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  1. #1
    weirdo
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    First brevet- ride report and questions

    I done it
    Yesterday I finished a RUSA 200k with the closet rando club to my area. It`s been quite a roller coaster leading up to the event. To begin with, I was really excited about the whole idea when I sent in my RUSA membership and registration for the brevet. Then things started to fall apart. First, my resolve to keep myself in shape through the winter went out the window about the end of Oct when the temps dropped and the overtime season hit at work- I kept riding to work and back, but that was all. Then I started getting antsy because the club hadn`t cashed my check, and a number of emails to the club and the administrator went unanswered. Finally, the week before Christmas, I came down with a nasty flu and the mid range forecast looked like doo-doo. Called for rain most every day down where the event was scheduled and probably have to chain up for the drive there and back. A few days before Christmas, I had decided for sure to just skip the whole thing.

    Well... I think it was Christmas Eve when I got an email confirming that they had my registration stuff and all was hunky dory there, then I started feeling a little better, and the day after Christmas I was able to ride to work without going into a coughing spasm (that`s always good!) And then a window of nice weather opened up in the forecast, so the show was back on!

    But the roller coaster wasn`t over. The ride was only about a three hour drive from me, but the climate there is totally different, and I`d only ridden that area in the summer, so I had no idea how to dress. In the end, I stuffed a big front bag and a rack trunk bag full of anything I might possbily want, rigged a way to manage my cue sheet, and hit the road with an invitation to stay the night before on my cousin`s couch, only 45 minutes from the start point. Somewhere on I-80 I looked over at the pile of crap on the passenger seat and noticed that my helmet wasn`t in there. When I got to Cuz`s house, I unloaded the bike and saw that my headlight had snapped off at the mounting lug and was just dangling by the wires! It had broken about amonth ago when I went down on the ice, but I epoxied it together and thought all was well- guess not Fortunately, I found a bike shop still open (wouldn`t have been able to do that in my town) and bought an extra helmet and a cheapo headlight and blinkie. $90 that I hadn`t planned to spend, but I was still able to do what I went down there for.

    There was only one minor catastrophe on ride day, and that was really more funny than catostrophic. The start was at a shopping center that was still closed (early morning) except a supermarket and a coffee shop. I arrived a little before check in was supposed to start, so headed straight to the coffee shop figuring that would be the unofficial hangout until things got going. Had a couple cups of coffee and went to look for the bathroom to "de-coffeenate" myself and found out they didn`t have one available for public use. What the heck kind of coffee shop doesn`t have a bathroom for customers!?! Well, I hated to do it, but I managed to find one in the back room of the supermarket and bought a couple bananas to eat while I was waiting to start.

    By then the check in table was up and running and people were milling around yacking and checking out each others bikes. Not as much variety in the bikes as I had expected- quite a few sleek carbon jobbers, an equal number of Riv-esque steel frames with canvas bags, a couple tandems, two SWB recumbents, and my touring bike. Nobody else seemed to be packing as much "just in case" clothes as I was, but it was a really flat route, so no big penalty there. Flooding on the planned route forced a last minute change for about five miles worth, but the new way was actually simpler (though more traffic) than the original, so I was a little relieved.

    I have to guess there were about 30 riders, and we all kept together for a lot longer than I had expected. In fact, I stayed at the back of what looked from my perspective to be pretty much everybody all the way through the confusing navigation part and onto the long bike trail that provided about half the total mileage. Around mile 30, I finally had to drop off. It was nice rolling as part of a freight train, but we were moving a bit faster than my natural pace, so I decided it was time to pull the plug on that before I burnt myself out. I rode the rest of that bike trail by myself, then climbed my way up to the turn around on a busy road with pretty scenery and a lot of very patient drivers. It took a while before I started seeing other riders comming back down, so I guess they found a restaurant and hung around there for a full lunch. When I got to that point, there were just three people outside the convenience store that was designated as a receipt control, and they were just about to start back. Since there didn`t seem to be any party going on there, I just bought a bag of chips and left. Saw the last two riders going up about five minutes later, which surprised me because I had thought I was the last one.

