Monday, January 26, 2009

Rough Riding the Belgian Winter

"Looking back, you get a bit nostalgic, but from a competitive point of view, Flanders was one of the most horrible races to ride but one of the greatest races to win." - Sean Kelly

"There is a patch of field where they removed the cobble stone this winter, and I thought it sad, because when they put pavement it makes for more traffic. But then a few days out later, when Marc and I were out walking, we saw that they remade the cobblestone." - Catharina Berge
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Our good friend Catharina Berge, "the Bumble Bee" who has twice been the women's solo champion at Furnace Creek 508, recently moved to Belgium to be with her fiancé, Marc, a fellow cyclist. Cat is Swedish originally, but lived in California and Washington for ten years while pursuing a Ph.D. and more in veterinary medicine. She recently sent us some photos of winter-time cycling there. Here are a few, plus a video slideshow. Enjoy! I hope they make you feel warm, at least relatively speaking! (You'll see that people really do ride cobblestones - and not just during Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders.)

"Next to Gerardsbergen there are some major cobble stones... but when we go riding, Marc tends to avoid them. We can't avoid the ones on our street... so it is warm-up and cool-down butt massage. " - Cat"A winter landscape outside makes everything looks new and I have been out running and shoveling snow today. I waved goodbye to Marc as he went off to the school in Koekelberg to wake up his students with some new mathematical proofs after two weeks of Christmas vacation. Yesterday was a cold Belgian day with -2C. But Belgian riders are tough, so Marc and I went out and rode 100 km. We came home, warmed up in the Jacuzzi, ate salmon and mashed potatoes." - Cat

Here is Cat's website about her racing career.
Here is Cat's 2008 Furnace Creek 508 report.
Here is the report about Cat's 2001 Furnace Creek 508 (her first bike race).

Below is a short video slideshow of Cat's photos from cycling in the Belgium Winter. But click here to see that same video about twice as big. (It has a soundtrack, so be sure your speakers are turned up.) Enjoy!

video

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rough Riding South-Eastern San Diego County: Descanso - Boulder Creek - Lake Cuayamaca

Below is the route sheet, and a video, from a really excellent 42 mile loop we rode on November 21, 2008 out in south-eastern San Diego County. The 13 miles of dirt road on this loop is rideable on a road bike with 28mm tyres, IMHO, but we rode, and recommend, tyres wider than that for this route.

This was my second Rough Riding adventure on my 1984 Holdsworth Special, a British sport-tourer which was my first ever sponsored bike. Originally, back in 1984, I set it up with all Campy Super Record and tubular wheels. This was my first pro-level racing bike and I rode it during my San Francisco to Los Angeles world record on April 17-18, 1984, when I was 17. A year later I became sponsored by American custom frame builder Ron Stout and so the Holdsworth became my back-up bike. After racing RAAM in 1987 I pretty much quit riding the Holdsworth. I think it's been sitting around for literally 20 years with no parts on it. Recently I put it together as a Rough Stuff bike with most of the parts, and wheels, from my Bridgestone RB-1. Thus it's mostly Suntour parts with Phil Wood hubs and bottom bracket, and 700x by 32mm Vittoria Cross XN Pro tyres and 38/28 low gear. This bike is an absolute dream for Rough Riding! (I'll do a full post just about this bike at a later date.)

Whatever bike you ride, this is simply a really nice ride to do. The dirt road section through Boulder Creek is superb, with wide, dramatic vistas, absolutely epic, long climbs, vast quantities of silence, and a true back-country feel. As with some of the other rides we've reported about here, if you pay attention, you'll spot some other dirt roads in the area; we plan to go back and investigate those, too. (Many are noted on the route sheet below.)

Here is the route sheet. Bring a San Diego County map for reference. Plan on about 4.5 to 5.5 hours, total time. Be sure to bring plenty of water and food as you will find no supplies, and essentially no people, on this route until you get to Lake Cuyamaca!

