Capped off a fine birthday week by joining about a 100 new and old
randonneurs on the 2013 SF Randonneurs Fall Populaire. Starting in San
Fransisco’s Crissy Field, we headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge,
hopped over a hill or two and looped out around China Camp Village
before heading westward (back into a mild headwind and increasing fog)
to the most distant control at Nicasio. Then headed back through the
San Geronimo Valley to Fairfax and the obscure but direct route back to
San Francisco. Course was about 70 miles, punctuated by appropriate
stops for controls and caloric intake.
Had spent a too-long
chunk of Friday running down some technical anomalies on the Quickbeam.
The chain was too worn to trust for the course and after removing it, I
realized what a thought was a bent guard ring proved to be a more
ingrained issue. I’m still not completely sure of the cause, but the
whole arm/spider has a bit of a wobble to it. The working theory had
been a bent BB spindle, found that the same arm wiggled no matter which
bicycle it was mounted on (had stripped off the cranks from the
Hilsen, assuming I’d be swapping the BB over). Cursed and pondered and
decided to clean up the Hilsen and swap over the saddle from the QB.
And the Hilsen ended up in a nicely stripped down mode - with the
recently cleaned and rewaxed Baggins Banana Bag attached, it would hold
my ritual two-tubes-two-patch-kits offering for any brevet ride, as well
as appropriate gear for a mild, mid-September ride. So, all that
remained was getting up, getting the dogs walked and fed, and
hightailing it into the city for the ride.
Which pretty much is
where I started - sipping strong coffee from a thermos cup as riders
gathered in the fog on the generally unpopulated East Beach at Crissy
Field. I’d arrived past some significant parking infrastructure -
mobile gates and grates and cones and hi-viz folks with flags and
flashlights. No, the Populaire does not typically generate that much
traffic, but they’ve been racing these sail-driven projectiles within
yards of the shore over the past couple weeks, and in another few hours,
parking would become absolutely nonexistent.
Signed in and got
my card. Realized I had absoutely nothing to write with - DOH! - so I
would be relying on the kindness of others to supply a pen at the
Nicasio Info Control. After returning the coffee rental, I saw that a
larger pack had amassed, and RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) Rob
Hawks welcomed the new riders (about half the group) and led us in our
pledge “not to do anything stupid” before sending us out on the course.
Just about that time, I darned near stepped on ride buddy JimG
(yojimg.net) and we greeted one another warmly. He was anticpating the
inaugural ride on his Box Dog Bikes Pelican.
Of course, we
immediately got separated as everyone picked up their bikes and wove
their way to the road. I had decided to under-do things for the first
bits, as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel. For some reason, the switch from
fixed-gear (the Quickbeam) to a many-geared-coastable setup can mean a
very clunky first ride, as I overdo it in the big gears and feel a loss
of momentum when climbing. And I also realized it was probably my
longest ride of the year so far. At least I’d managed a couple of 50+
rides on the QB, even though some of the steeper climbs were prone to
cussing and stopping.
Rolled up to the bridge with a variety of
SF Jerseyed folks and well-appointed rigs. Counted at least 3 or 4
Hilsens without even looking for them. Coughed and woke up and worked
my way over the span and down into Sausalito with a minimum of extra
Seemed to just make every yellow light on Bridgeway, which put
me alone along the Mill Valley Bike Path to the base of the first hill.
But as the light turned green JimG and a gang of folks joined me. The
Camino Alto hill kind of worked out the kinks, and I found some comfort
climbing seated, which is not generally an option afforded by riding
fixed. Then buzzed down the descent while thanking the density of my
bones. Caught up to the JimG group and promptly lost them on the climb
to San Rafael, but by then I was feeling pretty good on the bike, almost
like someone had flipped a switch. As we headed around China Camp to
the first control, I managed to tack onto a triplet-led (y’know, like a
tandem but built for three) train and boogied along happily. Fell back
in with JimG and we found a mutually compatible pace, so we rolled to
the first control, had RBA Rob sign/timestamp our cards and headed
As we pressed slightly uphill and upwind in Lucas
Valley, JimG admitted he hadn’t eaten anything for a while (turned out
to be dinner or breakfast, so… yeah.) We deli-stopped and stretched
out, chatted with a rider (whose name I forgot) on a custom ~75 cm frame
and watched a few pods of riders work their way up the valley. The
chairs were in the warm sun, blocked from the cool wind by the building,
and it was tempting just to enjoy the warm offerings of the morning.
But, we figured the miles wouldn’t ride themselves, and remounted after a
15 minute break for food and drink.
Climbed to Big Rock Ridge
and collected a couple of other riders, then spread out once again on
the long steady down valley run to Nicasio. At the store, the
randonneurs had arrived, ordering sandwiches, buying drinks and seeking
the answer to the Information Control question. Yes. I did have to
borrow a pen.
Since the weather was still overcast and windily
cool, we set off again. JimG still seemed at a bit of caloric deficit
but we plugged along, picking up a few riders and benefitting from the
energy as our group swelled and other riders joined us from behind. The
climb out of Nicasio to the San Geronimo valley spread us out again,
but we swelled back up to 8-10 riders as we enjoyed the now-tailwind
towards the White’s Hill descent to Fairfax.
The sun greeted us
in town, and JimG and I peeled off to honor the siren song of Java
Hut. Strong coffee and gooey pastries awaited. But, even better, they
had broadened their offerings of late to include breakfast burritos.
Mmmmmm. Potato, egg, black beans for me and the simple cheese/egg
muffin for JimG. Such caloric density perked him up (as did the iced
coffee) and we hummed our way back to the start. Got to help with a
small roadside repair (rattling fender) for another SFR member. Met a
few new randonneurs on the final miles to the last climb up from
Sausalito and then went by everyone in the world who seemed to have
shoehorned themselves to a vantage point to watch the sailboat race.
Dodging a few errant pedestrians and the expected rental bike
erraticness, we dropped to the final control, were greeted with cheers
and had always-smiling Carlos D. log in our return and verify our
Done, we found plates of food and fine camaraderie! And I was happy to feel much better than I thought I would.
My photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclofiend/sets/72157635540840952/
More photos of pretty much everyone on course - courtesy of Deb Ford - http://goo.gl/H8UBBL
Rough Route Map - http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1798411
I’m rewriting this a day later. Mostly, because I really don’t want it to sound like a rant. The simple truth is that etiquette is a slippery topic in this world today, and it tends to slide like a frozen salmon off to the side of things.
The problem is that etiquette itself can be way overdone, and leads to things like 17 utensils for the 6 courses of an aristocratic meal at the estate. In other words, it tends to be a self-reinforcing prison itself.
What I’m really speaking about is trail etiquette. Manners. Awareness of other users. Being able to place oneself in the shoes of another. See the world through their eyes.
Not saying we all have to agree, but it’s helpful to realize ours is not the only boat on the water.
I’d been riding east for a while, into a cooling headwind. Both to regain a little core heat and the fact that I seldom miss an opportunity to divert onto trails, I nudged the Quickbeam onto the lower trails at China Camp, much against my better judgement. You see, it was about 11 am, and that has always been dead center in the “magic hours”.
This is something I’m not sure I’ve written about before, but my long-held belief is that on Saturday/Sunday between the hours of 10 am and noon, on any trail system in general and the China Camp State Park trails in particular is high tide for bad behaviour. It’s best to avoid things during this time. Something about how long it takes everyone to descend from out of the area via auto combined with the need for blowing out the workweek.
I’d much rather roll the trails at daybreak or sunset midweek, when you can find turkeys and stunning displays of light and shadow. But, here I was and the trails did call. So, diverting past a few groups of Mountain Dewbies and folks tinkering with heavy hinged bicycles, I ambled onto the dirt.
Now, even on the weekends, trail users do disperse onto the options pretty well, and though I did hear some chatter there weren’t any clusters. I chatted with a couple hikers. Enjoyed the carpets of deep red Indian Paintbrush which had bloomed everywhere the sun reached. Meandered and passed a couple single riders.
Then the onslaught began. Couple of brisk pass-bys from the other direction with nary an acknowledgement of my existence. Adults who didn’t even say “hey” back. Followed by a few kids - who were actually very well mannered, both announcing my appearance (”rider up!”) and mitigating their speed and direction. Then the wagon train hit - easily 20-plus riders in nose-to-tail position, cruising my way and having no intention of yielding trail. Many jerseys from a well-rostered “Trails Coalition” were in evidence, but manners, not so much.
It didn’t really bug me too much. I know the dynamics of groups and when you are rolling in a pack, it can be dangerous to suddenly slow or stop. And they weren’t at race pace to be sure. It’s also easy to feel safe and protected, trusting the rider in front of you to pass back info about trail conditions and other users.
Except this group was as mute as they come. And I could see on the other side of the horseshoe-shaped bit of trail that some hikers had been similarly pinned down. The express train passed and I rolled back onto the trail. Jockeyed past a couple more 5-10 rider oncoming groups and eased up to the hikers. We would be be spilled out onto a wide, open parking lot area in another 30 meters, so I eased up and followed them. We all made it to the bridge which ends the trail, where one rider patiently waited for our exit and a couple others trails-ed a bit in the parking lot so as not to create a bottleneck.
I have no idea why the fourth guy decided that was a perfect time to roll onto the bridge and pass us. The bridge is reasonably narrow - though enough room to pass two bikes if both pay attention. But it was a stupid, needless breach of trail etiquette. More so since it was obvious that the two hikers in front of me were a little older. Even more so since there were three riders waiting for us to exit. Which took all of another second.
So, yes. I did ask him the general question, “What the HELL?” and pointed out he could have shown a little courtesy and waited a second. Since I tend to ask questions in three, I may have also asked him what the heck he was in such a hurry for.
Generally disgusted, I rolled over to the restroom and upon my egress there found the hikers in close proximity. Took a moment to apologize for the behaviour of that fellow and we chatted a bit - since they’d been speaking Danish on the trail and I’m always on the prowl looking to hone my accents. We had a nice little chat, enjoyed the excitement of a small girl who was riding for the first time without training wheels. Had the opportunity to assure them that, yes, you could ride the trails with smooth, small-seeming (i.e. not monster-truck) tires. We all agreed that we were dead-center in the worst possible time to enjoy these trails.
But, I really didn’t think I should have to play ombudsman for the bicycle users on those trails. Problem is that I have a bit of a proprietary feeling for the park. It’s close enough that I ride there a lot, throughout the year, for many years. I’ve broken down the edges of water-filled potholes in the winter to let them drain and put branches over inopportune
short cuts to discourage further use. It has been great to see the FOCC group come together to insure funding for this special resource. What’s funny is that it seems that this interlude took place during a “Gala” ride for a trails coalition.
Easily 98% of the time, things are good and users are aware and attentive. The very small percentage of times is what becomes the bad press and tools to close things down. This is as important to solo riders So, if you are planning a group outing - anything more than you and (s)he and thee - think about these guidelines:
Know Your Rights! (which suddenly brought this into my brain - not really the most memorable Clash song.)
Bikes yield to Hikers
Bikes yield to Horses
Uphill traffic has the right of way.
