Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Perfect Rando Vehicle: My New 2011 Prius

I didn't receive a huge financial settlement after being nearly killed by a distracted driver, but my medical costs have largely been paid for and I came away with a replacement bike and enough money to buy a new car. In choosing a car to replace the ten-year old beater in my driveway, I was searching for the perfect rando vehicle. I needed something that's great on gas (to get back and forth from brevets and ultra races) and something that would fit my bike and gear in the back. Knowing myself well, I've pledged NEVER to mount a bike on the roof. The sound of a custom frame being mangled by a low-hanging obstacle would be the end of me.

With all of this in mind, this past August I bought a 2011 Toyota Prius which, I will argue, is the PERFECT rando vehicle. With gas mileage hovering around 55 mpg, I've cut my fuel costs in half and feel much better about driving hundreds of miles to ride my bike.

As you can see, there is also PLENTY of room in the back to store my fully kitted out rando bike. In fact, I don't even need to remove the front wheel! Everything fits beautifully.

Other amenities include a great sound system (complete with iPod cable) and heated leather seats.

Finally, after a lifetime of mocking people with vanity license plates, I decided it was time to let the world know about my major long-term cycling goal. I've always found that being public about goals is not only great motivation, but it also helps us reach them. After being sidelined in 2011, I WILL ride Paris-Brest-Paris in 2015. I just won't drive there in this car.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My NEW Independent Fabrication Rando Ride

After nearly 15 months, I finally have a replacement for the lovely Independent Fabrication rando bike that was totaled during my accident. It wasn't until June 2011 that I was physically ready for a custom fitting appointment and now it's finally here. The wait time for IF frames is typically 2 months, but with the company's move to NH this summer, things took a bit longer.

I was able to transfer a few parts off the old bike to a different IF frame, so now I'm blessed with two great bikes. I'll keep this blue bike fully kitted out for brevets, permanents and long distance adventures with fenders and lights, while the other will serve as my all-around training and racing bike. Since I knew this would be my second Club Racer in the stable, I decided to try out a different color for the new frame. IF is well known for their excellent paint work and this new bike is no exception. The lustrous blue paint just pops, especially with the silver components and the white and gold IF decals.

Since I was starting from scratch, I decided to make a few aesthetic and performance upgrades. In particular, I opted for the Paul Racer brakes over the Tektro long reach. I was not a huge fan of the Tektros the last time around, but they fit around my 43mm Honjo fenders better than the Shimano long reach. This time though, I made the plunge (and commitment!) to go with the Pauls. Since the Paul Racers mount to uniquely placed frame bosses, there's no going back.

In addition, I chose the beautiful silver Ritchey Classic line for stem, handlebar and seat post and, of course, the special IF sterling silver head badge. Finally, Justin at Signature Cycles built me a great pair of hoops around a gorgeous set of White Industries hubs.

As luck would have it, I have been EXTREMELY busy since picking up the bike on Thursday night, so I've only been able to ride it for about an hour. So far, it rides just as good as it looks. I can't wait to spend some serious time with this new friend. I think I'm in love.

  • Independent Fabrication Club Racer - steel frame and fork (custom)
  • Shimano Ultegra with 10-speed cassette
  • Paul Racer brakes
  • Chris King headset
  • Ritchey Classic stem, handlebar and seat post
  • White Industries hubs
  • Mavic Open Pro 32-spoke wheels
  • Time RSX pedals
  • Brooks Professional saddle with titanium rails
  • Honjo 43mm fenders
  • Grand Bois Cypres 32mm tires
  • Blackburn frame pump

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My R-12 Adventure

Over the past several years, more and more randonneurs have been logging monthly brevets and permanents of at least 200K in search of better fitness and the coveted R-12 Award. Finding time to squeeze a monthly 200K into the calendar is hard enough with complex work and family schedules. Add in extended sub-zero temperatures and frequent snow and freezing rain and it can be all but impossible.

Scanning the list of R-12 award recipients, the lack of New York and New England states is immediately apparent. With five rides already in the bank, it's only December, January and February that give me any concern, but I'm confident that this will be my year. More information about the R-12 can be found at this link.

Next up: the Flatlander's Delight 200K permanent over the first weekend in December.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Permanent Approved: Just in Time for Winter

Getting this new permanent route approved could not have been an easier or more pleasant process. RUSA permanista Crista B. worked my application through the system in what seems to have been record time. This is especially pleasing since I designed the route specifically to provide a safety net during the long snowy New York State winter.

The two permanent routes I currently maintain take in bucolic, hilly and occasionally unpaved roads. One of them is not open during the winter months and the other would be highly questionable during a particularly snowy spell. It's hard enough to squeeze rides in during a busy month, but with a winter like we had last year, an R-12 on local roads would be impossible. We needed something pretty flat routed on some broad roads with wide shoulders.

The new permanent will be known as the Keep the River on Your Right 200K and takes in some beautiful countryside traveling in a clockwise direction north, south, then north again with two Hudson River crossings, one on the narrow Rip Van Winkle Bridge connecting Catskill and Hudson and the other on the pedestrian path of the ginormous Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. Riders travel through several interesting Hudson Valley towns such as Kingston, Hudson, Red Hook, Rhinebeck and Hyde Park among others.

As I've mentioned before, I have my sights set on the R-12 medal this year. With this route, my chances have increased dramatically. Thanks Crista!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Stillwater 200K: November's R-12 is in the book.

Today marked my return to Pennsylvania to ride in a brevet for the first time since my accident last year. I was a little nervous as I drove out there, but the curse has been lifted. Not only did I complete the Stillwater 200K handily, but I also enjoyed the hell out of it. This gorgeous view of the Delaware River was just one for the many lovely vistas riders were treated to throughout the day.

I have the feeling that when this pump was active, gas was not $3.68/gallon.  I'm guessing it was more like $0.47/gallon. When I used to pump gas back in 1982 it was $0.68/gallon. Back then cigarettes were about $0.65/pack, too. Crazy, huh?

A parting view of the river from the pedestrian bridge heading back into Portland. I may not have cracked the 10 hour mark, but I did make it back before sundown.

Today I rode with my new Joy Bot just for extra security. My Joy Bot (made by artist Gary Hirsch) is programed to bring me joy and bring me joy he did. Here's a photo of him taking advantage of the lovely view from my new Kinesis top tube brevet bag.

Next up: December R-12. Close to home or far afield? Time will tell.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Favorite Award of the Year

When a package arrived yesterday afternoon, I had no idea that it would contain the final chapter of a brevet I began on August 26, 2010. As everyone will attest, Eastern PA RBA Tom R. is a straight-up guy. He puts on a huge array of outstanding events, is highly organized and has a heart as big as the whole outdoors. Tom is also known for providing solid support on his events. What people may not know, though, is that Tom's support is not limited to those currently riding on one of his routes. All throughout my long recovery from a crash on his Endless Mountains 1000K last year, Tom never stopped providing support to me or to my family.

Riders who completed the EM 1000K received a lovely framed map of the course in which to display their ACP medal. While I did not receive an ACP medal due to my DNF, Tom was kind enough to send me the framed map as a memento of my ride and my struggle to return to full form.

This gift is especially timely as I will clip in on Saturday morning at Tom's Stillwater 200K in a return to PA cycling after a long time away. This event will also serve as my November R-12 ride. The forecast is for outstanding weather. I look forward to seeing Tom at the final control, this time with a completed brevet card.