Group Rides

Join us for evening indoor training rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30pm at the Recycle Bicycle Shop in downtown Ellensburg.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cino Heroica - an adventure worth experiencing

If you have gone through any of my old posts you will readily see my penchant for steel bicycles - preferably the 1970's and 1980's versions.  I have a decent collection of them from different years, manufacturers and countries: French, American, Japanese.  They all have a purpose and they're all ridden.

Since the late 1990's one of the most popular cycling events in Europe is the L'Eroica ride for vintage bikes.  A description of it is below from their website: 

L'Eroica was born from the love of that cycling which formed a good part of the history and literature of Italy. The idea was to seek out the authentic roots of this fantastic sport, with its great, popular heart, and rediscover the joy in fatigue and the thrill of the challenge. L'Eroica is also a Foundation, the purpose of which is to safeguard the heritage of the white gravel roads of Tuscany. From these romantically modern notions came the idea of the cycling event which started in 1997.

At the starting line that first year were 82 "thrill-seekers"; today L'Eroica stands out as a champion of our environmental heritage, sustainable lifestyle and clean cycling which, looking to the past, points the way for the future: the numbers now participating are testimony to the success due to the passion of the organisers and founders.

The coolest thing is this year there are 5,000 registered riders.

Now flashback to 2011 when fellow cyclist Matt Pendergast from North Bend forwarded me information about the Cino Heroica ride in northwestern Montana.  I read his write up on Bike Forums with intense interest and decided it was definitely a ride worthy of my time.  The idea of  experiencing the back roads of northwest Montana on a 40 year old road bike was just too enticing.  Due to missing the cutoff for 2012 I waited somewhat patiently, actually anxiously, for registration to open this year.  The ride is limited to 150 riders - 90 new and 60 returning.  Fortunately, I was successful in getting in.  The first of many restless nights started in March as I contemplated the bike I was going to use and the components for the bike.  Of special importance was the gearing as I went round and round in my head on what would be appropriate.

This was the seventh Cino Heroica.  The ride is a salute to L'Eroica and early Italian road racing.  The organizers describe it this way:

 This ride is a celebration of the cycling days of old when road racing in Europe meant racing on unpaved dirt roads over mountain passes, in sometimes horrific conditions. The racers rode steel framed bikes that were built as much for toughness as for speed. They drank wine and smoked Gitanes to quell their suffering. “Nutrition” was real food, like cheese, salami, and a baguette. Suffering was an art form taken to a new level by these riders, as they collapsed into the arms of their handlers at race’s end, their faces reflecting something that non-riders will never understand. But at the end of the day, it was all about style, the horrors of the struggle erased by the pasta with truffles, crystal goblets of Chianti and polite conversation.

I finally got around to starting on the bike in April.  It is an early 1970's (although some Cino riders thought maybe a late-1960's) Peugeot PX10.  At the time this was the top of the line offering for Peugeot in the U.S.  This example came to me in the form of a frame from a fellow Bike Forums member who was also newly registered for Cino Heroica 2013.

The build, for the most, part went quite well with only a few hiccups.  The original Simplex drive side drop out had been tapped to accept derailleurs other than Simplex but it wasn't done correctly.  Two different rear derailleurs - Campagnolo Super Record and a Suntour VX GT long cage - were tried and they wouldn't pivot back to allow the rear wheel to come out of the frame.  In the end I went with a Simplex SX630 that was originally from my 1984 Gitane Sprint.  The wheelset I had for the bike was from a 1981 Trek 510 I bought at a pawn shop.  Unfortunately they were too wide for the frame so I ended up with 1984 Mavic Module E with a Normandy Helicomatic rear hub from my dad's old 1984 Peugeot PSV10.  The rest of the bike came together quite nicely and the white cables, bar tape and saddle blended well with the rarer blue frame.  Gearing ended up with a 52-42 crankset and a 13-28 6 speed in the rear.

A trial run was done on the gravel and dirt roads of Whitman County in August and the bike handled fantastic with 28c Panaracer Pasela Tourguard tires.  It was "sure footed" and tracked well in the gravel.  I was definitely encouraged.

