Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for June, 2010

Randonneuring?

Friday, June 11th, 2010

My first two centuries have been amazing experiences … not only were they great rides, they’ve also sparked my imagination. I’m itching for more … in fact, eventually, I’d really like to try Randonneuring. I doubt I’d ever attempt the longer (400km, 600km, 1200km) distances, but it’s fun to dream about anyway. I feel confident I could ride 200km (125 miles) now, and I could probably build up to 300km (186 miles) without too much trouble.

Here’s the problem. I checked the Randonneurs USA (RUSA) site, and they don’t list anything in Indiana at all. No brevets. Not even a Permanent. Hell, “IN” isn’t even one of the state options in the Ride Search or Permanent Search. Pretty sad.

There are some brevets in Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois, so I could do something in one of those states. But if I drive several hours each way, to ride all day … that’s going to become a real time/money/energy suck, really fast.

For now, I’m not going to worry about it. I can do some more organized century rides, try an unsupported century, and increase distance however I want. If I spend less time driving, I can spend more time riding. I wish I knew more people who were interested in this kind of riding. I don’t think there are a lot of people interested in riding long miles at a slow pace … though clearly they are out there.

Lessons learned from my first two centuries

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I very much enjoyed my first two century rides … and I’m learning a lot from them.  Here are a few key points.

General

  • My long ride mantra has become keep pedaling. It sounds obvious, but when you really start to think about it, all the major obstacles can be addressed with this simple phrase.
    “How do you handle the hills?” Keep pedaling.
    “How do you deal with the heat?” Keep pedaling.
    “How can you ride that far?” Keep pedaling.

    It’s also an easy way to encourage yourself, when you’re struggling. Just keep pedaling.

  • Organized centuries are a great way to start out. You don’t have to worry about planning a route, or trying to find water/food/bathroom stops. And because you don’t have to plan the route yourself,  you can comfortably ride outside of your usual riding area.
  • It’s important to pace yourself. Try to settle into an easy but steady pace.

A few things specific to me

  • I am lucky to have two bicycles that both work well for centuries: the Long Haul Trucker, and the Bianchi. They are quite different, but I have ridden one century on each now, and both worked well.
  • I thought I would have problems with the plastic saddle on the Bianchi, and was going to get a leather one to replace it. But I had no problems with it during the century I rode on it, so I’m going to stick with the saddle I have, at least for now. It’s a Selle Italia X2 Trans Am.
  • I had a killer headache the day after the hilly, 90-degree century ride. I hate to admit it, but I think I need something to help manage electrolytes. I really like eating normal food, so something like Endurolytes might help. More salty snacks would probably help as well.
  • I only really had one one major comfort issue, and that was with the Bianchi. My little fingers went numb around mile 85, especially the one on my right hand. I chalk this up to the compact handlebars. I made some adjustments to the bar angle and brake lever setup, and those changes helped a little, but by now it’s becoming clear that the compact bars are not for me. I will likely replace them with Nitto Noodle bars, like I have on the Trucker.

Siberian Summer Century: hot and hilly

Monday, June 7th, 2010

After my first century ride with Bill Lambert on May 15, Bill said to me, “I guess you’ve caught the century bug now, huh?” I laughed it off and said I wasn’t sure.

But I guess Bill was right, because on Saturday, less than a month after my first century, I rode my second century, the Siberian Summer Bicycle Tour out of Tell City, IN, in the far southern tip of Indiana. This time, I rode with David Crowell, who I also rode with in Bloomington the weekend before. This ride was a lot hillier, and the day was a lot hotter, so my second century was much more difficult than the first. Here is David’s account of the ride. And, here’s a map of the ride.

We met at the ride starting point at around 7:00 am. We registered and got ready to ride. For David, getting ready meant pulling his bike out of his truck. It took me considerably longer to get ready. Still, we were rolling by 7:30.

We rolled out by way of a short bike path, and then some roads which quickly took us away from town. Despite a few hills, the first 11 miles or so went by rather quickly, with some nice rural scenery and a couple of downhill sections that seemed generous given the small amount of climbing we’d done so far. It wasn’t too hot yet, so we enjoyed the moderate temperatures while we could. Early on, we decided to go slowly and stop as often as necessary, so we could pace ourselves, and take plenty of photos.

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I’m pretty sure this other guy was a rock star:

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Around mile 11 was the first SAG stop. Plenty of food was available and the volunteers were very friendly and helpful. When we left this stop, we accidentally went the wrong way. One of the volunteers tracked us down in a truck and pointed us in the right direction. Fortunately we only went about a mile out of our way.

When we rode back by the SAG stop, we picked up another rider, Eric, from Columbus, IN. He rode with us for a bit, but at one point we stopped to take some photos and tried to let him know, but he didn’t hear us and rode on ahead. We didn’t see him again for a while.

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We had some more excellent 2+ mile descents, and the requisite climbs. The hills were generally long, but not excessively steep, for the most part. At least one of the downhills went on for around 3 miles. Pretty impressive!

The scenery was varied, with hills and flatlands, farm land and big fields covered in long grass, and a small town or two.

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One town looked particularly ramshackle …

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We took a small detour on a gravel road so we could called this a “mixed-terrain” century. Not that we’re officially calling it that. The Bianchi did fine on this short section of gravel, by the way.

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Eventually, we stopped by Saddle Lake. David was wearing sandals and was very tempted to wade in. Instead, we pressed on.

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My memory is a little hazy but by this time, it must have been getting really hot. We went through lots of water and tried to eat as much as possible at the SAG stops. We had another stop to rescue a good-sized turtle.

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We spent a little time on State Road 37. In this area, 37 is a two-lane highway, but it has wide, clean, smooth shoulders and moderate hills most of the way.

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It wasn’t as pleasant as the back roads, but it did offer nice views in parts.

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Once we exited the highway we were on quiet back roads once again, and things got hillier again as well. It was fairly windy most of the day and while I usually don’t like wind, it gave us some respite from the heat.

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We enjoyed a SAG stop at a winery on top of a hill, with a great view.

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Soon we were rolling again, and things got flatter for a bit. This was a welcome change from the climbing, but there was very little shade.

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It was good to see the corn growth coming along.

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By some small town (which basically consisted of an intersection of two roads) we found Possum Junction. Sadly, it was closed.

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We reached the small town of Siberia, for which the ride is named, faster than I expected.

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The sign reads: Welcome To Siberia. Cold in name, warm in heart.

Soon, we reached State Road 62, a small highway with almost no traffic. 62 reminded me a lot of State Road 43 near Bloomington, mostly flat but with a few hills, and views of hills in every direction.

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We saw some weird, small oil pumps.

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As we approached the town of Saint Meinrad, we saw a church looming on a hill.

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We turned onto State Road 545, another low-traffic road, but this one had nearly-constant smaller, rolling hills. By this point we were really baking in the sun. We just kept pedaling.

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Soon we turned onto what was probably the highlight of the day, Huffman Mill Road. This road had it all: great ups and downs, shady valleys, open fields, a creek with a covered bridge, and even a long, flowing, twisty descent with banked turns. In fact, I was having so much fun that I didn’t take many photos.

Another SAG stop was by the covered bridge I mentioned above.

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The guy manning the stop was Bob (I believe) a 77-year old man who I’m told is still quite a rider. While we ate, stretched, and filled our water bottles, he told tales of the bridge being built before the civil war, but not dedicated until afterwards, and then the dedication consisted of a week-long celebration. Bob sure tells a great story. The way he recounted all of this history, you’d think he had been there himself.

We rolled along some more great roads, mostly with smaller hills, for a while.

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It was incredibly hot, and one road had been recently repaved. It must have been at least five degrees hotter than the other roads, due to the dark asphalt.

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Despite the heat, I was feeling pretty good about how well we were riding. That was all about to change, when we hit French Ridge Road. 80 miles into the ride, at 90+ degrees, we hit a 3/4 mile, rather steep, constant climb. No shade was to be found, and the sun beat down on us while we climbed. My eyes filled with sweat, stinging and burning. I stood to climb and it was a struggled just to keep the pedals turning. I decided a hard effort would get me to the top quickly and hopefully let me find some shade. As I started to ride harder, I felt lightheaded and dizzy. But I was almost there. Finally I reached the top and made a beeline for a shady spot I saw on the other side of the road. And none too soon, this was the closest I’d come to bonking in quite some time.

Mostly due to our different bike setups, David and I had quite different climbing techniques. The lowest gear on the Bianchi isn’t that low and it climbs well, so sometimes it is easiest to stand and climb out of the saddle. David’s Long Haul Trucker is heavier and doesn’t climb as well, but it has much lower gears, so he can put it in a very low gear and gradually spin up (this is how I climb on my Trucker as well).  This meant at times I was way ahead of him on the climbs. You can sort of see him in the distance on French Ridge hill on the photo below. He kept at it and also made it to the top.

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This hill would have been difficult on a normal day, but this late in a long ride, it was brutal. I wasn’t sure I would be able to recover, but thankfully, I recovered better than I expected.

From this point, most of the way back was on 37 and Old 37. These road were not as noteworthy as many of the back roads, but were still mostly pleasant, and at this point we were ready to put our heads down and work on finishing the ride.

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After a while, the sky got cloudier, the temperature dropped at least a few degrees, and it looked like rain. It never rained more than a few drops, and I think we were just a little disappointed. The rain would have had a wonderful cooling effect.

At one of the remaining stops, one of the volunteers took some photos of us. I actually thought I would look pretty miserable here, as I was pretty beat, but as you can see, we were still having fun.

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The sky got more interesting as we hit the home stretch.

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The ride ended on the Greenway, just as it had begun.

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We were the last ones to finish the ride. We were just thrilled to finish! It was a great ride, very well-run, and they have another ride in the fall. It was a pleasure riding with David again, and seeing a new area by bicycle. I’m strongly considering going back in the fall.

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