990s when German company Schmidt (a.k.a. Wilfried Schmidt Maschinenbau) came out with their very high quality, low drag SON generator hub.

The early adopters in the rando community paired the SON hubs with focused halogen-bulb lights, which were good, but not quite as powerful as higher-power battery systems from NiteRider and others. The tradeoff in unlimited runtime was worth it for them.

I held off for a long time on a generator system. On the tandem, where we achieve high speeds on downhills, we need bright lights with a really long throw. I felt battery lights gave us what we needed.

At Paris-Brest-Paris with Ixon AA-battery lights. Courtesy Michael Hansmann.

At Paris-Brest-Paris with Ixon AA-battery lights. Courtesy Michael Hansmann.

The advances in LED technology have changed everything, and this year I started thinking about making the switch.

We moved to LED lights a few years ago via the powerful Ixon line of 4xAA-battery LED lights from German company Busch and Müller. Two of these on the handlebars (and a rapid battery recharger in our drop bag) got us through brevets and long randonnees, including Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011.

In the last couple of years new LED headlights for hub dynamos began throwing amazingly bright and focused light on the road.

Our friends with these lights were outshining us, and giving nary a thought about batteries beyond carrying a backup light.

The drag of the latest generation SON hubs with LED lights is so low that they run their lights all the time. Like motorcycle riders, the lighting is bright enough to give daytime drivers notice of a bike on the road instead of blending into the background.

Lane and his Supernova light. Courtesy MG.

Lane and his Supernova light. Courtesy MG.

Schmidt also slimmed down their hubs and came out with an ISO 6-bolt disk brake model. This grabbed my attention because we use disc brakes on our Co-Motion Java tandem.

The only holdup was the cost — about $750 for a built wheel (rim, spokes, labor, SON hub), a top-quality B&M or similar headlight and wiring, a tail light and shop labor.

The Start

This spring Erik Kugler, co-owner of the BicycleSPACE DC shop in Washington, approached us with an offer. He wanted to build some business for the shop in generator wheels and asked me if I’d buy one at a sale price and write about the experience.

Here's Erik. No lights on this one, yet.

Here’s Erik. No lights on this one, yet.

Erik didn’t ask me to write a positive review nor ask to see anything in advance. In fact, he has not brought it up since then. This is the first time he or anyone at BicycleSPACE will see the review.

So, with that disclaimer, here’s our take on our generator system after 3,075 miles ridden since installation in May.

We’ve ridden the wheel exclusively on all our tandem rides and run the light full time. Those include local jaunts such as the Seagull Century, overnight rides to Shepherdstown, W.V., and randonneur brevets in the Shenandoah Valley and Pennsylvania hills.

We took it on a 1,000-mile lightly loaded tour of high passes in Colorado in July with some gravel roads, and a 1,000-kilometer hilly randonnee in August, also in the Shenandoah.

Edelux II in the fading light to Kremmling, Colo. Courtesy MG.

Edelux II in the fading light to Kremmling, Colo. Courtesy MG.

The bottom line: this is a fantastic setup. The lighting is powerful and reliable. We’re converts.

The Process

First off, I’ll back up and describe our interactions with BicycleSPACE. They were uniformly pleasant and professional.

I worked with Tony P. on the sales side at the shop to put the package together. We chose our go-to tandem rim, the workhorse Velocity Chukker, and picked out the parts from Peter White Cycles, the main U.S. distributor of hi-performance German lighting systems.

The ever-friendly Tony P. got the order squared away.

The ever-friendly Tony P. got the order squared away.

We settled on the following spec:

— SON28 Polished silver 36-hole disk hub
— Velocity Chukker black 36-hole rim and silver spokes
— Schmidt Edelux II silver headlight
— Busch & Müller Secula Plus seatstay mount tail light
— front rack and handlebar mounts, wiring and connectors.

