Sunday, April 14, 2013

Once in a Blue Moon

Six days after my first official Permanent, I found myself riding another. An entirely different and slightly longer route with a couple of brief stretches of dirt, but otherwise the same idea. The other day a friend was teasing that I write the most detailed 100K ride reports ever. True, it probably takes some riders longer to get through my reports than to ride the routes! But you know, there may come a time when I think a 100 km bicycle ride is not worth writing about. And that makes me a little sad. We go through our learning experiences, growing pains and all the wonder that comes with them but once. Today I appreciate that more than ever.

The Blue Moon Permanent marked this year's New England Brevet Season Kick-Off Party. The start of the ride was crowded, with a varied mix of cyclists. The bikes ran the gamut from road race to traditional randonneuring machines. Like a handful of others, I hung back and began a few minutes after the official start. Though I saw other riders along the way, I rode mostly on my own this time.

The route weaved through Boston's south-western suburbs, taking us to the scenic Noon Hill reservation and the Blue Moon CafĂ© in Medfield. Although the towns on this side of Boston are known to be high in traffic, the route itself was remarkably quiet. Orchards and farms comprised much of the scenery, alternating with stretches of sleepy residential streets bordering bodies of water. At one point there was even a Forest Road that, uncharacteristically, went through an actual forest, rather than a series of strip malls or new housing developments! Pamela Blalock's route design skills are a rare talent.

My experience of this Permanent was very different from last week's. I didn't question whether I could finish before the cutoff time; that now seemed like a given. Instead, riding such a circuitous route solo gave me the opportunity to focus on improving my navigation skills. I made a game of trying to not go off course a single time, and succeeded. I also tried to see whether I could manage to make fewer, shorter stops while still enjoying the scenery.

I cycled the 10 miles to the start and arrived with only a few minutes to spare, not giving myself a big break before the event this time. The ride itself was just over 67 miles and I finished it in 6 hours 25 minutes. My computer shows 3,900ft of elevation gain, but the climbing was distributed in such a way that I did not especially feel it. The descents seemed tamer than last time as well. My overall average speed (including stops and the sit-down meal) was 10.45mph, which is a bit faster than last week's 9.9mph. My average rolling speed was about the same: 13.1mph. If I can improve my times a bit more, I might be able to do these rides on the camera bike soon, with proper photo stops, and still make the cutoff - but not just yet.

After the ride I stuck around for the Brevet Season Kick-Off Party at the Ride Studio Cafe, then rode home in the dark, for a total of 87 miles. I took a quick shower, went out for a walk, then stayed up late working and woke up early to work some more. I do not feel any worse for wear after this Permanent. Unlike last time, I did not even have that crazed, feverish feeling afterward. It felt like a normal ride that just happened to be timed and counted "for credit."

There may come a time when I think a 100 km bicycle ride is not worth writing about. In the meanwhile, I am enjoying it all. The slew of new sensations that every ride brings, the shameful yet oddly liberating experience of being the weakest cyclist of everyone I ride with, and of course, the beautiful local scenery waiting to be discovered.

40 comments:

  1. I think you put your finger on the magic of riding a brevet: that it is at once both remarkable and yet somewhat inconsequential once its done. To many, riding 87 miles in a day and then feeling more-or-less normal at the end is hard to imagine, and yet that is my experience too.

    I recall talking to friends who had ridden a Fleche a few years back and I was all curious about the experience, imagining unimaginable physical exertion and they replied that the biggest challenge was really in the mind; what you do with your thoughts, the miles, your attention, your experience.

    I have a better understanding of that now. While a long ride is a big deal in one sense, its not the super-human feat that I might have imagined before having ridden them myself and found to my great surprise that my mind and body are more then willing to show up without complaint.

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  2. for your Sunday morning viewing fun, someone just sent me a link to this -

    Boyz on the Hoods (SF Randonneurs Fleche)

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  3. Sounds awesome, looks like a beautiful ride!

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  4. This looks like a perfect bike ride! Great back roads and from what you wrote, low traffic. I sure love metric centuries. A hundred kilometers, whether timed or not, is just about perfect distance for a "long" ride. It will take up a large chunk of the day, making it feel special, but short enough that the entire day isn't used. Really let you feel like you've accomplished something, but with out the time commitment of longer rides.

    And of course, there's a flickr group for them: Les Metriques

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  5. Looks like you re going through a growth spurt. Try the 200K this year!

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  6. "...the shameful yet oddly liberating experience of being the weakest cyclist of everyone I ride with..."
    That is totally me. I am the slowest person all around, and so I spend more time riding alone. But more often than not, I actually like riding alone and enjoying the scenery by myself. However, I think would be nice if someday I could stay on a paceline.

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    1. I used to only ride alone, but that changed a couple of years ago. Now I enjoy both, and the change from one to the other is nice. I've been enjoying your ride reports by the way!

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  7. I don't think there ever will come a time when a wonderful ride isn't worth writing about. Even after 4 Paris-Brest-Paris, I still love our local loop, one that I've done dozens (hundreds?) of times. I enjoy it every time, and finally wrote about it last fall. It's not even 100 km long.

    http://janheine.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/a-typical-ride/

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  8. This account was nice, but not detailed enough. More please.

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    1. It was all a blur this time. The miles went by, seemingly 10-20 at a time, but I didn't feel anything remarkable. Around mile 50 I started singing...

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  9. Spending the day bicycling, sitting, watching, it's amazing how many times I watched folks documenting their daily experiences. As a Luddite I find it interesting how many folks positioned themselves to document the moment. Odd....But I guess that's the thing of today. You seem to have capitalized on this....

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    1. Well, this is a blog about bicycles. Therefore, I take pictures of bicycles, review bicycles, write about bicycles. I don't document my personal life or daily experience.

      But that aside, the tradition of ride reports predates the current trend for self documentation. I think Bicycle Quarterly had at some point reprinted some from as early as the '30s, pretty interesting stuff.

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    2. Indeed.

      During my mad antique parts collection days, a British source I bought a number of parts from would send me a copy of a nice cycling magazine that was circulated in England between the wars.

      Along with maintenance tips and advice on dealing with cars, lorries, pedestrians, etc. there were always well written ride reports.

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  10. That time won't come for you. Interest arises from complexity, and this depends upon perception. You're not lacking in that department.

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  11. I enjoy all of my rides, and don't think any of them inconsequential. Perhaps a benchmark ride can become so in the sense that covering the distance is not in and of itself special, but the ride itself will remain worth it and will contain many wonderful experiences. Otherwise, why ride them?

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  12. Ten to twelve miles per hour is just how fast bikes go when the parameters are an all day solo ride, carrying a small load, navigating unfamiliar terrain, eating like a civilized person and finding ones own food and water. Many who are plenty strong and fit enough to race find this to be the case. Averaging 15mph is just trivial in terms of power output and athletic performance but turning the performance numbers into practical results is not so easy.

    One easy way to go faster is just to be monomaniacal about speed. I'm pretty much only willing to play that game if I have a destination and no lights and dark is coming.

    The other way to go fast is to stay with the group. Just stay with the group. Think in the group. If nothing else you won't have to pay much attention to navigation.

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  13. I was the first 5:55 anon.

    You wrote: "Well, this is a blog about bicycles. Therefore, I take pictures of bicycles, review bicycles, write about bicycles. I don't document my personal life or daily experience."

    I'm not sure I entirely agree with you here. It's a blog about bicycles, including how bicycles have affected your life and daily experiences. I enjoy the many sides of the blog, the technical and consumer-oriented, as well as the more personal bits about how your love of bikes has affected your life. Please don't feel defensive about this or extricate your personality from the blog; it would make for less interesting reading.

    Cheers from Asheville, NC.

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  14. too bad this ride won't count toward your P-12, you did it all for nothing!!!

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  15. 7 hrs. today, 7 yesterday, per usual. Chugging a beer. I need a blog.

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    1. That's great. Club rides or solo?
      I'd like to try 2 days in a row soon.

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    2. 'Family' rides. Slow, but killer.

      Intervals, sprints, off road, unrideable rocky coastline - you know normal.

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  16. What I'd like to know is where is that fire road?

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    1. You mean the picture in the end? That is Old Conant Rd in Waltham. The brick ends and there is a short stretch of narrow trail that connects one section of the street to another. The first picture is Noon Hill Reservation.

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    2. I rode that road/trail yesterday and wasn't sure if it was in Waltham or Lincoln. What is funny is how we all use the same roads since, as you say elsewhere in the comments, you have to know the less traveled roads to avoid traffic. And since there aren't all that many we end up using the same secret passages. Later in yesterday's ride, the RSC Sunday ride started to overtake me on the 2A bypass (Mill St), which is hardly a secret anymore if a substantial group ride uses it regularly. I had to power up to get to the cafe before the crowd overwhelmed the barrista. I was successful.

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    3. I love the "secret" Mill Street! For the longest time, I was not able to find it on my own; as if it would only appear magically when a cyclist in the know would take me there.

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    4. Thanks I will check it out!

