Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Ride Report: Keystone Brevet Co. 200k

*Update 11/21/2021*: The organizer has posted a fuller photo album of the start and finish festivities. Feel free to reuse or repost for personal use (with credit to "CJ Arayata").


Preliminary results for the inaugural running of the Keystone Brevet Co. 200k brevet have been posted on the website. Please review and inform me of any necessary corrections. The results will be submitted to RUSA in the coming days and become final pending RUSA certification.

Strap in folks, this will be a long one.

Volunteers, co-owners, and two brevet riders PJ S. and Corrie T. at the start of the inaugural KBC 200k. Well, 17 minutes after the start, anyways.

Despite a scheduling "conflict" with the Philly Bike Expo, the urban-start event managed to attract a near-record turnout of 39 riders who clipped in for a chilly November brevet start. 38 of them finished for a very impressive 97% completion rate of a challenging and new PA brevet, including 14 newly-minted randonneurs (*used gender-neutrally) completing their first 200k event. Bravo to all! At least two out-of-towners (and many locals) completed the brevet on Saturday and attended the Expo on Sunday, ensuring a fun bike-filled weekend.

Further, a quick scan of roster/results reveals some impressive facts:
  • 24 of the 39 riders, or 62% of the roster, hailed from Philadelphia.
  • 16 riders (41% of the roster) had RUSA numbers in the 14000s, and were participating in either their first randonneuring event, their first 200km event (after having participated in the recent Philly Women's Day / Chamounix 100k events), or their first PA Randonneurs event (after having participated in another region).
  • 8 riders (21%) had RUSA numbers in the 7000s or less, with some dusting off the wool after long hiatuses.
Temps were in the 30s at the start before warming up to a sunny and mild mid-50s in the afternoon with low wind. Riders reported quiet roads and lots of 'scenery', both in the form of excellent peak foliage throughout the southeast PA region, and also in the form of all of those sharp little stinger climbs packed into the first two-thirds of the course. Those climbs (and descents) didn't seem to faze newly-minted randonneur Greg Lang, who pedaled all 200k on his brakeless fixed-gear on the way to a sub-10 hour finish. James Haddad would be proud. Of note, Greg is one of a handful of riders that has taken the randonneuring plunge via the Philadelphia Dynamo Headlight Society. He recently completed the 150-mile annual Cape May Dyno ride back in September, and is already registered for the PA December R-12 event out of Manayunk. You simply love to see it.

Besides the spots of deep gravel on the Perkiomen Trail that were noted in the pre-ride reports, the ride went smoothly for nearly everyone, save for one 'mechanical' in the form of a Di2 electrical battery issue (are these technically 'electricals'?) that ended one rider's day. It seems riders had no trouble keeping on top of fueling, and virtually all arrived at the finish with smiles on their faces, ready to enjoy pizza, vegan soup, soda and snacks, and the camaraderie of the other finishers and volunteers. A keg of Yards Pale Ale was graciously supplied courtesy of Keystone Bicycle Co. for even more liquid nourishment options.

Riders relaxing outside at the post-ride gathering.

Joe Ray reflects deeply about his awesome sub-10 finish.

Would you watch a Gary W. and Jimmy A. buddy comedy? I would.

The Gaffneys had enough time to stop at home, shower, walk the dog, watch some Netflix, swap bikes, AND get to the party before dark. Must be nice.

While many in the field finished before sundown, as the post-ride brevet gathering began morphing into the post-Philly Bike Expo party, later after-dark finishers were inadvertently treated with a growing welcoming committee and greater applause upon their arrivals. Included in that welcoming committee cheering on finishers were Diane Goodwin, founding RBA of the New Jersey Randonneurs, and visiting DC Randonneurs Mary Gersema and Ed Felker.

"Hey CJ, meet my RBA from 2003!"

We accidentally cheered on Ed and Mary upon arrival until we realized who they were.

The "Never Say Die" Rando Award for Perseverance goes to riders Lorrin Thomas, PJ Santoro, and Corrie Tice, who raced into the parking lot at 8:30PM, threw their bikes down, and were shepherded through the throng of party-goers by Woody Felice and Nick Manta into the KBC space for final check-in, all before the clock struck 8:31. All three riders had experienced late-starts and unexpected setbacks throughout the day, only to conquer the course in its entirety and officially finish just in the nick of time, together. Bravo and congratulations!

Lorrin, Corrie, and PJ all smiles!

