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newbie "failed" century lessons learned and next steps

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newbie "failed" century lessons learned and next steps

Old 10-15-07, 10:42 AM
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kponds
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newbie "failed" century lessons learned and next steps

Quick confession: for the last few years I have been one of "those guys" who's cycling hobby centered around looking at the bikes in his garage, reading bikeforums, and maybe riding once a month tops.

Running was my main exercise/hobby and it was much easier to lace up the shoes and run than it was to get everything ready for a bike ride. I made a slew of training errors in the summer of this year, mainly building back up too quickly after spring marathon recovery. This caused my body to pretty much fall apart on me, and I have been in a vicious cycle of injury and recovery since, getting out of shape and gaining weight.

About a month ago I decided to give cycling a "for real" shot. The problem was, as I got more into "cycling" and less into "bicycles", I realized that all of my bikes are way too small for me. I was originally told by a bike shop that 54cm was my size, likely because that was the only size that they had in the store of the model that I wanted. I am 6'3". But I didn't ride enough to be able to tell that it was too small for me, so I amassed 3 54cm bikes.

Two weeks ago, on a Friday, I found out about this Bluff City Blues 100 mile ride. I was going to do it. So Saturday I went out and rode 50 miles on my Bianchi hybrid/commuter, making the dramatic fit adjustments that I needed along the way. I was in pretty bad pain at the end. As I found out later, the saddle had restricted bloodflow from the arteries in my "undercarriage" (causing shooting pain whenever I got off the saddle), the saddle-to-pedal distance was too short (causing patello-femoral pain), and the saddle-to-handlebar distance was too short (causing lower back pain).

During that week I made a lot of changes, and rode 80 the next Saturday with significantly less pain. But the changes that I had made were pretty ridiculous, I think that my exposed seatpost length was longer than my seat tube. And my stem insertion point was well below its "min insert" line, which was a gamble that I had to take. And the saddle bloodflow pain was still there.

I had decided that I would make do with this, and if I could regularly cycle until april (bonus season ) of next year, I would build myself a new bike that fits.

Thursday of last week, two days before the event, I went to pick up my packet. On the way, I saw the used trade-in bikes at the bike shop and one just called out to me. It was an 80s ishiwata 022 lugged steel touring frame, in 61cm. I had never heard of the manufacturer before (Ross), and it had a 12 speed drivetrain with shimano 600 components. 36 spoke wheels (big deal when you're 250 lbs). Everything was in immaculate condition, including the frame. It certainly wasn't a nice bike, but it was a good opportunity for me because it's rare to find a used bike if you're my size, so I paid $150 for it and had them drop the suicide levers and pedals, and I took it home along with my packet for the century ride. When I got home I put on my clipless pedals and covered the frame with reflective tape.

So I rode the Ross that Thursday night, and after about 10 miles, I decided that I would bring it to the century ride. Objectively not a good idea, but I really liked the bike. And the 80s faux-leather cheapo saddle was much nicer than any modern saddle that I had tried. I made a few minor fit modifications, and it was perfect.

I rolled onto Beale street about 6:45AM, the ride started at 8. I had my girlfriend drive me and drop me off. The idea of driving a car to a bike ride was ridiculous to me, but we live 30 miles away by bike, and I didn't want to do 160 miles just yet. And she was going to pick me up right after the ride and we were going to go to my parents house in AR.

Although this was a supported century, for some reason I packed like it was a solo. The Ross only had mounts for one water bottle cage, so I fashioned an extra two onto the stem with zip-ties, which worked flawlessly. I rolled with a rack and trunk bag, and a handlebar bag.

apparently I am a sherpa, the trunk bag contained:

Multi-Tool (with broken chain tool, important later!)
15 and 16mm wrench
2 tubes
sunglasses in glasses case (with regular glasses on my face, it was dark when we got there)
space blanket
sunscreen
jacket
camera in camera bag (ended up taking no pictures
8 AAA batteries (lights)
8 AA batteries (camera)
4 Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches
3 extra bottles of water

And the handlebar bag:

lock
wallet
keys
pda/phone
2 gels (I hate them but just in case the PB&J failed me)
reflective ankle straps

I came wearing a long sleeved coolmax shirt with a short sleeved shirt under it (it was very cold in the morning -- 50 degrees, and was expected ~70 later on), spandex bike shorts with running shorts over them. The running shorts looked absolutely ridiculous, but I had torn a hole in my bike shorts the week before and my pasty white ass would have looked more ridiculous.

