Monday, April 30, 2012

 Being a second-year randonneur, a toddler, if you will, every ride is a learning experience for me.  I was honored to ride with the Tri-State Randonneur Fleche Team for the Ohio 2012 Fleche Ride.  Each of the other four members are seasoned randonneurs, so I was a little nervous at the start about how I would ride, especially toward the end, after we'd been on the road for many, many miles.

Makato re-seating his tire - 5 miles after the start.  Loveland, Ohio

 Article 1 of the Rules for the Fleches-USA from the Randonneurs USA website explain the basic idea of a fleche ride the best: "The Flèches-USA are 24-hour randonnées held in various regions of the United States during the spring. The traditional event date is Easter weekend, but it may be held from one week before Easter until seven weeks after. The Flèches-USA are administered by Randonneurs USA (RUSA) and its Regional Brevet Administrators (RBA). These rides are patterned after the Flèche Vélocio held by the Audax Club Parisien (ACP) in France".

 I wanted to do the Ohio Fleche Ride last year, but didn't think I could handle it.  Toshi, the organizer and inspiration for our team this year, suggested it is best to ride at least a 400k ride (which I did last year) to get the feeling of what a fleche ride is like.

For a fleche team to be successful, at least 3 team members need to reach the final control.  Our team started with 5 - Toshi and Tim (Ohio), Makato (Michigan), and Ken and Bill (Indiana).  Unfortunately, Makato's rear derailleur hanger broke only 6 miles from the start, and he had to abandon right away.  Our Tri-State team became a Bi-State team just like that.

Tim had trouble with his bike as well - the return spring on his front derailleur slipped off.  After looking at it for some time, we determined the small, cast aluminum tab that holds the spring had broken off.  We could think of no way to fix it, so Tim, being an Ancien, improvised by loosening the cable tension on the derailleur and moving it so his chain could run on the middle chainring.   These randonneurs are not going to let mechanical problems get in the way of doing a long ride.  Middle chainring or no, Tim is a serious biker who can hammer away for hours at a time into a headwind.  Which is what he did for us a good bit of the way.


Toshi organized our team, mapped the route, and vetted the cue sheet much the way a surgeon approaches a patient.  Very detailed and capable, Toshi led us through the day and night on smooth, scenic roads with low traffic.  Countless times during the day and night, Toshi surged ahead to take over the lead to give Tim a rest, as we battle the headwind virtually all 238 miles of the way.  I think we had a tailwind for the last 10 miles, but that was it.

Toshi, our fearless leader

Ken rode a recumbent.  He quit riding his upright bike a few years ago, and started randonnerring 3 years ago.  But he is no neophyte.  He completed an ACP Super Randonneur series last year and he completed Paris-Brest-Paris - the mother-of-them-all ride for randonneurs.


Grey Trek performed so well, I hate to jinx myself for the next ride.  Since last year, I've been particular about keeping my chain clean and lubed.  With rain forecast for the ride on Saturday, I put an additional dousing of lube on the chain just before we left.  I may have over-done it, though, because the chain slipped off the big chainring when I shifted up and slipped off the small chainring when I shifted down.  I had the limit screws adjusted to perfection before the ride, so the only thing different was the extra lube.  I don't know if that would cause that trouble or not.  I'll look at it tomorrow after work.

Grey Trek, Aberdeen, Ohio

We had two periods of rain - once here at Aberdeen, OH - a very light shower that lasted for maybe 5 minutes.  Further down the road, as we headed north toward Columbus, we had a thundershower that rained on us for another 5 minutes or so. 

Bridge to Kentucky at Aberdeen, OH

While the weather wasn't great - it wasn't all that bad.  Down along the Ohio River, Tim's bike thermometer recorded 63 degrees.
Riding along US 52, heading toward Portsmouth

A rare sight - Toshi at the back

Another control - Shawnee Grocery at Stout, OH
 We stopped at Bob Evans in Portsmouth, OH, for supper.  If you've never been to Bob's for supper, you'll not find too much heart-healthy food.  But it is good-tasting, and for a randonneur, if we can get calories that taste good, we'll go for them.  I had the two-piece chicken dinner with broccoli and baked potato.  I could only eat one piece of chicken (each piece was a breast and the back!).  That was the first baked potato I'd eaten in at least a year.
It all looks to to Toshi and Ken at Bob Evans in Portsmouth
 After supper, we headed north along the route of the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) for Columbus.  We caught the tail end of a thundershower, but for almost an hour after nightfall were treated to an awesome lightening display to the east.  Like I said earlier, each rando ride for me is a new experience.  Riding in the dark scares me but at the same time is really cool.  It's hard to describe, really.  But riding with these guys through the night was very enjoyable. 

