Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Jim Thorpe 600K (and TK200) Course Notes

The latest cue sheet for the Jim Thorpe 600K is version 7, and the latest RWGPS route was modified 2023-05-30 12:55:20 EDT.  Both are available online.  Note that some GPS units may have trouble with the size of a full 600K route. Please download and test-activate the 600K route data before the event to make sure your GPS unit can handle the full route. If not, a RWGPS route for Day 1 of the 600K is available here.

Day 2 of the 600K is the same as the edition of the Tscheschter Kaundi 200K that we will start at 6:30AM Sunday. The TK route was slightly modified from the route we rode last Fall because Cafe Metzler is unavailable. There is now a postcard control in Christiana. Make sure you have the latest version of the TK cues (Version 3) and the latest RWGPS data (last modified 2023-05-18 12:41:09 EDT).  Both are available here.

Full information for the  600K. and 200K are on the respective event websites.

Course Notes

Although no full pre-ride of the Jim Thorpe 600K has been conducted, we believe the course is in good shape. Brad Layman conducted a partial pre-ride of the Day-1 600K route, verifying the routing over Penn's Peak, through Jim Thorpe, and back on the D&L.  The day-2 600K route is the same as the TK 200K route we rode late last year.

Riders of the Jim Thorpe 600K should be aware that the Penn's Peak climb is a difficult, trafficky climb. After you pass Fairyland and begin the climb in earnest up Indian Hill and Maury Rd, you will encounter sections of road with narrow shoulders, very fast traffic, and limited sight distance. On a hot day, hyperthermia is a real possibility on the exposed sections. I have done this climb/descent several times myself and believe it can be completed safely if you take proper care. My recommended strategy for safely reaching the top is to ride in a gear that allows you to climb with your best climbing form. If your form starts to deteriorate,  take advantage of the occasional side street or wide shoulder. Stop for a moment as necessary, have some water, collect your wits, regain your best climbing form, and power on up the mountain. This is not a climb for zig-zagging in a paperboy style or honking erratically like some leathery TdF sprinter. You want to channel your inner Johan Museeuw and climb smoothly and predictably on the limited shoulder so the drivers in cars going 100 mph can send their text messages while still missing you.

When you reach the top of the climb, reflect for a moment about how Edward Marshall might have felt when he reach the same spot, having just run about 65 miles doing his part in the great PA land swindle of 1737. One of his fellow runners, Yates, went blind then soon died. The other runner, Jennings, had serious injuries, lived, but never fully recovered.  I don't fault the runners -- just hired hands (who were never paid). Nevertheless the Lenni Lenape felt differently and Marshall's family was killed in retribution a few years later. 

These sobering thoughts in mind, prepare for the big decent into Jim Thorpe, PA. 

My recommendation for the descent is to take the lane firmly. Using your best descending form, bomb down the hill at just under the top speed of your Guardian Angel. Again, do not be erratic. Take the lane smoothly and solidly to force passing vehicles to consider your existence.  Remember that Jim Thorpe's grave, a control, is on the right, about 2/3 of the way down the mountain. Be ready to stop for this. It's well marked.

When you reach the bottom of the mountain, you'll cross the Lehigh River and T-left into the town of Jim Thorpe. Here the course turns right before the Molly Mcguire pub, and has a small tour loop of the town with a photo control at the Old Jail.  Please be alert for car doors and nutty pedestrians when touring the town. Personally, I recommend the Marion Hose Bar over Molly McGuire's, particularly because the Hose Bar has good outdoor seating. There is also a bike shop in town, immediately next to MM's.

After finishing the tour-loop of Jim Thorpe, please walk your bike cautiously through the mess that surrounds the Train Station. Once you are past the tracks, turn right onto the D&L trail, cross the bridge over the Lehigh, and begin riding again. 

The remainder of the course is a generally moderate return to the overnight control.  Because there are no timed controls day-2 (other than the finish) almost all riders should be able to finish the 400K first day with enough time to get reasonable sleep and finish the scenic TK 200K on Sunday. 

Bonne route et bon courage! 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

New Rider 600K FAQ/HOWTO

Welcome to the adventure that is a 600. A 600 may be your first multi-day event so this is a step up from all previous events in that the challenge is to reach the overnight and then to get up again to keep on riding. 

You know how shorter brevets work from riding the 200, 300, and 400K distances. You've learned about managing your resources, staying hydrated, staying fed (in the face of possible nausea), maintaining in a good core temperature (despite the vicissitudes of weather), how to set up solid, practical lighting and reflectivity, how to  gather in groups for many hours of night riding, how to be efficient at controls, how to abuse caffeine, magic gum, and a cappella to battle sleep deprivation, and  how to manage psychotic mood swings over a 24 hour stretch of crazy stresses. 

But now the 600K has an overnight. What's that mean? How does that change things?

It doesn't change anything, really. The amenities at the overnight (paid for by your entry fee) are there for your convenience. Use them. Of course, you can think of the overnight as just another control. You can ride on through, only stopping at the overnight control long enough to have your card signed. 

Nevertheless,  most riders will want to take advantage of the conveniences afforded by the overnight control. You aren't required to sleep at the overnight, but most riders will want to sleep there. Also,  there will be a bunch of hot food at the overnight, and a volunteer willing to serve it to you. Certainly eat something at the overnight.

Q: Can I book my own hotel and sleep earlier than 400K?

A: Yes, but sleeping a few hours at the 400K distance of a 600K is a success-oriented strategy. It also works for longer brevets. You should get used to riding 400K the first day.  Many will finish the first 400K not long after midnight, which is a good time for most people to sleep.  Laying up after only, say, 300K may have you trying to sleep before sunset, which doesn't really work for people. That is the general rule. In many other countries or regions, no support is provided at multi-day events and it is up to the rider to figure out where or how to sleep and it is left up to them to ensure they don't miss the cutoff time for controls. Even so, left to their own devices, riders still seem to choose 400K+ for their first sleep.

Q: But what if I'm REALLY sleepy?

A: Then STOP and sleep somewhere, dammit!  Find a nice bench on a porch, or in a church, a table in a park, a PO lobby, or a heated public bathroom, or city council meeting, or curl up on some soft, dry grass, or do the tripod nod-off seated at a 24 hour diner or convenience store. Grab enough sleep so your head clears and you can continue riding safely. Then get a full sleep at the overnight.  Obviously, don't sleep in places that are dangerous or will get you arrested (or worse). But randonneurs do develop a cultivated eye for finding safe spots for a stealth "ditch nap". It's easier than you'd think.

Q: When do I have to arrive at the overnight? When can I leave?

As with any brevet, controls have opening and closing times. You are responsible for ensuring you arrive at control after it opens and before it closes. Open times won't be an issue for most people. But everyone must reach the Chamounix overnight before the cutoff (which for the 600 is at 6:16 AM). This won't be a challenge for you; I predict you will arrive not too long past midnight. How much you sleep or rest at Chamounix is up to you, but if possible, try to get a couple meals, maybe a shower, and at least 3+ hours sleep. That takes about 4 hours if you are efficient.

There will be no timed controls on day-2 of the 600K, other than at the finish. This gives a lot of flexibility in sleep scheduling.  You still need to complete 600K in under 40 hours, but  the lack of timed controls day-2  means that you can sleep past the cutoff time of the overnight control without fear of missing the close time of the next control. You have a whole 200K to make up that lost time. If you can ride a 200K in 10 hours (when tired) then that means you have 3.5 extra hours to play with. Last time we ran the TK 200K route, the slowest rider took just over 12 hours. So I expect that everyone will have at least one bonus hour past the overnight close time.

Tell the staff volunteer at the overnight what your sleep plans are. That volunteer will sanity check your plans and help you get back on the road safely and at a time best to achieve your goals.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

NEW START LOCATION for The Jim Thorpe 600/200

The Start/Finish, lodging and parking for the Jim Thorpe 600 / TK 200 has moved slightly. It's now at the Chamounix MANSION building -- the building on the right, partway around the islet. It's NOT at the carriage house, where we were previously. The Mansion is a larger, more elegant building with many more amenities that I think riders will really enjoy. Details on the event web pages, including PARKING INSTRUCTIONS have been updated.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Four State 400 & Chamounix Classic 200 Ride Reports

The third event of the 2023 Super Randonneur Series, the Four State 400, and the Chamounix Classic 200 are in the books. The report for the 200, written by organizer Chris Nadovich, is located below the 400 report.

Four State 400 Ride Report

24 riders clipped in for the 400 on a warm and humid morning, with rain on the way. Of those 24, 20 finished the challenging route. Along with the two pre-riders, we had a total of 22 finishers and a finish rate of 85%. Congratulations and well-done! It was a valiant effort by all riders. Please take a look at the preliminary results and let me know if anything does not look right. The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

The nerves were palpable at the start. Not because of the wet weather that was forecasted. That was nothing, as many of these riders had dealt with some kind of unruly weather earlier this spring, from torrential and unrelenting rains to tornado warnings and hail. The nerves were due to the amount of climbing they knew was coming. The route involved over 16,000ft of climbing, including several hills with intimidating grades. In an attempt to calm the nerves, the pre-riders offered their advice of using the descents to relax for a few moments, eating at every control, and enjoying the scenery as a distraction.