So, if you see hikers coming towards you. Slow. Be ready to stop. Make eye contact and pay attention to body language. Most hikers do not understand that we may have the balance and skill to remain motionless if our feet aren’t on the ground. If the hiker yields their right of way to you, thank them. Because they yielded their right-of-way to you.
The uphill thing - c’mon, it’s common sense. It’s harder for me to regain momentum as an uphill rider than it is for you to access gravity on a restart.
Spread Out! (with a tip o’ the voice to Moe Howard)
Three is good. Five is a lot. More is a train. If you have a group of 20 riders, break it up. Let different groups lead a section. But, particularly to hikers, any large group of riders on tight trails is like standing on the edge of the station platform while the express train screams past.
Make Some Noise! (No. There will not be a Quiet Riot link here.)
Here’s something to try. Next time you go out with a friend on the trails, start walking your bike on a narrow trail while they wait. Have them shove off a couple minutes later and roll up on you (without coasting) without announcing their presence until they are a couple feet behind you. Yes, I’ll wait while you clean your shorts. Bikes are quiet, eh? (Well, it is one of really good public services provided by squeaky full-suspension bikes with squawky disc brakes…extremely audible trail announcements.)
Now, put two hikers talking loudly together, or a runner with a set of headphones and what little chance they had of noticing your arrival is totally gone.
Whistle. Use a bell. Sing. Snap your brake levers. Particularly at blind corners. Let the world know you are there.
This is different than general announcement noise making. Talk to people. Let them know you are really a human in there. It’s harder to hold a grudge against someone who lets you know they love the weather, or saw a wild turkey, or are enjoying the wildflowers. Be a human. To me when I’m riding - especially if I say “hey there!” to you - and to other trail users. If you have to wait at the side of a trail for a human centipede of hikers to amble past, see if you can make a few of them laugh.
I get it on the roadways, where you can’t always be heard over traffic and there’s still the stigma of roadie-ism, where for some stick up the chamois reason it’s uncool to wave. But, if you and I are the only people on a trail, you really have to try to ignore me. Makes me wonder why you want to put so much effort into that act.
That’s it for now. Enjoy the ride!
That worked ok, y’know? One of those spur-o-the-moment thoughts that I just had to honor. Ride every day in February. No mileage goal. Just the promise of putting the butt on the saddle every day - even if it was 11:45 pm and I twiddled around the block. Lots of specific, internal reasons for that, but mostly to break some habits of inaction which were hardening and regain facility with going from work to ride within 10 minutes.
Getting back to the practice.
February Mileage: 358 miles
Bike Mileage through February: 554 miles
Just one of those stupid spur of the moment ideas. One of those choices of chance designed to spur not a specific outcome but a change of habit. Maybe a change of base assumptions or a re-approach to a way of working. You have to trust impulses now and again. Give into chance and honor slightly harebrained schemes or you sink into a slightly musty and dour sameness.
I’ve mentioned before that the body is lazy. Works just enough to make itself strong enough to deal with the daily stress it encounters. You dig ditches? You push paper? You make verbal sense of things over a microphone? You do 6 sets of free weight bench presses every other day. If the stress remains the same on a consistent basis, you form against it and the unneeded bits wither and die.
Basically, you take a “set”. Strong and resilient in one direction only, while that which supports you becomes a bit frail.
I think the brain is the same way buoy get lulled into a way of approaching things. The rote approach. So how do you shake tho be up enough to keep it vital. To keep your brain engaged and always asking “what’s next?”
It’s why we take a trail we’ve never ridden, or put together a bike in a different way. Deep down we know that we remain alive and vibrant only when we shake things up a bit.
Which is more or less why, on the second of this month, as I rode for the second day straight, it seemed obvious to pull a 28-dayer. Ride once each day for every day in February. No mileage goal. Just on a bike for a bit, with any distance acceptable. (Though since the levee gate is a mile away, and that’s always been my de facto log-a-ride ride, let’s say two miles on a ride will be the minimum…)
There’s certainly precedent for this - the whole April = 30DaysOfBiking meme which popped up a few years ago. I did it then and it’s a nice excuse to get out and ride when things are warming up and spring is in the air. Maybe it is cheating to use a shorter month, but then again, February weather can be varied.
But, that is really starting to parse the whole idea a little too much.
Fact: I have not been riding enough. Fact: I’m out of the habit of daily commuting/riding (being as my commute is generally under the roof of the same structure), and as I mentioned recently, this is forcing me to relearn the habit of how to get out of the house quickly.
It’s probably just the way my brain folds, but that’s what I’m doing this month.
A more elegant solution has been teed up by MG o’er at Chasing Mailboxes D.C. She has opened up the 2013 Errandonee, beginning this weekend on Saturday, February 9th. Wander yonder to get more info, but with a bit more panache and formality than my little endeavour, MG has tasks and destinations to be covered and logged, along with a small bit of paperwork to include.
First off, let me say that it’s nice to have a January with mileage. Last year was zero nada zilch bupkiss zippo for me. And I’ll just bypass the whole issue of what weather wimps we in California actually are.
Since I’m actually posting this on February 1st, I can at least state that I’m one-for-one in my suddenly determined quest to ride 28 days in February. A short errand for the first time in about a week, and it would seem that I didn’t forget how to ride a bicycle in the meantime.
Actually, January was going well, but we had a short, sharp little bug rumble through the house last week. Enough to keep me reasonably horizontal when I wasn’t on task with projects, which seemed to suck all of the excess energy up for last weekend and this week. Ahhh well, back on the bike just in time for a warming trend.
Anyway - didn’t quite notch 200, and only was on the bike 11 times. But, that’s out of a “true” 21 possible, so was within the one-outta-three days warning range.
11 ride days
Longest ride: 38 miles
YTD = 196
Excuse the double-barrel blog posting of this, but for some reason, I’d thought it was the 23rd. Since I think I told a couple people that incorrect date, I wanted to make sure the word got out correctly!
Wow! Where did the time go? This Saturday, June 2nd is the (hopefully rain-free) running of the San Francisco Randonneurs’ Summer Populaire.
Owing to rain, the March 31st Populaire had a small, but very enthusiastic group of riders. To share the enthusiasm under potentially better weather, the SF Randonneurs added another Populaire on June 2nd.
consider joining SFR for the Populaire on Saturday, June 2nd. If you
haven’t ridden with us in a while, this is the perfect opportunity to
rejoin us. If you are looking for a ride to keep your momentum going
between longer rides, this ride is perfect and will still leave you most
of the afternoon for other events. Come on out and join us, and bring a
friend or two.
Newcomers to brevets and randonneuring
more than welcome as well! You’ll seldom find a nicer group of folks
with whom to while away the time. It’s a great way to learn about
brevet cards and controlles and route finding/following.
Registration can be done here: http://sfrandonneurs.org/registration.htm#
Which is to say, specifically, the first ride this year that felt like a “ride”.
Which is vaguely frustrating. The frustration of which dissipated by the act of the ride.
It’s been an interesting year so far. As I’ve kinda/sorta mentioned, a long work project ended this January. Which meant (after a bit of a rest period - as the last 8 weeks were pretty much sans days off) my new boss and my staff is pretty much me. Which is equally frightening and invigorating. And exciting.
The first thing I noticed though was that having an off-site job did make it easy to have a simple excuse to get up and get out and ride back and forth to work. Now, in the scheme of bike-to-work options, I had a wonderful commute - an MDR (most direct route) under 10 miles, so if I needed to get there fast, it wasn’t noticeably longer to drive. And the area I’m lucky enough to live in gives enough options that I could easily double that distance for the ride home. Plus the fact that my work position allowed me the ability to show up a bit sweaty, or at least breeze buffeted.
But all of that gets you awful spoiled, and the ability to have regular, cheap miles in the bank gives you a nice base for distant weekend adventures. 80 - 90 miles/week in just commuting is a nice step up, and with a decent loop on the weekend, mileage stays nice and constant. The odd have-to-drive week or day works just fine when you have a setup like that.
Now, my commute is pretty minimal, and the easy miles must be seized when the opportunity provides them. And therein lies the rub. At your own desk/studio, projects have deadlines which must be honored, and time slips away. If you are hustling ’til it hurts, that downtime gets repurposed into action - billing, letters, contacts, etc. - until it’s the end of the day, the winds are up and the dog is angling for a walk.
Thus my walking has expanded significantly. Tuuli loves a good promenade, and honestly, I’d rather have a hiking adventure with her than push on the pedals and roll off into the headwinds which have been the hallmark of this daffy spring weather we’ve had. So, my shoes are worn, but the tires are softening…
Oh that pesky, pesky balance.
This last week things seemed to fall into place a bit better. Morning auditions and project recordings, then desk stuff, then that glorious midday that I managed to turn into an errand loop on the bike. Which kind of reset the ride momentum. By the end of the week, I’d found a few places in the schedule which lent themselves to a head-clearing ride between tasks. Some short rides and focused efforts.
When Gino texted me Friday night, all the excuses roiled up - not enough mileage to go with the big kids, etc… Luckily, he’s a ride buddy who focuses on the ride part of the equation, and we realized we were both looking for a nice ramble to remind ourselves of good company and easy miles.
The Earth Day Weekend Weather assisted our efforts, and by the time we were over White’s Hill, things seemed to be firing the right way. Oh, yeah, we overdid it a little - at 61 miles it was the longest ride of the year for me, and the high 80 degrees of the day were a bit excessive over the last few miles to home.
But, it was a reminder of why The Ride - the act of rolling out with friends - covering the miles with easy conversation and deep topics - is so important.
Here’s to maintaining that momentum.
With a fair degree of trepidation - potentially challenging weather is not a problem, but I’m definitely still a bit under-miled… Ahh well, how can you not get excited about a ride when it has such great artwork?
The artwork is by Alice Stribling, which can be viewed in its original form (but seemingly not linked to or downloaded) here.
Anyway, the San Francisco Populaire rolls north from the Golden Gate Bridge at 7 am this Saturday - check in and/or sign up is required, so don’t show up at 6:59 - the hearty band of randonneurs will be rolling north to Pt. Reyes Station for the first controlle, then heading back down to Crissy Field for a triumphant finish. The SF Randonneurs website has more info.
The Populaire is a great way to feel out the idiosyncrasies of brevets and randonneuring. It introduces the format of non-competitive self-sufficient distance riding, and uses control cards and time limits like the longer rides. For more general information, see the RUSA.org website.
Hope to see you there! Please mock me gently as I suffer up the hills.
April went well. (But, here we are a week into May before I’m writing about it…)
Spurred on by a mention by the always upbeat and inspiring Harry Hugel, and a mention or two from cycling icon Kent Peterson, I poached the 30DaysOfBiking Challenge and decided to ride every day in April. The distance per ride was immaterial, according to the guidelines of the ride, and I had to slip under the rope because I tried to sign up on April 1st - after doing my first ride - but the site would not let me join.
Ended up going 30 for 30, one day at a time, with only a few 11 pm neighborhood loops in the mix. There were a couple of times when my legs just wanted to shut up and go home, but I either tricked them with the fixed gear (they just had to follow the pedals) or the promise of lower gearing and coastability (”No, really. You can rest whenever you want!”)
By month end, it just seemed like the normal thing to do. Made me realize that it was probably the longest string of riding I’ve ever managed. It’s always very easy to opt out for the day - working remotely, or having too many things to do. But, even with all that, throwing the leg over the frame and heading out - whether under the stars and through the nighttime breezes, or greeting the rising sun - put that perfect note into the sometimes overwhelming cacophony of the day. There were some days when I really needed it, too.
The tally was helped, and maybe this year can be propped up into the 5K realm after what I knew was going to be a challenging start. Nevertheless, I’ve learned again that one ride, right now is what matters.
April Bikey Mileage - 467 miles 30 Days for 30 (and reading ahead, went 5 for 5 in May.)
Only manged 6 yoga sessions - instructor was out one week.
2011 Mileage So Far - 1065
Some days, I’m very happy for a coastable drivetrain and a multitude of gears. I knew Monday would be bad, but even yesterday, my legs ached and bitched most of the way to work and back. All because of the phone call I got on Sunday.
“Hey! Where are you?”
It was a trick question really. It was my wife. And there was really only one reason the question was being posed - because I was not where I should have been.
Y’see, cycling is one of those things which tends to dislodge me from linear time. During brevets, there have been hours of purgatory which only took a couple of minutes. Minutes of tricky, technical descents which took merely seconds.
What tricked me is that the usual direction is towards expansion. Like yoga, acting or meditation, you seem to find the time within the seconds to observe, ponder and react. You see the way a hawk tweaks its tail before changing direction, how a bee scrambles to stay attached to the fabric of your jersey before releasing and disappearing aft. There have been distinct moments when my front wheel slid out on loose trails, and somehow I sat back, looked up, picked up the front of my bike, lofted the front wheel and brought everything back upright. A quick flick of the second hand that took minutes.
Occasionally though, it works the other way.
“We need to leave in about thirty minutes.”
Now, that couldn’t be right, thought I. Somehow, I’d lost an hour out on the breezy, sunny Sunday right. I’d swooped the trails and hummed over the roadways. I’d enjoyed a double espresso while watching sailboats navigate the Racoon Straits. There had been plenty o’ time to spare the whole day.
But, as Peter Sellers once observed, “Nit Anymere…”
From where I was, still climbing the tail end of Camino Alto, it was a 45 minute ride to get home, via the MDR*.
“I’ll be there in about 30.”
Rolled up the gear on the Quickbeam, used every trick I knew and made every light except one. And just to toot my own horn, I rolled up to the porch 31 minutes later. Showered like there was water rationing and was dressed and ready in record time. I wasn’t particularly popular for a while, but we did arrive on time, at least. Though I think it might have taken another hour before my heart rate dropped back down. Really hadn’t planned on Beryl Burtoning my way home, and things were stiffening up as we sat through the play that evening.
Monday’s commute? Well, as I mentioned, tiny gears and seated, easy pedaling. Goddess, I was sore.
And yesterday? Hit the first climb and my ox-brain let me shift up and come out of the saddle.
Uh. No. That h’ain’t a-gonna work. Big gear, meet burning thighs. Eased up and sat down, finding a gear that worked a bit better. But clunky with a capital “K”… Yoga helped last night, so we’ll see how things are today.
*MDR = “Most Direct Route”
This put the biggest smile on my face* -
*For some reason, this video is a little wonky in Firefox, so if you don’t see anything, try this link -
A lot of little threads and thoughts today. Some of which will probably be edited out in the interests of coherency.
Got a decent ride in yesterday, after weeks and weeks of too-short, too-fast commute rides. Rolled out on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday - the kind of mid-November SF Bay Area weather which we who live here get very quiet about as our cycling brothers and sisters are discussing winter gloves and studded tires. First ride in memory where I didn’t have my bag strapped to my back, and things felt light and smooth. Steered the Quickbeam over road and trail, enjoyed a freshly paved section of Paradise Drive, felt cosmically blessed when the surface turned back to bumpy and cracked and ripply, and all the race-folks fell behind on their high pressure 23C tires.
As a general rule, it seems to cause some consternation when a single-geared bicycle with tweed fender flaps goes past them over a rough and broken surface. Perhaps it’s the head-slap enlightenment. Just one of the many services we offer.
Just realized that I didn’t make a mileage post for the meager October tally. (tap, tap, tappity, tap) There.
Or rather here.
Finally upgraded my phone (the Razr that wouldn’t die), which means that I spent a couple evenings dinking around at the app store, up too late distracted by mostly less-than-useful technology. Was reasonably impressed by Pandora radio, which immediately knew about a couple of less-than-popular bands that I thought of. Only downside with them is the commercials. But, hey, nothing is “free”… Other than that there have been a few things, but I think I’m going to keep things reasonably austere for a while. (Maybe some folks will make some suggestions - so far the Photoshop, Sketchbook, Hipstamatic, StarWalk, Dragon Dictation and Evernote apps are all aboard and being used. Oh, and RedLaser, which is pretty much the end of retail as we know it. The one time waster I’ve allowed myself is Labyrinth.) None of which has to do with cycling.
For the past 30 days or so, rides have been of a different flavor. Busy times at the day job, more auditions now that I’ve got representation for voiceover work, and a few gigs have had me trying to compress more stuff into less time, and I often end up blasting home on the commute - curiously enough, often in time to get to yoga. Which must be some sort of a zen koan.
The whole practice of screaming homeward on a tallish, non-coastable gear seems to be paying off. On yesterday’s loop, there was a little lapse at about an hour, I suspect as that’s been the upper end of most of my rides of late, but then things started to notch into place. My legs and hips decided that they weren’t going anywhere, and decided to help out for a bit longer, and the back and arms started to relax and act like springs rather than shock absorbers. And when I felt like ratcheting up the pressure a bit, it actually felt like there was some latent speed in there. I don’t think I’m ready for the BASPS this year, but at least things aren’t feeling entirely monovelocic.
It’s also the time of year when everything suddenly gets darker an hour earlier. Which isn’t all that bad, as it takes my home commute out of the time of dusk, when people don’t seem to see anything and places it squarely in the night, when bright LED’s and USCG-approved reflective tape seems to catch their eyes. Indeed - the worst event riding recently was coming back from a noontime sandwich run, in broad, bright daylight, when someone entering from a side street decided they didn’t need to stop at the sign and tried to slide through it. Luckily my “HEY” horn seems to have appropriate volume and “cut through”…
Speaking of unaware drivers, I finally got a check from the insurance company to settle up property damage and expenses from the accident last June. It was a lesson in polite and helpful responses leading to no actual results, and a steadily stream of “oh, you know, we don’t have a copy of …. ” which had me re-faxing, re-emailing, and re-requesting medical clearances. For those of you keeping score at home, that was 15 months from the day of the accident. Just to clarify, this was the driver’s insurance company who redefined methodical slowness - my auto insurance was spot on, helpful, going to bat for me and quick to point out what I should do (get copies of police report, photograph damages, etc.). CSAA really rocked, and this year was one of the few times that I re-upped with them that I was actually happy about it. Of course, I’ve been with for freakin’ ever. But, in this day of online comparative pricing, and racing to the cheapest possible solution, I do wonder what the response would have been if I’d changed companies annually.
And, I am still of the opinion that it’s not a good idea to arrest the forward motion of a bicycle by sticking your index finger between your brake lever and a truck door. Just in case there’s any question about that.
Finally, I’m looking forward to today’s ride - we’re getting together with some friends who have a very energetic son who has been itching to go bike riding with us. Certainly, H.G. Wells observed
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
…but it’s always great to remind the next generation.
Seemed like a meager bit o’ mileage this month of October, but there were a lot of other things going on.
First of all, in the non-bicycling world (unless you want to hire me to voice your cycling film, ad or cartoon…) of voiceover, I’m officially represented by Stars Agency, San Francisco. This is a good thing, and already led to a couple of video game jobs during the month. But, back to mileage.
14 rides, but reasonably clumped, so it felt like a fair bit of downtime. September was the lowest month this year at 223 miles, with some healthy gaps when I wasn’t quite 100% and work had me running around a bit. October pulled us out of the dive, with a total of 252 miles. (And this month - since I’m actually making this post in nearly mid-November - has gone well, with 11 rides for the first 13 days and mileage around 180). Through it all, I’ve managed to stay consistent with yoga, which has helped noticeably.
Been back on the Quickbeam almost exclusively (though the Zeus came out for some shorter commute days) - don’t know why precisely, other than the wondrous simplicity of jumping on and riding, and the push that it seems to give back when on a hill or upon reaching a certain speed on the flats. Something nice about a simple system.
Anyway, so as not to belabor the point -
Bikey Miles so far this year - 3449
Ran an errand after leaving work, which positioned me nicely for looping home in an indirect manner. Heading eastward against a slight headwind, the true intent of the season became clear. It’s fall. Sure, it’s SF Bay Area fall and we’re not exactly knocking frost off the pumpkins, but it felt like this would be the last commute of the season with uncovered knees, and two thin layers of wool under a wind vest were just keeping me warm enough if I didn’t stop.
Folks stuck in cars began to turn their headlights on. Even if the sun wasn’t precisely below the horizon, it had at least dipped beneath the western clouds enough that the last rays only caught the highest hills. I’d replaced the batteries in my running lights the night before, and had some more serious illumination mounted and ready to roll. Even with leaving work a bit earlier than normal, safety demanded a quick pressing of the fore and aft buttons, and I became significantly easier to see. But, it was still in that wonderful period of early dusk, with colors growing gray and a glow from the sky.
Pedaled and stretched away the drumming cadence of a kind of crazy day. Began to pick up more of a tailwind and stretched out to a couple of ticks above 20 mph, starting to feel easy and a bit smooth. Even with the exertion, the cooling evening pushed through my sleeves a bit.
Up the hill and into the curves. The breeze buffeted a bit, swirling in that way it does as seasons change, when it hasn’t yet settled into storm or calm mode. A young two point buck appeared in the road before me, then trotted dead center in the oncoming lane as a car followed at an appropriate distance. As I looked back over my shoulder, the deer spotted a path and leapt up the hill.
On the bay below me, it was low tide and as I looked back, the beauty of the rising moon just stopped me.
I slowed and pulled off the road to enjoy it for a bit. Out of the winds, and with no breeze pushing past my ears, it suddenly was silent. It didn’t seem that even the crickets had kicked into gear yet. I could hear my own slowing breath and watched a few birds working the edge of the mudflats.
One of those timeless moments.
The chill pressed in again and spurred me back onto the bike. But, that moment now traveled along with me. Another of the reasons I ride.
Saturday came and went, a day full of errands and preparations. Riding for distances other than the too-short doses of commutes have for a number of reasons has been hard to come by of late. Mostly good things, but they all compound to create a certain absence of time.
With Sunday came the rain. First real rain to speak of in a long time, as is the way in this part of California. It stuttered for a bit and then increased as though the weather had to remember how to do it right. I bumped around with a high degree of inefficiency, finding saddle covers and warmer gloves and hats which had been stowed months before.
