Friday, February 27, 2009

Aldo's Pic of the Day

Aldo Ross is a bicycle history enthusiast from Middleton, Ohio. For a while he would post pictures, primarily from old French magazines, of the main European cycling events from the 30-60's. I discovered this treasure chest when Ben sent me a link to the following picture.

Before the Pyrénées: The dreams of a good climber, and the nightmares of a bad climber" illustrated by Pellos. From "Match" magazine, 14 July 1938. Source: Aldo's Pic of the Day




Soon I found out there were 571 such images, most of them with detailed captions. Over the past weeks I have made it a habit to look at some pictures before I go to sleep. They have been truly inspiring. For example, Francis Pélissier was able to get ahead by a couple of minutes at the end of the Paris-Tours race of April 18, 1921. However, he soon punctured and was unable to do the repair because his hands had frozen, so he removed the tire with his teeth and rode on his rim to catch Eugène Christophe and then drop him on the climb out of Azay-le-Rideau to win. Of the 85 starters, only 8 finished the 342km race in inclement weather. See the picture below.

April Snowstorm at Paris-Tours. Source: Aldo's Pic of the Day



My favorite:

Giuseppe Saronni wins the 2nd stage of the 1982 Tour de Suisse, or does he? Source: Aldo's Pic of the Day



Although since I am loosing hair, this might be more appropriate:

Mario Beccia before and after the toupée. Source: Aldo's Pic of the Day



Aldo Ross has other galleries and browsing through them has been a great experience.
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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Skaneateles, or there and back again.

I steel the title from J.R.R. Tolkien, because today I felt like Bilbo Baggins on one of his great adventures.

I woke up at 8:30am, a bit late for a 9am start. The first thing I did was peak through the window. The sidewalk was void of snow, but that would not last. As usual, too much was left for the morning of the ride. As I opened my front door it started to snow abundantly. There was no turning back for me. That's the way I operate. I may cancel a ride before I make it to the door, but once I am through I shall ride.

It was 9:21am when I reached East Hill Plaza. There were no other cyclists in sight, so I presumed they had already left or more likely nobody had shown up. I called my cycling buddy, Jamie Gartenberg, to find out he was pondering on whether to go or not. "Are you going? It's really snowing out there!" I have ridden many times to know that no matter how miserable a ride may start out, there is always something that makes it special.

Snow was quickly accumulating all over my bike. The cassette looked like a coconut cake. I did not stop to taste it, but I did start to have second thoughts. As I was slowly moving along Triphammer, I heard a voice come from an car next to me, calling my name. It was Jamie. He asked me if I was really going to ride, to which I promptly replied: "I'm going!". We exchanged a few words, and Jamie decided to bail out. Instead of enjoying the wonderful roads he would ride 3 hours on his trainer, how dreadful. I did however, also have my reasons to turn around. I had spent most of the week mildly sick and in the past couple of days I had developed a cough. Nonetheless, I was feeling good enough, so I continued.

I would rather have company. The thought of riding 108 miles alone was a bit discouraging. But like on many other rides, I try to make the most of every situation. I think of obstacles as opportunities to prepare for the longer randonneuring events I will participate in the future. Hopefully by the time I start my 1200km ride, every situation I encounter will have been dealt with before, on a shorter ride.

The first 25 miles of the ride were miserable. Most of the roads I navigated were covered in snow, and often I was laying the first tracks of the day. Snow had accumulated underneath my fenders and was rubbing on my tires, increasing the friction significantly. Soon things would change, as I reached Long Hill Road.

For the first time, I was able to ride over 20mph on a slight downhill. After 3 miles or so I began the descent into Moravia. I love hills, but I must say it is more fun to descend. Maybe that is the reason I like climbing so much. By the time I reached Moravia my legs were covered in nasty slush. As I made a left on Main Street I felt a void in my stomach. Time to eat!

I stopped at the Coffee 'N Cream. In late fall last year some FLLCC-ers organized a ride to Moravia and back. On that occasion we stopped at the same cafe. It has great food and I was delighted to savor a Southwest wrap and a big cup of hot chocolate. I also enjoyed the spacious bathroom. At the counter I noticed I was short by 75 cents. I inquired about an ATM nearby, as they do not accept credit cards, but the people there said it was not a problem. I thought that was very nice of them. As I ate my wrap I could not help but notice the wandering eyes of the other customers. They would glance in my direction, I guess wondering what on earth I was up to. I checked the clock, 12:15pm, 31 miles ridden, 77 to go.

