Rides to Remember

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As the cycling season draws to a close, I look back over the memorable rides that I have enjoyed. This year, my cycling season ended abruptly when a car turned in front of me in Taiwan, but my recovery has been helped by remembering many wonderful rides. It’s been a fun-filled year with everything from contemplative cyclotouring to ultra-fast brevets, with loaded touring and even a little cyclocross thrown into the mix.

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After a 6-week winter break from riding, it’s always amazing to see the mountains again and get out of Seattle for day-long rides. Last January’s gorgeous weather made these early-season rides even more special.

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Over the years, these early-season rides have incorporated more and more gravel, and now it’s a rare ride that doesn’t venture off the pavement for the fun and solitude that is found on these forest roads. As much fun as it is to cycle with all over the world, my hometown friends are absolutely the best.

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2015 was a “PBP year”, which meant making sure to ride the 200, 300, 400 and 600 km brevets. This was no hardship: The courses of the Seattle International Randonneurs get better every year, and there are plenty of great people to ride with. Thanks to excellent teamwork, several of us were able to qualify for the Cyclos Montagnards’ R60 honors. The brevets were fun, and they helped us to get in shape for the big ride in France.

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April saw me in Japan, where I had been invited to join a team for the 24-hour Flèche team ride. In addition to that memorable experience, I enjoyed lovely mountain rides with friends. The cherry trees were in full bloom, making Japan even more special than usual.

diverge_eaglemount

Testing bikes to the limit is memorable, no matter what. A trip with Ryan to the San Juan Islands culminated with climbing Mount Constitution at midnight. A few weeks later, Mark and I went on a “fast camping trip” to the end of the road at Carbon Glacier on Mount Rainier. We encountered some pretty rough terrain, but the lasting memory was how much fun it was to get away for 24 hours of fast-paced touring.

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The big event of the year was Paris-Brest-Paris. While I was in France, I was able to enjoy other memorable rides. We rode a lap of the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb course with 1965 PBP winner Robert Demilly (above on the left).

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Together with my friend Richard Léon (himself a veteran of many PBPs), we visited Jean Hoffmann, a randonneur who turned professional and rode in the Tour de France, before returning to the ranks of the randonneurs and riding PBP several times. (He is in the center of the photo above, holding the stem of Lyli Herse’s bike.) Now aged 81, Monsieur Hoffmann took us on a ride over a small mountain pass, displaying the form of an ancien professional. (The full story with photos from his career is in the Winter 2015 Bicycle Quarterly.)

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A highlight of returning to Seattle was the Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting (above) – a weekend of riding on paved and gravel roads in the company of riders who quickly became friends. What fun it was!

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There were more memorable cycling adventures, like exploring the old roads near Kobuchizawa in Japan (above), touring in the Cascades (photo at the top of this post), and other rides in Washington State, Japan and Taiwan. One theme that weaves itself through most of these rides is that they’ve been enjoyed in the company of friends. For me, that is the best part of any ride.

What were your most memorable rides of the past 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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30 Responses to Rides to Remember

  1. Bikesy says:

    Blimey mate, I thought I’d done some epics this year but your’s blows mine out of the water completely!
    Hope the recovery goes well and here’s to everyone getting some more good rides in next year.
    All the best
    Tony,
    Bikesy.co.uk

  2. Dan says:

    Yep! I HAVE to get a cross bike now!! Thanks a lot! Like I didn’t have enough to spend my money on! 😉

    • You won’t regret getting a cyclocross bike. Cyclocross races are great fun, and a ‘cross bike also is a great “Allroad” bike. If I had the choice between getting a ‘cross or a racing bike, I’d choose the former.

    • 47hasbegun says:

      After riding a modern take on a sport touring bike (32mm maximum tires, but with disc brakes) for a long time, I got my hands on a Soma Double Cross (non-disc) and now do a lot of my day rides on the latter now because it’s a lot more fun! Most of it’s been road riding out into the middle of nowhere with slick (35mm) touring tires, but I’ve taken it on gravel, too, with either those tires or cyclocross tires.

      It’s currently set up with a Nitto M12SL front rack and a bag for it and a bag that hooks onto the leather saddle, so it’d be perfect for credit card touring, too.

