Thursday, December 07, 2006

Desert Training Camp

Things will be quiet around here for the next month. I am off to Baja to cycle the Trans-peninsular Highway. Camping in the desert, drinking Pacificos, eating tacos and the most amazing sunrises & sunsets - yes the daunting challenges of the Baja Randonneur Training Camp.

I'll be taking a break from the internet so don't expect much contact and don't worry I am just fine.

Have a wonderful Christmas & New Year's. See you Jan 9th!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Why Avid Mechanical Disc Brakes Rock....

I have used just about every kind of braking system from coaster brakes to v-brakes to cantis, to dual pivot caliper brakes - nothing stops as well and as reliably in all kinds of weather and all kinds of terrain.

Avid's are:
- inexpensive
- simple
- easy tool free adjustment
- easy tool free pad replacement
- field repairable
- fade free braking on long steep descents
- excellent performance in wet or snowy conditions
- don't wear out your rims
- don't overheat your rims

The downsides are:
- higher weight than other brakes
- require more wheel dish than other brakes
- can only use disc wheels

For my money the Avids win hands down if you want trouble free braking in all weather conditions and in steep terrain - like a brevet for example.

I can't imagine buying another bike that doesn't sport a pair of these fine stoppers.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Vik 1 - Mother Nature 0

We had our first real blizzard today! Woo Hoo! It was a ton of fun to be riding out in the middle of it. I had to clear my glasses every 30 secs at the worst point just to see where I was headed. The tires worked well as did my lighting system. My only problem was wearing through my rear disc pads at the mid-point of the ride. I had a couple steep downhills that were more exciting than I had anticipated.

All in all it was about 23kms in 100mins with about 2" of accumulation.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Not sleet, nor snow or ice will keep a randonneur from his appointed rides...

My winter bike fears nothing! Mother Nature bring it on...

Bicycle Quarterly Magazine

I received my first issue of Bicycle Quarterly Magazine yesterday published by Jan Heine. I have heard about this publication for a while, but was hesitant to subscribe. It was formerly titled Vintage Bicycle Quarterly and I was not sure how much of the content would be of interest to me.

There was a lot of commotion on the 'net about a recent article in BQ about the rolling resistance of bicycle tires. I decided it was time to get a subscription to find out what the hubhub was about and worst case I would be supporting a small business in the cycling world.

Wow - what a great magazine. The tire article alone was worth the cost of the entire subscription. An objective repeatable test was performed that shatters a lot of long held beliefs about tires. I think most cyclists would agree that narrow high pressure tires are inherently faster. It's too bad that notion is wrong. Interesting Jan found over 20% difference in speed between some of the tires he tested. Think about that 24kph instead of 20kph just by swapping out tires. Now add to that the fact the fast tires might be wider lower pressure ones that are much more comfortable. Pretty amazing stuff.

BQ also running a series of articles about how to be a better randonneur. This issue discusses how to make a randonneur bike faster.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

PBP 2007



Over nine months away and Paris Brest Paris 2007 is already on many cyclists' minds. Click on the Brochure above to download it as a PDF or click here to jump to the ACP PBP website.

Vancouver Island Hell Week April 2007



If you are interested in getting an early start to your PBP qualifying this April 2007 brevet series might interest you:

Come out to the Vancouver Island 'Eau de Hell' Week , starting April 7th, 2007.

** 200k Saturday, April 7th
** 300k Sunday, April 8th
** 400k Tuesday, April 10th
** 600k Thursday, April 12th

Total kilometres = 1,500

All rides start/finish in Chemainus, B.C. All start times are at 7:00 a.m. Ride all, some or one of the rides. For individual brevets beyond the 200, riders need to have ridden the shorter distances in the previous year. eg. to ride only a 400k, one must have ridden a 200 and 300 in the previous year.

Chemainus, famous for its murals and professional live theatre, (Murder on the Nile is playing during 'Eau de Hell' Week) has a Best Western almost in town; an economy motel up on Hwy 1 (about 4k away) and numerous B&Bs. What a wonderful spring vacation!

Susan Allen and Doug Latornell are organizing the 200 (Tour de Cowichan) --I am the overall organizer of the 'Eau de Hell' Week and responsible for the 300, 400 and 600. There will be a Hell Week pin for those riders that complete all 4 of the brevets during the week.

'Eau de Hell' -- perfume of spring flowers OR the lovely perfume wafting from sweaty randonneurs
-- spring rain showers
-- an endearing phrase spoken by tired randonneurs

Several folks have already expressed interest in this 'compact' Super
Randonneur series of brevets. For planning purposes it would be helpful to hear early from other folks who are interested.

.... Ken Bonner (BC Randonneurs)

Bike Envy

I stumbled onto Nate's blog and found a pic of his stunning Kogswell G85 fixie. I don't need another bike. I especially don't need another randoneering bike. I love my Volae and I can tell we will be doing great things together in 2007. But, I must be honest with you, I am jealous of Nate's bike. It's elegant, simple and so functional - not to mention drop dead gorgeous.

When I built up my Surly LHT I was hoping to build up a classic randoneering bike. My LHT is a great bike, but I have come to realize I will never own a bike like Nate's. It is just not possible for me to have such a bike. All the big and little choices I make when buying and outfitting a bike result in a whole different beast. My bikes are machines. They are functional and reliable, but often complex. Some of them are cool in a techno-geek sort of way, but they are not elegant nor beautiful. Often they look cobbled together from various bits I found effective.