Midnight - somewhere between Chillecothe and Circleville, OH

At our control in Circleville, Toshi mentioned his team last year slept for a few minutes in the laundromat across the road.  Everybody thought that sounded like a good idea, so we tried to get some shut-eye.  I slept for maybe 5 minutes.   
Tim found the folding table to be quite comfy

As we arrived at our next-to-last control, the Waffle House in Canal Winchester, we were greeted by a large throng of drunken young people and several police cars.  Normally, I wouldn't stop at a place with all of that activity, nor would my teammates.  But being hungry and tired, we rode our bikes right through the group, past the police officers, who were busy talking to two men.  It turns out the one younger guy punched the other guy's wife in the face, so the cavalier husband punched the instigator's girl friend in the face.  And they say chivalry is dead!

I ate a chicken sandwich, drank a cup of decaf coffee, and rested my eyes for a while.  At 5am sharp, we were back on the bikes.  We arrived at Bob (the Ohio Registered Brevet Administrator) and Patti's house around 6:30 am where we were greeted warmly and fed scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, and Patti's homemade bread.  Plus, we each got to take a shower.

Ken, Bill, Tim, Toski - Tri-State Randonneurs - 2012 Ohio Fleche Ride

There was one other team from Ohio - Tim, Tim, and Jon.  Yes, the names are correct.  They started their ride in Danville, IL, and rode across Indiana all the way to Columbus.  They went over 400k for their fleche.  Impressive, when you think about it.  But considering the weather they encountered - thunderstorms, downpours, snow showers, sleet, and east-northeast wind the entire way - this was a feat of Olympic proportion.  They had gotten to Bob and Patti's a little ahead of us, and they were whipped. 

My first fleche ride was quite an experience.  I had moments when I was quite miserable - my thighs burned a good bit of the way, and the constant wind in my ears put me in a foul mood.  But my teammates were riding in the same conditions, probably feeling bad like me.  But they never showed it, and each was very generous at sharing the lead, pulling me through the wind.  It was an honor for me to ride with Ken, Tim, and Toshi. 

One thing about randonneuring I've learned, almost from the start, is the pain of a long ride goes away quickly, but the good memories remain and solid friendships are born. 

Oh, and the endorphin rush is awesome!

Happy riding!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pit Stop

Circleville Laundramat, 1:00 am. Cat nap.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dinner at Bob's

We made it to Portsmouth - had a 70 mile ride along the Ohio River. Persistent headwind much of the way so far. Great teammates make the riding easier.

On Flèche Today

Ohio 2012 Flèche underway. Will post a few photos when I have time.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


There are realizations that come only with experience. No matter what the discipline, the knowledge gained by reading about something is always different than what one learns through actually participating.

Take, for example, my fascination with reading about randonneuring over the past few years. I love everything about the sport: the bikes, the adventure, the scenery. I used to read the rider's stories on the RUSA website and think that if I had been the author, I would have had a heck of an experience.

Yesterday's Ohio 300K Brevet gave me plenty of time to come to several realizations. These nuggets of wisdom are only hinted at in randonneur's stories, but I've not found them in print. So, if you are thinking you might like to try a brevet, read on.

Nugget #1 - The weather on a brevet is never ideal. Despite the forecast, the weather will never be what you hope. Usually it is much colder than predicted, and windier. If there is a 20% chance of rain, plan on it being an all-day down pour.

Nugget #2 - Regional Brevet Administrators (RBA's) always down play how hilly the route actually is. "It's really not that hilly - except for a few hills around Mohican State Park". If an RBA even mentions there may be a hill on the course, plan on panting for several hours as you watch your speedometer stick at 4.5 mph.

Nugget #3 - I may be optimistic here, but count on 10% of each route to be located on smooth roads. The other 90% of the route will shake bolts out of your bike. Be sure to use plenty of Lok-tite.

Nugget #4 - Make peace with the phrase, "What the Hell am I doing here?" You'll ask yourself that many times, like when you're climbing a big hill (especially the one near Mohican State Park), or when your turn a corner and feel how the cold, wind-swept rain stings your face. Unless you quit the ride, you'll just have to accept you'll be asking that often.

Nugget #5 - The other people you're riding with feel as miserable as you do, even though they don't show it. So don't ruin a good thing by complaining. By working together, you can buoy one another and make miserable circumstances seem much better.

Nugget #6 - As miserable as you might feel, the pain seems to go away when you see the final control. An overwhelming sense of satisfaction settles in, and very shortly you are looking ahead to your next long ride.