As I left Moravia I thanked the hills to come. I felt cold and they would warm me up. I made a couple of stops along the climb to take pictures. At this point it had stopped snowing and I could even see blue in the sky. While climbing I noticed my rear rim thump on the pavement. Crap! I had a flat. I looked around for a nice spot to stop and proceeded to change my tube. In the snow a tube change takes a lot more time than usual. I took my time to make sure I did things right. After about 15 min I continued the climb up Sayles Corners Road. Not long thereafter I saw four beautiful horses. "Click" and back on the road.

Soon enough I was heading north on 41A, towards Skaneateles. It was a 15 mile stretch I remembered well from the FLCC ride in the summer. That occasion was my first club ride and I suffered the entire way. Towards the end I dehydrated and barely made it to the finish. This time around things would be different.

As I reached Skaneateles I noticed people walking on the lake. The thought was too enticing to let pass. I was determined to try it out, but I was fearful too. I was not sure if special footwear was required or not. Therefore I decided to wait until someone walked off the lake. The first person off the lake was an ice fisher. He did not seem to be wearing anything lake-specific. I decided to venture on the lake in my cycling shoes. I was able to walk 300 feet out. I could have gone farther, but I decided to stop before it became dangerous. I took several pictures and on my way back I met a couple from California. They were as impressed as I by the frozen lake.

After leaving the lake I made a quick stop at Byrne Dairy. Half of the ride was completed. I made a couple of phone calls, one to my wife and one to Jamie. He had finished his 3 hour trainer session. I jokingly demanded a riding report, while enjoying my chocolate milk and cranberry cookie.

I decided to complete the ride without further stops. My chain started to squeak and chipper as I left Skaneateles. I had not brought lube with me. I have to add it to my take-along list. For the next 20 miles the ride was pretty monotonous, a steady climb. The ensuing descent was exciting, but short lived. It was followed by a rather steep climb up W Glenn Scott Road, Bear Swamp Road and Iowa Road. Luckily there was little snow accumulated on these roads.

As I made a right on 41A the day was growing shorter. I passed the Colonial Lodge, the official start of the FLCC ride. Several cars were parked and the thought of dinner almost made me want to stop. Instead I ate a Clif Bar.

On the way back to Moravia I would follow the same route that brought me. The wind was vicious. When you see snow moving horizontally you know it's pretty bad. On the good side, far to the west I could see the sun setting behind a few clouds. It made for a great picture.

As I reached Moravia I felt tempted to stop. I was fortunate that the cue-sheet did not take me by Coffee 'N Cream, or else I would have not resisted. By that time it was probably closed anyway. Somehow in my mind the climbing was over. But that was not the case. When I made a left on Groton Road I was surprised by the incline. It suddenly was cold (26F) and very windy (NW 21mph). In an unfortunate way, the route always managed to put me in a direction that did not coincide with that of the wind. My cyclocomputer indicated about 18 miles to go.

At this point the day faded and it became night. I was happy once again to have my dynamo powered head light. During the next hour the temperature dropped astonishingly, 22F, and the wind let down a bit, now only 18mph. I was also descending ever so slightly. It felt good once again to see the glow of the Ithaca lights in the distance. I knew I was almost home.

As I made a right on 366 I thought briefly of climbing Mount Pleasant, just to top it off. Not this time. A few minutes later I had the satisfaction of completing this tough ride. That sound of unclipping, when you know you made it, is great.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

bikeithaca.org at the Ithaca Chili Cook-off and Winterfest


Today was a day to eat Chili. Ithaca celebrated the 11th Annual Great Downtown Chili Cook-off and WinterFest. It was also a great opportunity to promote bikeithaca.org, an effort initiated by Andrejs Ozolins to encourage cycling and other green means of transportation in the Ithaca area. Early in January I made the suggestion to have a table at the Cook-off and soon many more people were involved. The result was great! We had a myriad of information not only for cyclists but also for motorists and the public in general. My main contribution to the table was the article on winter riding. Also on display was information about cyclo-touring, upcoming cycling courses, rides in the Ithaca area, etc. Many people stopped by, including Mayor Peterson, and Andrejs was great at luring people to the table. Brenda Smith, Jennifer Dotson, Mary Bouchard, Robbert van Renesse and Jeff Bateman helped out for a while. Thank you!

Two bikes were on display, the Bike Friday "tikit" and the Rivendell Atlantis. The tickit is a folding bicycle intended for commuting. It stold the show today. The Atlantis did not get nearly as much attention.

We had many visitors, young and old. In general people were receptive and interested. The stickers and magnets prepared by Andrejs and Steve Powell were a huge success. I was very satisfied with the event and I believe we reached our main goal, which was to let people know about bikeithaca.org. Hopefully the visits to the website will increase significantly. Below are some of the pictures I took.

