PBP - part deux

Brevets completed, notes signed, 80 hr group chosen, children shuttled off to relatives, my wife and I head to Paris. The fun started even before we boarded the first plane.

A few years ago my friend (and frame supplier) Paul Wyganowski had converted my all time favorite frame to a travel edition with S&S couplers. I had gone to Hawaii to work at the Ironman a few times, and getting a bike over was always an excercise. One year I borrowed a giant golf bag, the travel kind that you put your sticks in to go on the plane. I managed to just squeeze in a 650 wheeled bike, but the padding was minimal, and I worried about the frame getting wrecked. With a coupled bike travel was much much easier…

but so far I had been flying my bike in a cardboard box. Nothing bad had happened but I needed a real case if I was going to be dragging a bike around Europe. I made an aluminum and plywood case - a real one with wheels and latches, and the bike just fit in. Great so far.

We go to the Minneapolis airport to leave and hit a snag. Of course the ticket agent asks “what is in the box?”. I’m prepared for this and she is satisfied with my explanation of “excercise equipment”. Everybody takes a big box of workout gear on vacation to France, right?

The snag is that the box goes 53 lbs, and there is a 50 lb limit after which the $50 surcharge kicks in. The agent kindly asks if there is anything I can take out, since it is only 3 lbs, but I’m not interested in cracking the box open on the floor of the terminal and rooting around for 3 pounds of crap to lighten the box. It took me over an hour to get everything squeezed in. The bike alone would have been cake, but add a front and rear rack, clothes, shoes, bottles, bags… I fork over my credit card and vacation begins. Next stop, Paris (chicago doesn’t count).

We land at Paris, I immediately I realize what it’s going to be like dragging a 50lb box around the trains and subways. The box keeps steering to the right so I have to give it a jerk every few feet to hold my line. Oh, and the Paris metro has precious few escalators. I’m mostly hoofing this thing up and down stairs. We find our hotel, and I I can even fit into the laughably small elevator, though with my backpack on I have to back into it and lean further back to close the door.

We sightsee in Paris for three days, and average, according to my wife’s pedometer, 15 miles a day on foot. There is a packet pickup the day before the ride starts and I set off in the rain through the Paris suburbs to St Quentin, where the ride starts. As far as I can tell there is not a single straight road in the SW suburbs of Paris, and I only saw 4 intersections where 2 roads cross at a 90 degree angle. Even though it is raining, I am on my bike, riding along the Seine toward Versailles.

Or maybe I am totally lost. The map that I printed from mapquest before I left is completely inadequate. What I really want is one of those Michelin maps that doubles as a tent if you need it to. I’m riding along wondering where in the hell I should turn, and look up to see another cyclist in a bus shelter, studying a map. Nobody else is out this early on Sunday morning, so I wheel up. He asks my something in French, which does not mean a thing to me (I know a tiny bit of German and French, more Spanish, and took 2 years of Latin in high school).

It turns out my savior is from California, and is much more prepared than me. First, he knows more french. Second, he printed the map and directions. We manage to make it to Versailles with only a few wrong turns, and as we roll along more and more cyclists join up. Soon I am in a pack of 30 or so and I really hope somebody knows where we’re going. Somebody does and we get to the sports complex where the ride will start the next evening. There are bikes everywhere, packet pick-up is a breeze, I even get a free waterbottle. The rain quits and I manage to make it straight back to the hotel.

Tommorrow at 8pm the ride will start.



Hugger rides the 2008 Trek Madone 5.2

The regional Trek rep got Byron a new Madone hooked up with some Aeolus 5.0 wheels for an extended test ride prior to the Ride the Best tour which stops tomorrow at St. Edwards Park in Kenmore, WA. I went to pick it up yesterday for a little test ride to take it through the paces. Short verion: It’s a nice a stiff bike (which I like) in a rather impressive package. The bike looks as cool in person as it does on the flashy website.