Well, that's what I've learned so far. I could say a bit about bike condition and working on your bike before a brevet (never, ever wait until just before a ride to try to fix something), but I'll save that for later.

Yesterday's ride was a game changer for me. I've done many brevets, but I think I became a randonneur last night when I finished the ride.

Happy riding!

PS Steve A, I'm going to use the Tricross for the 600K ride. My Treks are no match for the roads and hills of eastern Ohio.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


60% chance of rain for Saturday's ride prompted fend-o-rization of Grey Trek. Riding in the rain without fenders sucks. Just sayin'.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Early Spring Hiatus

A lot's happened the last month, most of it's been good. Between family stuff, work, and yard work, there hasn't been any time to put together a quality post. Not that any of my posts are quality, but I do like to be able to take a few hours to put together an idea and match with some photos.

Shortly after my last post, the weather changed from a mild but cloudy, crappy winter directly into summer. We had 9 straight days of record high temps.

You might imagine what that might do to a simple mid-westerner. Bike! And mow. For the first time in my life, I mowed grass in March - March 19th was the first, then March 24th, then March 29th. The damn grass won't stop growing. Actually, it has slowed substantially as we are now entering mild drought conditions. I'm not a fan of grass mowing or lawn care in general, but now that we live in a subdivision, I'm getting the hairy eyeball from really nice people who are wondering where all those dandelion seeds my lawn is producing will go. I've even heard there is a bet whose lawn on our cul-de-sac will be covered next spring with the yellow blooms (which I find quite lovely).

Commuting weather has been fantastic. Here's the Tricross commuter. This bike is so much more than a commuter, but this is the way I like it.

Much has changed with the old grey Trek 500. It's finally sporting the Velo Orange compact crank (48 - 34) I bought last year, but stuck too far out to the east for the front derailleur to engage the large chainring. My bike buddy Luis had a narrow Shimano bottom bracket cartridge that he ordered online, but it doesn't fit his bike. But it did fit mine perfectly.

Note the new pump location - I mounted it on the seat stay on the old blue Trek and almost had a major catastrophe on the Nashville Brevet when the nozzle came loose and ended up between the seat stay and spokes. Can't happen in this location.

The warm weather has allowed me to get some serious mileage in, which has me in much better condition than I was this time last year. I've ridden several Saturday Show 'n Go rides with the club even. I go into serious oxygen debt on every ride. This past Saturday, I hung in with the group for almost a whole hour. I found myself staring blankly at the ground, gasping for every bit of oxygen I could suck in on the same big hill I was dropped on 3 weeks ago. Chuck held back with me, Luis, and Jeff to pull us back into the main pack. We had to beg him to leave us alone, but not without a fight. I thought I was going to have to offer him money to leave us be. He finally ditched us when the group ahead grew small in the distance.

We are forming a Saturday and Sunday touring group which will ride a more moderate pace than we've ridden the past several years. I like to go really fast, but my really fast is still pretty slow. I'll have to work to keep up with the moderate group, but I'm looking forward to riding with those folks. I suspect it will be the same folks I wind up riding with who get spit out the back of the mad peloton the touring group has become over the past few years.

I'm digging the late sundowns now after the time change. It is staying light until after 8 pm, so I can get a few really nice rides in after work each week.

The Ohio Randonneurs' series is underway, and I rode the 200k a week ago last Saturday. I was able to ride the whole way with people, and through 80 miles we had a decent-sized pack of riders, maybe 8 or 9. Paul and Rich, below, and I kept going at the 80 mile mark when the rest of the pack wanted to stop. By the way, between these two guys, they've completed 8 Paris-Brest-Paris's! What's even more amazing, is Paul, on the right, is one of only 3 people to have completed P-B-P 7 times! I really fortunate to have the chance to ride with him and to be able to learn so much on this ride, and several of the rides last year.

I think this is the control at the 91 mile mark. We had caught up to the faster people, but they left shortly after we came in.

There is a large group of people who I can't even hope of keeping up with, but at the 114 mile mark, we passed a Wendy's and noted the large number of randonneur bikes outside. At the finish, we realized it was the large fast group. And Paul, Rich, and I had beat them to the end!

Randonneuring is not about beating the next guy or gal. We each do our best on each ride. But I am happy they had a hunger for beef!

This Saturday is the 300K, and two weeks after that is the Fleche ride. This will be my first, and I'm really looking forward to it.

Bon route!

PS - thanks to you folks who sent me emails asking if I'm OK. You know who you are - I appreciate your concern.