This Space for Rent

Third time’s (almost) a charm

The End

Now that the school year has started, my midweek permanent habit has been pretty severely curtailed; I can no longer go out for 9-10 hours to ride 124 miles, because all I have is a 5h15 window between shooing Russell out the door in the morning and going over to Llewellyn to retrieve Silas in the afternoon.

But even though 5 hours isn’t long enough for a fast 200k, it’s more than enough for a fast 100k populaire. So that’s what I’ve decided to try and do in place of my previous midweek 200ks. And today was the first day to test it out.

I’ve ridden Kevin Brightbill’s permanents a bunch already this year, with a particular emphasis on his 110k Cuthbert Binns populaire, which is about as close to optically flat as you can get in the Portland area, plus which is scenic enough so you won’t mind the flatness. We’d (the other times I’d ridden it I rode with Kevin) managed to finish the loop in under 5 hours, including one flat-ridden try last Tuesday, so I thought that if I pushed my moving speed up just a little bit – and didn’t get any flats – I’d be able to do it in close to or maybe under 4 hours.

And it’s Wednesday, so it was the time to try it.

The weather wasn’t particularly welcoming, though – it was nice and sunny, but there was a pretty savage north wind blowing up the Columbia, and once I got up to Naito there wasn’t anything between me and the wind for the next 20 miles. So I dealt with it in the traditional way – I put my head down and tried to push myself through it as fast as possible. But today “as fast as possible” wasn’t really all that fast; in the past I’ve managed to shove myself at 20mph through some enthusiastic headwinds, but today it was only about 18mph, with the occasional “hello, mr. brick wall!” as I’d come out of a sheltered section and get the full force of the wind right smack in my face (note to myself: I need to lower my handlebars. How I’m going to do this, I don’t know, given that I’m down to the decaleur and bell spacers, but the bars feel much too high when there’s a strong headwind.) But, on the bright side, I managed to avoid all of the tire-eating debris that I became far too intimate with the last time around and made it to Sauvie Island with my tires intact.

The front end of the MLCM at speed

Once on the island, there are enough windbreaks so that the upwind slog to the first info control wasn’t completely into a headwind. But the last 4-5 miles of it were, and as I ground north my speed slowly dropped from ~19mph down to 18, then 17, 16, 15, 14, and finally to 13mph for the last half mile (across Columbia County chip seal. Which isn’t nearly as bad when I’m riding Resist Nomad 700×28c tires as it was when I was riding Ruffy Tuffies) to the first info control. And then I was paid back on the return by being shoved, at speeds up to 24mph, all the way back down to the junction of Sauvie Island Road and Reeder Road, which I would then take north to the nude beaches on the northeast corner of the island.

On Reeder Road, the headwinds were spectacularly strong, and the only thing that saved me from completely stalling out was that the road zigs somewhat as it works its way northeast, and when the zigging died down there were enough windbreaks to give me a breather as I clawed my way northwards. When I neared the north end of Reeder Road, though, I entered a section where there were no windbreaks, just headwind, and I ended up moving increasingly slowly across the section (started at 18mph, ended at ~12mph) until I hit the gravel section, which was blocked from the wind by the hedgerow that separates the nude beach from the road.

Two weeks ago, this gravel section would have been a pain. But I’ve switched tires and can now blast across loose gravel at 18mph if I’m in a hurry and not feel like I’m about to be vibrated to death or about to have the bicycle slide out from under me. So I flew up to the second info control, info controlled myself, then turned around and bolted back south, at between 20 and 24mph.

Which I kept up, more or less, until I reached Willbridge Yard, where the wind broke up and became a headwind again, which it kept up for about 4 miles, then became intermittent as I worked my way across town towards the final control. The headwind was pretty discouraging, but I pushed as hard as I could – cursing all the while – through the approximately 2000 traffic controls that littered the route (I was given permission to try some alternate routings, and I did St Helens->Thurman->Naito instead of Kittridge->Front->Naito. This kept me away from approximately a dozen angled railroad crossings, but at the cost of many traffic controls) between the foot of Thurman and the final control.

Down Naito, across the Morrison bridge, then down Water Street, and then I worked my way up and over the Powell overpass at 9th St and up onto the hill that Brooklyn is built on. I took 10th across Brooklyn, then dropped down to Milwaukie for the last quarter mile to the end, and, after being stopped by one last stoplight, rolled up to the final control only to discover that I had not broken the 4 hour barrier.

Shoot. I guess I’ll have to try it again next week.

The gory details for the loop are: