Citi Bike is here!

First, I’ll answer the question that’s been burning in your brain for over a week:

Yes, I did complete my Long Island century on May 18th. I clocked 104 miles total and had a pretty good day out on the bike. I’ll be writing up a short trip report once I get the pictures processed.

Now, on to current events. Since my last update way back in the middle of the month, NYC’s bike share program, Citi Bike, has officially launched!

Citi BikeI signed up for an annual membership the day they went on sale and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the moment I could take one of these blue beasts out on the mean streets of New York. Today was that day! I left Grand Central Terminal and headed over to the bike share dock at 43rd and Vanderbilt. As I used my key fob to unlock a bike, I was approached by a reporter from the NY Post. She asked me how long I’d been using the system and what I thought of everything. I gave her my honest opinion — some of the bike docks were a bit bigger than expected and some of the dock locations didn’t seem very well thought out, but the program overall was great and I was really excited to be taking my first bike share trip.

I removed my bike from the dock (here’s a tip — lift the bike by the saddle and it willl undock easily) and strapped my bag to the small rack in front. My first impression was how heavy the bikes are — they weigh about 45 pounds! However, once I got underway, the weight was not an issue at all. The ride was smooth and the bike felt incredibly solid. I rode down 43rd to 6th Avenue and headed north for a few blocks to the dock at 51st Street. It took a couple of attempts before the dock recognized the bike and locked it, but that was probably due to my lack of technique and experience with the docks. Checking my trip on the Citi Bike website showed I traveled 0.8 miles in 8 minutes and 36 seconds (some of which was spent speaking to the NY Post reporter before starting my journey).

The only problem with Citi Bike is the helmet situation. Helmets are not required for adult cyclists in NYC, but I don’t like riding without one. I didn’t have one with me today and there were a few moments when cabs were getting a little too close for comfort. I’m going to have to search around for a small, light helmet that I would be able to carry around with me when I’m in the city. I could always keep a helmet at my office, but that won’t help with my trips between work and Grand Central.

Overall, it was a positive, albeit short, initial experience with Citi Bike. I’m looking forward to using it again for my evening commute — maybe I’ll wind up taking the long way back to Grand Central!


On tap for the weekend – LI Beer Century

I haven’t touched my bike IN FIVE DAYS!!!

This is not by choice — it’s the result of some work deadlines coming due and my being out of town over the weekend. Regardless, it is unacceptable! I’ll be punishing myself on the trainer for a few hours of atonement.

Saturday I have a self-supported century lined up. My plan is to take the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry over to Long Island with my bike. From Port Jefferson I will ride across the North Fork to Orient Point, a little over 50 miles. After reaching the northern terminus of Long Island, I will turn around and head to Greenport, where I will grab some lunch and swing by the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company for a beer sampler.

Greenport Harbor Brewing CompanyFinally, I’ll ride back to Port Jefferson where I’ll meet up with The Wife™ for some dinner and some more beer tasting at the Port Jefferson Brewing Company. See the theme here?

Port Jefferson Brewing Company

Finally, we shall traverse the great Long Island Sound by ferry and return to the jewel-encrusted shores of Connecticut.

The entire route is about 105 miles long and is relatively flat. I’m hoping this ride will keep me in shape for the Bethpage 300k brevet coming up later in June.

A bike tour for the masses

This past Sunday I participated in the Five Boro Bike Tour. This was the second time I’ve ridden the Five Boro and I am a bit conflicted about whether this event is worth doing in the future.

Five Boro Bike TourThe first time I rode the Tour in 2011, I was shocked at the poor organization of the ride. The starting line was mass confusion, there were tons of bottlenecks that required you to walk your bike, and the ride marshals seemed to have no clue what was going on. To top it all off, the event planners failed to coordinate with the Department of Transportation, leading to a huge group of riders being stuck under a relentless sun on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway for almost two hours with no food, restrooms, or water. This part of the ride sucked so much that The Wife™ was turned off of cycling entirely, a situation I am still trying to rectify to this day. Thank you for that, Bike New York.

However, even with all of the problems, it was a cool ride. At the time, 42 miles was a long ride for me and I felt a great sense of accomplishment after having completed the Tour. You also can’t beat the setting — cycling through NYC without having to worry about traffic! I decided to try it out again this year and see if they had improved on things.

The first big difference this year was Bike New York’s reactionary security policy. After the Boston Marathon bombings, BNY issued a statement saying riders in the Five Boro would not be allowed to carry backpacks or CamelBaks. What an utterly ass-backwards policy. This created a huge inconvenience for a lot of riders, especially those coming in from out of town, and forced people to change their plans or purchase new gear only two weeks prior to the event. This stupid policy did nothing to increase security for riders, and was laughable in its execution — fanny packs and handlebar bags up to 420 cubic inches were allowed, so it seems no one cared if you carried a bag as long as it wasn’t strapped to your back. Because obviously you can’t fit a bomb in a fanny pack or 420 cubic inch handlebar bag…

Don’t get me wrong — I have no problem with increased security when it actually accomplishes something and isn’t a knee-jerk reaction. This policy is the epitome of what is wrong with security thinking in this country. Someone does something bad with Random Object X, so obviously we must ban Random Object X! Like Williams Sonoma pulling pressure cookers off of their shelves in Massachusetts, this BNY policy did nothing to improve security and smacks of some suit looking to check a box off on a list (“See? We take this stuff VERY SERIOUSLY!“)

"Everything looks good from here, boss!"

“Everything looks good from here, boss!”

All I can do is shake my head at this stupid thinking, and the way BNY handled this (not offering refunds to riders after making a major change to the ride with only two weeks notice) makes me very hesitant to support them or any of their rides in the future.

On the positive side, the crowd management was MUCH better this year. There were still way too many bottlenecks for my taste (I don’t like to walk much on bike tours) but the overall congestion seemed much lower. One problem area was the rest area at Astoria Park in Queens — there was no bypass lane or anything, so even though we did not want to stop there we were forced to get off our bikes and shuffle along for twenty minutes until we could resume riding. We were also forced off the bikes at all the bridge crossings, but those delays weren’t very long so they didn’t bother me very much.

I don’t have any pictures from this year — mostly because I did not want to take my hands off the bars for the second needed to snap a picture. The Five Boro is a definite crash-fest, with about 31,000 of the 32,000 participants possessing absolutely zero bike handling skills. I saw several falls, luckily none too serious, as people weaved across the roads like drunks driving home after last call. The worst was on the approaches to the bridges — these were the steepest grades of the ride and people were just stopping in the middle of the road or swerving off into the path of faster riders to the left.

I remember in 2011 (when I had just a couple of months of riding experience) these grades were a challenge…this year, they seemed like nothing. In fact, the entire ride (40 miles, 2 miles shorter than the 2011 course) was easy-peasy, something I attribute to my recent randonneur training. Even the last stretch up the ramp of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, known as the hardest part of the Five Boro, seemed like a walk in the park. I had some right knee pain during the ride (which I was surprised at, since it hasn’t bothered me on any of the longer rides this year) but it seems to have just been a temporary thing and the knee felt fine on a short ride yesterday.

Tragically, one rider did not make it through the Tour. 51-year-old Michigan man Michael Boren suffered a heart attack while riding up the ramp of the Queensboro Bridge and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Mr. Boren had suffered a heart attack two years ago and was using cycling as a way to recover and improve his health. He had cleared the ride with his doctor before participating. Stories like this frighten me — this could have been any of us, and medical issues are something I worry about as I get into the longer distance rides. My heart and prayers go out to Mr. Boren’s family — I am so sorry for their tragic loss.

At the end of the day, I would not recommend the Five Boro to any serious cyclist looking for a solid riding event — the NYC Century seems like a better option (and I plan on riding that event this year). However, it is a fun time and most casual riders will be able to get through it (and feel like a real cyclist at the end!). It makes for a good friends and family ride, especially when you take the absence of traffic into consideration. So if you have never done the Five Boro Bike Tour, grab some non-cyclist friends and give it a shot next year – just do everyone around you a favor and make sure everyone has at least a basic grasp of bike handling and holding a line!

