Monday, March 26, 2018

Borrego Springs 400k Brevet

Willie Hunt's Borrego Springs 400km and 600km brevets are always a challenge. A lot of the route is along remote, poor quality roads that really test the riders' self-sufficiency and equipment. This year was no exception.

Dark and raining

We started at Willie's house in Lake Forest at 5am in the cool, damp night and headed downhill to the beach. Last year I had not worn enough layers to handle a 25mph descent in 37F temps so this year I wore extra layers and silk glove liners. No complaints this year.

Descending Hwy 133 to the coast

The first info control caught some riders out as they missed the downhill turn and had turn around and climb back up the hill. My rwgps app gave me the cue just in time. We had to write down the number of the house on the corner.

I always hope the house owner isn't awake, paranoid, and armed
We headed north on a quiet PCH to the Shell gas station at Warner. Some of us wanted a hot breakfast so we ate across the road at the Jack-in-the-Box. It was good.

Jack-in-the-Box, best food for 200 miles
Then we headed back south on the beach path to the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) which was unusually quiet so we were able to maintain a good pace. Because it was so early in the day we still had a slight headwind which quickly gave up all sense of direction and just gusted randomly.

An unusually quiet beach path
Pacelineing behind The Brat.
Alongside the 91 freeway

We continued up the SART to the end, then I decided to stop to refuel at the 76 gas station on Green River Road and somehow lost the group I was with. No matter, we rode the usual route through Norco onto the upper SART, took the detour on Jurupa (the SART reopens this section in late April), and onto San Bernardino for the next control.

More gas station cuisine
At the G&M gas station I noticed a randonneur who I knew was not on the ride, arrive with a group of the 600k riders. He told me he had arranged to meet his friends and ride 30 or so miles with them. This is against the rules and can be grounds for a DQ.

Now we had a long climb up San Timeteo Canyon road to the top of the Banning Pass at 3000'. Last year it was pretty hot and I had to take a shade nap at the Shell gas at the top but this year was perfect so I just grabbed some food and kept going. We picked up a strong tail wind as we rode towards Cabazon. Unfortunately the road (Apache Trail) hasn't been maintained in 50 years and has massive wheel grabbing cracks that I had to bunny hop. It's downhill, and with the tailwind we were coasting at 30mph so I had to be very alert. I spoke to Shai (fixie) after the ride and he pointed out that he can't bunny hop on a fixie. Ow!

Somewhere on this stretch I lost a water bottle. I wish I could have got some video but I didn't want to take my hands off the handlebars even for a second.

Eventually we reached smooth(er) pavement and the wind picked up through the pass so that I was coasting at 35mph and could still feel a strong wind on the backs of my legs.

Coasting through Cabazon
The tailwind and downhill continued onto the shoulder of the 111 to Palm Springs. As the route turns around and heads back West after Salton City, I knew we would pay for all this. I think I made contact here with Wei for a while.

Shoulder of the 111 headed to Palm Springs
We meandered through Palm Springs for a while then ended up on Varner which I remembered from last year because it is possibly the worst stretch of maintained road I've seen for a while (Apache Trail isn't maintained). I was riding with Wei now - we joined up at the prior control, and even though I warned him, I think Varner caught him by surprise. I turn my video on before hitting Varner because only video does it justice.

We got to the info control in Indio in daylight so I knew I was on a better time that last year. All that tailwind had sped me up.

Info control in Indio with Wei
We still seemed to have a tailwind as we got the Arco before the final climb to Borrego Springs. Even though it's not a control, it's essential to stop here because there is nothing but pain and fear for the next 28 miles.

Last stop before the death march
As Wei and I left the Arco we started climbing into a 30-40 mph headwind on very rough road. Some stretches are as steep as 7% and I found myself riding at 3.2 mph so I walked them at 2.8 mph instead which gave my legs and backside some relief. I fact there were 3 sections I walked in the end, mainly because I felt they were too dangerous to ride. The sand was sheeting across the road. I really wish I could have got some video but there was no way I was taking my hands off the handlebars.

Wei went on ahead and as I stopped to eat a packet of GoCubes, I ended up with a group that included Terri and (I think) Charlie. The last 10 miles are slightly downhill and we got some relief from the wind so we rolled into Borrego Springs at 2am at 17 mph.

I got five hours sleep, then we waited nervously for Pete to show up at 26:40. Twenty minutes to spare - no problem. Then we climbed onto the minibus that Willie had rented for us (great idea) and were chauffeured back to the start. Brilliant!

As we were driven home in luxury we passed many of the 600k riders toiling up Montezuma Valley Road. I always wondered why anyone would take a nice flat 400k and ruin it with climbing. I guess it takes all sorts. I take my hat off to them - I couldn't do it.

I completed my Mondail award on this ride. Only took me 15 years!