A simple, but telling example of how I go astray with my bikes is my Carradice Barley saddle bag. I initially had it attached directly to my Brooks saddle. That is a simple classic setup - leather saddle, waxed cotton saddle bag attached with leather straps. Of course that didn't last long. I ended up using a Carradice SQR saddle bag rack with my LHT. This system lets me remove my saddle bag with the press of the button - a very nice feature when I want to go into a store or if I want to just use my rear rack and panniers. The downside is it ruins the classic look of the saddle and saddle bag. It looks Frankenstein-ish, but it works great. And no matter what bikes I covet, the fact is I like bikes that are a mish mash of the best bits I can find - style be damned!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Polar RS200 HRM Problem

I have a Polar RS200 HRM. I use it day to day as a watch and I mount it to my Volae's handle bars when riding so I can see it easily. Keeping it on my wrist would make it hard to see - especially in cool weather when I am wearing several layers.

I noticed a problem on my first long ride. I had been sitting away from my bike repositioning my cleats for 10 mins or so. When I returned to my bike I could not get the watch to read the transmitter belt. I would bring the two close together and the watch would start the search process, but it could not "find" the transmitter belt. I tried quite a few times.

When I got home I stopped and restarted the watch. Bingo! It found my transmitter belt right away. Odd. On my second long ride I could not get it to find my transmitter belt after my "munchie" stop at a gas station. Both times I did not want to stop and restart the watch because I wanted to record my total elapsed ride time and my aggregate heart rate info. My bike computer only tracks on bike time and will not tell me how long I was stopped. For a brevet it would be nice to have total elapsed time.

I emailed Polar and was told that if the watch could not find the transmitter belt after 5 mins it would no longer be able to do so during that "session". Bummer. When I stop to eat or sleep I am going to be away from the bike for more than 5 mins. Taking the watch off the handle bars each time I stop will get old fast. So I either have to wear the watch on my wrist or restart the watch after each stop and forget about keeping the total elapsed time and heart rate info.

I am not sure which way I'll go, but I thought I would post this problem in case anyone is looking at buying a RS200. It is a nice watch for day to day wear and it works well as a HRM - except for this one problem that only a randonneur would notice.

I hate you California...

I woke up this morning to a blanket of white loveliness covering the world as far as my eyes could see from my 11th floor apartment. It is beautiful indeed, but it is also cold and makes cycling a challenge. The biggest difficulty is not traction or cold weather. It's not slushy snow or incompetent drivers. It's not trashing my lovely bikes or having components freeze up. The biggest hurdle to overcome is what to do with a wet dirty drippy bike when I get back to my building?

Locking a bike outside is against my core principles and I would struggle with my conscience - not to mention my bike wouldn't be there after a while. Even my winter bike is nicer than a lot of people's only bike! I might put an old piece of carpet outside my apt and leave the bike there to dry out before bringing it in - although I suspect my neighbours and building manager may not go for a gnarly wet, smelly rug in the hallway. Perhaps I can store my winter bike in the shell of my pick up truck? Of course I not only have to deal with my bike, but Anna is thinking of commuting to her new job this winter.

Oh well. I'll sort something out. Anyways California - now you understand why I have to "hate" you.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Why you should pay attention to your cleats...


Anna lost a bolt from her right cleat on a night ride and crashed (lightly) at a red light when her shoe would not disengage. She got a replacement and installed it this AM at the start of the ride. By the 13km mark she had the same problem again - luckily this time she didn't crash. We even found the bolt sitting by the bike rack at Bow Cycle.

Lesson learned - check your cleats before every major ride and use some Loc-tite. If you loose a bolt (or the whole cleat) and have small pedals, such as eggbeaters, it will be a tough ride home - especially on a high BB bent. If you have something like the Time Control Z platform pedals at least you can pedal fairly well home.

I carry a spare set of cleats when on tour and as part of my standard brevet load. They are light insurance against a DNF. Also consider whether or not you could actually pedal any reasonable distance with your current pedal if you lost a cleat? This may make a larger/heavier bodied pedal more attractive than some of the smallest/lightest ones.

note - the pic above is just a dramatic re-creation of the event - no cyclists were injured in the process.

Any weather is randoneering weather

It was -3 deg C this AM with an ice fog shrouding downtown Calgary. The view from inside my warm apartment was beautiful. I wanted to get out and bike a bit, but I just didn't feel like freezing my butt off. It is one thing to commute to work in sub-zero weather, but a fun ride is a whole different matter!

I kept putting it off hoping the temps would start moving towards the day's predicted high of +11 deg C. Eventually I gave up such foolish thoughts and geared up to ride. Anna was missing a bolt for her Time cleat so we stopped at Campione Cycles first. They were kind enough to provide one for free. Next we bombed the nearly empty pathways towards Bowness. As usual once I was on the bike it was a lot of fun and the weather was not an issue. It is way worse thinking about winter riding than actually doing it - as long as you have good clothing.

On the way back we encountered a hellacious windstorm that nearly knocked us off our bikes. You gotta love Calgary weather!

We ended up riding 25kms over two hours including lots of stops for errands and lunch. All in all it was a great ride and a nice way to spend a cold day.

Installing a chain tube on your Volae

If you have a Volae or any other SWB recumbent and don't want to get chain lube on your right leg or clothing the Hostel Shoppe has a chain tube kit for you. The instructions on their website are pretty straight forward.

Personally with my chicken legs I don't seem to have a problem touching the chain. I also am only using my bent for performance riding so I am usually wearing form fitting clothing, but I thought someone out there in the bentdom might find this useful.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Run Silent, Run Cheap


A tip I read about on the net to make your Volae run very quiet is to slip two o-rings (1 7/8" or 1 3/4" x 1/16") onto the powerside idler. I don't find my Volae terribly noisy, but since this is a cheap mod I'll give it a shot and see if it makes a big difference.

Mounting Lust



The light mount shown above is the Terracycle Accessory Mount fitted to a Volae. It looks like just the ticket to get my headlight out front so it won't shine on my feet as I pedal. The unit looks like a slick design and is quite light.





