Sunday, October 23, 2011

100 Miles on the Danube

Donauradweg
After more than two years of meaning to but never quite working up to it, I have finally completed my first "century" - a 100 mile ride. It didn't exactly happen as I had envisioned it, but it happened nonetheless. And it was certainly memorable.

The bike you see here is what I rode: It is a Bella Ciao Neorealista with a 7-speed hub, front and rear caliper brakes, Brooks B17S saddle, 700Cx35mm Delta Cruiser tires, Berthoud fenders and MKS touring pedals - lent to me by Citybiker in Vienna (thank you!). I decided to try the ride on this bicycle, because it seemed the safest bet of the available options - the others being borrowing a cool roadbike from Wolfgang, or riding Jacqueline. With the roadbike, it generally takes me a while to "dial in" the positioning, and I had no time to experiment. With Jacqueline, I was worried that she might be too heavy and too old for such a long ride. So I took advantage of being able to borrow the Bella Ciao, which seemed to be somewhere in between as far as positioning and also had the benefit of modern components. I felt that I knew what to expect with this bike, since I have a similar one at home and have ridden mine for 30 mile stretches at a time. We lowered the Neorealista handlebars for a more aggressive posture, but otherwise nothing was altered. I was not sure that I'd actually be able to do the ride, but the plan was to go as far as I felt comfortable.

Bella Ciao Neorealista, Zimbale Saddle Bag
I had brought my Zimbale saddlebag from home and attached it to the bike before I set off. I have no pictures of myself during the course of this ride, but I was wearing pretty much this: wool tights, wool dress, 3/4 length wool overcoat, legwarmers, ankle boots with 2" heels, a hat, and (not pictured) gloves and a scarf. From the forecast I knew that the weather would be cold, mostly in the low 40s. In the event that I got too warm, I planned to take off my coat and attach it to the saddlebag with a bungee cord. In the event it got even colder, I packed an extra sweater. I also packed a pair of padded wool cycling shorts, in case my butt started to hurt on the way back. Aside from that, I packed battery-operated lights, a bottle of apple juice mixed with mineral water and salt, my camera, phone, bank card, cash, notebook, pen, and a packet of Ibuprofen. I did not bother taking a map - since I would simply be following the Danube cycle path.

Donauradweg
Before I go on, I must warn you that my photographic documentation of this ride is disappointing. I passed some gorgeous spots, but it wasn't practical to stop and take pictures if I hoped to maintain momentum. So all my photos were taken during food-break stops, which did not necessarily coincide with the scenic moments. I am also disappointed that I do not have a single photo of myself during this trip, as a memento - but I was too cold to mess with the self-timer, and my camera is difficult for strangers to operate.

Vienna, Nussdorf, Cyclists
My trip did not begin according to plan. I had wanted to set off at 7:00 in the morning, but got delayed and was not able to leave until 10:00. With such a late start, I considered postponing to a different day - but my schedule was already full, so this was my only chance to do the ride. I went, making sure the batteries in my lights were fresh. The Danube Canal path is right around the corner from my flat, and within a minute of leaving the house I was on it. I sped through the urban part of the path, and within 15 minutes I reached the junction where the Danube Canal meets the Danube River proper.

Rindsuppe
I rode without stopping past all of my favourite spots in the countryside along the river and did not take a break until I approached the outskirts of Tulln - a town about 25 miles from the center of Vienna. Things were going well so far: It was cold, but sunny. I was only very slightly tired and nothing hurt or felt uncomfortable on the bike. It was around 12:00 noon, which meant I'd been cycling at 12.5mph on average for two hours straight. So far, so good. I stopped at a cafe with outdoor seating, and had a huge bowl of soup while looking at ships making their way along the river. The sunshine made everything look gorgeous. 

Near Tulln
My plan was to continue on the Danube cycling path until I reached the town of Krems - a beautiful place in the Wachau valley. At this stage I was exactly half way. Unfortunately, this was the last time I would see nice weather during my ride.

Donauradweg
Almost as soon as I got going again, the sunlight faded and the temperature fell. The change was sudden: One minute, everything was bathed in a golden light, and the next the landscape was grim. I was finding it difficult to warm up, even though the mostly flat route meant that I was vigorously pedaling the entire time (no hills means not only no climbing, but also no coasting!) I kept hoping the sunshine would return, but it only got more overcast as I continued cycling. 

Fields and Hills, Road to Traismauer
And then, things got worse: A milky fog descended over the valley. In the middle of the day! Just after Tulln, the Danube path veers away from the river for a few miles, cutting through woods and farmland. The landscape now looked washed out and dingy. Visually I did not mind it, and even found the idea of cycling all alone through fog and desolate fields romantic. But it was difficult to keep warm. The freezing fog was penetrating all my wool layers and getting into my very bones - a deep chill. And then the wind picked up. I pedaled harder and kept my head down.

