The Last Brevet of the Season

Big thanks to Theo for offering this pic.

Mt Hood.  Photo by Theo Roffe

 

The OR Randonneurs “Bikenfest” 200k has been running now for about 6 years.  I’ve had the pleasure of going these last 2 years and I’m hooked.  The landscape just over the Cascades is wonderfully different than that of the wetter, western slopes-coastward.  Dry, alpine and high-desert feels that transform you into another world, so close to home. The Bikenfest’s route changes every year and that keeps it interesting and it’s a wonderful way to welcome the fall, with the leaves changing a bit sooner, especially at higher altitude. It’s often drier, however this year we’ve had a most welcome Indian Summer that looks as though it’s going to end this weekend.  And, it’s the last ACP event of the year.  One last bang, one last push to get in the miles.

Even though I sort of did it “off the couch,” the ride itself went well.  I’ve been working too much and taking care of things around the business as well as some projects that I’ve neglected at the homestead.  Even still, I awoke early, got my things together (i usually do this the night before, but my wife distracted me with dinner and wine) and packed the bike into my buddy Bill’s car.  On the way out to Hood River, we got a flat tire on hwy 84 and set a record for removing bikes, changing the flat and then reloading the car.  We still got to the start in time, but in my haste, I left my wallet and phone safely in Bill’s car.  I didn’t realize this until the group got onto hwy 84 (this year’s alternative to the path that runs adjacent to the highway because of wildfire closures)  What a sure-fire way to ensure a finish: no money, no phone to call it in.  Either that, or turn back early, but since I was on a freeway, the idea of going the wrong way was not in the books.

The route headed east to the Dalles and then made its way into the ranchlands southeast of the Dalles.  Gently rolling hills of wheat, grazing cattle and the occaisional horse back rancher combined with the occaisional spectacular views of Mt Hood created a magnificent setting to a grand finale of a ride.  The miles passed quickly for the first half and I caught the lead group as they were wrapping up their stop.  Theo loaned me a $20 and I got enough provisions for pretty much the rest of the ride and headed out, hot on their heels.  I stayed with Theo, chatting and ultimately realizing that I was pushing too fast, since he was trying to catch up to Dell S, who in turn was trying to catch up to Vincent S.  I cracked about 6 miles outside of Dufur, at the start of a lengthy climb.  I suffered up the next 14 or so miles to very near the top. Stopping too much and grinding up an otherwise very pleasant grade.  Towards the top Susan and Kevin caught up to me and kept me company on and off for the final miles to the summit and onward into Parkdale.  They arrived in Parkdale before I did and I missed where they had stopped for a late lunch.  Keeping my stop brief, I left town before them and didn’t see another rider until arriving at the finish, just a bit over 10 hours after the start.  Not bad for little mileage this year and for having about 8500′ of elevation over the 200k course. Now it’s time to focus on shorter rides that are more convivial and exploratory, likely involving a coffee stop or some such luxury.  During the coming seasons is when I start dreaming of new rides, new adventures and improvements in gear.

I hope this autumn and winter find you all well.

CF update

I’ve delivered the first of the CF framesets and the owner, Jeff, seemed quite pleased initially.  He’s going on a ride tomorrow to shake it down and get a better impression of it.  I hope the bike inspires him to ride more and more, getting out to explore as well as commuting daily.  Good riding Jeff.

I’m playing with the idea of doing another run of these.  I’ll probably offer a different approach, but the same idea of standard geometry (though expanding the selection) and perhaps a couple parts-lists to choose from.  Drop me a line or leave a comment if you have any interest.

Check out the photos of this first bike here.  The other bike is in progress and pics will be posted soon.

Flèche Report, 2011

Another successful flèche is under our belt.  Robert, Chris, Dylan and I teamed up to see how far we could go in 24 hours.  We had a blast.  We were heckled, rained upon, fought sleep and told way too many bad jokes.  We collaborated on a story that you can read over at the Cyclos Montagnards website.

Personally, I want to do more 24 hour rides this summer with friends.  It’s a fantastic way to enjoy a long ride.

Birkie 200k

A Rare Dry Moment

Okay, I’m unofficially renaming this the Birkensog. Most of the times I’ve
ridden this (4 now) we’ve been inundated with rain. This past try was the most wetness I can recall. My jacket’s waterproofness failed early on, so I spent most of the Brevet cold and wet. C’est la vie, as they say in lands where French is spoken.

It was a challenging ride, mentally. I spent the last 60km or so wishing I were on a tour and just pitching tent, changing clothes, and curling up in a sleeping bag and reading a book. Luckily, the folks I was riding with tolerated my whining and bad jokes. They also didn’t speed away, which I really appreciated. A lack of company would’ve driven me crazy, I think.

The 3-Capes 300k is coming up next weekend, and it’s one of my favorite routes. I hope the weather (and my rainjacket) are kind to me this go ’round.

How to Train for a Time on a Brevet?

I’ve recently been in touch with a few people asking about how to train for a brevet.  Some of this questioning is based around speed, but since speed only comes with experience, I wanted to start this off from the ground up, so to speak.