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  17. I may not write about every 60 miles ride I do, but it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy each and every one, nor do I discount any as not worthy. It's really that if I wrote about them ALL, I wouldn't have the time to ride them! While it may get easier to do them, I have no fear that the rides will become mundane and routine for you. You will always see what others don't see and I know that YOU will continue to savor the journey, far more than the destination. Your goal is to get faster so you can stop and take more pictures, not to get faster, so you can post a record time. I am not worried that you will lose the romance of cycling!

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  18. I continue to be jealous of the lovely country and relatively open roads so near to your homes in the Boston area.

    Since the weather has (sort of) turned to spring like here in Chicago I've done two 60 mile rides, two 75 and one 50. The latter was along Chicago's lovely but all two crowded Lake Front path from north to south and back then over to a local streets. The first four were along roughly the same streets, roads and paths going north of Chicago.

    There are several nice (if also increasingly crowded) limestone paths west of Chicago, but realistically Chicago residents have to either drive or take the train to these. Most Chicago suburban streets are either cul de sacs or multi-lane highways cutting through seemingly endless lines of strip malls.

    Adding insult to injury, a thread in the V-Salon recently linked to a series of maps for some wonderful riding just outside New York City.

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    1. Heh. In the Greater Boston area you really have to know where to find these nice traffic-free routes; it isn't obvious.

      I am not jealous of NYC. Getting out of town takes forever, no matter how nice the riding beyond is.

      But this I really wouldn't mind!

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    2. You and your husband are welcome to come down any time!

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    3. Thank you J, that is very kind of you.

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  19. Sorry for multiple posts.

    Meant to add I have been usind the Grand Bois Extra Leger 30s this year. The tires are amazingly smooth and roll so easy I have to force myself to end my rides.

    In the previous thread you said you are using 23a. Suggest you give the narrow Grand Bois Extra Legers a try. I suspect you will be pleased.

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    1. The locals are raving about them as well. I might give them a try once I wear a current set out. I have the 700Cx26mm Cerfs on the Seven and the 650Bx42mm Hetres on the Rawland.

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  20. Boys on the Hoods...I think "car hoods" before "brake hoods." Here's another video. Warning: Mucho Carbono (but plenty of dirt, too)

    http://vimeo.com/63212413

    Getting out of NYC was never so bad, and now it's even easier. Up the bike path to the George Washington Bridge and badabing you're on River Road, cut into the Palisades as a WPA project, often with no cars. Takes you up to 9W a few miles north, to Piermont, Nyack, Bear Mt. and beyond.

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  21. One thing that can help find some extra time on ride day is studying for route. For me, that means following the cue sheet the week before and digitizing that into a GPS route. Because I do carry a small mapping GPS (that runs on AA batteries), I never veer off course. While some people assume that must mean I'm staring at a GPS all day, it's rather the opposite. I just glance at it once in a while and can instantly confirm that I'm still on route. I can't count how many times in a group ride people stopped to discuss where a turn was, where I was able to instantly clear up where the route was leading us. More time enjoying the ride and less time trying to find our bearings.

    Even if a GPS isn't your thing, spending some time looking at the route definitely helps. Using a route building site like RideWithGPS gets me very familiar with the route.

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  22. This is a question that goes with a post you wrote a while ago on saddle comfort for women. I remember you mentioning that finding the perfect saddle has always been an issue for you -- now that you are doing all these really long rides, does that mean you've found the right saddle that you feel comfortable on no matter how long you ride?

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    1. There's not a short answer to this one.

      I have a Berthoud touring saddle on my paved roadbike and a Selle Anatomica (with cutout) on my dirt roadbike. The Selle Anatomica fits the shape of my derriere better, but has too much give on pavement, almost like a bouncing sensation. The Berthoud is much stiffer, but on longer rides I feel like something might not be quite right with the way it is shaped in the back (however, the women's version is too wide for me, so it's not that). My ideal saddle would be a sort of marriage of the two. But for now, I ride the SA on dirt (becasue the give is actually helpful there), and the Berthoud on pavement. I am looking forward to trying the Rivet soon, which could be just the thing.

      I have also tried a number of synthetic saddles (Terry, Fizik, Selle Italia) with limited success. The ones with gel I absolutely cannot stand. But the hard ones are often too narrow. I'll continue to experiment.

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  23. Catching up on your blog and glad to see you're liking rando rides. To paraphrase yogi berra: Half of finishing a brevet is 90% mental.

    As a "rouge lantern" I often ride alone and find that I don't have the sometimes strss of keeping up is a relief, but I do miss the company.

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