Villages, Between Tulln and Traismauer
By 1pm, it became clear that the weather was not likely to improve. It was time for a change of plans: Krems was too good to see for the first time in such bleak light. Instead, I decided to go as far as Traismauer (a town 10 miles closer), and make up the missing miles by getting off the Danube path and doing a longer loop through some of the villages set back from the river. In doing so, I was also hoping to find a cafe that sold hot drinks, as all the ones along this portion of the Danube cycling path were closed for the season. 

Barn, Near Tulln
As far as navigation went, it was not difficult to make my way through the villages. There were signs everywhere announcing what the next village was and which direction to Traismauer. But it was extremely depressing. In good weather, I think the villages would have looked cute. But under overcast skies and enveloped in fog they looked abandoned and sinister. There were very few people out doing any kind of farm work and the few places of businesses that existed were all closed - even though it was a weekday.

Country Highway, Near Traismauer
I passed though the centers of five or six villages before I finally found one with a functional cafe - which was on the side of a sort of country highway leading to Traismauer. After I drank 3 cups of tea and rested a bit, I spoke to the waitress and learned that this was in fact the only road leading to Traismauer. Hitherto I had been cycling along small village streets, but this was a big road with an 80km/h speed limit. I decided to go ahead and brave it.

Country Highway, Near Traismauer
My companions during this stretch of the trip were mainly trucks and tractors. The trucks went very fast. The tractors went very slowly. The odd sportscar would occasionally zoom past as well. We all got along and I never felt endangered. My stamina, on the other hand, seemed to be nearly depleted and I had barely even cycled 60 miles. Please do not underestimate what I wrote earlier about a flat landscape meaning that you don't have the opportunity to coast. Pedaling the entire time, I was starting to feel like a mechanical doll.  Traismauer was further away that I'd realised, and it felt as if I were cycling on the edge on that highway forever.

Traismauer, Austria
But finally, I was unmistakably there: This town was surrounded by a medieval wall and I cycled right through the gate. 

Traismauer, Austria
At one time there must also have been a moat. Now it was reduced to a sort of stream along the back part of the wall, with a modern bridge going across. 

Traismauer, Austria
Under normal circumstances, I might have been excited by Traismauer. But now I just felt depleted. The cold weather, the fog, the lack of sunshine, the non-stop pedaling with the wind in my face - it had all beaten me down. 

Traismauer, Austria
I circled around the town, then followed the signs to the train station. I am not proud of it, but yes - at this point I decided to cut my trip short and take the train back. It was already 3 pm and the most direct route home was over 40 miles. I didn't think I could handle it. At the station I learned that the next train to Vienna was not until 8:20pm, which was a long time to wait around. I decided to get something to eat while thinking about what to do next.

Traismauer, Austria
Turned out that I wasn't so much tired as just very hungry. Once I inhaled whatever it was that I bought at the food stand, my attitude suddenly improved and by 4pm I was ready to get back on the bike.

Traismauer, Austria
My plan now was to cycle the 15 miles back to Tulln - on the Danube cycling path and not through the villages this time - and see how I'd feel once I got there. The trains in Tulln ran more regularly, so if I was tired or did not want to continue in the dark, I would then take the train the rest of the way back. 

Fields, Road to Traismauer
Energised by the nutritional infusion, I pedaled enthusiastically for the next hour. Just as the light was fading, the sun started to come out and the fog dissipated - but it was late and I really wasn't able to stop and capture the beautiful scenery. There is a stretch at some point where the cycling path interrupts entirely, and cyclists must transition to the road for 2-3 miles. The route is signposted, but these signs are very small and have no provisions for being seen in the dark. The scenario I wanted to avoid, was cycling through this stretch once it had already gotten dark. 

Donauradweg
But of course, that is exactly what happened. I raced against the sunset, but despite my best efforts ended up cycling on the road with car traffic in rural darkness - squinting to find the signs instructing where to turn in order to get back onto the cycling path. It was just past 6pm now and there were lots of cars on the road - going quite fast, which was scary. I was starting to despair, when I noticed what was obviously another bicycle tail light in front of me. It was an elderly man, cycling with a sack of turnips strapped to his rear rack. I called out to him, asking if this was the right way to the cycle path. He replied that it was, and gestured for me to follow him. We "pacelined" for the next mile or so and then I followed him through an opening in the fields and we were on the Danube path. He then waved and turned around, and I realised that he'd gone out of his way only to show me how to get back on the path. I yelled "Danke vielmals!!" and waved wildly. This was my only interaction with another cyclist during the course of this ride.

Once in Tulln, I kept on going. It was already pitch black and my legs already felt as if someone else was controlling them, so it seemed I could just keep going this way. The last 20 miles of the trip felt like a trance. My headlight beam, the shadows of tree branches, the sounds of howling coming from the woods and the occasional lights of ships along the Danube felt like a dream. My wheels turned and turned and my feet pedaled and pedaled in as high as gear as I could manage. It wasn't a bad feeling, like an out of body experience. But I remember thinking "Hmm, I probably won't be able to walk tomorrow."

