Almanzo 100 – 2012 Edition

This race for some, endurance ride for most is one of the largest, best run bike events
put on anywhere at any cost. How much do you pay to ride it? The price of a postcard and stamp(which can easily be stolen from your Mom)

A little background. I grew up on gravel roads as a kid on a farm South of Minneapolis. I rode them on BMX bikes, and some shitty 10 speed bike. When these first few gravel races started popping up(Ragnarok, Almanzo, Heck, etc.) I wondered who the hell would want to ride on shitty ass gravel roads. Then I started to miss riding on them, then I did start riding on them, now “racing” I guess…anyway…

I got my stuff together the night before, changed the tires on the bike to the Continentals, made a list of things I didn’t want to forget and tried to think about going to bed. My head was still racing when I climbed into bed about 1am.

The 4:30 alarm came too soon but I felt pretty good, the dogs and wife didn’t even notice me roll out of bed and gather up my stuff. I shoved everything in the back of the Suburban and headed on down to Spring Valley, MN. I made a quick stop at the Super America for some sausage, egg, cheese biscuits(2 plz!) and some coffee, then continued my drive on down.

Rolled in a little after 7am and got my registration all set. #188 for me. Got the bike out, made sure everything was cool, and hung out in the back of the Sub for a while. More people started to show up and I rode around a little bit to say hi to friends and eat a banana or two, thanks Trader Joes!

I mooched some sun screen as the stuff my wife sent with me was a zinc paste of some sort, I had to double check to see if it was stucco. When I rolled back up to the car my rear tire was flat, crap, I knew leaving that 18-25mm tube in the 35mm tire was no good. Quick change, checked the old tube, ripped at the stem. 2 mins later we are back in business but I wasn’t super confident in the rear the entire day and some of that newer gravel made it feel and sound like I was riding on flat tires.

The first 20 miles were pretty uneventful except for passing, spreading the group out, watching out for people pulling off to retrive water bottles or fix a flat.  About 30 miles in I was still doing well but slowed down a bit from the faster pace I was at. At 40 we hit Preston. I made sure to drink a Coke, eat some things, and refill some water.

And…into the wind. Nice and windy to destroy everyone. Luckily I got some good wind training in SoDak earlier in the year, Almanzo had 20-30mph winds with some gusts, when I was in SoDak it was 35mph+ with gust reaching almost 60mph. I felt okay into the wind, not great because of the Sun beating down on us at this point. The Garmin said 96F, on the hot tar heading into the wind it felt like it. I was roasting.

At this point I happened upon my riding partner(Jen) for the next 50ish miles of the race, we pretty much dragged each other to the end. The next 20 miles weren’t too bad, we filled up at a house that had the garden hose out front and a bunch of cyclists hanging out. Thank-you houses and kids filling up water bottles! I wanted to hug you all. Well water tastes so good, that is one thing I really miss about farm living.

When we passed Forestville at like 65 miles or something there were a lot of people taking a break, one guy in a hammock that I wanted to flip out of it and steal the hammock. Next year maybe. Anyway, we didn’t stop in F-ville, just kept going.

We took turns bonking for the next 30 miles and waited for each other on climbs/descents. At this point there was no way I was going to drop my riding buddy.  I would feel great for 2 miles and then like crap for 2.  Watching the hundredths of a mile tick off was nice, those tenths of a mile tend to take a bit of time to go by at 9mph into the wind.

At this point my ability to do math was pretty much shot, talking was tough, but the legs were still turning and I wasn’t hurting too badly, I was just trying not to cramp up. We passed a lot of people resting in ditches, throwing up, stretching out cramps, waiting for rides, and trying to not die.  We saw a guy hurting pretty bad, sweating, completely out of it with under 20 to go, someone was helping him out, making sure he had a ride back and placed him under a tree that we stopped at. I found out later many of my friends knew him and he did get back alright but dropped out of the race. It was a tough day out there for everyone, I was pretty much zoned out and in that just looking ahead mode.

The last 10 miles sucked, more hills, more wind, more heat. I was glad to watch the last few miles tick off and get to the finish line. Thanks Jen for dragging me to the end, you are a great riding partner.

Thanks to Chris “Almanzo” Skogan for putting on the event, Angry Catfish for the bikey shit you do for me, bottles, socks/etc. Rapha for the awesome kit/hat and cream, and GnarLube for keeping my chain clean and smelling like awesomeness. Neil for the frame bag, that thing worked perfect, Revelate and Banjo Brothers for other bags and cue sheet holder. Twin Six for some bottles, my Donkey Label Pack Animal is now heat molded for my iPhone and credit cards. Oh yeah, Surly Bikes, the Cross Check is an awesome bike, White Industries hubs and DT Swiss rounded out the wheels. Continental makes some confidence inspiring tires, 45mph sketchy downhills on the Cyclocross Speeds handled like a champ.