The skewer light mount from Nitto shown above is truly sweet. Functional and simple it puts the light down near the road. Some people seem to love lights down low and others only want them higher up. I have tried them at mid-fork level on my Surly LHT and found that position effective. I guess I won't be able to verify the effectiveness of the Nitto mount as I can't find anywhere to get one of these. If you happen to know of a source please leave me a comment.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Ramping Up Slowly


You might be thinking my training scheule so far is pretty weak and you would be right! But, you have to consider that my first "event" will be a 200K brevet at the end of April - 6 months from now. I am already riding 100kms on my new bike and ending with lots of energy. I could pretty much ride a 200K tomorrow, so there is no point getting too crazy with my training program. All I need to do is continue to get comfortable with my bike and improve my speed on the hills. Fine tuning my gear and fuel/hydration needs will be a nice bonus.

You have to be true to yourself and I am the lazy randonneur!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

100K redux


I rode the same route as last week's 100k, but things went a lot better this time. I spent 4.6hrs riding 104kms for an on bike average of 22.6kph. My total time was 5.3hrs for a overall average of 19.6kph. Temps were 2 - 12 deg C and dry.

I had no problems this time out and before my break at the half way point in Bragg Creek I only spent 3mins off the bike. I spent 27mins at the gas station in Bragg Creek disposing off & replenishing fluids, eating and warming up. It was a nice and warm when I left Calgary so I was able to ride in shorts (thumbs up for the Volae recumbent shorts) and a long sleeve jersey. By the time I got to the half way point it had become a bit chilly since the sun was setting.

I rode in the dark the last two hours of my ride. No problems with my lighting, but in the cold I am not getting very good run times from NiMH rechargeables. They also take 7-8hrs to charge so you have to stay on top of this aspect of ride planning.

I used a Fastback Systems Double Century to carry a 2L bladder with water on one side. On the other side I carried heavier items (batteries) or items I didn't expect to need such as my first-aid kit. Being able to drink on the go was much better than my last 100K ride. I still have not mounted a bottle holder on my stem so I had to stop when I wanted to drink some Sustained Energy, but a Minoura water bottle clamp is on its way to solve this problem.

My Polar HRM doesn't seem to want to "find" the transmitter belt if you move away from the watch for more than 10mins. This is quite annoying as I have the watch attached to my handlebars for easy viewing and I don't want to have to take it off all the time. I solved the problem temporarily by stopping and restarting the watch. It was then able to "find" the transmitter belt, but I lost the total cumulative time of the ride and the HR info for that period of the ride. I need to do some trouble shooting at home and talk to Polar. Worst case I can just wear the watch, but that makes it much harder to get info from while riding.

Anna met up with me at the 80km point of the route and we rode back into Calgary together. I am pretty impressed with the lights and reflective gear we are using. She was almost painfully bright in the light of my dim headlights and I have even more lights/reflective material on my bike. It was nice to have some company on the last leg. Going as fast as I can - optimizing my speed/effort when alone is a challenge, but cruising along chatting is a lot more fun! The recumbent was fine when riding with her DF bike, but I was not comfortable drafting too close.

Lessons Learned:

- bladder hose with magnetic clip is convenient, but the hose can come loose and get into rear wheel. Definitely check this before any serious descents.

- my legs are not extending enough. Move seat back a bit.

- trouble shoot HRM problems.

- one of my MEC turtle lights fell off the left front fork leg. Reminder to self redundancy is good and anything not bolted down is likely to jump ship at some point.

- lights and reflective gear are effective.

- sore tendon in right leg needs some rest.

- I need to climb lots and lots of hills.

- I need to adjust my cleats to allow for an easier release.


Monday, October 23, 2006

My take on "style" for brevets


I like simple clean plans. For one because they are elegant and also easy to execute. If you are tired and busy riding your bike implenting a complex plan doesn't sound a lot like fun. You also can't really precdict when you'll need to eat or sleep on a long ride - not to mention what the weather or a mehcanical might do to your schedule. Riding self-contained without support or a lot of preplanned arrangements appeals to me.

I'll carry all the equipment and supplies for the whole ride with me and restock as I go from what is available on the road. I'll make sure my clothing and gear is as lightweight and multi-functional as possible. I was already headed down the ultralight minimalist route with my other outdoor pursuits, so this will be easy. This also makes a lot of sense as this is the way I woud ride during training doing long loops outside Calgary, stopping in small towns to resupply food & fluids.

If the brevet includes loops that pass back past the start point I will resupply from my car since that is pretty simple and cost effective. If the brevet includes a drop bag service as part of the entry fees I'll probably utilize it to pre-position food & spare clothes along the course.

I am not out for a course record, nor to impress anyone so this approach will work well and let me concentrate on riding my bike rather than worrying about my "plan".

"Randoneering Style" Discussion on Bikeforums.net

Click Here

Randonneuring Style

The Competitive Side of Randonneuring

By Jan Heine and Melinda Lyon

In 2003, the awards ceremony after Paris-Brest-Paris for the first time ignored the fastest male riders. While these riders had ridden faster than any randonneurs in PBP history, they were penalized two hours for various infractions of the rules. One of the officials, Gilbert Bulté, lists the transgressions: "Pushing officials at a control, urinating in towns, running numerous red lights and stop signs, being illuminated by an illegal support car, refusing to let my car pass, disrespect when I identified myself as an official." Robert Lepertel, the organizer of PBP, wrote in the newsletter of the French Cyclotouring Federation: "Never before have so many spectating cyclists and participants felt so compromised by this disrespect of the rules. The first 12 or 15 [...] have no respect for the organizers, the officials and all who make PBP a celebration of perseverance in the quest to complete this difficult ride. They do not deserve the name randonneur, as they do not know what riding unsupported means." (Cyclotourisme No. 518, 10/2003, p. 34.)