    • Chris V. says:

      @Dan….I currently ride a kona Jake the Snake as my primary bike for club rides. Those rides include smooth roads, rough roads and gravel roads. I’m riding 700×35 tires (a jack brown green on the front and an extra light Bon Jon Pass on the rear. I’ve never had a problem running these tires on any terrain (I’ve never tried single track mountain biking). I’m building up a more roadie steel bike for my 40th Birthday. I don’t really need the new bike, but I want to treat myself. The new bike will still be able to fit 700×32 tires, and I’ll probably run 700×26 or 700×28, while keeping my JTS for gravel rides and maybe some cyclocross racing next fall. But with that said, the new bike will be able to tackle gravel without a problem.

      So, I guess what I’m saying is that if you can only afford to have one bike, I would sell your current steed, and buy a really nice cyclocross bike that can be ridden on all surfaces. If I wasn’t able to treat myself to a new bike in 2016 I would continue to ride the JTS as my primary group ride bike.

    • Chris V. says:

      @Dan….oh yeah…l wouldn’t sell a Waterford either!! I’m building a Gunnar Sport. I can’t quite afford a Waterford, otherwise I would consider one of those! You might like the Gunnar cyclocross offerings???

  3. 47hasbegun says:

    Those are some great memories and beautiful shots! Every time I feel like I might not spend a weekend riding, I remember past sights and past rides to motivate myself to go out and ride, and more recently I’ve been using the ride reports from your test rides for inspiration. I explored Reiter Road to Index and the Carbon River Valley to Mount Rainier National Park recently after reading a few Bicycle Quarterly issues.

    My most memorable ride, however, was my first bicycle tour of more than a couple days: Last May, I rode from Burlington to Spokane via the ACA Northern Tier with a guy who was riding from Mount Vernon to Wisconsin to raise money for his brother’s hospital stay due to cancer. We carried our camping gear and rode over multiple mountain ranges across the state, seeing so much beautiful scenery and having lovely Warm Showers hosts alternating with camping. We even gained a riding partner for a couple of the days, who was riding back to Pennsylvania via an even larger portion of the Northern Tier.

    The guy riding to Wisconsin was riding a modern touring bike cursed with the misfortune of the road triple crankset. After trying a few things, I ended up ordering him a Sugino XD-350 crank and square-taper bottom bracket overnight, which he had installed after I had to part ways at Spokane. After that upgrade, he didn’t have to walk up steeper grades anymore, and made it safely home to Wisconsin after a couple more weeks or so.

  4. Ed B says:

    I have lots of imagery from so many beautiful rides but overcoming challenges seems to stick out in my mind. The September 19 Central NJ 200K stands out for two reasons. First, continuing my journey to achieve R12 on a lovely route riding side by side and chatting for more than 10 hours should normally have been a piece of cake but a post PBP torn rotator cuff made even a flat 200k difficult. I probably could not have completed the ride without Bill’s stories and so secondly, overcoming my difficulties aided by Bill’s conversation was probably the highlight of my year. Of course riding a brisk PBP was up there but another highlight was my 600K PBP qualifier that I also did as an R60 qualifier. About 50 miles into the 600K on flat roads with a tailwind, I was riding pretty slow at an indicated power of 230 watts, so, I should have been flying. I could not figure it out. At around 90 miles, I realized one of my rear 20 spokes had broken and the wobbly wheel was the problem. “No PBP” flashed and flashed thru my head after attempts to repair failed. I loosened up the brakes and rode onwards in quite a funk for a few hours. The highlight was pulling my head out from my B17 and simply re-committing to finishing within the 40 hours no matter what. Just the thought to myself that I would complete my PBP SR qualification no matter what and that was all it took. My mental outlook changed entirely and I was able to formulate plans if the wheel collapsed as I was sure it would. I did manage to complete it in under 24 hours but that is not my takeaway-it was the decision to finish the Brevet even if the wheel had collapsed. My 16 year old son hugging and hugging my Tuesday night at the velodrome was pretty precious especially when he told me how proud he was of me.

  5. dhdaines says:

    Since it was a PBP year, most of my rides were focused on preparing for the big one. Otherwise, there’s no way I would have ridden from Montreal to Ottawa and back in the middle of the night through a massive thunderstorm. This was not the kind of “memorable” that I was really looking for, but it taught me the usefulness of caffeinated energy gels, and it made the ride from Brest back to Paris a lot more enjoyable by comparison.

    The most successful and enjoyable ride I had was this year’s edition of the local 600km brevet. Last year I suffered through 90km of dark sky preserve alone in the cold with a malfunctioning sidewall generator and didn’t get to sleep until nearly 5AM. This year, with good lights, I discovered that this section is actually mostly downhill, and I actually enjoyed the silence and solitude for a while, though it was nice to do the last 50km to the sleep stop with a well-paced group of friends.