September 7th, 2013

Check in at the Kila school was uneventful and, at the same time, fantastic because of all the vintage bikes.  All new riders had to be on a "heroic" bike - steel frame, 1981 or older, friction shifters (preferrably down tube), tubular tires (if you had guts to do that), pedals with toe straps.  Campagnolo components were in abundance.  The day was cool with threatening, menacing clouds.  We were all too excited to get underway to really worry about it.  Even though I was cold I figured I would easily warm up once we hit the gravel and the riding got a little more intense.

What can you really say about Cino Heroica other than that it's so "cino".  That's the most common phrase for the weekend - if you got a flat it was "cino", hit a cow pie (or maybe even a cow - I missed one by 18 inches or so) it was cino, coming into the lunch stop with only two chainring bolts was definitely "cino", draining the beer keg at the overnight stop was positively "cino", wait for a cattle drive and then dodge the cow pies on the road - most assuredly "cino" and on and on.  

Lunch is an Italian feast next to a creek on Saturday and in a cow pasture on Sunday with food provided by the riders.  Tables are adorned with table cloths and you feast on olives, meats, cheeses, breads and pasta while drinking beer and wine.  Rest stops usually had at least two cooler - one with small cans of Coca Cola or Dr. Pepper and the other with beer.  That's so "cino".

Mechanical issues abound on a ride like this - heck, we're riding old, if not ancient, bikes.  They don't necessarily like deep ruts, potholes, large, thick loose gravel and big downhills with washboard corners.  I often didn't know if it was the bike rattling or my body.  I suffered one flat at the end of the second day.  On Saturday I lost the spring tension on the rear derailleur to it wouldn't pick up slack very well.  Hanging the bike from a tree branch in Hot Springs allowed us space to fix that problem.  Sunday morning I noticed a really stiff front brake lever.  Turns out I was stupid and forgot the ferrules for the cable and the inner lining of the housing had pulled through.  Emergency repairs 30 minutes before leaving were undertaken as I swapped the housing around and fished the cable through.  The brake was functional but I didn't use it.

Other's had problems too.  One person broke a seat post binder bolt, one lost the entire seat and half the clamp assembly to hold it onto the post, another had six flats on Saturday.  One of the few single speed riders lost three chainring bolts in the first 30 miles of the ride on Saturday.  And, there were the expected broken spokes.  It takes a hero to ride 50 miles on a bike with a rear wheel out of true (1/4" wobble or so) and climbing a nasty, steep mountain road in the process.

This is by far one of the most challenging rides I've ever done and also one of the most rewarding.  I'll be back for sure.  I can't let the mechanical issues and muddy roads at the end of the ride deter me.  This was an epic ride with 149 other people who wanted to remember the old days of cycling on dirt and mountain roads and enjoy good company, food and drink.  Not much is better than that.

The "Soviet" contingent

Waiting for the pre-race "sermon"

Bike Forums Classic & Vintage members + Phillip

And we're off

You can ride a lot of miles by yourself

Saturday's lunch set up

My favorite climb of the two days - so very scenic

Day 2 lunch in a cow pasture

The goal was the top of the ridge in the background

French "goodies"

One of the coolest bikes - yes, those are wood rims


The famous John Howard's Cinelli

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The 2013 Kittitas county road chip seal program is set to start next week.  Some primary cycling routes in the lower valley especially northeast of town are set to be done including Thomas, Bar 14, Lyons, Parke Creek, Ferguson and Fairview roads.  Thrall Rd is also on the schedule.  45+ miles for the lower valley and 17 in the upper county.

You can get the full list here

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Short tour - final thoughts

Some final thoughts on things I learned:

* don't forget the chain lube/tri flow. * don't do a 110 mile day in 90 degree heat - I was wiped but was on a schedule. Total time of 9 hrs and 45 minutes is a long time.

* it's fun to just enjoy the scenery, but pick a route that is scenic and not monotonously flat and desert like.

* the 1989 Peugeot Limestone hybrid with 28c Specialized Armadillo was a champ and took everything I threw at it. While not light, it was a nice ride.

* the Avocet Touring saddle is really quite comfortable.

* no matter what, it takes about an hour to take camp apart, pack and get on the road.

* while I didn't have front racks on the bike it handled rock solid on descents with no shimmies, vibrations or anything of the sort. It instilled some good confidence.

