Entries : Category [ cycling ]
Stuff related to cycling, bycicles, rides, etc
[OpenBSD]  [BSD]  [FreeBSD]  [Linux]  [Security]  [Python]  [Zope]  [Daily]  [e-shell]  [Hacks]  [PostgreSQL]  [OSX]  [Nintendo DS]  [enlightenment]  [Apache]  [Nintendo Wii]  [Django]  [Music]  [Plone]  [Varnish]  [Lugo]  [Sendmail]  [europython]  [Cherokee]  [self]  [Nature]  [Hiking]  [uwsgi]  [nginx]  [cycling]  [Networking]  [DNS] 

15 agosto
2015

Got a new bike (II)

Well, actually I got it one year ago O:)

My new Kona Jake 2014

What can I say? I guess the cycling bug bit me already and now there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Since I got the Giant Argento two years ago, I started to go on slightly longer rides. That bike felt (and still feels) great, it was a good choice back then but, at one point, I started to feel like if I'd need something more road oriented. The Argento is a really nice bike for moving around town and for some relaxing offroad rides (specially when we talk about mud/sand/dirt slippery paths) but as soon as you try to go on a road for more than 20-30 kms, and specially if you want to go a bit faster, it is not the best choice.

And so my search for a new bike began.

I remember it pretty well, what I wanted was a Kona Sutra 2014. A lovely but strong touring bicycle I could use to go for long haul touring, on lots and lots of kms. Something sturdy I could pack with tons of things I'd need on big adventures out there. A touring bike seemed also a good choice for towing Lara's trailer when going on family rides (wider gears range FTW).

The Kona Sutra, 2014 model

The 2014 Kona Sutra

Soon after, I added a couple of more choices to the list, the Raleigh Sojourn 2014 and the Trek 520 2014. I spent a lot of time reading about touring bikes, specs, recommendations... and a lot more time comparing models, specs, looking into oppinions from other cyclists all over the internet.

The Raleigh Sojourn, 2014 model

The 2014 Raleigh Sojourn

The Trek 520, 2014 model

The 2014 Trek 520

I talked a lot about it with some friends, specially with betabug, George and Xurxo (no, those two are not the same person :-P). I heard their recommendations and suggestions carefully, trying to learn as much as I could from their knowledge and previous experience (George already recommended me to go for the Argento one year before all this, and it was a good recommendation).

One day I discovered that "has to be a touring bike" was not a requirement anymore. There were some other things to take in account when chosing a road bike. I also started to look regularly for offers and special prices on new bikes. This was exactly one year ago, some of the big brands were publishing information about the new models they were going to have for 2015, which meant some models from 2014 were offered online at really nice prices.

I guess it was near the middle of august when I have more or less decided which bike I was going to buy. I was a bit influenced by both betabug's previous good experience with Kona bikes and all the good/positive reviews their bikes have on the Internet, and their Jake cyclocross bike (which is the one betabug has too) looked like a very nice bike.

The Kona Jake, 2014 model

The 2014 Kona Jake

Cyclocross bikes catched my eye as an option because their geometry looks closer to a racing road bike (which sounded cool for riding faster) but they have some details like slightly higher bottom brackets and more wheel clearance on the forks or holes on the frame where you can attach front/back racks, which make them suitable for touring, going on offroad excursions, etc.

They seem like a good "do it all" alternative, but still keeping a road spirit (specially when talking about gears), so in the end I decided that I was going to get either the Kona Jake 2014 or the Genesis Croix de Fer 2014, whichever I could find a good price first.

The Genesis Croix de Fer, 2014 model

The 2014 Genesis Croix de Fer

Finally I ordered the bike online from Bikester (which service is really good, I'll write about that on a separate post) and I got it delivered in the beginning of september (2014, near one year ago). I remember the feelings back then, it was like being a little kid again and getting a christmas present, sooo excited!.

Almost one year later, I've ridden the bike a bit (strava says 1,254.9 kms, but I'd say 150-200 kms more.), I've added addons to it (lights, SPD pedals, fenders, some bags) and definetely I've enjoyed it a lot. I'm really happy I got this bike!

I'm not going to write here about specs or technical details (you can get that from Kona's website, here: http://2014.konaworld.com/jake.cfm ). What I can tell you is that the bike is really nice to ride, even when going uphill you don't have to be a trained cyclist to keep going on. It is sturdy indeed (not a single problem in the past 12 months) and it is good enough when pulling Lara too.

Here I've added a small album with pictures of the bike:

http://e-shell.org/img/kona_jake_2014

Posted by wu at 11:08 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
23 agosto
2015

My personal review of the Kona Jake 2014

... short story: I love it!

So, now that I've officially announced my new bicycle, which I've been riding for almost a year now, it is time already to give a more detailed review of it.

The specs for the 2014 model of the Kona Jake can be found here:

http://2014.konaworld.com/jake.cfm

I'm not an expert, in fact I'm pretty clueless about techie stuff regarding bicycles, so take your time going through them and getting your own conclusions.

My Jake's size is 53cm. I can't tell you exactly the measures/distances of the seat post, reach, etc (I didn't measure them, I just tried until I got to something that fits me and feels comfortable). What I can do is show you a pic of what the bike looks like now:

Me and the Jake, so you can get an idea of the height/distances

The size fits me perfectly (I'm around 1.75 meters tall). I had to set up the bike myself, as I ordered it online and bikester sent the bike partially disassembled. I had to put things like the handlebar and seat in place. I knew some basic details on how to do such a setup and bikester included a nice instructions manual in the package, just in case I could have any questions.

Setting up the Jake for the first time Adjusting the handlebar Almost there, only the seat and some adjustments left

Changing gears is really smooth, even if you miss lowering down gears before going on a steep uphill. In one year I only had to adjust gears once, because I found that lowering down from one of the highest gears was skipping on one cog. After reading a bit about it and watching some videos on youtube I was able to adjust them myself.

A closer view of the cassette A closer view of the chainrings

I'm not a very trained cyclist and I was a bit wary of the gears ratio (34/50 chainrings and 11-30 on the back), specially because the Argento has a 48/38/28 (triple!) and 14-34 (nice granny gear) ratio. I thought that I was going to miss those lower gears from the Argento, but I did not. The Jake is much much lighter than the Giant, and so even going up (so far) I did not need such lower gears. In fact, after some time riding the Jake, I've found that I usually don't go to lowest gears when doing some climbing (well, that's how it is supposed to be, right? your body gets used to it).

Starting on 2014, the Jake comes with a 2x10 crank, instead of a triple, but the front derailleur still has three positions. The shifter lets you set it to those three positions. One puts the chain on the bigger chainring, another one puts the chain on the smaller chainring and the third one puts the derailleur in a position that fits better the smaller gears. If you don't use that third, lower, position you would hear some sounds caused by some friction on the chain (against the derailleur).

The breaks are ok. Mechanical disc brakes that were really really noisy during the first few rides. And when I say noisy I mean it, pulling the breaks while going down fast caused some annoying, ghost-like, screaming. They are good anyway and they do not *block* the wheel as quick as rim breaks, so they feel a bit more safer (preventing slips and falls).

One detail about those breaks is that they have to be adjusted quite often. It happens that the pads stay too close to the disc a lot of times, making noises and adding some friction while riding. Such adjustments can be done by yourself, but they are a PITA, quite often you have to get the bike to an LBS or some professional hands to take care of it (it happened to me just yesterday).

The break levers and the gear shifters are located in the same place, which is a different setup than the one you can find in touring bikes (my first choice for the new bike in the beginning) where bar-end shifters are used. I've never tried those bar-end shifters, but the tiagra shifters from the jake work really well.

A closer view of handlebar (with addons) and the break levers

The tires are strong and durable. If you look for reviews about them on the Internet, you will find they are classified as do-it-all Hybrid/Touring/Commuter tires almost everywhere. I've ridden on asphalt/tarmac, dirt/muddy paths, gravel roads, stony trails and even on sand by the sea. They performed nicely on every surface and I had no punctures at all (so far).

With gravel, I've found that some times the smaller, really tiny, stones get stuck in the tread pattern and then I had to remove them by hand.

A closer look at the rear wheel, part of the frame and casette A view of the front wheel and handlebar, taken while resting a bit on one of the rides

I've added some addons to the bike during the past few months. First a couple of lights, a small led red light on the back (attached to the seat post) and one of the smaller lights from cateye on the front (handlebar). I hadn't ride at night (yet), but I did ride at first hours in the morning, a bit before sunrise, and the cateye light was more than enough to light the road in front of me.

Next, I added some fenders. I got black SKS chromoplastics, the P45 to provide enough clearance for the 32mm tires I've right now. Adding the fenders was fun, but it took me some time to find a way to fit the stays near the front wheel break.

