Photo by Jason DeVarennes



Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Flèche 2013 - Café Loiterers

Last year, I tried to convince my Flèche teammates to do the Provincetown to Portland Flèche on fixed. It was a perfect fixed route, I said, but the Misguided Angels were having none of that.

As the night and day wore on, they all seemed to agree that it really was a fixie-friendly route, and next year would be a fixed year.

In the meantime, I had started lusting after a new belt-drive fixed gear bike.

Ride Studio Cafe has definitely figured out how to hook me. They just get me to take a bike out for a test ride. I will eventually buy one or two. Yes this is part 2 of Franken-bike.

After testing that belt-drive bike in fixed mode last summer, I had to have one. Near the end of the test week, after repairing a puncture, I noticed that my hands were clean. Then after fixing a flat on our disk-equipped tandem, I made a similar comment about having clean hands, and somehow decided a disk-equipped belt-drive fixie would be great - for clean hands. Well, if you read the diverged post, you know that I eventually designed the most versatile do everything bike imaginable, but then came to the conclusion that it was just a bit over the top, and really wouldn't be perfect for anything. So I ripped the spec sheet in half and made two bikes - one the Honey All Roads bike with gears, chain, derailleurs and disks that would tackle all my favorite dirt road climbs and descents, and the other, based on the Seven Café Racer, a simple lightweight belt-drive fixie, with enough clearance for cushy tires, and a special configuration for hill-climb races. And while the goal is to try to keep it light and simple, I could add fenders and lights and bags for the odd brevet or Flèche.  Giving me loads of time to get it set up, my Seven Cycles belt-drive fixie was delivered a week before this year's Flèche!

The belt is one piece, so the frame has to come apart.

I had initially planned to use an eccentric bottom bracket and vertical dropouts to accommodate the disk brakes and make wheel removal with fenders easier. When I eliminated the disks, I also opted out of the eccentric, forgetting about the fenders! Leaving out the eccentric makes things lighter, but more awkward for fenders. The fender quick releases, intended for the front fender, make things a little easier. 

More details to come on the hill-climb configuration in a future post. I chose a 4 bolt crank so I could use small or medium size front pulleys

One of the things I was most impressed with last summer was the ease of saddle swaps on the Seven seat post. Budget-be-dammed, I had to have that seat post.

RSC has told on me! The standard model is the Café Racer, but clearly mine had to be a Café Loiterer. I was the only rider so invested in the team name!

The bike even came with a homing device, so I would always be able to find coffee!
To get it into Flèche mode, I added fenders, bags, and lights, along with lots of reflective stuff
I swapped in my generator wheel, and installed a brand new B&M Luxos "U" light, with the ability to charge/run my GPS during the day - more on this light in a later post.

Seven modified a chain-tensioner to work with the fender/rack eyelets. It sure is nice to have Seven Cycles right down the street!

So armed with a brand new bike, practically covered in magic-faerie dust, I was Flèche-ready. Sadly all the former Misguided Angels bailed this year. Young families come with obligations, and getting away for not just the event, but all the training can be tough. That knocked out Norm and David. Then Dena, apparently confused riding fixed, with being fixed, or maybe she was just was so envious of Norm and David's young families, that she decided to start one herself! Well, I'm happy for her. Really. No I am. Well, maybe jealous that the little dude will be getting the attention I used to!

Fortunately Gary and Chris, with whom Dena and I rode the first half of Green Mountain Double last year, had contacted us earlier in the year to ask about riding together on a few events this season, like the Flèche and GMD. At the time, Dena was coy about her impending motherhood, since she hadn't yet broken the news to me. Still, we both responded enthusiastically about riding with the lads, although possibly to soften the blow later, Dena mentioned a few potential conflicts, like a possible move. Dena's rotten husband can't find a job locally and may be dragging her off to Madison, Wisconsin of all places. Still I knew this wasn't to happen until many months after the Flèche, so I wasn't worried until that day I got an email with an attachment.  It was a sonogram! Let me just say that if this is how you are going to tell your best friend that you can't ride a Flèche because you are pregnant, that you should include a note to swallow before opening the attachment. It took me several minutes to clean the coffee spray off my phone!

Anyway, this made us a team of three. We tried to find a fourth, but maybe the prospect of riding 262 miles on fixed through night and day, just didn't help us with the recruiting. That's OK. Three is enough for a team.