    About 3:30 PM I passed the point where I had more or less guestimated I`d be when it got dark. That was VERY good because I didn`t have the foggiest idea who long the AA batteries in my new emergency light would last. A bit later I surprised myself by remembering the "exit" where we had gotten on the bikepath. Then it went wacky for a while. Somehow I ended up riding through a homeless camp on a side spur of the trail system, then through a rather extended homeless camp in some kind of warehouse district. It vaguely felt like I should be a few blocks over to my left, but train tracks, fences, and dead ends wouldn`t let me get over that direction. I eventually got myself back on course, and got over to turn where we had come up that morning, only to notice that it was a one way street. Okay, just go to the next block and run parallel. Nope- dead end. It took me a while to get onto the official route beyond that one way street, but after riding a few sidewalks and cutting over the lawn in a park I was done with my adventuring and on the original route, and knew there wouldn`t be any more mixups.

    It was time to light myself up by then. The blinkie went on my seat stay and I wasn`t happy with it because my rack struts partially blocked it- very nice (and very dead) tail light on my fender, though. Then the LED light went on my bars, just as nicely as it had when I tried it out the night before. Except I had tried it out without my front bag. The front bag blocked that light. Tried to mount it on my fork, but didn`t trust that, so it went back on my bars- it was going to have to work for the next 20 miles, then I didn`t care. Fortunately, about half of the remaining route had decent street lights. For the unlit places, I just went slow and careful. I`ve liked my CYO since I bought it, but now I have even more appreciation for it. Not much else to say. When we had left, the organizers told us to sign in if somebody was there, or get a receipt and mail it in with our cards and our turn around receipts if nobody was manning the booth. I didn`t expect anybody there, but sure enough I heard a cowbell calling me over when I pulled into the parking lot. I made it in 10:40, so plenty of time to spare, even though I was almost last.

    I`m looking forward to a few more, still not sure if it`s for me. Considering yesterday`s route had very little climbing, no rain, and hardly any wind, it really beat me up. The regular season for that club starts in Feb. I`m going to do the next 200 and probably the 300, might volunteer to work one of the longer ones. February gives me a little more time to get myself together, but it`s still going to be rough- Sep or Oct would be much better! I live about 4000 ft higher than all the California clubs, so I`m thinking they have it a bit easier keeping up in the winter. Then again, they have to deal with rain, which I only see once in a blue moon- what a whiner I am!

    Post ride thoughts and comments:
    I had previously ridden the bike path part of this route (invariably with unplanned detours, but I just blame my stoker), have driven the climby section many times, had no idea about Davis and downtown Sac. Before leaving, I followed the whole route on Google Maps at different zoom levels and made notes on some aspects such as where I`d have to cross mulptiple lanes to get a LT lane, where "turns" were really just following the same obvious road, other oddities, and a few landmarks. A lot of that was for the part that was deleted for flooding, but I`m still really glad I did it.

    I think I need to work on my speed, or at least consider it. While I made the cutoff, it was obvious tht most of the other riders were much faster than me. Could come in handy to be able to keep up for longer with a group.

    Riding with the group had worried me a little bit, but didn`t present any issues. Some of the people rode glued together, but most were not in race formation type paceline. At least, from what I saw.

    My cue sheet holder was very simple but it worked well. I just used a vinyl envelope from an office supply place and clipped it on top of my front bag with those butterfly clips.

    The cue sheets that I had so carefully annotated weren`t worth a damn. Well, on the roads they worked okay, but there are no streetsigns on bikepaths. And of course I hadn`t made notes for the parts that appeared the night before the ride. Also, I learned that I can`t read them from my saddle- maybe get a computer guru to set me up with a bigger print copy next time? There was plenty of room to each side of the printed section, so I`m sure it could be made bigger if I knew how to make a printer do that.

    As stated, only start and end controls and one turn around control yesterday. Anyway, I can see that I needn`t have worried about them- piece of cake there.

    After I dropped off the back of the stampede, I rarely had any contact with other riders in the event. I had read so many ride reports where the people seem to join up and split again, meeting up at this control or that, that I expected a more group type thing. Maybe this was different because it was a short course and not many controls?

    Questions for the pros:
    Do you keep a map or a cue sheet on top? I kind of think a map would be easier in most cases, but I get the idea that most keep the cues closest at hand.
    Can you read your map/cue sheet while riding?
    If you often ride MUT systems, any tips for navigating them? With no signs, I got in a lot of bonus meters (not KMs, at least).
    Since I finished a RUSA event in 2012, I`ll be eligible for a 2012 200K pin, right? I want the damn pin! How do I know when I can order one?
    Last edited by rodar y rodar; 01-01-13 at 10:11 PM.

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    Questions for the pros:
    Do you keep a map or a cue sheet on top? I kind of think a map would be easier in most cases, but I get the idea that most keep the cues closest at hand.
    Can you read your map/cue sheet while riding?
    If you often ride MUT systems, any tips for navigating them? With no signs, I got in a lot of bonus meters (not KMs, at least).
    Since I finished a RUSA event in 2012, I`ll be eligible for a 2012 200K pin, right? I want the damn pin! How do I know when I can order one?
    First of all, congratulations on your first successful randonnee.


