Monday, April 29, 2013

The Ronkonkoma 200K: A New Brevet Series is Born

Route designer Mordecai and Patrick at the start

Today marks the inaugural event in the new Long Island Brevet Series and what an event it was! The Ronkonkoma 200K takes in some of the most lovely countryside in Eastern Long Island along the famed southern shore and lesser known northern shore. In between the two, riders are treated to two short ferry crossings and a quick (4.5 mile) ride across Shelter Island, a lovely, quiet barrier island that lies between the two forks at the easternmost end of Long Island. NJ Rando stalwart Mordecai S. created the route as a permanent some years ago and RBA Paul M. has taken it over to use as the inaugural ride in his new brevet series.

There were about 30 riders at the start on a beautiful spring morning. All but two of us had pre-registered, but I decided to come down at the last minute when my plans to ride the Westfield 200K fell through on Saturday. I slept in the guest room on Saturday night and set the alarm for 4:50am in order to make it to the start 2 hours and 20 minutes from my home without waking anyone up in the process.

The sea glistened as we rode through the Hamptons.

After a few suburban miles, riders travel through wooded areas en route to the sea. There's still a fair amount of farmland in eastern Long Island, although much of it has been commodified for the tourist industry. It seems that high-end country farm stands are more common on the southern shore while wineries dot the northern coast. In other words, there are plenty of spots to stop along the way for just about anything a randonneur might like to fuel the engine. If, like me, you try to keep stops to the absolute minimum, the first control offered a wonderful assortment of baked goods and fresh, hot coffee. Tempting as these treats were, I decided to forgo food in favor of an early boat connection.

Waiting for the next boat.

While ferry crossings are not unheard of on brevets, this was my first experience and, boy, was it a thrill. I arrived at the first ferry just as the gate was closing and was nearly tempted to pedal harder in hopes of making an Evel Knievel-style leap to the ferry's main deck. There were children watching so I figured I should model appropriate law-abiding behavior and so waited for the next boat. In the meantime, five other randonneurs arrived and we sailed together across the short stretch to Shelter Island. The sea was a most appealing shade of blue on this gorgeous, warm spring day. I even texted my wife a photo, which based on her response turned out to be a fairly mean thing to do. OK, looking at these pictures again, I can see why she might have been a little annoyed. What a day!

Once on the Shelter Island, it's a quick 4.5 mile ride to the second ferry. One could take much longer to explore, but we had a schedule to keep and so hopped on the second ferry and returned to the main island via Greenport. The boat schedule served to create greater distance between riders, so once this group of six was formed, we stayed together for much of the second half of the ride.

Farmland and wineries dot the course.

The first 90 miles of the ride were flatter than some pancakes I've made, but just as I'd settled into serious confidence about the energy I had left in the tank, the route began to get choppy. There's nothing dramatic in these hills, but a series of continuous rollers serves to keep riders engaged and alert. While I don't recall much of a tailwind on the ride out, we suffered from a somewhat blustery headwind that tore out group apart at a few times on the return. Those with more miles in their legs predictably fared better than others. By the info control at mile 115, though, we had reassembled and settled into a comfortable pace for the final shot to the finish. All of us were grateful to see Paul standing outside of the pizza shop at the finish and happier still when he announced that the first slice was on him! So, despite ferry crossings and headwinds, we still finished in a respectable 9:02. I guess this stands as the course record, though one that will be broken as soon as the ride is repeated, no doubt.

Up next: the Westfield 300K - Bash Bish Falls edition.


  1. Great write up. I am so pleased the weather turned out great for you guys. Today was about 10 degrees cooler. I heard from Mordecai, that your time beats the permanents by some distance. Perhaps next I can make the information contrĂ´le more cryptic and I will practice on the route all year!

  2. Thanks for a great event, Paul! So we do have the record after all. You could not have ordered better weather. Sadly, I have a family conflict on the date of your 300K, so I'll have to wait until next season to try another Long Island brevet. Of course, I could come south for a permanent or two . . . Happy trails.

  3. Interesting! I did not know there was a Long Island series now, and I've only done a ferry ride on a casual ride, never a brevet. Cool (as long as the ferry doesn't take a lot of time, what with waiting, boarding, crossing, etc.). Love that first photo of Patrick and Mordecai!

  4. I guess those climbs over the last 30 miles were "nothing dramatic" for you, but to my flatlander's city bike legs, they sure presented a challenge. Nice to meet you & thanks for the great write up!

  5. Hi MG, I was pleased that the ferry (waiting and crossing) portions were smooth and efficient.

    Nice meeting you, too, Omri. Sorry we got split up there. Would have been nice to chat a bit more. Next time.