Closeup of the bent fender stay to bypass the front wheel disc break

I also added a saddle bag and, ocasionally, a small frame bag. The frame bag has been useful in winter, on longer rides, as the rain jacket fits perfectly in one pocket and I can bring some extra food in the other pocket. Also, it has a special plastic pocket for the phone, which is nice (as I don't have any cycling computer yet). You can see them both in the gallery, here:

http://e-shell.org/img/kona_jake_2014

The bike, as it came from Bikester, didn't have any pedals. I bought some regular, cheap, pedals at first. Then I bought Shimano SPD pedals and Shimano shoes (MTB-style ones, more like boots than racing shoes, as with those you can still walk for a while if needed). The SPD pedals made a huge difference. At first it can seem a bit scary to have your feet attached to the bike, but attach (clip) and detach (unclip) is really easy, after a couple of rides it is totally natural, and the difference when pedaling is amazing (no more slippery pedals!!).

If you want to read a more technical, detailed review of the Jake (2013 model, but most of it fits the 2014 model too, I do agree with most of the comments there) you can take a look here:

http://www.bikeforums.net/commuting/842141-2013-kona-jake-88-mile-review.html

Another short review (2015 model this time) here:

https://essiep64.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/review-kona-jake-2015/

As a summary, the bike has been great on every aspect so far. Reliable, sturdy but light and fast. After all this time I've got so used to it that when I've to ride a different bike (like the Argento or the old MTB) I'm not really confortable on them. I'm not sure if it is due to the bike's geometry, the dropdown handlebar or the overall position on the bike, but even for commuting or family rides, I do prefer to ride the Jake.

Posted by wu at 13:12 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
05 diciembre
2015

Second chance for a cargo donkey

... or ... I have a new bike (III)

The Hack-2, the day it got a new bar tape

Yes... I've got another bike. Yes, yes, I've 2 road (CX actually) bikes now. No, I cannot ride them all at the same time... I'm perfectly aware of that.

I'm not going to explain here the N+1 rule. If the cycling bug bite you already, either you already know the theory, or you soon will know about it.

I'm going to talk about my (not so) new bicycle, a Saracen Hack 2 (2015 model, which is not currently available on Saracen's website, but here you have a review of that model: http://wideopenmag.co.uk/2014/11/saracen-hack-2-review )

Why the f*** do you need another bike??

This is probably the question most of you would be asking right now. Well, the main reason behind the idea of getting another bike is that we travel a lot from Lugo (where we live) to Vilagarcia de Arousa (where Dolo's parents live) and every time we go there, I bring the Jake with us. That means preparing the bikes rack on the car and some extra packing before leaving. It also means driving 200-and-something kms with the bike exposed to rain, mosquitoes and all kind of other things.

The Jake on the bike rack on our car

Something that can be done, but not something you want to do too often, specially in winter in a place like Galicia.

So, the idea of getting another bike that could stay in Vilagarcia came to mind. Something not too expensive (initial budget idea was around 400 eur) and maybe look for something used, try to find something a bit older, with good components and in good shape, instead of gettting something new with really cheap components and probably not so good on the mid-long term.

And so the search began... as soon as posible, as I really wanted to have the spare bike here and ready for mid-november. Betabug was going to come for a visit (one of our work sprints) and having the bike here already would mean going out together on some rides.

If you are into cycling and you like bicycles I bet you know that feeling, that sensation of "wooohooo, let's look at bikes and bikes and bikes!!. Endlessly, creating lists of posible bikes to buy, compare them, look for more bikes, compare a bit more, then try to find some good offers...

I don't know how it would have been 10 or 15 years ago, without the Internet, but nowadays you have soooo many options right there, in your computer...

There are plenty of online websites that sell all kind of bikes, new bikes, new bikes from previous years at incredible discounts, used bikes, vintage bikes, refurbished bikes...

I don't know how many bikes I looked at, or how many sites, but in the end I started to make a clearer picture of the bike I'd like to get. If you read the post I wrote about the Jake, you already know that back then I had to make a choice between the Jake and the Genesis Croix de Fer 2014, so I started looking for second hand croix de fer on the online markets.

There are plenty of websites where you can look for used bikes in the UK (I aimed at that specific market, as it should be easier to find Genesis bikes there) but in the end I found myself always looking in ebay.co.uk. I started conversations with some of the people that had their bikes for sale there, specially because shipping those bikes to spain could be an issue for some of them (I even remember one that did not let me enter my bid because my ebay account was registered in Spain). The problem with the Croix de Fer (and even some other models like the Equilibrium) is that, even used, they are not cheap. Most of them were simply out of budget for me. So I kept myself looking for it.

And, just one day, I found this Saracen Hack 2 bike. The starting bid was low, 300 pounds (400-something euro), a lot cheaper than the stock price for it new (around 950 pounds, 1300-something euro). I didn't know that model (or even the brand) then, so I looked up the specs on the Internet and I looked for some reviews. It turned out that it was a CX bike with specs quite similar to the Jake (quite, quite similar) so it really catched my eye (also, I totally fell in love with the look of it ;-P).

I went again through the page on ebay, checking the description (sounded good) and the pictures (not so good, really dark pics). The auction was going to end in a few hours, so without too much thinking I did bid and I totally forgot about it.

Next day I had an email from ebay - "Congratulations, you won this auction!"

"WTF!" - I thought - "How can it be??"

I had set a really lower bid but nobody else bid, so I won.

First thing I did afterwards was get in contact with the previous owner of the bike (Matt), to arrange payment and shipping. We arranged the shipping with sendbike.com, a small company based in the UK that sends bikes all over the globe (using UPS). They have really really nice prices and they can even provide you with all you need to pack the bike. They have also very good support, in case you need help with anything. I totally recommend them if you need to ship a bike from the UK.

The box as I got it from UPS

And then, one day, the bike arrived.

But... at first sight, after pulling it from the box... I got totally dissapointed. Completely dissapointed.

Matt did mention some minor scratches in the top tube, he even provided me with some pics, but the scratches looked much worse in person:

A closer look at the scratches on the top tube

And he forgot to mention a big, big scratch on the head tube (it looks like something caused by cable friction):

A closer look at the big scratch on the head tube

Also, the specs of the Hack 2 say it should have a Shimano Tiagra 4601 rear derailleur, but this one came with a low-end Shimano Sora 3500 (not sure if the SS or the GS though) instead. This was nasty, as it was not something described in the description of the product in ebay, and Matt did not mention it in our previous conversations.

The Sora rear derailleur, as it came packed up

Finally, he had told me that he would include rack and fenders too with the bike, which sounded cool when I did read it on his message, but wasn't so cool when I realized the screws attaching the rack to the bike were damaged severely. So severely that I wasn't able to remove the rack at all. One of them was even broken, without head.

A closer look at the rack, from the side of the broken, headless, screw

The wheels were not in the box. Matt was not able to put them inside as there was not enough space for everything, so he sent the wheels in a separate package that arrived one week later. Later on, when I found out about the problem with the rack and the screws, I did realize why he could not remove the rack (which probably caused the problem with not having enough space in the box).

When the wheels arrived, I realized that the back wheel was not the stock one, but a Mavic Aksium Disk One and the bar tape wasn't also the stock one (black), which I found quite strange, for a bike bought on late november, 2014.

The bike after I assembled all the parts and components

And so I started to be worried about it. Really really worried. I couldn't stop thinking that maybe the bike suffered a big crash, which could have led to those replacements (back wheel, rear derailleur, bar tape) and the scratches all over the top tube. A big crash could also explain the damaged screws on the rack...

So I talked about it with Matt, who was really really nice and answered all my questions fast and politely. He even sent me the receipt/invoce from the original seller, as a proof of his ownership.

Basically the poor thing was used as a cargo donkey through the streets of London. Used for commuting and to carry on one of those child/kid seats you put on different places on the bike. It got some small hits when putting the cargo on/off and it seems the tiagra rear derailleur wore off.

What could I do?. I liked the bike and all, I got it on a really nice price... but I was really worried about it. So next step was to bring it to the LBS (MTC bicis) for a complete checkup. When I went there again to pick up the bike, they told me the bike was ok. The frame was perfectly fine and those were simply minor scratches. The gears and breaks were ok (front disc break was a bit bent, but ok) and they couldn't find anything to be really worried about.

They removed the rack, sawing the screws. I won't be able to put a rack again on it, but that was not the idea to begin with. One nice detail is that the rack survived the surgery, so it can be used in other bikes (spare parts!).

And so I did ride it.