I do some people watching and it appears that average rider is on a full carbon time-trial bike, with little deviation. I found a guy on an old steel touring bike like mine, with a 2 year old in a side trailer, and a lady on an Atlantis (which is my dream bike). Figuring these people were more my speed, I thought that I would lurk behind them.

So after a bit of bull****ting around at the start, we take off down Beale street, through downtown Memphis (where I lost the 2 that I was riding with), and on to Mud Island. At this point I am riding with a group of people on hybrids wearing MS150 jerseys. It is as we are exiting Mud Island that I realize that these people are doing the 100km course, and if I keep going at this pace with them, the 100mile course will close on me. So I had to (correct me if I get this wrong) "drope the hamer."

I rolled at about 18mph for the next 25 miles, passing trailer guy and atlantis chick, mostly solo, and suddenly realized that I was off course. I retraced my steps and made it to the 20 mile aid station with 35 miles on my tripometer. I took a 3 minute break to stretch, refill bottles, and eat a PB&J before hammering it to the 30 mile rest stop. After some quick math at the 30 mile rest stop (having done 45 miles), it became apparent that I would not be able to complete the century course before they closed it (if you cross mile 80 later than 6 hours from the start, you get sagged). So no century ride today. I wasn't too upset, I was just going to reroute to the 100km course and get to my parents house a little early.

Anyway halfway back to the mile 40 rest stop (same as the mile 20 rest stop) (tripometer is reading 50 miles now), I am shifting hard up a hill and my chain breaks. The price that you pay for coming on a bike that's as old as you are, I guess. The ironic thing is, I have a chain tool on my multi-tool, and could have easily fixed it, but the pin had broken in the chain tool. Luckily SAG is right behind me and they drive me the 5 miles to the rest stop, where there is mechanical help. I got my chain fixed and rode the last 20 miles back to Beale street, about half solo and half with two very nice ladies who told me that the roads were marked with spray paint for the whole route (I hadn't noticed it!). Ended up at Beale street approximately 1 PM where I filled up on beer, barbeque, and blues music. Trip ended at 70 miles.

Even though it was technically a "failed" century attempt, I had a great time and I think that overall it was a success. I will be doing a full century very soon, likely solo.

The bike worked out great. I love that frame. I think that I am going to put singlespeed (not fixed gear) wheels on it, I already have a set of 36 spoke ones from my redline 925 which is too small. Memphis is just too flat to worry about maintaining an ancient 12 speed drive-train. And moustache bars (also have these).

The only reason I'm wary about converting it to a single speed is if I decide I want to do a Brevet series up in Nashville and St Louis where it is probably less flat. But really I think I'll be ok in 42x16, or 39x16.

Lessons learned:

-Make sure I have a working chain tool next time
-Don't be so caught up in getting where you're going that you forget to look at the cue sheet
-Avoid riding solo if possible
-Pay attention to the markings on the road.

Next steps:

-Get a chain tool or new multi tool
-Pack less stuff
-Learn that it's OK to rely on rest stops and that you don't need to bring 4 PB&Js and extra waters
-Plan solo century route soon (next weekend maybe)
-Convert bike to single speed
-Moustache bars
-New tires
-Fenders (dont know if they will fit on this bike, I hope so!)

Last edited by kponds; 10-15-07 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 10-15-07, 11:22 AM
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Next steps:

-Base miles
-Join a group ride
-Plan solo century route soon (after many more base miles)
-Don't convert bike to single speed
-Cliff bars
-New tires
-Ride alot more! (base miles)
Fixed it for you!
That's quite a story, keep up the effort.
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Old 10-15-07, 11:28 AM
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kponds
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Clif Bars blech

Right now my base miles are basically commuting (20 miles per day) and a weekend long ride. I think I am going to get a trainer and add a 45-60 minute session before bed too.

I never ride above aerobic threshold. For the forseeable future, I don't care to get faster than I currently am.

Last edited by kponds; 10-15-07 at 11:33 AM.
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Old 10-15-07, 10:55 PM
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Thanks for your story - very entertaining. Red like I was there too.