Donauradweg
By the time my shaking hand retrieved the house key from my coat, it was almost exactly 8pm: 10 hours after I left. I had spent a total of an hour and a half taking breaks, which means that my average speed was 11.75 mph. I think that's not too bad for being on an upright bike and riding dressed as I was. I assumed that I would collapse upon coming home, but then a friend rang up and invited me for a drink. I went, and ended up staying out until midnight. The next morning I woke up at 8am and, to my astonishment, felt fine. I cycled around the city for transportation all day just as I normally do. There was hardly any evidence that I had ridden 100 miles the day before. My right shoulder was sore, and my sit bones were just a tad sensitive. However, there was no pain in my legs or knees, and I had plenty of energy. I expected to be wrecked, and this was almost anticlimactic. 

This trip was not how I'd imagined completing my first "century." I was riding a city bike bundled up in an overcoat, the weather was horrible, and the countryside was at its bleakest. But I found the experience fulfilling, beyond just checking off a box. I relished the feel of being self-sufficient - not in the safety net of a group ride or a companion's presence, but alone in the middle of nowhere, amidst a stark landscape in a foreign country, and feeling as if I did not need to worry, because I was on a bike and could therefore do anything. It's what cycling is about for me. And I think I'm ready for a longer ride. 

90 comments:

  1. congrats! Every century from here on in will be a breeze!

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  2. Well done! I know what you're saying about pedaling with no breaks. The two centuries I've done were down on the coast of Georgia (USA), where the biggest "hill" is when you have to ride over a bridge. But since I'm better at pedaling on flats than on hills, that worked for me.

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  3. Wow! Congratulations! What an accomplishment! And how fun to have such a great story about your first century! (Much better than some boring ol' club ride, done the "normal" way, with no adventure or surprise.) My favorite part was the old man showing you back to the path. :-)

    On a separate note, I have to shout out to all of your L.A. readers. A Lovely Bicycle Bella Ciao Superba is at Flying Pigeon right now! Just came in this week and it does not disappoint. I was in there yesterday and gave it a test ride. It's awesome! And so, so beautiful! Go check it out!

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  4. Anon - Neat, but what on earth is a Superba doing there? Is it the one from the fashion show?

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  5. Wow! Excellent narrative. I know Vienna well - and was there this summer to discover that the cycling scene is absolutely growing in leaps and bounds! Thank you for the wonderful snapshot of pedaling in Austria.

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  6. I was just reading your "to do" list for 2011 yesterday. Congratulations on scratching off another item.

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  7. I have no idea how it got there and was just as surprised as you to see it in the window. (It's also featured in Josef's weekly video blog on the Flying Pigeon website, if you're curious.) FP also got a couple of Pilens and a Bella Ciao men's bike -- with the duomatic hub -- in the same shipment. That's one of the cool things about Flying Pigeon -- you never know what you're going to find there!

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  8. Thanks everyone : )

    Mason - I'd forgotten about that!!

    Anon - Okay, it must be the one from the Interbike fashion show, since the distributor took it afterwards. I would like to note that Flying Pigeon does not carry the Superba model except for this one bike, and that officially they are available at Harris Cyclery in Boston only. This batch at least. If there is another batch in future that may change.

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  9. That is definitely not the easiest way to ride your first century, in the cold and on an upright bike. It also seems wrong to ride your first century in a country that uses the metric system.

    Try it again on a touring bike in better weather and it'll be a cinch. You're ready for your first brevet. Look up your local randonneur club and come out for a 200 in the spring. The time limit for a 200 is 13:30; you were on pace to beat that. What's an extra 40 km?

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  10. I went Friday afternoon to Flying Pigeon and test rode the Superba and Pilen. Here's the video of the inventory at FP.

    BTW, the FP was hopping with customers. Lots of nice bike accessories were being purchased while I was there.

    Go Flying Pigeon!

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  11. I am glad to hear that Flying Piegon is doing well. They are like a beacon of light in LA. I also enjoyed meeting the owner at Interbike. Is my "summertime" poster hanging there by any chance? You will now what I mean if it is.

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  12. Congratulations. No toeclips, either. My first century one of my toeclips broke around mile 75 and I discovered that I could barely keep my foot on the pedal.

    I recall, in my second century, that the day after I was sitting in geometry class and feeling a little draggy, and experimentally taking my pulse, and it was 40. Tha-dup...............Tha-dup...............Tha-dup. (My pulse is normally to the high side of normal, even then.)

    Closest I've come since then was a metric century on a cargo bike. Attention to food and hydration (not something teenagers are terribly good at) made it much more bearable.

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  13. Amazing. I do like the way that you went about it. On that kind of bike, in your outfit, with that scenery. Way to work through all the hiccups on the ride make a truly memorable experience.

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  14. Is my "summertime" poster hanging there by any chance? You will now what I mean if it is.

    Uh oh. You are asking the most unobservant person. My eyes zoom to the bikes and then to the accessories. I know I've seen posters and artwork on the walls, but what exactly, I can't remember.

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  15. You are Superwoman!

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  16. Congratulations on your first century! How very exciting, and although it sounds like it wasn't what you imagined for your first, I'm sure you'll never forget it.

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  17. An adventure of the best kind -- those that depart from the expected are those longest and best remembered, I think. Well told too! Congratulations!

