Category Archives: Rides and Randonnees

Good rides in and around Portland. Or just good riding adventures, sometimes with the Oregon Randonneurs

Guest Post: Wet and Wonderful

Though I haven’t been doing much in the way of organized randonneuring lately, guest writer Dieter Loibner can fill in the gaps for me:) Get psyched!:)

Oh, so February. Coulda slept in. Coulda watched the Olympics. Or the NBA All Star weekend. Or read a book. But nooo. Up at Zero Dark Thirty, in the saddle an hour later, just in time to catch the first raindrops on what promised to be wild day. Why, the question was posed, would one ride a bicycle 140 miles in the rain?

Because, really, what else is there to do?

the nutty side(The nutty side: Yeah, it was that early. Yeah the numbers were that bad. And yeah, these are Celsius degrees on my weather app…)

After getting angrily honked at by the only car on the road, Hughart and I presented ourselves at the Bybee Starbucks for coffee, sugar and a 0600 time stamp before hustling off on Dave Parsons’ Volcanoes vs. Farmland 200. Some smart wimps did it on Feb 1, on a lovely day by all accounts. We on the other hand picked the lousiest forecast of the month, figuring that we need to get in a tough ride so we can enjoy the soft ones even more.

Dampness turned to wetness and into sogginess by the time we checked in at the Barton control. Pace was slow, but spirits were high and after restocking some carbs, we tackled the yo-yo portion of this loop. Fisher’s Mill, Ridge Road, Buckner Creek, up and down, up and down. The volcanic hinterlands tested the cardio on the inclines (11% tops, per Hughart’s gee-whiz instruments) and the cojones while schussing down into the gorges, dodging potholes and patches of loose gravel.

photo 1(Big hill, small wheels: Mr. Hughart in full orange combat gear, conquering the Boring lava fields. Credit: Dieter Loibner)

On the descents we got lashed by mad drops that came hard and fast. My “waterproof” gloves had a rabid case of continence: the water that went in never drained. And my Gucci bike bell got so wet, it lost its bing. But rain can be fun too, if you learn to listen to the incessant drumming on the helmet cover, the jacket, the pants and the map sleeve. Random splatter eventually becomes a symphony of drip.

By the time we reached Canby we were nearly in the hole, but switched into cruise mode to traverse the flatlands, the Champoeg State Heritage Area before rolling into Newberg. Crossing the Willamette via the St. Paul Hwy Bridge on 219 was the only unpleasant stretch of the ride, and mercifully short at that.

Lunch at Chapters restored caloric balance and core temp, which made the next leg to North Plains a cinch. With a brisk southerly tailwind we got there presto to fortify us once more for that last climb.

But turning east, the friendly following breeze suddenly had become a raging gale that wanted to blow us sideways. We lowered the right shoulder to lean into it as the power lines were humming in ever-higher notes to urge us on.

Turning left onto Old Cornelius Pass at the Rock Creek Tavern, and starting up the hill with water cascading from drainage pipes and bubbling up from storm drains, a strange sensation of euphoria took hold. There was nowhere else to be and nothing else to do. One with the road, the ride and the rain. Nirvana? Nah,  that’s been flogged to death. Let’s just call it a real happy moment.

On Skyline the steady rain was upgraded to Ogygian deluge. With liquid matter splashing up from the road, it felt like riding through Salmon Street Springs. And then the water stopped. Poof. Someone flipped a switch. In the matter of seconds, it went from downpour to blue sky. Ha, the opportunist in me suddenly was wide awake: Time to stop. Time to change into the dry jacket and gloves that were stashed in the saddlebag.

More (dry) happiness on the descent of Germantown Rd. and coasting back into the city. Got honked at again, but on a friendly note. A car went by, all its occupants waving. Maybe they liked Day-Glo orange helmet covers.