As a first-time organizer, I was humbled by how much time and effort goes into a "simple R-12" 200k event. There are many decisions to be made, lots of emails to be sent, and lots of paperwork to deal with, especially when baking up a new course and deciding to do pre and post-ride food. I owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Nadovich and RBA Andrew Mead, who provided continued support and guidance from start to finish, including route-planning, RUSA route approval, logistics planning, post-event wrap up, and much more. Iwan Barankay was an excellent 'co-organizer' to share duties and keep me on track. And many thanks to the other volunteers who made this event possible. Chris Nadovich, Iwan Barankay, Nick Manta, and George Retseck completed pre-rides/course check out rides and provided detailed cue sheet feedback and corrections to ensure smooth navigation on this brand new course. Day-of, Chris drove down from Easton with the perfect amount of hot coffee ready to go, along with SPOT trackers, cups, plates, and other such PA Rando sundries. Andrea Mules and randonnette Sue Proulx helped with breakfast set up, clean up as well as post-ride gathering set up. Susan also made her amazing brownies and gluten-free pumpkin bread, and Andrea flawlessly executed soda shopping and not one, but two! rounds of pizza pick-up for the post-ride gathering.

What do you mean, "there's no organizer 'how to' guide??"

Andrea and Sue. Thank you!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the tireless contributions and thank the worker-owners of Keystone Bicycle Co: Natalie "Woody" Felice, Ag Manta, Nick Manta, Zack Rachell, and Ryan Stanis. All of them were crucial in this event running as smoothly as it did, not to mention even opening a bike shop in the first place so that we could stage an event here at all. From opening the gate at 5:45AM before dawn, to setting up the space for check-in and breakfast, to running their own business in the middle of the day while also keeping an eye out for finishers, to transitioning to the brevet post-ride gathering and tending to the needs of riders, and then the final transformation into the hosts of the "unofficial" Philly Bike Expo after-party on Saturday that went until midnight, it was a long day for Keystone Bicycle Co. They have certainly cemented themselves as a community hub for our small-corner, big-tent niche in the cycling world. How many cots do you think we can fit in there?

Peak party. There were tiny bike races and lots of shenanigans.

[Speaking of the Dyno Society, card-carrying member Sean Martin, who was also joining for his first brevet, recruited his neighbor Eve Walters (and friend Henry Shepley) to join the event. When Eve was checking out the event page and clicked the link to the Dyno Society Instagram, she stumbled upon a picture of her long-lost stolen bike. With the collective help of The Society, Eve successfully recovered her bike. Dreams do come true.]

Eve and Sean celebrating a job well done.

Freshly-minted randonneur Joey Doubek writes....
CJ, thank you SO MUCH for this fabulous route, and for organizing with likeminded individuals (all the KBC staff) whom altogether have greatly impacted my newfound cycling life. I’m sold - a randonneur life is a gift and an immense privilege.

So many favorite sections. Everything west of Goshen was new to me. Miles 30-55ish were a delight - that ripping decent after first Wawa, the glorious climbs, and that 10 mile stretch after Downingtown that follows the creek. All the sections of narrow low-car farm/forest roads were excellent. Viewing Twin Valley climb from a distance was iconic. I hope someone got a pic!

Finally, it's worth mentioning that having KBC as the home base for this ride was SO AMAZING. Coffee/bathroomS/food at 6 AM and 6 PM NOT TO MENTION the ability to buy a front light or something if your current one suddenly breaks? I think if KBC were to be able to host an entire 200/300/400/600k series it would get the rando-curious city folks like me at every single one of them (hopefully). Thanks again!
Hear that, Andrew?

Event 'co-organizer' Iwan Barankay writes...
Thank you for putting together such a memorable event. Special thanks to the whole Keystone Coop team for their generous hospitality. It was just awesome to be able to start inside with benches and restrooms. What a luxury! The route was special and something I hope we can do again and again (except for the trail sections ::smile::) Those little spicy hills just kept on coming – yes, I mean you Skelp Level Road! – providing plenty of opportunities for inner growth. The controls were also placed really well. I was particularly happy to see so many new riders and even some coming from far away for some brevet fun combined with the Bike Expo and all finished in time – except for one due to a mechanical. The party at the end was also a nice touch. The whole event was one for the memory books.
Of note, Iwan did the course twice in two weeks: Once as an 'unofficial' check-out ride sans brevet card where he played hare and eventually caught up to Chris N. on the Perkiomen Trail after a 2+hour head start, and officially on the day-of. Randonnerd or rando-nut? (Trick question.)

Nigel Greene writes...
I thoroughly enjoyed the November 200K. The route was a visual delight beginning from the sunrise illuminated majestic entrance of west Fairmount Park through the vibrant fall leaves that served as a backdrop to the farms and towns we rode through and the crunchy mixed path finish along the Perkiomen and Schuylkill trails. While the climbs were frequent none were overly long and the long stretch along the trails at the end was a good place for a slow climber like me to make up some time. That route coupled with the big breakfast and post ride food options made for a wonderful Rando event. Well done!