Lubricating your Speedplay Zero

The steps are quite simple. You will need:

1 - Grease
2 - Grease gun or syringe
3 - Phillips screwdriver

All you need to do is to remove the screw on the outermost side of the Zero with the screwdriver. Then partially fill the syringe with grease and inject the grease in the port sealed by the screw. The old grease will come out the other end. Keep injecting grease until the old grease has all come out. The sequence of pictures below illustrates the process.

Monday, February 16, 2009

150-5=145: The Three Musketeers Ride

Athos (Ben Kraft) and Porthos (Juan Salazar) left Ithaca on their wheeled steeds to meet up with their inseparable friend Aramis (Bill Fischer) in Watkins Glen. It was a cloudy and chilly morning, the thermometer marked 22F. At 7:20am Ben and Juan started their climb out of Ithaca on SR79. Up, up and away! It was not long before both were panting, and suddenly the cold did not matter anymore. The two musketeers continued their treacherous path over the endless rollers until they reached Burdett. The friendly bike shop, with its unique mailbox, was duly noted. They were running a bit late, and Bill was in no mood for late arrivals. Juan led the way, descending like an arrow into Watkins Glen. Ben followed.

As Ben and Juan approached the marina, Bill was waiting for them at a street corner. After brief greeting they were off on their mission. 100 miles of paved roads would be ridden before they would return to Watkins Glen, or at least so it was planned. A steep climb awaited them, just one among many to come. On this climb Juan dashed ahead because he wanted to take pictures of his friends, but Ben thought this was a challenge and kept pace with him. Finally Juan said "I just want to take a picture of both of you". Ben eased on the pedals and Juan was able to take great pictures of his friends on that climb. As the three reached the summit they noticed the blue sky, with only a few clouds in sight, if any. A perfect day for a ride. Several times during this ride the comment "What a beautiful day!" was made.

Juan, the photographer of the ride, made a quick stop at the cemetery on Townsend Road. Ben also stopped, but for a bite. Soon they were rolling again. Bill had turned onto CR-16, Ben and Juan quickly caught up to him. The Three Musketeers discussed many things, such as the Tour de California, bicycle frames and Aldo's Pic of the Day website, a treasure of a long forgone era. Juan and Bill noticed that their friend Ben was hurting. This became apparent on the climb of CORT 22. Ben usually likes to reach the summit first, but this time he was lagging behind. Juan took pictures of Lamoka and Waneta lakes and warned the others of the crazy dog he had encountered on a previous ride on that same road. Ben had a bite of his sandwich. It was time to descend. Juan again tucked into his aero position and soon reached 48mph. "Yeeeee-huuuu!!" could be heard somewhere along that descent. Unlike other descents, this one had a long flat section before it was interrupted by a stop sign. Juan waited for his friends. It is amazing how one can open a gap on a descent.

It was time for Lamoka Lake. The Three Musketeers rode along the frozen lake and Bill spotted people ice fishing. He then wondered how that could be so amusing to some. At the same time the ice fishers noticed some odd looking people riding bicycles. They commented among themselves "What kind of pleasure is there in that?". The view of Lamoka was one to treasure. As the riders left Lamoka behind and turned onto CR23 and then Westlake Road, Ben solicited a stop and inquired about detours to shorten the ride. He was not feeling good. His friends encouraged him to drink and eat, and pedal at a more moderate pace. Bill proposed a short cut to reach Hammondsport, but he got confused and soon realized they should not have turned onto Westlake if the shortcut were to be. It was now too far to turn back, so the friends continued, now alongside a southern finger of Lamoka lake, much less impressive than what they had contemplated before.

On the Birdseye Hollow Road climb, gradual but long, Juan left his friends behind and decided to wait for them at the next turn. A couple of minutes thereafter he was joined by Ben and Bill. They then continued and soon were on the descent of Hammondsport-wayne Road, into Hammondsport. Juan again led the way downhill as fast as he could go. Keuka lake was visible, the sky vivid blue. An unbelievable sight. Hammondsport was a much needed stop. Ben was able to rest and refuel with zucchini's he had brought on the ride. Juan and Bill decided for the more standard sub and wrap, respectively. This was the first time Juan was able to show off his new Rapha cycling cap, black with a white stripe, a classic. The Musketeers discussed detour alternatives to shorten the ride. The decision was left for the next stop in Branchport.