Marcus Mommen had his Bird-in-Hand postcard ready to go. (Photo by Marcus Mommen)

Riders loaded their packs with snacks such as ham sandwiches, leftover pizza, sports bars of all kinds, Cheez-Its, Uncrustables PB&J, Swedish Fish, and bags of spaghetti. Others kept their loads light and planned to stop at the numerous Wawas and Turkey Hills along the route.

Tommy Green rides on a damp Lancaster road. (Photo by Ello Shertzer)

After a dry start, there was a light rain that persisted throughout the rest of the morning. The only weather-related issue reported was the messiness of some roads in Lancaster, as the roads frequented by horse carriages were covered in wet horse buns. Once riders reached the Schuylkill River around the halfway point, the rain subsided. Riders either had to dry off or layer up by the time the sun went down and temperatures dropped.

Rider Iwan Barankay experienced a busted rear derailleur cable near the Hockessin DE control. Despite help rendered by an experienced bike mechanic who was along on the ride, Iwan was only able to rig his gears to use the 14 tooth cog of his cassette with his two chainrings in the front (46/30). This made for some tough riding on the hilly route. Chapeau Iwan!

Greg Lang and his fixie with no brakes

Another rider impressed everyone with his completion of the event with limited gearing. As he has on the other rides of this SR Series, Greg Lang rode a fixed gear bike with no brakes. Not only did he tackle the course successfully, but he was the first finisher! Greg had to climb up the steep ascents with only one gear and then was not able to enjoy the reward and relax on the long descents like everyone else. Riders and volunteers were blown away by his strength and ability to safely navigate his bike without brakes through a ride that lasted all day and well into the night. Chapeau Greg!

An impressive number of riders completed their first 400k: Nicole Aptekar, Tristan Dahn, Annie Gibson, Jeryl Jamir, Chris Kline, Bryce Lackey, Greg Lang, Marcus Mommen, and Ello Shertzer. Congratulations to all! Jeryl not only completed his first 400, it was also his first brevet. What a brevet to pick for your first one! He left no doubt about his ability to ride and climb. Chapeau!

Pat and Cece Gaffney (Photo by Gavin Biebuyck)

There were quite a few experienced randonneurs in the pack who added another 400k to their resume: Iwan Barankay, Travis Berry, Gavin Biebuyck, Adam Bowen, Alex Estes, Cece and Pat Gaffney, Tommy Green, Ben Keenan, Bill Scanga, Ryan Stanis, Ben Thompson, and yours truly. They helped the rookies along the way with advice and steady hands, and legs.

Riders enjoying pro-level support from Amy and Anton at the Bloomsbury control. From left to right: Chris, Annie, Bill, and Adam. (Photo by Anton Lindberg)

Randonneurs Amy Lippe and Anton Lindberg volunteered for the event and met riders at the Citgo Bloomsbury NJ control (around 300k). Having support from experienced randos like Amy and Anton at this point in the ride was critical. Darkness was setting in and riders were beginning to feel the toll of the climbs. Once riders filled their bottles and received their pep talks, they headed out to conquer the final big climb of the day on Staats Road. Amy was going to take part in the pre-ride but unfortunately came down with a cold the day before the ride. We hope to see her on the 600 next month.

Several experienced riders, Mario Claussnitzer, Wilson Wilson, and Kate Sparacio, abandoned the ride before the halfway point, knowing they weren’t feeling it. It takes wisdom from lots of experience to be able to make that call. Rider Sophia Lofaso abandoned in Doylestown (with about 30 miles to go) as they experienced difficulty keeping their eyes open. Understandably, Soph expressed disappointment afterwards and realized that there was enough time left for a ditch-nap. However, we know that Soph has the strength to complete this kind of ride and this experience will fuel their motivation in the next brevet. Soph should also be proud of completing almost all of the climbing of this route since there wasn’t much climbing left after Doylestown.

Thank you to all of the volunteers who helped make this a successful event. Chris Nadovich, the club RBA, helped with the route and event planning process, and helped with the start and finish of the event. He even found time to ride the Chamounix Classic 200k in between. Ben Keenan participated in the pre-ride and then drove to Philly in the early morning hours to help with the start of the event. Ben is an excellent partner to have on a challenging pre-ride. Iwan Barankay helped with event planning (while organizing all the other SR Series rides!). Phil Mitchell drove in to help with the finish - we hope to see him as a participant in a brevet someday soon. Bill Olsen was on standby in New Jersey in case anyone needed support. And thank you again, Amy and Anton, for providing crucial support along the course. David Coccagna helped with setting up the food and drinks for the finish. Many riders helped with cleanup on Sunday: Ello Shertzer, Alex Estes, Jeryl Jamir, Nicole Aptekar, and Soph Lofaso. Thank you to Gavin Biebuyck for tagging along with me on one of the course scouting rides over the winter and helping to improve the navigation through Oley Valley. If I forgot anyone, I apologize -  please let me know and I will add your name to the report.

