Brooks Saddles & Tandem Randonneuring

MG and I have had very good experience with leather Brooks saddles on our single bikes. I have just one bike left without a Brooks, and that one is an older Selle Italia Flite XP. It was one of my last stops, along with the Avocet Men’s O2, on the brevet saddle trail before going all Brooks, all the time. Both are about as wide as a Brooks B17, at least in usable area. I left the Flite XP on the Cannondale tandem that I ride around town with my daughter Super D.

(By the way, this last weekend Super D started riding her single bike all by herself. It was fun to watch the light bulb turn on. We all “got it” that first time and I still remember the feeling — so very nice. I’ll post about her bike soon — a refurbished 90s-era kids Specialized Rockhopper with 24″ wheels and single-speed drivetrain.)

Back to the saddle story. MG and I have worn out antique brown sprung Champion Flyer saddles this spring. We have about 1,500 miles on them and hers is badly sagged, mine is not so bad but is no longer comfortable. We used only Brooks Proofide on them and kept them covered in the rain, save for about 20 miles this last Saturday when we used the Brooks saddle covers that are not waterproof. We put grocery store bags under the Brooks covers when we got to a rest stop.

Here are some photos.

MG\'s Champion Flyer S, saggedMG’s Champion Flyer S, sagged

Ed\'s Men\'s Champion FlyerEd’s Men’s Champion Flyer, also sagged

The Flyer’s springs are stiff but work well for us. We use them on our Bike Fridays, which have some kick to them due to the small wheels. MG found hers so good that she had me remove the Thudbuster suspension post and unsprung B17 from the tandem and install the Flyer alone.

We know at least one other tandem team that uses Brooks saddles and has had mixed results, so they are not for everyone. Our dealer is going to send ours back to Brooks for inspection. Leather is a natural product and we’re not complaining too much here. Maybe the cows did not produce tandem-suitable hides. We’ll let you know how it works out.


Sun and Fun at the N.C. 400K

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

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

John Bovine (l) and John Morris leading the start

See my full Flickr set or see the Slideshow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan and MG at the TurnaroundDan and MG at the Turnaround

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

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

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

Supposed to Read 177 milesSupposed to Read 177 miles

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

MG and Ed at SeagroveMG and Ed at Seagrove

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

Lin gives the Randonneur SaluteLin gives the Randonneur Salute

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

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

Going GPS, Tikit Update and Long Haul Trucker

It was a long week at work and I let TDR slide, which I so dislike. Business first, play later; I don’t make the rules. MG and I did not ride last weekend nor this one, though she came out on her single today to meet me and Super D on the tandem for breakfast at Luna Cafe and Grill at Dupont Circle in the district before a visit to Eastern Market to peruse the outdoor vendors.

We found an interesting Bianchi Randonneur bike from the ’80s, built in Japan with Suntour Mountech derailleurs, half-step gearing and good lugwork. Either of us could have ridden it, but this one needed a home where it would be a prize and not one of the stable.

Super D and MG with Bianchi RandonneurSuper D and MG with Bianchi Randonneur

Bianchi RandonneurBianchi Randonneur

MG left us to go check out the Surly Long Haul Trucker complete bike. The built bike is priced under $1,000 and comes with Shimano XT hubs, Shimano bar end shifters, Sugino XD crankset and good complementary parts. She’s been looking for something to replace her Novara Randonnee for town hauling. The Randonee fits her well but is something of a tank. MG says it has no feel. While she normally rides 56-57cm bikes, she found she was a better fit on the 54cm LHT, which uses 26″/559mm wheels. Huh. Anyway, keep tuned to this space for more on the LHT.

Meanwhile, check out her mini-review of the Bike Friday Tikit folding bike at Vik’s Tikit Blog. He requested a little more than we posted last week on TDR and MG has good things to say. The only thing she’s found wanting is the cheapo SRAM twist shifter, which is incredibly hard to turn. I guess the idea is that one doesn’t use it very often. I’m going to install a thumbshifter.

