Monday, April 27, 2009
On or around the ides of March my now freshly reconsidered and rejiggered brevet bike came out of the trainer pegs and had to be placed on the pavement. Though March and April have had their share of feeling more like January and February, my ability to daydream while stationary and below ground level, grew stale. So, I have begun another season; once again, possessed by the goal of riding as a randonneur.
The Saluki went through a final transformation over the winter. In the four years since this project began in earnest, it has now arrived at the place I vaguely envisioned early on. In building this bicycle I have searched for parts and components, new and old stock. Items of the moment as well as choice elements now out of production. Though, some of the changes I have made were done so for aesthetic reasoning, most have been under the auspices of what makes a highly versatile brevet machine. On the side of "bicycle jewelry" I installed these lovely (Constructeur influenced) VO brake cable hangers
One of my beef's about the Saluki from the start has been the shimmy in the front end. Rivendell sells their production framesets with Shimano Ultegra headsets. I had always found this bike difficult to ride with no hands. And felt that the problem was this headset. I was lucky to procure a venerable stronglight A-9, complete with needle bearings. Many have commented on this particular component working miracles for this very problem. I would have to concur. Though the Saluki could still have improved geometric trail, to be optimal in this regard.
The Nitto randonneur h-bar setup with Cane Creek aero brake levers came off my Waterford, which was liquidated to help fund the most notable inclusion. The Schmidt Dynohub lighting system (see prior posting 2/12/09...) wired to a single Edelux headlight and a vintage Luxor taillight that is nicely matched to my Honjo hammertone fenders (I intend to convert the Luxor light to LED and so is currently unfinished).
Thus far, the system seems to be magnificent in all respects. I have yet to be in the deep country with no other light source, however, I have made a point of finding well covered trails on some of my night rides. It's astonishing to me that a light powered by a human on a bike can be this bright and effective, not to mention....efficient! As for it's ability to function well in heavy rain, I would have to give the system an A+.....as of this past weekend, it has now been through a near all day rain while out on the first 200k brevet of the season (more on this to follow).....
In the days prior to the GLR 200k brevet, many hours were spent finalizing the items, gear & food I would bring. I am certain I carried far more than I really needed, however I made decisions based on how I would like to be covered on a 400, 600 or even 1200k. So, I assembled tire and tubes (1 tire, 3 tubes). The Saluki being a less common tire size it only makes sense to be overly covered. I also had a patch kit and a small tube of super glue for any small holes where glass or metal may have embedded. A 35mm film container held some spare bolts and I wrapped a bit of gaffers tape around the outside. My first aid pouch held a number of potentially useful items including key medicinals. Though this ride was done with plenty of available daylight, I did carry my battery lighting. 1 LED headlight and 2 LED red rear lights. I also had spare batteries. The rules of brevet riding also call for reflective wear for both ankles and some sort of torso coverage, front and back.
The forecast was for a cold front that would surely bring rain (and it surely did!) so I loaded my rain wear pouch with jacket, gloves and newly acquired Craft Bullet pants. I should thank my good man Jim @ National Bicycle Co. who helped get these for me just in the nick of time. I am not sure I would have been able to complete the ride without these! Along with the usual necessary tools, the last notable element in my bag was a full set of cables for shifters and brakes...all cut to size with the ends soldered. This may seem over the top, but the alternative is trying to cut cable on the roadside with some kind of pocket tool....if you have ever tried, you know how the results look...usually a frayed mess of unraveled cable. With the exception of my rain wear bag, all my items were stowed in either my front bag or small saddle bag. I weighed around 157lb. the day before the ride and was curious enough to drag the house scale to the basement shop to see how my total weight was running. So, while holding my bike fully loaded standing on the scale the reading was just over 197lb. My luggage and gear weighed nearly 12lbs. I should say..I am not the type to obsess about weight, but I was curious to know what I would drag along.
The Saluki spent most of the week prior hanging on the work stand. I made some overdue adjustments from the spring training, cleaned the drive train and replaced my brake pads. I then proceeded to check each bolt for tightness and made a few other adjustments as the week went on. Because of the forecast, I needed a place to strap down my rain gear. So I chose to install my new Nitto Campee rear rack (without the low rider attachments). I had to cut and drill to fit, but now assembled it is a fine inclusion to the rig and will serve many purposes. It has become increasingly difficult for me to understand why you would want a bike without proper lighting, racks and fenders?!