Shelburne Falls 200K ride report

Pulling out of my driveway at 5 AM this past Saturday, I contemplated the task ahead of me. I was driving out to Westfield, MA to take part in my first real brevet – the Shelburne Falls 200K. I can’t say I wasn’t a bit nervous since the course was described as moderately hilly and would be 25 miles longer than my longest ride to date. However, I felt prepared — my training had been going well and I had completed the Princeton Populaire 120K a week prior — so I focused on the positive as I sipped my morning coffee and turned onto the Merritt Parkway. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day for a bike ride!

I reached the town of Westfield and saw a sign that made me smile:

Westfield penny farthing sign

A few minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of New Horizons Bikes on Franklin Street. This shop is owned by Don Podolski, the RBA for the Berkshire region and organizer of this brevet.

New Horizons Bikes sign

I signed in, collected my cue sheet and brevet card, and waited for the 7 AM start. There were a good number of cyclists milling about the parking lot getting ready to ride, including one randonneur in a pretty cool velocar!

Start of the Shelburne Falls 200K

VelocarDon gave us a little pre-ride briefing and then released us to the road promptly at 7!

Don Podolski at the startAmid the chatter of cleats finding pedals we rolled out onto Franklin Street and my first brevet was underway. I found myself riding with the lead group — I knew I needed to pace myself for the long ride ahead, but I wanted to see if I would be able to stay with them for awhile. I didn’t have any trouble holding a wheel in the back of the group and even moved to the front for a bit after a strong climb up a small hill. A couple of miles into the ride one of my leg warmers started slipping down my leg, so when we stopped at a red light I took a moment to fix it. Boom! The light turned green, the group sped off, and I wouldn’t see them again. This was probably for the best, as I was now free to slow it down a bit and ride my own pace.

As we worked our way out of Westfield, the landscape turned to farmland and fields. The pungent smell of manure filled the morning air. It was a beautiful day out, but still pretty cold at this hour — I was regretting my decision to wear half-finger gloves, but aside from my hands I was feeling alright. The arm and leg warmers I was wearing were definitely a smart move. I kept the pedals turning through some beautiful rural scenery.

The open road

More open road

Passing through Florence, a small village in the city of Northampton, MA, I saw this interesting lawn art:

The snake houseI don’t think The Wife™ would green-light that for our residence…

The miles started adding up and I was getting closer to the first controle in Shelburne Falls, MA. I was feeling good — the temperature was rising, there was a nice breeze but no headwinds, and the terrain was hilly enough to be interesting but not enough to hurt (yet). As I cruised along at a good clip, I thought of something I had read about randonneuring: “No matter how good you feel or how bad you feel during a brevet, it will not last.” I think that gem can be attributed to Joe Kratovil, a New Jersey Randonneurs legend, but I can’t find where I originally read it. One thing I am sure of — it is absolutely true. I realized that this ride wouldn’t be quite as pleasant the entire way through so I tried to enjoy this high point.

About nine miles from the controle I saw the first sign for Shelburne Falls outside of Pages, a cool little coffee shop/bookstore. A bunch of riders had stopped here to adjust their gear and I took the opportunity to snap some pictures and remove the arm and leg warmers that had served me so well up to this point.

Shelburne Falls sign

Pages Cafe Pages Cafe Nine miles…doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? Well, when you start hitting some hills and are  overdue for a nice break, it feels like a lot more. Keep the cranks turning! I rolled into Shelburne Falls and quickly found Mocha Maya’s, the coffee shop that served as the first controle. Here’s my Vigorelli leaned up against a tree outside — also note that the Shelburne Falls police department has a reserved parking spot outside the coffee shop. Insert witty comment here.

Mocha Maya's

The brevet fee included a drink and snack at Mocha Maya’s and I opted for a large iced coffee and a chocolate chip cookie. I used the restroom, relaxed for a bit, enjoyed my snack…and then it was time to leave. The next section of the brevet was a 48 mile loop that wandered north into Vermont before ending at the second controle down the street from Mocha Maya’s. This part of the route would include the worst climb of the ride around mile 63 and I wasn’t looking forward to it!