Good times, I will be back again.

TL;DR: Hot, windy, 100 mile gravel ride in Spring Valley, MN. It was tough, I finished.

The Long Haul

I set my sights on taking a day off of work and going for a long bike ride, a 100+ mile bike ride. Not knowing where to go I just randomly put together a route on MapMyRide until I reached my 100 mile goal. I didn’t know how much was going to be gravel or tar or care to know what the elevation changes would be. Monday night I prepped my Surly Long Haul Trucker with all the gear, food and liquids I needed for the ride. Yes the LHT is a fat pig on the scale but I wasn’t trying to go for a land speed record. I just wanted to finish a 100 miles at my own pace. Prior to this the longest I have ever ridden was 72 miles which was only a couple weeks prior at the Woolly Mammoth Classic.

I woke up at 5:29AM, 1 minute before my alarm was to go off. It was hard to sleep that night because I was just so excited for this ride kind of like the night before Christmas when you were a kid. I was on the road by 6AM and heading east from Apple Valley to Hastings on Co Rd 46. I was cruising along at 18-20MPH with the wind at my back and staring straight at the sunrise.

I made it to Vermillion Falls Park in Hastings in about an hours time. I was a little unsure about the weather and just confirmed on my handy weather phone app that the rain was staying north as I was about to head south.

I hopped on Co Rd 54, which has a shitty riding shoulder by the way, and turned left on to Co Rd 68. This was a beautiful stretch of road with great views of North Lake and a nice wide shoulder to ride on. What I didn’t realize while mapping out this ride was the fucking huge hill at the end of this flat stage. According to Strava it was a 17% grade at times and went from 68o ft to 1024 ft in a 1.5 mile distance. Lets just say I was in my granny gear going slow up this beast.

I was finally about to feel gravel under my tires as I turned onto Mt. Carmel Rd. And once again didn’t realize that I would be heading back from from 1041ft to 706ft on a curvy 13% grade gravel road in a 2 mile distance. That was white knuckles as new gravel was just put down. I needed a crowbar to pry my hands off of my brake levers.

As I made my left turn onto Collischan Rd. I noticed a dead end sign glaring back at me. I immediately thought to myself, “Oh shit, MapMyRide fucked up and listed a road that was no longer there”. I did not want to get on HWY 61 to cross the river. I figured the road I was going to turn on was only 100 yards away so I would investigate. I then saw a road closed sign which looked liked it had been there for years. I figured what the hell and gave it a shot. It looked like walkers and other bikers have been past the barriers. I was able to sneak under the first barrier onto an old bridge which was in good enough shape for pedestrians. It got me over the Cannon River and then to an over grown road with a skinny path down the center. It was time for some off-roading on the LHT. 15 minutes later the shortcut was complete and I was on the Cannon Valley Trail heading to Cannon Falls.

At this point I was 38.20 miles in. The next 15 miles was nice and easy enjoying the sights of the Cannon Valley Trail. I didn’t realize it would bring me to the base of Welch Village Ski Area. I stopped at the Welch Station to top off my water. Also I apologies to the Cannon Valley Trail as I didn’t know you needed a Wheel Pass. It was my first time down there and I didn’t notice any signs until I got to Cannon Falls.

I rolled into Cannon Falls at 54.16 miles and stopped at a little picnic area for a break. Some food and liquid refreshments required. I didn’t want to stop too long otherwise my legs would go into shock getting back on the bike. Some props to Angry Catfish for their lovely bottles and Banjo Brothers with their handy cue sheet holder. All of which came in handy for this ride.

Okay, back on the bike I go. Heading west out of Cannon Falls on HWY 19 which has no shoulder. I just don’t understand why more roads don’t have a larger shoulder. Just give me few feet  to work with or something. I hate being that asshat road biker that has to be in the lane where everyone has to slow down and go around. It seems very dangerous knowing you are in the lane not knowing if the car, truck or semi sees you or if there is another vehicle coming in the opposite direction at the same time as the vehicle behind you.

More gravel – I turned off of HWY 19 onto 40th which then turned into 325th. The gravel was good with exception of being chased by 3 dogs as I cruised by a farm house. My next turn was south onto Goodhue Ave. arriving at Nerstrand with 72.77 miles under my belt.

I crossed over 246 for a quick photo at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park. The tar ended and the gravel started up again. It was okay gravel but then it turned into absolute shit. New “gravel”, I’m going to use the word “gravel” very loosely, was just laid down. It was basically 3 inches of soil over the road. I could not get any traction what so ever and I was continually spinning out. My rear tire would just sink into this craptastic road. I ended up walking up 2 hills. I finally was out of this “gravel” and turned north on Falk Ave. I looked over at the western horizon and noticed the sky was looking very angry. I put on my rain coat and continued on until the rain started to hurt and I noticed it was hailing. Luckily 50 yards away there was an abandoned garage on the side of the road that I was able to seek shelter in for 15 minutes as the stormed blew over. With wet gravel and tar I rolled into Dundas and grabbed a refreshing bottle of Coca-Cola and some Powerade. I continued to head back north on some gravel roads working my way to Foliage Ave to the town of Castle Rock.