I tried to tweak the route a bit to get rid of the busy highway in NH from last year, and make use of the shuttle to get across the river between Portsmouth and Kittery. Amazingly it added mileage to stay closer to the coast, so I cut out some distance by having us finish a few miles shy of Portland. I also made a critical error in picking some busier roads around Boston. But I've gotten ahead of myself.

First order of business was to get to the start, which involved a very urban ride from my place in Watertown to the Ferry Terminal downtown. Oh, I was suddenly reminded how bad this was last year. It was the most stressful part of the whole ride! But we made it in time, got our tickets and boarded the ferry. Gary and Chris live way out in Western Massachusetts - well, actually near I-495, which to us city folk is the same thing. I commend them for coping so well with the city traffic and chaos at rush hour!

We survived the ride in to the ferry terminal

Bikes are secured on the ferry

First control for Café Loiterers

A little nighttime riding!
The riding along the cape in the wee hours was amazing, and flew by. After a quick refueling stop just past the Sagamore Bridge, we hit one of the adventurous parts of the route, a long stretch of dirt on Old Sandwich Road. The Angels had nixed this road the previous year, but Chris and Gary didn't know any better. Fortunately they were still in a good humor, as the dirt stretch was the worst washboard I've ever ridden over. I joked at one point that they could probably kill me and bury me out there, and it would take ages for anyone to become wise to it. Chris must have been thinking about it already, because he commented that the road was actually too well travelled to get away with it!

The disadvantage of being ahead of schedule is your control may not yet be open

Fortunately we found a 24 hour CVS a short ways away - with an awesome breakfast!
Our route took us right past my house in Watertown, so I stopped to ditch some of my warmer clothing. I was quite surprised to find John there. His team, BEARD! Beard and Bayley, had encountered a showstopper mechanical, when BEARD! had a rim blow apart - fortunately without injury. The rescue vehicle brought them back home. John got some sleep, before attempting to chase down the Loiterers, and then show up for brunch. I was sad that they'd had trouble, but happy to have a photographer for a few miles. Seems I'm not so good at navigating, riding fixed and taking photos on the move!

Temps rose inland, but it was still a bit chilly near the coast

Chris and Gary

The 22 hour control at Seed and Bean in W. Kennebunk, ME

Response to the question of would I do this again next year. This was my eighth. I now deny this conversation ever took place!

Not a sign you see very often

We took in lots of dirt along the way, including a section with lots of washboard in the dark near Plymouth. The Eastern Trail in Maine was sublime!

Fenders did a great job warding off any precipitation

Café Loiterers complete

Final distance. 421.4 km!

On the way to brunch

Parking at brunch. The bikes near the pole don't need locks!
Did I mention that Gary had taken his first fixed gear ride ever just a few weeks prior - on a used bike that I sold him! Chris had a single speed that he fixed for the occasion. They are both hooked now. Fixie Pixie, the fixie pusher strikes again!

Our multi-modal ride was completed with a train journey back to Boston and a final bike ride home.

The Flèche is my favorite event. You ride as a team, working together for a common goal. You get to pick your start time and route and places to stop. We made the most of multi-modal travel - bike, ferry, bike, shuttle, bike, train, bike. We had all sorts of roads: busy urban, busy bike path, quiet main roads, quiet bike path, quiet suburban, washboard dirt, quiet urban, hidden bike path bridges, busy urban, scarified just-the-day-before pavement, busy beachfront, flat roads, steep hills, dirt roads, dirt bike path and paved bike path. We had great coffee shops, closed coffee shops and, amazingly, no clerk seemed shocked when we asked them to sign our cards. The brunch was fabulous. The camaraderie from my teammates and the other teams was wonderful. I will be back!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bike Friday Tikit Give-Away

In a purely shameless attempt to increase the readership on this blog (from my two loyal readers to maybe 4 or 6), I am going to give away my Bike Friday Tikit. If I can't increase blog readership based purely on my riveting stories, maybe I can buy it :-)

But first, let me say thanks to Velouria of Lovely Bicycle for helping me out with this shameless promotion and for taking all the awesome photos below.   

So here's the deal. A few years ago, I took a job in downtown Boston in a big fancy building that didn't have a place where I could lock up my Cielo commuter and feel good about it being there at the end of the day. But if I had a quick folding bike, I could just fold it up and haul it inside the fancy marble foyered building and carry it up to my office without ruffling too many feathers. And if I got caught in snow, I could fold it up and take it home on the bus - or just leave it in my office and take the bus home. 

The Tikit was perfect for this. It takes about 10 seconds to fold. Naturally I got my Tikit fixed! And of course I set it up with a dynamo front wheel, an awesome single sided rack that allowed me to keep the pannier on when folded and the cover to ... ahem ... disguise it in the fancy marble foyered building.