I set off on my way and settled into the ride. I passed some cool looking farms, a bunch of sugar shacks, and some lazy cows laying down on the job!

Lazy cows

Nice farm

I made it to the Vermont border and the halfway point of the ride. This was a big psychological boost for me, as I could now rationalize that every pedal stroke was bringing me closer to my car! However, I was also going through some hilly terrain and it was starting to wear me out a bit.

Welcome to Vermont sign

I finally reached mile 63 and the worst hill of the ride. It did not disappoint! I dropped into my easiest gear and started to slog my way up. A rider in front of me jumped off his bike and started to walk up — I almost did the same, but I knew if I took it slow and just concentrated on controlling my breathing and turning the cranks I would be OK. The climb went on and on for at least a mile or two… I just kept thinking of the Tour de France and how this could be a 20 mile climb up an Alpine peak! My quads were screaming and my heart rate was maxed out, but I kept going. Finally, the end was in sight. I stopped for a snack and a rest at the top and congratulated myself on a good climb. I knew from here on out, the rest of the ride was mostly downhill. Sure, there would be some climbs thrown in there every now and then, but the elevation profile was definitely at its worst during the first half of the brevet.

I cruised back into Massachusetts and passed through this nice covered bridge. Apparently, the bridge was just recently re-opened after an extensive renovation, so I was pretty lucky to be able to ride through it during my first Berkshire brevet. Both of my randonneuring rides so far have passed through covered bridges, a trend I would not mind continuing!

Covered bridgeUp until this point, I had been riding the brevet solo. This time, it wasn’t due to feeling anti-social — I just couldn’t find anyone riding at a pace I liked. This changed briefly as I neared Shelburne Falls again and hooked up with a group of three riders. There was no real conversation (I think we were all pretty tired and ready for a break) but I had a good time riding with them to McCusker’s Market, the second controle. I wanted to stop in the Big Indian tourist shop to see what that was all about, but we had a lunch stop to get to!

Big Indian tourist trap

The brevet provided a nice spread at McCusker’s — half of a wrap (I chose tarragon chicken salad), a water, a banana, and a cookie. I sat outside and enjoyed my lunch, completely forgetting to take any pictures of this nice country market.

OK – time for the final push! I had 41 miles to go to get back to Westfield and there was a touch of climbing to deal with as well. I set off from McCusker’s and found myself once again enjoying the nice scenery of rural Massachusetts.

Field and mountains Open road Open road

I was starting to feel the distance now, and started watching my odometer and wondering why the distance to the finish was decreasing so slowly! I picked up two riders who were a bit unsure of the route. They decided to trust me and my GPS so I pulled them along for a bit. I was happy when one of them went to take a pull at the front to give me a break, but luck was against us as he suffered a flat right away! I offered to stick around and help, but they urged me to keep going and I set off to finish the ride on my own.

I was starting to bonk a bit so I started eating some of my emergency food — Sour Patch Kids! They definitely did the trick and I got a small surge of energy to push me through the last few miles. Unfortunately, here’s where the only unpleasant part of the ride happened. Traffic, which had been pretty light the entire ride, was picking up slightly as we got closer to Westfield, and I had one driver in a giant pickup buzz past me without moving over at all, and a second (also in a massive truck) scream a homophobic slur at me as I pedaled along. That was a bit depressing — I really don’t understand some of the animosity drivers feel towards us cyclists. I mean, just read the comments on this article (written by the mayor of a Texas town, no less!) to see that some drivers truly hate the fact that they have to share the road. By the way… HOLY COW LOOK AT THAT GUY’S HAIR!

I put the ignorant motorists out of my mind and kept going. I passed by the Black Birch Vineyard — at the start, Don had mentioned the vineyard was having an open house. It looked awesome and I almost stopped in but I just wanted to finish the brevet and I was afraid if I stopped here I wouldn’t be able to get myself back on the bike!