Hit the road on the Quickbeam, which has been proudly sporting fenders and flaps all summer long. In fact, I was actually enjoying the rain-induced dust removal from the insides of the fenders. But, a few miles from home, the rain increased a bit, and the dampness began to seep into my shoes. Stopping to pull the shoe covers from the bag, I unrolled them to find that “them” was in fact, “it”. Oh, my lucky right foot. Somehow in storing things, I’d managed to separate the pair, which I didn’t notice when tossing them into the bag.
Dilemma time - I wasn’t far enough away to just say the heck with it and keep riding. In fact the distance was too danged short to feel anything but lazy if I didn’t head back to procure the left cover. So, I did. Kinda pissed at my own error, I clomped into the house and found the other cover. Put it on and headed back to the bike. Started rolling it away until the unmistakable feeling of rim rolling on rubber made clear the now-flat rear tire.
And I was just ready to say, “Aw, Chuck it!”
Y’know, strip off the gear, hang the bike back up and fall into the couch.
It’s funny how that goes, and how the minor frustrations of the past couple weeks and days - rushing here and there, but mostly the not riding - just came to an ugly, cresting peak. And all I could think about was that I was about to get wet for a few hours, would probably just flat again since all the glass bits always get drawn out by the first rain, and how it just wasn’t worth it.
Luckily, I made myself just change the tire first. Wheeled the bike around to the back porch, removed the tire, pulled the tube, found the glass shard and got things back together. Six or seven minutes. And sometime in that period, I managed to reset whatever valve wasn’t right.
Realized that the rain had eased slightly. That I got to use a floor pump to get everything back to the right pressure. That the tube had been airtight. That I got to do the work under the cover of the porch roof rather than off to the side of the road somewhere.
And it was wonderful. I’d forgotten how the first rainy days suddenly make everyone a homebody. Virtually no other riders to be seen and few cars on the road. Just the hiss of tires of wet pavement and the rush of air in my ears. Pedaled around to improving conditions and eased home. At a stop light, a driver took a moment to say what a nice rig the Quickbeam was. Kinda tied the day up in a big ribbon.
Funny how close you can come to undermining your happiness. But, it ended up good.
Woke up this morning with a chromatic aberration above my eye, which, for some reason last night, I chose to test the structural integrity of the kitchen door frame, whilst wending my way to bed under IFR. While it is a salient point that we’d moved the remote phone, so its LED now glows from the table in one room rather than the desk in the other, it was definitely pilot error, which resulted in a gloriously hollow, teeth-clacking moment. So, I fell asleep last night with an icepack held to my face, which seems to have mitigated the effects a bit. Maybe I need a blog entry tag for “Great Moments in Cleverness”…
Whether the blow to the head or some other feeling of sloth overcoming momentum, I’m going to catch up a bit here. The last mileage entry was June, which isn’t precisely up-to-date. (Now, I did make a July entry, but managed to not be saving and nicked the wrong button near the end, obliterating the text. As I’ve been in dang-izzit-that-late-already? mode for the last few months, it didn’t get restated and this writing venue subsequently languished.) I’ve already mumbled and shuffled my way through a bit of an explanation here, so if such things are important or of interest, I’ll wait while you pop over there (and hopefully back.)
Rather than try to recreate the missing entries, with appropriate insights and observations, here are the numbers:
15 Riding Days - 307 miles - YTD mileage: 2598
17 Riding Days - 376 miles - YTD mileage: 2974
13 Riding Days - 223 miles - YTD mileage: 3197
Yoga sessions have been pretty consistent throughout - twice a week with a great teacher, and I’m finding that the odd shoulder soreness has lessened steadily.
It’s been a bit frustrating as mileage has been pretty hard to come by for the past few months - a number of weekend VO workshops chipped into longer rides in good weather, and invocation of the Costanza Rule had me resting when I felt iffy and overstressed. And, though I hate to admit it, that’s worked. The other thing is that I’ve been trying to consciously ride harder now and again. Ok…it’s actually been more like - “Oh crap! I’m still at work and supposed to be home now….” induced speed work. I also have been doing a bit more hiking again, which has been pretty cool.
One frustration is that I don’t think I’ll manage a cross campaign this fall - some light trotting but nothing at race pace and I haven’t even pulled the fenders off the Quickbeam (though I have been skimming some trails in fixed gear mode.) Still, there is a lightly used set of CX tires on the pile in the garage, so you never know….
On the other hand, I did get to engage in the silly-fun practice of indoor sky-diving…
Which was actually much more fun than it looks like.
After starting with a bit of a light week, this month turned out OK. Stayed healthy, got some reasonably regular commuting in with steady but not overwhelming weekend loops. Also managed to ride a bunch of different bicycles over at RBWHQ&L, which was cool, but not included in the mileage count.
Ended up the month by riding home in a reasonably chilly storm tonight which made me wish I’d taken the moment to don gloves before starting. By the time I reached home, my hands had just about taken a “set”.Snuck in 19 riding days this month, with three 50+ loops. (Of course, the cool kids were out on the SFR 400km last weekend - whew!) Also got in a couple of nice singletrack adventures (on the smooth-tired Hilsen), which made me realize both why I like that bike and how much fun mixing things up can be. This put
My brother’s tour of world book domination for - Cheesemonger,
A Life on the Wedge continues this month, with a loop up to the Seattle and Bellingham Washington areas - events listing yonder. If you live up that way and enjoy the odd cheese now and again, punk rock, food politics or worker-owned co-ops (or just want to hear him speak and get free cheese), check it out.
Bikey Miles so
far in 2010 - 1213
Lighthouse 200K Ride Report - Pt. 2
“Pt Reyes Lighthouse to Marshall and Return”
(continued from Part 1)
The beauty of the scene at the Lighthouse parking lot was compelling. I could have sat there for an hour, soaked up the sun and been totally happy. It was a rare and gorgeous day. Other randonneurs - One Happy Cog, The Box Dog Boys and a few others I recognized rolled up to the control and all was well in the world.
Luckily, the flow of riders in and out of the lot set off my “get moving” alarm, and after half-filling my empty water bottle (the big SFR thermoses were getting low), I commenced the pre-flight ritual. On the return leg, those little pitches that climb up to the main mesa always seem to bite after the short time off the bike at the control. Plus, the initial downhill from the Lighthouse has an incline and surface conditions that fixed-gear nightmares are made of. So, I elected to keep the rear wheel flopped onto the coastable side of things for a few miles, though I did notch it back up to the 40T chainring, assisted by a helpful guy in a Freewheel SF vest, who has riding a really nice Hunter.
It’s pretty disorienting to be able to suddenly coast. Sort of mucks things up for the first few hundred yards, but I got spinning fairly quickly, dropped down to the first ranch and got stuck in a scrum of oncoming cars, farm equipment and randonneurs. We sorted things out reasonably quickly and commenced cussing our way up the first climb. While it’s good to use the lower gearing of the freewheel, you do lose the momentum of fixed-gear climbing. However, it did seem prudent to allow my legs to rest a bit.
I even dropped back down to the low/low for the final pitch up to the mesa. Then misjudged the QR setting when I reclamped it and immediately pulled the axle forward on the first pedal stroke. Ack! It’s the simple things that catch you. Just as I was messing with it for the second time, another rider on a Miyata checked to make sure there was nothing wrong. Admitting to user error, I got spinning along again.
Reaching the mesa, where Drake’s Beach Road angles off to the south, I commenced to reflipping the gearing. The next section is a fine dividend for the suffering bits encountered earlier. While there are still a few inclines to resolve, the road drops down ever downward in a series of steps, limited solely by how fast you want to pedal. The smooth road surface hummed under my tires and I enjoyed every moment.
As things leveled out, I had a curious feeling - that of being very hungry. I’d had oatmeal at breakfast before leaving the house, and I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but for me, oatmeal just evaporates. I go from full to empty in about a second and a half.
Here’s the other thing. I’ve been writing and erasing, rewriting and chucking out those sentences for a while now - which is why the second half of this ride report has been so damned tardy in getting posted. It’s been very hard to write about the second part of this ride, because things are about to go really well and very poorly. In the hopes of smoothing things out for the future, I’ve been thinking about where things really bottomed out, and tried to backtrack to the point where I wish I’d done something a little bit different - where I’d been alert enough to recognize I was making an error and smart enough to do something about it.
And here is one of those places where I should have recognized a budding issue. All the articles I’ve ever read encourage pretty much the same thing - eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty. And I was hungry - growling-empty-stomach, “dang I gotta get some food” hungry. Luckily, I’d packed a sandwich, and as the roadway stayed roughly level, I commenced to dig it out of my Zugster Rando Bag and nibble away. It made me feel very rando-ey. I tried to take reasonably small bites, as it seemed as though there wasn’t too much extra saliva in the system, and the reasonably dry food was not doing anything other than sucking up any moisture to be found. That would indicate that I was also a bit thirsty. After getting about a third of the sandwich into me, things felt OK, and I stowed it back into the bag.
Wearing the stylin’ Elvis glasses of hindsight, this was the time not to be dainty, foodwise. While it might not have been the brightest move to cram the whole thing down my throat as quickly as possible, it may have been prudent to keep nibbling away, a bite or two every five minutes or so until I’d finished the whole thing.
As it was, I worked my way upwards towards the Inverness Ridge pretty steadily. During my first time on this course back in 2007, I’d used the distraction of standing and sitting to go up this longer but easier incline to the crest. 20 standing pedal strokes, followed by another 20 in the saddle. It had been a grind then, but it broke things up and kept the pace up a bit. Today, I did the same thing, but had some oomph and was able to do “40’s”. That result was more than likely a direct benefit of the recent caloric intake. Before the top, I managed to catch up with Franklyn again, after he’d eased past while I was flopping my wheel back on the mesa.
Before I knew it, it was high alert mode, zig-zagging down the descent towards the Tomales Bay side of things, dodging sketchy pavement patches and howling through the turns. Again at bay level, if I’d been clever, the sandwich would have come out again. But I wasn’t and it didn’t.
Here is the benefit of consideration after the fact. At the time, I was spinning along strongly over the rolling roadway with a specific goal in mind: stopping once again at the grocery in Inverness Park for some fluids. While it may have been considerate to not drain the common igloo of water at the Control back at the Lighthouse, it would have been smarter to walk a ways up the path to the actual water source and refill my bottles completely before shoving off. They were both pretty empty at this point.
And if I, Current Self, could time travel back to chat briefly with the slightly under-watered and low-caloric Randonneurring me, I think I might have suggested that since Inverness Park was only about 2 miles away from the Bovine Bakery, it might have been a better move to suck it up, stick it out and proceed to the sunnier destination (passive solar recharge), which has high caloric hot pizza (thermal/caloric assistance), in addition to coffee (”Hi, I’m Jim and I am a Caffeine Addict…”), which would give me access to their sink for water refilling (hydro-sustenance), just to name a few points of concern. Which, if I’d been smarter and eaten up my whole damned sandwich back a while before that, would have been a simpler idea to come up with, rather than the too-easy decision of “Stop. Buy water now” which cycled through my brain.
Got some water and such, spread out and nibbled away, listening to the bleating goats and watch the odd randonneur ease past. The rider I’d seen earlier on the Miyata had stopped and opted for a run on the bakery next door. We chatted a little bit and I think I was able to form reasonably coherent sentences. At this point it was about 12:45, and I was happily within my “good” time for the day. I finished off my sandwich, but didn’t really want to do too much more eating.
There is a difference - stop me if I’m wrong here - between a 5 hour ride and a 10 hour ride. One big difference is the whole refueling aspect, which I mentioned earlier. At the former, you can push the gas tank needle past the half-full mark, even let it drop down until the warning light goes on. On the latter, the trick is to keep the calories coming in while the exertions of the day are using them up.
And that trick strikes me as one I have yet to really master.
Which is, of course, a thought that I wish had occurred to me quite that clearly as I was sitting there as the clock edged into hour six, nibbling the slices of tangerine I’d packed along. I’d marveled a bit at the way that the sandwich seemed to fuel me over the ridge coming back - just didn’t seem able to draw any larger conclusions from that behavior.
I packed up and rolled out again, coming up on a couple of riders on Rivendells as we reconnected to Highway 1. Another half a mile up the road in the town of Pt. Reyes Station, the familiar figure of One Happy Cog appeared before me. I caught up to him as we finished the rise to get out of town, and chatted a bit on our way north to Marshall. The winds had remained reasonably still, and though a few clouds sat to the west, the sun shown on our path.
It was good to share the miles with another rider. Even better, it was a chance to ride with him a bit. Although we’d crossed paths a few times, we had not ridden together before. Our pace seemed well suited to one another, his range of gears helping to entice me up the rollers on the way to the second Control. We traded the lead now and again, chatted a bit and hailed the randonneurs who had reached the turnaround point and were heading back to San Francisco. At some point, he dropped back and snagged a little video footage of me.
Can’t quite recall what was hanging out of my back jersey pocket…
We rolled up the final bit to the Marshall store, and upon stepping inside, found a goodly line of sweaty brevet riders all queued up to buy some food and get their card stamped. With the gorgeous weather, a fair number of folks had driven out there as well, and were seated along many of the outside tables, sampling the chowder. The place was about as busy as could be, and I tried not to fret about time being lost while standing in place. As it was, my purchase time was 13:45, frighteningly spot on to where I’d hoped to be for the day. This whole having a timepiece easily accessible on the bike was not at all bad.
It made me realize too that I’m normally not very time or distance oriented when riding. Riding without a computer, as I’d been doing for recent years, you become a bit reliant on your own, highly fallible, internal clock. Segments of a ride which required the most effort often times felt like it also took the longest. Putting a timepiece against it makes you realize that while mentally you range from “all hope lost” to “dang, I’m good!”, it may have only taken 2 or three minutes to move from one place to the other. (One of the reasons that Kent P’s “Keep Pedaling, It Will Get Better” mantra works.) There are times on that some stretches of roadway and incline become endless, relentless cycles of turmoil. But, then you can’t replicate that combination of exhaustion and timelessness ever again, rolling over the spot that held you for hours, according to your recollections. There’s a tendency of the mind to become a bit unhitched sometimes, and when doing so it tends to assume the worst. Recognizing that the last year of purgatory took only 2 minutes can sometimes snap you back a bit.
Back on this ride, what was assuming the worst was my taste buds. I don’t know if it was the sudden thump of boiled oysters and seafood on my nostrils, or just the combination of a few too many Clif Blocks combined with Vitamin Water, but when I tried to drink the fruit juice I’d bought, my throat was having none of that. One the one hand, I wanted to trust what my body was telling me, but felt like I needed to get some calories somehow. I didn’t really think that hanging around in Marshall was an ideal game plan - so I used the facilities, failed once more at sipping more than a smidgen of juice and then just decided to roll on out of town.
There was a small group of three riders ahead, so I eased my way up to them. Unfortunately, the curse of the fixed-gear system raised it’s head, as they - equipped with a range gears and coasting mechanisms - tended to climb and descend at a considerably different pace than I did. I’d ease off the front on the short rollers, and they’d zip past me on the sharper downhills. It was actually nice, though, as it took my mind off of the effort being made. Then they all pulled off the road together, and I noticed that there was a strong pitter-patter sound of raindrops hitting my helmet.
Ahead I could see sun on the hills. Behind I could see the sparkly white clouds to the north. But, for some danged reason, there was a reasonably thick cloud overhead intent on doing nothing other than pissing down big wet drops of rain. The only concession I made was to quickly stash the camera into the front bag, choosing to focus only on the sunny bits in the distance. When the splashing started coming up from the roadway as well, I finally decided to protect my saddle and stopped to haul out the cover which was rolled up in the back bag.
Leaning over the saddle to keep it out of direct rain, I positioned the cover, worked out the slack and tightened down the cord to keep it in place. One Happy Cog rolled past with a wave. I remounted and tried to find momentum once more.
About 20 pedal strokes later, the rain stopped for good. Nature has a heckuva sense of humor. But, it did get me laughing.
The last little pitch on Highway One is near the Pt. Reyes Vineyard. This one bit a little harder today, and for the first time for the day, I got the distinct negative message from the legs when encouraging them to give it a little more. Luckily, the group of three caught up with me just then, observed politely that fixed-gear riders might be a little off their nut, and eased ahead just slowly enough to give me a carrot once again. I cut down the distance a bit on the flatter mesa that followed, and by the time the left turn came up for the Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Road, we were more or less nearby.
At this point again, I started thinking a bit about food. I suspect that somewhere down in the operating system, the word had gone out that the reserves were getting a little thin. The wind had freshened slightly, and the last molecule of boiled seafood had removed itself from the olfactory system. As we rolled along the river valley, the clear thought manifested that I should dig out something and eat it. I couldn’t figure out what to eat however, and somewhere the big dumb animal instinct that seemed to be taking over was getting a bit transfixed by the idea of pedaling strongly, rather than opening up the front bag and rooting around for calories. The Hunter/Gatherer was not strong with this one.
Things got worse as we made the turn up towards the Nicasio dam. The problem was that I was actually feeling rather good, and the bike was moving well. The three riders pulled off for a natural break out of sight of the roadway, but momentum pulled me forward. Even though I stood on the pedals for a portion of the incline to the reservoir level, things felt strong. Once on the flat, there was just a hint enough of a headwind that I could push the speed up towards 20 mph. Meanwhile, my voice of reason was tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “Hey! Dummy! Eat something!”
The Rouleur brain was saying, “yeah….got it… uhhh…just a sec….ummm… in a minute…” Maybe it expected the team car to ease up next to it and pass over a croissant and some other goodies. Its non-linear counterpart was egging it along, saying we’d be in Nicasio before too long, and that would be a good place to stop and recharge.
If I find myself in this situation again, I hope I will recognize it for the error that it was.
Somewhere on the way out to the Lighthouse, the phrase of the ride popped into my brain - “Discomfort is Temporary.” Typing that now makes it sound a little bit like the more macho statement, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body” and I really want to distinguish between those two ideas. Discomfort is the condition when you ask yourself to do a little bit more. It pushes the needles a bit into into the red zone, but you are within what you can do. Pain comes from telling your body to do something. It’s your brain asking for more than you can reasonably do.
This isn’t to say that you should let your lazy body off the hook. It’s knowing the difference between enabling what you can do versus doing damage.
This phrase, “Discomfort is Temporary” had cropped up a few times so far since then, helping me to remember that the roadway would crest out soon, and though I’d be a tad uncomfortable for another minute or so, that would soon end. Here though, as I spun past Nicasio Reservoir with some momentum, the phrase misled me, and I continued to keep both hands on the bars and pedal along. I wonder if I wouldn’t have been more cautious if the sun hadn’t been out and the winds so moderate.
Nothing I had seemed too appetizing. Maybe I should have trolled through the store once more, looking for crunchy/salty. Finally, in anticipation of the rise and pitch to get back over to the San Geronimo Valley, I squeezed a GU-analog into my mouth and followed it up with some water. I chatted briefly with a couple of other riders, one of whom was riding a tan Bob Jackson rigged up as a fixed-gear. He was talking about a group of single-geared who were doing various centuries together. They rolled out a minute or two before I did.
Even though the sun still shone, the temperature felt cooler, and with the next few miles under the redwoods, I added my windvest underneath my flecto vest. At some point, I’d also put on my wool gloves, and correctly reckoned that this was a good time to switch out of the cotton cap back to the wool, and add a little ear coverage.
Oh, and for those of you playing along at home, feeling suddenly cold is a good indicator that you are not eating enough.
Now, I’d made Nicasio at around 15:25, and was hoping to get back into Fairfax at around 16:10 or thereabouts. Though it felt like I was crawling up the first incline, I didn’t have to walk. In fact, when I hit the pitch that crests out at the Cecy Krone Memorial, I only stopped once. With auto traffic at zero here, I managed to tack my way through the steepest section while remaining on the bike, and just like that, was looking down at the valley below.
I always like this point in the ride. My feeling has always been that I can limp home from here. Clipping back in, my cadence got a hair past the second “hop” in my technique - one goes through right at 25 mph, and the second one comes in at about 32 mph. Perhaps someone with more of a math background can explain why. By the time the road ended back at Sir Francis Drake, a few of us had collected waiting for a gap in the cross traffic. We were finally beginning to truly backtrack on the initial course we’d headed out on this morning. Chatting a bit as we swung left and eastward onto SFD, the Cooper rider noticed that we were non-coasting kin. I hung along with them for a while, but was feeling the unmistakable condition of marshmallow legs setting in.
Things were OK as long as the roadway was dead flat, but as soon as any topography introduced itself, there was just nothing there. The slight rise near the treatment plant got to me, and the incline up to White’s Hill bit pretty well. The two riders I’d met in Nicasio had stopped here as well. One set off again pretty quickly, but the other hung back. Here, I took a few moments to focus a bit before the descent. Auto traffic back from the coast had picked up a bit, and I wanted to make sure that my brain was going to be ahead of me. Riders have been hurt here on brevets, and I did not want to break my earlier pledge to “do nothing stupid.”
It proceeded without fanfare, avoiding several nasty spills of loose gravel to the right and taking the lane when conditions and speed warranted. Squeezing every bit of momentum out of the slight decline into Fairfax, I kept the pedals turning, hooked into the town proper with a quick right and left, avoiding a driver who didn’t understand STOP when applied to their direction and rolled down Center Ave again. Though I looked longingly at the Java Hut, the lure of momentum and progress kept me on the path. I slugged a little Vitamin Water down and immediately felt the worse for it. It started doing the slappy dance with whatever bits of GU (technically “Honey Stinger”) were attached like moss to the inside of my stomach.
Log that combo for a definite “No, Thank you.”
As already admitted here, I know better than that. Once you start the GU packs, you need to keep chaining them. Or, you need to throw some real food in there to absorb the artifacts. And you need water, not more sugary sippy juice. By the time I was halfway to San Anselmo, my helpful brain was trying to recall the last time I actually threw up. Swallowing and breathing helped a bit, as did focusing on not hitting pedestrians or getting run down myself. Finally, I took a small sip of water, and things calmed down slightly. This seemed to reactivate some shard of logical behavior, so when the stomach started churning again a half mile up the road, I sipped a little more water.