Strong words indeed, especially since the riders penalized did not feel that they did anything wrong or extraordinary. While they might not have followed every rule in the book, they felt that they had behaved as one would during a bicycle race. On the other hand, the organizers said that not only individual infractions had led to the penalty, but the spirit of the first riders evident from their disrespect of the rules. Clearly, there was a disconnect between the first riders and the organizers, about what PBP represents.

The organizers strongly feel that PBP is not a race, and that the spirit of randonneuring is threatened by these riders' behavior. But what is the spirit of randonneuring? The rules of PBP provide little guidance on this subject. BRM rules simply state that "brevets are not competitive events" (Article 12). But why is the time of each finisher listed, and why do the organizers of PBP recognize records and award trophies to those who are the fastest in their category? Doesn't that mean that it is race after all, for those who want to go fast? One can see why people might choose to disregard other rules as well in their quest to come first.

To examine this apparent contradic- tion between "not competitive" and awards for fastest riders, one has to look at the history of Paris-Brest-Paris. In 1931, randonneurs joined PBP, which had been a professional race since 1891. In the 1950s, all the other professional races were getting shorter. With the rather different training required for PBP, it no longer made sense for racers to bank a whole season on an elusive PBP win. PBP as a professional race died. The randonneurs took up the challenge.

Unlike the racers, who earned a living from the bike, the randonneurs rode for fun. They were proud to be amateurs -- lovers of cycling. The randonneurs were quite com- petitive at times (there is the Audax event for those who want non-competitive riding), but it was an amicable com- petition for the most part. Many of them remained involved in the sport for the rest of their lives, either as participants (the fastest sin- gle bike rider in 1956, Roger Baumann, went on to ride a record 10 PBP) or volunteers. In fact, Gilbert Bulté, the above-mentioned official, was on one of the two tandems that tied for first in 1956, beating all the single bikes. Roger Baumann, the aforementioned record-holder, was volunteering at Villaines-la-Juhel this year. The organizer of PBP 2003, Pierre Theobald, also com- peted in the late 1950s in various randonneur events.

Clearly, the organizers of PBP understand competition, and yet they don't see PBP as a race. The difference is subtle, and it has to do with civility. While racing is more like a battle, with only one rider coming out as a winner, randonneuring is all about the civilized enjoyment of cycling. Or as a non-randonneuring friend once put it: It is the quest for the perfect cyclist, any distance, any weather, self-sufficient.

This does not mean you have to go slow, or that you cannot be competitive. After all, PBP is about performance: You only get a medal if you finish within the time limit. For many riders, that means riding at the limit for up to 90 hours! And there is nothing wrong with challenging yourself and trying to better your previous times. Or even with trying to ride faster than others. But the important fact remains: Every finisher of PBP is a winner. Someone may be the fastest rider, even get a trophy, but they cannot claim to have "won" PBP. Everybody receives the same medal. The spectators understand this, and if anything, cheer on the last finishers more than the first ones.

The difference to racing is clear: Races defer to the fastest riders. By definition, potential winners of a race are more important than other riders. If a slower rider gets lapped in a circuit race, at the very least, they are expected to get out of the way of the faster riders, if they aren't pulled out of the race entirely. In a randonneur event, every participant is equally important. Fast riders cannot expect slower ones to make way for them at controls. Even the fastest are expected to behave in a civil and polite manner toward other participants, spectators and officials.

Randonneuring also is about self-sufficiency. Even though support cars are allowed at controls - mostly because it would be difficult to enforce a ban! - riders are expected to be able to ride by themselves, and to be prepared for the challenges of the road ahead.

Just as racing has its own ethics, such as frowning upon attacks when somebody has a flat or during a "neutral" bathroom stop, randonneuring does, too. These rules are unwritten, and different people may see them differently. Here is our take:

  1. Most of all, be polite, which means being considerate of others. While raw aggression has a place in racing, it does not in randonneuring. Try to be an ambassador for cycling, for your club and for your country.
  2. If you have ridden in a small group for a while, and if everybody has been sharing the work, try to finish together. This should include stopping for flat tires (unless one rider has multiple flats because they ride old tires or stupid equipment).
  3. Attacks are not part of the sport. If somebody gets dropped because they cannot follow the pace, so be it. But sudden accelerations to rid yourself of fellow riders are not polite. That is why there is no finishing sprint: All riders of a group are classified the same and get the same time. (In a race, the need to declare one winner leads to complex equipment and difficult decisions to determine exactly who crossed the line first, if only by half an inch.)
  4. Avoid putting yourself in an "irregular situation." Follow the rules of the event. This means respecting the rules of the road: Obey stop signs and red lights. Ride only with riders who are participants. If there is a car following your group for an extended period of time, especially at night, something is wrong. If there are official follow cars of the PBP organizer, they will drive with only their parking lights on, to avoid giving an advantage to the first riders. If you find yourself in the company of an illegal support car, ride ahead or drop behind, but don't stay with an illegal group. While it is hard to give up the advantage of a group, consider that if you are caught, the penalties will more than outweigh the time gained by riding with the group.
  5. Be friendly to volunteers and officials. Follow their orders. Thank them for their time. This takes only a second or two. Without them, you would not be riding in this wonderful event.
  6. Finish the event! The goal is to do the best ride possible under the circumstances. To ride fast and then to drop out because you cannot achieve your time goal is the ultimate failure.

Of course, this spirit applies not only to PBP, but to randonneuring in general. Have fun, go fast if you like, challenge yourself and others, but remember: It is not a race!