They left Hammondsport, a treasure on Keuka, and began a steep climb on Pulteney Street. This climb, unlike others, offers an incredible view of Keuka, and it gets better as the climb steepens. An efficient way to keep the cyclist's mind off the climb. Juan crested first and took pictures of his friends as they reached the top. As the friends strolled by the scenic overlook, Juan stopped for pictures, and his friends continued. "Time to catch up!" thought Juan. During this stretch it became blatent that Ben was hurting. Bill was off and Juan stayed with Ben, who now complained about neck soreness, something that would plague him for the rest of the ride. The stops would need to be more frequent. Bill had noticed the absence of his friends and stopped to talk with a lady on a horse, a beautiful horse. As Juan and Ben spotted what looked like Bill, but then again not, they were confused. Is Bill talking to a horse? Not quite, it is the lady on the horse. Juan had always loved to ride horses and he was contemplating swapping his bike for a ride on the horse. He did not think the idea would fly and proceeded to pet the horse. The lady gave Juan a piece of carrot to feed the horse too. After a bit of small talk they were once again off. Not long thereafter the riders reached Branchport, at the bottom of yet another awesome descent.

The stop at Branchport was much welcome. Ben had the opportunity to rest and refuel. He ate peanuts and tomato juice. Juan savored his favorite drink, chocolate milk, and Bill ate cherry pie, 600 calories for 75 cents. The highest calorie to cent ratio found in modern times. The detour was decided. Instead of continuing along the original route, the friends would follow 54A to Penn Yan, and then take 14A back to Watkins Glen. Bill led the paceline most of the way between Branchport and Penn Yann. Upon arrival at Penn Yann, Juan then took front at the paceline and found himself in a sweet rythm that he did not want to interrupt. There was a gradual climb for about 8 miles followed by a 5 mile descent. Over that stretch Juan was able to maintain nearly 20mph on the climb and over 30mph on the descent. He then waited for his friends at Dundee, enjoying a Clif Bar and energy drink. After Ben and Bill arrived, Juan proposed a detour, Dundee-Glenora Road, that would bring them back to the original route on 14. The others agreed.

The stretch on 14 was unpleasant, but short. A right followed by a left turn brought the three Musketeers on Reading Road, the last climb before descending into Watkins Glen. The climb was not very steep, but long enough to annoy many. It was time to descend! Juan spotted the scent in descent and shifted progressively to his largest gear, legs spinning faster and faster, lowered torso, and reached for his favorite spot on the handlebar. It was now time to enjoy shear speed. The bliss was interrupted by a stop sign. Time to raise your body and brake! Juan made it just in time, so I was told.

The riders met in Watkins, the final stop for Bill. Ben saw a bench and immediately sat down to rest. He was having trouble holding his neck up. Bill said goodbye, he was off to pick up his daughter in Elmira. Juan and Ben decided to go someplace warmer. During the day the temperature had risen to nearly 30F, but it was the sun that provided for gratification. Now it was again 22F, but without the radiative warmth of the sun. The intent was to go to the Walmart, but they saw a much more welcoming Natural Grocery and soon were inside. Juan really needed to go to the bathroom, and quick! In this grocery lies the tiniest bathroom ever. The sink almost meets the toilet. It is colorful and offers plenty of entertainment while you are seated or standing, facing the toilet or the sink. It was a bit tricky for Juan to take off all his gear in that confined space, but he did manage. After using the bathroom he inquired if pictures could be taken, to which the attendant gave permission. In the meantime, Ben was enjoying some sort of cookie. Juan decided to experiment, drinking Kombucha for the first time. He was sold by the label, promising reinvigorating bacteria. At this time Juan told Ben stories of how PBP riders often encountered similar neck problems, a condition called Shermer's neck, and mentioned their creative solutions. These included water bottles strapped below the chin, duct tape, spare tubles wrapped around the back and attached to the helmet, among many others. Michael Shermer was a RAAM rider in 1983 when he suffered from this problem. He managed to finish under excrutiating pain by cradling his chin in the palm of one hand with his elbow on the padding of his aerobars. Some images can be found here and here. Ben was not in such a severe state. Juan speculated whether his neck pain might have to do with the amount of riding Ben does in his drops. The lower your torso is, the more you have to keep your head at an angle in order to see the road. A topic for debate perhaps?

Ben decided he would ride back to Ithaca, but did not want to take CR79 and its endless rollers. Instead he suggested a detour on SR 227 to Trumasburg taking SR 96 back to Ithaca. Juan did not want to leave his friend alone on the way back and agreed. This would add miles to the ride that were previously cut with the detour taken at Branchport. It was now pitch black outside and Juan was very happy to have his Supernova E3. Ben's Lumotec IQ-Fly was no less impressive.