Schmidt has yet to make a 40-hole tandem disk hub. We’ve been using 36-hole front wheels for years without problems, so that was no setback.

The Schmidt 36-hole disk hub, in polished.

The Schmidt 36-hole disk hub, in polished.

There was some delay in availability of all the parts, however. It took about a month from our first conversation for everything to arrive at BicycleSPACE and for the building of the wheel to commence.

So, if you want the system for the winter darkness, start the process right away, just in case Peter is out of stock on something. But it’s also a great setup all year long — both as a daylight running light and a ready-to-go night light.

Tony kept in good contact with me throughout the process and answered all my questions. I felt like he was intent on getting the order right and was happy to confirm everything with me before we proceeded.

After the parts arrived, veteran mechanic and wheelbuilder Jerry and I had a good talk before he built the wheel. He understood it was for tandem use and that we regularly head for the hills, which puts added stress on wheels.

Once the wheel was built we took the tandem to the shop and left it there for fellow mechanic Dave to install everything. The wiring was the big challenge here, because the tandem is so long.

We needed a lot of extra wire, with quick-disconnects added, to reach the taillight while allowing us to separate the frame for airline travel via the built-in couplers.

Jerry and Dave. Excellent hands taking a break outside BicycleSPACE.

Jerry and Dave. Excellent hands taking a break outside BicycleSPACE.

The Results

Jerry built a beautiful wheel, straight and strong, and Dave did a clean and thorough job with the wiring. We had him mount the light on a handlebar mount to start. We also wanted to put it on our front rack if needed, and Dave left us enough extra cable from the hub to do either.

Picking up the bike at BicycleSPACE, a nice clean install.

Picking up the bike at BicycleSPACE, a nice clean install.

It took me awhile to settle on the right mounting point for the front light. To eliminate shadows from the front bag and front wheel, I moved it to the forward edge of the front rack. I was glad Dave bundled up some extra cable.

Mounted the front of our Nitto front rack.

Mounted the front of our Nitto front rack.

There was some vibration from the hub through the fork legs at first when braking. I found that I was not tightening the hub skewer enough. A little extra clamping force eliminated the vibration.

In terms of usability, we’re very pleased. Blown away would be more accurate, actually!

First off, we don’t sense any penalty in terms of rolling resistance from the hub. I can turn it off at the headlight and there’s no difference in our speed. The Schmidt folks have figured this out, folks.

I angled the headlight for a long and wide throw, giving up some near-distance intensity. It delivers a nice even beam that has the feel of the low beam on a car. The Edelux II gets up to full brightness very quickly, and then we have many yards of visibility ahead of us.

You can see see what I mean at Peter White’s site, where he compares headlight beams.

The one drawback to a light fixed to the bike is that it points straight ahead all the time, which isn’t the best for downhill turns. The Edelux has excellent full road coverage, but obviously can’t see around hard turns. I use a helmet light in the hills at night, which lets me see into the turns until the bike straightens out.

In terms of reliability, our system has been excellent. We’ve had no issues, even after disconnecting and reconnecting the cables for our Colorado trip and regularly disconnecting the hub to put the wheel into the car trunk. Both the front and rear lights have been rock-solid in the rain.

Lighting the way around our Colorado tour.

Lighting the way around our Colorado tour.

Wrap-Up

I won’t kid around: generator lighting isn’t cheap. But you’re getting more than just lighting. You’re getting peace of mind whether on the open road or riding in the city.

When we were invited out for dinner in Durango, Colo. by the guys at the bike shop, there was no wondering if our batteries were charged. The lighting front and rear was there at the ready and we just went.

During daytime riding I feel like drivers see us more readily. And at night, we have some of the brightest lights on the road.

Of course, we have the folks at BicycleSPACE on 7th Street Northwest to thank for making this a painless experience in getting set up. I would have spent hours trying to get the wiring just right and making mistakes. It was money well spent to have Dave complete the installation, and Jerry built us a wheel that has been problem free.

