Tuesday, May 21, 2019

New England Randonneurs 200k Trace

Last Saturday, myself and five others biked from our home here in the Mad River Valley down to Brattleboro, VT as particpants in the New England Randonneurs springtime Fleché/Dart/Trace ride, where all riders converge at a predetermined location, in this case Brattleboro.

After the ride a friend asked how it went.

"Dreamy" was my reply.

I added that this didn't mean the ride wasn't at times hard, painful or challenging, but when all is said and done, the sum total of the experience is somehow just this big sense of accomplisment, gratitude and pleasure.

Our route favored dirt roads and low-traffic back ways with whatever lovely sights we might happen upon. We rode 131 miles in roughly 14 hours. Temps were in the mid 40's when we started and apparently reached the low 80's at the warmest point.

Its amazing how the bike, this basic tool, delivers again and again!


Saturday, June 30, 2018

s240 2018!


This year's ride was short but sweet... and the destination was probably the finest yet. As always, the magic of bikes, loved-ones and a beautiful part of Vermont equal some form of magical experience. Hooray!

I'm so glad we started this way back when because it set the template and now it just wouldn't be right to quit! Besides, it's just so much fun.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Japan

We were blessed with a two-week cycling journey around southwestern Japan. Our travels were largely based on the island of Shikoku.

With a rough plan in hand we adjusted our journey once we got a feel for the roads and options available. Also, there were four of us and we needed to account for the wishes and priorities of each. As a recent bottle cap proverb said "If you want to go far, go alone; if you want to be happy, travel together".

It was a memorable, perhaps life-altering experience. We will be back.











Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Our 2017 S24O!




Over the last 9 years we have managed to enjoy 8 group s24o's with our friends and loved ones. The nominal excuse is my birthday, which falls at the end of April, but the real reason we do this is because it's so much fun--I'm honored that to be a part of it.  After so many years we have a track record; we all look forward to this annual gathering filled with fun and adventure.


What's an s24o? It translates into a "sub-24 hour overnight" and it is only the most awesome thing ever. Bicycle touring on a short schedule? Speed camping? Its charm lays in its brevity. Most of us can manage to put aside our responsibilities for half a weekend and the rewards are always worth whatever juggling needs to happen to pull it all together.

 


We gather bikes, kids, food, camping gear and a sense of adventure to ride off down the road until we find a cozy place to camp. Tents get set up, snacks come out, stoves are lit and we enjoy yummy food and an evening together. In the morning it all happens again in reverse as we disperse back home, smelling of wood smoke, twigs rattling in our spokes, and smiles on our faces.


This year we hit something of a milestone: for the first time everyone was on their own bikes. In past years there have been kids in trailers or on trail-a-bikes but this year everyone got there by their own effort. I think of Silas in particular because the first year we did this he wasn't yet thought up, the second year he was baking in the oven, and the third year he was there in a trailer. Now he's leading the pack with gears and hand brakes!

 




This years trip took us again up Stetson Hollow Road in Granville. Since we first went to this area, Tropical Storm Irene managed to take out a significant bridge and scoured sections of the road down to bare boulders, so we can't go as far as we could 9 years ago. Nonetheless, we found an inviting spot with room for a handful of tents and a couple of campfire options.

 



As usual we came varying distances based on our time available and the umph in our legs. Sometimes I think the kids don't realize that biking the back roads of Vermont for 11 or 12 miles is not a typical activity for folks their age, but they don't know any different and seem to enjoy it.




After arriving, we set up camp and then did a little excursion that included crossing the aforementioned stream bed where the bridge once stood to see a lovely waterfall. We enjoyed some pre-dinner yummies and then went back to our campsite to fry up some sausage and enjoy a campfire. Gladly the night was not quite as cold as predicted, but we are all glad to be in our sleeping bags once we turned in.




The morning saw us sleeping surprisingly late, having a little breakfast and then getting ready to go. Some of the kids had games they needed to get to, so there was a first crew that left before the rest of us a little later. We made our respective ways home, some to waiting cars, some all the way back on bikes.

