Saturday, March 12, 2022

Covered Bridges Pre-ride report

Two separate pre-rides were completed. The first on Saturday 3/5/2022 by Brad Layman, Chris Nadovich, and Oleksiy Guslyakov and a second by me on 3/11/2022.

This is a new route, first designed by Brad and then edited with deep local knowledge of the finest, and only the finest, hills and roads by Chris. 

Note: We updated the cue-sheet and RWGPS files. You must go and download the new file as it is a different URL from what it was before (file from 2022-03-13, cuesheet v14) Please make sure you have the latest version especially since the finish control has also changed: We finish a mile earlier at the Manayunk Brewing Company just after you get off the Schuylkill River Trail.  Also please note that there are no bathrooms at the Tinicum lunch control.

Brad took gorgeous pictures during the pre-ride.

A few from within Van Sandt Covered Bridge (1875)

To me this route expresses well what PA randonneuring is about. It will allow you to connect with a great group of riders, some of them novices to this non-competitive sport, others more experienced, others still well in over their head. It also lets you ride on roads, familiar or new, as part of an event where even if you are riding alone - as you may well end up doing for some stretches - you always feel part of a bigger group. It also, and finally, gives you time to just pedal and roam, perhaps the most luxurious privilege we can offer to ourselves.

Now after all this purple prose let's get to the real beef. This course is hard. Not because there are long climbs - there is one, well two - or the surface is bad - only on the Uhlerstown Rd climb - but because there are many many short steep climbs sucking the glucose out of your thighs. There is no one recipe for success but my philosophy is to let the hills come to you rather than you attacking them - it will make sense at the end of the day. Also keep eating and drinking to stay fueled.

Here are some notes specifically for this route and in the context that this may be your first ride with us or of this season:

  • Winter just ended but there is still a lot debris and road damage.  Please always look for gravel in turns and beware of deep potholes especially at the edges of the road surface.

  • Please take care when crossing the covered bridges. The saying goes that you will save a lot of time by going slowly. Please take care as surfaces are bumpy and visibility poor inside bridges.

  • There are multiple steep hills. Please make sure that you have appropriate gearing and that your shifting works down to the easiest gears. For the steepest sections a 1:1 gear ration or easier is recommended.

  • Uhlerstown Rd climb is technically challenging as it is steep and has a lot of loose gravel. Additionally there is a gate at the bottom and the top of it. With skill, you can roll past the bottom gate but not at the top.

    Minor obstacle at the bottom of Uhlerstown Rd climb

  • We recommend unclipping and walking that stretch but if you want to attempt the climb you need a 1:1 gear ratio or easier. Here are some tips of how to go up slippery steep hills:


  • Please give your bike a good look. Check brakes, tyres, tighten all the bolts, etc. If you can’t recall when you bought your chain it may be a good idea to change it. A snapped chain when going up a steep hill is something your anatomy won’t like.

  • Given the many climbs, make a plan for getting electrolytes into your system during the ride to avoid cramps and grumpiness. For me, when I start fantasizing about ham sandwiches and burgers I know I am running low on salt. 

  • You must have working front and rear lights. Rear lights must be set on steady and attached to the frame. You must also have a reflective vest (or bands) and ankle straps. I won’t let you start without these items!

  • It is going to be a delicious and nourishing brevet. Breakfast and food at the Tinicum control will be provided by the club. There is a bathroom at the start but there is no bathroom at the Tinicum control. We have highlighted multiple other bathroom options on the route and cue sheet.

  • We will gather for the finish control at Manayunk Brewery Company where you can purchase drinks and food. When you arrive roll down the alley and park your bike behind the building.

  • Please review the route. We highlighted additional stops for food and bathrooms but there are stretches with little or no opportunity for resupply. Please plan accordingly.

We look forward to serving you breakfast at the start!

Iwan Barankay

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