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Monday, April 26, 2010

Volunteering on 300K

Volunteering was a great experience, though my only 'repair' was giving Mike D an M5 cap screw and washer to replace one that had vibrated out of his front rack. As I covered the last 60K in the rain and darkness (checking on rider progress), it gave me a better idea of what shows up to motorists. Taillights are critical - the more the better. I agree with the RUSA requirement of a reflective vest or sash, but they are not that effective due to the fact that light doesn't reflect too well (back to the motorist) off a surface that is not perpendicular to the ground, and randonneurs don't ride sitting bolt upright. They work for traffic patrolmen because those people are standing or walking, not leaning over a bike. The reflective leg bands and safety triangles mounted vertically on the back of a rack pack are excellent.

Congratulations to everyone who rode and it was great to meet some new people. Photos can be seen here

Monday, April 19, 2010

Morrisville 300K Pre Ride

When RBA Alan Johnson put out a call for volunteers to pre ride the Morrisville to Seagrove 300K with him on Saturday April 17, I thought it would be a good way for me to accomplish a goal of starting and finishing my first 300. My schedule won't allow me to ride in the brevet on the 24th, but I will have some time in the morning and late afternoon/evening to volunteer.

We met at Alan's house a little before 7 am, and after some last minute shuffling of bags and double checking of night riding gear, we were off. The weather forecast was excellent, with only a 10% chance of rain and temperatures ranging between 47 and 77. By the time we reached the first control at Snow Camp, the sky was looking very overcast, but the extent of our rain was maybe 10 tiny drops we felt as we rode down to Siler City. As the day wore on, the clouds disappeared completely. Mike O met us as he was driving home after doing a 44 mile ride from Siler City to Erect and back.

The 100K Siler City to Seagrove out and back route was the new part for me, and I couldn't help being thankful we were not traversing the climbs in 20 degree hotter temperatures, as those who rode this brevet last year had to endure. After taking a break for lunch at the Seagrove turn around, we enjoyed some downhills and tailwinds back to Siler City. Lights and reflective equipment came on at Snow Camp (left around 7:30 pm), and we made the 50 odd mile trip back from there to Morrisville in one shot, arriving right around 11 pm after dodging a couple of wild turkeys and an opossum out for some nocturnal wanderings. One dog gave us some excitement - it sounded serious and I could only hear it as it chased after us.

This was just about an ideal way for me to get in my first 300K. Near perfect weather, riding with a veteran RBA who knew the route cold, and our riding speeds are very closely matched. I need to get comfortable with using a helmet light - I could read road signs but found that I had to tilt my head down too far to read the cue sheet, and I could barely make out the display on my bike computer. This may require changing where I position the cue sheet and also trying the low setting on the helmet light - medium may be too bright to see the computer display.

Thank you Alan and I'll be looking forward to seeing everyone this coming Saturday for the official 300K brevet (Snow Camp and Siler City controls).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Danbury 205K Permanent - solo

With the NC Fleche absorbing a good number of the regular randonneurs this past weekend, I opted to go solo and try out John Bovine's Danbury 205K Permanent on Saturday April 3. Riding solo has the advantage of knowing that you are truly riding your own ride. If I feel like taking a break somewhere besides a control, I take it. Although that kind of independence is generally true for randonneuring (not Audax), let's face it - if you are with a small group or even one other rider, you are less inclined to split off. That said, I still prefer having a few people to share the ride.

John met me at the Citgo in Whitsett a little before 7 a.m. with the control card, cue sheet and last minute instructions. The route is an out and back that follows a northwest direction through Guilford and Rockingham counties before the turn around at the Stokes County seat of Danbury, close to Hanging Rock State Park. I would characterize this ride as challenging as it has a lot of rolling hills. The real hurdle was Phillips Road off of NC 772. One section of about a quarter mile long sports an 18 percent grade and I contemplated getting off and walking, but forced myself to get up it by repeating the cycle of standing for 10 pedal strokes and then sitting for 5. I have a compact crank (34/50) and a 27 tooth rear cog, but it was still a struggle for me.

On one part of Phillips Road I encountered a gentleman stopped on the other side with a Windsor touring bike. I pulled over to inquire if he needed anything, and learned he is 70 and is working on getting in shape. His bike was outfitted with some nice Ortlieb panniers on the back and a homemade rear view mirror bracket made of a long piece of PVC pipe. Another mile down the road I heard the sound of a couple of dogs tearing across a yard and hitting the pavement behind me. Fortunately I was going down another little hill so outran them handily. On the way back from the turn around, I was prepared with Halt! spray and nailed them. If a dog stays on its property and barks, no problem, but once it gets on the road after me it's open season.

There is a very enjoyable 7.5 mile stretch (River Road) that follows the Dan River just after crossing it. Traffic is heavy and extra care required in a couple of spots - about 3 miles along US 158 west of Reidsville and a couple of miles of Summit Avenue adjoining US 29. In both cases the shoulder is non existent - the pavement ends immediately to the right of the white stripe.

No mechanical issues or flats - I've been satisfied with the Specialized Armadillo tires that I put on late last year. I got back to the Citgo station at 18:19, certainly not a great time but considering the terrain I was satisfied with my total time of 11 hours 19 minutes. Thanks to John Bovine for setting up the permanent and coming to pick up the route card at the end.