Yup! I've had my lessons too. In fact, some of my best rides have been when learning lessons. By the way, I love solo centuries. For solo riding, your gear list definitely was not excessive. I usually carry even more essential stuff - stuff to keep both my bike and my body working the whole way despite momentary break downs.
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Old 10-15-07, 11:41 PM
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Originally Posted by kponds View Post
Clif Bars blech
+1!!

Always, always bring food on any century - organized or solo. Do not ever count on the rest stops. As soon as you do, you'll roll into a rest stop just as they are packing up and they'll look at you like you are the scum on the bottom of a rock, and say something helpful like, "No, of course there's no more food!" and continue packing up and ignoring you as though you had some nerve to ask them for food. Been there, done that ... sad to say.

However, whatever you bring ... bring something you like. I personally go for stuff like granola bars, cereal bars, cookies, fruit, etc. Tasty stuff.

And there's no reason why you can't do a solo century ... plan a loop route in your neighborhood. My first century was a solo century which consisted of several approx. 25 km loops. I was never more than 12.5 kms away from home if something happened, and my home was my rest stop which was really convenient for food and washroom facilities. It worked out very well.
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Old 10-16-07, 02:52 AM
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54 cm and your 6'3"

Geez. I would report that dealer to whatever brand they sold you. Thats not right dude.

I mean thats not even close. 54 cm is my size and Im barely 5'9"

I guess it is likely that it was just some kid who did not really know what he was doing.
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Old 10-16-07, 04:56 AM
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I'm 5 8 and ride a 55cm.

That's not a lot of gear - mostly I just ride to work, so I'm packing for 50mile roundtrip.

Multi-tool, inner tube, patches, couple of chain links, extra tyre levers, big lock, 6" spanner, water bottle (with water), water bottle with sports recovery drink, emergency 'bonk' food (dates, muesli bars).
Work clothes, wallet, phone etc.
On a longer trip I'd take a lot more food than you listed. You won't really need it until 60 miles or so, but then you'll really need it.
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Old 10-16-07, 06:30 AM
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Originally Posted by gosmsgo View Post
I guess it is likely that it was just some kid who did not really know what he was doing.
Truthfully, it's more likely two kids who didn't know what they were doing, one of whom wanted a new bike right now (me). I can't wholly blame the dealer for this. I did want to try a bigger bike, and he said he could order me a larger one if I wanted but he was pretty sure that 54cm was going to be fine for me.


Machka -- Thanks for your century tips on your website. They really helped me out.
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Old 10-16-07, 07:00 AM
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Originally Posted by kponds View Post
If you cross mile 80 later than 6 hours from the start, you get sagged.
Wow! Any reason why the time limit is so restrictive? 7.5 hours for a century is not setting land speed records, but it's not that slow. Some casual rest stops or a mechanical and bang, it's easy to go slower than eight hours for a century.

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Old 10-16-07, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by kponds View Post
Clif Bars blech
Never had one actually, just making a play on words

For centuries, you should try to get fast enough to smoke the 80 miles at 6 hours time limit. And ALWAYS check the pavement for route markers, they're usually pretty good at that.(I've never used a cue sheet on an organized century, but I try to ride as much of the route as I can before the event)
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Old 10-16-07, 08:43 AM
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Well the thing is, I would have been able to do the century course easily if I hadn't done 15 bonus miles. As it was I maybe could have done it, but I was cutting it pretty close.
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Old 10-16-07, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
+1!!

Always, always bring food on any century - organized or solo. Do not ever count on the rest stops. As soon as you do, you'll roll into a rest stop just as they are packing up and they'll look at you like you are the scum on the bottom of a rock, and say something helpful like, "No, of course there's no more food!" and continue packing up and ignoring you as though you had some nerve to ask them for food. Been there, done that ... sad to say.
Iíve been there and done that also when I started doing organized rides. So when my wife and I started putting on a 3 day ride the one thing we would not tolerate from our sags is closing before everyone has gone through, even if it means you sit out there all night (I know as a ride organizer this is a real pain, but who are we out there for the rider or the worker). We always over buy/get donated extra food so there is always food left over. All our sags are non-riders and are amazed as to what a rider can do and always go the extra mile to help every rider. So, I guess what Iím saying is chose your rides, ask other riders what rides they like best and why and scratch off rides that leave out there by yourself.

