Rides to Remember

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As 2013 draws to a close, we are looking back over the successes and joys of the year, especially the exceptional rides we have enjoyed. For me, last year had me realize what is truly meaningful for me in a ride: fun, adventure, connection with my friends, and being present with myself in my surroundings. Click on the photos to read a blog post about the ride (where available).

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After a some wonderful winter rides on familiar routes, the season started in early April with an impromptu ride to the San Juan Islands. Ryan and I experienced ferries, rain, and our first mountain pass of the year, Mount Constitution.

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May brought the Flèche Vélocio. This 24-hour ride is always a wonderful experience with friends. We rode our usual course around the Olympic Peninsula, complete with breakfast at the historic Lake Quinault Lodge and a finish on gravel roads.

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In June, Ryan and I headed out into the Cascades to scout the last part of the Volcano High Pass 600 km Super Randonnée. We climbed a dirt road mountain pass at night and found snow near the top. This was the last part of the course we had to trouble-shoot before setting up the ride as a permanent brevet.

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I was working in France in July, so I took the opportunity to ride the Raid Pyrénéen for a second time. This 720 km ride over 18 mountain passes (above the Aubisque) always is a challenge, but this time, I faced some unexpected obstacles. In the Winter 2013 Bicycle Quarterly, I write about my disappointment when my plans did not come to fruition, and also how the ride turned out to be wonderful nevertheless.

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August saw another highlight of the year: I finally rode the entire Volcano High Pass 600 km Super Randonnée. 600 km Super Randonnées are organized by the Audax Club Parisien, and they must include at least 10,000 m (33,000 ft) of climbing. This was definitely the most challenging event I have ever ridden. The beautiful scenery of passing close to three volcanoes, the solitude of more than 130 km of gravel roads, and the difficulty of almost non-stop climbing, punctuated by technical descents, all made this ride very special. The full report is in the Autumn 2013 issue of Bicycle Quarterly.

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October had Ryan and I head out for a “day” ride” in the Cascades, where we were eager to explore a new gravel road. It turned into a 27-hour ride, and we loved every minute of it.

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In addition to riding cyclocross in November, Hahn and I headed out for a two-day camping trip to explore “secret” passes in the Cascades. We also tested a new bike that will be featured in the Spring 2014 Bicycle Quarterly, but that is all we can tell you for now…

Looking back, I am amazed that we fit in so many memorable rides into our very busy schedules. Most rides started from my front door, and lasted 1 to 2 days, which made them more manageable time-wise and very affordable money-wise. That is the beauty of randonneuring for me – you don’t need a lot of money or time, but as the old advertising slogan said: “Just do it!”

What were some of your memorable rides in 2013?

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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22 Responses to Rides to Remember

  1. AndrewGills says:

    My most memorable rides for 2013 were:
    – 1 January – my first ride with Audax Australia was a 100km ride taking in all 11 rideable bridges across the Brisbane River
    – 12 January – my first 200km ride ever at the Moonlight Wander, a hilly ride that started at 4pm (sunset was about 6:30pm)
    – 16-17 March – 366km in the Fleche Opperman All Day Challenge. It was my longest ride by 166km (100 miles) and I totally loved it
    – 19 July – 18 August – I cycled 100km every day for 31 days to raise money for a charity in Kenya. During this month I rediscovered my love of cycling (I was a passionate cyclist in my early-mid 20s but lost the passion after some close calls and personal issues. I’m 34 now and hope never to lose the passion again).
    – 9 November – My first unsupported 200km Audax ride (many rides here in Brisbane are supported due to the lack of 24hour shops and service stations, and long distances between shops in some areas that we ride in)
    – 8 December – My first 200km in under 9 hours (I finished in 8:59). While Audax isn’t about speed, there were only 3 of us doing the ride and the other two guys were much faster than me. Every time I tried to let the drop me, they’d wait and refuse to let me get left behind. While I don’t intend to ride that quickly in future, it is a good confidence boost to know that I can ride the distance faster than my usual 22-23kph if I have to.

    In the 2012-13 Audax season (Nov 2012-Oct 2013) I completed: 1 x 100km (Brevet Australia), 2 x 200km (BRM) and 1 x 366km (Fleche Opperman). I had a DNF at 160km in a 400km BRM but I am a better cyclist for that DNF because I learned in retrospect that the only reason I failed to finish was my sense of panic at riding the remaining 240km alone (I got dropped from the group and totally panicked but still had 5hrs before the CP closed) … but having cycled 2,840km alone out of the 3,100km I rode in Cycling for Hope, I have learned to ride alone and to enjoy the experience.

    I love your blog … it inspires me to seek out new cycling adventures :)

  2. joe b. says:

    A friend and I rode Portland to Seattle through the backdoor in late June! Thanks for the excellent route idea, though we stayed on Wind River Rd instead of going over Babyshoe Pass, and we took 3 days to cover the route. Incredible roads and scenery that I’ll remember for a long time.