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  18. Congrats Velouria! Such an inspiration and wonderful photos :)

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  19. Oh man, a Pilen & a LB Bella Ciao at Flying Pigeon? I was just thinking last night that I wished I could test both those. Guess where I'm spending next Saturday.

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  20. First of all, congratulations on the ride, and your writing of the experience. Very enjoyable post.

    So what did you think of the 7 speed neorealista? It is probably just the configuration that would most interest me from Bella Ciao, except probably diamond frame.

    Cheers,
    RJD

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  21. Congrats!!

    My first century was totally unplanned--it was the day we biked into Edmonton. I did not intend for my first century to be on a loaded touring bike, but hey!

    I actually *was* wrecked the next day.

    I'm always slightly amused when I think I'm super-tired and then I realize I was just starving.

    And yeah, flat? Not as easy as you always hope. Unless you have a good tailwind. I prefer gentle rollers.

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  22. Congratulations on a mind-over-body victory!

    You mention taking "a bottle of apple juice mixed with mineral water and salt". I've not heard of this concoction before, would you share your recipe?

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  23. Congratulations and what a bike to do a first century upon. Obviously your clothing was suitable for the expected weather. I have always viewed you as a photographer to emulate, now you become a cyclist to emulate. Thanks for your excellent blog write up. Cheers.

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  24. Bravo. Well done indeed.

    That point in the narrative where you mention highest possible gear - it might have been the best thing at the moment, I wasn't there - generally using a low gear gets the blood moving and makes you warm. The sure way to get warm is to get off the bike and run 100 meters or so.
    Late in a ride it becomes hard to keep the legs moving quickly. Once legspeed is gone, it's gone, so distance riders work to keep the gears down.

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  25. Pretty cool accomplishment but I really thought you'd be talking about it for a few more years before pulling it off. Don't worry about the pictures of you, we know what you look like. This is not a criticism leveled at you but at self-documentation in general.

    But in that giant bag did not reside any food? 4pm for the first after breakfast meal is too late and no, soup does not count. Rando notes for the future: real food for a real ride and eat on the bike before you're hungry. Then pig out as needed.

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  26. Congratulations! Full on adventure mode as well. Don't forget the food on your next century!!!

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  27. Sounds like an amazing ride! Loved reading about it. As someone who rides her upright bike pretty far sometimes (no more than 30 or so miles at a time right now), I find that 100 mile mark impressive! And cold, too? Amazing. I liked the pictures, but I know what you mean about needing to just GO.

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  28. Congrats Velouria! I loved reading this post - what an adventure!

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  29. " . . .which means that my average speed was 11.75 mph. I think that's not too bad for being on an upright bike . . ." ~ I think it's pretty bloomin' impressive :) Congrats!

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  30. congrats as well! and I had to smile when I read the bit about how low your spirits were at Traismauer and I thought to myself, "she probably just needs a bit of food." Then I chuckled when you wrote about finding the cafe. In the New England randonneuring scene we have something of a motto varying around, "never quit a ride on an empty stomach." have a bit to eat. sit down. then see how you feel. It's amazing how your mood can be improved with a bit of food and a bit of a break.

    I just spent the past four days and three nights on a solo backpack through the Berkshires, and there were certainly some days where I needed to hustle to cover ground in daylight. So I was also running into that guilt around walking past some scenic sights but not having the time to document them. I can at least say that I'm not nearly as good at taking photos as you are so I probably would've made a hash out of the snapshots anyway.

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  31. Congrats lovely pictures you got to. I hope on doing my first century in the spring

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  32. Congratulations.

    As Ben said check out your local Randonneuring club and go on some rides. I'm sure the next thing you know you'll be looking to finish your first SR or R-12 series.

    Though I would recommend doing any further distance riding 200k or over on your Rivendell or Royal H. Mixte.

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  33. Congrats!!! I think doing a century on a semi-upright bike with limited hand positions made it more like a 120-130 miler. Next time, if you do the same ride on a road bike, it might seem like a mere jaunt.

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  34. I'm also curious to know what you think of the Neorealista; I've been considering (/dreaming) of buying that model from Bella Ciao. I'd have to get it imported (there are no Bella Ciao distributors in the southern hemisphere) and besides probably costing a small fortune, I wouldn't get a chance to test ride it!

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  35. Well done, and what style!

    I tried a metric century the other day but went home on the train before finishing. It was cold and raining when I bought the ticket, but it cleared up as we pulled out of the station. Perserverance... Oh well, I had some chocolate and an apple on the train and the short ride home felt just like usual.

    You might like this video of a little guy (girl?) whose legs go round on autopilot:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqBw7XapJKk

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  36. Congratulations on a huge achievement. Very inspirational.

    I have found after a big effort in a race in days past that I would suffer more with tiredness a few days after the event, the adrenalin rush from completing it kept me going the first few days. I hope you recover well and do it again.

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  37. " I really thought you'd be talking about it for a few more years before pulling it off"

    Sorry to disappoint! But now there will be the double century to talk about.

    Re food: I ate breakfast at 6:30am, soup (which in Vienna is very caloric) at 12:00, and a kebab foodstand thingie at 3:30pm. Felt like a good distribution.

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  38. somervillain - I don't know, part of me feels like I "cheated" by doing it here, wheareas in Boston I would have serious hills and also more car traffic to contend with. Route planning is also a lot easier in Vienna. It may sound implausible, but it's mostly the logistics of route planning and the daunting prospect of high-traffic stretches that have prevented me from doing it back home.

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  39. Isobel said...
    "I'm also curious to know what you think of the Neorealista"


    Well, the way I understand it, what distinguishes the Neorealista from the regular Corvo Citta model is really just the colours and accessories, because it is available both in standard and in Columbus tubing.

    As far as colours and accessories, I like them. The "blue vetro" colour (this bike here) is more green in real life than it appears on their site; I actually like it better in person. It is metallic, which is very difficult to achieve with powdercoat, and overall impressive. The silver and chapmagne colours ("grigio tempesta" and "sabbia frizzante") are less striking, more subtle, not as shimmery.

    As far as ride quality, the bike with the kickback hub I rode earlier was the version with the standard cromoly tubing. It felt just like my revamped Corvo Citta bike at home. The bike shown here is made with Columbus Thron tubing and feels noticeably lighter, even with the heavy 7-speed hub.

    I may upgrade my own bike to the Columbus tubing version later; I prefer it. The Superba has the Columbus tubing as well.

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  40. I was charmed by your post. Such panache to achieve your first hundy in woolens on a city bike riding through the Old Country.

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  41. congratulations. - we are honoured this milestone ride was on a bella ciao.

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  42. Do you think there is something special about the Bella Ciao bike's geometry that made this ride possible or could you have done it on any 3-speed?

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  43. Re food: I ate breakfast at 6:30am, soup (which in Vienna is very caloric) at 12:00, and a kebab foodstand thingie at 3:30pm. Felt like a good distribution.

    That doesn't sound anywhere close to enough for a day-long ride. Assuming more or less regular exertion throughout your ride, I've learned (and experienced) that caloric replenishment is necessary on an hourly basis. For me and my 160lb, I find I need about 250-300 calories for every 15 miles in addition to regular meals if exerting myself to sustain an average of about 13-14mph. If slower, I need less energy replenishment, obviously. But add that up, and a century done at 15mph means an additional 2000 calories above what I would normally eat in a day, or close to double! And I'll still be hungry for days after a ride like that. Obviously everyone is different, but there are probably some sites out there that help people figure out some optimal range for energy replenishment depending on their riding style, weight, etc...

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  44. Anon - It was a 7-speed actually, not a 3-speed. But you probably meant "on any upright bike."

    Anyhow, I think what Bella Ciao did right with their frames was not mess up a classic design. I am pretty confident that I could have done this same ride on a vintage Raleigh Sports, or on Jacqueline for that matter (only with a leather saddle, because her current one starts to hurt after 20-40 miles). Also remember Katy Doncaster's tour on her Pashley. With a relatively flat landscape, the rules of the game are different. It still does not mean that you can ride any old bike (I damaged my knees after riding a modern upright bike 50 miles in 2009), but it does mean that weight and aggressive positioning matter a lot less.

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  45. somervillain - Umm... What can I say, I did the ride and felt fine; didn't "bonk" either. Had another snack at night when I went out, but that would probably not add up to your requirement anyhow. My riding style was probably a great deal more leisurely than yours and I have fewer muscles to feed than you do. As you said, everyone is different. I don't think that stuffing oneself just because of cycling is always the best policy.

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  46. @somervillain - old rule of thumb (which I've seen ruled differently since, but not by much) is 50 kCal per mile. Some of that is devoted to your baseline (75-100 per hour). So figure 4000 extra calories, not 2000. We did a 7-day 300 mile ride with a bunch of boy scouts some years back (with a rest day in the middle) and at a mere 50miles/day, everyone's food consumption was really impressive, along the lines of telling the kids at an ice cream stand, "just try any flavor that looks interesting, if it turns you don't like it, I'll eat it and we can buy another." And towards the end, all food looked fantastically enticing.

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  47. At the risk of contributing to a food argument, I will say this: This calorie per mile counting/ scientific approach stuff is why so many people find the prospect of long rides daunting. Unless you have a certain time limit in mind and are doing it in a "performance" fashion, I honestly don't think it matters.

    Get on a bike, ride 50 miles, then turn around and ride 50 miles home. In the middle of it stop to eat somewhere. That's all that's really necessary for a 100 mile ride, I feel - if one is okay with a leisurely, take-your-time sort of ride. And many are.

    There are different styles of riding is all.

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  48. Referring to figure 11.1 in Fred DeLong's old book, Bicycles and Bicycling, a 3spd bike at 12mph requires power of about 0.13 horsepower. The same power output on a race bike gets 17mph.
    We don't have a photo of the costume you wore, the description makes it sound anti-aerodynamic to an extreme. Even at 12mph bulky clothes are a significant wind drag. So something more than 0.13hp. You were doing a stiff ride for a lot of hours.