This article appears on the ACP PBP 2007 webpage.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Finicky Fenders


I bought a fender set for my Volae when I ordered it. Pretty non-descript black plastic fenders, but they look like they'll do the job. No instructions came with them and as it turns out you need to discard the mounting tabs that are on the fenders and use another set provided. Its not rocket science, but a simple page of instructions could reduce the confusion dramatically. Update - I found some instructions on the Volae site after all.

A California Expedition owner posted some pics of his bike and has some tips on installing these fenders. Have a look at his pics and all will become clear! Update - he switched to SKS P35 700C fenders because he was using a narrower tire. Have a look at his new fenders.

Vik's Fender Installation Tips:

1. use locktite on all bolts.
2. be careful not to strip the heads of the tiny fender screws.

The Hardest 100kms

My ride last night turned out to be a lot harder than I had anticipated. I rode 104kms in 5hrs on the bike and 6hrs in total time - for an average speed of 21.1kph (on bike)/17.3kph (total time).

The first 15kms included a lot of urban riding including stop lights, narrow suspension bridges, MUPs, a short 14% climb and a 2.5km offroad section. This offered me lots of challenges and allowed me to work on my bent handling skills. My average speed was around 18kph through here.

Then I was on hwy 8 where I figured I could ramp up the speed and make some good time. Wrong - it was such a comedy of errors I was laughing when I wasn't crying...=-) First I encountered a hellacious headwind (25kph) that kept my speed at 18kph. You know the kind of headwind where you get to the top of a climb and have to actually pedal on the downhill! I also discovered that I had mounted my cleats too far back on my shoes. I realized this when my leg spasmed and cramped up really hard. No worries! I stopped took off my shoe covers, my shoes and got out my multitool. Problem solved! Well not really a couple kms further on I had to readjust them again because I put them too far forward. Problem solved! Yes mostly - except I left my multitool on the rock where I had been sitting while adjusting the cleats. No way I was riding back in this headwind and giving up the hard won distance I had earned.

Unfortunately I discovered I had more acclimatizing to do on the new bike than I thought. My legs were cramping quite badly and I could not put much power to the pedals. The poor cleat position exacerbated the situation and even though I had corrected the problem the damaged was done.

My hyrdation choices left something to be desired as well. I had two bottles (one of perpetuem and one of plain water) in the bottle holders of my seatbag. This was great, but I had to stop everytime I wanted a drink. Since my legs were cramping I took the opportunity to stretch them out at the same time. This slowed me down a fair bit.

By the time I reached hwy 22 around the 40km mark I was feeling pretty down. My legs had hit the height of their crampiness, it was dark & cold and I was off the 15kph pace I would have to maintain to successfully complete a brevet. I had turned 90 deg and still had a headwind! How is that possible?? The nail in the coffin was a slight uphill that combined with the headwind slowed me right down even though it looked flat to the eye. I got really close to calling for a ride home, licking my wounds and coming out stronger next time - really close. However, I recalled that in many randonneur reports riders worked through problems to finish on time. I decided to keep going.

I worked through my cramps - stretching on the bike as best I could. I reached Bragg Creek and the 50km point feeling a bit better and with half the ride done. I enjoyed a chocolate milk, snickers bar, chips and stocked up on water at the gas station before heading out into the night.



My lights worked really well as far as being seen was concerned. I had three rear LEDs and the planet bike superflash lights were incredibly bright. My twin Cateye HL-500II halogen headlights were acceptable, but not great. My max speed was 67KPH and that was an exercise in faith. I am using NiMH rechargeable batteries in these lights which are only 1.2V compared to the 1.5V of a disposable alkaline battery, but I can't stomach throwing away 22 battries each night. It was also cold out and my first set of batteries was partially used on a previous ride. I have a SON hub and Solidlights 1203D on the way. Yippee! This ride just confirmed for me what a good decision that was. I changed out my batteries at the Priddis turn off about 75kms into the ride - these fresh batteries were great, but the lights were noticeably dimmer within less than 2hrs.

By this point I had ridden myself back to an average speed greater than 15kph and my cramping had pretty much disappeared. I was feeling better and pushing a bigger gear. You would expect night riding to be slower, but on this ride I made up time the whole night. I was really digging riding in the dark. It was quiet with little traffic so I rode on the road most of the time and enjoyed a new perspective on a familiar route.

I was soon headed back into Calgary along 37th St SW, Anderson Rd & Elbow Dr. I felt the strongest on this part of the ride and was happy to be keeping my speed above 25kph. I really enjoy riding around town at night. The roads are empty and you can just fly along.

I made it home a fair bit later than I had anticipated, but it was a good experience in many respects.

Lessons Learned:

- don't mess with your cleats before a long ride. I should have done a 10km ride with my new shoes and cleats to ensure all was good.

- I need to be able to drink and eat without stopping. I have a waterbottle mount on the way that I can clamp to my stem extension. I'll put a bottle of perpetuem in it for easy access. I will be using a cammelback for my plain water in the future and I'll keep my frame pack full of other food so I can snack on the go.

- a concentrated multi-hour bottle of perpetuem is a lot more palatable than a dilute 1hr bottle.

- Put away any tools or gear right away when you are done with them BEFORE moving on to something else or you'll forget something. I had to drive back and get my multitool at 11pm after my ride.

- my Cateye HL-500II headlights are not bright enough and NiMH batteries only provide 2hrs of decent light in them. Hopefully the SON & Solidlights 1203D that I ordered will solve all these problems.

- the rest of my lights worked well.

- I need to spend lots and lots of time climbing hills on my Volae. My gearing is low enough to climb anything I can ride up. I just need to be able to do it faster.

- The Continental Sport Contact 26 x 1.3 may not be light, but they ride well on rough pavement and shrug off road debris well.