The climb out of Watkins Glen was difficult, a two mile climb with gradients in excess of 10%. Juan crested first and had time to change a contact lens he had lost during the climb before Ben reached him. The replacement fell on the ground but there was still enough liquid in the case to wash the lens and put it on the eye. After a couple of blinks all seemed well. The route to Trumansburg was pleasant, with little traffic on a Sunday night. Away from city lights, the sky was filled with stars. Juan spent most of this part of the ride looking into the sky. Ben could not appreciate the beauty because of his neck problem, but they stopped a couple of times so that Ben could stretch. At the stops Ben was also able to gaze at the stars. The riders commented on the glow apparent on the horizon and agreed that they had the goal in sight, Ithaca was there.

The sight of Ithaca changed Ben's mood. He was now humorous and seemed happy. That is often the case on long rides. The mood swings are inevitable. Learning how to cope with the difficult moments is essential. Particularly in randonneuring, the type of cycling Juan likes, where detours or shortcuts are generally not allowed. It was not long before the riders made a quick stop at Trumansburg. It would be another ten miles or so before the last descent of the day for both cyclists, one that Juan enjoyed thoroughly.

As Juan reached Ithaca he waited a bit for Ben and as if on a victory ride both of them went up Green street at a leisurely pace. Ben was happy to make it home in spite of the discomfort with his neck and issues with food as well. He was looking forward to a pot of beans. Juan still had one more climb ahead, two miles until he reached his home on East Hill. Straight to the shower it was.

All told, nearly 14 hours on the saddle, 145 miles (only 5 less than originally planned), 11,200 feet of climbing and tales for posterity.

Sunday was a day for the three musketeers, "one for all, all for one".

See Juan's pictures below



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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Five Boro Bike Tour

Today I signed up for the Five Boro Bike Tour, held in New York City on the first Sunday of the month of May every year. Registration is limited to the first 30,000 cyclists. This will probably be the largest gathering I will have been part of, on any occasion. The ride consists of a 42 mile loop that starts at the Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and takes the riders through all five boroughs of New York City. The only catch is that on the previous day I will be riding a 300km brevet in Pennsylvania. The Boro will serve as a recovery ride. I think it will be amazing! I highly encourage you to take part if you can. By the way, the roads along the route will be closed to automobile traffic.

Photo by Jesper Rautell Balle

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bike Riding in the Winter Months

After the great success of the "Tour de Solstice", Andrejs Ozolins encouraged me to think of other opportunities where we could promote the use of bicycles. I then scanned the Ithaca calendar for upcoming events, when I noticed the Chili Cook-Off and Winterfest. The cost of a table at the event for non-profit organizations was only $10. The idea was quickly sold and many more people are now involved. My participation in the event will consist in volunteering at the table, full in cycling gear, and also distributing an article on bike riding in the winter months, which was written with the help of Rick Carpenter, Dan Timmerman and Eric Smith among others. With Scribd I am able to share this document beforehand, here on the blog.


Winter Riding

Sunday, February 8, 2009

PA 200K "Beyond Hope to New Hope"

This was certainly the most eventful PA 200K I have done so far. It was memorable.

Prelude

Jamie Gartenberg and I traveled to Easton, PA on Friday night, arriving around 10pm after a stop at Bennigan's along the way. As usual, we were both pretty excited about the brevet the next day. It looked like we would be on track to go to bed at 12:00am, which would give us a good 5 hours of much needed sleep.

As we were prepping our bikes for the ride, I had to secure my seatpost since I had loosened the clamp to make the bike fit more easily in Jamie's car. I was a bit distracted and applied an excessive amount of torque. The result was now staring me in the face: a broken screw. It was almost midnight and I did not have any spare parts. What could I do? Ride the brevet without a seatpost? Give up? A feeling of despair followed by sadness sunk in. Jamie was trying to console me, but he also had to finish prepping his bike for the next day. So I started thinking more proactively. I thought about taking a bus back to Ithaca or spending the day in Easton, as my fellow randonneur friends were out and about riding their bikes the whole day. I did not want to do neither. Quickly I sent out an e-mail to the other riders asking for a spare seatpost clamp. It was midnight and I did not have high hopes. I still had one alternative. After analyzing the route in search of nearby bike shops, my best option would be to ride without the seatpost clamp, so basically standing, until Great Meadows, NJ, about 40 miles into the brevet. I could then make a 6 mile detour (there and back) to Hackettstown, NJ. There is bike shop called Marty's Reliable Cycles. I thought this was a better option than giving up the ride and spending the day at the Crayola factory.