* hard soled mountain bike shoes make a great hammer for tent stakes* I definitely prefer double sided clipless SPD pedals

Touring on an old bike works fine as long as the components are in good shape. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again and, in fact, can't wait to plan another tour. The dreams of a TransAmerica are still there but I will have to subsist on short tours for the time being.

Short tour - Day 4: Yakima to Ellensburg

I slept like a baby last night on a "real" bed versus the hard ground. I awoke around 6:15 am as Brian was finishing his workout on the treadmill. By 7:00 we had my bike loaded up and Brian jumped on his to ride with me a little while. A quick stop at McDonald's for some breakfast burritos and we were off for good around 7:15.

Yakima has a great trail system called the Greenway trail. We caught that from the 40th Avenue trail head off Highway 12 and then tied in with Interstate 84 for a few miles before exiting and taking Highway 821 up the Yakima River Canyon. This is one of the most scenic routes in the state in my mind.

My derailleur starting acting up again so my frustration started to build. Then we got stuck behind a state highway department truck that was checking freshly painted lines. Suddenly he stopped and we came close to rear ending the travel trailer we were following. After a few minutes we were on our way and Brian turned around at the top of the longest hill and I was on my own.

I reached Ellensburg about 10:15 and stopped by my wife's work to say hello and then ride the final 10 miles home.

Short tour - Day 3: Potholes State Park to Yakima

Since the campground wasn't heavily populated last night and I was tired after riding in the heat I fell asleep quickly to the sounds of fish jumping in the lake, crickets chirping in the grass and birds singing in the trees. I slept considerably better than the night before and was awoken around 5:00 am to the choir of birds chattering. Knowing it was going to be a very long day so I got up and started packing up camp. By 5:15 am the first fisherman had already driven by to put his boat in the water and head out for the day and this started the procession of fishing boats out on the lake.

This was an agressive day of riding and the temperatures were supposed to hit close to 90 degrees F by mid-day. I was scheduled to ride to Yakima, WA which was almost 120 miles away. A friend was planning on riding out during my approach to town and "escort" me back.

I was on the road by 6:15 am and had to back track about 8 miles from the night before as I headed west. I turned onto Frenchman Hill Rd again and was welcomed by the very low vehicle count. There are definite benefits to routes like this such as good safety because of the lack of cars. The downside is you do not see many people and even go miles without decent options to re-fill water bottles.

I was quickly bothered by an infuriating squeak coming from the rear derailleur. It had gotten embarassingly loud and the only way I could seem to get it to quiet down was to ride in the big (48t) chain ring and the 24t rear ring ...... for two plus hours. Fortunately the road was very flat. I assumed it was the chain drying out and, conveniently, I had forgotten my chain lube. Just before getting to a nasty climb I decided to pull into an orchard farm and see if they had an oil cannister I could use for the chain. Nobody answered even though the doors to the shop were open. As I turned around to head back to the road I heard a bark and turned to see a monstrous Rottweiler running my way. It appeared he wanted to take a chunk out of my leg. A couple of quick shouts and an acceleration and I was gone and he fortunately didn't follow me onto the pavement.

The climb was the start of the portion of the ride on Beverly-Burke Rd which turned out to be one of the smoothest asphalt pavements I had the entire trip. After cresting the hill I was welcomed by the expanse views of the Saddle Mountains leading to the Columbia River - my destination. I crossed Hwy 26 after some nice coasting on a long downhill and continued down to the river. At one point I saw a large sprinkler line soaking the road, looked both ways, and rode underneath it to get a quick refreshing "shower" and cool off.
Highway 243 along the would be a really nice ride if it were not for the chip seal covering - a layer of hot tar put over the asphalt and then 5/8" chunks of gravel rolled into it. The cars wear it down pretty well but the shoulders were rough. Thankfully I had a steel frame bike (absorbs the bumps well) and Specialized Armadillo tires so the only thing I noticed was the increased rolling resistance and a little slower speed. I was pleasantly surprised when the little fruit stand I have visited before was open and had fresh Bing cherries for sale. This made for a very happy cyclist since cherries are one of my favorite fruits.