I’d like to apologize to anyone who passed by me, or rode near me between San Anselmo and Corte Madera. If you said something cheery or encouraging and I just sort of stared past you, I’m sorry. It was just that I didn’t really want anything other than air passing in or out of my mouth.
That’s really the way I got to the base of the Camino Alto hill - sipping and hoping that I wouldn’t get sick. As the road began easing upward, I pulled over and tried to assess things a bit. I remembered that I’d tucked a package of dark chocolate into the front of the bag, and finally decided that a couple bites of that would send me one way or the other very quickly. The funny thing is that it wouldn’t really melt when I put it in my mouth (how’s that core temperature workin’ for ya?), and when I finally started chewing on it, the bits just kept seeming drier and drier (see Dehydration: symptoms of). There was about thirty seconds of “hmmmmm” when it hit my stomach, but by then I’d remounted and was leaning on the pedals in a slow-motion effort to get the Quickbeam moving once again. Considering I’d been standing in front of a pizza restaurant, it seemed that barfing while moving would be a better option.
Happily, my stomach started to settle. Less encouragingly, my legs felt like dry capellini. It was about the ugliest climb I’ve ever done up that hill. I might have stopped once or twice. Must have once, because I recall biting off a little more chocolate. A couple riders passed me on a turn, said something upbeat and eased passed. If my eyes were focusing correctly, my speed was somewhere in the 3’s. “Walking speed” thought I. “Faster than stopping!” suggested another voice. “Discomfort is Temporary,” offered another.
I just concentrated 10 feet ahead of the bike, shifting all my body weight onto each pedal in succession. I knew that would get me to the top.
Sometimes, a brevet is about faith.
At this point, it was not about optimism. Optimism implies a future. My brain was having none of that. The moment was just lean, weight, pull with the arm, shift to the other side and repeat.
Then, on one pedal stroke, it was just a hair easier. And again.
This is the blessing of the fixed-gear - the intimate connection with incline, traction and gravity. I looked up just a bit to confirm my location. The hiking path on the right meant the top was near. I could even sit for a few pedal strokes now, using different muscles and finding a slight glimmer of momentum. And suddenly, at the top, there was only the pull of the descent.
Looking at the above photo, I see a couple of things. First, my recollection had been that I looked at the camera when taking the photo. But, the image shows a weird thousand yard stare. It also shows another inattention to detail item - my wind vest is clearly unzipped. It’s even a bit outside of the flecto bib. And I was wondering why I felt cold at this point… I wouldn’t zip it up until after I’d finished and hung around for a few minutes at the final control.
Though the climb was disheartening, the descent brought my spirits back once again. Since I don’t get to coast on the downhills, there’s little chance of letting my mind wander. Working the rough pavement and easy curves of the descent into Mill Valley sharpened up my outlook a bit, and upon reaching the bottom I remembered how close I was to my goal. The pie-in-the-sky hope had been for a sub-10 hour finish, and that had pretty much evaporated when I crested on Camino Alto at 16:56. The realistic goal had been to match my 2007 finish time of 10:31.
Back in Nicasio, I’d rigged up my headlight - a NiteRider MiNewt USB - so when the sun dipped behind the clouds at the horizon while rolling over the Mill Valley Bike Path, I flicked a switch to stay as visible as possible. At the traffic light on the far end of the path, I bumped up with a couple of other randonneurs. We all rolled out when we got the green, and I saw that One Happy Cog had slipped into our midst. I was in serious pit bull mode at this point - clamping down with a death grip on anyone’s wheel and trying to hold it.
Between chocolate kicking in and the vagaries of the Bridgeway traffic and lights, I held on almost to downtown, when a gap appeared and half the group made a yellow that we didn’t. We threaded our way through increasingly erratic drivers and then swept uphill for the final climb to the Bridge. Unfortunately, the combination of sugar, cacao and enthusiasm was not a match for the realities of the incline. The first pitch upwards did me in, so I eased over and caught my breath, crammed another bite of chocolate and focused for the next and steepest bit. Here also, we were begining to intermingle with the return migration of light-less, bike-renting tourists.
Slaloming and grunting, I got up the worst bit, then just tried to be a machine for the rest of the climb. Reaching the Bridge level, I saw a few riders ahead pull left to cross on the east side. I continued under the narrow tunnel, whooped my way up the final insulting pitch, eased over and dropped down to the west sidewalk. By midspan, I could see several randonneurs learning the hard lesson about crossing on the east walkway - the folks on that side can’t hear you and don’t care. On the west, it was cool runnings.
Enough light remained from the setting sun that it felt like daylight on the Bridge - an extremely uplifting condition. Before I knew it, I swung below the roadway and chicaned down to the Final Control. A couple other riders were negotiating paperwork with RBA Rob Hawks, who aimed his pen at me and said “16:43.” Signed my card when he finished with them and passed it back to Rob.
I would have loved a strong espresso or even a scalding hot chocolate. Alas. None to be found. Nibbled on some pretzels and potato chips which seemed to turn to dust in my mouth. Dug out all my layers and zipped everything up. About that time, One Happy Cog appeared, stood me up and we posed for a photo:
Unfortunately, the flash didn’t fire, and I misjudged the 1890’s era portrait exposure timing, so my features are slightly doubled.
But, the act of standing together in a photo reminded me that brevets are about camaraderie. We’d passed some beautiful miles together on the roads today, and now we had both arrived at roughly the same time where we’d left some ten and a half hours earlier.
I whooped and hollered for a few more folks easing in under the dwindling light before realizing that heat was escaping like air through a nicked tube. Said a few goodbyes, and rolled back onto the Bridge, in search of a car with a heater that would soon be blasting.
Rolling down towards the north tower, I think I glimpsed Franklyn again as he made his way on the other side walkway. I waved but could tell he hadn’t been looking. I can’t imagine riding that course with a cold.
I reached the car, sore and chilled. Recontacting the saddle on the way back had not been a positive experience. My feet hurt a bit and I was just really happy to be done for the day. This ride had gone both very well and reasonably poorly in spots. A few more miles, a bit more concentration on climbing, a lot more awareness about food all would have helped.
Brevets are about learning too, I reckon.
The one last thought I had, before calling my wife to let her know I was done and heading home, was that after brevet number three, I feel as though I’m more of a beginner than before my first one.
Not really sure what that means, but it was clearly in the jotted down notes from later that evening. It will be interesting to see where that thought leads.
San Francisco Randonneurs - Lighthouse 200K - 1/23/10
~125 miles - finishing time: 10:43
Lighthouse 200K Ride Report - Pt. 1
“San Francisco to the Pt Reyes Lighthouse”
Brevets are sometimes about faith and confidence.
I had faith - and I was confident - at 5:30 am on Saturday morning, that the rain pounding the roof would pass. I was so confident, in fact, that I turned on the computer - something I said I wasn’t going to do - to check the Doppler radar image of the sky above the SF Bay Area. The screen showed several big clumps of green and yellow moving east and south. As near as I could tell from the resolution, the trailing edge was directly over our place. And almost just like that, it stopped raining. In the range of signs, this had to be good.
There really wasn’t all that much to do. Quaff some strong coffee and stuff down some oatmeal. As I have been more or less obsessively documenting, this past week has been a series of short checklists and scribbled notes. The bike was ready, the clothing had been laid out, the options winnowed down and items that made the cut packed. Nothing to do but ride, really.
So, I sipped the last bit of coffee, loaded the bike and got out the door. It was pretty clear from the standing puddles on the roadway that a good deal of rain had fallen in the night. Not a lot of other cars on the highway, but up ahead, I noticed a small white car with a bike on a roofrack.
Just guessing here, but I thought possibly, the only other auto on the roadway splashing through large puddles towards the Golden Gate Bridge at 6 am with a visible bicycle strapped on just might be another randonneur. As I got near enough, it was even more odd - the bicycle on the roof rack was clearly a Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen. My Quickbeam was lying down out of sight in the back, so the poor driver probably never quite figured why someone was shadowing him so closely down the freeway at that early hour. Still, it seemed another good sign.
He continued over the Bridge, while I turned off to save the toll and ride the last couple of miles to the start. A couple other reflective outfits flashed from across the otherwise vacant lot as I angled in. Again, a pretty safe bet we were all heading to the same place.
The only thing left was to change into proper riding shoes and get going. I ended up opting against wearing my new rain booties - the only piece of gear I’d brought that was untested. The clearing skies made me think that they were just not necessary, and I’d just end up carrying them for the whole day. Did pop on the toe covers, though.
The solitude of the crossing ended as soon as I rolled down the ramp to the area around the Strauss statue. Bikes and riders were everywhere. Somewhere in the scrum, volunteers were checking folks in as fast as possible, but for some reason that didn’t register in my brain. Ended up rolling past that gang down to the dirt parking lot, seeing no one and turning around again. This time I saw an obvious line in the middle of the sea of yellow jackets and reflective gear, stowed the Quickbeam and worked my way in. Within a few easy minutes, I confirmed my information, had my brevet card stowed in a fresh ziplock bag and was only 200K or so short of my goal for the day.
Many riders I recognized by bicycle or face hopped in place a bit to keep warm, or enthusiastically greeted friends and swapped stories. Whatever else, randonneuring is definitely for morning people. I looked around, spotted and greeted Carlos, chatted briefly with our RBA Rob and enjoyed a bit of bike watching, spotting another Quickbeam that was prepped for the day.
I knew JimG was out of town for this ride, but figured I’d run across a few folks during the course of the day. The breezes were still pretty damp, and I kept my rain jacket on, listened to the instructions provided by Rob, fretted that it surely must be past 7 am, put my hand on my heart and pledged not to do anything stupid and we were off, rolling northward under lightening skies.
Since my flash went off (new camera, y’know), it kind of skewed the lighting balance a bit. A more accurate feel of the day’s start can be found via One Happy Cog’s video of the rollout.
I’m always a little hyper-concious during the first miles, as everyone can get bunched and your reflexes may be too taut or not quite grounded enough to react well to the unexpected. But, it reminded me again why I like brevets - folks rode steadily, predictably and alerted one another to their movements. It was 180 degrees difference compared the the sketchy, bunched miles of the Marin Century this past August (a great ride in its own right, but as we moved through the descent on Lucas Valley just a few miles from the start, there was a near-perfect-storm of nervous/erratic slower riders and swarming hyper, “what’s wrong with jumping a double yellow line on a blind curve” proto-racers which went on for too damn long. This year, on that ride, we start earlier! But, I digress…). We skimmed down into Sausalito under clearing skies and wet pavement. Even among the randonneurs, a few folks ran relatively narrow tires and no fenders, and they seemed most ill at ease here. Hopefully, they’d remember to keep their lips together when we passed through the farm effluent on the way to the Lighthouse.
All that lay a bit in the future, of course. As the riders grouped and strung out along Bridgeway, it seemed like I had the traffic light charm, and managed to hit every green light change without losing a bit of momentum. When we hit the Mill Valley Bike Path, I even had the presence of mind to unclip and raise my feet while rolling through the deep, floody puddles in front of the bike shop. The sky continued to gain shades lighter than we’d seen all week, and I felt well rested and better with each turn of the pedals. Even a pit stop at the restroom didn’t knock my mood. I doffed my rain shell, rejoined the route and managed to perfectly catch the tail end of the green light at the end of the bike path, transitioning towards the Camino Alto climb.