Just before Castle Rock I hit the magical 100 mile mark. I was feeling pretty good until I turned north on HWY 3. Storms were brewing again creating a head wind. I felt like I was going in slow motion. Not how I wanted to end this ride. I rolled through Farmington up to Empire and finally made to to Rosemount. At this point I was at 116 miles or so. I thought I would try for 200KM for KM FanBoy Mr. Pete Ryan but as I got towards Apple Valley the rain started pouring again. A this point I just said fuck it I want to be dry, warm and off this bike. In total the Garmin said I did 120.1 miles but Strava came back with 119.9 miles. Maybe 150 miles next time.

Strava Ride Details

-MikeyB

Day After St. Pat’s Day 100k (or 50k if you wuss out)

Sunday March 18th, 2012:

Leave from Angry Catfish about 0930, do two loops of a 31m(50k) route for 62m(100k) total. Do one or two loops. Thinking lunch at Pizza Luce Hopkins during the 2nd loop. Won’t be a slow ride, won’t be fast, will have stops for regrouping / snacks. Let me know if you have questions. Feel free to fwd to pals. You are responsible for yourself, ride within your limits, don’t piss off traffic or peds, don’t be a jerk. cool?

Event Info on the face places:

https://www.facebook.com/events/168920613227592/

MORBID Bierwagen – Part 2

I built up a temporary deck while I decide how I want to build this up completely.  This will become somewhat of a template for the final design of the Bierwagen.  Right now it rides fine, took it around the neighborhood.  Need to mount up the grill and get out for an extended ride with it.  .

I am currently trying to figure out what type of wood/finish I want to use and a perfered mounting method.  The u-bolts work fine but look somewhat ugly.  The reflectors will be upgraded to some Planet Bike blinkies.  I think this is the setup for fall and hope to build it up as a winter project.

Link to Part 1

-PR

Review: Planet Bike Superflash Stealth – Three Years Later…

Three Freaking Years Later…Well, I haven’t lost it which is a win for me.  Still looks pretty new despite being dropped/kicked/thrown on most surfaces and below a few wet ones.  I tend to do a good deal of riding at night and I haven’t been hit by a car since I have owned this which makes it effective as a rear blinky.  It is on it’s 3rd set of batteries(It really doesn’t eat batteries, I just use it a lot) as of yesterday and at $30 retail its cost per year is rapidly approaching $10(batteries are expensive!).

Here lies my biggest problem.  Planet Bike came out with a new super duper blinky.  The Superflash Turbo.  My gear lust may get the best of me this fall, I do enjoy newer hotness.

I give the Planet Bike rear blinkies my highest rating, a full 12’er.  If you are on the fence about which tail light to get you can’t go wrong with one of theirs.

Here is the original review from a few summers ago:

Aug 6, 2008

 

Review: Planet Bike Superflash Stealth

Planet Bike Superflash Stealth

Link: Superflash Stealth

After getting my Surly CrossCheck I decided I needed a better rear flasher for commuting, beer running, grocery getting. I asked around and Scott mentioned he had the Superflash and really liked it. So I stopped by Hiawatha Cyclery on the way home from work one night and picked one up. Thanks Jim! Went home, ripped the packaging open and went to work. It comes with all sorts of mounting options and the clip on the back works great on a the back of your pants if you are riding another bike without the mount. I wound up attaching it to my seat post right below my seat. Easy in, easy out, easy on.

Test Ride:
So I tossed in in my bag and rode to Buster’s on 28th. It was pretty bright out when I left the house and sat down at the bar. I took the light out of the bag to check it out a bit more. It is bright as hell in the daylight. I couldn’t wait to see what it could do on the ride home. Fast forward through a few pints and I was set to go. Darkness. Check. Light attached, away we go. Holy hell, this light is bright. I could have used it for a headlight. No problems on the way home, cars went way around me and no one hit me. I consider that to be a good night since I have been hit twice now.

Ongoing:
I have been using it for a couple of months now biking back and forth to work, beer, etc. It has worked well in the rain, in the water(fell into a puddle x2), and every time I clicked it on. I have crashed once with it on and it did its thing and didn’t rocket away from the bike like my old one use to do. No, it just stayed on and illuminated the trees above me while I tried to get out from under my bike and a 24pack in the pannier.

Other Info:
Although I haven’t had to replace the batteries yet I it is pretty easy to open with a coin and Planet Bike has info on how to do it on their website.

$ and Where:
MSRP is $29.99 and you can find it online or at your local bike shop.

-pr