Why did we skip a year? The reason mostly was that we were trying to include a lot of families and in the end could not find a date that worked for everyone, so we skipped it. Going forward we've decided it'll be the same weekend every year so whoever can make it will be there.



Sunday, November 20, 2016

Vermonster

Dreams do come true.

This spring, Amtrak announced, without much warning, that they would be running a trial bikes-on-trains trial pilot program this year. And lucky me, I got to be one of the first riders on the innaugural ride along with dignitaries and press. But I digress...

I have long dreamed of bike journeys facilitated by train, and this weekend I got to live that dream with the help of some hearty adventures. Three friends, Pamela, John and Caleb took the Vermonter from western Massachusetts up to St. Albans last Thursday afternoon and spent the night in a local motel. The next day they biked the 70 odd miles southward to our house. We happily welcomed them in and enjoyed the company of travelling band of cyclists. A fourth rider, Kait, took the train up Friday evening to join in the adventure. My plan was to join the four of them for the following two days with a plan to catch the Vermonter northbound on Sunday afternoon to return home while they continued the rest of the way back to Greenfield and Northampton.



We all knew late October would be a chancy time of year for a multi-day tour, but no one was particularly put off by the early season snow that carpeted the region in the week leading up to the ride. Higher elevations got measurable amounts, and we got an inch or so at our house along with cold and wet. Not exactly the kind of stuff you want to go spend all day riding in, but not enough to daunt the likes of us.


Snow or no snow, rain or no rain, we all geared up and rode out from our house Saturday morning heading into a light drizzle and temps in the low thirties. We all hoped we were dressed well enough for the trip and that mother nature might spare us any serious challenges.

She did not.

Before we had even left the Mad River Valley we encountered bouts of heavy rain, but we forged on. The rain came in waves but we managed to remain passably comfortable as we continued down through the Granville Gulf towards the Rochester Gap. Hills were our friends because they warmed us--descents were unpleasant.


Climbing the Gap we were all mindful of our increasingly saturated state and the long fast decent down the other side we faced. Our worries were manifested as we careened down what must be five or six miles of wet cold windy decending.  My hands were in a serious state of pain and my feet were a close second and the overall semblence of enjoyment was quickly being replaced by a kind of gloomy dread. It was a bitter kind of cold, soaked through to the bone, freezing, and only half way through the ride. Upon reaching the bottom of the mountain road no one spoke and there was no consideration of taking the scenic (and slightly longer) route we had planned into town. We just needed to get indoors without haste. It was a challenging few miles to the little cafe we reached in Bethel, and I'm pretty sure most of us were seriously questioning going any further. I certainly was.


We spent an hour or so eating hot food, drying what clothes we could, wringing socks and gloves out in the sink and doing whatever we could to restore as sense of warmth and comfort. After a while I started to feel that in fact I could go on, as did everyone else. In the meantime, the rain had mercifily stopped, giving more impetus to continue. Two bacon-egg-cheese sandwiches and a cup of black tea can do wonders for one's sense of fortitude.


The ride from Bethel to Woodstock and then to our destination in Hartland was significantly more enjoyable, although we were all still recovering to some extent from the harshness of the earlier cold.
We arrived at our friend Alan's in the darkness and were grateful for warmth, good cheer, food and a comfortable place to sleep.


The next day's journey took us south through lovely wooded hills with lots of dirt roads and tons of climbing, but the weather was kind to us and the day was easier because the main challenge was the effort of riding. No more serious negotiation with the wet and cold, thank god.


My part in the journey ended in Saxons River where I parted with my friends to ride to a few miles into Bellow's Falls to catch the northbound train that afternoon. The other four continued on to Putney for the night and then rode the rest of the way home the next day under sunny skies.


Its hard to overstate the satisfaction of sipping a beer in the cozy comfort of the northbound train after a beautiful journey of some 120 miles and many thousands of feet of climbing on two wheels.