But then I stopped working and the Tikit became a doorstop. It became more of a doorstop when the stem got recalled last fall, but I got my new stem installed and all is well in the Tikit world again. But it wants to be ridden and folded and unfolded, and I'm just not meeting its needs. 

But you can! Here's all you have to do. Become a loyal reader! And post a comment here telling the world (well the two loyal readers) something you like about my blog - like a favorite post that isn't this one, or something you've learned or found funny or sad or whatever. This means if you are not already one of my two loyal and regular readers, that you might need to read some of the older posts. 

Also include how the Tikit will improve your life. 

If you comment anonymously, please include some means of identifying yourself. I don't need an email, just a unique name. 

You have until the middle of June.

Near the end of June, I will announce the lucky winner - who can then provide me with real contact details. (This means you'll need to come back and read a post at the end of June.) Creativity will be rewarded. Shameless praise for the fixie pixie is not the goal, and won't help you - in fact it may DQ you!

Shipping costs will be your responsibility, or if local (greater Boston) the winner may arrange to pick it up. 

A little extra detail. The frame is a size large. I have the seat and stem as low as they will go. (I have a 30 inch inseam). The drivetrain is fixed. One could add a single speed freewheel - for single speed. This model is a commuter bike, not a travel bike.  It folds quickly for hopping on and off buses and such. This model uses 16" wheels, where the bikes intended for travel use 20" wheels.  

Pixie doesn't seem so small on the Tikit!

All the above images are  ©2013 Lovely Bicycle

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Do you want the Good News or the Bad News?

"Do you want the good news or bad news?"

This is what Fear Rothar said as he came upstairs just before we were to load the tandem into the car to drive out to Westfield for the Bash-Bish 300km brevet.

A few weeks before, while cycling out in the Catskills, we noticed that the rear tire on the tandem was rubbing the fender a bit. These darn aluminum fenders are such a pain. We supposedly have the right sized fender for our tires, but like Dr Who's Weeping Angels, if you look away, bad stuff happens! Or if the tire isn't perfectly round... or seated just so, bad stuff happens. The Grand Bois Hetres that we use on the tandem seem to have a reputation for fiddly mounting, so the plan was to remove and remount the tire, or just put on a completely new tire. I was supposed to do this, but my brand new belted fixed gear bike showed up a few hours prior, and I had to go for a ride first. I mean it would just be inconsiderate to the builder not to take the bike out for a ride as soon as I got it, right?

I had just come in from that initial ride. Fear Rothar had finished work for the day and was impatient to get going, so he headed downstairs to check things out. He came up to show me the giant hole in the tire that was causing the problem. It was amazing we hadn't had a blowout on the last ride. But putting on a new tire should at least solve the rubbing issue.

A few minutes later, he returned... "Do you want the the bad news?" Oh oh, why was their no choice to get good news? This time the bad news didn't have such a quick and easy solution. He showed me a nasty looking crack down the center of the rim - visible only when he removed the tire, and only because we were using Veloplugs and therefore not hidden by rim tape. Well that was a showstopper for the tandem.

While I had a brand new bike that I was itching to ride, the 20% climb up Bash-Bish discouraged even me from taking a fixed gear bike - even one still coated with Magic Faerie dust.

Before going down to pump up the tires on my geared Seven, I did a quick post to facebook, commenting on how I'd have to get up the Bash-Bish climb without Fear Rothar's assistance thanks to the cracked rim on the tandem.

I remembered noticing a very worn brake pad a few days before, and commented to Fear Rothar that I'd need to replace the pads. Gentleman that he is, he took over that chore for me.

In the meantime, Rob Vandermark, who seemingly spends all his time monitoring facebook, sent off an email, offering us use of the wheels off the Ride Studio Cafe demo tandem. Loyal readers may recall, it was this demo tandem that inspired us to get our own. With disk brakes, we could use versatile, fat 650B or 700C wheels for hill-climb races and change between them easily. With the 650B wheels, we could use a standard 700C tandem fork and have plenty of clearance for fenders and fat tires. When we built the bike, we started with the 650Bs and planned to someday get a second set of wheels in 700C. But the 650Bs had proved so versatile in all conditions that we just hadn't gotten around to getting that second set of wheels.

We had a quick discussion and decided I'd drive over to the shop get the wheels.