08_trek_madone.jpg

– UPDATE - Post Ride the Best test ride –

The Fit: – UPDATE - Disregard all that fit stuff about the 58 if you read it previously. The 60 fits great and made all the difference. –

The 110 stem on there was too short for me. Combine that with the tall headtube and spacers they had set up and I was too high on the bars to mimic my normal position. What was interesting to hear when talking to Dax was that you could actually pull out over an inch of spacers (including the cone spacer) to get a lower position. Match that with my 130 stem and I’m sure I’d be back to where I’m comfortable. Talking with Byron, he said the sensation of the lower top tube took some getting used to, but I really didn’t notice it. What’s nice is that they actually offer a huge array of sizes. They even got a guy who was 6’5” on the 62cm frame pretty comfortably, and this year they extend the range to the Power Forward size of 64cm!

The Look: I really like the look of the new bike. I’m not a huge sloping top-tube guy, but this one looks rather nice. It’s the “Performance Fit” which means it’s a little more “recreational” a geometry and I think actually will result in a little more slope than the Pro Fit bikes will have. The deep wheels make any frame look cool, and the black spokes and hub make for a nice sleath overall look.

The Ride: – UPDATE - Today I swapped back and forth between bikes and confirmed the stoutness of the new Madone. I think the 1.5” bottom headset diameter helps sure up the front end, but that BB gives everything back for your efforts – The bottom bracket does feel more solid than my 2007 Madone. I’m sure that has something to do with the 90mm BB shell. The front end is really quite solid and feels stable swooping through a corner. This was a little surprising because I expected to comprimise cornering with the new sloping design. Climbing out of the saddle it was really solid - no sense of wasted energy. When I wound it up to sprint, again the stout BB was noticeable and it felt good putting down some Watts.

The Wheels: The Aeolus wheels aren’t for me, but they got a lot of comments at the test ride today. They are beautiful, and I think that once they are up to speed - they roll real nice, but they don’t suit riders like me. I think they are great for guys who spend the day riding solo, or in a nice even paceline, but for me if I’m not accelerating, I’m probably slowing down. The clinchers rode fine, and for someone interested in long-distance events where they keep a good hard pace I think they are probably perfect. When I sprinted on them they just seemed a little slower than my carbon tubulars. I think they are “Rouleur” (think Jens Voigt) wheels.

The Trim: Apart from the stock stem being short, the Bontrager stuff is nice. I was happy with the saddle which sort of surprised me. The seat mast was pretty easy to adjust and as a nice side-feature - your saddle is always straight. The fork/frame integration is visually stunning and the carbon headset spacers finish the clean look. The bike was outfitted with Ultegra SL with a compact crank. I’m not much for a compact crank, but if you gave me the Pepsi challenge on Ultegra vs. Dura Ace these days - I’d fail every time. The Ultegra stuff (and even the 105) is just great.

Overall: – UPDATE – I think the bike is a step above the 2007 Madone offering. I think that if it’s trimmed out with light wheels/components you could make a 15lb race-ready rig pretty easy.



A knitted bicycle

Pam and I are off to the MS 150 this weekend, photos and posts to follow, and I leave you with this fabulous knitted bike sent to us by Zannestar

bike_knitting.jpg

I can’t read the text either, but the kickstand really finishes the piece off and reminds me of the knitted ear warmers.



Cyclist Killed

From the Seattle PI

“A bicyclist was killed instantly and another was rushed to Harborview Medical Center after a dump truck turned into them Friday afternoon at a busy intersection in the Eastlake neighborhood.”

By my count, that’s 3 cyclist deaths this year and sadly demonstrates traffic safety in Seattle.

– UPDATE: Great posting by Denny Trimble about the tribute assembled by the local cycling community –



Paris-Brest-Paris Update

I went to France 3 weeks ago for vacation. Well, that and a bike ride. Every four years the Audax Club Parisien runs Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200K ride from Paris, to Brest, and back. The ride has a long history, having been run the first time in 1891. There is also a history of long, organized bike rides in general, this type of riding is labeled Randoneering. To make it interesting (and depending on your personal level of machismo) there are time limits. Riders get a choice of 80, 84, or 90 hours. My personal level of machismo and the desire to squeeze as much into my once-a-decade European vacation led me to choose 80 hours. Since there are about 5000 riders, there are different start groups, and 80 hours went off first. An earlier start would mean an earlier finish and I would be able to meet up sooner with my wife and continue vacation. This decision would come back to bite me in the ass.

