Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brevet #1 (2011): T minus 1 week.

I can't believe it's finally here. After much anticipation, I'll ride in my first brevet of the 2011 season on Sunday, July 31 and I couldn't have chosen a more fitting ride. The NYC 200K is an oldie but a goody. It's also one of my favorite events since the route is outstanding and marks the first brevet I ever rode in 2007. I was instantly hooked on randonneuring after riding the NYC200K and went on to ride a full SR series that season, but did not attempt PBP. Instead, I put off that goal until 2011. As luck would have it, I'll have wait yet another four years for that glory. In 2015, I'll be 50 years old and I honestly can't think of a better way to celebrate a personal half century.

The NYC200K starts at the George Washington Bridge bus terminal in upper Manhattan and snakes its way through the Palisades and Bear Mountain to Harriman State Park and back. Coincidentally, the route passes right by the main entrance to the Helen Hayes Hospital so I plan to stop in to see who's working on my old floor that might remember my wheelchair-bound self. It sure would be a thrill to find a few familiar faces.

I feel strong on the bike and have a much greater sense of confidence for the distance after last week's successful 104-mile ride. The event should be great fun. Many of the participants will be heading off to Paris in a few weeks so the anticipation and excitement should be palpable. There's still plenty of room for additional riders. Care to join us? Rollout is 7:00 am. Registration can be completed on-line at this link, by mail or in person on Sunday morning.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My First Century! Ride and volunteer report.

Today I rode the first century since my accident and (after a nice cool shower) I feel simply maaaavelous. While not as strong as I was last June, I rode pain-free and relatively strong all day.

The event was the second annual Bike the River Valley century put on by Glen at Bicycle Shows US who also organizes the Ride to Montauk and other deluxe century offerings. Since I was not too keen on spending $100 to ride around my neighborhood with a bunch of strangers, I inquired about volunteer options which would generously eliminate my entry fee. Glen was happy to accommodate and gave me the task of leading the escorted 100-mile ride: a perfect arrangement. Talk about pressure, though. I was pretty sure I wouldn't run into trouble, but knowing I had people depending on me really helped.

We had a blast! What fun it is to pull together a group of total strangers of varying abilities into a team to take on some controlled adventure. The weather was generally cooperative, but temps did get into the 90s in the afternoon and the exposed sections of the route were a little brutal at times. Luckily much of the route was shaded. My knowledge of the area definitely came in handy when the other route leader had us heading south on River Rd. in Red Hook rather than north. While we took in an extra 10 miles due to some curious route markings, we were able to shave off an unnecessary northern loop near Germantown and clocked in at exactly the reported route mileage of 104. The route also passed directly by my driveway in the final 10 miles so my wife and son were able to bring buckets of cold water to dump on our heads as we rode passed.

So, all in all, it was a very nice day. I got to:

  • enjoy the excitement of an organized ride, 
  • meet a bunch of nice people, 
  • ride over some beautiful roads on a gorgeous summer day, 
  • feel like my efforts and knowledge of the area were really helpful and, 
  • most of all, prove to myself that I can ride a strong 100 miles without pain and suffering.

Next up: the NYC 200K on July 31. Anyone care to join me?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paul Racer Brakes: Check!

The other day while discussing stylish silver component options, Justin at Signature Cycles suggested that I consider Paul Racer brakes for the new rando bike I'm having built up. As you may know, Paul Racers are newly designed center-pull brakes modeled after the classic Mafac center-pulls. At first, I was reluctant to make the change since the Racers cost twice as much and require special braze-on mounts so there would be no turning back. Then after reading some reviews, looking at some photos and throwing care to the wind, I called Justin back and asked him to contact the builders at IF to see if the frame was too far along to make the adjustment. I also learned that it will be possible to attach a front rack to the brake bosses should I ever chose to go in that direction. Luckily, I heard back today that it's a go for the new Paul brakes. This is going to be one sweet bike!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Englewood 600K: A Volunteer's Perspective

Past and present NJ Rando RBAs: Leroy and Laurent

What a great weekend for a hilly 600K romp through New York's gorgeous Catskill Mountains! Easy for me to say, of course, since I wasn't one of the participants, but the riders I spoke with at the Phoenecia controle on this weekend's Englewood 600K seemed to be fully enjoying the camaraderie, the route and the fine weather. I'm ashamed to admit that this was my first ever stint as a brevet volunteer. I could make up all kids of excuses, but it really comes down to the fact that with time constraints I'd always just rather be riding. Luckily, others have sacrificed their time over the years to make all of the brevets I've completed possible.