The forecast was dire, with 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms, so naturally the 700C wheels from the shop tandem wouldn't fit with 650B fenders. Off came the fenders. The fit was tight in the rear, but there was at least a mm or two between the fat 700C tire and the chainstay bridge!

This course is tandem-nugen, like no other route we've ever done. The Jacob's Ladder climb and descent is about 50 miles long, with a long gradual up, a little steep up, a little steep down and the rest gradual down. The middle part of the route has a lot of flat and rolling terrain, and then there is the little steep climb up by Bash-Bish falls, followed by the 50 miles of Jacobs Ladder. We've done the ride many times on both tandem and single bikes, but it really has to be the most tandem-friendly route we've done.

So it was a choice of single bikes with fenders, or tandem without. It was a tough call - no fenders on a guaranteed wet ride, but after Rob had so generously offered the wheels, we just had to go with the tandem - wet bum and all.

By the time we'd done all the running around, it was late, so we didn't quite get as much sleep as the 6AM start should have allowed. Don Podolski, the organizer had moved the start time from 4AM to 6AM, after years of hearing me complain about the early start. So naturally, we still got the same amount of sleep as in years past!

We woke to the sound of water pouring through gutters, but when we looked out it was just light mist. And it was quite warm - over 60F. We knew not to be fooled. Becket (at the top of the ladder) is always 20 degrees colder than Westfield, and then there's the highspeed descent followed by miles of gradual downhill, with no climbing to warm up on. So we dressed for the climb and packed away jackets and other warm stuff for the descent and wetter conditions sure to follow.

We hopped on the tandem and rode the mile from the motel down to the shop/ride start. On the ride over, we heard a scraping noise. When we got to the shop, we realized that once we were sitting on the bike, the tire deflected enough to hit the chainstay bridge. Our spare tire was a bit narrower than the Jack Browns mounted on the borrowed wheel, so we decided to put on the spare. Of course we started this 3 minutes before the ride start, so we were working away as everyone rolled out. With a 30mm tire, we had just enough additional clearance to work. We rolled away from the shop at about 6:15, and then stopped at our motel to pick up another spare tire - fortunately I had brought 2. On a long event like this, and especially with the tandem - we like to carry a spare.

So now we were a bit behind schedule. No need to panic. It's a long ride, and despite the fact that some folks head out at a pace that approaches light speed, you really can't finish a 300km in an hour!

We caught three riders as we approached Huntington and another 3 shortly after the steep climbing began in Chester. There was a bit of mist, but it really wasn't bad. I dared not voice this out loud though.

We reached the top in Beckett, and it was so warm that we didn't even add jackets! This has never happened to me on this ride. It is always freezing on this descent. Thank you global warming?

Shortly before reaching the control part way down the long descent, we heard a high pitched squeal. Fear Rothar thought it was a train, but I was sure it was the rear disk brake. 

We found Don at the control along with a couple of other riders, Big Bad Don and Patrick. Patrick is a friend of George Swain's and had commented on our meeting George out in the Catskills. Patrick thought he was the only randonneur who had never met us! But now he has, so he can mark that off his bucket list!

Anyway, Fear Rothar played with the musical disk brake, while I got our cards signed and grabbed food. With the brake adjusted not to wake everyone in town, we headed on. We first reeled in Big Bad Don, and then a few miles later, caught Patrick, who quickly took advantage of the tandem draft, tolerating the spray from our fenderless rear wheel!

We rolled through Great Barrington and onto my least favorite part of the route along Route 7, where we caught up to George Swain and Jon Doyle. For a while, we had a train of bikes behind us, but at some point, the tandem friendly rollers took their toll on the poor single bikes with less momentum, and we found ourselves alone heading into Kent, CT, site of the next control.

The weather continued to be a mix of light mist and heavy drizzle, but still not awful. 

Just as we hit town, a shift onto the big ring made very bad noises, as the chain jumped over the ring. We recovered, but when trying to big ring again, it was clear something was rubbing. Unable to blame fenders or the disk brake this time, I looked down to see the front derailleur had twisted when the chain came off. We gently rolled the last half mile down to Gifford's - the control spot. I went in to order lunch and get our cards signed while Fear Rothar again played mechanic. It is so nice to bring a mechanic along!

As we enjoyed our lunch several other riders rolled in, including Simon, on single speed. Shame on me for not riding my new fixie! And Simon wasn't just doing this ride on one gear. He was hammering!

After a long break at Gifford's where the great food attracted a large crowd and a lengthy line, we pressed on to the absolutely gorgeous part of the route through Duchess County in NY. We talked about memories from past events. This is where we almost hit a deer. And here's where we saw the 500 pound guy on a lawnmower, across from the lawnmower repair shop - "How much business does he give them?" we had joked. And there's the place with the pork dinner on tonight where I had asked Dena, the vegetarian, if the ride was hard enough yet... Dena and I have a long running joke that I'll know the ride is too much for her when she asks for meat!

Time passed and we were on the bike path that precedes the feature climb. Then we were on the climb. One thing I'd neglected to mention about the loaner wheels is the wee-tiny-micro-cassette they came with. Like my single bikes, we have a 12-36 cassette on the tandem, but the loaner wheels only had a large cog of 27T. Our granny ring is a 30. That doesn't give us much of a low gear, but my captain said he wasn't worried.

Well, boy did we miss the cassette that keeps giving (more gears) as we stood for large parts of the climb! I kept hoping there was one more gear being held in reserve, but that wasn't the case. All this hard work and standing also made me quite warm. I was wearing sunshields on my arms. These are like super-light arm-warmers, except they are supposed to keep one cool and keep the sun off the skin. Well I was getting warm anyway and pushed them down to my wrists. A few minutes later, the heavens opened, and the weather gods aimed a firehose at us!

We continued up to the top, which is well after where you think the top should be. I had managed to pull the forever after known as rain-shields (since they had prevented the rain until I pushed them down) back up before the top, but with no effect, i.e. the rain didn't stop. Once at the top, we stopped to put on our jackets and hi-vis vests, and then we headed down the high speed bumpy descent as the rain stung our faces!

Back through Great Barrington and up the first part of Jacob's ladder, we found the penultimate control. JoAnne was chipper and welcoming and opened a cooler to show off the very best sandwiches ever!

Refueled, we finished off the climb and began the 25 mile descent back to New Horizon's Bike Shop. A mile or two outside of Westfield, the sun came back out!

Many thanks to Rob, Patria and Drew at Ride Studio Cafe for loaning and preparing the wheels. Thanks also to Don, Mary and JoAnne for the very long day working the controls. And thanks to Fear Rothar for helping get my very wet butt up the Bash-Bish climb.

Now to research some new sturdier rims for the tandem!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Domestique to a Brand New Randonneuse

The greatest blog post ever written was almost ready to be published when I added one more link and lost the whole thing! Darn auto-save! I've tried to rewrite it, but it's not as good. What follows is the 2nd attempt... 

I met Constance Winters about 18 months ago on a Thursday morning ladies rides from Ride Studio Cafe. I was made aware of her very popular blog a few months prior and had become a fan. Constance is actually a pseudonym, and since she introduced herself with her real name, I didn't make the connection right away. But as we were riding along, I realized that I was in the presence of a celebrity, and suddenly blurted out, "Are you Lovely Bicycle?" To which she shyly replied, yes. We continued riding and chatting until we got back to RSC. Finding we had some common interests, we decided to get together again for more rides.

Constance initially cycled purely for transportation. Her blog focused heavily on bikes and clothes and such for the utilitarian cyclist. But she had also started to explore the realm of cycling for fun and sport, and was starting to do more and longer recreational rides.

We met a few times over the next few months for rides, including this one. I was quite surprised when I read that post, as I had recalled that she was smiling throughout the ride. Maybe she was just gritting her teeth. Fortunately, despite that less than stellar ride report, she continued to join me for more rides, including some with dirt roads and challenging climbs. And we soon developed a warm friendship.

Over the spring and summer, Constance completed many longer and more challenging recreational rides, including an overnight ride, and a few dirt road events. She also volunteered to work on the local 600km brevet, where she was seemingly inspired to consider riding some of these long and rule-riddled rides that we call randonnees.

This year, she planned to take part in the first ride of the New England Randonneur's calendar, a 100km populaire. She seemed a bit concerned about the overall distance, since she would have to add about half again as much distance riding to and from the start. I felt confident she could do it. In the meantime I was planning to my own Haystack Permanent a few weeks prior to the NER ride, and invited folks to join me. Constance and half a dozen folks did exactly that. She rode to and from the start, and completed the entire ride within the time limit and with a smile on her face - really. I checked for gritted teeth this time. The next week, Ride Studio Cafe had a rando-seaon kickoff ride and party, and Constance again did the ride, plus riding to and from the start. And then a couple of weeks later knocked off the NER populaire.