If you are on the fence about dynamo lighting, I would say the hub and headlight technology is there now to make the leap. You’ll be glad you did.

Mike R. with a dynamo setup on his Velo Orange. Courtesy MG.

Mike R. with a dynamo setup on his Velo Orange. Courtesy MG.

Comments? Please ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks again to Erik and the gang at BicycleSPACE.

Coffeeneuring, with Some Tea in the Shenandoah Valley

Coffeneuring this year has been a stop-start affair. My first five stops were on the first, third and fourth weekends of the coffeeneuring season, with the other two taken up with family visits. I enjoy those visits a lot, but I don’t always get on the bike when we’re hosting.

That’s made me appreciate the available coffeeneuring weekends all the more. I really like the coffeeneuring-both-days weekends. It give the weekend some destinations, and of course, the promise of a relaxing cafe visit.

Every year I try to go to new places for all my stops. It’s not always possible, but the goal seems worthy: a new destination, a new experience, a chance to find something great, by bike. This is very definition of coffeeneuring, in my book.

In this, the third of the seven required stops, I even strayed from espresso drinks into the world of gourmet tea, out of necessity.

Bike parking outside Earth and Tea Cafe

Bike parking outside Earth and Tea Cafe

Coffeeneur Stop 3: Earth and Tea Cafe, Harrisonburg, Va.
Oct. 18
Distance: 43 miles
Bike Friendly? Not really. No racks. There was a large sidewalk planter box outside that was big enough to lay the bike down on.
Rating: Three stars.

MG and I went to Harrisonburg last month to check in on some randonneur friends, Matt and Kurt, and get to know more about the bike scene. Harrisonburg is close by a lot of good paved and gravel back roads in the Massanutten Mountain area and toward the West Virginia line, and has an active mountain bike community.

We have always passed through on brevets and tours, so we wanted to go have a closer look around. We ended up taking two very pretty rides, one in the valley on Saturday and another on Sunday up towards the West Virgina line.

A gorgeous Sunday ride.

A gorgeous Sunday ride.

After our arrival on Saturday morning, we intended to have the we-don’t-really-know-much-about-espresso espresso drinks they make at the Artful Dodger, a funky student cafe on the downtown square. We’d been there before, it was OK. There isn’t much else for espresso in Harrisonburg.

It was not happening this time. We were on the tandem, which is always a handful to park. Then we got shoo’d off by one of the smoking-break employees from leaving the bike out front even though there were no customers out there. None.

We decided not to bother and took a chance on Earth and Tea Cafe, just off the town square. The vibe was totally mellow, with none of that nervous energy of coffee shops. There were lots of college town folks in there, all looking and talking groovy.

So, this is how tea works. At least you get a whole pot of the stuff.

So, this is how tea works. At least you get a whole pot of the stuff.

I ordered a slice of cake (I tend to get nauseous if I drink hot tea on an empty stomach) and chose the closest thing they had to espresso: a black tea called Double Chococcino. Their menu description — yes, they had a menu for tea — was simply “with chocolate cappuccino taste.”

What arrived looked like very weak coffee when I poured it out. I could see through it to the bottom of the cup. Warily I took a sip and found it had a sweet chocolatey taste and a bit of bite. With the cake I managed to drink the entire precious little pot.

I should not have underestimated that tea. It had a real caffeine kick. I was buzzing for an hour. The cake was pretty good as well. We ate it all.

Tea. Not Coffee. Hmmm.

Tea. Not Coffee. Hmmm.

Had I not been on the coffeeneuring hunt, I don’t think I would have tried Earth and Tea. But now that we’ve been there, I’ll probably go back. Maybe they will have some bike parking next time.

Riding with Matt H. near Massanutten Mountain

Riding with Matt H. near Massanutten Mountain

Coffeeneuring 2014: On the C&O Canal

My lovely spouse MG has again invited the world to participate in the 4th Annual Coffeeneuring Challenge, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

I love bicycles, I love espresso drinks. This challenge is perfect for me. Thanks MG!

This weekend I completed stops 1 and 2 during a bike trip up to Harpers Ferry, W.V. to support MG at the Freedom’s Run Marathon. She rode her bike up the C&O Canal Trail on Friday morning. I followed after work Friday on my Rivendell Atlantis, timing that just happened to coincide with a heavy rain front moving across the region.

I rode the W&OD Trail to Leesburg as night fell and the rain moved in. The downpour was pretty heavy at times; at least there was no lightning. After leaving Leesburg onto local roads, twice drivers asked me if I wanted a ride, but I declined.

Brunswick, almost there. Still raining.

Brunswick, almost there. Still raining.

The rain let up as I pedaled over to Waterford, Va. and then Lovettsville. I got there around 11:45 and saw a group of riders saddling up with lights blazing. They took off into the steady drizzle on a different road and I wondered who they were.

I crossed the Potomac River in Brunswick, then went up the C&O the six miles or so to Harpers Ferry, riding through some good sized puddles, but it wasn’t flooded. That was a relief. After re-crossing the river and climbing up a deserted High Street in Harpers Ferry, the hotel came into view about 12:45 a.m. Being a randonneur, this felt rather early to be indoors from a night ride.

Coffeeneur Stop 1: Lost Dog Coffee, Shepherdstown, W.V.
Oct. 4
Distance: 36 miles

On Saturday MG was out the hotel door early. I got up a little later and chased out on the marathon course up towards quaint Shepherdstown, W.V., about 11 miles away. After finding her on the C&O Canal and taking a few photos, I pointed the bike into Shepherdstown to Lost Dog. Two more river crossings!

MG riding her feet today.

MG riding her feet today.

The shop is pretty hippie but owner Garth makes a superior espresso and I got a quad with a pumpkin muffin. It was nearly 11 and this was my first caffeine of the day. I felt like I had been plugged into a soothing wall outlet. This is the kind of espresso I aspire to make at home.

Lost Dog Coffee. Coffeeneuring has begun!

Lost Dog Coffee. Coffeeneuring has begun!

Rating: Five Stars!

Re-animated, I saw MG finish her marathon — way to go! After visiting with our pals Kirstin (who also ran) and her husband Tom after the finish, MG took the shuttle bus back to Harpers Ferry.

MG finished, she got the medal.

MG finished, she got the medal.

I had lunch and another espresso and cookie at Lost Dog before riding to the hotel on the back roads on the West Virginia side of the river. The day was perfect, cool and sunny, and I even made a friend along the way.

This little horse was very curious!

This little horse was very curious!

Coffeeneur Stop 2: Baked and Wired, Washington, D.C.
Oct. 5
Distance: 67

More sun and cool temperatures greeted us on Sunday for the ride back to D.C., on the C&O Canal Trail. MG and I stopped at Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick. Their espresso isn’t that good but the latte’s are a good alternative. We had a second breakfast there, then made our way in dribs and drabs down the canal trail.

Not much to report. It was a gorgeous day. Until Great Falls we rode as we wished, with just scattered walkers, runners and other riders out on the trail — along with a few puddles, but not much. The usual pedestrian crowds slowed us near Great Falls, but otherwise it was a pleasant ride.

On the trail again.

On the trail again.

We like Baked and Wired when we come into Georgetown, though we’re getting increasingly tired with K Street, which is a mess on Sundays with drivers trying to park and bike riders using the Capital Crescent and C&O trails. After yelling at a cabbie making the obligatory blind U-turn right in front of us, B&W shone lit a beacon.

Espresso. Quiche. Cake. Yum.

Espresso. Quiche. Cake. Yum.

A long line waited for cupcake service but the coffee bar wait was much shorter. Our friend Ryan S. was coming out after his own coffeeneuring stop, but we were desperate for caffeine and calories and said just a quick hello.