Kponds, sounds like you learned a lot about doing a century ride and had some good support. This is how we learn, from our mistakes. Good luck on your next century and there is nothing like having a bike that fits you.
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Old 10-16-07, 10:11 AM
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I was originally told by a bike shop that 54cm was my size, likely because that was the only size that they had in the store of the model that I wanted. I am 6'3".
You could do the cycling community a favor and set that place on fire.
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Old 10-16-07, 10:34 AM
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Originally Posted by kponds View Post
Well the thing is, I would have been able to do the century course easily if I hadn't done 15 bonus miles. As it was I maybe could have done it, but I was cutting it pretty close.
I hear that, riding for an extra hour did you no favors for the imperial route!
On the other hand, it gave you a super-metric and there was beer at the end....

I'd do that ride!
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Old 10-16-07, 10:41 AM
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the REAL question is, how did the bike feel after 70mi? I hope your fit issues are resolved. And yes, the shop that sold you the 54cm bike should be burned. Unforgivable.
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Old 10-16-07, 10:45 AM
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The bike feels fine. Actually has one of those cheap 80s black faux-leather saddles that you see on low quality 10 speeds, I thought that I was going to be in pain from the saddle, and eventually planned to buy a brooks, but it's PERFECT.

The fit couldn't be better. I do want to put my moustache bars on though.

The wheels are very heavy and the drivetrain is iffy. But I have a feeling that this frame is going to be with me a long time. After a little bit of rebuilding, I imagine this bike as a workhorse rando bike.
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Old 10-16-07, 11:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Always, always bring food on any century - organized or solo. Do not ever count on the rest stops. As soon as you do, you'll roll into a rest stop just as they are packing up and they'll look at you like you are the scum on the bottom of a rock, and say something helpful like, "No, of course there's no more food!" and continue packing up and ignoring you as though you had some nerve to ask them for food. Been there, done that ... sad to say.
That's one benefit to being a faster rider: you get the pick of the crop at the rest stops on most century-only rides. On rides that have multiple distance options, there are times when this isn't the case (they route the shorter distances to a few of the same rest stops used on the century, which usually depletes supplies before the long-haul folk arrive).

But I have to agree with Machka: bring a supply of your favourite foods with you. I tend to pack a few energy gels, a granola bar or two, some salt packets (I always add a touch to my water), and HEED or Perpeteum powder (I'm not a big fan of Gatorade, which is the dime-a-dozen energy drink at most organized century rides). I pack the powders in gel flasks (per a suggestion posted by Machka a while back), and it all fits in my jersey pockets (along with my spare tube, wallet, mobile phone and digicam).

This way, I can be selective with the things I pick up at the rest stops and still have food that I can rely on.

Originally Posted by Machka View Post
And there's no reason why you can't do a solo century ... plan a loop route in your neighborhood. My first century was a solo century which consisted of several approx. 25 km loops. I was never more than 12.5 kms away from home if something happened, and my home was my rest stop which was really convenient for food and washroom facilities. It worked out very well.
Solo centuries - or even impromptu centuries with friends, like the one I did last weekend - are totally fun and really easy to pull off. Often, you'll pass stores where you can find good edibles and drinkables, and pace yourself as you see fit. If you go into the more remote and rural areas, it's usually better to ride with a friend or two, just so there's some backup. But as long as you're prepared, it's not too bad.
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Old 10-16-07, 12:57 PM
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Solo centuries - or even impromptu centuries with friends, like the one I did last weekend - are totally fun and really easy to pull off. Often, you'll pass stores where you can find good edibles and drinkables, and pace yourself as you see fit. If you go into the more remote and rural areas, it's usually better to ride with a friend or two, just so there's some backup. But as long as you're prepared, it's not too bad.
It always surprises me to see folks who think non-organized centuries are something to be afraid of -- not that I've seen that from anyone on this thread. My greatest joy on the bike is to get out into the middle of nowhere and just go where my bike takes me. Yeah, you need to be self-supporting and capable of solving your own problems, but self-sufficiency is part of the satisfaction of LD riding, at least for me.
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Old 10-16-07, 04:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
It always surprises me to see folks who think non-organized centuries are something to be afraid of -- not that I've seen that from anyone on this thread. My greatest joy on the bike is to get out into the middle of nowhere and just go where my bike takes me. Yeah, you need to be self-supporting and capable of solving your own problems, but self-sufficiency is part of the satisfaction of LD riding, at least for me.
To be fair, not everyone is adept at route making. Many people are uncomfortable riding alone. And not everyone is confidant about fixing common bike problems.

