Rides to Remember

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As the year draws to a close, it’s fun to look back at the memorable rides we’ve done this year. And what a year it’s been! We’ve discovered new roads and enjoyed new adventures. The links in the text lead to posts that talk more about individual rides.

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January started with those long miles to acclimatize to the bike again after the Winter break. It’s nice to ride with friends at an unhurried pace, stop at taco trucks, and explore new gravel roads in the foothills.

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February saw my son and me riding to a family vacation. The idea started as a way to avoid renting a van or second car to fit all the children we were taking along. It turned into a backroad adventure, and when it snowed overnight, the ride back was even more fun than the ride there.

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March had us visit Japan. It was a new world for us in many ways, but most of all, we enjoyed the incredible mountain roads. This one we nicknamed “Exciting Team Risk Road” after a sticker on a tuned Nissan that I had seen in a magazine. This little mountain pass was like a slotcar track, complete with crazy markings on the road in each of the sweeping turns and mirrors that allowed you to see around the corner.

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The bikes that our friends at I’s Bicycle loaned us put quite a few kilometers under their wheels. We explored remote gravel roads, toured the Shinshu Mountains, and rode around Tokyo to visit framebuilders and bike shops. When our trip ended with a wonderful ride organized for Grand Bois customers (above), we were sad to leave.

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April saw the Flèche 24-hour ride. Despite torrential rain, we had a good time, and managed to go further than we ever have in the Flèche. Having a tandem along helped our speed, and made it easy for me on the back to take photos, or even doze off to sleep – as long as I kept pedaling.

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The Oregon Outback was in May. Nobody really knew what this event would be like – not even the organizers. It turned out to be epic – 530 km mostly on gravel. It was exciting, incredibly scenic, and very challenging. And it was a great test for different ideas about the ideal gravel bike. Best of all, it will be repeated in 2015.

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June was a month filled to the brim with work. Fortunately, my job description includes testing bikes for Bicycle Quarterly, so we explored a connection of two valleys in the Cascades on a cyclocross bike.

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A family vacation on Hawaii in July provided an opportunity to ride a different type of bike in a very different terrain. It was great fun, and I now dream of cycling up to the tops of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. What a challenge that would be!

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The first Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting took place in September. We were blessed with gorgeous weather, and everybody had a great time, enjoying the wonderful roads and spectacular scenery. To be repeated!

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October saw us in Japan again. We had a full schedule: touring Hokkaido, traversing the Shinshu Mountains at night, riding to an ancient Onsen during a typhoon… Perhaps the best was an impromptu ride organized by our friends to look at the autumn leaves on a mountain pass that is far off the beaten path.

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November saw a few cyclocross races, as well as wonderful rides closer to home.

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And just when it seemed like the cycling season was finally over, a sudden snowfall provided a unique opportunity to test a bike with a 2-day bikepacking trip to the Olympic Mountains. Who could stay home when roads like these beckoned?

Looking back over all these wonderful memories, I am glad that bicycles are able to provide us with these incredible experiences. What were your favorite rides this year?

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. Bicycle Quarterly's sister company, Compass Bicycles Ltd., turns the results of our research into high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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12 Responses to Rides to Remember

  1. capejohn says:

    This was fun to read. I find myself saying that this is my favorite time of year to ride when I post in April, June, October or January. When we ride bikes, we enjoy life. All of it.

  2. Always nice to review the year’s rides. Ultimately, it’s the riding experience that cycling is all about, rather than buying that n+1. For me, this year covered km 86,00 to about 107,000 (and counting) to see what my Rodriguez fixie with 23mm tires is capable of.
    In March we escaped the cold and wet Pacific NW to ride the cold and dry Moab Skinny Tire Festival in Utah. In May we did a 12-day tour of Turkey’s Aegean coast, taking advantage of a 10-hour layover in Amsterdam on the way to ride the bikepaths between Schiphol and Amsterdam Zentrum. But riding on the outskirts of Istanbul was not that much fun.
    I’d have to count a couple of the Seattle Randonneurs rides in July and August as some of the best this year, specifically the gravel populaire and then the Crystal Mtn 300 km brevet. The gravel ride took us thru that long, unlit tunnel near the top of Snoqualmie Pass. That was fun and memorable!
    In August I rode the Hoodoo 500, but the most scenic section (Boulder Mtn) was ridden in pitch black darkness. Mine was the first and only fixed-gear finish in the event, but I was disappointed in the 42-hr+ time; it would be so easy to break that I’m tentatively scheduling it in the unsupported randonneurs division in a couple of years!
    More gravel riding in September at the Cino Heroica in Montana. I had to switch to the old style toe clips and straps to help satisfy the “heroic” bike requirements, and now I know again why clipless pedals are one of the best technological advances ever conceived in cycling! The 23mm tires were at their limit on the gravel roads, but what the heck, it makes you a much better rider. Easier than riding on snow & ice, too.
    We intersected at the BQ Un-meeting in September, and the ride was every bit as good as you described, even with a broken carbon fiber seatpost. (It’s been replaced with another carbon post, but this one is not wing-shaped, just round all the way!).
    I was in Mississauga, Ontario on business in October, and the fixie with S&S couplers came with me. Despite Mississauga being the armpit of cycling in Canada – absolutely the worst place to ride a bike in this country – I was still able to get in some nice early-morning rides in the thinner traffic, as well as some longer, nicer weekend rides out to Milton (site of Canada’s newest 250-meter indoor velodrome) and into Toronto.
    The year is not quite finished for me. Over Christmas we’ll be spending time with my parents and then riding in Redding and Chico, CA, then spending a few days in Seaside, OR and riding thru the coastal hills. I always look forward to spending some riding time along the Oregon coast.
    When I get too old and unable to ride any more, I’m sure I’ll put the bike on the wall to look at from my wheelchair, but it’s the memories of the rides, rather than the bike itself, that last the longest and define the cycling experience.

