Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I wasn't going to let a broken frame ruin my 23 month streak of riding 200k rides, but time was running out for free weekends. Luckily we had a 58cm Bianchi Volpe on the sales floor. I got approval from the boss and went about doing a frame swap. With a new color scheme, and a mismatched fork, I set off on another 200k ride. This was another first "ascent" ride through the rural roads along the I-5 corridor. It's amazing how quickly the traffic dies down just a few miles from one of the busiest highways in the US. Josh, John, and myself celebrated President's day by breaking in this route (hopefully no more breaking for me). Josh was busy in the morning, so we decided on a 12:00 noon start.

It was another beautiful dry, but cloudy and cool day as we made quick work of the flat roads out of town. We fueled up in Centralia with an extra sandwich to anticipate not finding much food in the next 100 miles. The day was beautiful and the afternoon sun warmed us as we climbed the Alpha Centralia road. Mt Rainier poked out below the clouds and many of the trees were starting to show the first signs of spring. Along the way we got to make up the informational controls for the new route. It's always fun to joke about putting down questions like: "How many trees can you see from this intersection".

The hilly section around Mayfield dam made us work hard, but the quick descents were enjoyable as well as being on new roads. The exploration is one of my favorite parts of the ride. Adventuring down new roads on a bicycle is thrilling. After a few months of difficult cold and wet rides, I was relieved to have good weather and fun company. As we crested another hill, Mt Saint Helens poked it's flat top out of the clouds.

After pedaling through Mossyrock, the daylight began to end just as the first drops of rain began to fall. It must still be February in Washington. The drops turned into rain and we put our heads down and pedaled hard in the dark and rain. This did give me an opportunity to check out my new light in the rain. I just upgraded to the new Supernova E-3 pro Asymmetrical beam and enjoyed the wide beam it cast on the road. We worked through a pace line without much talk until we reached the final control in Adna. The hills were all behind us, just 30 flat miles to home. I was glad to get more calories in my body and ate a sandwich and Snickers.

After leaving the store, we had the pleasant surprise of cloudy skies instead of raindrops. We cruised back into town at 10:30 pm finishing another 200k lap around Olympia. I was exited to finish my second R12 without any more frames breaking.


Some people ask why we decide to spend hundreds of hours riding our bikes to strange far away places like Concrete, Farmer and Brooklyn, Washington. We eat more food a gas stations than is recommended by any nutritionist and drink more Perpetuem than most people can stomach. Well the answer is: the little shiny awards. Like grown up Boyscouts, we work hard to build up our miles just for the shiny little trinkets to show off to our friends. 

For 2009, I decided to tackle the award for the "ambitious randonneur" and complete the American Randonneur Challenge. I wasn't going to let the fact that I hadn't finished even one 1200k ride, let alone 2 1200k rides get in my way. After a busy and successful summer, I earned the award after completing both the Gold Rush and the Last Chance 1200k. 

To prepare myself for these events, I decided to ride as many brevets as possible. These miles brought me to the total of the 8,000 km. Anxiously awaiting the post man ever day, a box finally arrived for me and now have a new spot on the bookshelf. 

Ups and Downs

To celebrate my 24th month of consecutive 200k rides, I decided to ride the Brooklyn 200k, the same permanent I did last year for my first R12. This beautiful scenic ride is one of my favorite loops out of Olympia. The cloudy but dry morning promised a good ride with relatively warm temperatures. The sun even came out as we started our ride on the flat roads to Littlerock. We made good time out of town and I was looking forward to the gravel roads that were approaching. I was feeling strong and was excited to steam up the climbs.

About 3 miles from that climb, I heard a loud sound coming from my bike. I had just tuned up my bike and knew that nothing should be making this clunking sound coming from my bike. I stopped and started going down the check list of potential problems. First, the easy fixes: loose pump, loose water bottle cages, nope. Crankarms, bottom bracket, chainrings, chain, rear derailleur, cassette, rear hub, front hub. Nope. Was I hearing things? I got back on the bike and as soon as I put pressure on the pedals it started again, clunk, clunk, clunk with each turn of the pedals. This wasn't good. I stopped again for a closer look. In the back of my head I knew that the only problems left were really bad. After wiping away the dirt, I found the problem, and it was really bad. A clean crack through my frame on the drive-side chainstay. I quickly caught up to Rick and Don who were riding with me and showed them what the problem was. I borrowed Rick's cell phone and began the slow pedal back to cell reception. Keep in mind that we were about as far away from anywhere as you could get in western Washington.

The sun was shining and and the weather was warm. A perfect day to slowly pedal back to town. Just outside of Oakville I was able call Corey just before he went to work. As a fellow Randonneur (and friend and coworker) he dropped everything and saved the day.

A few days later I contacted Bianchi and they are shipping a new frame to me as the old one was covered under warranty. Just another thing to add to the checklist of crazy things that happen on brevets. This was my second DNF for 2 years and 40 events, both due to mechanical failures. The frame (a Volpe) had somewhere between 17,000-20,000 miles on it in the three years I've own the bike. Hopefully it will keep serving me well.

Monday, February 1, 2010

January Rain

Then new year didn't bring any new changes for riding weather for us last Sunday. We picked the wrong weekend day to go riding. Saturday was warm and sunny, but Sunday had a few showers...10.5 hours of rain. Rick, Steve, and I decided to try a new permanent route out of Lacey. This is a shorter version of the 300k I did in the freezing temperatures in mid December. We got our coffee fix at the start at Starbucks and then headed west to Capitol Forest. It was a beautiful morning with the sun just peeking over the horizon and a glimpse of snow on the Cascades to the east. It was only an hour into the ride when the first drops started hitting our jackets. By the time we crested the steep hill on D-Line, it was a full out rain. I couldn't believe my luck with another wet ride after such beautiful weather the day before. At least I had company to suffer with on this ride. At Porter, we refilled our bottles, grabbed a few bites to eat and pushed on through the water.

We found out that the rear mudflap Steve had on his fenders was not long enough. After scraping road grit out of our mouths, Rick and I decided to pull our paceline south to Adna. I was glad to have my new fenders on my freshly tuned bike. My previous stainless fenders finally bit the dust and cracked at an attachment. I also changed to fresh tires for this ride. I decided to give the wider tires a try and changed my 28mm Continental 4 season tires over to 32mm Panaracer Pasela. The wider tires made the chipseal covered road become much more enjoyable, even if they weren't able to stop a metal wire from giving me a flat. After a quick change we were back on our way.

We stopped briefly in Adna to get our control cards signed but continued on to have lunch in Chehalis. We briefly entertained the idea of stopping at McMenamins in Centrailia but decided that we probably wouldn't want to leave after a beer and burger. After a sandwich, hot drinks and fried mystery meats from the hot case at the grocery store, we ventured back out into the rain. Our route detoured out to the Centralia Steam Plant, a massive building set away from any other development. The Tono Hills were the last challenge before the flat trails home.

The Yelm Tenino Trail and the Chehalis Western Trail link the small towns south of Olympia to Lacey. Usually this trail is busy with kids, dogs and cyclists, but this evening we only passed on other wet cyclist. Just a few miles from the end, Steve got the second flat for the day. We changed it in the dark, shivering and dripping. We pulled into Starbucks and rushed the counter for some food and hot drinks, thankful to be finished. I am also finished with January, making this my 23 consecutive month of riding 200k rides.

A wet start to for the first 200k of 2010 makes me look forward to the warm summer months ahead. When it's cold and nasty outside it's easy to plan epic rides. I signed up for the 2010 Cascade 1200k ride, excited to finish the ride after a mechanical problem stopped me 2 years ago.