Coming from overseas with a bike and gear to do a 1200k ride is challenge enough, but to do PBP you have to qualify. Audax Parisiene requires that every participant complete a Brevet series: a 200k, 300k, 400k and 600k ride, each with time limits.

I thought that the brevets were very regimented, for what were essentially a few long rides with 30 or 40 participants. There are official start times, map sheets, cue sheets (at 32.6 miles, go left on Soft tire street. 41.9 miles go right on Old Fart road. continue straight at Boy Does my Ass Hurt Trail for 9.3 miles to 51.4 miles). Each ride has a series of checkpoints where riders have to get their “control” cards initialed with the time. There are not only time limits for each ride, but the controls are spaced roughly evenly and to make the Brevet count you have to get to each control point within a specified time window. The timing is such that you only have to average 9.2 mph (roughly) and can’t average more than about 20mph, which would be extremely hard to maintain with stops.

The series is required to prepare you for the rigors of a 1200k ride, the rule used to to be that you had to do two series in consecutive years to qualify for PBP. Because I have ridden at least 2000 miles a year for the past 30 years, and raced for about 10 years, I thought I was completely ready for PBP without these silly mandatory (and time consuming) rides. Physically I was, but I still had some things to learn:

First, Brooks saddles really are the most comfortable thing you can ride. I have heard this for ever, but never believed it. My first brevet was a 400k (250mile) ride - about 50 miles longer than I had ever gone at one stretch before. My legs were fine, but the roads were rough, and after about 140 miles it was painfully obvious that my trusty Flite saddle was just not the right thing. The monday after I got back I immediately ordered a venerable B-17 (honey brown). It truly is the most comfortable saddle I have ridden, and it is because it never bottoms out onto the shell like modern saddles do. From the very first ride it was no worse than my Flite, and by the third ride it was more comfortable.

Next, nutrition. Even before I started this adventure I had done some solo double centuries. My foods of choice were grape Koolaid, braunschwieger sandwiches, and oatmeal cookie bars. I have never like “engineered” excercise food bars and drinks, I prefer good old fashioned sugar, salt, fat, and artificial grape flavoring. Lots of people thing I am nuts when I expound on my on-bike re-fueling theories, but it had always worked for me. On a long ride I want food that is calorie dense, so I don’t have to constantly eat, or carry pounds of food. It is also a good idea to take in some salt to replace what is sweated out. Koolaid and cookies just taste good and all that sugar gives a pretty quick boost when you are tired, plus the oatmeal has a little staying power.

All this was good on shorter rides in moderate temperatures, but my 600k brevet was long and hot. Suddenly braunschwieger wasn’t sitting in my stomach too well, cookies got old after a while, and I had already lost my grape koolaid on a big pothole during an earlier thunderstorm. I got so tired that I literally laid down on the side of the road and took a nap. There were buzzards circling when I woke up, but I don’t think they were serious about me. Anyways, I did the second half of the ride pretty much on Gatorade. There is a place for plastic foods.

Third, ointment. It really does ease discomfort. I advise liberal use.

As you might guess, these brevets had a wide range of bikes. I saw everything from 25(?) year old Gitanes to all carbon Treks, all ti Serottas, and a surprising number of guys in full randonneur kit. It looked like several of them were riding and wearing the complete Rivendell catalog. The Rivendells and custom randonneur bikes were by far the best looking bikes at every ride.

By June 21 I had completed the mandatory rides, got my signed doctors note OKing me to do 750 miles in 3 days, arranged all the paperwork, and sent the whole thing off to Paris. I was ready to go.



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