Monday, October 26, 2009

Permanently Lame

I tried to ride my first permanent this past weekend but due to poor planning, and poorer execution it just wasn't to be. For the non-randonneurs (hi mom!), a permanent is basically a brevet without all the planning and hoopla. You can ride a permanent by yourself or with others. You just tell the official permanent coordinators what route you're going to do, when you're going to do it, and then they send you the brevet card and off you go. You record the ride in the brevet card and send it in to be blessed by the Pope or whoever it is who blesses such things, and you get credit just like any organized brevet. And what do you do with that "credit" that you get? Um, I'm still trying to figure that out.

Anyway, I had planned to join a few other SIR members for the Three Rivers Cruise on Saturday at 7:00am. The TRC is a 200km route from Arlington that goes through Darrington, Marblemount, Concrete, Sedro Wooley and ends back in Arlington. I've heard it's a very pretty route and fairly flat the whole way.

Well, I slept too long and didn't have my stuff together in advance, so I scrambled around in the morning trying to get my gear together, my water bottles and tires filled, etc. I headed out the door about 15 minutes late and then half way to Arlington realized that I had forgotten the directions to the ride start and some other key pieces of equipment. So after some cursing, I turned around and headed for home.

But, with nice weather and permission from the family to go for a long ride, I figured I couldn't completely waste the opportunity. After a cup of coffee at home I headed out for one of my favorite routes. It's a route I've done several times and it never gets old. I rode up the Burke Gilman trail to Woodinville, then up back roads to Snohomish. A little north of Snohomish I picked up Dubuque Rd which connects with Old Pipeline Rd and took me all the way to Sultan. From Sultan there's another nice little country road called Ben Howard Rd that gets me back to Monroe. Then it's familiar roads to Woodinville and home on the BG trail.

Here's a little stretch of the Burke Gilman trail:


The whole ride is just over a hundred miles and spends very little time on busy roads.

The weather was cool and beautiful, the trees were turning all those great Pottery Barn colors and lamas were friendly.

It just doesn't get any better than that. I also found some interesting road side debris. Somewhere along Dubuque Rd there was a big pile of vinyl coated canvas in primary colors that I'm pretty sure was a deflated bouncy house. Adam would have been thrilled if I could have figured out a way to carry that home.

Somewhere Bollenbough Hill Rd...


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let There Be Light

And the Randonneur said, “Let there be light.”
And there was lightAnd the light flowed forth from a light emitting diode.
And the light’s energy flowed from the SON*.
And the Randonneur saw the light, that it was good…

*Schmidt Original Nabendynamo

I’m finally entering the 21st century. Well, at least with regard to bike lights. I’ve been riding brevets with two Cateye HL-EL530 lights as headlights. I actually think these lights aren’t bad as far as cheap battery powered headlights go. They were able to get me through an SR series plus a 600k brevet that involved two full nights of riding over mountain passes. That’s something. But I have to admit that descending mountain passes in the middle of the night with those lights was one of the scarier things I’ve ever done. I was way out-riding my headlights at times and was lucky to have survived unscathed.

I decided that since it looks like I’m going to keep doing this Randonneuring thing--and I want to live to see my kids graduate from high school--I need to get a serious “lighting system” for my bike. And among Randonneurs, a serious lighting system generally begins with a Schmidt dynamo front hub. The brightest bike lights these days are battery powered, but the good battery powered lights don’t have the run time to survive a full night of riding without carrying heavy and expensive spare batteries or somehow recharging along the way. A dynamo hub powering an LED headlight comes pretty close to the light output of the battery systems and has the advantage of always being available, as long as you can keep the bike moving. Essentially your lights are powered by Fig Newtons and Gatorade instead of batteries.

So, I’m having a new front wheel built with a SON 28 hub by Peter White. Peter is the exclusive US distributor for Schmidt and his web site is the source of information on dynamo lighting systems not to mention a lot of other oddball niche bike gear. For a headlight, I ordered the Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Cyo. I struggled a bit with this decision. The Schmidt Edelux and Supernova E3 are both very highly regarded but cost about twice as much as the B&M. After talking to Penny at Peter White Cycles and poring over every review I could find of these headlights, I decided the B&M light sounds like at least 95% of the light for 50% of the price. I also ordered a B&M taillight that can be mounted on the rear fender and wired into the dynamo.

Now I get to wait. Peter is going on vacation, so it’ll be a month or so before I get my wheel and lights. Stay tuned… once it arrives and I get everything installed, I’ll let you know how it all works.