Another easy, curving descent on wet pavement, everything feeling rock solid with feather bed comfort on the new Jack Brown tires. As I’ve written before, descending on a fixed gear can kind of mess with your technique, as you can no longer just drop the outside leg and carve. One of the great things about the Quickbeam is that Grant’s designs corner exquisitely for my riding style, even when your feet are whirling about and the pavement is soaked.
As I reflexively twisted my way through the lower portion of the route (which takes up so much of the 200K cue sheet), I’d been mentally ready to feel kinda cruddy. Between the rains and deciding to err on the side of low miles in the week before the brevet, I’d managed to ride pretty much not at all. Yeah, I’d whirled around the neighborhood a bit after installing the new chain and tires back a couple days before the brevet, in that brief moment between the showers. Not much else though. I was not really sure how that would work out, as I’ve always had the feeling that things go better when the riding is more consistent.
For the couple nights before the ride, I’d been having to get up and stretch at o’dark thirty. Maybe they call it excess energy. Whatever. But sometimes, that ends up with a fairly clunky start to the riding day. When work or other commitments has cut down on my rides, the first hour or so of the first ride back can be pretty blocky, and things feel better as the distance increases.
On the other hand, Carlos has written before of taking time off the bike before his long rides - his “not training” training. While I may not have felt super smooth yet, there was a certain amount of latent energy in the system.
As my mind churned these relatively useless thoughts and comparisons, it made me realize once again that using the fixed-gear system of drivetrain does tend to isolate one on a ride. You don’t really climb at the same pace, and you certainly don’t descend in the same manner. I’d been aware of some other riders in the general vicinity, but I wasn’t really going the same pace as anyone.
This was pretty cool. Not only were there others with the same mental affliction as myself, they were moving at roughly the same pace. They were also chatting with the geared, coastable rider seen in the above image, so I held back a bit as we negotiated the stop signs and pedestrian traffic in town.
Then, just as suddenly, they were gone. One of the back road connectors between San Anselmo and Fairfax. They had gone straight and would have to go right a couple blocks up, while I went right and followed the road as it veered left. We’d end up in the same place, but I think they added an extra zig-zag to the route.
On the way out to White’s Hill I came upon a couple of riders here and there, but grunted my way up the first big incline pretty much solo. I recall passing a pedestrian on the way up, which struck me as reasonably odd - probably the first I’ve encountered over the years.
The hill was kind of the first real test of the day. While the riding has been consistent over the past couple months, there hasn’t been a lot of extra climbing involved. This would really be the first goodly chunk in memory, though I’d gone up it a few weeks before when Esteban was in town. Climbing is funny. It gets easier each time you do it. But, it still hurts. Since I knew I hadn’t been doing it, I tried to keep things as throttled back as you can when you’ve elected to ride away off for the day with no shifty bits. It went pretty well, with a pause-for-recharge near the summit.
Dropping down into the San Geronimo Valley, a couple other riders had passed me, and I tried to keep them in sight. Spinning along on the flats here things actually began to feel pretty good. Moving through the straight section of the main valley, then easing into the twisty and narrower sections under the redwoods, it made sense to stay on the pavement until reaching S. P. Taylor State Park. Here, I steered the Quickbeam into the campground, crossed Paper Mill Creek and connected with the Cross Marin Path. Under the towering trees and rushing waters, large drips fell and a consistent mist made it feel as though I were under water in places.
(I’ll digress here briefly as I’ve already read a couple of accounts of this ride by others. For some reason, folks are associating rainbows with unicorns. Please, speaking from the strain of Irish blood in my heritage, it’s “pot o’ gold” people! Rainbows and unicorns are an 80’s marketing phenomenon…)
Up until this time, things had been mostly in solo mode, which was ok. But, it did make me wonder if through some quirk of momentum, I’d be spending the day by myself. Rejoining the roadway, I saw the Box Dog Boys a quarter mile up ahead on the climb over Bolinas Ridge. They climbed steadily and disappeared around the dogleg near the crest. On the descent down the over side, I came upon a solo rider on an Ebisu.
This turned out to be Franklyn W, who I’ve “known” for a while via Flickr and his submissions to the Gallery (1, 2, 3). It was great to finally meet in person, especially while out enjoying a day which seemed to be growing more gorgeous by the minute. He said he had been overcoming a cold this week, but decided to roll out on the 200K anyway.
I’d seen some of the images of this newer bike, but they really don’t do it justice. The Ebisu has such a wonderful, understated quality to it, and seeing them on the road is always a pleasure. In my mythical Barn of Bikes I Want, the Ebisu is definitely on the list. By the way, the Barn is well sealed against the elements, heated, has wooden floors and looks conspicuously like either Peter Weigle’s or Richard Sachs’ places. It does not currently fit in my backyard.
We chatted a bit, separated slightly on the slight rise past the Earthquake Trail, and passed the Box Dog Boys, who had pulled up to fix a flat. They waved us on and we skimmed along the wet pavement, pulling into Inverness Park fairly quickly thereafter.
I topped off and shifted some fluids, anxious to get going again fairly quickly. One of the differences between the 2008 (geared) 200K and the 2007 (fixed) edition had been briefer stops. The time difference had been about an hour between the two years, and although I’d been a bit under-miled in 2008, and there had been strong winds to deal with on the course, my motto this time was to be efficient off the bike as well. I bought some sugar - uh - “Vitamin” water (though I had to ask the clerk to take my money) and got rolling.
The other reason I wanted to get on the move had to do with the climb up from Inverness, which skirts the shoulder of Mt. Vision. It’s deceptively steep and it hates me.
OK. Maybe it doesn’t hate me. It is deceptively steep in a couple spots. You realize this on the way back, when the descent invigorates your senses and fills your sails, but there’s something about the way up which is a bit mind-crunching. It bit pretty well on the first section, and I rolled to a stop to regain my breath. The incline had collected some other riders - most of whom were smart enough to bring a wide array of gearing options - and we chugged upwards, giving thumbs ups or encouragement when we met eyes.
I used the lack of auto traffic to tack my way up some of the pitches, which helped quite a bit. Somewhere in my brain, I wondered what that would do to my cue references, had this been a brevet on an unknown route. But, since realizing I can’t quite focus on the odometer while riding anyway, it’s a bit of a moot point. The crest came a bit quicker than anticipated, and momentum began to work its magic on the bike.
Pedaling down a moderate grade is always such a recharge - it makes me think of the phrase “blowing the ballast” (as in submarines, not fluorescent lighting fixtures). The sun was out, reflecting off the wet pavement and roadside trees. My Jack Brown tires hissed along and the pedals seemed to pull my feet. This was a great section.
This is also where the route wants to make sure you are serious about going to the Lighthouse. It starts with a couple little pitches to get onto Pt. Reyes proper, then you turn south towards the Lighthouse and it shows you where need to go.
These are not bad climbs, but if you click through and view the full size version, you’ll get a little better sense of the scale. I had worked my way back to The Tandem With the Hypnotizing Tail Light, a couple other riders and Franklyn, who had eased past me on the Inverness climb. We worked our way along, the tandem climbing like, well, a tandem and then descending like a peregrine falcon. The rest of the single cockpit bikes found and lost momentum and we wheezed along the road like an accordian bellows. The pain was temporary and even with the efforts, I was actually feeling pretty good.
Somewhere up on the mesa, a group of 3 + 1 riders came towards us - the Fast Kids moving along to what would be a sub-8-hour 200K. I looked down at the fuzzy font of my odometer, maybe to work out some math or another diversionary project. If I saw it, the number didn’t stick. What ever the equation, they rode fast.
Another rise and fall of the landscape and the point appeared.
…again, the embiggened version is helpful.
This view is always both depressing and invigorating. You’ve been
climbing a bit and thinking you have made some progress. The you come
up a rise and see the far-distant-seeming point of the Lighthouse,
remember the angle of the last pitch and go “unnghh!”. Then you
remember you’ve done it before and realize you have a goal - especially if
you are near the time you’d hoped for.
And as the slow-ly switch-ing, reh-ed, mon-do, home-brew, tail-light mount-ed up-on the-uh tan-dem a-head forced me to admit, my time estimate was pretty spot on. I may have also spewed my social security number, PIN code, various passwords and admitted my involvement in any number of crimes. But, I chomped down on the bit, followed the light up soul-crushing S-turns up from “Historic B Ranch” and made it to through the swill (actually, not bad on this day) at A Ranch, before pulling up a the Y (not a Ranch or a workout locale, an actual “Y” in the road) for the “Rivendell Shift.”
Here, another rider was coming back from Chimney Rock. I figured he was not on the brevet, as that’s quite the wrong direction. Then he laughingly said, “That’s not the right way…” and I had to agree. It’s gotta get better, right?
As I flipped the wheel and rerigged the chain to the freewheel side, riders hit the 20% last pitch to the Lighthouse, grabbed the wrong gear and wobbled to a stop, or motored up cursing Zeus and the gods of topography. A few riders screamed down at what I would describe as dangerous speeds, pebbles skittering and tires scrabbling for adhesion. Most dropped down under control, aware that things get sketchy right there, between autos, bikes, cattle effluent and metal stock guards. Franklyn checked in as he went by, offering to hold the Quickbeam as I went through my ritual.
Soon it was butt down, bars up and try to stay stuck to the roadway. As I wondered inwardly why it was exactly that I liked cycling in any form, another rider edged up to my side. It was Barley, one half of the fixed gear couple I’d seen back in San Anselmo. He was thumping his fixed Specialized upwards, and the effort was evident. As we hit the tougher sections, I eased up a bit faster, feeling like the consummate slacker for bringing a coastable option.
However, this would be an example of the maxim that old age and treachery usually trumps youth and enthusiasm. (Well, only briefly - they would finish a chubby half hour ahead of me on the day).
This was my third time out here under the clock of a brevet. The first was 11:18, after a flat, and I felt like crap and really, really needed to sit for a spell, calm myself and refocus for the rest of the ride. The second was 11:01, after pushing hard into a headwind which wrung me out pretty well. Today, I felt, strangely, good.
The weather was utterly perfect. The bike acted well. I’d tightened up the cue sheet to just show pertinent info for my ride. Since I knew the route, that meant waypoints with Good and Slow times. Plus, as I noted at the start, my bike computer was 15 minutes fast. In other words, optimism was high and I was, well, confident…
Please Continue to Part 2
Thinking again to last weekend’s ride. As with all fine outings, there were a couple of specific moments that stick in my mind. The ride report I posted on Sunday seemed to have a little more emphasis on the framework of the day, and I wanted to jot down these before I forgot about them.
When I caught back up to him, he said that while he had never been able to eliminate the incidence of wobble entirely, he now had a very good sense of when it was going to happen. He had actually intentionally caused the second instance. Jim’s been working to dial in that bike for a while, his engineer’s sensibilities picking things apart and reassembling them. Shorter stem, thinner tires, different rack setups, saddle heights and more. But now it seems like it’s becoming much more his bike. Watching him go in and out of the wobble made me realize he knows that bike now.