I have a serious suspicion this is only the first time we'll be doing this ride.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Welcome addition!


I've added derailleurs, switched to 700c wheels with studded tires, installed fenders
and a front rack and moved the handlebar set up from my old Fuji

I recently bought a "new" bike, somewhat furtively, while we were down on Cape Cod for the holiday. The bike in question was a somewhat neglected but fully serviceable Fuji S12-s. This bike is not unlike legions of other better-quality early '80's Japanese bicycles; it's magic lies in the fact that the bike is an excellent candidate to convert to a 650b wheel size. Making this conversion allows for a number of benefits: bigger low-pressure tires resulting in a gentler ride, more room for full coverage fenders, and maximizing the benefits of a low-trail "Frenchified" touring bike. 



 
Test fit of 42mm 650b wheel proves to be an excellent arrangement. The rear has a similarly ample fit

Nancy contends I got ripped off, but the $110 I spent to buy a bike I only really wanted for the frame and a few of the parts still feels like it was worth it. It wasn't until I had already made the deal and got it back to the house that I was able to fully test out it's suitability for fitting large diameter 650b tires. It passed with flying colors! In fact, now that I have it and I've had a chance to test out the proof of concept, I feel even better about having spent the money. Later I discovered that my pal Geoff in Boston has the same frame, although his is the slightly lighter "LTD" version. 


This is the bike as it was when I bought it: set up as a single speed

My current vision is to ride it in the short term as a 700c winter commuter with studded tires, which is how I currently have the bike set up.  (My winter commuter up til now has been Nancy's old Serrota mountain bike, which was fun, but not at all a bike that moves, at least the way I had it configured.) With temperatures in the upper 30's today I rode my first shakedown of the Fuji to feel it out and it was wonderful, despite the studded tires. 

Riding on icy ugly January roads


Mind you, this is not the first ancient Fuji I've invested myself in. My brother-in-law Randy long ago tipped me off about a Fuji Touring Series IV at a yard sale. I invested a lot in that bike and it saw me through years of touring, commuting, and my entry into the world of randonneuring. It was a great step forward from whatever bike I was riding before that. Although a great bike, it was limited by the fact that it was a cantilever set up with 27" wheels and that means limited choices on tires.

In retrospect, I spent to much mental energy wanting the Touring Series IV to be something it wasn't and that's why this new frame feels like such a revelation: with minimal effort I have a solid, adaptable frame to fit in where I want to leave the Stag for lighter duties.  I have visions of doing a few frame modifications (routing for lighting wires and mid-fork rack mounts) and then getting the frame cleaned up and powder coated for a new lease on life. I see it as a workhorse, touring rig, and winter commuter, leaving the Stag less encumbered for randonneuring and fair weather riding.  I'm also excited to talk to that Waxwing Bag Co. guy about a set of touring panniers for this rig ;)



I guess I should mention too that I really like it's color arrangement; a sort of deep metallic blue with silver details, including chromed "socks" at the bottom of the front fork. 

Its a keeper.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Early Winter Riding

Persistent Valley fog despite the afternoon sun


It's the 6th of December and the weather has been a mix of proper December weather with frequent and confusing bits of September thrown in. I keep going for rides with the thought that "I gotta take advantage of these last warms temps...".  It keeps happening, but that's okay. Just last week I was kind of resigned to it being winter, right and proper and it was time to switch over to my sedate but winter worthy upright bike with a new set of studded tires. I want to forestal the inevitable, but gladly the inevitable is taking it's time this season. I think also that the Coffeeneuring rides keep me thinking "bike" further into the fall then I would otherwise.



I'm fully aware that this can turn on a dime any day now, but so far so good. And, when it finally does snow and the roads are icy, I'll rediscover the fun of slow adventures in cold weather.

Long afternoon shadows

Nancy climbing up German Flats. There's snow on the slopes behind


New studded tires will be put to use any day