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