  3. Michael Thompson says:

    I had two epic rides this past year. I live in Louisiana; we traveled to CO and I rode from Salida to the top of Cottonwood Pass and back. This pass is 12,126 feet, about 4500 vertical feet as I recall. I also rode 3 Gap in Georgia, 58.4 miles with 6385 vertical feet, 5:27:13. These may not seem like much to most good cyclists but; the summer before I had partial right knee replacement (MakoPlasty). I had a great year on my bike, and now no pain. That being said, 2014 is looking like a great year for me on the bike.
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all cyclists.

  4. Vincent B says:

    Although I’ve always cycled a lot with 5-10k km per year, this year I discovered the joy of longer daytrips of 150+ km. I rode several, and the absolute highlight was a trip through the region in which I grew up 30 years ago. My head was filled with good memories that day, and now when I think about the ride, the memories are back :-) I don’t have the money for a luxury bike, I did all this on a second-hand bike of €200. But, thanks to the inspiration of your blog, the bike has wide tires and long fenders :-) Thank you!

  5. Preston Grant says:

    Raid Corsica! Six days, 620 miles, and nearly 48,000 feet of ascent. Word from the tour company was that it was a difficult ride, and that many riders had been unprepared for it. I trained for three months with great diligence, hoping that my 73 year old body would respond adequately, and it did. I found it relatively easy, and it was wonderfully scenic, a very memorable ride. Next year I am attempting a Raid Dolomites in 9 days.

  6. Eric Daume says:

    My most memorable rides were all a bit shorter than Jan’s. I made a summer project to take my kids to every playground in my town, by bike. We ended up hitting 46 out of 56 of them this way; the rest were either by car or by bike without kids (details in my blog). Most rides were <10 miles, but all were good!

  7. Nate says:

    I rode my first official 200km permanent this spring, heading from my front door to the starting/finishing point, a grocery store less than a mile away. We finished with only 45 minutes to spare after battling brutal headwinds all day. I won’t soon forget such a magnificent experience.

    Our Salt Lake City summer rides focused on adventuring from the front door. We packed our Berthoud handlebar bags with a change of clothing and some binoculars and took the train 50 miles north of Salt Lake City to Ogden before having lunch. We then cruised 60 leisurely miles to a fantastic bird refuge. After sleeping in a cheap hotel, we rode the 70ish miles back to our home.

    Another time, we rode south to Provo (handlebar bags packed with nice clothes for dinner and running clothes for the next day) along a beautiful bike path, had a fantastic dinner, then woke up the next morning and biked to Mt. Timpanogas for a 20 mile run.

    What great automobile-less adventures exist when you look for them!

    We finished the fall with an unofficial 150km. We started on dirt roads at 8 degrees and finished in t-shirts and shorts in 65 degree bliss.

    Though I’d hoped to fit in some longer rides this year, I have been extremely happy with my new 650b boulder bicycle, randoneuring set up and good friends!

  8. David Pearce says:

    Everybody has outlined such great rides here, I can’t compete. It’s not a competition anyway, but it’s just so great to hear of everyone’s rides. What have I done? I visited my Mom in the nursing home each week. I took several mountain bike rides in the Charlottesville, Va. area with my Sister. I reconditioned two kids bikes for my two youngest Nephews. And I built a bike for myself. And I am very happy to have found Jan and Bicycle Quarterly, and I think a new day has dawned on my bicycling enthusiasm. 2014 is coming up and I’m looking forward to it.

  9. Allen says:

    I’m growing into longer and longer rides, but still nothing like the rides you describe. My biggest and most satisfying ride of the year was out of my front door in Denver, up to the top of Mt Evans. I took a back route that had a steep gravel section, emptying out onto a long approach to the base of the 14’er. I stopped and ate what was in my bag (a pork chop sandwich, very satisfying), then headed up to the top. There were a few other riders that day, and the weather was beautiful (usually its pretty sketchy, they say). At the top, one rider just couldn’t believe that I had done the ride on a steel frame bike with old school toe clips. But he was mercilessly abused by the rough pavement/carbon fiber combo on the way down, while I dove into turns with a huge grin. I made nearly 200km that day, was treated to amazing views all day long, and I climbed the highest paved road in the country. After that, I feel ready for just about anything else, so I’m pretty motivated to push on to longer and longer rides…

    • I didn’t put this post up to have anybody compare their rides with mine… It’s not racing, where I might say that I came 5th in a race, “but it was only a Cat. 4 Masters’ 45+ age group race”, making it much less impressive than the next guy who came 10th, but at Nationals.

      What counts in randonneuring (which I mean in the widest sense of the word, not just the organized form of the sport) is the experience and the personal challenge. All the rides mentioned here sound wonderful, and I am glad you had the courage to go out and do them!