I'm not quite sure when she began to consider the 200km brevet. But since she already had done multiple 100km rides plus bonus miles to and from, it wouldn't be a big leap to do the 200km. However the route is based on one of my own routes and is scenic, which is another way of saying it's very hilly. It would be a challenge, but I had every confidence she would complete the ride. I sometimes joke that brevets bring out the stubborn people - the people who just stick to it and get it done. I knew she wouldn't give up.

Anyway a few days prior to the brevet, she joined my Tuesday RSC ride, saying if it went well she'd do the 200km brevet. As part of my cunning plan to get her addicted to randonneuring, I stuck with her that day to ensure she had a good ride.  At the end of the ride, we bumped into our friend Emily O'Brien back at the studio, and learned she would be away for the weekend so would miss the brevet. I was sad as I'd been hoping to ride with Emily. Emily and I have done a few rides together this spring and we are riding at a very similar pace these days. Upon hearing Emily would be away, Constance said "Ride with me." And while I knew she was kidding, I ashamed to say that I laughed it off, due to our differences in speed.

On the way home, I replayed a conversation I'd had recently with some female racers regarding getting more women into the sport. My response had been, "Just ride with them." Not every training ride has to be full-on. In fact, not every race has to be full-on. If you want to grow the sport, take the time to ride with the new gals and show them the ropes. A little nurturing goes a long way.

Well what a hypocrite I am.

I got home and fired off an email to Constance. "Let's plan to ride the 200km together." She immediately responded that she was only kidding and never expected me to ride with her on a timed event given our speed differences. I responded that it was about a fun-time not a fast-time. With 13.5 hours allowed, we would have no problem officially completing the event. Everyone gets the same credit, regardless of finishing in 7 hours or 13.

The one caveat was that I was leaving the next day to go to NC. I had sold my father's house had planned to go down to sign papers. But my father also has some on-going health issues and I'd need to go to a few doctor's appointments too. I wasn't sure if I'd actually be back in time. As luck would have it, I caught a flight late Friday. I didn't get a lot of sleep, but I did make it to the ride start.

I bumped into a bunch of old friends and we chatted briefly. Then I spotted Constance. She seemed more subdued than usual, but she was ready to ride. We headed out in a small crowd, that soon thinned down to 4 as we started up the first notable climb. I rode along chatting with another rider. When we reached the top, I stopped to adjust some clothing and wait for Constance, while the others pressed on. When she reached the top, she told me to go on, that she really didn't expect to ride with me. I told her she was stuck with me for the day. 
While I had every confidence that she could complete the ride, I know from my own experience how nice it is to have company. The time and miles just pass faster when you aren't so focused on the ride!
I also vowed to myself not to get separated like that again. I have an advantage on the climbs, not due to strength, but the gearing on my bike. I have a compact double, with 50/34 chainrings and a massive cassette, ranging from 12-36. This gives me a wide range of gears, including a low one that's less than 1 to 1. I may not use that gear often, but it's good to have when I need or want it. My philosophy, which I must credit to Fear Rothar, is "Better Looking at it than For it." This applies to gears, clothes, tools, etc. With my low-low gear, I can always just shift down and spin along beside. It's not like when I'm riding fixed and have to maintain momentum to get up the hills.

Constance has a low gear of 34X29, not nearly as low as mine. And I know she prefers a high cadence. We talked about how to get lower gears with her preferred shifters, and hopefully she can get this worked out.

Down to just the two of us, and on quieter roads, we did the next climb side by side, rolling along at a good pace. Maybe she felt she was on fire, but something reminded her that she had left a pair of bike shorts in the oven, and she'd need to stop to phone home. I was laughing so hard when she made the call, that I'm not sure if she gave basting instructions or just said they were done and time to come out!

The terrain for the next while was quite gentle, and we made good time and enjoyed the sight of lovely apple blossoms and other signs of spring - finally! Then we started up the first really big climb. I joked that it was the Pommes Frites climb, as we were going up Tater Road. Maybe I still had that vision of shorts baking away in the oven. We did this climb, side by side, again with me spinning away in a low gear. I know this route in my sleep, and was able to tell Constance where the gradient would ease off and start back up and where the best views are. Next thing we knew we were flying down into the first control in New Boston, seeing a few folks on the little bit of overlap on the return leg.

I headed into the store where I bought a delicious home-baked chocolate muffin, a cookie and an iced coffee. Constance checked out the food table at the control and told me she couldn't eat anything sweet or crunchy or with bread. Hmmm, I thought, what does that leave? A short while later she came out of the store with two bun-less hotdogs with a little relish on top. As long as it's appetizing to you, I say eat whatever you want on these rides! Just head out at digestive pace, so it stays down.