Me on the Hack, betabug on the Jake, on the road to Ézaro Me on the Hack, on the road to Carnota Me on the Hack, on a small secondary road from Corcubión to Fisterra Me on the Hack with Luis and betabug, riding on the Ribeira de Piquin

And I had lots of fun riding it, really. The bike feels good, almost the same as the Jake, with some differences. It is a bit shorter/smaller (a couple of cms here and there) and it feels lighter (maybe being a bit shorter + the carbon fork?). The gears work perfectly fine and the disc breaks work quite good (with the same issues as the ones on the Jake, noisy and easily deadjustable). One thing I did change as soon as I got the wheels were the tires. I replaced the stock Schwalbe Spicer 35mm with the Freedom Ryder 32mm that came with the Jake (which has now Continental 4 Seasons 28mm).

We had some nice rides during betabug's visit (but that's another story) and after some riding, we found out (well, r0sk actually found out) that the breaks were in the opposite position, that is, the rear break was on the left hand and the front break on the right hand, just like in a motorbike.

O_O!!!

It seems the position of the breaks is related to the way of the road we drive, so it is different in brittish countries (UK, Australia, etc). More info, here:

http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/4912/why-is-the-front-brake-lever-on-the-right-if-you-drive-on-the-left-and-vice-ve

Fun fact: I did not realize at all about it. Lucky me I did not end on the floor because of improper breaking.

Myth busted: You can go fast as crazy on your disc-breaks bike and then pull strongly only the front break, you won't jump over the bike and crash on the floor (tested!).

After such a finding, I got the bike again to the LBS, to change the breaks (and ask how it could be they did not notice the first time I brought it there!). As the breaks cables go directly below the tape bar, I replaced the blue one with a new one in red, which (imho) fits the bike better.

Then we brought the bike to Vilagarcia, to its new home, and I did a test ride by the Ocean, just for fun!

Riding the hack towards Vilaxoan, by the Atlantic Ocean Crossing the bridge to Illa de Arousa on the Hack

I think this has been quite a change for this bike, from London commuting to mid (and hopefully soon long) rides on open roads by the sea and the Ocean...

Posted by wu at 11:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
11 febrero
2016

Got my cycling federation Card/ID

one more step in the cycling world!

My cycling federation card/ID!!

Last year I decided that I really wanted to get more into cycling. I totally love it. The cycling bug bit me for good and now I can't (don't want to) think of a live without it.

And so I started to ride more, increasing the number of rides per week and the duration of those rides. I did it gradually, too slow maybe, and let me tell you that finding time to go out is really hard some times (specially having a 4 years old daughter :-P).

I also got some proper cycling clothes, cheap stuff from Decathlon at first, some more cheap stuff from Lidl afterwards, and some better stuff from brands like sportful too (also, some good stuff made in Italy should arrive soon...).

Then I decided to join a cycling club. I had some conversations with my friend Xurxo about it. He had been in the cycling world for much longer than me and he knows a lot of cyclists, teams and clubs in Lugo, so I asked him for a recommendation on which club I should join. He recommended me the Club Ciclista Ribeiras do Miño, where he has some good friends. He thought I'd be comfortable among them, and he was right!

And finally, earlier this year, I decided to join a Cycling Federation. Being federated has multiple benefits, you get insurance in case of accident, legal counsel, access to races and events... and, best of all, your wallet gets a bit lighter every year!

Some days ago I finally got the card/ID you saw at the beginning of this post. There it says that I'm now a member of the Galician Cycling Federation, the Spanish Cycling Federation and, in the end, a member of the Union Cycliste Internationale.

Wow, who would have guessed this 5 years ago... o_O!

Posted by wu at 23:52 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
27 marzo
2016

2015 - A year in cycling pictures

Taking a look back through the pictures, I had lots of fun during last year

http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015/prevs/20150809_100808.jpg

I've prepared a small gallery with some pictures of what 2015 was for me, related to cycling.

According to strava, I've cycled 2040 Kms in 89 hours and 40 minutes, with a total of 24650 meters of elevation gain in 58 rides. I did some more cycling, as I don't track commuting or family rides with strava, but I guess that won't make a big difference in the numbers.

Depending on how much you cycle maybe you could find those numbers too short/less or maybe you could find them awesome. For me it has been a nice improvement over previous years numbers. I'd love to go out more time, further distances, longer rides, but even so, it has been awesome almost every single time.

http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015/thumbs/20150222-1.jpg http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015/thumbs/20150411-5.jpg http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015/thumbs/20150711-5.jpg http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015/thumbs/20150821_090825.jpg http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015/thumbs/20151111_120119.jpg http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015/thumbs/20151114-056.png

You can check the gallery here:

http://e-shell.org/cycling/2015

I hope you will enjoy it.

Posted by wu at 07:28 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
25 abril
2016

The 100

Finally, I did a +100km ride, and in the best possible company

100 ride

10 of April, 2016

The alarm should ring at 07:00 (EEST), but I wake up way before that. I'm too excited to stay in bed, so I get out of the room as stealthy as I can, trying not to bother Oscar, sleeping in the other bed.

I left the clothes ready the day before, in the living room, so there is where I go after preparing breakfast (coffee, milk, bread and cheese).

Breakfast, coffee, milk, bread and cheese Preparing the coffee Preparing the bread and the cheese Having breakfast

I take it easy, eating slowly. It is always really hard to have breakfast so early, but today I manage quite well and I eat it all up. The bike is ready already, I put my cycling clothes on and I double check again that I have everything with me (Phone, Garmin, HR Sensor, GoPro, spare tube, tools...). Then I pick up Sascha's Jake to get outside.

Getting dressed with the cycling clothes (1) Getting dressed with the cycling clothes (2) Taking everything I need with me Almost ready for the start of the ride

Today we have planned to go on a longer ride together, Sascha and me. We will do the Apollonas round (clockwise), a route that covers something like 100 kms around the island of Naxos. We will pass by beaches, villages, valleys and mountains.

Leaving Damarionas, the road is waiting for me!

And I am pretty sure we will have looots of fun

Meeting sascha at the crossroad to Damarionas To agia ana, passing by the windmills To agia ana, passing by one of the small churches

I meet Sascha at the turn to Damarionas, the little village where we are staying. We say hello and we start riding towards the south, to the beaches. This is the easiest part of the ride, almost going down all the way down to Agia Anna, where we stop for a moment. It is near 08:46 and it is already really warm, so we decide to remove some clothes. I do remove the not-so-warm long sleeve tshirt, replacing it with a more fresh short sleeve one under my jersey/maillot. I also remove the scarf and I'm tempted to remove the fingerless gloves too. In the end I decide to keep them.

Taking the bikes to the beach, by the watch tower Taking the bikes to the beach, sand and sea

Soon after restarting, we notice that they are doing a lot of work on the road there. Some of the streets/roads are blocked, so we cannot go on them. Following Sascha's idea, we take the bikes on our shoulders and we do a small detour over the beach.

Towards Hora, passing by the beach Towards Hora, on the road by the airport

For the next 10 or 15 minutes we ride on flat land towards Hora, where we stop for a moment to say hi to Giannis. I ask him if he could keep the long sleeve tshirt, as I'm quite sure I will not need it at all.

Giannis, from naxosbikes.com

It is around 09:30, and the sun is not yet hitting us hard. I feel awesome, I have lots of energy and the whole idea of this ride gives me an extra push. The road towards Apollonas is lovely. On my left side I've the sea, which I can view from above, like a bird flying by the coast. On my right side I can see mountains, hills, valleys... sooo beautiful, mind-blowing sometimes.

This road, as almost every road I've seen in Naxos, is sneaky. It twists, like a snake trying to find his way through the island. I don't know how many 360º turns I'm taking here, but I can tell you I'm enjoying each one of them

Sascha and me left hora on the coast road with a mountain in the background Ahead of me the road that will get me into the valley, surrounded by mountains After getting out of the valley, we can see the sea again Fast enough to remove my hands from the handlebar A big rock on the right side, as if a rock avalanche was going to happen The sea to the left, the rocks on the right, going down fast Still the sea to the left, Sascha is on my right, passing fast by a small white church We go down on a snake of a road, approaching Apollonas finally

In Apollonas we do a stop for drinks and eat something, a toast, which for them is a big ham+cheese sandwich with french fries. I also have a biiiig mug of coffee and milk. We have all this sitting by the sea, with the beach just by our feet. We talk. I don't know exactly for how long we have been friends, but I enjoy every time I can sit and talk with him for a while. We talk about work, cycling, about life.

The cafe at Apollonas, where we stop for coffee Coffee break at Apollonas, sitting by the beach Coffee break at Apollonas, cheers!

Once we are done with the food and the drinks, we refill the bottles with fresh water and we take the road again. The hardest part of the ride is just ahead of us, waiting patiently.

Going up on a snake of a road, closer to the big rocks

It is 12:00 now. We can fully feel the sun on us. We have done a bit more than 50 kms already. I don't feel tired, but I'm wondering how I will perform in the long climb.