Screen shot 2014-02-25 at 10.55.22 AM(Lovely loop: 200 pretty kilometers, even when ridden on a dog of a day)

Toward the end, clearly under the influence of bike brain, we rode down Milwaukie, which is barely tolerable in light traffic, let alone at evening rush hour. It’s the prescribed route, but next time we’ll take the Springwater path to Spokane and backtrack to Bybee and the finish. It might add one bonus mile, but it’s a much better way to end this lovely loop in style.

Yes, it was wet. And it was magic.

Glad I didn’t sleep in.


Guest Post: A Year on the Roads

Welcome back to Dieter Loibner, who recently finished the last ride of his R12 challenge. What’s an R12 challenge? And what did it teach him? Read on! :) (And congratulations Dieter!)

morning_sun©Dieter Loibner

Okay, it’s over. Done and dusted. Twelve rides, around 200 kilometers each. That amounts to approximately 1500 miles, stretched out over 12 months. Those who rarely ride, shake their heads. “He’s nuts!” While those who really ride, could care less. “Wow, what a weenie.”

I’m a relative rookie to Randonneuring, so committing to a dozen rides (or Randonnées, hence the acronym R12) was a new challenge. In the process, I saw some stout countryside along the routes authorized by the Oregon Randonneurs and got wise to what it means to “ride around the calendar”: Slithering down Helvetia Road on patches of black ice. Getting parched by the sun while chasing the clock between Salem and Wilsonville. Wheezing through thin air up on Mount St. Helens.

up_yer_ash!200©Dieter Loibner(check out the bullet holes in that sign!)

I also learned about bike fit and maintenance, proper nutrition, dress code, packing spares and tending to the machine that provided motive power. However, the most valuable lesson was the calibration of self-assessment. I found the reality of the ride to be an effective therapy for narcissistic delusions, not just bulging waistlines.

None of that would have happened sans my friend Holden Hughart (RUSA # 5511). Without his patience, mentorship and guidance, I’d still be stuck in the loose gravel on Stag Hollow Road or bushwhacking for info control question # 4 on Pine Creek. If it wasn’t for him, I’d never have started the challenge, let alone finished it. Sadly, an injury cut short his R12 bid, but by that time I had gained enough confidence to ride the last few permanents solo.

dieter&holden©Dieter Loibner(Dieter and Holden, R12 buddies:)

Not to forget the people that crossed my course along the way. For example, staggering into Carlton Corners, stark raving mad with cold and hypoglycemia, an angel named Lisa behind the deli counter revived my flagging fortunes with a warm smile and a hot mocha. On the flipside: the jerks. Few and far between, but memorable. The most annoying one deliberately misfired the engine of his P.O.S. hotrod with an ear-shattering bang as he sped past on OR 224 east of Estacada. Not once, but twice.

climbing_hwy503©Dieter Loibner(climbing Highway 503)

Lastly, two notes from the file of bizarre incidents: On January 1, police in riot gear with guns drawn stormed a house in Gaston (population 658) just as we rode by. And in October, only a couple of miles away, on Spring Hill and Withycombe, I encountered a tractor with a lifeless bovine dangling from the front loader, upside down. Judging by the profuse bleeding from its head, the animal had just been slaughtered and was being carted down the road for processing, oozing a river of red on the chip seal.

So yes, life is a box of chocolate. You never know what you’re gonna get. The eclectic experiences I described here involved pedaling a bicycle to the best of my abilities, going places I chose and getting there at my own pace. In doing so I became acutely aware of the freedom and the independence this vehicle affords. And that, besides the camaraderie with other riders, is the key takeaway from a year on the roads.

maggies_buns©Dieter Loibner (randonneuring deliciousness at Maggie’s buns)

Thanks to the organizers of the permanent rides: Susan France, Lynne Fitzsimmons, Ken Mattina, Susan Otcenas and Dave Parsons.

Switching it up

Sometimes, I get grumpy about having to do things: I don’t want to go to work. I know I’ll feel better if I do, but I don’t want to go running. I don’t want to make dinner.