Finally, I wheeled into Westfield and made my way back to New Horizons. A smiling Don took my brevet card and noted my time — 10 hours, 10 minutes. Not too shabby for my first time! I grabbed a cold soda, packed my bike up, and drove to the nearest McDonald’s to indulge in the guilty pleasure of a Big Mac. Awful, I know, but I figured if there was ever a time to eat fast food, it was after burning 5,000 calories on a brevet! As I stuffed my face full of burger, I reflected back on my successful ride and the fact that I had just earned my first brevet medal and could now truly call myself a randonneur.

Now, let’s see if I can make it through a 300K…

I am officially a randonneur!

Just a quick post to say that I successfully completed the Shelburne Falls 200K brevet out of Westfield, MA this past Saturday and can now officially call myself a randonneur! It was a good ride that pushed my limits without burying me, and I think I gained some valuable experience that will help me as I work up to the longer brevets. I’m working on a full ride report with some pictures and will post that as soon as it is complete.


RUSA logo

Princeton Populaire 120k ride report

Well, my first populaire is in the books. Here’s how it went down:

I rushed home from work on Friday to pack and get ready. I was hoping to be in bed no later than 10 PM, as I had to wake up around 4 AM to have time to get ready and drive to the start. The Wife™, who is awesome, offered to cook up a batch of Allen Lim’s famous rice cakes so I could focus on packing. That was a huge help. I was running around like a chicken without a head trying to get all my gear together. I couldn’t find my headlight charger, but it had enough of a charge to turn on and I didn’t think I would actually need it during the daylight ride (regardless, we had to demonstrate working lights at the start for insurance purposes). I packed a backup light just in case.

I finally finished packing, helped get the rice cakes wrapped up, and looked at the clock. It was almost midnight! Cursing, I got ready for bed and drifted off to a restless sleep. I woke up at 3 AM after tossing and turning all night. I managed to stay in bed another 30 minutes until I gave up. I was exhausted and had no idea how I was going to ride 75 miles later that morning. It was raining pretty heavily as I packed up the car — I thought about going back to sleep and forgetting this madness, but the forecast promised clear skies by dawn so I forged ahead. I had a slight panic attack when I couldn’t find my Garmin Edge — I ran around for 20 minutes looking for it (finding the missing headlight charger in the process!) until I realized I had put the GPS on the bike the night before so I wouldn’t forget it. Did I mention I was tired?

The drive out to Princeton, NJ was uneventful. The rain eventually stopped, the sun was coming up, and it looked like we might luck out with a pretty nice day. I stopped off at a rest stop to top off my coffee and had two Clif bars for breakfast. When I got to the start, it was pretty easy to find the randonneurs. Bright reflective vests and sashes stood out like beacons in the nearly empty parking lot.

I checked in, got my brevet card, and chatted for a few minutes with Jud (the ride organizer) about the terrain. I finally hit the road shortly after 7 AM. I got about two blocks from the parking lot when I had a nagging feeling like I had left a car window open or something. I almost dismissed the thought and kept riding but I was close enough where it wasn’t a big deal to circle back and check. Good thing I did — I didn’t leave a window open, but I had left my brevet card sitting on my trunk! That would have been a disaster.

Card in hand, I set off for a second time. The riders who had started before me were all out of sight — this was fine with me, as I was feeling a bit anti-social due to lack of sleep and general crankiness. It was a bit cool out and I was really glad I had purchased a new pair of arm warmers — I would’ve been freezing without them. As it was, I was hoping for some hills to help warm up my legs. I got my wish!

I loved all the farm implements that decorated this shed

I loved all the farm implements that decorated this shed

The event description said the ride was hilly, but I was still a bit surprised at some of the terrain. These climbs appeared very steep compared to the Connecticut hills I am used to, but I must say most of them looked worse than they really were. A thousand times worse than the hills, however, was the WIND! There was a vicious headwind I had to fight against almost the entire trip out to Frenchtown. This wind was cold and mean and it just sapped your energy as you pushed against it. I forged onward — the day warmed up a little, I found a rhythm, and I was having a really good time despite the wind.