We are doing fine, but shortly after leaving Apollonas we do a short stop, just after the first serious climb. Sascha knows the road better and he suggest to do that stop to gather some breath (and take some pictures) before going into the real thing.

Short stop before the hardest part, Sascha looks quite happy One of the beautiful 360 turns on the coast road

I don't feel so powerful now, but it is totally fun going up on this snake of a road. I'm enjoying every meter, every push of the pedals, every moment of suffering on the legs. We took it easy and Sascha looks perfectly ok with it.

At one point, before Skado, he is faster than me. He keeps on with that magic, hypnotic spinning rythm of his, but I know perfectly well I would burn myself too fast if I try to keep up with that rythm, so I let go.

Going towards Skado, nice little village in the mountains

I take my time, I do find my rythm and I keep on with it, slowly, steady.

A bit later I find him waiting for me, sitting on the shade of a house. I'm glad we stop, give some time to my legs to recover a bit, drink some water.

Waiting for me in Skado

All the kms we have done, the climbing, the tired muscles... nothing can't compare now to the feel of the sun on me. I can't imagine how this would be in July, or August, with a full summer sun hitting you with no mercy. When things get a bit easier (~6%, that is) it is bearable. I can gain some speed and the air and wind around me helps cooling myself down a bit. When things get serious (~11%, that is), I'm cooked, boiling on my sweat. And it is middle of April, crazy.

Entering the village of Skado

We pass Skado, the end of the hardest part is just there.

Passing through the village of Skado

"Just one last effort, keep it rolling, spin your legs, spin, spin spin!" - I hear myself saying.

I notice the GoPro have run out of battery already, but I have no idea when it did stop recording exactly.

Now a stronger wind joins us on our journey. Obviously it is not blowing from behind, if you know what I mean. I grab the drops, lowering my position on the bike and keep myself pushing the pedals, trying not to push too much against the wind.

Suddenly, the mountain gives us shelter. The wind is coming from the other side and the rock is stopping it. It is the last part of it - "Go for it" - I tell myself again. I put higher gears on the back and I stand on the pedals, pushing harder, dancing with the bike. I gain some speed, just before that 360º turn in front of me. Here I am, in the middle of the turn, standing, pushing hard - "Let's catch up the swiss climber!" - talking to me again, just in time to get slapped by reality. I'm not covered by the mountain anymore, I'm out of the 360 turn and without shelter the wind gives me a blow that felt like a wrestler grabbing my seat post and pulling me back.

I fight, this time I fight the wind. I don't care if I'll burn, I'm almost there, there is just a bit more and then it will be flat and all the way down back home.

I've survived. I'm in Apiranthos, back behind Sascha's wheel again. He waited for me and I catched up on the flat part before this wonderful village. Now it is time to go up, just a little bit more, before starting all the way down. I stick my front wheel behind Sascha's back wheel. He pushes, I push, he spins, I spin. It works, I get the lift I need, at least until I notice a pain in my left leg. A cramp, yeah, it has to happen. I should have known that I cannot keep up with that fast spinning.

Luckily it just go away with a short stop, just a couple of minutes and some quick stretching.

I'm home now. The way down from Apiranthos was... down. Easy, fast. In order to pass the psicological barrier of the 100km we had to go on the road to Moni for a while, then back, but it was ok. Sascha did stop at his place in Kaloxylos and I came straight to Damarionas (a bit more climbing for a good finish).

I feel awesome, tired for sure, but better than what I expected. Now I have to do this more often!

The garmin showing some stats from the ride. The garmin showing some more stats from the ride.

Posted by wu at 21:42 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
25 junio
2016

Cyberpunk cycling

all geared up and connected!

A view of the road from Portomarin to Lugo from my bicycle

A couple of days ago I went on a ride in the morning. One of the usual routes I do around Lugo, first going southeast towards the mountains, then turning west, then northeast back to Lugo. Around 58 kms on both main/bigger roads and small and lovely secondary roads.

Something I do quite often this days, but this time something was different.

This time I had fun x 10. I felt so good, it was so much fun, I couldn't stop smiling. I even laughed out loud some times. It was like having an extra boost of adrenaline. It was real good fun there and, at one moment, I thought that I'd love Dolo to be there with me, having exactly that same sensation, feeling the joy and the fun.

"That won't happen any time soon" - I thought. I know, I know, not everybody likes the same things, same sports... but I thought it would be really nice to be able to share that with her.

And then an idea came to mind, like a lighting strike: SimStim!.

For those of you who hadn't read (yet) Neuromancer (seriously, go read it!), a SimStim allows one of the characters on the novel (Case) to be able to connect to another character (Molly) and live her experiences as his own, seeing what she sees, feeling what she feels (pain, joy, surprise, etc).

That'd be just perfect for sharing all the joy I had the other day while riding my bike. And, who knows, the future is just there, around the corner...

Posted by wu at 08:31 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
29 marzo
2017

My first brevet

I still can't believe I've finally done it

Me and the Jake, just after we finished the brevet

Last saturday I did ride my first Brevet, a 200km brevet organized by the CCRiazor from A Coruña. Doing something like that has been in my personal todo list since I started cycling (or, at least, since I started cycling a bit more seriously). I guess having Super Randonneur (George Tellalov) and the Randonneur of the cyclades (Sascha Welter) as friends helped a bit with that desire.

I've to say that I totally fell in love with the whole Brevet thing. The spirit, the people, the smooth ride (I was really really lucky about the weather)... everything was just perfect. For sure one of the best experiences I've had in my life.

Keep on reading if you want all the details!

The starting point was in A Coruña, then the route went all along the coast (the famous "Costa da morte", literally "The Coast of the death") up to Muxía. From there we had to come back to A Coruña, taking some small roads with a bit of climbing, separated from the coast. You can see the track in wikiloc, here:

https://gl.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=16771344

The meeting time was 07:30, with 20 minutes for everybody to get their brevet cards and get things ready. The starting time was scheduled for 08:00.

Some days before the brevet, I did consider renting a room in a nearby hotel so I wouldn't have to wake up too early (driving from my place to the starting point would be like 45-50 minutes), but in the end I decided not to.

The day before the Brevet I packed the bike, tools, spare tires, pump and a backpack full of cycling clothes into the car. Then I had a huge dinner (pasta with chicken and broccoli) and I went to bed a bit earlier than usual, quite excited!

Packing up all the stuff in the car

I woke up with time enough to have a shower, have a full breakfast and be on the road without hurries. But then, as soon as I was leaving the garage, I noticed the car had not enough gas to get to A Coruña. "Dammit!" - I thought - "and at this time all gas stations around here are closed!". Luckily there was gas enough to get to the next big resting area in the highway. I put 20 eur of gas as fast as I could and hit the road again, pushing it a bit over the speed limits, really worried I would not make it in time.

I arrived near the starting point around 7:35, but I could not find anybody around. "Fuck, where is everybody?" - I said to myself inside the car. I drove around the place for some minutes and I started to think that maybe I had gottten to the wrong place when I noticed a cyclist passing by. I hoped he was going to do the Brevet too, and I blindly followed him to the right place ("UFFFF!").

I got out of the car and quickly took the bike to the place where they were giving the brevet cards. It was almost 7:50 by then and I rushed back to the car (with the card, of course) and started to dress to get ready as fast as I could.

My brevet card

As I've said, I had plenty of cycling clothes in that backpack, as I wasn't sure about the weather, so I had to decide what to wear. I wanted to wear my club colors, so I put on the long pants and long sleeve jersey with a really warm long sleeve base layer. Over the jacket I put a reflective fluor vest and I did pack the rain jacket in one of the back pockets.

Almost ready to leave, tried to take a quick selfie

People started to gather near my car and suddendly somone shouted "hey, let's take the group picture!" - I did hesitate, but I did not to risk it even more so I just kept on dressing myself.

The group picture, do you see the open car trunk on the left? that was me getting ready!

The groups started to leave and I was still getting ready. We were like 55 people, and they left the starting point in groups of 15-20. I got ready in time to leave with the last group... or so I thought. I was already on the bike when I realized I had forgotten to put on the gloves! I did open the car trunk again, got the gloves, closed the car and got on the bike... but they were already gone.

They were leaving, but the trunk of my car was still open!!

So, there I was, starting my first Brevet ever, and doing it alone. "Great, the story of my live, riding alonem even in Brevets!!!".

I had to push it a bit, but soon I did spot some riders ahead of me. I pushed a bit more and passed some of them. First a couple of women, then a couple of guys... A bit later I catched up with the last bigger group and found a place for me in the middle of it.

Once in the group, I started talking to people, say "hello!" here, "hi!" there and the ocassional "Let's see if this weather will last!" too.

