Friday, August 31, 2012

The 12 Stages of Climbing Addiction

Denial...
Hey, this climb isn't so bad. What a beautiful day it is. What a pretty little mountain.

Anger...
Damn it, this thing keeps getting steeper. And it's longer than I thought. My legs are killing me already. I am in my lowest gear. This is miserable. Why am I here?

Rationalisation...
Okay, look - The computer says it’s only a 10% grade. Nothing I haven't done before. I can keep at it for a while. Okay, so now it’s a 14% grade. But it’s unlikely to be a long climb. Yes, I am sure it will end soon.

Bargaining...
If I push extra hard on this next stretch, I bet it will flatten out just around the bend. Please let it flatten out around the bend…

Acceptance...
It's not going to flatten out, is it. In fact it’s only getting steeper. I am spent. I am nauseous. My legs are done.

Crisis Intervention...
Oh my god, I need to unclip before I fall over. Now. Right now!

Action...
Click. Thump. Pant, pant.

Shame...
Great, I couldn't even make it to the top.

Re-evaluation...
Oh wait, what? Looks like I did make it to the top!

Celebration...
I’m at the top! What a pretty little mountain. What a beautiful day. What an extremely tasty banana.

Denial Redux...
Oh that climb wasn't so bad!

Addiction...
Let’s do this again?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Riding to the Ride

Soma Smoothie Test Rides
Most of the rides I take part in start on the outskirts of Boston, usually about 10 miles from my house. Since I don't have a car, naturally I ride my bike there - which means tacking on 20 miles or so to the mileage of the ride itself. A 30 mile club ride is really a 50 mile ride for me, and so on.

In the beginning I thought this put me at a disadvantage to most of the other cyclists there - who either lived nearby or arrived by car. After all, by the time the ride starts I've already cycled 10 miles, whereas the others are well-rested and full of energy. But as I kept riding and learned more about myself as a cyclist, I realised that it was quite the opposite. I am one of those riders who is slow to warm up - feeling sluggish for quite a while before suddenly waking up and getting that "I have wings!" feeling. How lucky that riding to the ride provides me with a warm up!

I've grown so used to riding my bike straight from home, that doing a couple of rides with remote starts this year was incredibly strange. It felt unnatural to load the bike into a car, and I couldn't shake the feeling I was forgetting something, my standard operating procedure for getting out the door disrupted. The remote start was the one aspect of D2R2 I didn't love, while part of the appeal of the overnight ride to Maine was starting from our neighbourhood and ending up across two state lines. Here in the Northeast we have fantastic regional events, and I am trying to decide how interested I am in those that aren't within reasonable cycling distance. ...Of course the definition of what's reasonable is subjective. Some have been known to ride to D2R2 from Boston. A 100 mile warm-up certainly beats my 10!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Long Commutes in the Rain

Brompton Rain Riding
Most transportation cyclists eventually get comfortable with riding in the rain, and for me this was never particularly a problem. In the beginning, my commutes through the city were short and I mainly remember struggling with poor visibility and chaotic traffic, before getting used to it all. But as my travel radius increased, so did my exposure to rain. Some things began to matter that did not matter as much before, and I gradually made adjustments. 

Brompton Rain Riding
As far as the bike, the big thing for me was waterproofing. I carry a laptop always when cycling for transportation, a DSLR camera much of the time, and also hand-written documents. These items absolutely cannot get wet. While there is now a wealth of attractive new bicycle bags on the market, many of them are not designed to resist water beyond a short ride. For long commutes, I suggest using a touring-grade bag or one that is specifically described as waterproof. The Carradice I've been using on my Brompton for the past 5 months has been pretty good so far (for as long as 50 miles in continuous rain in Ireland - with both my laptop and camera inside), as was the Po Campo pannier I used on my full-sized bikes before that. Ortlieb bags are probably an even safer bet. Just in case, I keep a plastic bag inside for emergencies, and I always store water-sensitive items in internal compartments.

