Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Accidental Errandonneur

I never meant to be an Errandonneur.

I'm busy.   I work long hours.    I drive too much.  Who has time to do 12 errands by bike in 12 days??  Not me.  And so, I put it out of my mind.

Or, so I thought.

Yesterday was one of those days that those of us in the Pacific NorthWet dream of during the long cold wet dreary winters.   Clear blue skies.  Light breezes.  Temperatures approaching *gasp* 60 degrees.

I had a Bicycle Transportation Alliance board meeting in town to attend at 2pm.   "Such a beautiful day", I thought.  "I should ride my bike!"    Still, the Errandonnee Challenge never crossed my mind.  I was just looking for an excuse to ride.

Off I went, up and over the West Hills, riding my fast bike, aptly named The TroubleMaker.   13.5 miles and 1,200 feet later, I burst into my meeting, 5 minutes late, more than a little sweaty, but grinning from ear to ear.

Two hours of meetings later, I decide to head over to the bike shop.  My rear wheel has been making a funny creaking noise, so having the awesome guys at Cyclepath take a look seemed like a good idea.   Since I was headed in that direction, Megan at the BTA asked me to ferry a bottle of beer over to Bill, the owner of Cyclepath, who is a wonderful BTA supporter.   Thanks to Megan's request, I learned that a rather large bottle of beer fits into my water bottle cage.   Good to know!

Sweetpea outside the BTA office with adult beverage in the bottle cage!

Off I went, over the Broadway Bridge and up Williams Avenue.   Lost in the pleasure of spinning my legs, I completely missed my turn towards MLK Blvd.   A mile or so later, I realized my error and turned around.   Bonus miles!

The guys at the bike shop are super friendly.  After explaining my issue, they quickly reproduced the creak in my fancy-pants Zipp 404 PowerTap wheel.  Over the next hour and a half, they tried everything they could think of.   Swap the skewer.  Still creaked.  Swap the tube (could have been the valve rattling in the deep rim).  Still creaked. Anything and everything that could be lubed, greased or cleaned was lubed, greased or cleaned, and the wheel still creaked.  Once every rotation without fail.

And so I learned that even the experts get stumped sometimes!   The bike will be going back to the shop for an overnight play date after the shop consults with Zipp and PowerTap.

Cycling buddy Asta lives near the shop, so I sent her a text to find out if she'd had dinner yet.   Nope, she hadn't.  She swung by, and we went off in search of a food cart pod where we could eat and not leave our bikes unattended.  I don't let The TroubleMaker out of my sight!  We ended up at the cart pod on 6th.  The taco cart had a long line, but the soft tacos turned out to be sooooo worth it.   Sadly I did not take a picture of the deliciousness.  I was too busy inhaling it.

I learned that my definition of "medium hot" was clearly not the same as the owner's.  Hooooo-WHEE that was HOT hot sauce!   Yummers!

Meandering around town, from BTA to bike shop to taco truck to MAX.  From Strava.

After dinner, I headed off towards the MAX train to take me back over the West Hills.  I wouldn't have minded climbing back up and over, but it was dark now and much cooler.  In my sunny weather enthusiasm, I'd failed to pack a jacket or long fingered gloved.  While the climb would be fine, the descent on the other side would turn me into a popsicle!

The Hillsboro-bound train passed me as I approached the nearest station.   Knowing I would miss it there, I instead raced across town towards the Goose Hollow station, confident that I could beat it there, thanks to all the stops it had to make in between.  Sure I enough, I beat that train to Goose Hollow by a minute or so.  Sweet!

Once off the train, it was a flat, easy 3 mile spin home.

But still, thoughts of errandonneuring had not crossed my mind.  It wasn't until reading Mary's blog update today that I realized I'd spent most of yesterday being an Accidental Errandonneur!

So, 3 errands and 23.7 miles later, I guess I'm well on my way to errandonneuring success.  Perhaps I'll go to the grocery store tonight....

Strava files:
From home to the BTA meeting
BTA to bike shop to dinner to train!
From train to home

Friday, January 24, 2014

Proof of Passage

Randonneurs are required to obtain "proof of passage" at certain points along a course.   To facilitate this, we carry a control card.  As the sport was created a long time ago, the permissible methods were determined to be a stamp or signature on the card, a receipt from a nearby business, or the answer to a pre-determined question (the answer to which could only be found by going to that location.)

A very long control card for a very long ride.

The point, of course, is to prove that the rider did not short-cut the course.   So, controls are placed in such a manner that the rider MUST ride from Point A to Point B along a specific path because to do otherwise would result in a rider missing a control and thereby being disqualified.