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  49. Congratulations. Nice to do it in such pretty country, too bad about the weather.

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  50. @V, at your measured pace (11mph), Bicycling Science (3ed, p. 154) puts you at about 25 kcal/mi incremental on a "roadster", so 2500 total. Maybe less because you are smaller (lighter, less frontal area).

    In hindsight, you can say "ride out, eat, ride back", but you figured that out by accident after feeling really down. The food math is not supposed to intimidate, it's supposed to help people understand that a leisurely hundred or a fast fifty will double their food needs for that day, without doing it the hard way first.

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  51. dr2chase - Actually, I ate (1) before the ride, (2) at mile 25, (3) at mile 60, and (4) after the ride.

    And I don't think feeling tired & low in spirits after mile 60 in sub-40F temps is an indication that I did anything wrong. It would have been rather unusual not to get tired at that point no matter how much food I ate.

    I am not saying that anyone here is incorrect, only that it really is different for everyone and for different kinds of rides. It just strikes me odd that people were so quick to tell me I did not eat right, when I did the ride and felt fine.

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  52. This calorie per mile counting/ scientific approach stuff is why so many people find the prospect of long rides daunting. Unless you have a certain time limit in mind and are doing it in a "performance" fashion, I honestly don't think it matters.

    This was generally my experience before doing brevets. No schedule or math or looking at packages to gauge calories per serving. Just eat when you're hungry and drink when you're thirsty. While I do try to maintain a regimen for 'official' timed rides ... on more casual rides, I still keep things generally informal.

    One thing that I have changed, though, is that I will always pack some food to consume while riding, because my experience has been that one often cannot reliably schedule hunger to coincide with when one arrives at a town or a deli or a country store. So, from that point of view, it is still somewhat handy to at least pay attention to what one likes to eat when on these excursions and to be flexible. It might certainly be reasonable to think that you can ride 50 miles in one direction before needing to eat, but you should also be prepared for the possibility that you'll get hungry at mile 30 (either because of a late start or a subpar breakfast or headwinds, etc.) and have something to address that rather than deal with one to two hours of steadily decreasing blood sugar, mood and attention.

    So, no, you don't have to maintain an eating schedule and weigh yourself at the end of the ride to calculate hydration losses to have a good time on a century. But it's certainly a more enjoyable experience after you develop an understanding of how your body processes food on these long aerobic excursions and can anticipate how to stave off bouts of hangriness*

    * my new favorite term -- conflation of hunger and anger. ie. "I'm sorry about getting impatient back there. I had to skip breakfast because of sleeping through my alarm, and I'm feeling kind of hangry right now. I need an apple."

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  53. Congratulations!

    As one who grew up on the often very foggy and clammy-wet Northern California coast, and currently lives in a Redwood grove, I understand and sympathize with anyone facing sub-40 temps, mist, and low visibility.

    Welcome to the Mystical Order Of The Soggy Socks, sister!


    "We don't have a photo of the costume you wore, the description makes it sound anti-aerodynamic to an extreme. Even at 12mph bulky clothes are a significant wind drag. So something more than 0.13hp. You were doing a stiff ride for a lot of hours."

    Madame V is probably a lot stronger than she thinks.

    I wasn't aware that Bella Ciao was doing a Columbus frame. Talk about icing on the cake.
    It sounds like a really nice ride.

    Corey K

    (Turing word: "Phooll". How'd they know?)

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  54. Corey - I had not realised before that fog can appear in the middle of the day. I'd always thought fog as something that happens in the night/early morning, then dissipates.

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  55. "We don't have a photo of the costume you wore, the description makes it sound anti-aerodynamic to an extreme"

    This was the actual costume; only the picture was taken the day before. Add a scarf as well. So my street clothes basically. I wore it not because I was trying to be eccentric, but because it really was freezing.

    The coat was the most non-aerodynamic article, because the bottoms of the coat tails flapped open in the wind like sails. It was okay though, I never planned on going very fast.

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  56. dr2chase said...
    "No toeclips, either. My first century one of my toeclips broke around mile 75 and I discovered that I could barely keep my foot on the pedal."


    I hate riding roadbikes without foot retention (which to me = Power Grips); I'd probably go mad with annoyance. But on an upright bike it's a totally different feeling; I had no problem with that aspect.

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  57. @V - lack of power and feeling done in by cold are all part of the need-to-eat package. It sounds like needed-to-eat-sooner. We had a lot of that with the boy scouts on that long trip at first -- not only do young boys have high-revving engines, they are also often lipidically challenged, unlike most of their parents.

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  58. Let me quote you:
    "Turned out that I wasn't so much tired as just very hungry. Once I inhaled whatever it was that I bought at the food stand, my attitude suddenly improved and by 4pm I was ready to get back on the bike."

    This is the definition of a bonk.

    Once again, since you hadn't ridden this far you believe you know what's best but obviously it wasn't.

    You'll either choose to remember this thread on your double or ignore it but the advice about food is valid.

    Regardless you'll change your mind once you bonk a few more times.

    You've got a lot to learn about nutrition for a long ride.