B&W is one of those popular places that still lives up to the promise. The espresso is heavenly and we had our favorite treat, the pumpkin ginger cake. Both were just right. Go if you are in the area.

MG at Baked & Wired. Looking not tired.

MG at Baked & Wired. Looking not tired.

Me at Baked & Wired. Looking tired.

Me at Baked & Wired. Looking tired.

Rating: 5 Stars!

Epilogue: MG described our trip as a concept weekend that actually worked. She had a very strong combined trip and I got in some awesome coffeeneuring with her in spectacular early autumn weather. This was a memorable weekend.

DCR Many Rivers 600K Brevet: No two rides are the same

MG and I took a break from the longer brevets last year, but we didn’t think that would make much of a difference when we started the D.C. Randonneurs’ Many Rivers 600K brevet on Saturday in central Virginia.

Early morning over the soft hills toward the Blue Ridge.

Early morning over the soft hills toward the Blue Ridge.

Our approach would be the same as in the past: we’d try to complete the first 241-mile day by 11 p.m. and get back on the road by 3 a.m. for the 136-mile second day. We mostly expected the same results, meaning an early afternoon finish on Sunday.

Well! The good news is that we got around the double-loop course from Warrenton, Va. just fine, with a finish of 36:01. In randonneuring, the only goal that matters is completion within the time limit. For a 600K you get 40 hours, so, all good there.

But, our result is more than two hours slower than in 2012, when we rode the same course in 33:55, in much hotter weather. You’d think we’d maintain the same pace in the perfect springtime weather conditions we experienced on Saturday and Sunday, with moderate temperatures, light winds and dry air.

The difference came down to additional time off the bike, and a little bit slower pace.

In 2012 we rode 24:26 and had a rolling average of 15.5 mph. This year we rode 25:12 and had a rolling average of 15.1 mph.

That’s 46 minutes additional in the saddle and 80 minutes more stopped time — not much over 1 1/2 days. Still, in a pursuit based on time limits, randonneurs tend to think a lot about their time result, and we’re no different.

See all of our data and course tracks at Garmin Connect: Day 1 and Day 2.

I have a full photo set on Flickr as does MG. See mine and hers.

We’re still sorting it out, but we’ve got a couple of theories. In 2012 the ride was on June 9-10, which gave us more time in the spring to get in shape.

As I said, it was much warmer then — I recall Saturday temperatures were in the 90’s that year, compared to the 70’s this year. That made the Sunday predawn hours warmer. This year had a cold start both days in the 40s.

The other factor was second-day fatigue. All of our additional time and slower pace came on Sunday’s 136-mile loop to Fredericksburg and back. We returned to the start/finish hotel for the overnight stop at the same time as in 2012, about 11 p.m., but we spent more time in the hotel, and took more stops around the course. I think we re-started at least 30 minutes later, close to 4 a.m.

There was a mild headwind on the second half of the Sunday loop which also added to our time, though I can’t say how much.

So — enough with the data! The upside in all this was that we enjoyed some excellent companionship along with way, especially on Saturday. We teamed up with Brian Rowe, David Givens (both new to randonneuring) and Rick Rodeghier for the Saturday afternoon and evening run back to Warrenton.

Rick, David, Brian. Good folks.

Rick, David, Brian. Good folks.

All three were in good spirits and we enjoyed the fresh perspective of Brian and David. They and Rick were all on randonneuring bikes with 650b wheels and fenders, and held a good steady pace. We had a satisfying sit down dinner in Louisa, Va. at the Roma Italian restaurant (great service!).

What's missing from this bike? A front derailleur.

What’s missing from this bike? A front derailleur.

The night run to Warrenton was spectacular, despite the steady grinding ascent in the final miles, with a blazing sunset and lots of good conversation. Our new generator hub and lighting system (Schmidt front disk hub, Schmidt Edelux 2 and Secula Plus tail light) lit the way.