- the Volae is comfortable for 6 hrs with no ergonomic issues at all.

- my feet got cold and eventually numb due to convective heat loss from the pedals/cleats. I need to throw in some insoles when riding in these sorts of temperatures.

- the Sidi shoes work well and are comfortable.

- just pulling a buff up over my face warmed me up quite a lot. Always bring a buff!

- my polar heartrate monitor lost the signal from the transmitter belt after about 25kms and I couldn't get it to work the rest of the ride. Of course when I tried it at home it worked.

- my "bent" muscles are sore today. I need to plan a good recovery day after long bent rides until my muscles get accustomed to the new bike.

- I shouldn't ever give up on a ride unless my safety or health is at stake. You never know when the tide will turn and you can make up a lot of time in a later section of a long ride. I learned a lot from this experience that will help me persevere through problems on future rides.

Favourite parts of the ride:

- the beautiful sunset behind the Rockies.

- chocolate milk, snickers bar & chips!

- cruising down quiet rural highways in the darkness.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gearing up for my first recumbent 100K

Gear for a 100K ride temps 0-3 deg C, dry with 50-60% of the ride in the dark.

Volae Expedition
- 52/39/28 chainrings with 11-34 cassette
- 26 x 1.3 Continental Sport Contact tires
- Time ATAC Control Z pedals
- Planet Bike Protege 8.0 bike computer
- Polar Rs200 HRM
- fenders

Tools & Parts
-Hutchinson 26 x 1 Top Slick folding tire
- 1 spare tube
- 2 fibre-fix spokes
- spare brake & shifter cable
- spare cleats
- spare brake pads
- spare SRAM powerlink
- mini-roll of duct tape
- 5 zip ties
- glueless & standard patches
- tire levers
- multi-tool w/ spoke wrench & chain tool
- road morph pump
- all in a Fastback Norback Frame Pack under the seat

Lighting
- 2 Cateye HL-500II halogen lights mounted to the front der post
- Priceton Tec EOS LED headlamp attached to helmet
- 2 Planet Bike Superflash rear LEDs mounted to seatstays
- 1 Planet Bike helmet mounted rear LED
- 2 MEC LED Turtle Lights mounted to the front forks
- all battries are rechargeable NiMH (except turtle lights)

Food/Drink
- 1 mixed bottle of 6 scoops Hammer Perpetuem + Hammer Gel
- 2 powergels (using up old stock)
- 1L of plain water (refill on the road)

Visibility/Safety Gear
- Amphipod Vest
- reflective ankle bands
- Glo Gloves
- Giro helmet with reflective tape applied
- mini first aid kit

Clothing
- Sidi Bullet shoes with gore-tex shoe covers
- synthetic hiking socks
- MEC Surge shorts under running tights under biking tights
- wicking base layer
- thermal fleece hoody
- windproof bike vest
- Patagonia Houndini Jacket
- shell gloves w/ fleece liners
- buff neck warmer
- headband and skull cap

Misc
- Hostel Shoppe Euro seatbag
- Fastback Flash Frame pack (for food)
- digital camera
- MEC Javelin sunglasses w/ clear lenses
- wallet
- cell phone
- extra batteries
- keys
- mini-lock

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why is hardly working so much hard work?

I don't understand why riding a fluid trainer is such hard work? After 30mins I am ready to get off. On the other hand I don't feel that way after 4 hours outside.

I have the music cranked and a LCD projector showing a wall sized TdeF dvd - that is as much excitement/distraction as I think is possible on a fluid trainer. Well short of working out at a nude gym!

I'll keep increasing the bike time by 5mins every week till I hit an hour or my energy/patience runs out...=-) So you see I didn't name this blog without cause.

On the brightside 30 tough minutes of riding is better than zero minutes of riding!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Nutrition


Eating and drinking the correct amounts of the right things to fuel long distance rides can be a challenge. Many of the DNFs I have read about were due to problems in this area.

The best source of information I have found on this subject is this e-book published by Hammer Nutrition. Not surprisingly they push their own line of supplements in the book, but the principles they discuss seem sound and you can use whatever supplements you like or (gasp!) real food.

One interesting fact they point out is that an endurance athlete can only absorb 750ml & 300cal per hour while exercising. Trying to eat or drink more (or less) than this will cause problems - especially too much water.

This page has more articles on sports nutrition by the Hammer folks.

This page has even more articles about nutrition for endurance cyclists care of the Ultra Marathon Cycling Association (UMCA).

Here is an Arnie Baker cycling article on maltodextrin nutrition.

My plan is to use a 65/35 mix of real food and Hammer sports supplements. I'll mix a water bottle with 4hrs worth of Perpetuem or Sustained Energy and make sure I consume a quarter bottle every hour on the bike. If I come across a gas station or control with real food I'll eat it and hold off on the sports drink until later. I will keep plain water in a camelback and drink it as needed separately from the sports drink. Both of these energy powders taste gnarly so use some flavoured carb gel or Crystal Lite to make it more palatable. This is part of the reason I am using concentrated 4hr bottles vs. a 1hr bottle that combines all my water/energy needs. The 1hr bottle means you need to drink 4 times as much of the energy drink.

In addition I'll keep some carb gels and a couple cliff bars with me as emergency bonk fuel. This gives me a back up if I get tired of the energy drinks.

I will also carry electrolyte capsules to balance loses from sweat.

If you live in the US E-Caps is a convenient place to order sports fuel products from. In Canada you can either order from the US (which can be a lot cheaper) or contact your local supplement store and see if they can do a special order.

Everyone is different so make sure you try out and a new nutritional plan well in advance of an important event.