    1) I keep both my map and cue sheet in a map case on top of my handlebar bag.

    2) It depends. In Manitoba, all you need is a map. The instructions are that straightforward. In other places, it's better to follow the cue sheet because the instructions are that complicated.

    (Incidentally ... a small pet peeve of mine is when ride organisers get their cue sheets wrong. Even a small error can send a rider who is unfamiliar with the route (i.e. one who has to drive to some distance to an event) off course, and make things very frustrating and difficult)

    3) Very few of the routes I've ridden have been on MUPs. In general, I try to avoid those rides because in general, I'm not fond of MUPs. In Manitoba and Alberta, there are no rides with MUPs. In Australia there are some, but the fact that they have MUP sections is indicated on the write-up, so we can avoid them. There is one that Rowan and I have done 2 or 3 times, where there is a very straightforward path up a relatively gradual incline between one town and another. It is about 16 km long and there is no difficulty navigating it because it is just straight up the hill. There is another 100 km populaire that Rowan and I have done using the MUPs in Melbourne. The ride is almost entirely MUPs, and fortunately the ride organiser rode with us.

    4) If you were doing the events in Manitoba, you would be able to order your badge in about October and it would arrive in about January. If you were doing the events in Alberta, you would never see a badge for any of the rides you do. They don't bother ordering them there. So it depends entirely on your club. Contact the ride organiser or your club organiser or whoever. But chances are you won't see it till, oh, I'd say November at the earliest.

  3. #3
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Several of the riders I ride with use Garmin GPS units as their main source of directions.
    I use a cue sheet in a map holder available from REI (smaller size, I think). It velcros around the handlebars. My stoker uses the same thing attached to my Camelbak. Normally, I can read it while I ride. If it's dark, the print is too small, etc., then I might have to stop to read it. When riding with a group, I'm usually just following the GPS people. On a route with a lot of turns, the GPS solution can really speed things up. In a lot of cases, you can get the electronic cue sheet and print it yourself bigger or smaller as required ahead of time. Nobody uses maps, and any maps furnished with a route are usually of a scale that is adequate to show the shape of the entire route, but useless for navigating.
    I don't think any of our regular brevets follow trail systems. A few perms do, but they're not very popular, either.
    There are ACP medals available for completing ACP brevets, but they are not available for RUSA brevets. There are pins available to RBA's for populaires, but I don't know if they can be purchased directly, and I don't think they apply to brevets.

    Other comments:
    Check the weather forecasts ahead of time for the specific area you'll be riding. I use weather.com and check the "hourly" forecast.
    The activity relating to registration seems fairly typical, this is an all-volunteer organization, and things don't always happen instantly. In the case of my club, the club doesn't acknowledge membership renewal at all, you just have to ask or see if your check cleared to confirm. I think even an email notification would be an improvement there.
    Quite likely, a number of those riders had ridden that identical route before, perhaps several times, and that helps with the navigation considerably.
    The 10:40 is slowish, but sounds like navigation issues would help more than anything. You need to work on speed, I need to work on speed, 90% of the riders I know need to work on speed, so it's not like you're the only one to ever take longer than you'd like.
    Clubs vary, people vary from person to person, and people vary from time to time. Ideally, if you're new, somebody that knows the ropes would come ride with you. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't. If you do that route again and some other new guy's out there riding it on a 10:50 schedule, keep that in mind.
    Riding with groups works better when the people know each other.

    Just FYI, riding with a club that is noted for riding together, I mostly rode solo my first year (got my R-12) because I was slower than the rest of 'em. I gradually sped up and some of them slowed down, and that got me riding with them eventually, though. And riding the tandem, I've got a friend with me whether the rest of the group is there or not, and that helps.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

  4. #4
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    Since I finished a RUSA event in 2012, I`ll be eligible for a 2012 200K pin, right? I want the damn pin! How do I know when I can order one?
    Most important point may not have been addressed, but I don't know of an award for a RUSA 200k. ACP has a 200k medal, so if your brevet was an ACP brevet, you can get one of those. Looks like every 200k held on 12/31/2012 was a RUSA brevet. Oddly, the one in Amarillo 1/1/2013 was ACP

    200k always beat me up, I'm not sure how that works. I rode a 200k in mid-August, and was a real mess afterwards. Then 2 weeks later I rode the ToC 1200k, and did fine.
    Last edited by unterhausen; 01-01-13 at 11:34 PM.