I wish my yard looked like house, too...

I wish my yard looked like that…my house, too…

The scenery in this part of New Jersey is absolutely beautiful — lots of farmland, big houses with lush lawns, and charming little towns. We crossed over the last covered bridge remaining in the state, which I thought was really cool. There were a few bigger climbs thrown in there, too — nothing super steep, but some long, sustained grades you just had to grind your way up. They couldn’t stop me, however — I just clenched my teeth and slogged along. I was feeling pretty good when I pulled into the Frenchtown controle.

The last covered bridge in NJ

The last covered bridge in NJ

Covered bridge 2I made a rookie mistake at the controle and grabbed a plate of food before having my brevet card signed. This occurred to me as I was stuffing my face full of sandwich and brownie and I quickly found Katie, the RBA for the NJ Randonneurs. Katie is an extremely nice woman and I was impressed that she remembered my name even though we’d met just briefly back at the start. She signed my card and I got back to the serious business of lunch. I felt bad — there were a few other guys at the table I was sitting at, but I didn’t talk to anyone besides saying a quick hello. I was still feeling a bit grouchy from my lack of sleep and I just wanted to finish eating and get back on the road. I was really hoping that that headwind would be a tailwind all the way back!

Loved the way this field and treeline looked...stunning

Loved the way this field and treeline looked…stunning

When I got back on the bike, I had just about half the distance to go. This leg brought us back to the same parking lot we started from, but followed a different route than the one we rode out on. I was enjoying the scenery but not the hills, which were starting to wear me down. I stopped every now and then to eat some Hammer gels and rice cakes and rest my legs. I highly recommend the rice cakes, by the way — they are a great alternative to the sweet, sugary stuff cyclists usually consume on rides like this. Easy to prepare and they taste pretty good, too!

There was one climb around mile 60 that Jud had warned me about at the start – a long 5-6% climb. I had been dreading this climb the entire ride — 5-6% grade didn’t sound too bad, but my experience shows that if a ride organizer or cue sheet mentions a climb, it probably sucks! I finally got to the hill and found it wasn’t as bad as my mind had made it out to be. Sure, it was a grind, and it was pretty long, but I think I climb pretty well and I just got in the zone and kept the pedals turning. And that, I suppose, is the ethos of randonneuring in a nutshell. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single pedal revolution and all that. Just keep those pedals turning and you’ll get there — eventually!

After the long hill I wound up on some nice flats. I finally caught a bit of tailwind and was flying along this stretch. The miles were counting down and I was ready for the ride to be finished — I just wanted to get home and have a celebratory beer! 15 miles, 10 miles, 5 miles… finally, I saw the parking lot and the finish line! I rolled up to the controle and turned in my card. The volunteer manning the controle (Janice, who makes some of the best brownies I’ve ever had!) offered me some snacks. I grabbed some mixed nuts and a soda and called The Wife™ — I had done it! Not only that, but when I checked the ride results later, it turns out I was the first rider to complete the 120K! I was shooting for a time of 5 hours — with stops, I finished in just over 6 hours, with almost exactly 5 hours of saddle time, so I consider that a success!

I packed up the car and drove home, where The Wife™ and I went out to a relaxing dinner where several adult beverages were consumed. When I got back to the house I just wanted to lay down for a minute on the couch. That was around 7 PM, and I didn’t wake up until the next morning.

Overall, I had a great time. The distance and terrain were a bit challenging given my sleep-deprived state, but were nothing I couldn’t handle. The scenery was great – having grown up in NYC I’ve been exposed to urban North Jersey, and I’ve been to the Jersey Shore and the suburbs of South Jersey, but I’ve never been around the Princeton area and seen all of the farmland before! Jersey is nothing if not diverse. I could’ve done without the wind, but if the ride was completely comfortable and easy I wouldn’t have felt like I accomplished anything. I also regret not being a bit more social on the ride, but I think I’ll loosen up as I get more comfortable with the whole rando experience (and get a decent night’s sleep!). Finally, I wish I had taken some more pictures to document the journey — I have this problem on all my long rides, especially when you get towards the end and don’t want to stop.

