Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Permanents and Transcience

As a fixie rider, my feet are always moving. Could it be some form of hyperactivity that draws me to riding a fixed gear bike - since I just can't seem to keep my feet still? Or maybe hyperactivity is why I am always seeking variety. I'm not one of those riders who can go out and do the same route week after week after week.  I just read about a Kiwi rider who did the same century route every day for 65 days in a row to celebrate his 65th birthday. While an impressive feat, I would have gone insane by day 3!

While it may help someone training to compare their time or performance on the same loop from week to week, that's not why I ride a bike. Yesterday, while leading my Tuesday ride, someone asked me how to get strong. I laughed, as I said that I was the last person to ever ask about training advice. I ride my bike to get to great places to eat, to enjoy the view, to enjoy good company and to have fun. If fitness comes as a side benefit of my riding, that's great. But it's not my goal.

My goal on Tuesdays is actually to share with my fellow riders all the quiet and scenic roads and cafes that I have found within a 60 mile round trip of Lexington! If the cool scenery or great cafe is on top of a big climb, it's certainly nice to be fit enough to get there without enduring a lot of pain. But it's not a training ride, it's a ride for its own sake!

I've been leading these rides every Tuesday for about a year and a half now. I have about a dozen different rides that we rotate though, so it takes us about 3 months to repeat one. I also create a new one every once in a while, so someday, we will have even more variety!

For locals, we do these rides every Tuesday at 10AM, from Ride Studio Cafe in Lexington, MA. I tweet the link to the route, usually on Sunday nights, and that tweet can be found on the right hand side of the blog, along with other pithy comments throughout the week!

I absolutely understand how much work goes into creating a new route, especially a long one, so I don't fault any club that runs the same century year after year, or any of the brevet organizers who use the same routes for their brevets. After all, in these cases, you are really only doing the route once a year.  Even so, I do crave variety and despite having a few favorites, I do find myself travelling to different regions just to do a different route.

Enter the RUSA permanents.

Over the past couple of years, I've been travelling back and forth to NC quite a bit to help my dad, after my mom passed away, and when he got sick. I was back and forth enough that I bought a bike to leave there. I used my GPS and various mapping programs to explore, and this worked reasonably well since I often couldn't get away for long rides or rides at set times. But recently as things have settled down, I've been able to plan a bit more in advance and get out for a full day.

As I mentioned in a previous blog posting, I joined the NC randoneurring email list and sought fixie company. I both wanted an interesting route and to ride with some like-minded riders. I've known about permanents for a while, but they haven't really caught on here in New England like they have in other areas. So it was a pleasant surprise to be invited to join a group on a permanent - even more so when a few were riding fixed. I had a great ride and made several new friends. On a subsequent trip a few weeks later, I did another and also had a great time.

With this serving as inspiration, I finally decided to see about turning some of the Tuesday routes into permanents. I spent a bit of time refining the cue sheets, figuring out reasonable places for controls, and then had a discussion with Crista, RUSA's permanista. She is such a great resource and does so much for this program. She coached me in everything I'd need to get my cue sheets right and helped with info controls and getting the route cards correct and such. Despite having done brevets for 25 years, I learned a tremendous amount about some of the less than obvious logistics!

So now I have a few permanents based out of Lexington, MA.  And I think there might be some pent up demand for permanents in the area. I've had lots of company on the first two that I rode officially. Following RUSA rules, I picked a date and time and sent out email to the local list asking if anyone would like to join. And quite a few folks did.

So I look forward to seeing more of this type of activity on our local randoneurring list. Hopefully others will be inspired to share some of their favorite rides, and we can really get a big library of cool routes. For RUSA members, the permanents also offer the chance to take part in some of the year-round challenges, or geographic challenges, as well as some practice hanging on to a route card or navigating with a cue sheet.

So for any of my RUSA friends who haven't checked out the permanents program, I encourage you to do so, both as a rider and route creator. It's a great way to find new routes in a new place or even in a familiar area, and potentially a cool way to meet new folks in a slightly less formal event like a brevet. Of course it's only slightly less formal. You still have the route card and receipts and such, but my experience so far, is that riders may be just a bit more laid back on a permanent.

And I must be careful with my wording here, as I say that isn't limited to RUSA folks. As I've mentioned, I do rides like this every Tuesday - using the same routes - although different from week to week - no cards, no info controls, no RUSA credit.  Although be aware that sometimes I may stop to take a quick photo of some stone marker that could be used as an info control, as I go through the process of submitting more routes!

And you don't have to ride with me! Almost all my routes are public on ridewithgps. Many can be found on the routes page on this blog, which I promise to clean up and update very soon. And folks are welcome to download and go ride them with friends or on your own at any time. Just be warned that they have lots of turns and a GPS is handy, they sometimes include dirt or a short trail, and they tend to have some climbing - because the best scenery is often at elevation.

Finally, despite indications to the contrary, I do not secretly work for Garmin helping them sell GPSs, but they sure do come in handy!


  1. I didn't realize how lucky my club, DC Randonneurs, is to have someone like Crista, until I saw how randonneurs throughout the country rely on her expertise.

    I have no doubt that your permanents are great fun, and if I'm ever in the area with a bike, I'd like to try them out!

  2. Agreed that the DC folks are quite lucky to have Crista and her gazillion different century routes, along with her attention to detail and eye for good cue sheets! Not to mention how nice and fun it is to ride with her and Chuck!

  3. I also like to ride to explore new places rather than same route; which is why I don't put any meter on my tiny bike, because to me the view, food and experience are why I enjoy riding.