After a while riding with the group I met Alvaro, with whom I rode most of the time. He had a nice Merida bike with a huuuuuge backpack attached to the seat post:

The backpack on Alvaro's bike

When I saw it I could not resist myself and asked him - "Wow, you must be carring a big tortilla sandwich in there!". He did laugh and we started chatting. He is used to do long distance cycling, and he knew lots of people from the organizing club.

We rode all together in that group until the point where we got to a smaller road. There the group stretched a bit and as soon as it started to go up a bit seriously (on the so-called "Subida a la cantera") people started to spread around. We weren't a group anymore.

Alvaro, me and another 3 guys (one of them with a lovely Genesis Croix de Fer) rode together all the way up and a bit more, until we split again. Since then Alvaro and me rode together for something like 15 kms. We chatted a lot and enjoyed the ride and the scenery around. At one point we did spot another big group ahead. "Let's get into that group" - I told him, and we tried to catch them.

Catching them was tougher than expected. They were keeping up a good speed and the road there was kind of a rollercoaster, with lots of ups, downs and turns. We were able to see them on the next bump, but when we arrived there, we were not able to see them anymore.

We catched them at the entrance of Laracha and we found our way into the middle of the group (yeah! comfy ride again!). It was talking time again, more "hello!", "hi!" and the ocassional "how are you doing?". There were some strong guys in that group, who where pulling us. It felt indeed like going on a train ride.

While enjoying the train ride, I realized a couple of hours have passed already, so I did reach one of the back pockets and brought up a banana. It was time to eat something. Alvaro decided to eat something too, but he had all the food in the backpack, so he would have to stop. As I had 2 bananas in that pocket, I just gave him one. We made fun of that, and how much money I was going to ask for that banana!

We arrived at the first control point (Ponteceso) with that group, crowded with people from the organizing club, who know the best place for a stop and led us to a nice café that was already full of cyclists when we arrived. I did not took a picture (but I should have take it) of the outside of the building, it was really impressive, all surrounded by bikes of all types.

Inside all was noise, conversations, shoutings and laughing, loooots of laughing. People were having a good time.

The café in Ponteceso, lots of cyclists there (1) The café in Ponteceso, lots of cyclists there (2) The café in Ponteceso, lots of cyclists there (3) Me having a coffee in Ponteceso after stamping my card

I got my card stamped and I ordered a coffee and something to eat. And then I realized that, with all the rush to leave the starting point, I had forgotten my money in the car!. I had my credit card with me, but paying a coffee and a muffin with a credit card... no good. Luckily Alvaro offered to pay for my coffee (and then it was his turn to make fun of how was he going to pay for the banana!).

The first stamp on my brevet card

We left Ponteceso with some other people, which a bit later gathered again into a group, then it did split again into smaller groups. We managed to build a small group, 5 riders, whom did stay together all the way to the next control point in Muxía.

From Ponteceso to Muxía the route was lovely. Ups and downs and more turns, nothing really painfully steep, and loooots of nice views of the sea, the cliffs... Some of those views got sticked to my head, I can still recall them vividly while writing these lines.

Somewhere along the way, at that part of the route, we started talking about the weather. The forecast had been horrible during the whole week before the Brevet. They said it was going to rain, hard, specially after 12:00. So far the weather was really nice, cloudy and fresh but without strong winds and no rain at all.

I remember that the day before the Brevet I was hesitating if going for it or not, because of the weather. It turned out we had no rain during the whole day and the weather was simply fantastic. I'm glad I did not follow the weather forecast advices.

The weather was so nice that we had to do a short stop to remove some clothes (all of us). I did remove the scarf there and the vest, that helped cooling me down a bit.

We arrived in Muxía and we looked for a place to eat something and stamp our cards. We found a small bar and, at first, we were tempted by the daily menu, which was full of nice dishes (fresh fish, octopus, soups and other seafood-based stuff). We quickly decided not to take that though, it would have taken too long and then we would have to go on the last hilly part with our bellies too stuffed.

We had some nice sandwiches (see pic) with cokes and beers, and we got our cards stamped again (Fran did it for me this time). It was a quick lunch, but we had some time for chatting and getting to know each other.

My lunch in Muxía Fran stamped and put the arrival time in my card Second stamp on my brevet card

We put back on vests and jackets (temps had dropped a bit while we were having lunch) and then we left Muxía with the spirits high and with power enough to start the climbing. Daniel, who had more experience than the rest of us, suggested to take it easy, specially on the first part. We still had +100km ahead of us, mostly going up, up, up. Fran pushed from the start and left the 4 of us behind really fast (we didn't find him again on the road, he was waiting at the last control point - end of the brevet - when we arrived).

We kept on, chatting, taking it easy, enjoing the road and the ride.

On one of the uphills, a phone started ringing. It was Alvaro's and it was a work call (he had one before, while we were having lunch). There were some trouble at his office and they need him. He was kind enough to try to give them support while riding... crazy guy. We were going up on a steeper part, nobody talking to preserve some energy and there he was, like if he was riding on a total flat surface, giving instructions so people could fix the problem.

We made loooots of jokes of that moment for the rest of the ride.

Conversations slowed down a bit, some times we just kept on, pedaling and pedaling. We passed other brevet riders, we gather some people into our smaller group and then we lost them again. Nobody passed though.

When we were around 10km from the next control point in Santa Comba, keeping up with the guys started to be harder and harder. I decided not to keep pushing, I was afraid I could get burnt in the process, and so I was dropped and left behind. I did stick at my own pace, watching them getting further and further away. I did not loose contact though, keeping them on sight until I joined them at the control point in Santa Comba, in a small gas station at the entrance of town.

Alvaro's Merida bike and my Jake side by side at the third control point Third stamp on my brevet card

I felt relieved when I stop there. I needed it. I went inside to get my card stamped for the third time and I bought a bottle of coke, a big bottle of water and some chocolate. I packed the chocolate in one of the back pockets, drank the coke right away and refilled my water bottle.

We stop for some minutes there, chatting. That resting time was priceless, I did recover myself and was able to go up to the end of the Brevet without much trouble. While we were resting, we saw several small groups like ours passing by the gas station. Only another rider did stop at the gas station (I shared half of my big bottle of water with him, so he could refill his bottles too).

After Santa Comba we still had some uphill ahead, but not really much. We passed another small group of 4 riders, who pushed it a bit and joined us. We started then taking turns on the lead, going by pairs.

Slowly, the road was becoming more and more wet. It did not rain on us, but it seemed like if it had been raining just before we got there. The closer we were getting to A Coruña, the wetter it was. Later, after the brevet, I heard that the faster people got totally soaked with strong rain, while people that were slower than us found some rain also on the last part. We were really really lucky, just perfect timing!.

We kept on a good pace until we start the descents towards A Coruña and then things got really fast. We had a couple of long descents and I grabbed the drops, literally laying on the bike and almost not pushing the pedals at all.

The last part of the ride was definetely fast. We entered A Coruña from O Burgo, then turned at O Temple, joining a bigger road full of traffic. We had to make a row, I was riding third and Alvaro was fourth. Suddendly I heard him shouting, there was lots of noise from the cars and I tried to see what had happened, but I only was able to spot him dragging his bike onto the sidewalk. I shouted at the other two guys and we did stop as soon as we were able to. We turned back, just to see it was simply a flat tire.

A few minutes later we were climbing the last small ramp before the beautiful downhill by the beach that ended in what was, 9 hours before, our starting point.

I was really really happy when I stop in front of the door of the room where the small suitcase where we had to put our stamped cards were. I felt incredibly good, I felt accomplished.

We met Fran again there, and we greet everybody else that was around or arrived a bit after we did. We then took turns to put the arrival date on our Brevet cards and put the cards into a small suitcase decorated with drawings of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. We also took a picture of the 5 of us together, it made sense considering we did almost the whole thing together.

Me putting the brevet card in the small suitcase Left to right: Dani, me, Daniel, Fran and Alvaro

In the end I did 212.8 km with a total elevation gain of 3,226m in 9 hours, 6 minutes and 31 seconds, and I had one of the best experiences I've had in my life so far.

Posted by wu at 22:18 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
08 mayo
2017

New brevet ride: The 300

300km, +4811m, 13 hours and 12 minutes moving time, awesome!

Me, at the end, leaving the brevet card in the suitcase

The moment I decided that I was going to attempt doing a 200 brevet I thought it was going to be something hard to accomplish, really hard. I even had serious doubts that I was going to make it.

But I did, and I felt so incredibly well, both during the brevet and afterwards, that when the 300 was announced I said to myself - "Why not?". Suddendly, the idea of attempting the 300 hundred got sticked to my mind and I wanted to do it. I checked the route several times, it was tough (look at the elevation gain) but it was a damned lovely one! I already knew some of those roads, and I was quite sure it was going to be an amazing ride.