As I was about to go to sleep I then realized the answer was in front of me the whole time. I can ride the entire brevet without the seatpost clamp. That is because I have one of those Topeak seatpost racks! The rack can work as a clamp! It comes with several shims and I can use the thinner one, allowing the piece that usually clamps onto the seatpost to clamp on to the seat tube, also securing the seatpost. I tried it out and it seemed to be working. It was now nearly 3am. I was overwhelmed by a sense of relief. It looked like I would be able to ride after all.

The Ride

Jamie and I woke up at 5am, after only 2 hours of sleep in my case. I took a shower, ate, went to the bathroom and put my gear on. Jamie had a similar routine. We watched the weather forecast. The day would start out very cold, with temperatures around 12-20F and during the day a Southward wind would bring warmer air, making the temperatures rise to 40F +. That was a huge temperature swing and I knew it would be difficult to prepare for it. I took two pairs of gloves, a thinner pair along with my lobster gloves and I decided to shed one layer on my legs, leaving my Showers Pass Event pants in the bag. My Topeak seatpost rack was filled with Clif bars, repair stuff, endurance drink powders and emergency energy gels. We left our hotel at 6:53am and rode a hill up to the start.

As usually is done during these brevets, upon arrival we paid the ride fee and received our brevet cards. These contain the names of the controles (in randonneuring often we use the original French word) along the route. At each controle our brevet cards must be initialed and the arrival time must be filled in. This is done by anyone working at the controle, which can be a restaurant, a convenience store at a gas station or often a mini-mart. This serves as proof that we completed the route and did not takes shortcuts. Additionally, there might be secret and info controles. On this particular ride we also had an info controle. This consists of a question we have to answer on our brevet card. The answer can only be known if you arrive at the controle.

We had some new riders that were introduced by Tom Rosenbauer, our RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator). He also gave us some pre-ride information, emergency procedures and other useful tips about the route. Tom is very concerned about having a safe ride. He will scout the route and look for hazards, which are all indicated on our cue sheets. He also monitors the weather forecast and makes sure that we are aware and prepared for the potential dangers of the ride. It is a lot of effort on his part, which he does without compensation, other than the joy of the sport. The "Squadra Bricconi", our Fleche team, was represented by Rick Carpenter of Reading, PA, Bill Fischer of Elmira, Jamie and me.

Rick Carpenter was riding "light" on his carbon Bianchi racing bike, a water bottle, a Camelbak and no food. In an attempt to prepare for longer brevets (300K, 400K, 600K and 1200K) I rode "heavy", with lighting, extra food and clothing. Jamie was also on the heavy side. It was 7:30 and time to go! It was soon apparent that Rick was on a mission. He imposed a strong pace and I was the only one to follow. I was undecided as to let him go and ride at my own pace or just suck it up and give it my all. I did not want to burn out and not complete the ride. Since this was my 4th 200K I had some sense of what I was capable of, so I decided to keep up with him. I usually do not draft, since I do not want to give the impression that I am a wheel sucker. So I will either ride next to the rider who is in front or I will stay far enough behind so that I am not in the slipstream. There are exceptions of course.

The route starts heading North alongside the Delaware River. The morning was cold and the sun was still close to the horizon. It was beautiful and I took a couple of pictures. Rick and I reached the second controle (the first controle is the start) only 13 miles into the ride, the Valero-Torino gas station. About 3 min later a group of four riders came in, Jamie among them. Rick had a cup of coffee and I munched down a Clif bar along with a lot of water. Not long after that we were on our way to the second controle. We left as a group of six, but soon Rick moved to the front and I followed.

The third controle was "Louie's Pizza", 38 miles into the ride. Between the second and third controle we had climbed about 3,000 feet, with a steep section on Walnut Road. One of the highlights of this stretch was the pedestrian cross of the Delaware River. I seized the opportunity to take pictures. Rick and I arrived at Louie's at 10:00pm sharp. Tom had recommended using this as a stop for an early lunch. Rick asked the attendant about food, to which there was no reply. We figured there would be no lunch there. I went to the bathroom. It is difficult going to the bathroom when you are using two jackets, a wool undershirt, bibs and a balaclava. As I finished my business I looked myself in the mirror, with the my balaclava still on and my bibs, no undershirt. For an instant I imagined what would happen if I strolled out of the bathroom like that. As I left the bathroom the intrepid four had arrived: Bill Fischer, Jamie Gartenberg, Matt Farrell and Carl June. Rick was savoring some ice cream while I downed a Clif Bar along with a bottle of water. I had not touched my endurance drink Spiz or my Accelerade, which were in my bottles on the bike. Rick waited as I reassembled my gear. As soon as we were off Rick hammered and I followed.