Mike Martin and John Mazur were also in the vicinity, and we ate dinner and rode some of the way with the ever-debonair Roger Hillas, whose front derailleur had broken. He calmly rode with the chain on his small ring and laughed it off as no big deal.

Waiting on a train.

Waiting on a train.

We joined up with them earlier at the Howardsville Store at mile 122, after tagging along with the fast folks for the first 70 miles until the bigger rolling hills near the Blue Ridge put us off the back. The Big Cat tandem can only do so much when the profile trends upwards.

Away in the distance, the front group rides off.

Away in the distance, the front group rides off.

The event organizer Bill Beck was there at Howardsville, taking photos, and we had fun joking around. Barry Benson, MG’s co-worker, arrived with her cycling gloves, which had fallen out of our rear bag. Barry gets a gold star.

Bill executed a perfect power slide to get the shot.

Bill executed a perfect power slide to get the shot.

It was always nice to see Bill. He makes us feel like rando-celebrities with his flattering shots and all-around good cheer.

Barry found MG's gloves on the course. Thanks Barry!

Barry found MG’s gloves on the course. Thanks Barry!

The other highlight of the morning was the espresso and gourmet sandwiches at the Green House Coffee in little Crozet, Va. where a group of us gathered (the speedy crowd chose other, more expedient establishments).

A welcome stop in Crozet.

A welcome stop in Crozet.

Randonneur yard sale in Crozet.

Randonneur yard sale in Crozet.

Mitch Potter told us a little about his tricked-out flat-bar Pivot 29er bike that he was riding in anticipation of installing big tires and riding the Tour Divide offroad race in the Rockies. It was quite the rig, with the snazzy 1×11 SRAM system, with a single chainring crank and a huge 42-tooth large rear cog.

Mitch on his Pivot.

Mitch on his Pivot.

A better shot of Mitch's bike. By MG.

A better shot of Mitch’s bike. By MG.

Sunday was another story, still a good one, but I was pretty shelled from Saturday and had the hardest time getting up. I finally arose at 2:45 a.m. after three hours sleep. Consequently our planned 3 a.m. departure ended up at 3:55 am, and we arrived in Fredericksburg, mile 288, after 8 a.m. — about four hours to cover 46 miles. I was dragging, and so was MG. We were consuming everything we had to get some energy going.

These espresso beans may have saved our ride.

These espresso beans may have saved our ride.

Mike Martin was again in our orbit. We got caught up at the first control of the day around dawn and talked about how tired our legs felt. After another stop at the second control on the outskirts of Fredericksburg (after something of a struggle to maintain momentum), we rolled into downtown in bright sun and immediately saw the Marine Corps Historic Half marathon taking place.

Historic Half Marathon underway in Fredericksburg, Va.

Historic Half Marathon underway in Fredericksburg, Va.

After cheering the runners for a few minutes I spied Hyperion Espresso, and so yet another half-hour passed off the bike as we revived ourselves with very fine espresso and muffins. This stop got us whole (despite some misgivings about stopping yet again) and back on the road in much better spirits.

The moment that turned our Sunday ride around.

The moment that turned our Sunday ride around.

At that moment Brian, David and John Mazur rolled through town. We caught up to them for the segment through the Fredericksburg Battlefield. Rick had been spied fixing a cable in the hotel parking lot when they left, so he was somewhere behind on the course. Hey Rick, we missed you!

John in the Frederickburg Battleground. Not on tandem this time.

John in the Frederickburg Battleground. Not on tandem this time.

MG and I decided we better get moving if we were ever going to finish without falling asleep on the bike. We pulled away after Spotsylvania, mile 317, to ride solo the rest of the day, tackling the pesky headwind. I had periods of saddle soreness and my left knee would hurt if we pushed too hard, and I started counting down the miles.

Randonneuring high life, in Spotsylvania.