Arriving in Mattawa a little after 10 am and with the temperatures quickly rising I stopped by a tire store and got some oil for my chain hoping it would fix the chirping. Then it was up the hill to Harvest Foods for a turkey sandwich, pina colada ice cream bar, Gatorade and more water. Had a nice conversation with a gentlemen driving a sweet late 1970's Ford Bronco. If you can't tell I like Fords and especially old ones.
I had another 55-60 miles to go and with a rest area about 15 miles up the road I knew I needed to be as hydrated as possible. After that rest area it was 40 miles of dry, open range land wih nary a place to stop or to find shade. I struggled up the last climb off the river on Highway 24 and tried to get into a rhythm as I fought the heat. I had done a couple of 100 mile rides last year but not on a loaded touring bike and was definitely struggling.

About 25 miles from Yakima I was passed by a rental motor home that suddenly pulled over to take photos of an old abandoned house. I thought I had recognized the motor home and as I passed it was confirmed. It was a young family that was at the campground with me the night before. I turned around and introduced myself. They were a couple from Munich, Germany on holiday for four weeks and touring around the state. It was a nice, refreshing conversation.

I finally arrived at Moxee - completely worn out and stopped at a convenience for a Dr. Pepper soda (sugar), ice cream bar and a liter of water. I called my friend Brian who was supposed to ride out Hwy 24 to meet me. He had gotten tied up at work and we agreed to meet at a new brewer just a couple of miles up the road. He brought his pick up and saved me 10 miles of riding by heading back to his house where I was spending the night. The beer we had at the brewery was definitely refreshing as was the super burrito for dinner.

It was then time to put the bike on the work stand, clean and lube the chain and hope that fixed the chirping problem at the rear derailleur.

Without irrigation it's this barren

Short tour - Day 2: Wenatchee to Potholes State Park

What an incredibly restless night. I thought I was ready for bed at 9:30 pm but it probably took a good 90 minutes to finally fall asleep. I woke numerous times from wind, car noise and some heavy equipment from the industrial area up the hill. Of course, it starts getting light around 4:30 am or so. By 5:45 am I woke again and finally again for good at 6:15. It was a losing battle so I got up and started packing up camp. It is probably for the best as the temperatures are supposed to be in the high 80's (farenheit).

Wenatchee has a great trail system along the river called the Apple Centennial trail. I rode it on the west side of the river into East Wenatchee for a quick bite to eat at McDonalds before heading east.

It was a beautiful morning to head east with a great tailwind all the way out past Rock Island Dam. The first part was on Rock Island Rd - one vehicle in 3 miles would be indicative of what I experienced on the back roads of central Washington in the afternoon. Hwy 28 was a stark contrast to Rock Island Rd - nonstop vehicle traffic and noise. At least the shoulder was smooth and wide.

After the biggest climb of the day to Quincy it was time for a lunch break to get ready for the expected monotonous afternoon riding through very flat agricultural land. Turning south on Road P NW and then east on Road 9 NW (yes, the roads really are named that in Grant county) I was soon to experience very straight and very long roads.

I made it all of 10 minutes and broke my promise to my dad. Out came the MP3 player and some needed focus for my brain. Many probably disagree with this but considering how far ahead and behind I could see (miles) and seeing how five cars passed me in my direction for a good 15 miles I was ok with the music.
Eventually I made it to Dodson Rd where it was another 15 to 20 miles south on completely straight, but smoothly paved asphalt. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get to Frenchman Hill Rd where I was to head east again. In fact, I was staring at a mile long hill and really not wanting to go up it when I got to the turn at the base of the hill. Whew! The temperatures were now in the mid-80's with a slight headwind. I finally see a sign - 5 miles to go. I was just thankful there weren't going to be anymore hills like the killer one before Quincy - the second in two days that required my lowest gearing at 26 X 28.

It's amazing that, even tired, you can ride faster when you crest a small rise and see a refreshing view of a huge lake where the campground is and you realize you've made it.

The campsite I had reserved is right on the lake but is a swamp with gross water right up next to the tent pad and the soil damp, even in direct sunlight. I moved to the next site over that was drier and full shade. The tent area of campground is relatively sparse tonight which also means it's quiet. I will say I was a little apprehensive when I started to set up camp and was met by a 3 foot bull snake as it slithered by. I'm hoping he decides not to revisit at night.

Still no sign of Eric. His campsite was quiet this morning when I left Wenatchee. I just hope he found a good place to camp as there isn't much relief from the sun out there.