We continued chatting away about anything and everything as we rode, and I think Constance barely noticed the next climb. Near the top, I pointed out a feature on her GPS, that displays the predicted route profile and shows where you are. She was quite surprised we'd just climbed something big. I use this feature mainly to know when to put warm clothes back on for a descent in unknown terrain. But for this route, I didn't need the GPS. I knew we had a fun swoopy descent down into Purgatory (Falls).

The next climb is the toughest on the route. I had noticed earlier when looking through the cue sheet, that the organizer had eliminated the reward of the view above Paradise Farm, presumably to shorten the ride (my route is a bit over 200km). I had no intention of missing the reward of Paradise after descending into Purgatory, so I told Constance I would ride all the way to the top and swing back around and meet her at the info control on the lower road. It was a lovely clear sunny day and the 360 degree view was amazing. The Monadnock range to the north just glistened. Hopefully this part of the route will get put back in next year.

Next up was a very fast descent into Wilton and then a long gentle climb that would take us to the highpoint on the route in Temple. The store there would serve as an unmanned control. Constance asked if this store had similar fare to the one in New Boston. I told her of one ride where I lunched on hohos and bottle Frappucino after finding the pickings slim. This time I was in better luck and found some good cheddar cheese and a drink. See, I don't really live on hohos and coffee alone! My main other source of nutrients on this day was coming from Probars, my favorite on the bike snacks. Constance found a frozen hamburger and a microwave.

We saw a couple of riders here and I warned them about the rough roads for the next 10 miles. The road leaving Temple has always been a bit bumpy, but this winter took its toll and it was even more so. Still it was dead quiet and had some nice views. Neither of us took many photos on the ride, but we did both stop to get a shot of the dam/waterfall in Greenville before heading up the next climb to the "wow" view. Years ago, Fear Rothar and I were returning from a day of x-c skiing, when we stumbled upon this view. We decided that we would design a ride around this view, and that ride eventually became the 200km. The second year that the route was used, it was arrowed and someone painted "wow" on the road. So ever since then, this has been known as the "wow" view. It lived up to expectations on this day. We rolled along the ridge, until Constance could take it no longer and just had to take a photo. This ride must have been torture for her without a proper camera. She loves to take photos, and I've heard her say many times is that her goal is to get strong enough to be able to stop and take photos on these events. We actually stayed for a while watching a stunt plane do loops that would have made me toss my lunch!

After "wow", it was another quick descent and the final big climb up to Parker's Maple Sugar Barn. Sadly Parker's is not an official control, but it probably wouldn't be such a good idea to linger over a pancake breakfast at this stage of the ride. We continued on past the mini-lighthouse and covered bridges at the bottom of the hill and to the penultimate control in Brookline.

Now we were on the home stretch. More nice views and rolling hills and apple blossoms followed. Constance continued to smile and we continued to talk. We took occasional breaks to stretch, but she was still keeping up a brisk pace, and smiling. We took a quick break 15 miles from the finish, and as we started back up, I paraphrased one of Sir Edmund Hilary's well known quotes. Not this one: "It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." But this one: "Well, George, we knocked the bastard off." when I suggested we were within striking distance and could "knock the bastard off."

The next few miles flew by. I don't think my companion's tires even touched the ground. She was floating on a cloud. Every mile marked a new longest ride for her, and the reality was that she was about to become an official randonneuse. I think she could have eaten a banana sideways, given that ear to ear grin.

We arrived back at Hanscom to applause, and I managed to snap a photo on my phone of Constance with her completed card. What a rewarding day. I am so proud to have helped make the day fun and to witness as Constance truly got hooked and reeled in to the world on randonneuring. There's no turning back now!

Do you want the sport to grow? Nurture it. You will be rewarded!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Climbfest in the Catskills - Part 3

The smoker's cough seemed to be getting worse. Almost to the point that John considered passing on the planned long ride for Friday. I'd initially plotted out this brutal century route, but also created a shorter option with a remote start.

Just as I had the car packed up and was about to leave, I convinced John to come, so we put his bike back into the car and headed out a little later than planned. We drove out to Phoenicia where we are becoming regulars at Mama's Boy Coffee Shop. After a quick coffee, we headed out on our bikes.

I had looked at several different routes that I had found on ridewithgps as well as studying our gazatteer to create the route for the day. Interestingly, no mention was made of dirt on Crump Hill on any of the online routes I had studied, so we were pleasantly surprised to find more nectar for honeybees (dirt) there. It also turned out to be one of the toughest climbs we've done this week. At the top, the views opened up allowing us to take in the still snow covered Belleayre ski slopes. The descent was actually paved and fast, as we rolled back down toward Big Indian with ease.