Supported rides (of whatever distance) offer less experienced cyclists a mechanism to gain confidence without feeling like they've been thrown into the deep end of the pool.

I've ridden many thousands of miles solo on routes that I have devised. But I have a high traffic tolerance, have a good understanding of bike mechanics, and know my limitations. I agree that riding long distances solo is wonderful. It's freedom. But it's not for everyone.
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Old 10-16-07, 05:35 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by G-Whacker View Post
Never had one actually, just making a play on words

For centuries, you should try to get fast enough to smoke the 80 miles at 6 hours time limit. And ALWAYS check the pavement for route markers, they're usually pretty good at that.(I've never used a cue sheet on an organized century, but I try to ride as much of the route as I can before the event)
You should try a Clif bar sometime ... have a ditch conveniently located nearby.

And I completely disagree with the the statement that cyclists should try to get fast enough to smoke the 80 miles at 6 hours time limit. I've done over 100 centuries so far ... sometimes I have reached 80 miles under 6 hours, more often than not I haven't. And that is OK. It just depends on so many factors.

But this is exactly why it is important to bring your own food. Some organizer who has never ridden a century, and has no idea, is going to get it into his head that everyone can do centuries fast, and will pack up and leave before you finish.

This is also why I like doing solo centuries. I can take 10 hours on the century if I feel like it, and no one is going to be pushing me to pick up the pace.
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Old 10-16-07, 05:46 PM
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Originally Posted by DanteB View Post
Iíve been there and done that also when I started doing organized rides. So when my wife and I started putting on a 3 day ride the one thing we would not tolerate from our sags is closing before everyone has gone through, even if it means you sit out there all night (I know as a ride organizer this is a real pain, but who are we out there for the rider or the worker). We always over buy/get donated extra food so there is always food left over. All our sags are non-riders and are amazed as to what a rider can do and always go the extra mile to help every rider. So, I guess what Iím saying is chose your rides, ask other riders what rides they like best and why and scratch off rides that leave out there by yourself.
Good for you!!!!!!!!!!!! Your words almost brought tears of joy to my eyes!!

The thing is, the fast riders often don't stop at the rest stops anyway, or not all of them. They don't want to bother with the time it is going to take to stand in line for food because they are out to set records etc.

But the slow rider NEEDS those rest stops. They are like an oasis in the desert ... and if they aren't there where the little dot on the map is, that can be extremely discouraging. I've known riders to quit events when the rest stop they were counting on so much wasn't there, and they still had quite a ways to go ... with no food or water.

The other thing is, the faster riders are usually more experienced, so they usually have everything they need on the bicycle. But the slower riders are often newbies. They don't know when to eat and drink ... they assume that if there is a rest stop 30 miles into a century, that is where they are supposed to eat and drink. They don't think about bringing food, or even keeping an eye out for a convenience store or something. They depend on the organizers to get them through the event. So if an organizer bails on them, not only do they become extremely discouraged about the event, about cycling centuries, and possibly about cycling all together ...... but the organizer has just put that person into a VERY dangerous position. That cyclists is depending on the food and water provided by the ride ... if there is none, the cyclist could very easily become dehydrated from lack of water, and bonk from lack of food. I wonder how many organizers think about those sorts of things.


But I am so glad to hear you have thought of things like that.

I will also mention that the Edmonton CycleTouring Club puts on a century each year. I rode the one this year and it was great! I took 9 hours because I just wanted to ride a nice relaxed ride, and was one of the last participants out there (I think there were about 5 behind me). And they kept their rest stops open until the very last participant came through, and then fed us BBQ food and ice cream when we came in at the end just like they had been doing for everyone else. I was impressed.

The Elbow Valley Cycle Touring Club puts on the Golden Triangle tour every year, and they also put on a fabulous spread ... the whole 3-day tour is ride and eat, ride and eat, ride and eat ... and they make sure everyone is fed.
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Old 10-16-07, 05:50 PM
  #22  
Six jours
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To be fair, not everyone is adept at route making. Many people are uncomfortable riding alone. And not everyone is confidant about fixing common bike problems.
Yeah, but I'm not into fairness so much as competence.
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