So, I talked about the idea at home, with dolo, and she encouraged me to do it - "I think it is a good idea but, do you think you are ready for something like that?" - Her words just clicked me, I was going to do it - "Sure I am!" - I replied, and I was damn sure I was going to make it.

The next few weeks I did stick to my usual riding plans, I did nothing special in preparation for the 300. I did read a bit more about longer brevets though, and I got some stuff I would need for it (better front light, new frame bag, powerbank, tools bottle...).

Deciding how to pack everything I would need was one of the most challenging parts of it. I did a first test ride to test the front lights, riding at the same hour in the night that I expected to be back by the end of the brevet (and kept riding for some time in the dark, as I had zero experience there). Then I did a couple of different bikepacking setups on the Jake, trying to find a way to setup all the bags in a comfortable way, but both tests were a complete failure. Either I had problems with the bags rubbing my legs or I found the setup not comfortable in some other ways.

Finally, Álvaro (whom I met in the 200 brevet) shared some pics of his setup and I did spot there a nice-and-slim frame bag from decathlon, which I bought and fit just perfect with my setup, which was basically that frame bag, a medium-size saddlebag and a large tools bottle where I stuffed all the food and tools I'd need. I trusted the weather forecast, so I decided not to take any really warm clothes with me (which helped reducing the amount of bulky stuff). I also decided to bring only one water bottle, trusting it would be enough to refill that one during the stops at the control points.

The Jake, ready for the 300

The bike was ready, I had all the things I'd need for it and I was definetely ready for it

The start time of the 300 was scheduled for 06:00, with the time window for getting the brevet cards between 05:30 and 05:45. That meant that leaving right away from home, like I did for the 200, was not an option. Not unless I wanted to do 300km on the bike without any sleep.

I made a reservation for a room in a village near the starting point, and on Friday (21st april) I packed all my stuff + dolo's and lara's and we left for Coruña together. I took them to the train station in Coruña, where they got into a train on direction to Vilagarcia de Arousa.

The train left and so did I, in direction to Santa Cristina. I arrived, parked the car and moved the things into the small hotel room (they were ok with me putting the bike into my room). I went for a short walk by the beach and then for an early dinner of pasta (carbonara) and an excellent dessert (chocolate+cookies cake with a big ball of vanilla ice cream on top). I was totally stuffed, but I wanted a big dinner, leaving so early in the morning I was not sure I was going to be able to have any breakfast...

The Jake in the small hotel room The nice walk by the beach in Santa Cristina, almost empty Super-dessert the night before the brevet, chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

I got back to the hotel after another short walk and I double checked all my things before going to bed. I charged the front light, the powerbank, the gopro (even if in the end I decided not to take it with me for the brevet). Finally I prepared a couple of sandwiches made out of multi-grain bread and honey.

Preparing the multi-grain sandwiches with honey

With everything ready I did lay down on the bed and almost instantly I fell asleep.

I woke up around 04:30, too excited to be able to sleep anymore. I had a quick shower to help fully waking up and then I got dressed and put all my stuff back in the car (including setting up the bike rack again and put the Jake on it). At 05:10 I was already at the starting point, what a difference with the 200! Only another car was there, one of the guys that organized the brevet was unpacking his bike, and so did I. It was pitch black at that time and I was really excited, specially thinking about start riding in the middle of the night.

Unpacking before the brevet, getting things ready The 300 brevet card

Once I was ready, I went to get my brevet card while other cyclists started to arrive. Some of them came by car, but lots of them came right away on the bike. When I was getting my card, I did recognize some faces, people I met during the 200, including Álvaro. We greet each other, really happy of meeting again in a brevet. He told me he tried the 300 in 2016, but he had to turn back at one point and did "only" around 150km that day - "No worries, today we will finish it!" - I told him, trying to cheer him up - "We will see" - was his short reply.

Everybody got back to the parking lot, where we took a picture of all the randonneurs together, just before the start. Everything was excitement, smiles and jokes at that moment. I recall we all were really happy, because even so early it was not cold at all. A couple of the older guys were saying that it was already smelling like summer.

The group picture, this time with me on it!

We turned the front lights on and off we were, into the night, into a full day of cycling and fun. And, man, this time I was in the middle of the big group from the start! I was really happy about that. Riding in such a group meant that I could have done it even without any front light at all.

Riding in the dark, within the big group

The group did stay together for quite some time. We left Coruña on a main road, and soon we moved into smaller roads, where the group had to stretch a bit but kept together somehow. The sky was beautiful, cloudless, full of stars and the moon... a couple of days before new moon, thin but shining so bright on a yellow-orange glow that I could not stop looking at it.

After some ups and downs we went down for a while and we crossed the town of Betanzos. It was still night and the town was quiet, nobody on the streets and not even a café opened. We passed through the old parts of town, crossing a couple of old bridges under the dim yellow light of old street lights. Then I had been riding in the dark for near 50 minutes already, but I was in the group, the pack, and I felt like if I was riding in mid-day, having forgotten the absence of day light almost completely.

We left Betanzos and we started the first real climb of the route, going up towards the first control point at Irixoa. It had been really warm so far (considering at what time we had started) and you can imagine it got a little bit warmer as soon as things started to go up. I opened the zip on the light jacket, letting the fresh air of the morning passed through it and cool me down.

The group started to spread. I was in the leading part of it and I had noticed one rider that was going much faster than us, then stopping to wait for us, then restarting, stopping again... At one point he and a couple more guys just flew away. We were not a big group anymore and I was riding with Álvaro and some more people, but it was him, me and another cyclist riding together to Irixoa. We had a good pace and we talked a lot about riding at night.

Riding just before the sunrise

And the sunrise happened, and it was one of the nicest experiences I've ever had in my life. After one hour and a half riding in (almost) complete darkness, we were going up on a small road with a good view on our right side (valley below, hills and more hills on the distance) when the sky started to change colours, a wide variety of colors, and then the sun was there, bathing us, warming us even a bit more.

All bikes parked at the café in Irixoa (1) All bikes parked at the café in Irixoa (2)

It was day when we got to the control point at Irixoa, and there we had the coldest moment we would have in the whole day. It was like if the village was isolated from the rest of the world, having its own weather and temperature, much colder than the rest of it (like 10C less than a few kms before). So, it was perfect timing for a coffee stop. This wasn't the flood of cyclists we made in Ponteceso, in the first stop of the 200 (we were a lot more people then) but even so the waiter had to wake up fully to serve us all the hot drinks we ordered. We got our cards stamped and we tried to make it a short stop, matching it with the other guys we have been riding with.

First stamp on the brevet card, in Irixoa

Also, we were lucky and we kept on the good company of the guy who had been riding with us so far (a veteran, who later told us about the time when he did Paris-Brest-Paris and a bunch of other cool stories).

Me on the jake, cycling by the recumbent bike Me riding with a couple other cyclists Me and one of the veterans, who have done PBP already

We left Irixoa as few small groups. I was riding with Álvaro and that veteran rider, with some more people behind us, when we starting going a bit up on a small hill. I switched the chain to the small chainring and clack!, the chain got loose. "Dammit!" - I thought - "Not here, not now!". I quickly put the bike upside down and put the chain back in place, cutting one of my fingers in the process (I didn't realise about that until later though, when we were near Mondoñedo). I was fast fixing the problem and I pushed it a bit afterwards, and in no time I was back with the guys.

Our pace was good and soon we joined other riders and the group got bigger... and faster. Three of the guys took the lead and started pulling us real fast through the next 20 or 30 kms. I didn't need to look at the garmin to know we were going fast, I just noticed it had been a while since the last time anybody had said anything!

The day started sunny, cloudless, but at one point between Irixoa and Vilalba we found some fog. Suddendly the ride got a magic atmosphere, I recall some of the really nice pictures I've seen on the Internet from people riding brevets, some of them cutting through fog like we were doing. "Too bad I did not take the GoPro with me" - I thought, but luckily Álvaro has his camera with him...

Small group riding in the fog Small group riding in the fog (2) Small group riding in the fog (3)

The fog did not last for long and by the time we arrived in Vilalba we were under a blue and sunny sky again. At the entrance of Vilalba we found some tough ramps, short but with a high percentage, and the group got stretched again and finally broke into smaller groups, pairs and trios. I know those roads but I knew Álvaro didn't, so I waited for him on a couple of turns, just in case. This meant loosing the leading group a couple of times and then joining them back again a bit later.

On the road from Vilalba to Abadin the bigger group got together again. The same 3 riders pulling us all on that rollercoaster of ups and downs all the way to A Xesta, which is a big downhill we had ahead of us before the next stop in Mondoñedo.

And there, on that downhill, something really weird happened.