Being an old sport full of long and storied traditions, some folks are understandably reluctant to change or modernize any aspect of the rules.   I understand that.  I really do.   But, the unfortunate side effect of that reluctance, however, is that it sometimes results in courses that have less than ideal routing.  For example, if the shortest distance between two points is a busy road, a route designer might choose the busier road because the longer (but lower traffic) road might require one or more controls.  Too many controls on a route become troublesome because the rider has to stop a lot.

Road signs like these make for great info controls!

Similarly, a course might be unridable on certain days of the week or certain times of the day because the business at the control location is not open during those times.

I propose that we consider allowing the use of GPS tracks to provide proof of passage documentation.   One of the arguments against this is that GPS tracks can be altered in Excel, allowing someone to cheat and fake a ride.  Whenever this topic come us for discussion on our national rando email list, someone invariably chimes in with "the rules are the rules.  If you don't like them, just go ride your bike."

In fact, this topic came up for discussion again just this week.  I decided to write out my thoughts in response (in purple, below).  First quoted is an excerpt from another list member, and then my response.

>> In the absence of a good explaination (which was the essence of the question in my first post), I am left to conclude there simply isn't any.  Rules are rules.  They have been handed down to us and that's that.  Simply accept them as they are and participate in randonneuring, or don't.  I realize this doesn't bother most of us, but it bothers me for some reason.  I guess I just like the world to make logical sense. 

The quill pen and the mimeograph machine were handed down to us as well.   Yet we no longer use them.  Instead these concepts were updated and refined into something better, and the users of writing implements and duplicating machines are the happier for it. 

I'm always somewhat bemused by this idea that there is no room for change or innovation in randonneuring.   Just because certain ideas or technologies did not exist at the time randonneuring was "invented" doesn't mean that finding a useful way to integrate these technologies into the sport is a bad thing.   (And HAD they existed at the time randonneuring was invented, I have no doubt that our forefathers would have integrated them from the start.)

Cyclometers didn't exist when rando began, yet now we obsess about cue sheets down to the tenth of a mile and riders are put out when the cue sheet is not accurate to that degree and in agreement with their cyclometers.   Very few people ride without at least a cyclometer, and yet no one is suggesting that these riders be disallowed the use of this convenient "modern" technology.

Because of the very small chance that someone might spoof a GPS, the usefulness of this technology for documenting the completion of a permanent route (or the arrival at a control) at a certain date and time is disallowed for all, 99.999% of whom are honest, trustworthy individuals.   That's throwing out the baby with the bathwater, IMHO.

The use of a GPS file as proof of passage and completion within time limits is deemed unacceptable documentation for something as "meaningless" as permanents (meaningless because they qualify you for nothing other than distance awards).  Yet we accept as ironclad proof the scribbled notation of time and initials by a random person on something as important as a PBP qualifying brevet card.    The logical conclusion then is that it's easier to spoof a GPS file than it is to fake a pen scribble....  Or, perhaps not.

As a GPS track is *at least* as good documentation as an incorrectly time-stamped receipt from a backcountry store, or the illegible scribble from a random pen, I would suggest that we not consider it total rando heresy to allow a permanent owner to choose to allow the track to be valid documentation that a route was completed (or a control was reached) as cued, on the date requested, and within the time limits.  


As Norm pointed out, "all of the methods we currently employ to discourage <cheating> are trivially easy to beat."    I would therefore submit that rather than spend so much time worrying about throwing up <ineffective> roadblocks to thwart the 0.001% who might be tempted to cheat, that we instead consider the ways in which we can fulfill RUSA's stated goals of, per the website, "promoting randonneuring in the US" and "building a future for randonneuring in the US that encourages member participation". 

The original poster (Chicken Sandwich) was looking for a way to create a route that is available 24 hours a day.  Documentation via GPS track would facilitate this.  Ergo, it's use encourages Chicken Sandwich to create the route and encourages members to ride it.   This should be considered A Good Thing, in keeping with RUSA's stated goals.

I recently had a permanent rider on one of my routes arrive at a control only to discover that the only business at that location was closed (he got there before the store opened for the day).  He photographed himself with the store in the background.  He even stuck his watch (who wears one of THOSE anymore?) into the photo.   Strict adherence to RUSA's rules would suggest that I DNQ him because he didn't provide the only "acceptable" control documentation, which was a receipt he was unable to obtain.   Would this have fulfilled the goal of encouraging this member to continue to to participate in randonneuring?   On the contrary, I believe it would have been hugely DIScouraging to the rider.  So, I accepted his digital documentation.  