We know we did good when we get the Iron Rider seal of approval. 

PA veteran Norman Smeal writes...
Firstly, I would like to thank all of the volunteers for their time and hard work.
Secondly, congratulations to everyone, especially the budding Randonneurs for completing this challenging course.
Hope to see more Philadelphia starts.
Me too, Norman. Me too. Of note, Norman is one of only 4 riders to hold the prestigious PA-5000 award, and completed his first PA 200k since 2014. Good to see you back out there.

Ello Shertzer writes...
Thank you CJ for organizing this ride! The route was great, the foliage was lovely, and the weather was perfect. The fact that the start was only a few miles from home was pretty fantastic, and the turnout was evidence that a Philly start is very accessible for a lot of people who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get to this ride. I hope that the stoke continues for next month’s ride out of Manayunk!

The evidence is compelling, indeed. 

Steve Schoenfelder writes...

Thanks to ride organizer CJ, the Keystone Bicycle Co., Chris N, Sue D, and all of the other volunteers for hosting an epic PAR 200K in the land of brotherly love.

We were greeted with a crisp autumn morning as the light was coming up with temperatures in the mid 30’s. Racing through the streets of Philadelphia at dawn, unhindered by stop signs or traffic lights was a highlight for me. After escaping the inner city and suburbs, I could see a hard frost on the ground as my GPS computer registered a temperature of 29 degrees. In spite of this, the blue sky and rolling hills warmed the heart, and it was clear that this was the only place to be on this majestic day.

The route was both beautiful and challenging with hills at the front end and a prolonged gravel grind near the end. I had to stop briefly after pounding the canal boardwalk to be sure that my fenders had not separated from their mounts. All in all, a pretty rad course design. But what else would you expect from a rando punk rock skateboarder?

The large number of riders on the course provided the opportunity to catch up with old friends, meet some new folks, and most importantly, draft. I am grateful to the two (newly minted) Philadelphia randonneurs who shepherded me through Saturday night traffic, road closures, and potholes during reentry.

A special thank you to Keystone Bicycle Co. for providing the venue. What a great shop! And, did I mention the afterparty? This was definitely not your Weisel Hostel event. And a huge thumbs up to CJ-you really did it this time bro!

I'm flattered, but I think Ryan would call me a poser. Steve, you win the "last PA Rando to leave the party" award. Cheers.

Steve, Mike Anderson, and Rosy from NER talkin' rando.

Pat and Cece Gaffney write...

Thanks to you, Chris, and the Keystone crew for putting on a fine ride this past Saturday. It was a beautiful day and the routing had us going through some great scenery. It got a little frigid as we passed by West Chester, thankfully there were those steep punchy climbs to warm us up.
This was also not the first time that we have stopped home during a brevet, but it was definitely the first time we showered, changed, switched bikes, and picked up the dog before heading into the finish. Please make sure Connie is credited with 5.9K towards his K hound status. The post ride festivities were great as well. It was nice to be able to hang out and cheer on so many newly minted randonneurs. Thanks again!

I couldn't find Connie's RUSA number in the database. Could you please submit so I can add his results?

Joe Ray writes....

Great ride Saturday! I am not super-familiar with the suburbs west of the city and it was really nice to head out that way and put some of the names and places together. It was great to see some places from a different angle too. I thought an intersection at one point looked familiar and then I saw the Arcola bridge on the left and realized where I was and that I had been there a couple times before but only at night.

It's funny how that works.


If you couldn't get enough of the Philly vibes, join us again in December for yet another brand-new event out of Manayunk that heads westward towards Cafe Metzler in Atglen, followed by a finish gathering at The Landing Kitchen. Details are posted on the PA Rando event page. Hope to see you there.

CJ Arayata


  1. CJ, Chris, Andrew,

    Congratulations and kudos for the Keystone event: the planning, execution, and post-ride wrap-up were all top-notch, and in many ways, even surpassed the very high bar of excellence that is the hallmark of a PA Randonneurs event. It was great to see a number of first time Randonneurs getting introduced to the world of Randonneuring and having success. I can remember CJ's very first event a number of years ago and it has been one of my great joys as a club founder to see him progress over the years as he took on the challenges of the longer events and now has become an event organizer. -- Chapeau CJ!

    Best regards,

    -Tom Rosenbauer
    Treasurer and RBA Emeritus

  2. So stoked to see the success of this event unfold online for such a great bunch of humans; KBC, PaRando, etc. Please, book more in that area if not a tick westward towards Bryn Mawr so we can renew our memberships.

    Peace and bikes.