0.0 Start at the Park & Ride lot along the I-8 at State Route 79. This is in south-eastern San Diego County, between Alpine and Pine Valley.
0.0 Go north on SR 79.
1.1 Left on Riversie Drive.
2.0 Left on Viejas Grade (at Perkins Store)
2.05 Immediate Right on Oak Grove Drive
3.3 Right on Boulder Creek (but first check out the llamas on the left, just before the turn; they might be a hundred yards up).
7.1 Pass Sheritton Valley Road (I want to investigate this road. Looks interesting.)
7.35 Pass Dubois Truck Trail on left (Need to also research this dirt road).
8.4 Pavement ends!
14.1 You reach the bottom of the canyon. Careful for water running across the road.
14.5 Pass Ranchita Margarita: watch for ostriches.
15.0 Thuis is the very bottom of Boulder Creek Canyon, during a 1/3 mile of pavement.
16.3 Pass two truck trails on the left at a hairpin. (Need to research them, too!)
20.0 Tiny church and a cemetary on the right, within the Inaja Reservation.
20.4 Mile Marker 17.
21.7 Pavement resumes: Right (uphill) on Engineers Road at Pine Hills Fire Station.
25.7 Summit.
27.2 Right on SR 79: Go around Lake Cuyamaca.
27.9 Lake Cuyamaca Store on left; Food and drinks for sale. Bathroom down and around in back.
30.3 Pass the Paso Picacho State Park on right; begin descent.
35.8 Pass East Mesa Fire Road on left (Must research this dirt road!)
36.6 Pass Oakzanita Springs / 1000 Trails on left. Bathroom and store.
39.3 Pass Viejas Blvd on right (or you can go right on it and get to the same place via the Perkins Store); fruit stand.
39.5 Right to continue on SR 79 (Sto
p Sign, T-Int.).
40.9 Pass Riverside Drive (our outbound route earlier).
42.0 Finish back the Park & Ride

Congrats! Send us your comments, ride data, photos, etc!

Selected Photos (Click any to see it much larger):

Above: with the llamas - the original all-weather, all-terrain rough riders - at mile 3.3

Above: Just part of the climb before you drop down into Boulder Creek Canyon. Can you spot the Rough Rider in that shot?

Above: Dropping down into Boulder Creek Canyon

Above: Chris at mile 14.1, literally in Boulder Creek

Above: Yes, we're going to ride up that road in the distance. In fact, you can see our road quite often in the distance in these photos!

Above: At mile 21.7. His: 1984 Holdsworth Special with 700x by 32mm Vittoria Cross XN Pro tyres and 38/28 low gear. Hers: 1974 Williams with 650B by 35mm Panaracer Col de la Vie tyres and 34/32 low gear.

Below: Here's a Quicktime video slideshow of the whole ride, but don't waste your time on this little, itty-bitty version! Instead, click here for the full-size Quicktime slideshow with large images which we have hosted on our website. There are 76 images, plus a soundtrack (turn up speakers), so it should be pretty fun and interesting. Let us know what you think by posting a comment below! Thanks for your support and interest!

video

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

In Search of Epic (2009)

Above: Searching for epic adventure on Figueroa Mountain above the Santa Ynez Valley. Photo by Chris Kostman, March 2008.

In Search of Epic
By Chris Kostman
Published in Endurance News, V.61, January, 2009.
(Original version published here on this blog in April, 2008. This is the updated 2009 version.)

"Epic" is defined at www.dictionary.com as "heroic; majestic; impressively great" and "of unusually great size or extent."

To live on the endurance path is to live in search of epic experiences.

What does it mean for a ride, a run, a swim, a ski, or other type of athletic endeavour to be epic? Here are some thoughts on the subject:

First and foremost, to be epic, the experience must be a memorable adventure, literally. That may result from one or more of the following factors:

Distance: The longer the adventure, the more "out there" it will likely become. But words like "far" and "ultra" are relative to one's experience and training level. How far is far? Farther than you’ve been before, perhaps.

Difficulty: The more difficult the experience, the more likely it will be memorable. "Difficult" is also relative; if it's difficult for you, it's difficult. There's no magic cut-off, distance-wise, or in terms of elevation gain, or anything else, which defines “difficult.”

Weather, especially Unexpected Weather: Rain, wind, snow, hail, sandstorms, heat, and many other things we often call "weather" can turn "an ordinary outing" into an epic outing. Likewise for related phenomena like floods, road washouts, and the like. Of course, sometimes we go deliberately in search of intense weather, like cycling in the dead of winter, or running across a desert in summer, or when tempting fate during monsoon season with only a t-shirt on our back.

Mechanicals / Breakdowns: Cycling is about the body-bike interface. When the bike breaks down, so can the whole system and pretty soon we're no longer a cyclist, but a bike-pusher or hiker instead. But more often that not, mechanicals don't completely disable the bike, they just make it a whole lot harder to ride. Similar fates can befall running gear, swim goggles, XC skis, and other equipment “necessary” for the endurance athlete. Can you turn adversity into an opportunity?

Going Somewhere New, especially Unplanned: "Hey, I wonder where that road - or trail - goes?" can be The Seven Magic Words just before an ordinary workout turns epic!

Getting Lost: See point immediately above, a closely related subject.

Running out of Food and/or Water: There's nothing like the bonk, or a good thirst, to make things interesting.

Getting Sick or Injured: Such a list must, of course, being with throwing up and related GI distress from either end, along with blisters, blown out joints, thrown out backs, and the myriad possibilities which can result from crashes, falls, and other accidents. Can you push through?

Encountering the Unusual: Crossing paths with deer, giant turkeys, bobcats, snakes, or millions of grasshoppers, to name just a few examples of the animal variety, can make things memorable. Unusual varieties of people, places, and more are also out there, too. Don’t ride or run right past them!

Racing the Sunset: Running out of light, when you don't have your own lights, can be simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. No matter how tired you become, at the end (or near the end) of an epic ride, run, or ski, the adrenaline usually kicks in when the sun is nearing set and there are still miles to be covered.

Road / Trail Surface: If smooth, beautiful pavement were the only good place to ride, we should just all ride velodromes! Mix it up. Ditto for running and every other kind of human movement over the landscape: Are you an outdoor athlete, or just recreating your usual indoor treadmill workout, elliptical jaunt, or lap swim?

Using the "Wrong Bike" for the Ride: This is a topic, and concept, which is near and dear to me and which inspires my blog slogan "Any Bike, Anywhere." I love to pedal, and I love to pedal anywhere I possibly can (or can't). Mountain bikes: who needs them?

Unlikely Routes: Linking roads and regions together with trails and other connectors that most people wouldn't think of is an exciting and enlightening flight of fancy. The end result is a one-of-a-kind route, a tour of disparate regions, and a ride or run that is perhaps half dirt and half paved. Cycling version nickname: "Rough Riding."

Adventure-seekers on the endurance path aspire to be prepared and ready for any circumstance, but when they're not, they get the job done, while reveling in the opportunity to have new experiences, to explore the inner and outer universes, and to learn new things about the world, about their endurance sport of choice, and about themselves.

What defines EPIC for you? When was your last epic experience? When will the next one be?

How about today? See you out there!

Click "Comment" below and share your story!
Click here to download the 48 page Pdf of Volume 61 of "Endurance News," featuring this story.

Above: The author on Canyonback Trail above Brentwood (Los Angeles) on his Ritchey Break-Away with 650B wheels and tyres. Photo by Al Seib / LA Times, January 2008. More on that bike in that configuration.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Rough Riding Death Valley: Emigrant Pass - Wildrose Canyon - Panamint Valley - Towne Pass

Above: Dropping down Wildrose Canyon to Panamint Valley. Intermittent pavement.
Above: The Air Force at work, keeping close track of Rough Riders.
Above: The psychedelic colors of Towne Pass.

Below is the route sheet, and a video slideshow, from a 64 mile loop we did on December 1, 2008 out in Death Valley National Park, both in Death Valley and Panamint Valley. There are only four miles of dirt and gravel road on this loop, so this ride is entirely rideable on a road bike with 25mm tyres, or even 23mm if you're careful (as we were).

We both rode our Ritchey Break-Away road bikes with Ritchey 700 by 23mm tyres, specifically the Ritchey Race Slick Comp model, which weigh in at 270 grams and retail for $27.99. These tyres ride great, last a long time, and we've practically never gotten a flat. These tyres are one of the best kept secrets of the bicycle industry, for some reason. My low gear was 38/28, while hers was 34/28. Both bikes are equipped with a full complement of Ritchey parts, plus Dura-Ace 10-speed shifting and brakes. (Shifters are 10-speed bar-ends in both cases.) These Break-Away bikes are simply amazing in just about every circumstance! More Info.

Whatever bike you use, this is simply a really nice - and extremely epic and dramatic - ride to do. The dirt road section through Wildrose Canyon has a nice, adventurous feel. It opens up to lovely views, and all along has vast quantities of silence. If you're lucky, you'll see some pink oleandars in bloom at the little oasis picnic spot in the canyon, a few miles above the Panamint Valley. (Look for one in the video slideshow). I had assumed those are the source of the name "Wildrose" but my local expert tells me that "oleanders are not native but seem to do well in the desert - we have a bunch of those at the Ranch. I think Wildrose is named after Cliff Rose (Purshi Mexicana) which is a white bloom that grows in the late spring to early summer in that area." Here is a very cool 360 degree view of that oasis.

There are also spectactular views of Telescope Peak, Mt. Whitney (if you look back while asecnding Townes Pass, about 2/3 of the way up), and much, much more. You may get "strafed" by military aircraft from Edwards Air Force Base, too. (Usually we see extremely fast, very low-flying fighter jets, but this time we saw something different. According to my Navy Pilot buddy Scott (who is also a Rough Rider and ultracyclist), "That's an MC-130 Combat Talon, amigo. ...One of Air Force Special Operations Command's (AFSOC) specops fixed wing support aircraft. It's a basic C-130 cargo plane that's heavily modified with all sorts of James Bondesque equipment that ostensibly allows it to penetrate at night/low level way behind enemy lines for special operations activities and combat search and rescue." (You'll see it in the video slideshow.) I could probably write 10,000 words about why I love this route and what makes it so special, but hopefully the photos will give you an idea.

Below is the route sheet. Bring a Death Valley National Park map for reference. Plan on about 7 to 8 hours, total time. Be sure to bring plenty of water and food as you will find no supplies, and essentially no people, on this route! (You can veer off-route about two miles to Panamint Springs Resort when you hit Hwy 190, if necessary. We had planned to do that, but were running out of sunlight so we skipped that and rode with limited water supplies while the late afternoon sun burned down upon us.) BTW, cell phones don't work out here!

In terms of planning your ride, this route is a loop, and it is possible to start the loop in many places, depending on convenience, where you're staying, or which direction you prefer to ride. We went clock-wise. The only issue there is that you therefore hit the "rough stuff" section on a downhill. Some people prefer to ride dirt roads in an uphill direction, rather than downhill, if given a choice. In our case, we literally hit the dirt section immediately behind a road grader, so that stretch was in particularly excellent condition. But I have ridden that dirt stretch (on Wildrose in the Panamint Valley) many times with many people on road bikes and have never had a problem. As I said above, on this ride we had 23mm tyres with no problems. Just pay attention, pick your line carefully, and slow down for the bigger rocks.

We started this ride at the little former Ranger Station and Rest Area on Hwy 190 near the Emigrant Pass / Wildrose Rd turn-off from Hwy 190. There is a bathroom there, plus good parking, a payphone, and a nearby undeveloped campground. This is six miles west of Stovepipe Wells.