We have a local 200K permanent on a lovely route that, thanks to the many opportunities for short cuts has no less than TEN information controls and something like five timed controls.  FIFTEEN CONTROLS on a 200K.   Lovely route, truly.  But I've only ridden it once because stopping 15 times in 125 miles is less than ideal. (I challenge you to keep your perm card dry while answering 10 info controls in the Pacific NorthWet. :-) )   So while the route certainly discourages the potential 0.001% from cheating, I'd argue that the overwhelming concern with cheating that requires 10 info controls, coupled with the reluctance to accept more modern versions of proof of passage, is also serving to discourage honest riders from riding the route as well.


RUSA is filled with bright minds, enthisiastic riders, and phenomenal volunteers & leadership.  I believe that as a community we can come up with methods to update some of the archaic rules in ways that respect the long and storied traditions of randonneuring, while encouraging new riders to become members, and existing members to ride more often.


Monday, January 6, 2014

What Do Randonneurs Eat?

I'm always hungry....

There are as many ways of approaching eating for rando success as there are randos.   When I first started randonneuring, I would sometimes have challenges with nausea and/or bloating on longer rides.  That’s mostly gone away, as I’ve learned what my stomach can and can not tolerate.   

For example, I CAN tolerate a peanut butter/banana/bacon "sandwich.

Still, I’ve never specifically tracked my exact intake for a ride, nor tried to calculate the nutritional value/caloric content of my intake.

Recently, I decided to track everything from start to finish, including my pre-ride and post-ride meals.   Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly…

Pre-ride (~850 calories)
Bowl of oatmeal with dried currants and maple syrup @ home
Grande nonfat pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks enroute

During the ride, in no particular order:

(solids ~1700 calories)
1 banana
1 package (1.375 oz) honey roasted peanuts
1 Gu gel
1 PayDay bar (1.85 oz)
1 Kashi Granola Bar (trail mix flavor)
3 tablets Perpetuem solids
2 pieces “trail putty” (peanut butter/honey/powdered milk/flaxmeal)
1 egg salad sandwich

(liquids ~ 1100 calories)
3 bottles Perpetuem (café latte flavor)
2 canned Starbucks Doubleshots
1 bottle water with a Nuun tab
1 bottle plain water

Post-ride @ the brewpub (~1400 calories)
8oz hamburger with blue cheese and bacon on a kaiser roll
waffle fries
Pint of Stout

Total caloric intake for the day: ~5,050.

Sign me up.

Estimated caloric burn (24 hr period):
9 hours turning the pedals at 400 calories per hour = 3600
2 hours off the bike (controls, etc.) at 200 calories per hour = 400
7 hours sleeping @ 50 calories/ hr = 350
6 hours (the rest of my day) simply living @ 100 calories/hour = 600

Total estimated burn for the day ~ 4,950.

All the numbers are estimated but the consumption calories are based on product labeling, etc.   The burn calories are based on testing I’ve had done in the past, plus online calculators for averages of types of activity like sleeping etc.

I was quite interested to see that when all was said and done, the calories in and calories out worked out to be roughly the same.  I’m sure there’s a reasonably large margin of error to all my estimates, but nonetheless I was still surprised to see them come out so close.


The thing about randonneuring is that you never know what you're going to find/forage, and sometimes you just have to be flexible.

If you find yourself in a place like this at oh-dark-thirty,

you'll need to be willing to eat whatever you can find that looks the least toxic, like this:

On the other hand, you might luck into a wonderful donut shop or coffee shop!

Try the bacon maple bars in Sandy, OR
Coffee and pumpkin bread in Camas, WA
Bagel sandwiches at Rosies in Mill City, OR.

One of my favorite things about travelling to ride a brevet or perm is the chance to try the "regional delicacies" such as:

Hawaiian mochi
Pecan waffles in Key West, FL

Snack bars in the UK.
Spam musubi in Hawaii.  Kickass rando food.  Salt, carbs & fat.  Yummers!

I didn't try the "Beef" in Arizona, though.  Too bad.

International events provide a great opportunity to try new foods as well.   Sometimes good, sometimes somewhat less than appetizing.

Roadside crepes in France - PBP 2011

The biggest fish sticks in England?  - LEL 2013
Jeff Tilden demonstrates the ride-while-eating-baguette skill necessary for any successful completion of PBP.
Control food on LEL 2013.  It tasted better than it looked, but just barely.

Breakfast food seems to make GREAT brevet food, no matter what time of day you eat it.

Denny's in Arlington, WA

Omelettes at the Little Red Barn in WA - Fleche NW 2013
Of course, sometimes you're just too damn tired to eat the food, even when you know you need it.

Fleche power nap

Table nap.  Dreux control.  PBP 2011.

Wakey, wakey.  Your food is here!

Of course, the best part of a brevet, is the celebration with adult beverages and good friends.

