This past weekend I rode the Sky Londa 300k brevet with Santa Cruz
Randonneurs. I rode my 56cm, single top tube, cantilever-brake, orange
Samuel Hillborne. Executive summary: the ride went great. The bike did
perfectly. I'm hoping to do my 400k in two weeks.
Bike details: I ran 700x35 Compass Bon Jon Pass (standard) tires. HED
Belgium wheels. SP dynamo. 1x9 drivetrain 42x(11-32). Loyal designs
handlebar bag. VO fenders.
The ride started at 6:00AM Saturday morning at the Santa Cruz Lighthouse.
I set my alarm for 2:45, and started driving at 3:40. I parked near the
finish and rode to the start, just on time. It was raining quite hard,
which discouraged some starters apparently, as there were only 8 of us at
the start. Fortunately it was not cold all day. Santa Cruz Randonneurs is a
small but prestigious chapter of RUSA; prestigious because they are led by
RUSA #7 Bill Bryant and RUSA #8 Lois Springstein, both of whom having
served as RUSA president (I'm #6551). I had done a version of this course
in 15 hours on the dot a few years ago, and I had the goal to cut a
significant amount off that time. Despite the heavy rain I was determined
to settle into a brisk but sustainable pace. I figured out pretty quickly
that the other 7 riders were content to take a more slow-and-steady
approach, so I went out alone off the front. The rain and wind were both
pretty severe. Big, heavy raindrops just soaked everything, and the
headwind was as strong as locals know to expect from the coast. The course
followed the course North as the skies started to get lighter. The first
welcome sidetrack off of coastal Hwy 1 went along Gazos Creek Road. A tiny
narrow canyon with a very vigorously flowing creek. The rain began to let
up as I entered the canyon, and I was completely alone. No cars or people
at all. It was beautiful, and I stopped for a selfie:
Flickr Link to Gazos Creek Selfie
I started riding again but was distracted by how beautiful everything
was....so much so that I didn't notice the fallen tree in the road. I saw
it at the last moment but still crashed into it. It wasn't a bad crash but
a branch whacked my chin pretty good, and I was bleeding. I was mostly
thankful that nobody saw me, because it was an embarrassing move, like
hitting a parked car or something. I took inventory and meekly continued.
The first control was in the tiny town of Pescadero (mile 34). I grabbed a
coffee at the cafe, which has a couple character pieces that remind me of
Riv whenever I'm there: they sell and play vinyl records, and they have a
hat-rack stocked with vintage baseball gloves for sale. It's a cute spot.
Flickr Link to Pescadero Control
At a 'control' you have to prove you were there, on time, so you typically
get a printed receipt. This cafe didn't print receipts so we hand-wrote
one on a business card. While we were figuring that out two other Randos
rolled up, both on traditional road bikes. One was a titanium Seven, and
the other was a steel SOMA. We said hello, but I was soon on my way. It
was still raining but very lightly. The course returned to Hwy 1 and
continued North briefly before turning back inland for the first
siginificant climb into the redwoods. At the end of Purisma Creek Road
there was an "info control" (mile 51). The club posted a plastic sign high
on a post with "SCR" on the top line and a three digit code on the bottom
line. You have to find the sign and write the code on your brevet card to
prove you were there. I moved on and finished the climb and had a very fun
descent back to Hwy 1 and hit the nothernmost point of the route at the
"Easy Mart" in Half Moon Bay (mile 64). At this point I was feeling
great. This was the farthest North I'd be. This was the farthest from my
car I would be. The wind would blow me to the south for the rest of the
day. I knew this was going to be totally do-able.
Flickr Link to the Easy Mart
Southbound AT SPEED was really fun. Cruising along easily at ~21mph was
pretty great. The Bon Jon Pass tires at ~45psi were just singing. At mile
75 I turned back inland on La Honda Road for the biggest climb of the day,
up to Sky Londa. In the flatter lower section of the climb, a ladybug
landed on my GPS and rode along for the entire climb. Freeloader!
