Cribbed report on the SF 600k
Reposted from Hobbes tandem site:
Two tandems finished the SF 600K, but I'm not sure how. Here is one
The 2007 SF 600K
Given the weather forecast, participation in this final brevet of the San
Francisco series was more a desperate plea for psychiatric intervention
than it was a three hundred seventy-five mile bike ride. One hundred
riders were registered, but only thirty showed up at the start. Of that
number, fully twenty-four managed to finish, although many of us pressed
the time limit. The storm looming off the coast failed to dampen our
spirits, for we are foolish in the extreme and laugh at hardship, with
that maniacal laughter reserved for the criminally insane and heads of
government, but I repeat myself.
We set out, high and dry at 0900 hours, watching the clouds roll in and
harboring illusory hopes that they would dissipate. We made it as far as
Petaluma, and just after noon, when the rain could hold off no longer. It
did not just rain, it poured. Our National Weather Service had predicted
a two day storm, but apparently we were to receive two day’s worth in a
matter of hours. Headed north, we bundled as best we could and trusted
the mechanical preparation of our machines. As our tandem’s current
mechanic, I could regale you with horror stories of water coming out of
pedal bearings post ride, various and sundry other malfunctions, but let
our new routine of shifting be your guide to our experience. Getting into
the small chainring became an exercise in extreme maneuvering. I did not
wish my stoker to have to reach down with her hand and shift it manually
again (don’t ask, don’t imagine, and I still can’t believe she did that).
By shifting to the small chainring, and having it fail to move from the
middle chainring, I discovered I could then shift to a smaller rear cog,
immediately upshift, backpedal, and overpressure the chain to drop it
onto the small ring.
To all those mechanically inclined, yes, there is a new chain and
cassette installed. The chain in particular was damaged by this maneuver,
but we wanted to finish.
The pouring rain made railroad tracks even more hazardous than usual. I
am guilty of scaring those riders behind us, but I signaled aggressively
and took a large right to left cut at them to cross them as close to
ninety degrees as I could. After all, I was driving for two. Yes, the
cars came close, but we made it. Of our group of four, two went down on
those tracks, trying to stay to the right. Two more went down in a group
behind us. One was hospitalized, but the gal that went down with our
group was soon up and riding again, with a broken shoulder it turned out.
Randonneurs are a tough lot. Incidentally, she finished the ride before
seeking medical attention, and this was just over one hundred miles into
the event. Suffice it to say she had a long night, day, and next night as
Climbing, shivering, and route finding went on throughout the day. When
we began climbing out of Cloverdale to the Anderson Valley we realized we
were climbing the mountains into the storm clouds themselves. At least it
would be a lot colder. The temperature gradually descended past forty
degrees Fahrenheit, but I’m not sure I believe the reports of black ice
on the roadway. I don’t believe I saw any, but my vision was limited by
the stinging cold rain and as my hands had lost most sensitivity I cannot
be certain of the bicycle’s feel. Eight hours of constant rain and wind
was tolerable, but as we wore on toward twelve non-stop hours it started
to hurt. The ridge line climbs and descends for twenty miles, and between
the rain and cold I was starting to worry. Maintaining my limited ability
to control the vehicle decently was going to be an issue. That’s when the
oncoming car sped toward us. The bow wave of water struck us full on and
the tandem instantly lost at least five miles per hour. One of our lights
began failing, I had water running down my hood, out my sleeves, and
pouring out of every orifice. Try to avoid the mental picture, but I
think it is accurate. I recalled a Laundromat from brevets past, and that
thought alone kept me pedaling on toward Boonville. Lo and behold, the
little liquor store/market/Laundromat was open. Soon we were stripped
down, clothing in a drier, warm cups of cocoa in hand. Getting back out
into the storm wasn’t pleasant, but nothing could stop us now.
As another respite, we struck some storm induced rock fall in the dark,
not a mile past a water stop where three kind volunteers from the San
Francisco Randonneurs had setup an aid station. It was the only aid
station in the entire route, by the way. The flat was not nearly as
annoying as the fact that I managed to break both tire levers in half.
They were old anyway. Colorful language filled the night as I complete
the mechanical task, and a hug from my stoker and wet, sympathetic frozen
expressions were exchanged. We remounted, and pushed on to the river
mouth and the coast. Somewhere headed north we were able to hear again.
What was this? Had the rain stopped? We examined the sky, and imagined we
could see a star. Wait, it was a star, and there was another! Reaching
Fort Bragg at around 0100 hours, we were frozen but no longer getting
rained on. We ate intensely bizarre early in the morning foodstuffs (note
to self: do not mix seaweed salad, blueberry yogurt, and jalapeno cheese
focaccio bread ever again) and looked at each other. This was too good to
be true. We were exhausted, wet, cold, and the storm had stopped. We just
had to keep riding. There was absolutely no wind. A crescent moon hung
over the ocean. We could clearly hear clean lines of surf rolling to the
beach. Virtually no motor traffic was present. The road was butter smooth
and freshly washed. We rode on through the early morning hours,
delirious, happy, and sleep deprived enough to be considered legally
Arriving at the impromptu aid station at the campground in the redwoods
before dawn, we were informed there was a tent available for our use. We
needed no urging. We agreed a half hour’s rest would be most restorative.
My stoker informs me my snoring started approximately fourteen seconds
after entering the tent. No sense in wasting time when the opportunity to
sleep presents itself. Besides, I had several gallons of water to empty
from my sinuses and other cavities. Thirty minutes later, we were getting
dressed and out in the dark and cold yet again.
The rising sun brought breaking skies and the promise of fair weather for
a change. While it was cold, at least rain and wind were no longer
beating down on us. We stopped, we rested, we ate as necessary, and it
wasn’t until that afternoon that fatigue began to overwhelm us again. In
Guerneville we stopped for a bit, and illness reared its ugly head. A few
sips of Coke for my stoker, a cup of coffee for me, and soon we were
cruising again. Just as in brevets before, in another hour we felt right
and kept on pedaling toward the finish. As the sun set, we picked up
another rider or two, and led toward our goal together. For a pleasant
change, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was not a death defying
experience, and we surrendered our brevet cards happily to the
Then it was off to the Marina District to beg for food at closing
restaurants, but that is another long and successful story.
This coming weekend our tandem team is embarking on another 600K. Given
our season so far, we dread the though of going to Paris-Brest-Paris and
being faced with reasonable temperatures and dry weather. We’re hoping to
give riding under benign conditions a try, to see if we can manage.
-Paul "Molding, Decaying, and Pedaling" Guttenberg
LAB ECI #781 C-K
Davis Bike Club
Adventure Cycling indeed!
oh, what I would've given for a laundromat on last year's Westfield 400 (completed in 24 hours, w/ 20 hours of continuous rain)
still, congrats on finishing what sounds like an epic trial. sad to hear about the crashes on the rail crossings. Hope those folks will be ok; though the story of the woman who pedaled on despite a broken shoulder sounds pretty amazing, too.
an excellent tale, delivered well.
You need a new bike
The hardest rides are the ones we remember most fondly.
Congratulations on your perseverance.