Cidre in Eugene, Oregon with Theo & Lesli

Curbside Gin & Tonics, courtesy of Theo, to celebrate the successful completion of the ORR Spring 2013 600K, aka The Hillpocalypse 600K

 Wishing you many happy miles and many happy meals!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Coffeeneuring #7: Coffeeshop Without Walls - Sunday, November 3rd

Michael W's wife Allison purchased a Chemex coffee maker for Michael's most recent birthday.   With the two of them having an infant at home, getting out for coffeeneuring can be a challenge.  So Michael invited a small group of us over to his home for a "Without Walls" coffeeneuring adventure!

I rode my bike over to Beaverton with the intent to take the MAX over the hill and meet Bill in town for the ride to Michael's.   The trees are still a riot of color.

On the way to Beaverton

Upon getting to Beaverton, I realized that I was early.  Very very early.  As in spring-ahead-fall-behind kind of early.  Yup, the clocks had changed and I was an hour ahead of time.

What else to do but have a pre-coffee coffee?!  I popped into Edge Coffee and had a latte while I killed time.

Showing off my LEL vest.

Edge gets it.
 Eventually I met Bill & we rode over to Micheal's house.  Micheal explained to us his process for roasting beans with a popcorn popper!

Green beans
The secret roasting equipment

Birthday Chemex

Bikes and coffee.  Photo courtesy of Bill Alsup.
The family is gluten free and Allison has a keen interest in gluten free baking.  I brought over some gluten free banana muffins I'd made the night before, and we had a long conversation about the keys to GF baked goods.

And of course, we spent a fair bit of time admiring the newest member of the family, Miss Marjorie!

Someone finally woke up!

Photo courtesy of Bill Alsup

Roundtrip miles for the day: 20.8

Total coffee mile for the challenge: 296.1

Coffeeneuring # 6: Bridge of the Gods - Sunday, October 27th

Yesterday's coffeeneuring ride with Calvin featured Oregon's rural countryside.  For today's ride, I wanted to show him some very different terrain.  We decided to do the Bridge of the Gods Loop.

My partner Jeff and I picked up Calvin in our car for the drive out to Troutdale.    Kevin met us there.  
While one can start a BOG loop pretty much anywhere, the "traditional" ride start is at McMenamin's Edgefield, where there is ample parking and, more importantly, ample beer in the pub at the conclusion of the ride!

The weather was crappy but our spirits were high as we set out.  The bike path along the Columbia River is always beautiful.

Marine Drive Bike Path.  Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo.

Crossing the I205 Bridge into Washington State is noisy and nearly all uphill, but at least there's a nifty bike path right down the middle.

Jeff crosses the I205 Bridge.  Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo.

With all the rain, we were looking forward to our coffeeneuring spot.  The Caffe Piccolo Paradiso at mile 20 in Camas was perfect.

Blurry photo, apropos of the rainy day!

Obligatory bike shot

Breakfast or dessert?

Vanilla Latte & Pumpkin Bread

My riding buddies are kinda cute, doncha think?  Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo.

 Sadly, we couldn't stay warm & cozy in the cafe, so we headed out into the rain.

Start of the climb up Hwy 14.  Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo

Lots of mist and rain.   Pretty in it's own way.  Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo

At the ride's mid-point, we crossed back into Oregon via the Bridge of the Gods.  The nice folks in the jeep in front of us paid our tolls!

Bridge of the Gods.  Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo

We had a sit-down lunch in the Charburger.  Window seat with great views of the bridge!

Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo
 It's been pointed out to me that we sure do eat a lot of food on these rides.   Yes, yes we do.

Not going hungry.

Leaving the Charburger, we found this fresh kill in the parking lot.  Looks like this guy is going to be on someone's wall soon.

Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo

From Cascade Locks west to just before Multnomah Falls, we followed the historic Columbia River bike trail.   More fairy tale forest.

Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo

You'd think  they could have come up with a better solution here... Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo.
Leaving the trail, we followed the Old Columbia River Hwy, passing many waterfalls along the way, including the ever-spectacular Multnomah Falls.

Multnomah Falls

We climbed to the high bridge

If you know where to look, you can see Jeff & Kevin!

After leaving the falls, the road climbs up to Crown Point, for one last killer view down to the Columbia River before the road heads back down to Troutdale.

The view of the river from Crown Point never gets old.

Fading daylight at Crown Point.

Finally back at McMenamin's Edgefield, we had dinner and beer, a nice reward after nearly 82 miles, much of it in the rain.

Photo courtesy of Calvin Boo

Seriously creepy 3D artwork over our dinner table.

Coffeeneuring mileage for the weekend: 159 miles!