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  59. Anecdotally I bonked yesterday having not eaten enough as well.
    It'll happen occasionally.

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  60. I won't get into an argument about food consumption because, 1) because everyone's needs are different, and 2) because food consumption is always a hot button topic, but I do want to reply to your comment:

    I don't think that stuffing oneself just because of cycling is always the best policy.

    Whoa. Sorry, but as worded that's a reckless misinterpretation of what I was said. Nowhere did I suggest that anyone 'stuff themselves'. Rather, I was relaying my own experience as simply desiring a food break every hour or so, or 15 miles, a practice which fits very reasonably within a general consensus within the cycling community (and my estimates, frankly, were conservative compared to those of dr2chase). I don't think anyone can misconstrue what I said as 'stuffing oneself', which as worded implies eating like a pig in some hedonistic, over-indulgent manner. Sorry, but I'm a little offended :(.

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  61. Congratulations on the century Velouria! And on a loaner, too. I don' think I'll get my first in this year; somehow, I just cant consider the metric I did in September to be a real century.
    Mark

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  62. Next time remember the Boy Scout '10 Essentials'... lol!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scout_Outdoor_Essentials

    Like they say either it's a great trip or a great story.
    This one seemed like a bit of both.
    Thanks for sharing..

    jn

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  63. That photo of your riding costume looks a lot like how I ride my DL-1 in the dead of winter. If I assemble a tweedy version of riding kit I can ride along at 20mph, even sit on pace at 22-23mph without much difficulty. Same bike wearing a topcoat top speed is 15mph. Faster feels like sprinting into a wall. Any headwind is felt immediately. In a stiff headwind walking speed is it. You did very well. Yes, street clothes can be quite practical for riding in the cold.

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  64. Nice! I think you just won your own ride report contest.

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  65. Congratulations miss v. I recently did a 1000 mile tour and after the first few days I discovered that I only needed about 4000 kcal a day as opposed to 6000 plus early on. Good luck. Really love the blog

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  66. Outstanding HTFU Velouria! Your readership is proud of you.

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  67. This is a great tale, and I think it's inspired me to do my own Century on the W&OD, out and back from Shirlington to Purcelville, plus a little Custis or MVT to round it out, since I couldn't make either of the organized rides I'd had my sights on.

    Congrats! Now all we need is to score the above photos to music and you're all set. Start with Mary Poppins, seque into Rod Serling...

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  68. You absolutely kick ass. I like the fact that you did it yourself without 500 other riders and just decided to go ride your bike for 100 miles.

    Anyway, It's not like you were unprepared or without plans for "what if" and even if you weren't on a 17 pound rondo bike you WERE riding a genuine "REAL" bike. I've done big multi-day group rides and centuries and even one double and I like 'em, but it stops being a day on my bike and becomes more like a Military Exercise. I think that I get more tired and sore cutting firewood or stretching barb wire for 10 hours than I do riding 100plus, but when I know I have to do that for a whole day I don't spend 3 weeks psyching myself up for it. If one wants or needs to ride ones bike for 100 miles or whatever, than just getting on and trying to make it happen seems like a pretty reasonable approach.

    I've done some really long rides(no "incidental" centuries though) in interesting places because it was just too nice a day to let the opportunity get away. I'm going to remember your Austrian adventure and use it to remind myself that that bike can take me to some pretty special places if I just don't get off it so soon.

    Spindizzy

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  69. I was telling one of my coworkers who will be going to Vienna in December about your ride. He told me that he actually met his wife while bike riding in Vienna. He also told me about the interesting Spas in Vienna. Not that I would recommend them, but thank goodness you weren't sore the next day :). Congrats on completing your first century.

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  70. I find that a kid's Cliff bar in Chocolate Brownie flavor is just right in a saddlebag. Not too many calories, won't spoil your dinner, and picks up my energy nicely. It also tastes surprisingly like an actual chocolate brownie, which is a plus.

    I also like a drink with some caloric value (read: peach Snapple iced tea), so that I'm getting a little zap of calories as I go. Sounds like you had that with the apple juice, though.

    The Manly Man I Ride With needs a huge amount of protein to function as a human being. Like tons. Could not be a vegetarian and be a nice person, tons. I like carbs, and find them more helpful. Last year I read an article in the NY Times about how some folks, particularly men, need more protein when they burn calories, and some folks, particularly women, need more carbs. Whatever works, you know? But I do agree that snacks are good to have along. Of course, I'm also hypoglycemic, so if I don't bring snacks, I could pass out, which makes it harder to find a cafe!

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  71. Congratulations! While I know you didn't ride in street clothes to make any sort of statement, I still think that the clothes (and fog, and the upright bike) make your story even better.

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  72. somervillain - Sorry, the stuffing comment was a general one, not aimed at you. There is this idea in roadcycling culture that cyclists ought to eat as much as possible during rides, which I happen to disagree with.

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  73. How fun. Sounds like you had a great ride. I’ve always thought that disagreeable weather makes the experience more tragically epic, which although unpleasant at the time, it does create fonder romantic memories than the more pleasant varieties of epic.