Randonneuring high life, in Spotsylvania.

How far to the finish?

How far to the finish?

Almost there. Just 30 miles to go!

Almost there. Just 30 miles to go!

My eyes. My eyes.

My eyes. My eyes.

The route was intensely lovely, however, and we savored the verdant countryside views and forest lands in the final hilly miles near Warrenton. We again intersected with Mike, who was doggedly riding solo. I thought about how this event has us climbing into the town, a high point in the area, not once but twice. I guess it builds character.

Mike Martin leads us toward Warrenton.

Mike Martin leads us toward Warrenton.

After a somewhat serious push to get in to Warrenton by 4 p.m., we had to settle for a minute after the hour. Oh well! Our pal Lane G. was running the finish control at the Hampton Inn and got us checked in and had pizza waiting, with more arriving quickly — the two most important jobs when tired, hungry riders show up. Thanks Lane!

Lane checks us in. MG's got a pound of pollen in that eye.

Lane checks us in. MG’s got a pound of pollen in that eye.

MG is writing a post on our full randonneur series this year, so stay tuned for that at her fine blog, Chasing Mailboxes.

We made it. Still awake (barely) and still smiling. Photo by Lane G.

We made it. Still awake (barely) and still smiling. Photo by Lane G.

I also want to extend our thanks to DCR brevet administrator Nick Bull for all his work in getting the series organized, to Bill Beck for a well-run 600K, and Mike Binnix for keeping the food going in the overnight control room.

DCR Northern Exposure 400K: Back to the early days

MG and I rode the D.C. Randonneurs 400K brevet last Saturday, May 3 on the new Northern Exposure route from Frederick, Md. into south-central Pennsylvania, returning on the east side of Gettysburg.

The route was certainly new to MG, and most of the club, but for me and some other veterans it was a return to the old, fearsome Doubling Gap 400K from the 1990s. That one was a route to be respected: massive climbs, twisty descents, and lots and lots of short, sharp hills.

It was my first 400K, in 1997. I thought it would never end, but I got back to Frederick with a good group of veterans. Now I’m among the regulars, looking around at all the new folks. It’s always good to see first-timers.

This route would be much the same as the old one, but for the revamp DCR route designer Crista Borras deleted the anxiety-filled climb up Doubling Gap Road and made some other good changes. Doubling Gap was steep, shoulderless and straight with a guardrail, the summit visible the whole way, cars whizzing past. I don’t miss it.

What never gets easier is the middle-of-the-night starts. I’ve done the 4 a.m. start plenty of times, but my work has been particularly stressful this year, and I’ve had little time to think about the brevets. Saturday arrived way too fast and I worried about having a good ride.

Another rando adventure starts at a Waffle House. Courtesy Bill Beck.

Another rando adventure starts at a Waffle House. Courtesy Bill Beck.

Our friend and expert randonneur/photographer Bill Beck got this one of us. We ate at the Waffle House and despite being at once bleary and nervous, I was ready to go. MG was nervous too. That’s the way of the 400K, for most of us it’s the longest one-day ride of the year.

Our goal, generally, is to finish our 400K rides in 20 hours or less, by midnight if not sooner. That gets us off the road before the bars close and I start getting drowsy in the wee hours. To make that goal we have to start strong and keep moving. An honest challenge, as MG likes to say.

We almost beat the midnight hour, getting in at 12:07 am. Our riding time was 16:53, with 3:14 off the bike. That’s about 45 minutes more than our nominal target of an hour of stopping time per century.

See all of our data at my Garmin page. The rest of my photos are at my Flickr page.

The extra stopping time came at a rest stop at McDonald’s near the end of the ride, about 17 miles out in Thurmont, Md., for coffee. Our riding companion Matt H. of Harrisonburg, Va. needed some caffeine to stay awake, and we did too. That stop made for a safe finish, so no regrets there.

I’ll tell the rest of the story in photos.