0.0 Start on Hwy 190 going west / uphill (2060')
0.1 Left on Emigrant Canyon Road towards Emigrant Pass. (Road climbs 2000' in 6.5mi.)
13.8 Summit Sign, Emigrant Pass (5318')
15.4 True high point of the road (5440')
15.9 Pullout near Nemo Crest with dramatic view towards Telescope Peak, Nemo Canyon, and points south and southwest (360 Degree View)
21.5 Go right on Wildrose Canyon Road to Panamint Valley (straight goes to the famous Charcoal Kilns) (4040') Begin dirt section; may be wet.
25.5 Pavement Resumes
31.1 Right on Panamint Valley Road (1420')
45.1 Right on Hwy 190 east (or go west 2mi to Panamint Springs Resort for food and drink) (1700')
56.3 Summit, Towne Pass (4956')
64.1 Finish (2060')

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rough Riding Above the San Gabriel Valley: Jacques Brosseau's Ride Report and Pictures

We recently received the following email, route sheet, and photos recently from fellow Rough Rider Jacques Brosseau. Thanks, Jacques!

HI Chris

Attached are some photos of my Ruff Stuff jersey’s inaugural Ruff Stuff ride. Can you guess where I am? I started in Monrovia and made a big loop.

The Ruff Stuff blog is great,
Jacques Brosseau

PS in April trying to put together a Ruff Stuff century; half pavement and half dirt road.

Monrovia - Angeles Crest - Rincon Loop Routeslip:

Start from the Starbucks parking lot at Foothill and Myrtle in Monrovia, CA.

West on Foothill

Right (N) on Santa Anita
Left (W) on Orange Grove
Right (N) on Michlinda
Left (W) on Sierra Madre
Right (N) on Washington continue as street veers west
Right (N) on Lake St
Left (NW) on Woodbury continues on this street the name changes to Oak Grove.
Proceed on this street till you come to an overpass of the 210 FWY, make a
Left and cross over the FWY.
Once on other side make a
Left on to Birkshire.
Continue on what seems to be a main street generally going North West.

Right (N) on to Chevy Chase Dr
Right on Foothill and a quick
Left on Angeles Crest Hwy
Gas station on right has some supplies
Be prepared to climb all the way to RED BOX some 14 miles distant.
Water available at Red Box.
Once at Red Box go

Left, behind sign and on to a dirt road 2N24. You are now on Red Box Rincon Rd. Approximately 18 miles of dirt road lays before you.
Continue on main dirt road, then take 2N25 heading to Cogswell Dam.
Once at the dam proper, end of dirt road.

Continue down past the dam and get on to the bike path / road that follows the West Fork of the San Gabriel River to its end on HWY 39 San Gabriel Canyon Rd.
Right turn on to San Gabriel Canyon Rd.
Continue on this road till you get out of the canyon.
Notice the bike path on the Right: get on this

Continue on bike path going SW till you get to a parking area and restrooms just prior to Huntington. Water available here.
Right (E) on Huntington till you get to Myrtle.
Right (N) up to Foothill
Left into parking lot and end of ride.

Ride Notes
• Ride info 70 miles and 6200’ of gain.
• Ride done with 28mm tires; wider tires would be easier on the dirt.
• Bugs can be a big problem along parts of the dirt road, be prepared with insect repellant.
• Bring plenty of water especially for the dirt stretch.
• Bring a map showing the ride area.
• Some of the pavement riding can have traffic and be narrow in places.

Enjoy and have a great Ruff Stuff ride!
- Jacques Brosseau

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rough Riding North-Eastern San Diego County: Ramona - Black Canyon Road - Mesa Grande - Santa Ysabel

NOTE: We rode this route again on June 19, 2010, using a Garmin 310xt to record, then map, the route. Check out that blog post here, or the Garmin Connect map-and-more page here.

A bit of map study and also just paying attention while out on road rides helps Rough Riders to find yet more dirt road adventures to be enjoyed. We've ridden out on the roads of north-eastern San Diego County quite a few times. The terrain and scenery in the Ramona - Santa Ysabel - Mesa Grande area is wonderful. Alas those roads are almost unrideable now, especially on weekends, because of casinos, the wholly disproportionate enthusiasm for the pie town of Julian, and especially the "desert rat" traffic passing through here en route to and from the desert in RVs pulling desert-trashing motorized vehicles. Thus it was our goal to find a way to enjoy some of this area, while avoiding as much motor vehicle traffic as possible.