The day before the ride was a sunny and blustery 80 degrees. Ahead of the cold front was a big pocket of summer that I thought would last through most of the following day...I was wrong...never the less...I spent time the day before taking in the sun and warm air while doing some final wheel cleaning in my yard. My daughter Oona was on quality control.
"Ride in weather most people won't." -Grant Petersen Rivendell Bicycle Works
On the morning of the ride I awoke at 4:20. When I first stepped outside to load my bike and gear for the hour drive to Delavan, WI the air was still balmy. The wind was less than 5 mph, if not still. It felt like an early morning in south Florida. Even with the less than desirable forecast, there were twice as many riders in the lot at the Super 8 parking lot. I would say near 2 dozen set out, though I am not sure if everyone finished? After a few short words from the GLR officials we were off just after 7 am. The first hour of riding was the last hour of weather that would be considered fair, and even at that the wind was persistent on the lead of this front. Our track was to the WNW towards Madison, WI. The prevailing winds were either head or crossing. Neither of which is very forgiving at 15+ mph. Ahead of the front the rain was scattered and the temps were still moderate in the low 60's. While in the second hour on the road, we knew this would change as we approached the front...
...a view of the horizon as we met the front...
The other side of the front was eventually better than 20 degrees cooler than how the day started. It felt even colder given the wind and rain.
It became clear that it was time to put on some coverage...above is my riding partner and older brother...may I just say...thank god for older siblings! We have been on many rides in the past few years. Some organized others not. He is a hell of a strong rider and a natural climber, a far better athlete than I am, but he is less inclined to all the trappings that may come with being smitten with all the cyclo-touring lore. Had I been any less spellbound we would have turned around early in the day. However, I was not interested in a DNF. It seemed like we were prepared for the adventure...and he being the good big brother, persevered in ways most people just would not have.
...all things considered, that day was not without a certain beauty..above is looking back as we transitioned into what would become a personal cycling jihad for the day...
...the remainder of the day looked much like this...The temps. hovered in the forties, the wind started out of the WSW was eventually NW and rarely ever seemed to help. The route had us on several shoulderless roads for a fair distance next to 55 mph traffic, though not a high volume was out there. Still, I would have preferred spending less time on these types of roads. I think it is fair to say that the route was more disappointing than the weather. Given that these same roads will be used for the other distances I am not sure I would want to be that exposed after nightfall. Which will be the case for riders of the 300, 400 & 600k brevets. And I think that there are many alternative roadways in the area to accomplish a potentially safer experience. I trust my own night riding skills and savvy in traffic, and I would also take some solace in riding with others, but I do not trust many of the drivers on Wisconsin roads and highways on a late Saturday night or after bar time. Should riders continue through the night, these I think are legitimate concerns. I don't mean to be disparaging of the organizers of an otherwise fantastic series of brevets. I know that a great deal of energy and resources are spent by those involved in the organization. And planning a route is not an easy task, but I do believe that one of Wisconsin's assets is an abundance of relatively well maintained country roads that offer light vehicle traffic.
...Though, we aren't talking biblical amounts, it did rain enough to do some flooding. This is on the way to Verona somewhere around the 50 mile mark.
Verona, WI (which is just SW of Madison) was our midway check point and our turnaround point. There we stopped a bit longer for some lunch. A Kwik Trip acted as our control. I had a salami sandwich, half a bowl of chicken chili and a coffee. Within 1/2 an hour we were on our way back to Delavan. My computer is in need of recalibration, but I can say that we covered better than 125 miles and were in the saddle over 9 hours. I had hoped to do more photo documentation and perhaps a bit of video, but given the weather, I became more focused on simply riding and enduring. We passed a couple of ethanol production facilities that I wish I had taken some captures of, as they were easily as ominous as any nuclear reactor I have encountered. And unfortunately for the locals not making any money off the plant...ethanol production sure does stink!
The night before this ride I was explaining to my oldest boy, Angelo (he is 5) that I would not be here when he got up and that I would be gone until bed time....that I was going on a bike ride with Uncle Craig....Angelo asked in a slight forlorn tone...why was I going on a ride? To which I anwered, "Angelo, I don't know?" Earlier today my brother sent an email and mentioned that he still could not understand how or why we did what we did.....I am still wondering, as well. While already mentally planning the upcoming 400 & 600k brevets I plan to ride this season.