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Showing posts from 2010

The paceline is diminished

There is a hook that catches us all, and pulls us into randonneuring. It isn't just being on the bike. There are many things that pull me toward riding brevets, and there are many things that have delivered rewards for having joined the paceline. I certainly love pushing myself to complete longer distances, or to overcome a headwind, or to defeat a hilly course in a time I only dreamed of a year or more ago. Of all these things, however, the biggest draw, the surest hook, is the camaraderie I've found between the start and finish controls. On the 2009 Davis Gold Rush Randonnee, I had been riding alone for a bit more than 50 miles. The water stop at mile 50 was busy in a way that the road leading to it had not been. I wondered where all the riders had been and how it worked that I couldn't gain on them and they could not gain on me. I left the water stop alone and in just a mile or two noticed a rattle that was more than annoying. After fixing a problem that verged on bu

The weather window

(Note: I started this blog entry nearly two months ago. One thing that makes it ok that I waited to actually finish it, is that well, what I was trying to say is pretty much true for me.) As I approach two decades of living in the Bay Area, I've seen enough of the change of the seasons to have a working, rough idea of what each season means, and sort of when to expect it to arrive. The transition from summer to fall to winter here is nothing like what I knew back east, and there can be years when you never know if is truly fall or if the fall season happened overnight, and within less than 24 hours summer has morphed into winter. Winter living within the California version of a Mediterranean climate of course means not drastically colder temperatures but still colder temps. More obviously though, there is a greater possibility of rain. Rain is something a Bay Area local just does not think about from sometime in May until sometime late in October. After October of course, rain

The fog does not have feet

My memory of fog draws mostly on the years spent in the midwest. That memory is strongest when recalling fog that moved and changed with the same speed as flowers following the path of the sun across the day. That memory coincides with the fog of Carl Sandburg which moves stealthily, gracefully as if on cat feet. When I was 10, the Fourth of July involved a display of fireworks held in the field across the street and the event had two parts: the display in the evening of the 4th, followed the next morning by the search through the field for any of the unspent firework fragments that might rain down on the field. We would collect those fragments and then Conrad's dad would light them in the driveway as we watched and waited for something dramatic. One year on that morning after, a fog thicker than I'd ever seen before covered the field. We could hear the voices of all the other seekers in the field, but we could not see more than 3 feet in any direction. Find one fragment an

Beyond 449km

In the early 1980s, I did my cycling in Southeastern Michigan. The only club I belonged to was the Tri-County Bicycle Association . My long distance aspirations back then focused on the DALMAC ride, a four day event that ended the summer cycling season. The club one year gave priority for DALMAC applications to club members, so to assure my entry for DALMAC was accepted, I both joined the club and attended the February club meeting. For that meeting that year, a rider from nearby Illinois was brought in as guest speaker. He spoke about how he got started riding ever increasing distances on his bike, and as a boy 'distant' was whatever was beyond the water tower outside of town. Then it became riding far enough that the tower was no longer visible. By the time he appeared as the guest speaker for our club that year, Lon Haldeman had ridden across country several times, once setting the record for shortest elapsed time. There were no water towers in the town where I spent thos

The 2nd San Francisco Randonneurs Populaire, July 17th, 2010

The San Francisco Randonneurs would like to invite you to participate in our 2nd Populaire, to be held on July 17th, 2010. This is a free event, though registration is required. The Populaire is intended to introduce riders to the sport of randonneuring. Most of our brevets are 200km in length, but the Populaire, at 115km, is only slightly more than half that length. More information, and a link to the registration form is here: Last fall, on our first populaire, we had a great mix of long standing club members and riders brand new to brevet riding. Should be a similar mix this time around too.

Self portrait with stink eye

This photo is from early on the first day of the Santa Cruz Randonneurs Central Coast 1000km brevet. I'll be making a more extensive entry in a short while, but for the moment I'll summarize the the whole experience with a single word: Fantastic!!

Next up ...

It hardly seems like a year has passed, but it has. Time as come round again for the San Francisco Randonneurs overnight 200km brevet to Davis and back. A write up of last year's ride his here . On that ride we had several riders drive up from Southern California just to participate. We had 17 riders then and this year we have about 10 more than that signed up. I'm guessing we'll have about 25 riders this year. Given the attendance on other brevets this year, 25 riders sounds really small. Well, it is, but there are reasons. One is that the brevet starts at 8pm, not 7am. Pretty much all but a couple/few hours of the ride will be done in the dark. That puts people off. That said, though, there is something quite special about riding through the night. The route and time of day were chosen to not be too much of a physical challenge but to offer great practice time for navigating in the dark but while still fresh and without the looming knowledge that there are so many more m