So, what’s next? I think I’ll be traveling to Westfield, MA for the Berkshire Brevet Shelburne Falls 200K this Saturday. I’m still pretty upset that I have to miss the Ronkonkoma 200K on Sunday — it sounds awesome! — but I’ll make up for it by (hopefully) riding the Bethpage 300K in June.

Brevet packing list – a work in progress

As part of my preparation to ride my first populaire tomorrow, I’ve put together a packing list to make sure I don’t arrive at the end of my two hour drive to Princeton, NJ and realize I forgot my bike (or worse, my legs).

As part of my unending service to you, my dear readers, I am posting my preliminary Cat Six Brevet Packing List here for the world to see. I will be revising this as experience and conditions warrant.

That's value added!

That’s value added!

Cat Six’s Brevet Packing List v1.0 (19 April 2013)

Cycling Clothing

  • Socks
  • Base layer
  • Jersey
  • Shorts
  • Arm warmers (as weather dictates)
  • Gloves
  • Cycling shoes
  • Rain gear / additional cold weather gear (as weather dictates)
  • Heart rate monitor and strap
  • Sunglasses

After-ride Clothing

  • Sneakers
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Pants (never forget your pants!)
  • Shirt
  • Baseball hat (for covering up helmet hair)

Safety Gear

  • Helmet
  • RoadID
  • Reflective vest (required for brevets)
  • Reflective ankle bands
  • Headlight
  • Headlight battery pack (fully charged)
  • Tail light
  • Extra batteries
  • Basic first aid stuff (band aids, disinfectant, etc…)

Bike and Tools

  • Bike
  • Floor pump (for pre-ride inflation – keep in car)
  • Frame pump
  • 2 x spare tubes
  • Patch kit
  • Tire boot (in a pinch, dollar bills will do the trick)
  • Tire levers
  • CO2 dispenser
  • CO2 cartridges
  • Bike multitool
  • Rags
  • Chain lube


  • Allen Lim’s rice cakes
  • Snacks / Hammer gels
  • 2 x water bottles
  • Camelbak (for longer rides – probably not necessary on shorter brevets and populaires)
  • Ziplock bags for trash
  • Breakfast before leaving house

Toiletries / Personal

  • Wallet (with driver’s license, health card, and credit cards)
  • Umbrella
  • Cash
  • Cell phone (fully charged)
  • Deodorant
  • Beach towel (for privacy when changing clothes if necessary)
  • Sunscreen
  • Chamois cream
  • Immodium (lifesaver!)
  • Aspirin


  • Printed cue sheet with names and numbers of event contacts
  • Route file loaded into GPS
  • Garmin GPS
  • GPS charger
  • Clean and lube chain
  • Program address of starting point into car GPS

There you have it! As of right now (19 April 2013) this list is untested — I’m sure I will have updates to make once I have some real-world experience under my belt. I’d love to hear what you guys pack for your long rides and what changes you would make to the above.

Tomorrow’s the big day!

That’s right, tomorrow at the butt-crack of dawn I shall rouse myself from a restful slumber, load the Vigorelli into the car, and drive almost two hours for the chance to ride my bike around in a big circle for several hours at the Princeton Populaire 120K.

Hmmm, doesn’t sound that exciting when I write it out like that…

All kidding aside, I am excited to log my first official randonneuring miles. Populaires are domestic events, sanctioned only by RUSA and not the Audax Club Parisien (ACP), the group that runs Paris-Brest-Paris. This means the 120 km I ride tomorrow will only count towards RUSA awards  (you can’t use populaires as PBP qualifiers, for example). Also, I don’t think you are really supposed to call yourself a randonneur until you complete a brevet (200K minimum)…there is also a Princeton 200K being run tomorrow, but due to time constraints I had to stick to the 120K. I’ll just treat this as a training run and a chance to field test some of my gear.