  10. Rando Theo says:

    My most memorable rides of the year were the Flèche NW, Davis Gold Rush Randonnée 1200K, SIR Crater Lake 1000K, and Colorado Last Chance 1200K. These were personally challenging events which took me into beautiful and remote places where I rode both alone, at times, and with the incomparable and supportive company of friends and fellow randonneurs.

    I also lead on-bike youth programs with the Community Cycling Center: bike Camp, a summer day-camp for 1st – 12th graders, and Bike Club, an after-school program for 4th and 5th graders from low-income families. Looking back, those daily rides with kids all summer and fall begin blend together, but most memorable were a ride to the Columbia River with the high-school aged Mechanics Camp and, at the end of each week, a ride up the steep local hill nicknamed “Mt Doom.” As adults and longtime cyclists, it’s easy to forget that big accomplishments can come in small sizes — focused as we can sometimes be on the Grand Randonnées, climbing remote mountain passes, and collecting annual kilometers into the 5-digit range — but when a 10-year-old struggles up the steepest hill in her neighborhood, to the cheering encouragement of her peers, that summit is as high as any.

  11. Paul Ahart says:

    I think my most memorable ride was my very first 200km brevet, the 2012 Bellingham event, held on St. Patrick’s Day. I’d only joined RUSA a week before, and really didn’t know the ropes. We started at 07:00 dark and raining, heading south to Chuckanut Drive and a secret controle, then east and north along the west side of Lake Whatcom, where the rain turned to snow. After getting very plastered with wet snow and being thoroughly frozen, the sky cleared as we approached Sumas and a major controle. Then west to Birch Bay and south to the Lummi Reservation. As I didn’t ride very fast and had wasted time trying to figure out what an “Information Controle” is, it got dark, I lost my way, only light being my dyno light. No helmet light or flashlight to check my cue sheet, I finally got back to Bellingham, finishing at the wrong place and not giving a damn. I’d been on the road 14 hours. The ride coordinator called me asking where I was. Said he’d be over in a few minutes with hot pizza! Whatta guy! I officially finished “after hours,” but was proud to have done the whole thing. Many riders had turned back with the snow.
    The organizers were great, even going out on the course after dark to find me, the last finisher.
    That they did, and gave me encouragement to finish. Such positive things have helped me keep at it, and despite limited time to do long rides in summer, to keep doing what I can. Seattle Randonneurs and RUSA are great organizations and really keep things positive when the going gets tough.
    To one and all, and especially the team at Compass Bicycle/Bicycle Quarterly, may you all have a great holiday season.

  12. Matt Sallman says:

    I live in the Metro Detroit area so can’t claim any great mountain ascents. I was able to have four memorable rides this year.

    I was lucky to do the first event put on by the new Detroit Randonneurs club. It was a 200k and I was a DNF, but I enjoyed the friendship of other cyclists.

    Even with the prior DNF I decided to give the June “Longest Day” 300k a chance. I rode with a group that finished with 7 minutes to spare. If I hadn’t discovered Bicycle Quarterly last winter I would never have believed I would have been able to handle this distance.

    The fall 200k didn’t give me the personal record distance of June, but I feel I finally was experiencing true randonneuring as I was never rushed and finished with plenty of time to spare.

    My final memory was the weekly rides that a group of us made from Dearborn to Detroit. We have been all over Detroit seeing the best and some of the worst it has to offer. Seeing how friendly the people of Detroit are and the chance to encourage people to build their biking skills and sense of adventure has been highly rewarding.

    Thank you Jan for being an example and contributing to my increased enjoyment of cycling.

    Matt

  13. Christophe says:

    My best ride this year was a week in Rhône-Alpes region (South-East France), I rode 933 km and climbed 20 mountain passes (about 17800 m of climbing), including Col du Glandon, Col du Galibier, and the road to l’Alpe d’Huez to name the most famous climbs, on my Quentin Cycles ‘randonneuse légère’ with all my light camping equipment in 2 front panniers. I would have loved to keep pedaling in the area, but it was time to go back home…

  14. Paul says:

    From an Aussie perspective, I have to ask… on some of those ‘secret’ passes, do you ever round a bend to find a bear standing on the road?

  15. As a rookie in 2013, my most memorable ride was the first time I rode from my home near downtown Vancouver BC to the end of the road at the top of Cypress Mountain in North Vancouver. The sense of accomplishment at having made the 900m climb followed by the descent were very addictive and motivated me to continue training for the Grandfondo Whistler later in the year.
    I did see a black bear on a different ride up Cypress, which eventually moved on into the bush when more cyclists showed up.

  16. Paul says:

    Better on a bicycle than on foot, I bet. (-:

  17. Dave says:

    My two most memorable rides of the year were both under 10K each and within my own neighborhood–the first ride after a very unexpected minor heart attack in May, and in November my first ride after cancer surgery that I knew was coming. That’s a couple of rides!

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