  5. #5
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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    Hey, you made it, and you've got a story out of it. Randonneuring is all about problem solving, so now you've got stuff to work on for the next time.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
    RUSA #7498

  6. #6
    Senior Member skiffrun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    .... Looks like every 200k held on 12/31/2012 was a RUSA brevet. Oddly, the one in Amarillo 1/1/2013 was ACP
    Not odd at all. The "ACP season" in the USA is from Jan-01 to mid-October. (Apparently, the southern hemisphere is on a slightly shifted calendar, which makes sense given the summer / winter inversion.)

    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    200k always beat me up, I'm not sure how that works. I rode a 200k in mid-August, and was a real mess afterwards. Then 2 weeks later I rode the ToC 1200k, and did fine.
    Torn between two suggestions: (1) it's always finer to be in Caroliner, (2) all credit to Tony.
    Enjoy the ride.

  7. #7
    weirdo
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    Doh! That`s right, this was strictly a RUSA ride with no ACP blessing, so no ACP pin. Well, bummer I won`t ever be able to sport a 2012 brevet pin, but that gives me an extra incentive to get my butt out there in 2013.

    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    1) I keep both my map and cue sheet in a map case on top of my handlebar bag.

    (Incidentally ... a small pet peeve of mine is when ride organisers get their cue sheets wrong. Even a small error can send a rider who is unfamiliar with the route (i.e. one who has to drive to some distance to an event) off course, and make things very frustrating and difficult)
    Machka, how do you arrange them? For the ride I just reported on, I folded the cue sheets in half with one inside the other so that I started with the top of the outbound sheet facing up, then flipped the whole thing over when I ran off the bottom and had teh second half visible. At the turn around I put the inbound sheet outside (separate sheet, which was probably nicer than reading backwards). Do you keep a map on one side and cue sheet on the other side so you can easily flip the holder in a similar manner? That sounds reasonable, anyway.

    Re: inaccurate cue sheets. Yeah, that complicated things, but I can`t really go too hard on the organizer for it. Since it was an unexpected last minute fix, he did the best he could.

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    On a route with a lot of turns, the GPS solution can really speed things up.

    In a lot of cases, you can get the electronic cue sheet and print it yourself bigger or smaller as required ahead of time.

    Nobody uses maps, and any maps furnished with a route are usually of a scale that is adequate to show the shape of the entire route, but useless for navigating.

    Check the weather forecasts ahead of time for the specific area you'll be riding.

    The activity relating to registration seems fairly typical, this is an all-volunteer organization, and things don't always happen instantly.
    We have a simple GPS unit for my wife`s car- I love it. But she bought me a programable "sports" model (one of the Garmin eTrex series) for my birthday a few years ago and I ended up returning it to the store. It was worthless by itself, and getting it to co-operate with a computer for loading maps and programing routes was way over my head, technologically speaking.

    The cue sheets aren`t always available ahead of time? In that case I got lucky here. Yeah, bigger print would be nice. I can`t do that, but it shouldn`t be hard to find a friend to show me how.

    As of now, I find maps much easier to deal with. Then again, I`ve been using them all my life, while cue sheets are very new for me. Hopefully I`ll get used to them also.

    I did check the forecast ahead of time (I use Accuweather, which also offers hourly guesses). My issue is that the temps down in the CA valleys are always delightful, but the humidity makes me feel like I`m in a deep freeze. I`m satisfied with my overpacking method there, eventually will probably get a better idea what I need if I keep doing rides down that way.

    All volunteers = be patient. Check. I am thankful for them putting on the event, so will just keep that in mind and try not to be alarmed if it comes down to last minute again.

    One thing just occured to me that would make it easier to read map or cues while riding. If I used Velcro to hold my envelope to the bag, I`d be able to rip it off and hold it up closer to my eyes, then just slap it back down whenever I wanted. Think I`ll try that next time even if I get bigger print. Will also bring along some detailed maps, whether or not I end up using them.

    I think this is about the only route in my region that uses so much MUT, so hopefuly won`t keep running into problems with that.

    I also see that the regular season rides from that club start in March, not Feb. Another month to help me get back in the groove

    Thanks for the congrats and the words of wisdom, gang!

  8. #8
    Senior Member k7baixo's Avatar
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    That was an entertaining report. I failed to finish my first ever brevet attempt in 2011 so you're off to a great start!
    Cheers, Gerry
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  9. #9
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Congrats on finishing. The weather here has been garbage lately. I was just thinking about a little road trip, myself.