Link to Instagram movie of ladybug (hopefully)
My 1x9 drivetrain did fantastic all day. I had everything I needed,
nothing I didn't, and the steps between never struck me as too large. If
you asked me to throw away one of the 9 gears, I would have ditched the
11. The grades only got over 10% for brief periods so my 36" low gear was
plenty low enough. I never wanted for a lower one. Things would have been
different if I was carrying more gear, but with a ~35 pound bike, it was
plenty. At Mile 90 I was at the top of the long climb in Sky Londa, next
to Alices Restaurant, a favorite of the South Bay motorcycle community. I
just stopped at the market:
Flickr Link to Sky Londa
The descent through the redwoods yielded some technology amusement. The
GPS unit calculates your speed based on GPS position. Your position blinks
in and out because of the trees. When it reaquires, it catches you up. I
briefly was given credit for a max speed of 82mph. Later it corrected to
only 44mph. With the descent and the tailwind, it felt like I just had to
coast to mile 140 back in Santa Cruz. I visited my van and replaced my
still-wet socks with dry ones, and ditched all my removed rain gear. I
felt like I was wasting time, and jumped back on the bike to find my rear
tire was totally flat. I was bummed that I had a flat but grateful that it
happened while I was at my van. I swapped the tube out in comfort and
found the tack that I had run over. I only carried one spare tube, so I
stuffed the punctured one in my handlebar bag, just in case I needed to do
a patch down the road. I finally got moving again, but I was a little bit
salty over the delays.
The final section was an out and back to the farming area of Watsonville.
This section was not a lot of fun. First, I had to pass through numerous
traffic signals through Santa Cruz, Cabrillo and Aptos. There was also a
ton of car traffic. Outside of town, the farm roads were riddled with huge
potholes and repairs. I was glad not to be negotiating those roads in the
dark or in the rain. In the 'middle of nowhere' there was another
information control, and I turned back to retrace my route. I was then
reminded what a luxury the tail wind had been because now I was grinding
home into the teeth of it. It was kind of brutal. Despite the loud rush
of wind in my ears I heard a disconcerting knock from my bike. I stopped
to check it out and sure enough my fender had rattled loose at the seatstay
bridge. I kind of kicked myself. I had re-installed the fenders
last-minute, in response to the weather report. I knew I had used a 3mm pan
head bolt there, and I knew that was the only 3mm allen bolt on the bike.
When I was checking my repair kit the night before I considered adding a
3mm key to my kit and decided NOT TO. Why? Grams! Dangit. I hoped that
the bolt wouldn't loosen any more because I was really only 15 miles from
the finish.....I got about a half mile before the bolt fell out entirely
and now the fender was flopping onto the tire. Crap. I stopped and
removed one water bottle cage and stuffed that empty bottle and cage into
my jersey pocket. I used one of those water bottle bolts to replace the
lost fender bolt on the side of the farm road in the dusk. It was a hack
repair, but I got it done.
I rolled through the remaining traffic signals and finished at ~8:30PM. 13
hours and 4 minutes rolling time, and 14 hours 36 minutes on the wall clock
for my 188 mile, 10,058 foot day. SCR events finish in Bill Bryant's back
yard. I was the first finisher, and it looks like they only had 5 people
finish. Bill gave me a chocolate milk, validated my card and I was good to
go. Just in case, my van had a sleeping bag and mat, but I managed to stay
awake for the drive back home.
So, Sam did spectacularly well again. My contact points (tush, hands and
feet) all did great. I have no doubts I can do a 400 on Sam. It weighs
more than a stripped down road bike, but there's not a more comfortable,
stable, and reliable all-road machine in my opinion. It's weight didn't
prevent me from having a great day out on the roads, and finishing 2-4
hours sooner than folks on skinny tire carbon and ti bikes.
El Cerrito, CA
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