At 4am the group of riders leaves from a parking lot across from the train station in Bethpage, New York. The Specialized Tarmac Pro feels responsive and fast as we take to the roads. It's the first time I've started a brevet on anything other than a fixed-gear in almost two years. My friend Jon and I agreed to ride together promising each other we would shoot for a fast paced ride. For the time being we are leading the parade with fourteen riders following our tail lights into the darkness. After about ten miles of easy terrain we make a turn up a steep hill, appropriately named Snake Hill Road. Someone from behind yells out the suggestion that we should shift into our easiest gear. I shift down a bit, but not to the easiest. I'm used to climbing everything with a 72 inch gear, so how bad can this be. The climb is quite steep, which requires me to stand at times. It winds to the left and the right as the pavement snakes it's way to the top. When we reach the apex I look around to see only five of us. Everyone else is behind and out of view. The hills keep coming as we dwindle to four riders leading the way. With the arrival of daylight a secret control is encountered with first time RBA Paul Murray taking photos and verifying brevet cards. We move on only to encounter more hilly terrain.
|Coming into the Secret Control|
|Bob who rode with us on the first section|
|Rocky section of beach by Ferry Dock, Orient Point, NY|
|No time to stop in, but good to know|
|Steve, our riding companion for many miles|
We both dump the contents of two Coolada drinks into our water bottles and head out for the final 27 miles. We quickly turn off the high traffic roads in favor of less populated, although somewhat hillier pavement. The hills are not as serious as the ones this morning, None the less my legs feel the strain. Jon seems undaunted on the climbs, as is usually the case with him. He is quite light and has a nifty fast spin which seems to propel him to the top smoothly. All the while I am cursing any gradient over four percent. The headwind is still ever present. We stop briefly at an information control, which is a local park. With the question answered succesfully, which verifies our passage to this point We move on for the final seven miles.
It remains hot and windy for every final inch of the ride. The miles tick off a little slower than on the outbound. But, soon enough we make the final turn to the finish. Paul sees us approaching and begins taking photos as we ride down the road and into the parking lot. The same lot we departed from 13 hours and 10 minutes earlier. Jon and I share the course record for this first time ride. It is a personal best time for both of us at the 300k distance.
|Jon (L) and myself (R) coming in to the finish|
Epilouge: Parts I & II
Paul Murray and the Long Island Randonneurs came up with a fine brevet. It had all the elements one hopes for when looking for a ride with a challenge to it. Which came in the form of hills, heat and wind. Also, the scenic quality of the route was excellent. We went by more parks then I could count and the view of the Long Island Sound was terrific. Everything was organized superbly and it was a pleasure to partake. I highly recommend this ride for next season. I hope to see you there.
Making the switch to a geared bike was not an easy decision for me. I'd ridden exclusively fixed-gear for close to two years. Prior to that fixie riding has represented a good percentage of my miles since 2006, and I expect it always will going forward. Having traveled around a bit I happened to meet some of the other riders who ride long distance in this style. Most do not use that format exclusively, although a few do. Those who do know nothing different. Fixed riding feels routine, normal. Some of these riders will actually claim that it is no harder, just different. But, in truth it is harder. By my reckoning between 10% to 30% more difficulr based on terrain. Sometimes it's just fun doing things the hard way. Sort of like fingertip push-ups. I've enjoyed my fixed-gear endeavors immensely. It's satisfying to finish a long challenging ride using a machine that wasn't really designed for the job. Just recently, I enjoyed riding the Catskill 600k fixed. It was a great feeling to have made it around in good condition on a bike that didn't made little sense given the route parameters.
The reason for the change is simply that I tend to get bored doing the same thing all the time. I love cycling and hope to never lose interest in it. The wonderful thing is there is so much variety within the activity. I lean towards brevets, but have dabbled in UMCA racing as well. There are very few UMCA activities where a fixed-gear is the appropriate choice. Since racing is competitive one's gear needs to be competitive as well. I have aspirations of accomplishing some things in this arena. The lightweight carbon bike is the right tool for the job. Now I only need to train myself to be the right rider for the job. I'll get back to you on how this works out.