Saturday, May 17, 2008

Boston Brevet Series 200K

There is something very satisfying about a good tough ride. The Boston Brevet Series 200K was last Saturday (I'm a little behind in updating), and it did not disappoint.

A sizable crowd of maybe 40 showed at 7AM in Bedford under overcast skies. It was nice to see a bigger group than that of the 100K a few weeks ago. Maybe it was the nicer weather, maybe some randonneurs don't get out of bed for only 100 kilometers. The best part of milling around before the start is chatting with new people and checking out the bikes. Randonneurs rarely ride bikes that I would consider normal or commonplace. Most bikes have at least some interesting aspect that you wouldn't get off the shelf. The variety of fenders is exhausting. You could write volumes on gearing and drive-trains. Perhaps my favorite was the sun-burst finish Gunnar Crosshairs with dirt drop style handlebars - the spread on these is enormous and I bet they work nicely for long rides. I wish I had snapped a photo of that bike. Anyway, lot's of unusual bicycles, though they were all in some way perfectly suited to the day's task. I suppose I'll have something on lights in the longer brevets.

The ride started out nicely with a very large pack cruising along to the first check point. Lots of chatting with familiar riders. I now realize that the question "what have you been up too?" is silly in this context, because the answer is almost always "riding, a lot." Gradually, the crowd spread out and I took a quick break to shed some layers and get a snack. Getting back on the road, I caught up with some scattered riders. One rider Jake, explained how he had built his bicycle in a class held at Hot Tubes. Overall the craftsmanship was impressive and the neon green paint job is perfect for a bicycle. We also discussed the merits of generator vs battery lighting - neither are perfect, but both have merits. We soon arrived at the first checkpoint in New Boston, NH.

The forty miles between the first and second checkpoint was the most challenging part of the ride but also the most enjoyable. Straight out of New Boston, there is a significant amount of climbing. The ride up to Mt Vernon is long. Coming down the other side is fast and exciting, perhaps even a little scary. If one wanted to know how fast a bike can go, this is a good place to find out. Scenic vistas are frequent and provide a nice distraction from the difficulty of this section. Soon enough the hard part is over. The second checkpoint in Brookline, NH came up eventually even though I thought I was completely lost until I was right at the checkpoint.

Coming back into Bedford was pleasant enough, though I rode mostly alone. This last forty miles has relatively little climbing and I was very happy about that having 90 miles under me already. I stopped briefly to snack and take in the sun. Coming through Westford was generally pretty hilly with a downhill that leads to the crumbiest pavement in Carlyle. Though crossing into Concord, the road is smooth and easy. An older rider caught up with me and pulled me along for a bit - a demonstration that sometimes the guys who have been pedaling forever can teach you a thing or two. I was very tired and very thankful for the pull. Soon enough I was back in Bedford, finished. At this point, I had a real hankering for a chocolate shake, and I quickly took off in search of that. In all, the ride was challenging, but I enjoyed it tremendously.

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