The next 23 miles with about 2,300 feet of climbing was the most enjoyable part of the ride for me. The roads had little traffic, there were plenty of trees surrounding us and I enjoyed every breath of the fresh air. We reached the fourth controle at the top of the climb on Tunnel Road. Rick explained to me that that in spite of the name, Tunnel Road did not have a tunnel, it went over a tunnel! Very deceptive. I was eager to try out my Supernova E3. The question we had to answer on our brevet card was: "What is the number on the silver mailbox?" The answer, 8, along with the arrival time was written on our brevet cards. I used this stop to take my balaclava off and to switch to lighter gloves. As we left the controle I was not able to clip in. Rick was already moving swiftly and I was following him, but with my shoes unclipped. I tried harder and harder to clip in to no avail. I started to think I was going crazy. Why was this not working? I finally gave up and stopped, while I saw Rick distance himself. As we walked to the mailbox I had stepped on snow, which had turned to ice under the pressure I was applying trying to clip in. So I used the side of my pedal to scrape the ice off. After a little work I was able to clip in one foot and then the other as well. Rick, noticing my absence, had stopped to see if I had made a wrong turn. I thanked him and we moved on, on into the wind and the most dreadful part of the ride for me.

We had another 27 miles to reach the fifth controle (including 13 miles on CR-579), and 23 since our last food controle. As Rick paved the way ahead, I was having a lot of trouble keeping up with him. There was strong headwind and soon I lost sight of him. I then shifted in my largest gear and decided to grind it out. I went into the drops and barely looked up the road, head down following the white line on the shoulder. I caught a glimpse of Rick. That was motivation enough to push harder. I did so and Rick was getting closer and closer. Finally I reached him. Not long after that he took off again and this time I would not follow. I was really tired and hungry. This was the time to ride at my own pace. And I did, after mile 80. There were 8 miles left to the next controle. During those 8 miles I drank one bottle of Spiz and a bottle of Accelerade along with plenty of water. My body needed it. I took pressure off the pedals and lowered my speed. Soon I was on an unwelcoming section on SR-179, with lots of glass on the shoulder. I was not in the mood for a flat, and with some luck I made it to the fifth controle, the WaWa at New Hope. Just before that I had crossed the Delaware River again. During the crossing I saw another cyclist that looked a lot like me. Eventually I learned from Rick that this rider had arrived late to the start and decided to ride the route backwards, so he could meet us along the way. Had I known this I would have spoken to him. I was relieved to see Rick's bike at the WaWa. He had arrived seven minutes before me, at 13:40. At the WaWa I refilled my Camelbak, mixed another bottle of Accelerade and Spiz and ate a bagel sandwich. Rick was kind enough to wait while I was getting ready to go.

In New Hope I had found hope. Hope to keep up with Rick. A couple of miles after the controle we crossed the Delaware once more (there were four crossings during the ride, all on foot) and we were greeted on the other side with a strong tailwind. The slight incline along the Delaware River was almost not even felt. My heart rate dropped to the lower 130's and we chatted plenty. Rick told me about his childhood stories, preparation forlong events, tales from past rides. We saw several cyclists along the way, coming out of hibernation on a warm winter day. The sun was out, its light reflecting off the river. Very beautiful. The serenity for me ended just after we went through Milford. Rick was once again possessed. He ramped up the speed and I was not about to let him go this time. I had made too much of an effort to keep up with him. However, I was not going to succeed by abiding to my non-drafting rule. I made the exception and starting sucking on his wheel, inches behind him, to make the least effort possible. Even then, it was tough. He would sprint over the rollers in his big gears, while I quickly shifted into my lower gears and started to spin like crazy. This pattern repeated itself until the finish. The sight of the last river crossing felt like a blessing to me. The last climb to the WaWa controle was delightful, icing on the cake. We reached our last controle at 16:29, 8h and 59 minutes after the start, an average of 14.41mph including stops and river crossings on foot and 9,437 feet of climbing. My computer indicates an average of 15.8mph while on the bike (this does not include stops, but does include river crossings.)

Epilogue

After the last controle Rick and I headed to the start, were we dropped off our brevet cards and signed the check in list. Rick was kind enough to take me and the bike back to Jamie's car at the Quality Inn and patiently wait while I stored my bike and gear. Afterwards we headed back to the post-ride gathering at Morici's Pizzeria. Soon we were joined by Jamie of the intrepid four. Unfortunately the other three did not participate in the gathering, including Matt Farell, who completed his first R-12 series on this ride (R-12=at least one 200km brevet every month of the year). Congrats Matt! They had arrived precisely 30 minutes after Rick and I. I have not yet heard from other riders, but I am eager to learn about their stories and experiences during this great ride. I owe Rick a lot for pushing me to my limit. I would not likely have worked so hard had I been on my own. Rick has amazing strength. He finished the ride only eating ice cream, a cup of coffee, one bottle of chocolate milk and water. I guess he also had something in the WaWa controle at New Hope.