Brompton Rain Riding
An issue for those who use leather saddles, is that these can get soggy (and, consequently, deformed) after long rides in the rain. A good saddle cover helps, and the stock one from from Brooks shown here is actually not the best example. Normally I use a thick gray one from Rivendell that fits tightly all around the saddle. It is deep, too, which protects the underside of the saddle as well. I am sure there are others that do a good job. Alternatively, there are specially treated leather saddles - such as Selle Anatomica - that claim to be waterproof. 

Brompton Rain Riding
Finally, long exposure to rain might call for additional bike maintenance. On a bicycle without a chaincase, lubing the chain is probably a good idea. And even if you're not into cleaning your bike, the debris that gathers around the brake calipers and derailleur is worth wiping off to keep everything functioning smoothly. The need for this kind of maintenance after long rides in a downpour certainly makes a good argument for internally geared hubs, enclosed hub brakes and a full chaincase. However, bikes with those features may not be ideal for hilly long distance commutes.

Brompton Rain Riding
As far as the cyclist, clothing choices get trickier - especially if you want to ride in regular clothes and don't have the opportunity to change upon arrival. A truly waterproof outer layer is essential. But equally important is breathability, since you are exerting yourself more than you would on a shorter ride. When I started riding longer distances I discovered that my usual raincoat was neither entirely waterproof, nor very breathable. Eventually I found one that worked well - made of light, technical fabric with lots of vents and a removable hood. Rain capes may be another option, with some breathable, cinchable ones from Iva Jean and Cleverhoods recently introduced. Just as crucial as outerwear is waterproof footwear: Shoes that are fine on short rides can get soggy after 10+ miles pedaling in the rain, and you probably don't want to sit around with wet feet all day. 

Of course, all the general tips for riding in the rain still apply: Lights, fenders, extra caution. On an upright bike, I don't feel like the rain is hitting me in the face as hard as it does on a roadbike, which makes things more pleasant. Once outside the city, I generally find it fairly peaceful and low-stress. Mixing ideas from transportation cycling and touring has been helpful for me and that's what I would suggest to others with long rainy commutes. Find a setup that works for you, and enjoy not being stuck in suburban rain-day traffic!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

North Wind, Meet Dirt Roads: the Rawland Nordavinden 650B

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The Nordavinden is a newly released bicycle model from the small West-Coast company Rawland Cycles. Earlier this year I featured a friend's Rawland rSogn, which I could not ride because it was too big. At the time Rawland did not make a bike in my size, but they informed me that one would be coming out later in the year. We talked about a test ride, and as luck would have it, a demo bike was ready just before D2R2. I had it in my possession for a nice long weekend - most of it spent riding local and not so local dirt roads. 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
Norwegian for "the north wind," the Nordavinden was designed as a lighter, sportier frameset than its more rugged predecessors: a zippy bike with low trail geometry that accepts fat tires. Full geometry and tubing specs are available here. Like all Rawland models, the Nordavinden is designed in California and handbuilt in Taiwan

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The larger sizes are built for 700C and will fit a tire up to 35mm. The small size is built for 650B and will fit a tire up to 42mm (pictured here with Grand Bois Hetres). 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The frame is designed for sidepull or centerpull brakes. The demo bike came fitted with Rivendell's (discontinued) Silver big-mouth sidepulls. 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The dramatic curvature of the fork is immediately noticeable - prompting lots of low trail questions from those who saw the bike whilst in my possession. The trail is 30mm, with 650Bx42mm tires. 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
Unlike its predecessor rSogn's double plated crown, the Nordavinden's fork crown is the more minimal Pacenti Artisan II, with lighter fork blades. 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The "ice blue" paint is a light, shimmery sky-blue. I tried to take some pictures that eliminated the shimmer and showed the true colour underneath. In person, the shimmer makes the blue look lighter. Compared to the (very similar) colour of the rSogn, the Nordavinden is cooler and a bit more saturated. 

Rawland Cycles, D2R2
Looking at the Nordavinden next to the rSogn (front), they are similar at first glance, but less so upon closer inspection. The Nordavinden has an almost level top tube (1.5° slope), compared to the rSogn's more prominent slope. The Norvavinden's appearance is sleeker and more roadish - with fewer braze-ons, narrower tire clearances, lower bottom bracket, shorter chainstays. 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
Still, the Nordavinden is sufficiently versatile, with eyelets for fenders and braze-ons for a front rack (on the fork blades; optimised for Rivendell's Nitto Mark's rack).