Next up was the climb up to Slide Mountain. Many of the climbs in the area have a shorter steeper side, and a longer, shallower side. So simply doing a route in reverse can be like doing a completely different set of climbs. We did the steep side of this climb, so we can legitimately tick it off of the list. The descent was long and swoopy and full of surprises, including the Frost Valley YMCA and Forstmann Castle, which suddenly appeared in the middle of nowhere!

We pedaled on a bit further to find lunch at the Blue Hill Lodge in Claryville. Fortunately, after the big meal, the next climb was one of the easy side climbs. Since we went up the easy side I'm not sure we can really tick off the Sugarloaf Climb. But I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the Sugarloaf descent, one of the best of the trip.

Next up was climbing the easy side of Peekamoose. Since we'd already done the hard side, we can now say we've completed it. Maybe it's just from the perspective of doing brutal climbs all week, but when we reached the top, I was just starting to wonder when the real climbing would start! John called this side a big ring climb. Roaring down the ski jump on the far side reminded me why it had seemed so hard to climb on Monday!

Then it was back to Phoenicia to finish.

The next day we planned another remote start. Had I properly planned this trip, we would have alternated the remote starts, so we didn't have so much driving multiple days in a row. But I admit it, this had to be our least pre-planned trip.  We booked our house a few days before and planned each ride the night before. And yet it still worked out great.

Our final big ride would be to visit an area called the Gunks, easier to pronounce than Shawangunk. Julie, who was house/cat sitting for us this week, grew up in New Paltz and had reeled off the names of the climbs we should do over dinner one night, names like Mohonk, Minnewaska and Shawangunk. I again went to ridewithgps and found several different routes, including a long one that passed through Woodstock. John was finally starting to cough less, but was still not at 100%, so we opted for a shorter version from New Paltz.

We drove into town in the midst of a race. We saw lots of cyclists heading back up into town. We had a quick coffee and then rolled out across the river on the tandem. We saw the final riders heading in. Despite the fact that we were clearly not part of the race, several of the marshalls wished us luck. Hmmm... did they know something we didn't...

After riding single bikes all week, I had finally sweet-talked my way back on the tandem for this ride. But after riding my own bike all week, I was out of practice for the screaming descents on the tandem, so I asked John to take it a bit easy on me until I got used to the tandem again. I could sense him gritting his teeth as he had to hold back on a great twisty descent, but better to have a non-terrified stoker, right?

The first climb over Mohonk got our attention. Then we had some busy roads for a short while as it seemed everyone was taking advantage of the first nice warm and sunny weekend all year to head out to the park. Once past the turnoff to Minnewaska, we found ourselves on wonderful quiet roads. Then the climbing began, and I found Vista Maria to rank with the toughest climbs we'd done all week. (looking back at the reports, I've said this lots, haven't I?)

Next followed a screamer of a descent into Ellenville for a quick lunch. Leaving town we spotted what at first appeared to be a castle, but it quickly became obvious it was a prison, surrounded by fences topped with razor wire. Either a prison or the most serious deer fencing ever!  John decided an alien shouldn't take a photo of a prison, so we don't have photos of the coolest looking prison I've ever seen. But I found this on online.

Next up was the climb up through Minnewaska and descending with traffic back to New Paltz. We stopped in at the Water Street Market for ice cream and coffee before heading home.

By chance, we stopped to get gasoline and who but George Swain spotted the tandem on the roof, and pulled in to say hi and hear all about our week.

We saved the hardest climb for the last day - without knowing it. The house we rented for the week was at the base of Meads Mountain Road and California Quarry. We had climbed Meads Mountain earlier in the week, but hadn't been up California Quarry yet. I plotted a short, but intense route that would take in a few hills before dropping into town at Sunfrost Farms where we could have burritos for lunch.

The view from the jeep track that continues on from California Quarry Road

Check your brakes before beginning this descent!

Final stats for the week. 46,000 feet of climbing over 475 miles. John got a bit more as he circled back a few times on some of the climbs. I do believe this week has kick-started our season quite well, and we both might be in better climbing shape than we were. Looking back at one of Riding the Catskill's blog entries, it seems we ticked off 7 of his 8 hardest climbs, although since we did Sugarloaf from the easy side, it may not count. I'm thrilled to have had the chance to explore this area, and look forward to returning now that I know what a gem it is!