This Space for Rent

Out on the line (a last-minute 400k? Whyevernot?)

Gallon House bridge

I hadn’t been paying much attention to the orrando summer schedule, because every event was either (a) not planned or (b) a long way away from Portland and difficult to get to if you were going to use your bicycle to get there.

But for some reason I looked in at the schedule page a couple of weeks ago, and found that the summer 400k was going to be a reissue of the At Eden’s Gate 400k which I enjoyed so much this spring. But money was short, and I didn’t know if I had the horsepower to do it. So I waffled and put off deciding, until the start of this week rolled around and I decided that I might as well sign up for the thing and make up my mind if it didn’t look like we would be doing anything else on saturday.

When wednesday rolled around, I’d mainly talked myself into do it because the field of riders was evenly spread between the really fast riders and people who ride the speed I usually go. But aside from deciding I’d do it, I didn’t have enough organization to actually do anything about preparing until friday night, when (still slightly waffling) I stopped at the Big Big Big Store to get some cookie bars and (nasty, but useful for cramming electrolytes into my system ) Clif shot blocks, then went home, posted my scheduled Friday Dust Mite Blogging, set the alarm clock for 3am, and, still thinking “well, maybe I’ll go” went to sleep.

Unlike the loop in May, I hadn’t made any formal plans to ride with anyone, so my idea was to ride out to Wilsonville (much closer than Forest Grove – it’s 14 miles and a tiny bit of change from home to the Wilsonville La Quinta if I take Macadam, McVey, and Stafford Road,) try to move out fast enough to ensure that I was in the middle of the pack, and if I ever found myself dead effing last I’d DNF and bolt for home so I wouldn’t end up wandering around lost in the countryside north of Salem in the middle of the night.

And it was a sunny day, so I was hoping I’d be able to see what the Willamette Valley looked like in broad daylight.

Unfortunately the alarm clock didn’t wake me up on Saturday. No, I found myself wide awake at 2:30am in the morning, and after 15 minutes of trying to will myself back to sleep for just a couple more minutes I gave up, got up, turned off the alarm clock, and with not less than a few wistful glances back at my warm and cozy bed, dressed and reflectorized myself, ate a bowl of cereal, then rolled out the door and sailed south for Wilsonville, arriving at the starting line with 25 or so minutes to go before the brevet started.

And after a few minutes ogling a handsome new bicycle, 5am rolled around and the (small) mob rolled southwards away from Wilsonville.

A couple of the faster riders did the traditional disappearing with a poof, leaving nothing but vaguely bicycle shaped swirls of dust, but, in what has to be an absolute first for me, none of the rest of the fast riders vanished, and in the 30-odd miles down to Silverton I found myself in the nontraditional position of sharing (and occasionally leading) a paceline with the fast riders. (Including a stretch where I found myself leading the paceline for a couple of miles until my legs started to ache and I realized I’d been pulling a couple of the fast boys along at 20-odd mph. Ooops.) So I didn’t manage (again) to get any pictures of anything north of the Gallon House bridge, because I’m not confident enough of my bicycle handling skills to juggle a camera and closely follow other bicycles at the same time (and, in addition, I remember riding by a pileup on Meridian last time around where a paceline ate a bicycle wheel during a wreck, and I didn’t want to have the starring role in an remake of that wreck.)

The road south (and up) from Silverton

This unusual turn of events didn’t last past Silverton, because when you get onto the Cascades Highway to Sublimity & Stayton, it pitches up fairly steeply and, even though there was no headwind this time, I still climb like an anchor. I kept up with the climb out of downtown Silverton, but when the road pitched up again just south of the Oregon Garden I geared down and fell off the back, never to see them again.

But that was fine, because it meant I could unlimber the camera and take a few pictures as I rolled across this spur of the Cascades on my way down to the convenience store at Sublimity and then the steep ramps along Cole School Road.

I can appreciate(?) Cole School Road more these days. It’s stupidly steep (almost to the point where if I was a cheating man I’d ride the Stayton-Scio highway all the way into Scio, then jog two miles north to the Schimanek bridge (sure, it would be longer, but it would be flatter)) but those ramps are short stupidly steep ramps, and when I hit them without 20 miles or so of soul-sapping headwinds it was merely a case of dropping into my lowest gear (~35") and rowing the mighty ark up the 80 vertical feet of >20% grades. In the grand scheme of things I’d say that Cole School Road, nasty as it is, is not as bad as Buckner Creek Road, partially because it doesn’t go on as long, but mainly because all of this nasty climbing is almost completely redeemed by the vertical plunge off a cliff that is Richardson Gap Road. (~40mph dropping down that road, and I wasn’t even in the drops on the MLCM.)

And south of that, it was simply a high-speed run south towards Mohawk with camera in hand. Picture of my shadow on the bike? Check! Every covered bridge I saw, including the one we didn’t go through? Check! Railroad equipment (at least the stuff I saw)? Check! Dust Mite on the line? Check!

It was so bright and sunny, and the wind was so much either not there or moderately south, that I didn’t even realize I was getting sunburned to a crisp until after it was too late for the suntan lotion to do anything other than moisturizing. It ended up taking me just a little under 10 hours to run the first 200km of the loop (and another 13(?) minutes to reach what I consider to be the “official” halfway point at the Mohawk Post Store.)