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The frame itself is welded cro-moly steel, with some decorative flourishes.

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
A Rawland chain-slap protector is included with the frame set,

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
As well as a Rawland seat collar.

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The size Small is described as a 54cm frame, measured by its top tube. My ideal frame size for a road fit would have a 53cm top tube, but the small Nordavinden worked nicely with a slightly shorter stem.

Rawland Nordavinden Test Ride
Rawland advertises no toe overlap in any of their frame sizes. This held true for me (in size 38 clipless shoes), with room for a fender.

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
The demo model was built up with Velocity Synergy rims, White Industries hubs, a SRAM Apex drivetrain, 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
Chris King headset, Soma threadless stem and handlebars, Tektro short reach brake levers and bar-end shifters. The build was not done for me specifically, but I did have a say in stem length and handlebar width, to ensure the bike would fit me. Were this my own bicycle, I would do some things differently for sure. But sometimes it can be interesting to use unfamiliar components.

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
For shifters, I had a choice between SRAM brifters and bar-ends, and opted for the latter. Prior to this I had not used bar-end shifters in over a year, and it took me a bit to free my brain from Campagnolo ergo mode. By the end, the SRAM bar-ends grew on me, though I still prefer Campagnolo ergos on my own bike.

Rawland Nordavinden Test Ride
I used my own pedals and saddle, and installed two bottle cages. The bike did not come equipped for carrying a front load, as it was optimised to do, so I used a saddlebag when I needed to carry a camera and other items. The bike - as shown here, but without bag and water bottles - weighed just over 24lb. 

Rawland Nordavinden, D2R2
I rode the Rawland Nordavinden for a total of 150 miles over the course of 4 days. First was a 30 mile shake-down ride, which included 12 miles of local dirt roads. The following day, I rode a 50 mile route at the D2R2, over half of which was dirt. The day after, I did a 40 mile local ride that included a paved road, a dirt road, and a rather technical dirt trail. And after that, I did a final 30 mile ride on paved roads - including a couple of hill climbs -  before returning the bike. 

D2R2, Rawland Nordavinden
What I noticed about the Rawland immediately, was that my sense of balance was different on it than on other roadbikes I've ridden recently. I found tight cornering easier than it typically is for me, and I found it surprisingly easy to change my position on the bike without disturbing its balance - allowing me the freedom of activities I usually have trouble with, such as drinking from the water bottle while riding. I remember similar handling when riding the Royal H. Randonneur last summer, but this time I think I was able to appreciate it more - particularly on unpaved terrain. At the D2R2, I was able to descend on loose dirt and gravel faster than I was comfortable doing previously, and to drink all the water I wanted without having to stop. It certainly added to my enjoyment of the day. The following morning, I rode unceremoniously on a somewhat challenging local dirt trail that I've never been willing to ride before. 

Rawland Nordavinden Test Ride
As far as speed, the Rawland is plenty fast and accelerates with no hesitation. There is a snappy, responsive, roadish feel to it. On pavement it is not quite as fast as my Seven roadbike, and it does not climb quite as effortlessly. But as soon as the pavement ends, the dynamic changes. It's as if the two bikes were made to be friends and supplement each other. The Rawland glides over dirt and gravel, seemingly preferring them to pavement. In part, of course, it is the wide tires - which don't bounce me around the way narrow road tires do. But it's also the handling - again, that peculiar flavour of maneuverability that comes with low trail - that makes it easy for me to pick a line through rutted out areas and to corner on loose sections without reducing speed. On a bike with standard front end handling, I feel less confident riding on winding, unpaved roads and trails - especially descending. This preference might be particular to me, I don't know. But I found the Rawland's handling exceptionally agreeable for riding on dirt. 

Rawland Nordavinden, D2R2
Notably, carrying weight in the rear was not a problem despite the bike's low trail design. It did not feel much different than riding without a saddlebag, except on steep climbs (with a full saddlebag, the front end "wandered" a bit). I do not know what the bike feels like to ride with a handlebar bag, but I can only imagine that not worse, considering that it's designed for one. I should also point out that I do not know what the bike feels like to ride long distances; my longest single ride on it was only 50 miles. With its front rack braze-ons, a bike like this just begs to be taken on a long, self-supported ride, and I hope to soon read some reviews from owners who've done that.

Rawland Nordavinden Test Ride
To think of criticisms is not an easy task here. I suppose I would like the bike even better if it were lighter, though I recognise the weight is pretty good for a bike of its kind. Another thing I can say is that I am fairly spoiled at this point as far as ride quality, and from that perspective the Rawland is not the cushiest bike I've ever ridden. It isn't a harsh ride by any means, but I feel that much of the cush is due to the fat tires - and that with narrower ones I would feel the bumpy roads more. Finally, as I've mentioned already, on pavement the Rawland is not as fast as my Seven - but then I don't think it makes sense to pit them against each other; they are not meant for the same kind of riding. I would not mind owning a bike like the Rawland to supplement my skinny tire roadbike. 

Rawland Nordavinden 650B
While showing off the demo bike, more than a couple of times I was asked why only the smallest Nordavinden size is offered in 650B. I must say I wonder as well, as it is precisely the combination of the wide 42mm Grand Bois Hetre tires and the handling that draws me to the bike. There is demand out there for lightweight, sporty low trail 650B bikes without having to spend a fortune on custom work. The Rawland Nordavinden retails at $725 for the frameset (available from Rawland Cycles directly). While I cannot vouch for the other sizes, I suspect the 650B Nordavinden is a bike that many would appreciate for road-to-trail riding. 

Many thanks to Rawland Cycles for loaning out the demo bike, and thanks to the Ride Studio Cafe for putting it together.
More pictures here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Tan Lines?

P's Tan Lines
thanks to PL for the leg modeling!
This summer I've received some emails from readers asking for suggestions on how to get rid of tan lines from bicycle shorts. The women I ride with sometimes discuss this as well. Some say they actively try to cultivate cycling tan lines, seeing them as a source of pride and part of their identity as road cyclists. Others say they dislike tan lines, because they look unflattering when wearing skirts and bathing suits. For me, it's more about the attention they generate and feeling branded: I've had stares and questions from cyclists and non-cyclists alike that I'd rather avoid.

For those who do not wish to cultivate obvious cycling tan lines, one solution is to alternate bicycle shorts of different lengths. Assuming that you are not a racer who is required to ride in a specific kit, yet ride often enough to justify owning more than one pair of shorts, this method works pretty well. I now own three pairs of shorts, each from a different manufacturer: One hits just above the knee, the other half way up the thigh, and the third somewhere in between. I make sure to rotate them, while also doing my best to regularly apply sun screen. The result is a very gradual colour-fade from the knees up instead of a harsh tan line. The leg model above is sporting a similar look, though a little more crisp than mine.

If you've already got the tan lines and need to quickly get rid of them (say, for an event), try makeup. Buy liquid makeup in a shade that matches the tanned area and apply it to the untanned part - reducing the density as you move upward. A friend of mine did this when she had to wear a short bridesmaid's dress (the bride said the tan lines would ruin her wedding photos). It works, though will smear on the underside of your hem a bit. Spray tan would also work if you need the effect to last longer, though makeup tends to look more natural. 

What's your take on tan lines from cycling shorts? Are you bothered by them, pleased by them, or does it not matter? I admit that I've identified other cyclists by their tan lines... though I try not to stare! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

D2R2: Green River Tour+

D2R2 Morning
Last Saturday I took part in a famous East Coast ride known as the Deerfield Dirt-Road RandonnĂ©e (D2R2). Don't be too impressed: I only did the short Green River Tour, augmented slightly to make it an even 50 miles. It was a good way to test my comfort level with unpaved riding, and I had a wonderful time. 