Monday, March 12, 2018

One man's road closure is another man's bike path

Amber and I rode my Lucky Greek 100k permanent populaire on Sunday. It had rained all Saturday and the storm didn't pass until early Sunday morning. We started at 10am and I decided to ride my Trek 520 as it has 32mm tires and mudguards. There was a lot of standing water and mud on the trail.

When we got to Martha McLean park there was a trail closure sign with a detour. We kept going anyway because I always like to know why I'm risking my life in traffic and found the trail has been dug up and replaced with a plowed field and also fenced off. The closure is all the way along the sewage works - a section we normally try and pass as quickly as possible due to the smell. We didn't want to retrace our route two miles so we picked our bikes up and started walking. That was a mistake. Our shoes became caked with mud and navigating the fence at the far end was difficult and slightly dangerous.

We spent five minutes knocking the mud off our cleats at the far end and agreed to take the detour on the way back. We found the nice sign that explained the reason for the closure and noticed the trail is expected to be re-opened in April so my Night Audax ride should not be impacted.

A few miles down the road there was another sign saying Rincon was closed with a gate that we walked around. I decided to check that closure out as well. When we got part way down Rincon we saw half the road was flooded so we rode on the other half. As there was no traffic on the road this was pretty sweet. This time, ignoring the road closure paid off. It was like having a deluxe bike path for a mile.

We got to the Lucky Greek hungry so we ate too much (like I need an excuse). By the time we got back to Rincon on the return leg it was open and we had to deal with the usual traffic. We took the detour on Jurupa to get around the trail closure. Jurupa turns out to have a nice bike lane and was almost as pleasant as the trail. If the trail is not open in time for the Night Audax I guess I can live with the detour.

Just before we entered the detour on the way back we encountered two cyclists coming the other way that had just traversed the same trail closure we had. One was covered in mud - apparently he didn't quite have the bike handling skills required to ride a road bike through a plowed field. It was kind of funny but he wouldn't have enjoyed the joke. It's interesting how bloody-minded cyclists can be when you close our bike paths. I don't think the people who make these decisions appreciate how much we value them.

Monday, March 5, 2018

I know lot of crazy people

This weekend past saw the wettest Five Rivers 300k brevet ever. It was so wet there were actually rivers.

I had 36 riders signed up in total. Two rode the staff ride, 22 started the public ride and 20 finished it.

The weather forecast all week had been confident there would be heavy rain the day before the ride and light rain the day of the ride. In addition, Parks and Rec. had issued press releases saying the section of the SART from Taft to Memory Lane would be closed while they dealt with the homeless problem. Glenn Pinson was nice enough to scout out a detour for that 4.5 mile stretch of the route.

The storm scheduled for the day before never really arrived. There were some light showers, but nothing much. After I registered the riders that evening, I drove down to Yorba Linda park and jumped on my bike. My first task was to check the SART access off of Lakeview which had been locked on the day of the staff ride. It was unlocked for me so I didn't have to do anything illegal.

I rode on down to Taft where there was a soft barrier across the SART that I could move to one side. I continued on but noticed a security guard sitting on the SART at Katella. I don't know if he was being paid to stop homeless people returning or to stop legitimate trail users, but I decided to have the riders use the detour.

I returned to Taft, moved the barricade back into place, and rode on the detour. It wasn't too bad, being mostly right turns and with wide traffic lanes most of the way. I really wish Parks and Rec had set up detour signs. The SART is like our 91 freeway and no-one would consider closing the 91 for three months without detour signs. On the way back on the SART to my car I passed a sheriff's car patrolling along the SART. I think I was as surprised to see him as he was me. As I had a massive pair of bolt-cutters on my aerobars, I'm glad he didn't stop me. It could have been awkward.

It finally started raining about 15 minutes before the ride started and my riders endured 30 minutes of moderate rain. After that most of them experienced little more than scattered showers. There was at least one spill from the slick trail and the usual number of flats you expect when the pavement is wet. Alan called me at mile 40 to say he needed to DNF. He seemed to have a stomach problem that left him exhausted. Greg O ran out of energy or at least "joie de la bicyclette" and lyfted himself home later in the day.

Doug rode a 12 hour 300k in his velomobile and caught me in the shower. I seriously was not expecting anyone to complete an R60 in those conditions. Shai came in an hour later on his fixie so I ordered pizza and soda around 7:30. Riders started drifting in a little after eight with tales of flooded underpasses and a locked gate on the Rio Hondo that wasn't there two weeks previously on the staff ride.

I ordered more pizza at 10 and every last bite was gone by midnight. The event officially finished at 02:10 (ten minute credit for the detour) and Mel, Pete, and Keith showed up at 01:44 which was good because I was getting a little worried about them.

Congratulations to all those who completed this ride. It was one to remember. For those of you planning your first PBP next year, this was a great opportunity to test your gear against the kind of weather you will probably have to deal with in France.