The older riders were on the leading group and I did stop to wait for Álvaro, as he wanted to stop to get some water. When he arrived where I was waiting for him, we resumed the ride and we met some other riders, making another small group of maybe 6 or 7 people. We rode together the start of the downhill, until it became really steep. There everybody did lay down on the bike, looking for an aerodynamic position, and soon nobody could pedal anymore (as we were going really fast). With nobody pedaling, everybody on the drops and laying on their bikes... I noticed how everybody else was way faster than me. It was as if I was pulling the brakes while they were still pedaling! In less than a minute I was all alone on the road.

"W T F" - I thought - "This can not be true!"

I went all the way down and took the turn to Mondoñedo, but no trace of the group. I was completely freaked out. Anyway, I got to Mondoñedo and took the entrance to the old part of the village and soon I found the veterans, who had stop in a small café to stamp the brevet cards and have some drinks and something to eat.

I also got the card stamped there and I drank a coke (no coffee, as it was too hot for that already). I didn't eat anything there, I was ok and there was only junk food, so I decided to skip it. When I was chatting with some guys and drinking my coke, Álvaro appeared at the door. He had been looking around for me and he did spot the Jake outside the café. He told me then that they were going so fast that they missed the turn to Mondoñedo, so they had to do a big detour and got into the village from a different point, having to climb all the extra downhill they had done before. Crazy.

Second stamp on the brevet card Álvaro and me in one of the squares in Mondoñedo

He got his card stamped too and we took some pics outside before resuming the ride. Next stop: Viveiro, already on the coast.

Álvaro and me left mondoñedo with the company of another 3 cyclists, Abel, Álvaro (yeah, another one!) and David. It turned out we had met them already in the 200, when we rode together for some time during the last 50km of that brevet. Really nice people, we created a small group of 5 cyclists that kept together all the way to the end of the brevet.

I took the lead then. I knew those roads quite well, and I even rode on them one week before the brevet (as I was spending some days there during Easter). After a while we started going up towards Ferreira do Valadouro. It was one of those long-and-steady climbs, not really hard, but warm. By that time the sun was hitting us hard. The sky was cloudless and there wasn't much protection/shade on that road. Soon I had to remove the arm warmers and a bit after that I had to open the zip on my jersey. "I should put on some sunscreen" - I thought, but I had forgotten to do it in Mondoñedo, and I was not going to stop to do it then (and then I forgot in the next stops anyway).

Before Ferreira we lost Álvaro (águila ;-D). He did a stop to remove some clothes too and he had not catched up with us yet. Ferreira is a bit tricky if it is the first time you pass by it, you get into the main street just to find out that at one point the street becomes a one-way street and you can't keep going on it, so you have to take a turn and then another couple of turns before keep going on towards Viveiro. As I knew it already, I asked the guys to stop for a moment and wait for him. There was a street market and we did stop in the middle of it (luckily it wasn't too crowded at that moment).

With the group assembled again we resumed the ride, it was time to do the second real climb of the day, all the way up to Vilacampa. This was one of the parts I enjoyed a lot. A beautiful 5-6 km climb on a secondary road that twisted itself all the way up. We had the protection of the trees, giving us some nice shade, but we have also some open parts with good views of the valleys and hills around us. We spot the usual livestock (cows, sheep, donkeys...) and some old stone houses here and there.

I started the climb fresh, confident. I did that climb a couple of times before, it is not that hard... well, not unless you have 130 km already on your legs. David was fresh also, so the two of us got ahead of the others at the beginning. Álvaro (Águila) pushed it a bit and got closer (taking some pics of us meanwhile) and we kept on together while Abel and the other Álvaro did stay behind.

David and me on the start of the climb to Vilacampa

At some point after the middle of the climb my legs started to feel a bit heavier. It was a point where we did not have much shade and the sun was hitting hard... and I was running out of water. I did recall that near the end of the climb there was a fountain and so I kept on pedaling, with the idea of fresh water from that fountain sticked to my mind.

There was such a fountain indeed, and we did stop there for a moment to refill the bottles, wait for Abel and Álvaro and gather some breath.

Selfie by the fountain Our small group, doing a stop to refill our bottles from a fountain

While we were there, a car came by and stopped there. A guy came out of the car, opened the trunk and started to produce 5-liter bottles from it. We asked him if the water was good there and so we started chatting. He asked us if we were coming from Burela or Ribadeo (towns located on the coast too) and when we told him we were coming from A Coruña, he did not believe it. We told him about the brevet and what was still ahead of us and he replied with a "Youngsters... you are crazy, if I'd do 20 km on a bicycle I'd be dead!".

We left the fountain and resumed the ride, a few more meters going up and then we started the long (and craziest) descent towards the coast. I had told them that there was a fast descent after Vilacampa, but the first couple of km is not really that steep, and soon I heard some comments like "man, is this the fast descent?" - "c'mon! this is not even a real descent".

Then the real descent began and everything became crazy. Abel and specially Álvaro started pushing like crazy, the rest of us just tried to follow. And for me that was way tougher than the climb! That road is sneaky, with some really hard turns, some almost 360º/U-turn like. There are some parts of the road with big potholes and loose stones. But it is also beautiful, going down you have some open views of valleys, hills and at the end you can even see a bit of the coast.

My arms were complaining loudly when we finished it. Too much tension on them during the whole thing. Also, all the focusing on the road surface (trying not to step on a pothole or big stone) drained lots of energy too, so I felt a bit tired. Viveiro was close though, just a matter of minutes before the next control point.

We arrived in Viveiro a bit later and we took the road towards the old part of town, leaving the road we would have to take to keep on route to our left. We tried to spot a place for lunch for a while, but we did not find anything so we decided to stop for a moment and ask. We asked for a place to eat some pasta and we got some recommendations on some places near Praia de Covas, which was on the direction of our route, so there we went.

Riding towards Praia de Covas, by the bay of Viveiro

While looking for one of the recommended places, someone did spot a Pizza Tutto (one of those italian food franchises) which seemed to be empty. It seemed like a nice place for our stop, as it was located by an alley, with a table by a biiiig window from where we could see the alley. We parked the bikes by that window and got inside, asking if we could get some food.

The bikes parked outside the Pizza Tutto restaurant

It would have been better to move on to one of the recommended places.

They say we could sit wherever we prefer. The restaurant was indeed empty, except for the cook, the boss and one of those pizza (scooter) deliverers. As soon as we sat down we noticed something was happening there. It seemed as if something went wrong before we got in and they were arguing about something. The boss came to ask what we would like for drinks and food and we ordered pasta (penne) for everybody with a tuna fish + tomato sauce mix. We ask her if he could put the sauce in a separate bowl, so we could use as much as we would like, instead of adding it already to everybody's dish. She agreed and minutes later she came back with our drinks. Everything quite "normal" so far, but then the cook and the pizza deliverer started to argue a bit more. The boss came into it too, shouting. In a matter of minutes the whole thing was as if it was part of one of those Marx Brothers movies. There was shouting, threats, insults and a couple of times I thought the cook was going to hit the other guy. Obiously all that happened instead of the preparation of our lunch.

We had been there for more than half an hour already when I got anxious and a bit angry. I thought about going there and say something. Not that we were in a hurry, but wasting our time like that... no good. I woke up and went to the door, then to the bikes, then I got inside and stood there, looking at them. I sat again and the cook appeared to tell us he was sorry and that he was cooking some more pasta.

The group ready to eat some pasta Third stamp on my brevet card

Finally we got our lunch, which was not super-tasty, but good enough (and we were damned hungry at that point). No dessert and (sadly for Álvaro) no coffee neither, but at least we got another stamp on our brevet cards (really a bad choice we made there for the lunch stop).

With our bellies full of pasta, tuna fish and tomato sauce we left Viveiro. 50 more kms ahead until the next stop in Cariño. I remember someone said when we were getting on the bikes "And now take it easy dammit, it will take some time for my stomach to digest the food, don't want to throw up in a couple of kilometers!". We made some jokes, laughed and started pedaling. We were supposed to take it easy, but a few kms after I noticed the two Álvaros were far behind David, Abel and me.

I kept up with Abel and David for a while and suddendly two other riders passed us. One of them was standing on the bike and he kept like this while they were passing us... and then some more, and some more... and... I had him on sight for a few more kms (5? 7? not sure) and he did stand on the bike all that time without touching the saddle not even once!

A bit later Abel and David were about to drop me, I pushed it a bit to not let them go, but on the next small hill I tried to move the chain from the big ring to the small one... clack!! the chain got loose again. I quickly put it back in place, but it was too late to catch the guys and I wasn't going to push it too hard, there was still a lot to ride for the day.

And so I found myself riding alone, completely alone. and I rode alone for something like 30km or so. Not the best thing that can happen to you in the middle of a brevet, but nothing that bad neither. I tried to find my pace and I tried not to think too much on anything - "just enjoy the ride" - I told myself. Well, it did not work, and my mind started to think about both Álvaros first, hoping everything was ok with them, then about the distance left for the next control, finally about how tired I was getting. Then I had a short break on all my thinking, when an asshole riding one of those Harley-Davidson-like motorbikes passed too close to me, really really too close, making the engine roar like a dinosaur. Later Abel and David told me the bastard passed made the same thing when passing them.