My initial pace could not stand, of course – I’d lost a lot of momentum on the long and relentless climb up Brush Creek Road to the nuclear free pass at the Lane county border (And I will also point out that Lane County has, for some inexplicable reason, chipsealed the upper reaches of Marcola Road, thus converting a bumpy but really fast descent into a rattlely and slower drop down to the last covered bridge on the loop. Sigh) – and by the time I’d reached the Mohawk control Michal Young (Salsa Casseroll, DHCP license plate) and Wayne Myer (Trek 26" to 700c conversion) had caught up to me and ended up riding with me for the rest of the loop.

And one other thing of note happened after departing from the Mohawk Post Store; the route turned north, went out into the Willamette River valley, and proceeded into a soul-sapping headwind all the way up to Albany.

We were not happy campers by the time we reached the Albany city limits. Defensive pacelining reduced the pain and despair down to a dull ache, but we were still hungry and sore by the time we jumped over to the west side of the Willamette and took a short detour to get fud-shaped-objects at a local A&W. And by the time we had finished eating and set out on the road again the sun had finally set and we had to ride the rest of the way in the dark.

One unhappy thing I noticed on this loop is that the combination of waking up at 2:30am and then running like mad to the south meant that I was starting to get tired in Albany. So the last 50 miles of the loop (in the dark, I will point out) had more time than I wanted where I was riding on autopilot while I tried to think of something to distract my attention and wake me up. Sodapop worked, though it ended up rasping the inside of my throat, but the seeming maze of twisty highways all alike north of Salem (which are actually fairly direct, but don’t seem that way after you’ve crossed the Oregon Electric for the fifth time) just went on forever and made the last 20 miles of the loop seem like 50 miles just by themselves.

And by the time we rolled into Wilsonville for the end of the trip, we were moving at not much more than 10 mph (which seemed really fast for me; if Wayne and Michal hadn’t have been roaring along at that lightning speed, I probably would have been down to about 5mph, punctuated by repeated stops to try and figure out just where the devil I was.

And when I rolled back home on Sunday morning (I crashed in Wilsonville for about 4 hours because I didn’t think I could make it back home safely at 2am) I was moving so slowly that it took me over a hour and a half to ride the distance that took a hour the morning before.

There were some things that didn’t work very well on this loop, which I may need to revisit later.

  1. When I dismantled large parts of my bicycle looking for a squeak I reassembled it with the seatpost about half an inch higher than before. This was a mistake, because it subtly changed my seating position. When I’m riding energetically, my pelvis rocks a little more, which means that my underwear tends to shift and ball up in uncomfortable positions. And when I’m riding for a long time – like, for example, on a 400km loop – the rocking and sweating meant I ended up with a saddle-shaped contact rash just where you’d expect it to be. Some of this might be an artifact of the (lightweight) summer underwear, which tends to move around when I don’t want it to, but I’ve done close to as long loops with the same clothing and the seat lower and have /not/ needed to break out the A&D ointment to repair my epidermal surfaces after returning home.

  2. The other, and sadder, defect is that I’ve done a rivendell-style twine & shellac job on the MLCM’s handlebar tape, which, even though it looks very nice, has the terrible side effects of

    • becoming slimy after I’ve ridden the bicycle long enough to get sweaty hands (I don’t tend to wear gloves, because padded gloves make my fingers go numb), and
    • not being as resilient as the unshellaced handlebar tape, which makes it more painful to hang onto for long periods of time.

I can fix the saddle height problem pretty easily. I can’t fix the tape & shellac problem quite so easily, and I’ll have to think about it for a while.

But, aside from those and a few other tiny details (when I braze up the front rack, I’m going to have to put in a stand for a dashboard light that shines on the cuesheet, and then I’ll be able to see where I’m supposed to be going at night instead of having to rely on the kindness of strangers) this further makes me think that 400km is close to the ideal length for a day out on a bicycle.


Good ride report, David. It was good riding with you.

What you failed to mention was your 16 MPH sustained pull into that headwind on Peoria Road. That was an ungodly feat of strength and endurance, especially that late in the game.

And it’s a Trek SU200, not a Cannondale. But I get that a lot. It must look a lot like a Cannondale.

Wayne Myer Tue Aug 10 11:44:39 2010

Whoops on the CannondaleTrek – I’ve fixed it in the post.

The 16mph pull on Peoria road was a reaction to me wanting to get away from that wicked headwind. It was probably a mistake, though – I suspect that some of my tiredness on the last 50 miles or so was because I’d burned through so much energy trying to get away from that g-dd-mned road.

David Parsons Tue Aug 10 12:01:48 2010

It was nice riding with you and Wayne, and I especially appreciate the two of you guiding me in the dark when my cue sheet in a plastic bag became completely unusable. I’ll be interested in seeing how you rig the reading light. One of my lessons from the ride (only my second brevet, and my first over 200k) was that I need a handlebar bag with a clear pocket for the cue sheet. Got that, and now I’ll be experimenting with light for reading as well.

Michal Young Fri Aug 13 22:56:23 2010

Re: the reading light.

I need to have a backstop on the front rack to keep my handlebar bag from sliding back and fouling the brake, and I’m going to make it high enough so I can attach a decaleur to keep the bag from shimmying around. I believe the normal way of doing that (if you’re not going to hang the decaleur from the stem or do a velo-orange style headset mount) is to glue the decaleur socket(s) to the top of the backstop. But if I attach them to a strap and mount it partway up the backstop, I can make the backstop taller and put a tab onto it near the top to clip the (lego guy) light to.

It would be like the really tall backstop on the traditional CETMA rack, except with steel tubing instead of strapping.

David Parsons Tue Aug 17 10:22:04 2010

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