NJ Rando's Katie R. got in touch a few months ago to ask if I'd be able to help staff one of the controle's on the Englewood 600K route which swings rather close to my house and I was more than happy to confirm that I'd love to do something to begin to repay the many favors that NJ Rando has done for me over the years. Great news arrived last week when Katie confirmed that my shift would begin at 11:00 am at the Phoenicia controle located 40 miles from my front door. This meant that I would be able to volunteer AND get a great 80-mile training ride in (my longest one-day mileage total since the accident) AND catch up with some friends along the way.

The day started for me with a glorious ride to Phoenicia over low traffic roads that skirt the Ashokan reservoir as they enter the Catskills Park. I arrived at the controle at about 10:45 am to find that the lead group had just left the Rhinebeck controle roughly 40 miles away. It looked like I was to have a little time on my hands. Soon after I arrived at the Momma's Boy Cafe and settled into a shaded Adirondack chair, I was approached by Leroy V., the NJ Rando RBA, who drove up after checking riders in at the start to spend some time along the route. While I had packed the Jonathan Franzen novel I'm reading into my Detours bag, I much preferred chatting about rando life past and present with this four-time PBP ancien, whose first trip to the Catskill mountains from his native NJ by bike took place in the early 1940s when he was a mere 15-years old. As the father of a 15-year old, I'm not quite sure what his folks were thinking.

The first pair of riders who arrived just before 1:00 pm looked fit and full of steam as they took advantage of a little shade and ice cream. They stretched their planned 10-minute stop into 25-minutes, but did not seem bothered by the extension.  The next two groups to come in followed close behind and displayed a similar level of energy at the 1/3 mark on this hilly course. Several more riders came through after a short while and soon there was just one final pair bringing up the rear. Several of the riders in the day's event had come from great distance to participate in what was billed as a hilly tune-up for PBP.  Illinois, Canada and Florida were all represented. Sadly, one of the riders from Florida, who needed this event to qualify for PBP, arrived at the controle with his bike in the back of a farmer's pick-up truck, the victim to some nasty full-body cramping.  His partner, though, was fresh and full of energy as she pedaled off into the high Catskills after restocking her celery supply, fixing her light mount and applying some fresh sunscreen. All told, 18 riders in and 17 riders out.

I began my journey home at 5:30 pm after enjoying a day filled with conversation and merriment. The return trip was even more pleasant than the ride up as I took full advantage of a small tail wind, the sun on my shoulders and a slight decent all the way home. While I'm disappointed not to have been among the riders fin-tuning their fitness for PBP, I'm glad to have been a part of their excitement and to have been able to ride 80 miles with a smile on my face. Next up: the Ride the River Valley century on July 17.

A few minutes of shade and refreshment

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Paved (Summer 2011): Handmade Ecstasy

Have you seen Paved yet? The world probably needs a new cycling magazine like a hole in the head, but this one is good, really good. Luckily, I was hanging out with my friend Jim this week and he passed along his copy knowing what a sucker I am for old-school steel frame bikes. The magazine is great, and I especially like the photo essay on modern handmade bicycles in the style of the mid-century French constructeursPeter Weigle, the grandfather of the modern constructeur renaissance, is featured as are Tony PereiraSasha White, Ira Ryan, Dan Boxer and a handful of others. The photos are delicious and the article is informative and very well written.

It was this bike above, though, built by Black Cat Bicycles that really caught my eye. It's no secret that I love a good set of Honjo fenders, but these along with the beautiful light blue frame looks quite a lot like my Independent Fabrication bike currently under construction. Seeing this has inspired me to build my frame up with silver components, and white cables and bar tape as well. What a beauty it is and will be!

Paved is a skinny tire spin-off Bike magazine edited by Joe Parkin of Dog in a Hat fame. Published four times per year, it's not yet possible to subscribe, but last time I checked, the local Barnes and Noble was stocking it and it's also possible to order online off their blog. Thanks, Jim!