May 16, 2007

PART 2: Getting the steed ready for the big'un.

It's amazing to me, I do this EVERY time, and THis year really is different because I caught myself before it got bad.

The 600K is a huge deal. People don't realize that. Thoughts of someone being "crazy" for riding X-number of miles were tossed out the window at the 300K level. Most recreational cyclists and tourists can ride a century plus, so a 200K is not out of the question -- yeah, it's a long ride, but I think 90% of people on bicycles TODAY could do it. The 300K, people start questioning things - and the notion of riding almost TWO centuries starts to weed out the crazies. By the time we get to 400K, there's very few of us left over. In a typical year, you can have almost 30-40 people show up for a 200K, then 15-20 for the 300K, and then maybe 10 for the 400K. Needless to say, the numbers for the 600K are usually smaller.
Now, this is a Paris year, so the numbers will be higher than usual - but still, the 600K is huge. It's a HUGE deal. It's THREE 200K's. It's nearly 400 miles. It's big, and most things that I've read all agree that your FIRST completion of a 600K can actually be a life-changing event. It's that hard.

So, am I nervous? You bet! Not like in year's past, certainly, however - I have a lot more control over my training than I've practiced in the past, and I have felt better at the end of each brevet - probably moreso than I have in years past. But, that big BIG ride is coming, and in typical fashion I start to think.

Thinking turns into TOO much thinking. And too much thinking can be dangerous. This is the kind of thinking that has brought me to completely restructuring my bicycle stable, completely re-doing drivetrains the week before, and packing and re-packing everything I own, running from over-prepared, to far-too-minimalist.
I've had real issues with this in the past. This year, again, is markedly different - as this behavior started up again with regards to the 600K, I actually have JUST -- as of yesterday afternoon -- taken a huge step back, and stopped myself.

The process started after the 400K wrapped up, with the saddlebag issues.
After going thru the whole thing with ordering up a new rack and such to get the saddlebag repositioned, it did not turn out the way I liked. Not even close - and it was a lot of added complication to accomplish the same end result. Yes, the saddelbag WAS rubbing me raw at the end of the 400K, so a fix WAS needed -- but I took it way too extreme. Keep it simple! After all that monkeying around, I have removed that fancy new rack and put the Carradice SQR system BACK on the bike, with some minor changes: Namely, I put the steel rack portion of the assembly into my bench vise and gave it some careful bending. Solid steel is very forgiving in this way, much like cold-setting a frame to take a wider rear wheel. But, one does have to use caution and make small movements, which I did. Afterwards, the saddlebag is now about an inch farther away from the back edge of the saddle than it was previously - and a test ride around the block confirms that there is now no contact that will cause abrasion. Problem solved. Unfortunately, now I have a nice new rack that I don't need: thank goodness for swap meets.

so, why go back? Well, after I'd just got done saying (justifying) that I never used the quick release feature while ON brevet, it's infinitely handy when transporting a bike TO a brevet. All of the stuff I need for the ride is pre-packed in the bag, and the bag is off the bike in the car itself, which prevents a lot of problems. Further, while I never have before removed the bag during a ride before, there is the issue of changing clothes. Spending a full day in the same pair of shorts is inadvisable, unless you enjoy saddle sores -- so changing clothes at the halfway of a 400K is a practice I've gotten into over the past few years, and the 600K might even have three changes. The best, easiest way to do this: simply remove the bag from the bike, which has everything in it, and take it right into the restroom at the c-store, instead of gathering a handful of stuff in the parking lot and walking in with it - which is what I've been doing in the past. Ointments, sunscreen, etc., are already in the bag -- why not just take it ALL inside? The SQR makes sense on brevets as well as commutes, and actually it's MORE solid than the rack system I tried for a week - sway is nill, and the bag is held solidly in place on climbs. The notion that the fixed rack would be more secure didn't prove to be true -- with a rack trunk, perhaps, but not with a transverse saddlebag. And with the SQR's 10kg weight limit, there is no penalty whatsoever. Even with the bag stuffed to the gills I seldom approach even half that weight. There is no silver bullet, and if something happens durign the 600K I will simply have to adapt. Even on the 400K, as annoying and painful as those abrasions were starting to feel, pain like that is temporary. It's not worth a DNF.

One quote that I recently read is something I'll carry with me now on all my long rides:

"If whatever hurts will heal in two weeks, keep riding."
-Lon Haldeman (paraphrased)

Also as alluded to in the previous post, the handlebar bag is gone, and instantly the bike feels a little more agile. Considering I was carrying less inside it than it weighed itself, the gains are substantial. It was a neat item, but again it will probably make its way to a swap meet this fall. Keeping it simple is key, and if I have three back pockets, I should use them. It's that simple. I have in the past, so shall I here on out. There is a difference between "touring" and "randonnuering", after all, and I was letting myself get off-base again.
While one can't be too much of a minimalist, this is hard-charging timed riding, and the bike should be as agile and light as possible, without sacrificing preparedness or strength. After 300 miles, I was really not going to want that big box in front of me anymore.

The bike now looks as it did before the 400K - purposeful, and ready. Trim, but not super-light or racey. Efficient. The little stem-mounted, zip-tied binder-clip is back to hold my cue sheets on the sections where I'll need them, and the saddlebag is now far enough back that abrasions should be a thing of the past. A long test ride this weekend will hold the verdict - but I have a feeling it's the way it should be now.

There are some changes that are welcome and are staying, however, that were also spurred on by the 400K. The new Cane Creek brake hoods, after a few rides, are MUCH nicer than the Shimano's they replaced, so my initial impressions stand. Further, the new Schmidt E6 is fabulous, still, and after a little re-aiming of both lights, the pattern on the road is nearly perfect and more than adequate for the darkest nights. The bike is ready.

Finally, I have reached a point where I can just ride and enjoy what lies ahead - the 600K will be a pleasure -- I actually can't WAIT until I'm on that long stretch of K-152 on towards highway J in Missouri, in the dark at who-knows-what hour, passing by the La Cygne powerplant, all lit up and humming - on towards the lights of Butler in the early AM for a well deserved break. Only 15 days away!


Andrew said...

C'mon dude, you're scaring the children! Okay you're scaring me. I'm doing my first 400K tomorrow and, if everything works out, my first 600K two weeks after that.

I don't want to here that it's going to be hard. I don't want it to be a life changing event. I want you to tell that it's going to be easy. Just tell me all I have to do is show up and turn the pedals.

You got me into this sport, don't try to scare me off now.

If you want to see how I did, check at next week.

kG said...

Naw, yeah it's a big deal - but it's not really anything more than a bunch of little rides back-to-back. At least, that's how I'm mentally preparing for this one. It's no different than the 600K, except that the sun will come up and go down again. I have been off coffee since the end of the 400K, nearly a month now, and am fully acclimated to life without it - which means when I start using it again in the wee hours, if will actually have a positive effect. My first goal is finish - nothing more. But, if I can ride it straight thru, that would be great training for Tejas -- we'll see. I'll check yer blog next week! Good luck!

O. T. said...

I am not even going to try to ride straight thru. I have a hotel waiting at mile 220. 4 hours of sleep and then I am off again. With new shorts, freshly showered. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men, etc. etc. etc.

It is easy. Literally all you have to do is getting on your bike and pedal..............for 20 something hours.