Last week Bill Beck and friends rode the ROMA 400K out of Lebanon Church, Va. Fortunately no Biblical weather this time. See his Flickr set or the Slideshow.

During our brevet break I’ve decided to spend even more time at the computer by buying a Garmin Vista HCx GPS unit. My GPS buddies said it offered the best combination of screen, expandable memory, battery life, weight and price of the Garmin lineup (especially compared to the cycling-specific Garmin models), though it takes up more real estate on the bars.

Vista HCxGarmin Vista HCx

I resisted buying a GPS until we started riding brevets in other areas with unfamiliar roads. While we haven’t had a problem yet, it will be nice to know more about the area we are riding through and have some help staying on course. It will get its first test at the North Carolina Randonneurs 400K this coming Saturday.

The downside is that you have to make up a route at home before the event if you want turn-by-turn routing. It’s tedious work but it forces you to learn the route a little and that’s a good thing. The dirty little secret about GPS routing is that you can’t just input a cue sheet and have it give you turn-by-turn directions exactly as you want. You have to input enough waypoints and via points on your home computer to force it to stay on route and not route you off-course. I’ve posted Nick Bull’s handy-dandy “How to Train Your GPS” primer Here.

I’ll report back on our progress. When fellow randonneur David Lippke said “Welcome to GPS hell” when I started asking lots of questions about GPS randonneuring, I think he was kidding. I think.

Thursday Commuteblogging: MG’s Bike Friday Tikit and Keen Cycling Sandals

Some of us just have more style on the bike. I make no claims. I ride Sidi shoes and Pearl Izumi shorts, just like everybody else, though I’ve settled on wool jersies over poly.

MG, on the other hand, long ago figured out how to find clothes that look great on and off the bike. She will find a pair of capri pants at REI on sale and they’ll work perfectly. She can also pull off the cool look on a folder, in this case her brand new Bike Friday Tikit folding bicycle.

MG on her New TikitMG on the Custis Trail

MG loves this bike because she can fold it up and roll it into her building, which does not allow full size bicycles into the offices. Rather than leave it locked in the parking garage, she puts it under her desk! While riding, it feels normal. That’s high praise for a folder with 16-inch wheels.

MG and Tikit at the World War II MemorialMG and Tikit at the World War II Memorial

MG is also happy with her new Keen cycling sandals. Unlike Shimano and Lake, they look and feel less bulky and still manage to include a stiff cycling sole and front toe protection. MG reports that she has yet to take them on a century, but around town they feel good.

Styling new Keen Cycling SandalsStyling new Keen Cycling Sandals

Keen sandal soleKeen sandal sole

I’ve put together a Flickr set of Tikit and Keen photos. See them Here or see the Slideshow.

My Rivendell Bleriot, MG\'s TikitMy Rivendell Bleriot, MG’s Tikit

Thursday Commuteblogging: Bike Friday Edition

As some of you have figured out, MG and I like to meet after work on the Pennsylvania Avenue plaza at the White House. We get a chance to talk without all the urban car traffic and check out the parade of bike commuters passing by. And, we might get a visit from Squirrel Buddy. Remember when he climbed my back wheel? On Tuesday he came over to say hi again.

Squirrel BuddySquirrel Buddy

Just then we saw Blake Rubin riding by on his custom color Bike Friday Pocket Rocket. Not being shy, we called out and he graciously stopped to show us his new steed.

Blake and His Bike FridayBlake and His Bike Friday

Blake bought it to do a little of everything: commute, countryside rides, and travel to Philly and abroad.

The color scheme is wild, in a cool way. The build is pretty standard Bike Friday, in that the Friday folks really like lower-end Shimano when they are not installing Sun Race hubs — shudder.

Blake went with the Shimano Capreo 9-tooth cog rear hub, which lets you get away with normal size chainrings instead of the big 58-tooth outer rings MG and I use on our PRs. Blake splurged for a King headset. Nice.

Here are some more photos. Hopefully we’ll see Blake out on a brevet one of these days.

