Category Archives: road bike

Drop-handlebar tourers, commuters, and racers.

Tour de Blast – Sat. June 18 2011

“Wars may be fought with with machines, but they are won by men.”George S. Patton

Left foot, right foot.  Left foot, right foot.  A rider passes on my left.  “How you doing,” he asks.  “I’m hanging,” was all I could reply.  “That’s all anyone can do right now,” he says, pulling slowly away.  A few minutes later, he’s beside the road getting ready to repair a flat.  “Need a hand,” I ask?  “No, just suckie luck,” he says.  I continue on; left foot, right foot.

Mt. St. Helens on Silver Lake

We are nearly four hours into the Tour de Blast and approaching the midpoint at Johnston Ridge.  Beginning in the town of Toutle, Washington, the ride is relatively flat for the first 10 mi (16 km), then begins a steady climb for the next 18 mi (30km)  to Elk Ridge at 3800 ft (1158 m), then descends to Coldwater Creek before climbing again to Johnston ridge at 4200 ft (1280 m).  After  42 miles of riding, you are not really done, because you still face the climb back from Coldwater Creek back up to Elk Ridge before starting the long descent back to Toutle.  Fortunately, it is the least of the three climbs.  (Check out the ride as recorded on my Garmin bike computer.)

The ride celebrates the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens.  Johnston Ridge is named in memory of a Dr. David Johnston, a geologist who was among those killed on that fateful day 31 years ago.  Sponsored by the Longview Rotary club, the ride is the biggest annual fund raiser for the local community and helps pay for services and facilities throughout the year.

Near the top, snow lines the roadway and the road rises steadily at a 7 or 8% grade.  Seeing a U-turn approaching, my spirits lift in the hope that the grueling climb is nearly over, and are just as quickly dashed when I see the road double back and continue climbing into the clouds.  Left foot, right foot.

With a distance of 84 miles (135 km) and elevation gain in excess of 6000 ft (1830 m),  most cyclists would consider Tour de Blast to be a tough ride on a good day.   This day was not a good day.  Though Friday was warm and sunny, clouds and rain had moved in overnight and we began the ride in rain with temperatures in the upper 40s F (9 C).  By the time we reached Elk Ridge, the temperature had dropped to 42 F (5 C).  What could have been a tough ride had now become an epic ride.

Rain Ride

I had trained specifically for the ride for several months, though it’s almost impossible to find steady climbs more than an hour in length around here.  Nonetheless,  I expected some long, hard climbs and felt prepared for them.  What I was not expecting were the descents; not because they were especially steep or treacherous, but because they were cold.  Really, really cold. Brain-freeze headache that makes you sick COLD.  Had to drag the brakes to keep my speed down for the first three or four minutes.  After that, the headaches let up and I was merely cold.  At that point, I could let the bike run and get on to the next climb as quickly as possible.  This ride was the exact opposite of a typical ride, where you kind of dread the climbs and enjoy the descents.  No, on this day, the climbs were my friend, for they kept me warm.  The descents were not fun, just something to get through as quickly as possible, with a minimum of drama.  Many riders were under-dressed for the weather.  By the time they made it to Johnston Ridge, they were shivering uncontrollably, victims of hypothermia.  Lucky for them the ride organizers had plenty of shuttle buses to take them and their bikes back to town for some hot spaghetti.

Thought it’s not not something you can really train for, you can prepare for the cold.  Fortunately, I had.  Shoe covers, check.  Helmet cover, check.  Rain jacket and pants, check.  Long finger gloves, check.  Long-sleeve jersey and bib knickers, check and check.  Though I was pretty warm on the climbs, the descents were manageable, and overall, was about a comfortable as one could be.  When the humidity is near 100%, you will end up wet no matter how “breathable” the outer fabric.  The key to surviving this ride was to have wind-proof outerwear that would minimize wind chill.

Elk Ridge Rest Stop

Some riders may describe the 2011 edition of the Tour de Blast with words like “disaster”, “miserable”, or “awful”, and for them, they might be right.  For me, the words that come to mind are “epic”, “challenge”, and “victory.”  Sure, it would have been nice to have sunny, warm weather to enjoy what I can only imagine are wonderful views of Mt. St. Helens.  It would have been nice to have been able to better enjoy the company of fellow riders.  But on this day, all the niceties were mostly internal; the riders were left with their bikes, the mountain, and the will to continue until one or the other was used up.

Let me hasten to add that the organizers did their best to make the ride enjoyable.  They provided plenty of fruits, baked potatoes, cookies, and other tasty snacks to keep the riders fueled, and lots of on-course crews to watch over the riders and ensure that aid was always nearby.  Had the ride been one day earlier, we would have had that beautiful, sunny day for the ride.  Maybe it will be so next year!