    Obviously Paris-Brest-Paris was great, but riding into Paris from the airport was pretty cool too, as was seeing all the riders (and some amazing bikes) on the RER on the way to the start!

  6. Chris V. says:

    Just a little entertaining observation here….Does anyone else find it slightly funny that in picture #7 (counting from top to bottom) that Robert Demilly (old guy) is riding a modern race type bike and the young blood is on a bike like that of a vintage randonneuring bike.

    • It’s important to remember that when Demilly and Macaudière came first in the 1965 PBP, their René Herse bikes were the most modern and best machines you could buy. So it makes sense that Demilly continued to ride the latest and best throughout his life.

      Of course, what is “best and latest” tends to change. In the U.S., wide tires and randonneur bikes have become accepted again. France is lagging behind a bit. I would not be surprised if in 5 years’ time, Demilly was on a gravel or Allroad bike.

      • Chris V. says:

        @ Jan
        I totally get it when we talk about trends and such. I’m not making a judgment on which of those two bikes is the best, rather I just found the picture a bit funny. IMHO,the best bike is the one you ride the most and that opens your world up to new explorations and experiences!

      • For me, it’s normal, since most of these old riders kept abreast of the current trends in performance bikes. In fact, most of the riders who are still alive don’t even remember 650B x 42 mm “Demi-Ballon” tires, as those predate their getting into cycling. Demilly rode on 23 mm tubulars when he came first in the 1965 PBP. Today, even the pros ride 25s…but the old guys still resist the move from 20s to 23s. For decades, tires became narrower, so it must be strange for them that many of the fast young riders (at least those from the U.S.) are on wide tires that already were outmoded in their youth.

        Of course, I agree that the best bike is one that you can take where you want to go. That is why I love my randonneur bike, since it can do everything a racing bikes does, but also lots more. Riding gravel on 25s or even 32s is possible, but it’s much more fun on 42s (or the new Rat Trap Pass tires that measure 52-54 mm).

      • “That is why I love my randonneur bike, since it can do everything a racing bikes does, but also lots more.”

        Well, except win a road race.
        While the two bikes may have equal steady-state climbing performance as found out in your test with Mark, a good randonneur bike is generally 9-11 pounds heavier than a good racing bike, and that kind of weight penalty is irreconcilable in a road race. I would love to be proved wrong and see someone win a road race, but other evidence supports this idea.

        For example, the Madison Genesis team developed a steel pro racing bike, using the absolute pinnacle of steel tech. By working with Reynolds (who made custom tube shapes for them and adapted a no-holds barred approach), they developed several generations of steel pro racing bikes. Yet despite this, they too eventually switched to Carbon for their racing team, much to the happiness of the team riders.

        Rouleur mentioned with the influx of new British cyclists, they see many people on bikes that are “wrong for them” because they “ride what the pros ride”. This point is valid. That said, the design of a bike always makes a sacrifice somewhere to a certain type of riding, and a racing bike isn’t merely a shadow of a randonneur bike.

        Love the latest string of posts, by the way.

      • If I raced in road races, I’d dust off my racing bike. If I raced on the track, I’d have to get a track bike. No question about it. That is why I have a cyclocross bike: It’s a specialized machine that does one thing only, but that thing (racing cyclocross) it does very well.

        However, for most non-racing riding, you don’t need those specialized machines. And even in very competitive events, like the first half of PBP, I had no trouble keeping up on a randonneur bike. The weight difference is real (albeit less than 9-11 pounds), but other things like the rolling resistance of tires or the frame flex characteristics, are more important. In theory, you’ll climb faster with empty waterbottles, in practice, you don’t notice the difference of 4 pounds (two bottles).

      • “However, for most non-racing riding, you don’t need those specialized machines. And even in very competitive events, like the first half of PBP, I had no trouble keeping up on a randonneur bike.”

        I certainly agree here. I never really loved road racing anyway. The industry at large could easily produce great, comfortable bikes for the recreational and semi-competitive cyclist, and to some degree have started to (ex. the Diverge range of bikes). Most people don’t realize the level of support pro riders get from team cars, even on training rides, and this changes the design of their bikes. And frankly, the pros should have fenders instead of adding weights to their frames to hit 6.8 kg which would narrow the weight differential.