In one sense we have - reading one another’s ride reports, seeing bikey photos and trading the odd email now and again. Sometimes, when a flat happens in a group, you can feel the tension increase palpably. Here, it was an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company in real time. We hung out, the mist built up on our outer layers. The “go with the
flow” vibe seemed to infect us all.
One of the really inspiring and gratifying things to come out of overseeing the Rivendell Owner’s Bunch list has been watching folks find one another and set up local rides. The SoCal Rivendell Riders have seemed particularly adept at gathering up and down the SoCal coast - I think they managed 12 or 14 monthly rides to date. I keep hoping to schedule a visit to my sister at an opportune time, so I can attend one of these rambles. Ok, there’s a resolution for the new year.
Up here in the SF Bay Area, we are perhaps a more clannish bunch, as those types of Riv-oriented get-togethers have not occurred with the same frequency. Though, given the geographics of region, maybe you are more likely just to run into another while out and about. (Granted, I did miss the ride back in October).
So, when SCRR riders Esteban and Aaron announced they’d be up in the region around the New Year, making the ride became a high priority. Couldn’t swing the mid-week ride, but cleared myself the Saturday just fine, which is why I found myself muttering minor curses at 8 am or so, realizing I’d left about 10 minutes late after a few last scattered tasks at the house.
All was not lost, however, as JimG checked back in via communicator to let me know that most folks had really just gathered, and one of the riders had to deal with a flat. When I rolled up to the Strauss statue at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was pretty evident which group was mine.
It was a fine group of six - Esteban and Aaron up from the southland, regular ride-buddy JimG, ZugsterBags Adam and Bradley on a Quickbeam and me on mine - evenly split between coastable many-geared bikes and those with proper drivetrains. Rivendell bikes held a slight majority, with a pair of Romulii (Aaron and Esteban) and two orange Ents (me and Bradley) versus a Kogswell P/R700 (JimG) and the Box Dog Bikes Pelican (Adam). Another statistical impossibility played out as there were actually three Zugster Rando Bags represented on one ride - a beatable record, but still pretty danged impressive. (Which made me very happy to have spent a few moments remounting mine before the ride.)
We introduced ourselves around, oohed and ahhed over one another’s bikes, and then headed north over the bridge. Fell into an easy rhythm with JimG, and we realized we’d not ridden together in waaaaaaay too long. In fact, I think there some rumors flitting about the tubernets that we were, in fact, the same person. While there has certainly been a preponderance of Jims about, it’s important to quell such rumors with periodic public appearances.
I’d been enjoying a mild tailwind assist when zipping down toward the bridge, and now it was clear that we needed to push a bit to head north. Despite some happy talk on the forecast to the contrary, the weather had not yet cooperated, and things remained resolutely overcast as we dropped down into Sausalito. Still on Bridgeway, I managed to be looking at a car edging in us, rather than the gang ahead of me at one point, and may have put a brake-lever-shaped bruise into Bradley’s buttock when I had to shoot into a slim gap as a traffic light caught us. Hopefully, he will someday see fit to forgive me…
The clouds dropped lower as he hit the Camino Alto climb, with visible mist in the air. The flat gremlins chose this moment to bite into Aaron’s front tire again, and he was again forced to change tubes. At first he took this as a sign to head home, but we talked him out of it after taking a tube and patch kit count among the rest of us (more than some small bike shops). We hung out as the mist came down, watch a few packs of all-logo-all-the-time groups go upwards on the hill. Other than a single Pinarello tacked onto the back of one gang, they were all devotees of the Church of Carbonium. They also had Occultorotaphobia - fear of the covered wheel.
Back when were gathering at the statue, I’d asked Esteban if he knew what Latin was for “covered wheel.” He allowed as how though he was a professor, he was not a Latin professor, and the question remained unanswered (until I started writing this and looked it up). I nattered on for a while about the consistent parade of folks I’d seen on the way down who were fenderless, until it occurred to me that the only folks who where not running fenders our group were Esteban and Aaron. Since I didn’t want to be a flippant host, I tried to let the subject drop.
I think there are four main regions of fender culture in this country - (1) The Pacific Northwest, where fenders are assumed, and if you don’t have an extended fender with flap that scrapes the ground, no one will ride with you (2) Most of the rest of it, where if you want to roll out the door every day to ride with a minimum of fuss, fenders (or at least a fendered bike) is a good idea, (3) the SF Bay Area (and a goodly chunk of California), where fenders go on in November and off in March, and (4) SoCal, where fenders are simply not necessary. In short, Esteban and Aaron are totally off the hook with respect to need for fenders, which really do complicate things when trying to pack a bike for travel, anyways.
But, it cracks me up when I see local folks out on road rides, tattooing themselves with reverse skunk-stripes courtesy of the road grit flung upwards from their 23 mm tires. Mind you, I’ve done it myself many once upon a times, and there’s nothing like starting out into the rain and sensing that first feeling of damp cold seeping into the back of your shorts - a feeling you know will not leave until the ride ends. Of the many, many bikes that went past, a mere handful had even a spray guard, and I think only one (a mtb-ish Cannondale sporting drop bars heading south) had a proper rigged set of fenders. I mean, it wasn’t like the day had started out sunny or anything.
Aaron rejoined us and we pressed onwards. It was still holding air in Larkspur as we rolled past the Village Peddler, but by the time we made the left turn towards Shady Lane in Ross, he was running about half pressure. He took that as a further sign - unfortunately the old “third time’s not a charm” - peeled back towards Breaking Away Bicycles in Ross Commons, and bid us to continue on without him. This time we honored his wish.
We paused for a damp refueling at the Java Hut in Fairfax. One of the things I appreciate about riding in Marin County is the opportunity for glimpsing cycling royalty*, and in this case, Otis Guy was hanging out under the awning with a couple of friends, clearly having just finished off a ride. He commented a bit on our setups as we settled in and pounded down some calories and caffeine. White’s Hill and thickening fog beckoned to the west.
*It should be noted that said glimpses involve those folks actually riding their bikes.
As we hit the initial incline, “Oh-you-know-I-haven’t-really-been-riding” Adam rocketed forward on his fixed Pelican. At first it seemed he was going to leave us in the dust, but then he pulled over and set up for some excellent climbing images. My eyes crossed a bit as I tried to keep up with JimG and Esteban, who kindly pulled up near the summit for a regroup in the fog.
At this point, Bradley decided to head back to the City, as he had to connect with a friend. If I caught it right, it was his first time that far north of the GG Bridge, and hopefully I’ll see more of him on the roadways now and again.
Still maintaining drivetrain parity, we pressed on into San Geronimo Valley. Encouraged by gravity during the decline, I got that good feeling and pressed onward through towards Lagunitas. I don’t know if it’s having the White’s Hill behind us, but for some reason things often feel strong for me there. Esteban connected up, and we buzzed along, skirting sharp rocks and trash cans until the road narrowed before the turns began. We caucused briefly, and decided to stick to the pavement of Sir Francis Drake - probably one of the oldest stretches of oddly improved roadway left in the county - rather than veer onto the unpaved section of the Cross-Marin Trail. The old concrete of the road has been reconfigured and patched, but once inside Samuel P. Taylor Park boundaries, it remains an esoteric reminder of driving along the river in your 1947 Hudson. Depending upon the attitude of the autos, it can be a wee bit sketchy, but a fair amount of rain had fallen here on New Year’s Day, and things felt even more damp in this narrower and more wooded section. Rather than splatter mud over all of us unnecessarily, we went straight at Inkwells Bridge, did a little coffee shifting at SP Park and caught the paved section of the Cross Marin Path.
Here we were able to spread out a bit and chat, snap excellent photos of one another and enjoy the first inklings of sunlight we’d seen all day. We chugged our way up the soul-crushing incline to Bolinas Ridge and dropped down to Olema.
At this point, I must admit that I was becoming a little fixated on food. The Sirens on the rocks at Bovine Bakery sang so loudly that I neglected waiting at either the Ridge or at the stop sign in Olema. So, it was with some embarrassment that I realized no one else was near me on Highway One.
It felt good to stretch a bit at this point, but it did little but underscore my poor host-y-ness. Esteban, Adam and JimG rolled up, the latter not sure if we’d taken the Bear Valley Road option. Luckily, he’s ridden with me enough to know my beeline-to-Bovine tendancies, and had chosen wisely.
As we unsaddled and tethered our mounts in town, it suddenly dawned on me that the already seated rider who had said “Howdy” was indeed One Happy Cog. It was indeed a day for Flickr-interactions, as we’ve chatted and commented through that medium for a while. I’d met him once before, back at the Marin Century, and we enjoyed pizza, baked goods, real sunshine and each other’s company for a while. And of course, more bike-geeking, as he had ridden his Eddy Merckx, which we had to enjoy.
About the time we realized that we still had to ride back, Aaron suddenly appeared on the roadway. When he stopped in the bike shop back in Ross, he and the wrench went through the front tire with a dental pick and magnifying glass, removing all errant shards of glass before wrapping things up and sending him on his way. Reinvigorated, he decided to set off after us. Despite the fact it threw the balance back in favor of coastable, many-geared bicycles, it was great to see him again. We regrouped briefly at the public facilities and headed out, JimG going one way and me the other.
JimG’s routing proved to be the superior option, and we scaled the pitch out of town and grabbed the Pt. Reyes - Petaluma road for a while.
We cut back towards the Cross-Marin Trail again, enjoying the greening hills and rural landscapes. There have been enough rains to reinvigorate a bit of growth, without making things excessively sloppy. Once on the trail, opted to slog through the unpaved bits rather than duke it out with the vehicular traffic returning from the coast. The worst part was the first half mile or so, with sloppier mud and more leaves. As we continued onward, the terrain firmed up again and I realized why Aaron had caught up to us - the man could move his bike pretty danged well. We ended up on the Inkwells Bridge awaiting the rest of the gang. I was a little worried they’d hate me forever for dragging them (figuratively) through the muck, but there were mud-flecked smiles all around when the rest of the gang rolled up.
Back on the roadway, we retraced our path of earlier in the day. By now, the clouds had moved off, and the light played beautifully in the San Geronimo valley. Esteban, Aaron and I rolled along just fine for a while, and then I heard a couple of knocks from the pistons and they eased away.
It was definitely one of those “keep pedaling, things will get better” moments. Shifting up around on the saddle into the climb seemed to help a bit, and we regrouped again at the top of White’s Hill, collected the rest of the gang and then plunged downward. The descent can be a little hairy, but we timed it pretty well against the cars and everyone swooped back towards Fairfax. After a short mixup as to the whereabouts of Adam, we all gathered once again at the Java Hut, this time in the waning sunlight. Double-E’s all around (well, I think Adam had something more fluffy) and then I decided that it was late in the day enough for me to vector homeward rather than tagging along to the bridge once more. Adam had connected with his wife who was nearby and planned to take advantage of the conveyance.
JimG agreed to ferry them onward through the rapidly increasing dusk, and after a round of “Great riding with you’s”, we went our separate ways. By the time I hit home, I’d notched about 82 miles.
Now, that was a great way to greet the New Year. Here’s to MMX!