Brevet Lighting

The Cateye fork mounted twin halogen HL-500II setup shown above (complete details are here) on my Surly LHT was what I planned to use for brevets. It is fine for night riding - even on unlit rural roads, but it has two serious drawbacks:

1. They are not "SUPER" bright and as a result I can't ride as fast as I am capable of because I out run the power of my lights - not ideal for a timed event where a higher average speed means more sleep and less stress.
2. It only lasts 2-3hrs on a set of 4AA batteries. With two lights that would be 16-24AAs every night. Not only is that expensive, but a real environmental nightmare to dispose of. I tried rechargeable NiMH batteries. They work, but only provide 1.2V/AA vs. 1.5V of alkaline disposable batteries.

Having said all that - if you want an inexpensive lighting solution for casual night riding at moderate speeds this setup with rechargable batteries is a decent option.


I have decided to bite the bullet and get myself a SON dynamo hub and Solidlights 1203D 6w LED headlamp. This system provides a lot of light so I should be able to ride as fast as I am able at night and requires no batteries or spare bulbs. The cost of this system is not inconsiderable, but if you factor in the operating costs of battery headlights (batteries & bulbs) it breaks even after a season or two of randonneering.

I'll mount the light to the derauilleur post at the front of my bike using a Terracycle light mount and a R&M handlebar mount. I may also consider a fork mounting option depending on how I like the intial setup.

The SON hub has to be built up into a new front wheel. I'll use a Velocity Aeroheat rim to match my existing Velocity Tharacian wheelset.


Here
is a thread on Another Cycling Forum discussing Solidlights 1203D with SON hubs for Audax rides.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I wanna be a normal kid

I didn't set out to be different. If I could I would be riding the bike pictured above for my brevets. My Surly Long Haul Trucker handles well and it is my bike of choice for most rides. So why buy a recumbent you ask? Well it is simple after about 120kms my butt and shoulders are really uncomfortable. I have tried many saddles settling on a Brooks Champion Flyer and I have adjusted my position to try and improve the fit. For "normal" riding the Surly is plenty comfortable, but when you start to talk about distances of 200kms to 1200kms forget it. If I worked really hard and persevered a lot of discomfort I could complete a 200k brevet, but I wouldn't have fun. I also certainly wouldn't be lining up for a 600k brevet.

I have also started to suffer from some hand and elbow RSI's - presumably from keyboarding (like right now!). Long hours on a DF exacerbates these problems. I have switched my mouse to my left hand and made my workstations more ergonomic. I have also started wearing an elbow brace and improved my technique for biking to reduce my arm/hand strain. This seems to have worked for distances up to 100-120kms after which the problems begin to manifest again.

I don't know if I am weak, if other people are just able to endure more discomfort or if I am just unique in my discomfort on a DF bike over long distances? I guess it doesn't really matter. You have to ride your own race and mine is going to be on a recumbent.

I haven't given up on the Surly LHT or DF bikes in general. In fact for my commute I use a Cannondale R800 and love it. For the rest of my general riding, errand running and touring I use the LHT. I am going to get a professional bike fit this winter for my LHT and I will keep tweaking it in the hopes of getting it more and more comfy. If it ends up being as comfortable as my recumbent I'll probably switch back and ride the LHT in brevets. I like the way it feels to ride a DF bike, the way I can move around on it and the way I can stand on the pedals to climb.

When I see people my age who are so physically deteriorated they could not even ride a bike for 30mins I am just glad that I am able to ride my bikes (DF & recumbent) as much as I do. Why worry about which kind of bike when we should just be happy to be riding at all.

I'll keep riding both kinds of bikes and I hope that will actually help avoid any future RSI's by varying my position between three different bikes.

"The Plan"

I figure I need to have a plan in order to ensure my readiness for the 2007 brevet series. I also know that something too rigid or extreme is unlikely to actually be realized. So here is my Lazy Randonneur Training Plan (LRTP):

Oct '06 - Feb '07
- ride my road bike on a fluid trainer at work for 1hr 2 or 3 times per week focusing on intervals.
- ride my recumbent outside whenever possible with a focus on hills to get acclimated to the position and develop my 'bent specific muscle groups.
- ride my recumbent inside on a fluid trainer for 1hr twice a week focusing on intervals.

The goal for this period will be to keep my fitness from 2006 and to improve my speed and acceleration.

March - April '07
- keeping the same items from the previous period I will add an outside ride of 50kms, 100kms or 150kms once per week as weather allows. Increasing the distance each ride.
- if possible I will ride the Okotoks 200K brevet route once.
- when the weather allows I will switch from inside lunch hour rides to my 50km commute 2 or 3 times per week.

End April - Mid-June '07
- I will be riding my 200k, 300k, 400k & 600k qualifying brevets during this period.
- my mid-week rides (mainly commuting) will be focused on recovery and preparation for the next brevet.
- whenever possible I will ride additional brevets to gain more "combat' experience.
- after the 400k and 600k brevets I will take a weekend off any serious riding to fully recover.

Mid-June - Aug '07
- I will commute 50kms 2 -3 times per week and do a long evening ride twice a week aiming for a total of four days of riding.
- I will continue riding brevets when available and if none are scheduled I will do a long weekend ride of 100-300kms and occassionaly two back to back days of 200kms+.
- I will ensure I get 2 days off the bike each week.
- If I qualified for PBP I will taper off my riding the week before and head to France!