Cane Creek lever, bar end shiftersCane Creek lever, bar end shifters

Front fork, King headsetFront fork, King headset

Shimano Capreo rear hub, folding rackShimano Capreo rear hub, folding rack

Fleche Weekend Tales and Pictures

UPDATE: Bill Beck has posted neat photos of the Sunday morning finish. See them at his Flickr page or check out a captioned slide show Here.

The traditional Easter fleche events took place this weekend, with D.C. randonneurs taking up the challenge all along the Eastern seaboard. Starting out, we have photos of the “Team Uncorked” organized by Steve Ashurst (sans Lynn Ho, who, like yours truly, could not ride this weekend). Steve recruited TDR’s own MG, James Houck, Mike Granger and Michael Rowny. They rode a modified circuit route from Arlington, Va. to Shepherdstown, W.V., Gettysburg, Pa., Frederick, Md, down to D.C. and back to Arlington.

Team UncorkedTeam Uncorked, courtesy Bill Beck: James, Steve, Michael, Mike, MG

Michael Rowny at the Gettysburg dinerMichael Rowny at the Gettysburg diner

Running short on time, but not on miles, they used a northwest D.C. McDonald’s as a finish control and rode the last four miles to the official finish as something of a non-optional cool-down ride. They fought through headwinds much of the day and a couple of freezing rain downpours, then subfreezing overnight temperatures, to finish with their team intact.

Steve has posted a Motion Based graph and map and his photos of the adventure.

MG has posted her photos at Ed’s Flickr page.

James plays with MG’s Bike FridayJames plays with MG’s Bike Friday

Two other teams controlled in Sunday morning, including the “Blue Minus Two” team of Nick Bull, Tom Reeder, Fred Robbins, Alex Sanchez and Mike Desmond. They rode from Arlington out to Purcellville, Va., then southwest to Madison, Va., then northeast back to Arlington.

Team Blue Minus TwoTeam Blue Minus Two: Game Faces Intact! Alex, Fred, Nick, Tom and Mike (courtesy Bill Beck)

The “Fleche Pedalers” team of Kelly Smith and Mary Crawley on tandem with Maile Neel, Lowell Grubbs, Lara Sullivan and Carol Bell had a fun ride from Buchanan, Va.

Fleche Pedalers TeamFleche Pedalers Team, courtesy Maile Neel

Carol and Lowell at the FinishCarol and Lowell, courtesy Bill Beck

Maile has posted a photo essay with comments at her Flickr page.

Here’s a quick roundup from Mary about the “Fleche Pedalers” team.

Hi all,

We had a great team and a great ride. The Fleche Pedalers were: Captain Maile Neel, Lowell Grubb, Lara Sullivan, Carol Bell, and Kelly Smith and moi en tandem. We took on the cold (it got down to about 30 degrees!) and the headwinds, to ride from Buchanan VA to Arlington VA, from 8 a.m. Saturday morning until 8 a.m. Sunday morning, March 22 and 23. Our total mileage was 237.91. We spent 16 hours 38mins on the bikes, and our average speed was 14.3 mph.

The “NC/DC Team” paired locals Lynn Kristianson & Bob Sheldon (on tandem) and Lothar Hennighausen with North Carolina Randonneurs’ Mike Dayton, Jerry Phelps and Byron Morton for a 240-mile jaunt Friday from Raleigh to Ocean Isle, N.C. For them, blue skies, warmer temperatures and fine dining. See the story at the Research Trailer Park blog.

Mark Vinette’s “Team Friday Night” finished Saturday morning. Here’s his report:

Hi All,

I am happy to report that Team Friday Night Fleche, consisting of George Winkert, Dave Goodwin, Ron Tosh, Craig Duck and myself sucessfully completed our Fleche at 0700 on Saturday. We had beautiful full sun all day Saturday, with highs in the low 60’s, but NW/WNW headwinds of ~ 15 mph for the first 10 hrs/100 miles from Chez Winkert to Shippensburg, PA. The wind died, the roads flattened and the rain never showed for the ride SE down the Cumberland Valley to Williamsport, MD. The full moon even came out for a few hours during the ride over Gapland and through historic Waterford, VA to the WO&D in Leesburg.