Jamie and I drove back to Ithaca, arriving safely, but tired, at 9:30pm. As I unloaded the car Jamie noticed I had a rear flat tire. I wonder where that happened? Probably during the last few miles. There is a great sense of accomplishment in these rides, enough to keep you going and striving for longer rides.

Here are some pictures...




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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Frosty Old Peruville

It did not take very long to convince myself that a small Cateye head light was not quite cutting it on my night rides. As I plan to do many overnight rides this year, I decided to invest a bit on a Schmidt dynamo hub. These are made in Germany and probably are the best hubs available. Along with such a nice hub I purchased a great LED light, the Supernova E3. I received both items a couple of weeks ago, but only yesterday did I decide on a specific setup. Today was a perfect day to test my new hub/light combo and compare it to other lighting systems that I have seen. I had noticed that Ben Kraft has a nice setup, so we decided to compare our lights along the Old Peruville route, with plenty of dark roads and little traffic.

We started around 7pm at the HSBC parking lot and soon I realized it would be a tough test for my cold weather gear. As quickly as I felt the cold I also saw light, and a lot of it. Ben has a Shimano hub with a B&M IQ Fly, a very good light. Actually, the IQ Fly has a more focused asymmetrical beam. The E3 has a symmetrical beam, however powerful enough to illuminate the road with almost the same intensity of the IQ Fly. In addition, the E3 illuminates significantly farther down the road. It was capable of lighting up road signs in the distance and also the occasional pedestrian taking the dog out for a walk. It seems perfect for fast descents. I am very satisfied with the my lighting system and highly recommend it. A note: I purchased the lighter of the Schmidt hubs, the SON20R, which is not originally intended for a 700c wheel, but for a smaller 16" and 20" rims. The newer LED lights require less power than halogen bulbs for which these hubs were originally designed. Because of this, I am able to use a larger rim with a smaller hub without problems (on a smaller wheel the hub can be smaller because it spins faster for a given speed). At very low speeds this might make a difference. On the other hand, it is when you go fast that you need the light the most.

Riding side by side we were lighting up everything in front of us. We made a couple of stops because I was having trouble keeping my water from freezing. I was using a Camelbak and blew in the tube to make all the water go to the reservoir. In spite of my precaution, I had trouble drinking, but I did manage. Ben had less luck, forgetting to put the cap on his thermal bottle. Soon he had only ice left. As we crested Ed Hill we could observe a glow on the horizon, the city lights illuminating part of the sky. A very beautiful sight. Riding at night offers a unique experience. To hear are only the sounds of the pedals turning, our breathing and a bark here and there. The world rests as we move along. I like to imagine the scenes in the homes we pass by, and often wonder if we are seen.

The climb up Pleasant Valley was much welcomed as I my feet started to get cold. Ben jumped ahead and I followed. As we reached the top I then pushed hard on my cranks, relaxed my elbows and hands and lowered my torso. It is such a good feeling to move fast, legs smoothly tracing circles, upper body still, wheels cutting through the air. At least I would like to think so. We continued descending until we reached Conlon Rd. This then took us back to 34. Here we made a detour from the FLCC version of the ride. Ben wanted to make a quick stop by his parents place on West Dryden. That meant that we had a gradual climb for about 5 miles. Soon we were on West Dryden and as Ben stepped in I remained outside, in an effort to keep my frozen beard frozen. The average temperature during our ride was 4F, a personal low for me. If we take into account the wind chill factor, well, it was cold. Hence ice had been accumulating on my face for some time by then. Ben soon came out and the rest of the ride was down Warren Road, through campus and back to my place on Maple Ave. There I asked my wife to take pictures of our frozen faces. These can be seen here





It seems 4F is not cold enough to keep me off my bike, or Ben off his.

Juan S.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Supernova E3 installation

Today I finally installed my Supernova E3. I spent quite some time thinking about the several options for mounting the light. In the end I made the choice for a handlebar mounted light. The reason being I have a racing bike that I also use for brevets. So I would like to make the bike as randonneuring friendly as possible, without having to make major modifications. To accomplish this I decided to insert an extra connection between the hub and the light that allows me to remove the light quickly. I then swap the front wheel and there is no evidence of a light except for a bit of wire attached to the front fork. Take a look at the pictures below. Feedback is most welcome. I'd love to try out something better.