However, just because it’s a shorter distance than a brevet doesn’t mean the populaire should not be treated seriously! I expect to finish in 5-6 hours, and any ride of that length requires that attention be paid to nutrition. Along with my Hammer gels and Shot Bloks, I will be trying a new supplement that Lance Armstrong is promoting:

It's a hell of a supplement!

It’s a hell of a supplement!

If you want to ride like the pros, you need to act like the pros!

I still need to stop by REI and pickup a reflective vest and a new tail light (both required for the ride). Aside from that, I think I have all the gear I need and I’m feeling pretty confident about the ride. There’s a chance of rain in the morning, but I’m hoping it will hold off and end up being a nice day. I’ll try and take a bunch of pictures and will post a ride report next week. Wish me luck!

Registered for my first rando event

I was planning on riding the Ronkonkoma 200K as my first brevet, but I recently found out I had a scheduling conflict (I promised to run a 5K with a friend and, while I am not terribly happy about missing the Ronkonkoma ride, I am nothing if not a man of my word). I had already missed the Cranbury 200K in New Jersey, so what was an aspiring randonneur to do?

I decided a good compromise was to sign up for the Princeton Populaire 120K being run this coming Saturday. That works out to just under 75 miles, so it will be my longest ride so far this season. I think it’s a good move – I’m very comfortable going that distance even this early in the season (I had doubts if I was ready for a 200K!) and this will give me a chance to get used to the format of a brevet and test out my gear before committing to the longer rides. I won’t get a medal for finishing the populaire, but it will count as mileage (kilometerage?) towards breaking my RUSA cherry.

RUSA logo

In training news, late work nights and some bad weather have kept me from riding a lot outdoors, but I stuck my hybrid on the CompuTrainer so I can keep riding indoors. Last week worked out to be a rest week – I was planning on making up some mileage over the weekend but opted to spend my time on some family obligations instead. Monday I was back on the trainer working through Sufferfest videos. They really do kick your ass, but I really enjoy them!

From the feel of things, I am getting stronger. I’m due for another field test to adjust my FTP – if I don’t get outside to ride tonight, I’ll probably do that instead.

As the season picks up, I should have some more ride reports and interesting stuff to talk about. I know it must be boring reading about me spinning on an indoor trainer again. Also, I am planning to do some gear and training tool reviews soon – drop me a comment if there is anything in particular you’d like reviewed and I’ll see what I can do!

A quick after-work ride

Yesterday was the best Spring weather we’ve had in the NYC metro so far this year. The high was around 80, it wasn’t too windy or cloudy, and the first blooms of sundresses had appeared in Midtown.

The loveliest of summer blooms

The loveliest of Summer blooms

I raced out of work as soon as possible and jumped on the 5:26 PM Bridgeport-bound train out of Grand Central. I had one mission – get home and on the bike for a quick ride before it got too dark out. I flew into the driveway, ran into the house, gave The Wife™ a quick kiss and a “Igottarungonnatryandgetaridein!” before yanking on some bike shorts and shooting out the door.

I did a quick 10 mile loop down to New Canaan and back. Right from the beginning I felt fast – it felt like the Vigorelli was just pulling me along. I sped along on the flats, flew up the hills, and was in downtown New Canaan before I knew it. I immediately turned around and started back, dreading this One Big Hill that sits between New Canaan and home.

That hill was a bitch, but it still felt remarkably easier than the last time I rode it. You might think it’s been awhile since I rode this route and maybe my memory was skewed, but no, I rode this particular hill just a couple of weeks ago, and that was on the Escape with its triple chainring! Of course, on that day the hill climb was at the tail end of a 27 mile ride and I was bonking a bit towards the end, but still — yesterday it felt easy.

I got home in record time — literally. Usually on my little “training rides” I average somewhere around 14-15 MPH. This trip I pulled an average of 16.4 MPH with a top speed of 35 MPH! Not too shabby (for me, anyway). The sample size is too small to know if this was just a good day or if all this training is really bringing my stats up. This loop is a staple of my summer morning rides, so I should know pretty soon if this was a fluke or a real increase in power.