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Action Medical Research – London To Paris, 2010

“In charity, there is no excess.” – Francis Bacon

Ever travel thousands of mile, only to meet someone from your town back home? So it was for Karen and I as we  walked through Park Monceau in Paris, returning from a stroll on the Champs Elyseé.  It was the 24th of July, a thoroughly pleasant day as I recall.  Turning the corner, we were surprised to see a horde of cyclists, hundreds of them!

Bikes of all manner could be seen, mostly late-model composite frame racers, but a few well loved classics as well.  Like their bikes, the riders came in a variety shapes and sizes as well.  Some wore club jerseys, some there from a club of one.

Scanning the crowd, Karen spotted a couple of riders in America-themed jerseys hanging out together.  We strolled over and introduced ourselves.  The fellow on the right is Paul Ferrell from Seattle, very near where Karen and I live when back in the states.  The rider on the left is from the Portland area, though his name escapes me.  We all marveled at the slim chance that we would be in the same place and time, half a world away from home.

Figuring they were here for the last stage of The Tour, I was surprised to learn they were participating in a charity ride.  That’s right, they traveled 6000 miles to ride in a four-day charity ride from London to Paris. Read more about the charity and view more pictures after the break.

Continue reading

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First Light

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” – Anon.

Scottish cattle graze in the early light of a new day.

From wisps of fog, a fellow rider appears.

Behold today’s creation!

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A Ride In The Park

“Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.” – George Carlin

Last Saturday morning found me, as it often does, out for a ride in the country.  This time, the ride took me into the Dutch national park (or De Meinweg as the locals call it), north of Susterseel.  Click here to view the route.

The day started out sunny but cool. Fall is definitely in the air.  The “old timers” cars were out enjoying the day:










I tend to ride on a mix of numbered bike paths, cycletracks, and country roads. Cycle tracks are physically separated paths for bikes. Over here, pedestrians and small scooters can also use them.

Here’s a typical example. Almost all two-lane highways have a track on one side of the road. Many have tracks on both sides.

The house owner creates concrete sculptures.  The tree casting the shadow in the picture is home to several of them:  A family of owls, a mama cat and her kitten.  Tree sculptures like this are common here.  Don’t know how many times I rode by this one before I finally saw it!

Follow the rest of the ride after the break. Continue reading

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Cipollini Video

Mario Cipollini is arguably the glitziest, most dazzling sprinter of my generation.  Though he competed in numerous Tours of France, he never wore the yellow jersey in Paris.  Heck, I don’t think he ever completed a Tour.  No, “Super Mario” was the greatest sprinter of the era, a man, a legend, who would show up at flat stages, dazzle everyone with a huge burst of speed in excess of 50mph, win the race and the women, then jet back to his Villa in Tuscany.  The stars of Hollywood had nothing on this guy.

Thanks to BikeRumor for this promo video of his latest venture:  Cipollini Bikes:

The editor at BikeRumor said it well:  “I can only tell two more things from the vid: firstly that I’d really like to live in Tuscany; secondly that the old rogue remains pretty damn cool, and can still bash out 1800w without breaking a sweat. See what you think…”

Indeed.  Italian style, a passion for cycling.  Forces of nature intertwined with expressions of beauty.  It probably wouldn’t play in America, but the video does offer an insight into the European bicycle aesthetic.

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ToF Stage 2

What a race!  After the demolition derby finish to stage 1, stage 2 proved to be another wreck-fest for the riders. Unlike years past when he could miraculously avoid crashes, this year has not favored Lance Armstrong.  After crashing out of the Tour of California, the 2010 Tour of France, his last, is not playing favorites.  As you can see from this photo, Lance was pretty torn up after the huge crash near the end of stage 2.  Everyone was going 60kph downhill when they came upon a downed rider and a camera motorcycle that fell and left oil and gas on the road.

At 39, Lance is not a young man.  He soldered on in today’s stage 3, but has lost a minute  or so to his main rivals for the overall win.  Whether he takes first place this year or not, he and the other riders are all winners in my book.  The Tour is not merely a test of the body; it is a test of that which drives the body.


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Road-Bike Stunt Video A Hit

Apparently you, and 300,000+ other people worldwide, liked the video featuring Martyn Ashton’s antics on a carbon-fiber road bike enough to make it the most-viewed sports video of the week on Utoob.  Click here for the full backstory.

As told, the video was shot over three days.  Those involved claim no effects were used in the riding sequences.  Perhaps even more amazing, they also claim there were zero, none, nada, mechanical issues during the entire three days!  The only repair was to a tire flatted while riding on the streets of Bristol.  Not even the wheels needed truing after the fact.

If ever there was a testament to the durability of the modern bicycle, this is it.  One wonders if the manufacturers are falling over themselves to be in the next video?  The RALEIGH AVANTI looks ready for far more than anything the average owner would ever intentionally dish out.

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