Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Hwy 10, West of Mandan

Monday, May 8, 2017

Gallatin Valley Rambler 200k

Jason Karp, RBA for Montana, always does a nice job designing excellent routes.  The Gallatin Valley Rambler 200k, held on April 29th, was no exception.  Using the Karp residence as a central control, the route is essentially two out-and-back loops, first to the west past Three Forks and the second to the southeast around (and then through) Bozeman.  Squeezed in between each loop was an excellent lunch stop organized and prepared by Jason’s wife, Brenda.  She had grilled cheese sandwiches, roasted pepper and tomato soup, and a nice selection of cookies to keep us going.  There was no need to eat at convenience stores during this brevet.

(Riders gathering at the Karp residence)

Unlike my previous brevets in Montana with (at most) a half-dozen riders, a group of 10 participated in the Rambler, with riders coming from Bozeman, Molt, Missoula, Helena, and Jackson (Wyoming).  The weather may have been a factor, as we enjoyed mostly clear skies, light winds, and cool temperatures.  It was certainly a contrast to the preceding day, with rain/skeet/snow squalls common throughout the valley.

Like many brevets, most of the group stayed together early on.  I’ve come to place high value on this part of the ride while warming up the legs and lungs for the day ahead.

(Heading west on Dry Creek Road)

Jason incorporated two short jaunts off Highway 205 as part of the west loop, one to Missouri Headwaters State Park and another toward Buffalo Jump State Park.  I especially enjoyed the latter, as it included some climbing (something I enjoy).  The view overlooking the valley was well worth the brief effort.

(Entrance overlook to Buffalo Jump State Park)

The west loop landscape was dominated by agriculture.  Irrigated crop and alfalfa fields were common, with occasional grass pastures providing new growth for an assortment of livestock.  Some of the livestock included pack animals, as we passed a few pastures with mules.

(One of the many tilled fields with sprinkler irrigation)


This was my first brevet with a recumbent randonneur.  Lane, from Missoula, expertly guided his Schlitter Encore through the 13 controls over the 10+ hour ride.  I was impressed by how efficiently he managed the many starts-and-stops, particularly through the streets of Bozeman with dual 650b wheels.

(A fascinating machine…)

(…that looks to be an incredibly comfortable ride)

I’ve been intrigued by recumbents lately given the challenges I have with upper back and neck strain during long rides.  The recumbent riding position decreases back/neck strain considerably.

Lane offered the opportunity to try his recumbent at the end of the brevet.  Fortunately, a large parking lot was available across the street from Jason and Brenda’s home, so I gave it my best shot.  With excellent guidance and encouragement from Lane, I was able to make a loop around the parking lot on my fourth try.  The experience left me intrigued to learn more about recumbents.

One aspect of riding in Montana that I particularly enjoy are the people I get to ride with.  Friendly and thoughtful are two words that immediately come to mind.  My experience with a rear flat near the end of the ride underscored my positive feelings towards these great group of people.

(Rear flat within 10 miles of the finish…)

(…and the group I was riding with stopped and waited.  Nice!)

The Gallatin Valley Rambler 200k is an ideal early-season brevet.  Starting and ending in Belgrade, Montana, the route covers a significant portion of the Gallatin Valley with limited climbing, mostly quiet roads, and a visit to the Missouri River headwaters, all surrounded by 360° of beautiful snow-capped mountains.  It is a great way to start the randonneuring season.

(Bridger Mountains in the background)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Rawland Nordavinden

There’s a new bike in the stable.  A Rawland Nordavinden.  The search for this frame began over 18 months ago, resulting in fortunate find last January.  Some components were repurposed from my 2004 Specialized Roubiax, which hadn’t been ridden since 2014.  Rene Herse cranks, an SPF bottom bracket, Paul Component center-pull brakes, and Compass tires complemented Dura Ace derailleurs from the Roubaix.  Added to this were a Nitto randonneur touring handlebar, stem, and bar-end plugs.  A Brooks saddle and Acorn bag were taken from another bike, and paired with matching leather handlebar tape (with Newbaums bar tape and twine as enhancement).

It took me over a year to get everything lined up for a final build, which was expertly done by Lance Larson at Larson's Cyclery.  The wait was worth it.  I really like the outcome, and am looking forward to getting the bike out on the road this spring.

Here’s a few photos, taken atop Chief Looking’s Village (reviewed previously).

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Barcelona – City of the Small-Wheeled Bicycle

A recent trip for work to the Catalonian region of northeast Spain provided an opportunity to visit Barcelona.  I had two opportunities to experience the city between visits with IRTA scientists and participation in the REMEDIA V Workshop, both in Caldes de Montbui.  As a bustling port city of 1.6 million, Barcelona is blessed with excellent public transportation, with travel by train, subway, and bus accessible and inexpensive.

What I didn’t expect was the extent by which bicycles were used in the city.  Everywhere I looked people were on bikes, with many using the ‘small-wheeled’ variety suitable for folding.  Barcelona’s bike-share program also uses small-wheeled bikes, with fenders, chain guards, a front rack, and front and rear lights.

(Bike-share bikes to the right)

(Bike-share bikes to the left)

(Service truck delivering maintained bikes to a nearby bike-share station)

(First visit to Barcelona done, waiting for the Caldes bus…  …watching the bikes go by)

(T=0 seconds; Bike #1)

(T=45 seconds; Bike #2)

(T=60 seconds; Bike #3…   …and so on)

With an abundance of folding bikes in the city, I made the most of my second trip by visiting a Brompton Store.  What an experience!  The store manager took time to share the features of this London-made folding bike, highlighting tradeoffs of different handlebar, rack, and luggage choices.  I even had the opportunity to ride a Brompton…  …a first!  Though the ride was just a quick loop around the block in a protected bike lane, I could feel the snap in acceleration that so many people talk about when riding a Brompton (the result of small diameter wheels).  Riding in an upright position felt odd at first, but I quickly adjusted, and actually enjoyed being able to scan the road ahead without having to extend my neck upwards.

(Entrance to the Brompton Store, near the Urgell metro stop)

(A wall of Bromptons)

(First Brompton ride)

(First Brompton fold)

Once done with the ride, I took time to learn how to appropriately fold a Brompton.  As it turns out, there are a number of ways to do it wrong (I was especially adept at doing it incorrectly).  The manager showed me the ‘tricks’ to get it folded efficiently and quickly.  The folding experience was every bit as impressive as the ride.

Oh, my mind is spinning with the possibilities.  Is there a need for a Brompton in my bike stable?