The D2R2 happened unexpectedly. For the past two years I'd tried to go, but each time it did not work out. This year I did not even consider it, for lack of appropriate bike. So I wasn't training, and hadn't done any unpaved riding in months. Then a couple of weeks ago, Rawland Cycles offered me to try a new bike they've just released - a sporty model with 650B wheels and fat tires. When I mentioned the D2R2 was coming up, everything happened quickly. The Ride Studio Cafe took delivery of the bike just days before the event, assembling and tuning it with miraculous speed. On Friday I took it on a shake-down ride on some local dirt trails and determined that I'd be able to ride it. A friend borrowed a van with room for three, and could give me a ride to the start. Late in the evening I packed, printed out a cue sheet, and devised a method to affix it sturdily to the handlebars. Then I tried to stifle my excitement and go to sleep. Finally I drifted off, to the sound of rain against the window.

D2R2 Morning
The D2R2 is more than a ride; it's an event. Many arrive the evening before and camp out in tents. Neither I nor my carpool companions were able to do that, so we left the morning of. At 5:30am Somervillain and our friend Brian arrived at my door. The rain started up again as we rolled my bike into the van alongside the other two and secured it with bungee cords. The rain continued as we drove toward Deerfield, MA. I began to wonder whether it would get so muddy that I simply would not be able to do the ride, but tried not to think about it.

In the early hours the roads were empty and the drive took us less than two hours. The D2R2 start is an enormous grass field, surrounded by patches of woods and cornfields. A thick fog hung over it all. In the distance we could see rows of colourful tents. To the side were rows of densely parked cars and vans, laden with bikes. Riders were assembling their bikes, changing clothes and shoes.

D2R2 Start
There were cyclists riding in circles on the grass, as if warming up before a race. The start times are staggered, with the 180K having already set off before we arrived. Brian and Somervillain would be doing the 100K route, with a 9:00 am start and mine was the 9:30 start. We had plenty of time. 

D2R2 Morning
It was clear from the beginning that some treated the D2R2 as a competitive event and others treated it as a party. Groups of riders in team kit were gathered in clusters discussing game plans.

D2R2 Start
Others chatted with friends, as if they did not have a care in the world.

D2R2 Morning
A row of portable toilets stood picturesquely, against a backdrop of mountain vistas. The rain seemed to be easing up, but the fog and the overcast skies remained. The grass was wet. My cleats sunk into the mud as I walked my bike toward the registration tent. 

D2R2 Morning
Not having pre-registered, I expected chaotic crowds, but it was civilised and well-organised. I registered and received a number to pin on my jersey and bracelet granting me entrance to dinner later. Each rider was also given a sticker with an ID chip (like the kind they use to track pets!) to place on their helmet, so that they could keep track of our times and whereabouts in case of emergency, since there is no mobile phone reception throughout much of the route. This is the first year they did the ID chip thing, and I have mixed feelings about it. But I dutifully affixed the sticker, and got my number pinned on. I have never done a ride with such official trappings before.

D2R2 Morning
A hot breakfast was served, with coffee and vegetarian frittatas. There were also bagels, hard boiled eggs, pastries and juice. 

D2R2 Start
I was so excited that I wasn't hungry, but forced myself to sit down and eat - jumping up occasionally to greet people I knew and to photograph all the fabulous bikes.

D2R2 Morning
Most of the cyclists I knew were doing the 100K ride, with a few opting for the 115K and the 180K. I began to question my decision to do the short, flat route. But then I remembered that it wasn't about the distance and the climbing itself, but about doing all that on dirt roads. I am not a confident off-road cyclist, to put it kindly, and I've only done short stretches in the past. The shorter route was enough to start with, if I could even handle that much.

D2R2 Start
As the last of my acquaintances set off for the 100K, the sun came out, slowly bathing the green field in a warm glow. The sky turned blue. Now I was eager to get going.

D2R2 Green River Tour
Even though I'd now met some people who'd be doing the River Tour route, I decided to ride alone so that I could stop whenever I liked and take pictures. I'd brought my big, heavy DSLR camera in my saddlebag. I wanted to enjoy the scenery and take my time. I arranged the cue sheet at an angle that was easily visible from my vantage point on the bike. At 9:30am I set off, allowing the first wave of starters to go on ahead of me. 

D2R2 Green River Tour
After following the cue sheet through a short stretch of paved side streets, I finally arrived at a dirt road leading through some corn fields. The dirt here had turned to mud from the rain, and had not yet dried out even though the sun was out now. I gave it a try and found that my tires could handle the mud.

D2R2 Green River Tour
It did get pretty bad in a couple of stretches - deep and viscous. I accelerated through it to keep the bike going. Later I had to clean mud out from under my pedals.

D2R2 Green River Tour
After the cornfields came a stretch that was unexpectedly un-D2R2like: a manicured bike path, and some main roads with awkward turns. This went on for about 5 miles and I tried to get through it as quickly as possible. I began to pass cyclists who'd started before me. Some of them looked worried and confused - clearly not having expected to be on the road with cars for such a long period of time, and not able to read a cue sheet and ride at the same time. Finally the cue sheet directed me to a (still paved) back road that was much quieter and passed through some scenic farms. But still no dirt.

D2R2 Green River Tour
It was not until mile 10 that the pavement ended again and the scenery changed from farms to forest.  Here the dirt and gravel were damp, but not wet or muddy. There were ruts and some loose stretches, but all perfectly manageable on fat tires.

D2R2 Green River Tour
The Green River Tour is described as flat, and it is compared to the longer routes. My 50 miles included about 2,600 feet of climbing. The 100K, while only 15 miles longer, included 7,500 feet of climbing. Still, even the Green River route is not pancake flat. On the outbound leg, there was a general upward trend. There was also a scattering of very short, but steep climbs throughout. My computer registered 10-14% grades on a few occasions and I would see cyclists walking up the steeper inclines. Riding uphill on unpaved terrain is more difficult than on asphalt and requires lower gears than would normally be used for the same grade. I did use my low gears liberally over the course of the flat ride. 

D2R2 Green River Tour
The Green River winds through the woods picturesquely, and I found this part of the route extremely relaxing. The air smelled like leaves and grass and dirt after the rain. I could hardly feel the heat of what was now a very sunny day with temperatures in the 80s. I was torn between wanting to go slowly to prolong the experience, and wanting to go fast because it was fun and I was full of energy. A couple of times I turned around and went back just to have another look at something that I passed too quickly on the first go. 

D2R2 Green River Tour
At around mile 15 there was a checkpoint with water, food and portable bathroom facilities. The volunteers were exceptionally nice. I refilled my nearly empty bottles and ate a banana.

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
The beautiful dirt roads continued after the checkpoint, until finally I saw ahead what could only be the lunch stop: a red covered bridge surrounded by a sea of cyclists. The organisers were clever with the route design, so that all the riders ended up at the same half-way point lunch stop, which remained open from 12:00 noon until 4pm. 

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
This spot was so gorgeous, words and pictures can hardly do it justice. Green water flowing so smoothly, that the river surface resembled a sheet of malachite. Then, suddenly, a waterfall, white water frothing over rocks. Thick leafy canopies provided natural shade. Soft fragrant grass and pine needles made for a cushioned sitting surface.

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
Cyclists arrived from all directions. 

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
Bikes were placed everywhere.

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
The lunch tent was beautifully situated, spacious, and offered many food options - sandwiches, snacks, potato and pasta salad, and buckets of sliced pickles.

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
I made use of the pickle juice when refilling my water bottles, which made for an interesting conversation with a roadie who thought the stuff was there as a joke. Nope. And yum!

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
Some riders tried to rest, or tend to their bikes.

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
But most treated it like a big party, circulating and eating and socialising. 

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
No one looked dead-tired or miserable. Most were not in a hurry. I saw lots of cyclists arrive but not many leave until I myself got going after 2pm.

D2R2 Green River Tour
The return route was slightly different, affording more glimpses of unusual structures and landscapes. It was difficult not to constantly stop to photograph things. There were several long, winding downhill stretches here made somewhat treacherous by viscous mud, puddle-filled ruts and loose gravel. I was surprised at how easily the bike handled through it all. I was really just thinking about how pretty everything was the entire time, not about the riding itself. 