Below are some photos, the route sheet, and a video from a 43 mile loop we did on November 15, 2008 out in this region. The 13.2 miles of dirt road on this loop is entirely rideable on a road bike with 25mm tyres, or even 23 if you're careful, but we went a little wider.

I rode my 1984 Holdsworth Special, a British sport-tourer which was my first ever sponsored bike. Originally, back in 1984, I set it up with all Campy Super Record and tubular wheels. This was my first pro-level racing bike and I rode it during my San Francisco to Los Angeles world record on April 17-18, 1984, when I was 17. A year later I became sponsored by American custom frame builder Ron Stout and so the Holdsworth became my back-up bike. After racing RAAM in 1987 I pretty much quit riding the Holdsworth. I think it's been sitting around for literally 20 years with no parts on it. Recently I put it together as a Rough Stuff bike with most of the parts, and wheels, from my Bridgestone RB-1. Thus it's mostly Suntour parts with Phil Wood hubs and bottom bracket, and
700x by 32mm Vittoria Cross XN Pro tyres and 38/28 low gear. This bike is an absolute dream for Rough Riding! (I'll do a full post just about this bike at a later date.)

Whatever bike you ride, this is simply a really nice ride to do. The dirt road section through Black Canyon is superb, with lovely views, vast quantities of silence, and a nice back-country feel (though while riding a very wide and graded dirt road.) If you pay attention, you'll spot some other dirt roads in the area; we plan to go back and investigate those, too. Now, here are some photos, the route sheet, plus a video:

Click any image to see it much larger!
Here is the route sheet. Bring a San Diego County map for reference. Plan on about four to five hours, total time. If you want to minimize the trafficky roads, you could go out and back on Black Canyon Road, simply turning around at mile 18.5. However, be sure to bring plenty of water and food as you will find no supplies, and essentially no people, on this route if you do that!

NOTE: We rode this route again on June 19, 2010, using a Garmin 310xt to record, then map, the route. Check out that blog post here, or the Garmin Connect map-and-more page here.

0.0 Start on Hwy 78 at Day Street. Proceed east on Hwy 78.
2.5 Left / north Magnolia Rd.
5.3 Pavement ends.
9.9 You'll reach the Black Canyon Road Bridge, built in 1913. Our route goes left here, but not yet; first continue straight, past the bridge, to Sutherland Reservoir.
10.75 At the top of this road, you'll hit a T-Intersection. Go right just a little bit.
10.9 On your left you'll enjoy a nice view of the dam and Sutherland reservoir. Enjoy the view, then turn around here and retrace your steps to Black Canyon Road Bridge.
11.9 Turn right over the bridge.
13.8 Pass a Fire Station adjacent to the Indian Reservation. Water, perhaps?
18.5 End dirt road, and the summit, as you reach the T-Intersection with Mesa Grande Rd. Go right.
25.0 T-Intersection at Hwy 79. Go right towards Santa Ysabel. Careful: Not much shoulder; traffic very likely; side wind very possible. Careful!
26.9 T-Intersection at at Hwy 78. Go right / west and stop at Dudley's for water, bathroom, bakery. Continue west on Hwy 78. Careful: Not much shoulder; traffic very likely. Careful!
32.0 On a fast, somewhat downhill stretch, veer Left onto Old Julian Hwy. DO NOT STAY ON Hwy 78 unless you like lots of traffic on a narrow, winding road with no shoulder! Almost immediately after you veer left, look for camels and llamas on your right!
39.0 Stay Right on Old Julian Hwy (Stop Sign; T-Int).
Entering Ramona, take D Street left / west as a parallel alternate to riding on the main drag (Hwy 78).
42.8 Turn Right on Day Street, then cross Hwy 78 to the start/finish.

Congrats! Send us your comments, ride data, photos, etc!

Below: Here's a video of the whole ride, but don't waste your time on this little, itty-bitty version! Instead, click here for the full-size Quicktime slideshow with large images which we have hosted on our website. There are 57 images, plus a soundtrack (turn up speakers), so it should be pretty fun and interesting. Let us know what you think by posting a comment below! Thanks for your support and interest!

video