Low temps barely dipped into the 30’s as visions of the Amphora Diner danced in our heads. Alas, we were just barely too slow to take advantage of this 22 hr control and settled for her poor step-sister, milling around the restroomless Reston 7-11 until 0500. Motivated power riding brought us to our super secret Starbucks Re-Group spot where we enjoyed a 15 min coffee break before we finished.

Matt was at the Key Bridge Marriott to greet us and sign us in. Sadly, there was no sign of the NC Fleche Team, coming in from Lynchburg, VA and scheduled to finish at 0700 as well. Matt had seen them out on the roads of western VA during the day on Friday doing well and was hoping they had finish controlled at another location, although their planned route was not much over the min distance. (Editors note: this was the group of Branson Kimball, “The Unretourables.”)

The Rando Gods were smiling on our team for our one major incident: George’s rear Chris King Hub totally and catastophically failed in Gettysburg within a block of the only bike shop on our route, while it was open and at the beginning of a planned 1 hr lunch stop. The shop mechanic actually had a used King freehub, which failed to correct the problem, so George worked a deal to rent his personal DT Swiss rear wheel for the remainder of the ride! We ordered George lunch, lounged around the Perkins and got on the road only 20 min behind schedule. From that point on I knew we were going to make it.


Drew Roth gave the fleche thing another go this year as well, but with just three riders, “Team Torque” had to stop when one of them developed sore knees. See his report at the Vicious Circle blog.

Wednesday Commuteblogging: Daylight Savings Edition

WCB comes a day late. For some reason I’ve been a little slow all week, which I blame on Daylight Savings Time. We set the clocks forward earlier than ever this year due to a new law that shortened the period of standard time.

We’ve had our first hint of spring, with temperatures in the 50s and low 60s on some days. Add the evening daylight and downtown D.C. has come alive. The Dusty Bike Crowd is out in force — you know, bikes freshly out of the garage for the first time all year, bare legs, no lights after dusk — so we have to watch out on the paths. Still, it’s good to see more and more people on bikes. Bike usage is definitely growing from what MG and I can see.

This week I round up some downtown views.

Here’s MG at Swing’s Coffee this week. The coffee’s strong and atmosphere mellow at our favorite old-timey weekday coffee stop.

MG at Swing’s CoffeeMG at Swing’s Coffee

After work, MG and I like to meet on the Pennsylvania Avenue Plaza north of the White House:
MG on the White House PlazaMG on the White House Plaza

I also captured some neat bikes on my cell phone camera.

An Independent Fabrications Tourer:
IF Tourer Downtown DC IF Tourer Headtube IF Tourer Rear View

Two Bike Fridays:

Bike Fridays #1Bike Friday #2

Finally, this cute pup outside Whole Foods on P Street NW:
Whole Foods Dog

Wednesday Commuteblogging — Tikit Edition

This week’s installment brings us Kirk, who recently moved to D.C. from the Berkeley area in California. He is here with his Tikit, the new folder from Bike Friday. He was walking through Eastern Market on Saturday when I ran into him on an outing with MG, Super D, Comics DC blog author Mike Rhode, and his daughter Mighty C. Kirk showed us the bike’s quick fold feature, which does not require throwing any levers — just bop the seat forward from behind, which releases cables holding the head mast upright, and then grab the handle behind the cranks and lift.

Kirk and his TikitKirk and his Tikit

Bike Friday created the Tikit to serve a different purpose than the traditional Friday, which is designed more to be a packable travel bike rather than a true folder. The Tikit has smaller (moreso) 16-inch wheels, where Fridays generally have two flavors of 20″ wheels. The Tikit is also a little less rigid, which Kirk confirmed. Kirk said he was used to seeing Friday commuters relatively often in the Bay Area, but not much out here. MG and I commute on our Pocket Rockets from time to time, and I see a few folks coming across the Memorial Bridge, but he’s right, they are not that prevalent. Yet.

Kirk with his Tikit, Folded.Kirk with his Tikit, Folded.

The Tikit sports some neatly bent metal.The Tikit sports some neatly bent metal.