D2R2 Green River Tour
To ride for miles and miles and miles without seeing any cars, stores or pavement, was really something. The smells of undisturbed forest on a summer afternoon put me in a trance. It was at this stage that I added a short extra loop to my ride, to turn the 44 miles into an even 50.  While I was not ready for the challenging climbs of the 100K, I did wish for more distance. But I didn't wander too far from the prescribed route, as my phone had no reception and I did not want to get lost. 

D2R2 Green River Tour
It was sad when the dirt roads ended. But luckily, the paved stretch was more pleasant on the return route than it had been heading out.  

Finish Dinner, D2R2
Rolling up to the finish after what had basically been a road-to-trail photo expedition with a lunch break, part of me wished that I'd done the hilly 100k and challenged myself more. But I was already starting to forget that just that very morning I hadn't even been sure that I could handle the short ride. One step at a time.

Finish Dinner, D2R2
Fortunately no one gave me a hard time about my choice of the easy route. However, my ravings about how much I loved the dirt roads were seen as a promising sign that I'll join more unpaved rides in the future.

Finish Dinner, D2R2
Once the 7pm cutoff came, results were swiftly published.

Finish Dinner, D2R2
A hot dinner was served, along with locally made beer. The party continued. 

Finish Dinner, D2R2
It's hard to describe what made the atmosphere so special, but everyone around me just looked so genuinely happy. There was a feeling that you could approach anyone and start talking to them.

Finish Dinner, D2R2
All around, people looked relaxed, open, unguarded, sunkissed.

D2R2 Green River Tour
And in that moment it felt that everything was right with the world. That feeling comes over all of us sometimes, however briefly. At the end of D2R2 I sensed that many of us felt it all at once. That's what made the event special.

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
As for the riding itself, I would describe the Green River route as relaxing, scenic and not challenging - provided you have a basic level of comfort with riding on dirt and gravel, and can handle the distance. The length of the official route is 44 miles, with just over half of that unpaved. The terrain rarely gets technical, and when it does you can simply walk. You can also walk up hills if your gearing is not low enough; the steep ones are short. I would, however, recommend wide tires (35mm+ should keep you comfortable) and reasonably low gears. Bring lots of water, as there will be nowhere to get it until the rest stop. And - very importantly - learn how to read a cue sheet. GPS computers can be insufficient and I found the cue sheet worked better. I was asked for directions at least a dozen times by riders who could not manage to read and ride simultaneously. As far as training, I would say just aim for being comfortable with the distance, keeping in mind that riding on dirt and gravel is more effortful and tiring than riding the same distance on pavement. If you've never ridden on unpaved terrain before, seek out some local trails just to get an idea of what to expect. And if trails are lacking, try riding up and down a grassy slope - the effort and traction are similar. Because riders are basically given all day to finish the route, there is no pressure and the Green River Tour can be anything you make it. You can see how fast you can complete the entire course, or you can meander at 5mph and take all day. All sorts of cyclists did this ride - from fast experienced riders who simply wanted to take it easy that day, to cautious novices. 

Covered Bridge Lunch Stop, D2R2
Those who did the challenging D2R2 routes spoke of many things I did not experience. Grueling climbs rewarded by visits to a peach orchard and mountain-top views. Terrifying descents on loose gravel. A crash of a rider unknown to us, an ambulance struggling up a dirt road with the sirens on. Pain, sweat. Sweat, pain. But in the end the riders' faces showed mostly joy. Not the "thank God this is over" kind of joy, but joy from the experience of the journey.

D2R2 Green River Tour
For me, taking part in D2R2 felt like a mini vacation. I loved the landscape, the terrain, the camaraderie, the bikes - all of it.  From reading and hearing about D2R2 in previous years, I could not get a sense for what the supposedly "easy" Green River route was really like, and so I hope this ride report was helpful for those on the fence about their ability to handle it. Next summer I would like to return and attempt the 100K route. The Rawland demo bike I rode was just perfect for the terrain and I will post a review soon. A thank you to Rawland Cycles and Ride Studio Cafe for making this happen at the last minute. A thank you to my friend Somervillain for the carpool. Thank you to everyone who organised the ride and volunteered, as well as the Franklin Land Trust (you can donate to support them here). And a thank you to everyone who tolerated my picture-taking and made for such great company. I hope to see you next year. More pictures of the event start to finish here