There are whole hosts of things I sometimes petulantly don’t want to do, but usually, it’s not about the thing itself–it’s about being tired of the routine. If I don’t want to go running, it’s probably because I’ve been running the same (or similar) route for too long and I’m starting to get bored. If I don’t want to go to work, perhaps I’m not excited about what I’m currently working on. Generally, switching something up will get me back into it.

This is what happened with last weekend’s OR Randonneurs 100k ride that I was super excited about initially. Somewhere between posting about it on this blog and then actually riding to the start of it, I got to feeling grumpy. I didn’t want to ride a ride I rode last year. I didn’t want to follow a cue sheet. I didn’t want to have this experience that for whatever reason seemed old and tired to me.

What I did want to do was see all the other people riding it, and then do my own thing. Which is what I did. I rode to the start in Forest Grove, hung out with everyone getting ready to ride it, and then took off for my own exploratory ride, all around Forest Grove, Hillsboro, and a long and convoluted way back to and around Portland.

It was exactly what I needed. A ride where I had no idea what to expect put the thrill back into a Saturday full of biking; giving myself total license to take whatever road looked interesting at the time made me all the more excited to be out.

Would I have enjoyed the 100k ride if I’d made myself do it? Probably. I’m sure that once I started it I would have warmed up to the idea. The roads it covers are lovely, and it was a great day for biking. But I’m pretty psyched that I got my own exploratory and meandery bike ride in. Sometimes you’ve gotta switch it up, yknow? :)

I’ve said it before, but seriously–where are the women?

Perhaps you remember that this summer, I had a chance to take a spin on the Death Ride down in California. It was a pretty sweet ride that, because of its out-and-backs, give me plenty of time to see most of the other riders both in front of and behind me. And of those riders, it sure seemed like I saw an awful lot (an awful lot) of men, and not that many women.

So fast forward to today, when I stumbled across the official 2013 Death Ride stats, as posted on their website. Ready?

  • 2,316 men; 467 women.

Rounding up, only 17% of people who rode the Death Ride were women. No fricken wonder it felt like everyone I saw was a man! They all WERE!

Not that I should be particularly surprised, I suppose. Of the members of Randonneurs USA, for example, the USA’s non-competitive, long-distance cycling organization, 18% are women. USA Cycling, a competitive riding organization, has 13% women. Even if you switch sports and hop over to ultra running (where I thought women were much more heavily represented), the numbers I could find float somewhere between 25 and 30% women. For some reason, I thought that there were many more women involved in endurance sports. What’s going on?

Granted, these numbers are often about membership in something, and it’s definitely possible to participate in long-distance cycling or running or whatever without actually being a member of any organization. But when the same sorts of numbers seem to manifest in rides (among others, like the Death Ride) as well, I start to wonder.

What’s the deal, yo?

I know there are many ladies who are into endurance sports. Women are good at endurance sports. Why the underrepresenation? Is it simply that–generalizing, here–women have different priorities? Is it a matter of chicken-and-egg visibility? That is, if you don’t see women doing something, you assume that as a woman you’re not welcome? Do women come to these things later in life, say, if they’re going to have kids?

I really have no idea. I’m baffled. And I’m not sure why it bothers me so much. All told, I don’t really mind biking or running with a bunch of dudes–but it smacks of inequality to me, somehow. I mean, it’s not (I don’t think) like anyone is actively trying to keep women away from endurance sports. On the contrary, I’m sure most organizations spend a fair amount of time wondering how to attract us. But something is going on, whether ingrained in social expectations or just in what seems attractive or feasible, and I don’t like it. I want to believe that every woman feels like she has the option be like and do anything she darn well wants–and it’s crazy to me to believe that really only 20 percent of women want to be participating in any sort of endurance sport.

Though maybe it’s true? I have no idea.

There was a fun stat from the Death Ride that I think is awesome, gender aside: the oldest person to finish it–keep in mind, this was 130 miles, with more than 15,000 feet of climbing–was 84 years old. That’s pretty awesome. If only that person had been a woman! ;)