    For the ride you did it perhaps isn’t of critical importance, but the food question is a good one. Although everyone is different, they aren’t that different. During an endurance ride, glycogen exhaustion is an inevitability and what, how much, and when you eat affects the performance of your mind and body, and your ability to recover. No matter how you slice it it’s a game of diminishing returns, and that’s the same for everyone.

    A rider who is more diligent about refueling, as some above have suggested, will maintain better and recover quicker and better, and would complete the task sooner, and be able to reasonably repeat the process for several or many more days. A rider who isn’t eating enough and at the right times will be digging too deep into deficits that mount steadily, recovery is poor, and (if not during the 100) by the second or third day they are shot. You weren’t in a hurry and don’t have to go out and do it again the next day so I guess you can burn down the house, so to speak, and it doesn’t much matter. Depending on circumstances I’ve approached it both ways myself.

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  74. " It's not like you were unprepared or without plans for 'what if' "

    Right. I probably should have made it more clear that I knew where all the train stations were and there were opportunities to cut the trip short every 10-15 miles had I chosen to. Also, there were opportunities to buy food every 2-5 miles except for one particularly desolate 10 mile stretch between Tulln and Traismauer. I had known that as well, which is why I did not bother packing food.

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  75. WOW! You earned my respect and admiration (which you already had,BTW,having read through lots of your lovely blog :) )! I've never ridden a century,though have often thought about doing one. Actually,my longest recorded ride (one I kept stats on) is a metric half century,LOL!

    I think it was an awesome and inspriring read,not even considering the style of bike and clothing worn. Congradulations on this accomplishment,my friend! Hoping to try my first century by Spring :D

    Steve

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  76. Forgive me if I've asked this already in one of your previous posts concerning Bella Ciaos, but would you say the Neorealista in this configuration is significantly lighter than a Pashley Princess Sovereign (I know, the Pashley has more accessories on it contributing to the weight).

    - Dagmara

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  77. Great report and pictures. Thanks.

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  78. Congratulations!
    And more food comments - always a bar of chocolate, a few hardboiled eggs, a can of sardines in olive oil, dates, brazil nuts. I do find that there are some rides wherein I eat a lot, have to stop, and some where I just fly along (and these are long rides - 50 - 75 - 100+ miles). Might depend on the amt of activity in prior days too. But I always like knowing I have something in the bag. And even though there are often places along the way to buy stuff...it's usually not ideal / or is too "snackish" - hence I pack my high lipid / high protein / good tasting stuff.

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  79. Congratulations on Century # 1, many more are sure to follow! I think it is waaaaaay harder to do a flat ride. I cannot stand to be on the bike any longer at mile 50 of a flat ride, so the remainder is pure torture. I love hills, bring 'em on! Super job! Cheers

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  80. Great ride, great story! I must try one day. Could you plse tell us, is that a B17? I did quite a long ride on a B72 some months back. Found I had some problems becouse the saddle was so wide. Could be my handlebars was not high enough. I still REALLY like this bike.
    badmother

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  81. Dagmara - The Bella Ciao is much lighter. The Pashely is around 50lb; this bike is around 30lb.

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  82. Peppy (the sardine eating cycling cat)October 25, 2011 at 10:20 PM

    Yes!!!!! Sardines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Can I has?!??!?! I just did a century too.

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  83. Late to the party but I just wanted to say congrats! I'm all the more amazed by the fact that you accomplished this on a bike you hadn't ridden before - though it is similar to your bella ciao at home. Did you switch out the seat for one you had previously broken in?

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  84. very cool. If I do a century I like the way you did it- ( perhaps without the cold and fog) but the being alone and just going and eating. sounds like a great adventure. It's also such a great feeling to do something like that and wake up feeling fine.

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  85. Looking at your Danube photos with Ana, very nice. Just wondered why most of your bikes are without side stands ? so useful, no throwing the bike on the ground. The bikes are much more attractive free standing in photos too.

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  86. Anon - The bicycles in the Danube photos with Ana (she has a Retrovelo and I was on Jacqueline) have kickstands, but we put them down on the grass anyway. Sometimes the bikes get tired. The Bella Ciao shown here does not have a kickstand; they don't like to use them. However, I did install a kickstand on my own Bella Ciao bike.

    lynn - I rode on the stock, new Brooks B17S saddle the bike came with. In the upright sitting position it did not give me the same pain in the you-know-what that I've experienced with the B17S on road bikes. For city riding, I feel the B17S not wide enough and under-sprung. I also find it kind of uncomfortable to mount and dismount in the upright position: It just doesn't feel like there is "enough saddle" there. But for the long ride where I hardly got off the bike and had the handlebars quite low, it wasn't bad. The layer of felt wool coat under my butt could have helped too. My butt did hurt a little the next day, but just a little.

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  87. This is a beautiful bike-- my dream bike, honestly! :) How much do the Neorealista's with 7 speeds run for-- $2K? $2.5K?

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  88. Brittney - Contact the US distributor at will(at)boxcycles(dot)com re US pricing and availability.

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  89. From afar, you look like Anna Torv. I just thought you should know.

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