First, you need some way to build base miles. Once you build some base miles it is of this riders opinion to do a number of 200k’s and couple 300k’s in the first years of randonneuring.  This allows you to find solutions for difficult things such as feeding, hydrating, managing time at stops, etc…  I’ve been randonneuring for about 4 years now and at this point for me, training means riding my bike to and from work year round.  Currently that trip is about 7 miles each way.  That results in about 70 miles biked per week.  This is before I run errands, go meet friends after work for a cocktail or snacks, or any weekend riding.  For me, this is a pretty good base from which to build longer mileage on.  If we are using the Spring brevet season as our goal, I like to start adding longish weekend rides about mid-December.  Somewhere in the neighborhood 100k gets me out long enough and yet, not too long that I feel like the short days of winter are encroaching on my social life during the holiday season.  I also try to go out when the weather’s not too bad during these winter months as it helps my mood to enjoy at least some intermittent sunshine.

By the end of February, after biking on average per month about 450 plus miles, I start concentrating on longer rides.  The Spring Brevets are perfect for this if I stick with the plan of commuting and adding a longer ride every few weeks or so.  About the time the 200k rolls around, I’ll start working on things like hill-climbing.  Basically, at this point in the season, for me I just push hard on the hills en route to work.  I try not to shift out of the gear that I’m in and just drive hard up the short hill.  This little effort pays dividends after a few weeks.  I notice that my ability to climb is greatly increased and my stamina for longer hills is much higher.  I also seek out hilly routes during the longer weekend rides.

Next, I start to get more disciplined.  There is a hill (actually, an active volcano within the city limits of Portland) that I try and work into my commute once or twice a week.  This adds negligible distance, but the added hill-climb, while putting out a hard effort, continues to increase my climbing capabilities.  I might do this once at high effort, or I might do it 2-3 times, depending on how I feel.  Even just once at a time, I notice the difference in the coming brevets.  I usually work this into my commute, but its close enough that if I just want to do a little weekend riding, this will suffice.

I could get more disciplined than that and do something like Tabata Sprints.  Next year is PBP and I hope to ride strong, so I’m going to need to be a bit more disciplined.  In the above link, the excercises are geared towards running, but the concept could easily be translated into cycling training.  From my limited understanding of the subject, these high efforts, followed by brief rest, then repeating, essentially triggers a reaction in your body’s neurology that shows there are higher demands being placed on the body than before.  The body, in sort of a “hey, I’ve got to improve if I want to survive” reaction then uses the available energy stores to develop a stronger, more efficient response to the demands being placed on it.  This works out to more stamina, higher output, and stronger riding.  Resting and recovering afterwards is equally as important as doing the strenuous excercise.

Of course, doing anything like this, it’s important to make sure you are healthy enough to do so.  Talk to your doctor before going hard near your heart rate’s capacity.

If you have a goal of completing a Super Randonneur, then you can use the above and get through it pretty well.  If, however, you have a late summer 1000k or 1200, then you can’t stop at the 600k.   The endurance from doing distances is already built in, so its even more important at this point to work on speedwork.  Couple this with a few longish rides at maximum effort and your body realizes its efficiency stores.  It’s important not to over do it and you should get adequate rest between maximum efforts to let your body recover and grow.

So, to wrap-up, work on distance endurance (base mileage) then work on hill-climbs and speedwork. Don’t worry too much if the first brevets aren’t as fast as you’d like them to be.  Speed will come with experience.  In stead, just enjoy the riding and the new friendships and take mental notes of what needs to change the next time around.

Anyone else wish to chime in with training tips for brevets?

Inspiration

This is one of the most inspirational pictures I’ve come across. Its adorns the greeting page of Vintage Bicycle Press an excellent magazine about randonneuring. It says many things to me, but one thing stands out very clearly, you can reach some of the most spectacular places by bike. That’s Paulette Porthault ascending a pass, I’d imagine, somewhere in the Alps in the 40′s. The lightness of their load, the fatness of their tires, the road condition, all make me wish I were on that trip at that point in time.

This is what riding a bike is for me. This is why I’m inspired to build bikes that don’t stop if the pavement ends, or it gets dark, or it rains. All of these things are very common when exploring. The grades of the roads are steeper than expected. You’re running low on food and you’re getting more and more tired. It’s taking way longer than it should. The schizophrenic weather patterns pushed a little storm onto you for the last half-hour. But you’re prepared, or at least your bike is. Lights to light up the coming of night, tires that absorb the less than ideal road condition you’ve found yourself on and are light and quick even on the freshest roads, fenders to at least keep you clean and mostly dry (you still have to worry about the stuff falling down on you) and a bit of luggage to tackle the range of weather that can happen in the mountains.
I’m working on my next bike and its coming along rather slowly. I still have to hold down a real job, train for brevets, and enjoy my family life. I’m also machining parts and fixtures to inevitably make the process a bit more quick all of which take time. In a couple of weeks I’m venturing out on the SIR Mountain 600k. I hope that the route is as inspiring as this picture (it likely will be). I’m stoked, and so far, not nervous about the ride in spite of this being my longest distance, and the sheer amount of climbing that the course consumes. But I’ve prepared the best that time allows and, if nothing more, then I’ll have an epic 30 hours (or more) on the bike.