After Aug 2007
- who knows!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why I bought a Volae Expedition

Here is why I got it:

- Waterford steel frame hand made in the US
- excellent reviews and customer feedback from many sources incl BROL & the Volae email list
- ability to fit racks and fenders and wide tires
- 4 different frame sizes and 4 different hardshell seat sizes (+ mesh seat option), more likely to get a better fit
- avid disc brakes
- velocity wheels
- ability to remove and reinstall seat quickly without affecting seat position
- rigid stem riser
- Volae would ship my bike directly to me so I didn't have to drive to a dealer. Living in Canada who knows where that might have been?
- Volae was willing to modify the spec of the bike to meet my needs
- Hostel Shoppe service sounded outstanding (and was/is)
- Volae return policy (if I didn't like it I could send it back)

Once I decided to order an Expedition I spoke with Rolf 3 or 4 times for probably over 45mins and then had numerous email exchanges with Volae. He was really interested in getting the right fit and setting up the bike for my needs. If we needed to talk for an additional hour I have no doubt he would have kept going until he felt he had all the info he needed. I have owned numerous bikes and this is by far the most attention and best customer service I have rec'd during any purchase.

My bike arrived really well packed and required minimal assembly. The build and paint quality were outstanding. I have taken the bike over packed dirt/grass for 2-3kms with no problems and I have done two long night rides. This blog has all the gory details about my experiences if you are interested.

My suggestion is if in doubt order one try it out and send it back if you are not pleased.

Volae Expedition

My Volae Expedition [Lrg frame & Med fiberglass seat] showed up on Friday the 13th - how lucky! The box was pretty beat up on one end, but the bike was packed very well and suffered no damage. Workmanship on the bike was excellent and I liked the paintjob a lot. Setup was a snap. Just install the front wheel, adjust the handlebars and the seat. With a bit of fiddling I was done in half an hour.

I swapped out the stock 90mm stem for a 110mm Salsa stem to get my arms stretched out a bit more. I think I could even go to a 120mm or 130mm stem. Other than that the bike was comfortable to sit on, but the position felt pretty extreme in my living room. Although I have ridden recumbents before that was several years ago and all my riding lately has been on diamond frame bikes. My last SWB bent was a Vision R-40 and I recalled how squirrelly that bike felt. I was hoping the Volae would handle better. It was time for a test ride.


I started out in the parking lot at work planning on doing a bunch of riding there before trying it on the road. However, I pushed off and within 10 pedal strokes was clipped in and felt fine. Throwing caution to the wind I headed out on the open road immediately. The bike handled well and I quickly learned to be very light on the steering.

I am not a huge fan of SRAM Gripshift, but it worked just fine. I kept turning it the wrong way and ended up in the wrong gear, but that was just user error. Shifting was crisp and quick front and back. The drivetrain was fairly quiet except in some gear combinations - I need to investigate a bit further. The rear disc brake was a squealer. I have since cleaned the rotors and pads, hopefully solving the problem.

The seat was very comfortable and the position did not feel extreme at all once underway. The bike is quite nimble and corners really well. I can do a u-turn on a side street with no troubles. The only downside is that you cannot unweight the seat and absorb bumps with your body like you can on a DF bike. This makes for a bit of a rough ride on bad pavement.


I did two short rides to get used to the new bike before heading home along my normal commute route. This is a 25km highway ride with two long gradual climbs, several short steeper climbs and three long downhill sections. I have ridden this same road hundreds of times on my Cannondale R800 road bike and average between 26-30km/h. My average speed on the Volae was 28.3km/h. I was really happy because I was riding at night with marginal lights so I couldn't charge the downhills like I would on my commutes and the Volae is at least 5lbs heavier than my R800. On long gradual climbs I was able to keep a similar pace to my R800, but I was 2-4km/h slower on the steeper climbs. I assume that the better aerodynamics of the Volae allowed me to make up these deficits on the flats and downhills.

The Volae fit easily onto the C-train for the ride into downtown and once in town I was totally comfortable mixing it up with nighttime traffic. Starts and stops are no trouble. I can put both feet on the ground with a 31" inseam and the hardshell seat almost fully reclined.

I didn't feel any pains or discomfort due to not having my "bent legs" yet. The next day my legs felt great. The adjustment period I thought I might have to work through seems to be pretty minimal.

Overall I am really happy with this new bike. My two concerns were that it would not be stable enough to ride comfortably when tired and that it would not be fast enough. Both of these fears were unfounded. I am looking forward to my first 100K ride!

One last thing - riding my previous bents (Vision R-40 & BikeE) I felt like a bit of a geek on a weird bike. On the Volae I feel like I am on a high performance bicycle and all the feedback I have received has been really positive. I don't know any other way to put it, but this bike looks serious. That may sound a bit frivolous, but if you don't really like the asthetic of your bike are you going to want to ride it enough to train for a 1200km brevet?

BROL Volae Expedition Review

Friday, October 13, 2006

Things are not rolling along


It seemed like such a great idea to setup a couple bicycle rollers in the basement at work. I even have an old LCD projector I can use to project old TdeF DVDs. What an awesome way to get some exercise at work!

Well my plan had only one slight flaw - riding rollers turned out to be so damn hard, not to mention dangerous, that we couldn't actually do it. After examining the situation we decided that rollers were going to add more stress and injury to our lives than they were going to add in benefits.

Oh well lesson learned!

Now we have two nice safe fluid trainers in the basement at work and we can enjoy Lance's exploits on the wall in front of us without fear of toppling over - sweet.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Lazy Randonneur

I am the Lazy Randonneur or at least I hope to be a randonneur. It is possible I'll just be the Lazy Failled Wannabe Randonneur. As with all things rando only time will tell.

I created this blog to capture my experiences as an aspiring randonneur in case they may be of help to someone else who wants to get started in this sport/obssession. Not that there isn't a lot of information available already, but when you read various accounts of rando experiences on the web it is like reading the diaries of the popular kids at highschool. They seem to always look cool and do well at everything they have tried. I am in the unique position to provide a look into the world of the rando-loser. Learn from my mistakes and I have made a few!

Alberta Randonneurs 2007 brevet series here I come...=-)