        The most impressive thing is that self sufficient, comfortable machines can be as fast as they are.

        Not to talk about gear too much, especially since the focus of these posts has been the rides, friendships, and experiences, all of which have opened imagination to what cycling can be.

    • Ed B says:

      When I read the article my take on that photo was more along the lines of young buck (Theo) looking at the legs of the Monster Buck thinking how is he doing this to me on was was obviously a decent climb looking at the gearing. My thought was….I want to be THAT guy in 15 years.

      • Rando Theo says:

        Riding with Demilly and, later, Hoffman was fun and inspiring. Meeting these riders and seeing their strength, good humor, and incredible energy first hand is a gift. And yes, I was watching Demilly climb in that photo, thinking, great form!

  7. Jim R says:

    My epic ride was last Feb I left Jacksonville Fl and rode out to Surprise AZ on mostly the ACA Southern Tier in 42 days. Now that I have discovered BQ it has opened up my eyes to riding off the beaten path and the best thing is I live right smack in the middle of all the places you guys ride, here in the great NW. Thanks. Jim

  8. Bill Hague says:

    Wishing Jan a speedy recovery from his wounds!
    My winter BQ arrived recenty—it has 3 phases, like every trip: The Anticipation; The Realization; and The Reminiscence, and all are enjoyable. Thanks for so much pleasure, Jan

  9. David Pearce says:

    Dear Jan,

    I salute you. I hope you are healing well and without too much discomfort.

    I’m sorry to be macabre, but if we had lost you, it would have been a huge blow to me. You have opened my eyes to so much, and shown me the wonders of bicycles and bicyclists and bike rides and bike history. It would have been horrible if that incident was the end!

    Do you feel the other party was negligent, which I guess they were, and secondly, are you pursuing legal actions against them?

    Glad to still have you alive & pedaling on Earth, and not just yet on that great mountain pass in the sky!

  10. hans2vt says:

    My epic ride was searching Seattle mountain passes for gold mines on thanksgiving. Oh wait no I was just reading BQ and I’m a Vermont mountain biker. Thanks for such good writing, I enjoy the thoughtful contemplation of bicycles mixed in with personalities, history, nature, and family (remote control cars on abandoned highways!).

  11. Joe Kendrick says:

    A month ago about 40 or 50 of us on bikes started at the southeastern edge of the Dead Sea at minus 400 meters and rode south for 200 kilometers to the northern edge of the Red Sea at the Gulf of Aqaba. A gentle tail wind, 70 F., the love of the bike, and dramatic desert scenery all made it a day to remember. This is the Dead to Red ride that’s starting to be known. It’s my ride of 2015

  12. Fantastic rides, it really is cool the routes you guys are able to put together. My most memorable ride was STP. My dad had just recovered from getting hit by a car and we stuck together and finished wish relative ease. STP is to me a celebration of the connection of two cities and the cycling culture they both foster, and while people can say what they want about it, I will be riding STP until I am too old to ride.

  13. Gerard GUASCH says:

    Eroica Primavera, 2015 – May.
    Strade Bianche of Tuscany.
    Lot of gravel small roads, in a marvelous country,
    many 15% climbs….
    With a friend of mine,
    me on my Bianchi Reparto Corse 1987, Columbus fine wall springy frame,
    my friend on a Mercier 1982 Reynolds stiff frame (poor guy…).
    Italian food, Chianti wine, all around with smile on face.

    http://www.eroicaprimavera.com/

  14. B. Carfree says:

    I’m at the end of my longest saddle-free time since my son was born a quarter-century ago. Unlike Jan’s forced sabbatical, mine involved much smaller intruders into my space, namely two viruses and a bacterium. Nothing like a good case of pneumonia to make one wish for a “real” injury.

    After almost three months of only errand-rides, I’m actually looking forward to doing some riding on rollers and weight lifting to recapture some low levels of fitness and form. (No joy-rides around here in December; we are a leading area for drunk drivers and December is the worst.) I’ll often read a nice ride report from BQ before hopping on and pretend I’m on a lovely ride instead of in my back room going nowhere. Other times, I’ll just mentally re-ride some of the lovely rides I enjoyed during the past year in my beloved Coast Range of Oregon and California.

    How nice of those logging companies to provide me with all those miles of beautiful gravel roads through the beautiful hills. They even take down some of those pesky trees so that I can have a nice view of the rivers and creeks when I crest the climbs.

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