Gathering at the Days Inn

Gathering at the Days Inn

Here we are, in a parking lot at 4 a.m., with a field of 45 riders. Spectacular weather is expected, but it sure is dark right now.

Leaving Frederick, last time we'd be all together

Leaving Frederick, last time we’d be all together

Rolling through downtown Frederick, Md. A split would quickly form on the way out of town as the faster riders made the most of easy riding until the first big climb at Thurmont, about an hour away.

No brevet is complete in Pennsylvania without a Sheetz stop.

No brevet is complete in Pennsylvania without a Sheetz stop.

We’ve made it over the first two major climbs and most everybody stopped at this Sheetz at mile 62, even though it was not an official control. It was strictly grab-and-go, but I got this photo of Paul D.’s Rivendell Hillborne bike. MG and I had coffee and ate sandwiches, and took a cheese sub with us to eat later in the ride.

Catching up to Mark and Damon

Catching up to Mark and Damon

For most of the day we rode with Matt, who was here without his pal Kurt R. We intersected Mark and Damon but otherwise saw few other participants.

Matt was good riding company and kept us entertained with tales of the bike scene in Harrisonsburg and with some good conversation starters, such “what was your first concert, and your most recent?” Mine were either Olivia Newton-John or the Doobie Brothers (mid-70s) and Kraftwerk (last month).

The grocery store at East Waterford, mile 108. Courtesy MG.

The grocery store at East Waterford, mile 108. Courtesy MG.

Our lunch stop came at mile 108 in East Waterford, Pa. We had a choice of the pizza place or the grocery store. The store had a deli counter, and made wonderful sandwiches on pretzel rolls. They also had free cake samples. Did I mention the free cake?

This little guy wanted to run with us.

This little guy wanted to run with us.

Southern Pennsylvania has fewer unleashed dogs compared to Virginia and West Virginia, but we did get chased hilariously for a few hundred yards.

Later in the afternoon we turned south and started climbing again.

Matt coming down from Sterrets Gap. Courtesy MG.

Matt coming down from Sterrets Gap. Courtesy MG.

This was typical of the day — Sterrets Gap near Carlisle, Pa.

Cameras! Cameras! Cameras! Courtesy MG.

Cameras! Cameras! Cameras! Courtesy MG.

MG got this shot of me and Matt.

Ultimate Obligatory Cow Photo

Ultimate Obligatory Cow Photo

The route was in the heart of dairy country. A few of us on the ride got this same obligatory cow photo shot.

MG was strong and sure all day.

MG was strong and sure all day.

Our teamwork over the years on the tandem has been pretty solid, in large part because MG is a strong finisher and keeps us moving as the day turns toward night. She takes interesting photos too. See her set from the ride at her Flickr page.

Storms blew in late in the afternoon but mostly missed us.

Storms blew in late in the afternoon but mostly missed us.

The predicted showers materialized before sundown. We avoided a soaking, but others did not.

I struggled with concentration, but got down the road in the end.

I struggled with concentration, but got down the road in the end.

Throughout the day I wondered about why we do these rides, especially as my legs and eyelids got heavier. These are typical thoughts during the 400K, which seems so daunting even if you’ve done a few before.

I’m grateful to MG and Matt for making the miles disappear, and by the finish it was all worth it. This is a tough course and I’m proud to say we completed it in good spirits.

My thanks for a successful completion go to MG, Matt and our fellow riders for getting out there with us. An additional and hearty thank-you goes to event organizers (and tandem riders) Cindy and John, and their helpers. They were encouraging, organized and had hot pizza and plenty of snacks at the ready when we arrived.

The 400K is a tough ride to run because of the long hours and overnight duties starting the riders and then waiting for the final finishers. Great job you two!

Next Saturday we cap off the spring randonneur season with the D.C. Randonneurs 600K brevet from Warrenton, Va. a double loop through the central part of the state. See you there?