Braxton was never there

It may be a form of hell, to have experienced something wonderful and from that point on all efforts to return to that perfect state fall short. If this is true, then I think I've been quite lucky. I've never had that perfect ride, one where everything fell into place as it unfolded before me, where the energy I found ready for use at the beginning of the ride was still there near the end, or where the weather read your mind and provided what you needed: warmth through the night, tailwinds during the day. I've had glimpses of it though, this perfect ride. There were glimpses of it on the recent San Francisco Randonneurs Fort Bragg 600km brevet. Northern California and the Bay Area in particular have a rainy season that has some predictability. In most years, that rainy season is from November to April. March, and more so April are months when the length of daylight increases and the frequency and even threat of rain decreases. Many years, May is a glorious month when the

The voice of the turtle is no longer heard

The few readers of this blog that I have, and the handful of people that may stumble on to these pages know pretty well that the discussion here is 100% about cycling. I do have other passions, passions that have lasted as long or longer than cycling has for me. in 1963, across the street from our house on Wedgewood Drive in West Senaca, NY was a large open field. The street was teeming with kids, and we tamed that field with surreptitiously borrowed lawnmowers, rakes and shovels and for summer play we built dugouts on each side of the baseball field with wood scraps we liberated from the building sites near the woods on the far, far side of the open fields. Playing baseball was already an entrenched pursuit for me when my family moved from Western New York to Southeastern Michigan. I kept that pursuit, as well as a fledgling fanaticism for Willie Mays and the Giants, but it was impossible not to become a fan of the Detroit Tigers, the long standing home team in my new home. In the

The "post big ride bounce"

Back in 2002, I was invited to join a group of riders doing a multi-day ride from San Ramon, CA to Malibu, CA. The last day's ride would be the only day when the distance was under 100 miles for the day, and the full ride distance would be 440 miles. That ride was a blast and the first time I had done a multi-day ride in 14 years. On that trip I met a bunch of great people, had a lot great food, got to sit on the beach, drinking a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale while staring out on the Pacific with Morro Rock to the south, and had my socks knocked off by the gorgeous terrain that makes up Big Sur. I came home feeling the wonderful exhaustion that comes from a great trip, and by mid-week after returning to work, I could feel a strength on the bike that was an echo from younger days. That's the post-big-ride bounce, right there. That April ride ended up giving me a boost that lasted through the summer. In the intervening years, my cycling seasons have been getting progressively fuller,

The wanderings of Oblio's dog

California has an extensive calendar of double century rides , and it was the double century that first lured me into long distance riding. Doing my first Davis Double Century in 2000, I was thrilled to be riding amongst hundreds of other riders. I still do several doubles a year now, but in 2002 many of my friends were 'graduating' to even longer rides. In 2003, these friends nearly disappeared from club rides with modest 100 mile distances. They were off riding something called 'brevets', basically qualifiers for a ride in Europe called Paris, Brest et retour . This cycling niche was known as randonneuring, based on the french word randonneur (the masculine form of the word for someone that commonly engages in hiking, but applied to cycling in a specific manner). By August, those friends had disappeared completely. They were all off in France doing a single ride of 770 miles, hopefully within the 90 hour time limit. All fall and into winter I heard countless stories

The world is not (a) flat (tire).

Years ago, I once remarked that a (then) recent spate of flat tires on my bike was remarkable. My feeling was it was beyond odd that I'd be getting so many flat tires in such a short time. My friend Charlie responded that he viewed it as perfectly normal and expected. To him, getting flat tires at more evenly distributed times would be far more remarkable. I must admit that this perspective still leaves me scratching my head. All I know is that I am something less than overjoyed when ever I get a flat, be it the first or the Nth in a string. Flat tires, if you'll permit my slipping into vernacular, suck. Let me, for emphasis, repeat that. Flat tires suck. They are certain to suck the life out of the moment, out of your momentum, and they can suck the life right out of your ride. How can I be so sure? Well, not that I really needed confirmation of this, but I've had more than what I consider my fair share of flats recently, and I've had them on three different bikes rid

The SF-Mill Valley-SF-Healdsburg-SF 300+km brevet

This is a tale in which luck, both good and bad, plays a major role. At many points a rational person would question 'why do this'? It is at those points however that I would say we are most ill equipped to present a cogent response. Before I began riding brevets, I never really considered voluntarily riding in the rain, and after I began riding brevets my perspective changed to one where if it had to rain, I really wanted to be well out on the course before the rain began. The reasoning was that at that point I'd have no choice but to finish. In successive years I was given first hand experience testing out that perspective, first on a 200km brevet and later on a 300km brevet . So far as I could tell, it worked well enough to keep as a working perspective. Of the two brevets I've ridden this year, I now can say I have the supplemental experience of starting brevets in the rain and I can toss that old perspective out the window. Turns out each has it's upsides an