A view from the road from Viveiro to Cariño

After ridden like 140km I had the same feeling I have had in the 200. It was like if I was slowly running out of steam. Every little climb was mining my will and the fact that the last 8-9 kms to cariño where on a road we were going to ride back after the stop, did not help at all. On each descent, instead of enjoy some rest all I could do was think that I was going to have to climb that up when coming back. Anyway, I managed to get to Cariño and after entering the village I started looking around, trying to find where the guys had stopped. That was easy, as everybody was sitting outside a café on a big terrace.

I parked the bike along all the other bikes and started waving at people and saying hello. "Hey! you arrived! How was it so far?" - one of the veterans asked - "Fine, just fine, nice ride so far, I'm glad I've arrived here" - I replied. It was damned hot so I got inside, asked for the stamp on my brevet card and ordered a 1.5L bottle of water and a chocolate-cookies-vanilla ice cream. Then I went outside and looked for a place to seat and rest a bit.

Fourth stamp on my brevet card Tired but happy, sitting on a café in Cariño

A few minutes later, Álvaro and Álvaro arrived. I felt relieved, seeing they were ok. They sat down on our table and we talked a bit about our own experiences for the last few kms. We all felt tired and the idea of having to ride 100km more was a bit... challenging.

Then people started packing up, one last visit to the toilet and ready to go. The veterans left first, then some more people, then our little group-of-5 left Cariño, leaving behind some people still at the café. We even crossed some riders that were arriving in Cariño when we were leaving.

Álvaro and David, sitting on the café in Cariño Packing up before leaving Cariño

It seemed as the whole group were feeling much better after that stop. I definetely was much much better. I don't know if it was because of the rest in Cariño, the ice cream, being again in the group or a combination of all those together. Whatever, we got on a good pace again, talking about the next climb we were ahead, just after leaving the road to Cariño and taking the one towards Fene (next stop) and Ferrol.

Álvaro and me, on the little climb after Cariño Álvaro, Abel, Me and Álvaro on the little climb after Cariño

I think at some point the energy from the pasta kicked in, and then I felt incredibly good and fresh. Soon I found myself leading the group. We were chatting and making fun and jokes again.

We passed other riders (including the recumbent bike) and we kept on and on. I have really good memories of that part. It was a nice road, we were riding on a nice pace and we had some good views of the sea. We were really lucky that the weather was soooo nice. For a couple of moments I thought how hard it would have been on a usual windy day there, with strong wind coming in from the sea and nothing to get cover/shelter from it.

We arrived in Fene with the sensation that we were almost there. "c'mon! only 40 kms to go!" - someone said. We did stop at a café and again we sat down on the terrace. It was 20:03 and my calculations said we would have day light until 21:45, more or less, and we still had 40km with two steep climbs ahead. We got the cards stamped and ordered some drinks, then we asked the waiter if he has sandwiches or anything we could eat. He said he had no sandwiches, but offered to prepare us a tortilla... so tempting... and he said it would take less than ten minutes, so we couldn't resist the offer and said yes to it. Wise choice, really wise choice.

Having a tortilla in Fene All our bikes together in Fene Fifth stamp on my brevet card

While eating that wonderful tortilla we talked about what we were going to find on our way back to Coruña. All of them knew those roads, as they already rode on them before, and they seem to be well-known routes for cycling when you live in Coruña. They all agree that there were two steep climbs to be done, and that the first one (just after Fene) was the hardest.

We left Fene in a good mood. We were feeling good before arriving and the extra rest + food helped powering us up even more. We started the climb and I quickly notice I was faster than them. I did hesitate for a moment, but I was on a very comfortable pace and I did not slow down. I arrived to the top with quite some distance on them and I started going down - "they will be faster than me on the downhill anyway" - I thought. And indeed they were. They were faster and I did stop for a moment in a turn, confused by the line on my garmin, when I heard Álvaro shouting "straight!!!" while passing me like a motorbike.

The other guys passed fast and I had to push it a bit on the way down to catch them up at the bridge that is the entrance to Pontedeume. After the bridge there was a roundabout and someone shouted - "Turn left!" - I looked at the route in my garmin and it was saying clearly to turn right, so I shouted back - "the track goes to the right!!" - and Abel shouted back - "Bastards!!" - "Why?" - I replied, but no need for an answer, I found out real fast.

PAVÉ

Yeah, after 270-280km on the bike, the route had this little surprise waiting for us there. It took us through Pontedeume, on a paved road with a very steep part. My ass was hurting, my arms were hurting, the rear wheel slipped 3 or 4 times when I did stand on the bike to go up the steeper part... but the worse thing of it was, no doubt, that I was scared like hell of having a flat there. The idea of having a flat so close to the end of it, when the sun was setting and it would be dark soon... that was terrible.

Luckily everything went just ok, we passed that paved road and ended in a lovely little road with nice views (again) of the coast. By then we had started already to put on more clothes (the fluor light jacket and the arm warmers in my case). The sun was down already, but we still have some day light.

On the way back to coruña, wearing warmer clothes already but still with some day light

When we were crossing Miño I started to feel tired. It was also starting to get darker and darker, and that was not helping me. I got anxious. The group got split. Abel, David and Álvaro going faster, then me, finally Álvaro a bit behind me. Then he passed me, then I passed him, finally we got together again.

Then it was night already. I turned on the front light and so did the rest of group. I had already my fluor jacket on, which has some good reflective stuff, but we noticed Álvaro and Abel hadn't put his reflective vests on. They did a short stop to put them on and told us to keep on, that they would catch up later. And so we did. By then we weren't talking that much. Me, I was just trying to focus on the road in the dark and tried not to think too much on that anxiety I was feeling.

And then David shouted

"Beware of the hunchback!!!"

"WT.." - I thought, when I noticed something passing by me real fast... it was Abel. As he had a backpack with him, he thought it would be better to put his vest over it, otherwise the backpack would make the reflective parts useless, not visible at all. And he damned look like The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I laughed out loud. Crazy guys.

Thing is, he pushed like crazy there, and his two friends chased him like crazy. then Álvaro joined the pursue... and I thought they all were f**** crazy doing something like that... but I tried to keep up.

We were together again before the last climb, from Miño and passing by Pedrido. And I was glad I was not alone there. The climb wasn't that hard, but I was pretty dead by then. I was tired, and nervous. There were lots of traffic, the only lights around were our front lights and the cars' lights and the space we had on the road, out of the main lanes was really small and all covered with high grass and plants coming from outside the road.

Riding in the dark on a big road, at least this one had a bit more of light over it

I had a very bad moment then. I was following them blindly, trusting them and the fact that they know that road well. Álvaro (águila) did stay with me almost all the way up, talking to me and supporting me. I was really grateful of that.

After what looked like an eternity, we were back on the main road from where we left Coruña a few hours ago. It started to go down and the guys were faster again, so I was alone again. In complete darkness, with lots of traffic.

F U N

A bit later I joined them again at the last turn we had to take, from that main road into the smaller road that took us back to the starting point of the brevet.

I was so happy when I realized we were a couple of roundabouts from the end. Everybody was happy. Abel was riding in front of me and he let go of the handlebar and started raising his arms, wide open. Man, we had finished a 300 km brevet, how awesome is that?

We arrived at the starting point, were we found some of the people we have ridden with during different parts of the brevet. We heard congratulations, we said the same things. We put the time on our brevet cards (no stamp there) and we put them in the small suitcase.

We took some pictures, including one of our little group-of-5, together:

5 happy friends at the end of a 300 kilometers brevet

After that it was time to pack up and put everything back into the car. I still had to drive all the way from A Coruña to vilagarcia (a bit more than one hour and a half). I waved and said goodbye to everybody, specially to Álvaro, telling him we would meet soon... for the 400!

For the record, this is the list of things I took with me for the 300:

Clothes:

Tech:

Tools:

Food:

I ate the bananas and the honey sandwiches, but I didn't eat any of the cereal bars. I had no mechanical problems on the bike (no flats, nothing broken), except for the 2 times the chain got loose, so in the end I didn't have to use any of the spares I took with me.

The anker power bank worked really well, both to charge the garmin while riding and to charge the front light while we were having lunch. Taking about that light, it was the first time I used it and it was more than enough to see even in complete darkness. It is a powerful little light that weights nothing and that you can charge while using it (from a powerbank, for example) so it is handy. A bit overpriced (40-something eur), but good enough.

Now, if only I could go and give the 400 a try...

Posted by wu at 08:53 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
[1]