    Here's my direction-finding strategy: Keep the cue sheet close and other riders closer. It's not perfect (I've been in groups that made wrong turns.), but it usually works out. If I have a map it's usually there for an emergency situation where I'm completely lost and just need to find my way back to civilization. I like to write out my own cue sheet if the route is posted in advance. I just use index cards, a highlighter, and tape. I like to sort of follow the route in Google Maps as I'm writing out the sheet and try to get a feel for what the route is doing.
    centuryperweek.blogspot.com

  10. #10
    Senior Member skiffrun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    ... One thing just occurred to me that would make it easier to read map or cues while riding. If I used Velcro to hold my envelope to the bag, ...
    The most important thing regarding a cue sheet is: do NOT let it get wet! Plastic zip-lock bags work great.

    As for the folding: don't count on all print-out being the same size. A friend of mine says he's he's gotten quite good at folding the cue sheets in various ways (he's done routes with 5 different RBA's -- maybe 7 as Georgia and DC have each had 2 RBA's covering the last 3 years -- and at least 8 different permanent route "owners"); he tries to fold his cue sheet so that he can see all the turns and road names until the next control.
    Enjoy the ride.

  11. #11
    Randomhead
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    I laminate my cue sheets in clear packing tape which has kept them from failing under fairly extreme conditions. I highlight every other line because that helps me read them while moving, otherwise my eyes just skate around and it takes far too long to pick out the next cue. If it's really wet, the highlighting runs all over, but you can still read the cues.

    I keep thinking about starting a thread about cue sheets and holders, but never get around to it.

    Quote Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
    Here's my direction-finding strategy: Keep the cue sheet close and other riders closer. It's not perfect (I've been in groups that made wrong turns.), but it usually works out.
    I've done serious bonus miles due to navigation error once, and that was because I trusted someone else's navigation. Never again. I try to catch cue sheet errors ahead of time, particularly if it wasn't prepared by someone I trust. I have redone cue sheets using google street view. Find out if the route designer rides with a GPS, and if they do spend some effort making sure the cue sheet is actually right. Pre-rides should not be done by people using GPS, and if they were then riders that don't have a GPS need to do QC on the cue sheet or risk DNF.
    Last edited by unterhausen; 01-02-13 at 07:07 PM.

  12. #12
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    Machka, how do you arrange them? For the ride I just reported on, I folded the cue sheets in half with one inside the other so that I started with the top of the outbound sheet facing up, then flipped the whole thing over when I ran off the bottom and had teh second half visible. At the turn around I put the inbound sheet outside (separate sheet, which was probably nicer than reading backwards). Do you keep a map on one side and cue sheet on the other side so you can easily flip the holder in a similar manner? That sounds reasonable, anyway.
    With the exception of incredibly simple rides, where I might refer to a map rather than a cue sheet, I keep my map in my handlebar bag in case I need to refer to it to clarify something that has been said on the cue sheet.

    The cue sheet, however, can be a bit of origami. Rarely does a cue sheet fit my map case perfectly ... nobody's fault, that's just the way it happens. And just about every cue sheet is different. So I spend about 5 minutes before the ride folding up some swan, sailboat, or hat creation that will fit.

    I try to fold it so that the instructions disappear from view at at control, so that when I get to that control, I can refold it in order to see the instructions to another control.

  13. #13
    weirdo
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I try to catch cue sheet errors ahead of time, particularly if it wasn't prepared by someone I trust. I have redone cue sheets using google street view.
    ???
    Redo the cue sheets to match with what? A map? I thought omnipotent cue sheet was the be-all that trumpped everything else even if it had errors. Is that not correct? Does something else wear that badge (Omnipotent Route Master), or is that particular office vacant?

    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    And just about every cue sheet is different. So I spend about 5 minutes before the ride folding up some swan, sailboat, or hat creation that will fit.
    The swan probably comes in handy when you need to get over a traffic jam. I guess the boat works just as well for missing bridges, though.

  14. #14
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar View Post
    ???
    Redo the cue sheets to match with what? A map? I thought omnipotent cue sheet was the be-all that trumpped everything else even if it had errors. Is that not correct? Does something else wear that badge (Omnipotent Route Master), or is that particular office vacant?
    The cue sheet shows the route to be followed, but if, for example, it shows to turn right onto a certain street but it's actually necessary to turn left, it's handy to know that. I'm just not energetic enough to do that much work ahead of time, though.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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