  3. Christophe says:

    Not enough great rides this year… never enough ! my best rides in 2014 were a hilly ride (11 passes in 100 miles) in Ardèche (southern France), and a Cinglé du Ventoux (climbing Mt. Ventoux on 3 sides the same day). Most of all, my best “cycling” adventure in 2014 was to build my own titanium frame (with the help of a professional framebuilder), the one I intend to ride PBP with.

  4. Internet Commenter says:

    Wow. How do you get so many vacations and pay for them?

    • As the editor of Bicycle Quarterly, I am lucky that testing bikes and researching stories is part of my job. And Compass Bicycles requires me to visit suppliers in Japan, so that is also part of my job. I guess these “perks” are why I am doing this – they make up for the long hours and low pay.

      Most of these rides take only a day or two, so they don’t require vacations. All it takes is making it a priority. I may not read the paper on Sundays, much less watch TV, but it allows me to go ride with my friends. As far as money goes, most of these rides leave from my back door, so they cost nothing except wear and tear on the bike (which is little with wide tires) and a few dollars for lunch at a taco truck. And when I go abroad for work, I always schedule a few extra days so I can ride and not just do work stuff. Being self-employed, my schedule is flexible, and I make up for it with evenings and weekends in the office.

  5. Michael says:

    I am not the mega milers you all are.
    But I was blessed with wonderful riding this year!
    I did two flat centuries this on the eastern shore of Maryland.
    They were beautiful and amazingly fun rides!
    I recently discovered some quiet gravelly trails through woods that connect a nearby town to another. It was quite an intoxicating ride along there through the woods along the river.
    Also, discovering some low trafficked local areas this year helped make riding around my home area much more relaxing and fun.
    I hope to do the same centuries next year and maybe riding with my local Rando group to try a 200k.

  6. Jon Blum says:

    While it’s not particularly long, and from my perspective not exotic (close to home), the La Honda-Pescadero loop is hard to beat for scenery and beautiful climbs. There are multiple variations, all of which involve country lanes, climbs in a redwood forest, farms, the Pacific Coast, and quaint little towns. I try to do some version of it a couple of times a year with my club or just some buddies. A few versions can be found at http://www.westernwheelers.org/main/routes/spro/routesheets.html
    If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, these are worth checking out.

    • The Bay Area has so much wonderful riding. I recall riding across the Golden Gate Bridge to Manzanita, then across the mountains to Muir Beach and back via Mt. Tam. Grant Peterson had suggested the route, and on that long-ago December day, part of it was shrouded in mist, and then the beach emerged from the mist far below me. It was magic.

      • Jon Blum says:

        Grant Peterson catalogued many of the Bay Area’s best cycling roads in “Roads to Ride” and “Roads to Ride South.” Though they are out of print and in theory technologically obsolete in the era of GPS, online maps, and Strava, I still find them useful, and I planned a lot of nice rides using them. Luis and Jan mentioned some of the best roads. Mount Tamalpais, particularly the route from Fairfax-Bolinas Road, is one of the great climbs in the area (though Mount Hamilton is not too shabby). The URL I cited earlier includes route sheets with many of the nicest rides in the South Bay.

    • I cut my cycling eye-teeth in the SF Bay area, along Grizzly Peak/Skyline, down into Canyon and Moraga, or down Redwood Road. It is a wonderful area to ride, with the smell of eucalyptus along the ridge of the East Bay hills. On hot summer afternoons, the trees provide some refreshing coolness, then in the evening, on the way back home, as the air gets chilly, you find the trees have retained the warmth as you ride thru them. I always like to go back and ride every few years. Last time, it was Marin County, down Fairfax-Bolinas Rd (rated as one of the best rides in the country), then along the twisty ridge road (they film lots of car commercials here) and the “Seven Sisters” up to Mt. Tam. Fabulous riding in this neck of the woods!

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