Join us again on June 3 for the grand finale of the SR Series, the Jim Thorpe 600, and on June 4 for the Tscheschter Kaundi 200. These rides will again start and finish from the Chamounix Hostel in Philadelphia. Details and registration are on the PA Rando website.

Remember that Rando Cat will always be waiting for you at the finish.

Chamounix Classic 200 Ride Report, by Chris Nadovich:

Three hours after the 400K riders departed, the 200K set out at the much more civilized start time of 7AM. The course was the "Chamounix Classic", which was the first full brevet course we ever developed for a Philadelphia start/finish, and first ridden at the edge of COVID. Iwan did most of the route design for this. It's a true classic.

I had forgotten how beautiful this route is. It exits the city through lightly travelled residential roads through the Main Line, which is a very welcome change from Manayunk or the Northeast. There was a light drizzle falling for most of the morning, but this did not detract from the beauty, especially from Goshen Rd on through Chester Springs. I rode with Ken Cappel for some miles, and he commented that it was the best smelling ride he had done in a while, what with the lilacs, honeysuckle, and other fragrant flowers in full bloom.

All was well till we reached the Perkiomen Trail. There we discovered the entrance was closed as the bridge over the Perkiomen Creek was under construction. Who knew? This is the sort of problem that crops up when there's no pre-ride. In any case, riders all seemed to find their ways around the impassable bridge, only to puzzle at the ambiguous info control question immediately beyond.

Then it was trail riding for many, many miles. Much of the Perk trail was once paved with non-newtonian fluids resembling sand and gravel but with significantly more magical properties that would suck wheels this way and that. Most of that is now gone, replaced with solid blacktop. I have mixed feelings about the "improvement" as it has attracted more walkers, ebikes, roller bladers, and baby carriages. 

When I reached the SRT, I rode with a bike tourist who had started in Key West this past April and was headed to Portland -- first ME then OR. As we rode past the "fragrant" sewage plant I thought of Ken Cappel's previous comment about the smells on this brevet.

The final bit of trail in the route took us over Forbidden Drive along the Wissahickon. I think all the magical wheel-bewitching material from the old Perk trail was moved to Forbidden Drive and mixed with an equal part of 3-inch rock fill. What a decidedly UN-pleasant riding surface! The only bit of enjoyment I experienced on FD as my sore butt bounced down that path was when I barged into a wedding celebration spread across the trail in Valley Green.

After that it was the last little grunt up to Chamounix where I was greeted by Brad Layman who was staffing the 200K finish. Thank you SO MUCH Brad for your excellent work organizing the 400K and also helping with the 200K. 

Mike Reali Jr at the 200 finish

Looking over the finish sheet I was happy to see several riders who completed their first 200K. Sara Johnson, Jonas Schaller, and Michael Moote (who previously rode a 400K but nothing shorter?!)

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

***Update (#2) with Course Notes: Introducing the Four State 400

***Update #2:

The cue sheet and RWGPS files were updated again with minor changes in order to make a few cues clearer. The cue sheet is now Version 14 and the RWGPS file is up to date as of 2023-05-11 12:59:49.

***Update from pre-ride:

On May 6, Ben Keenan and Brad Layman completed a pre-ride of the Four State 400. The weather was absolutely beautiful - a nice change from the soaked April events. Here's to the saying "April showers bring May flowers" and not just more showers.

Pre-riders Ben Keenan (left) and Brad Layman (right)

We are happy to report that the course is full of scenery--farms, hills, and creeks--and a variety of terrain to enjoy. The climbing is intense and challenging. We found the second and third 100k to be the most challenging sections. Do not plan to set any personal best times for the 400 and do not estimate your finish time based on other brevets with less climbing. Take your time on the climbs and rest at the controls. Seriously, throw out any preconceived notions about how fast you think you should go. But remember that for every climb, there is a descent. And this route is full of winding (but not too steep) descents that you can coast for several minutes.

Ben Keenan with his signature messenger bag

Eat early and often. Riders are strongly encouraged to prepare for the intense climbing by coming to the event well-rested and prepared to refuel throughout the ride. Get good sleep on Thursday night and eat a big breakfast at the start of the event. Refueling at the controls - especially in Birdsboro, Coopersburg, and Bloomsbury - is critical. Yes, get that donut. And another one for the road.

There are several other convenience stores that provide standard fare but options for different times to eat along the route: Landhope Farms in Oxford PA (mile 75); in Bird-in-Hand (postal control) there is a Turkey Hill (mile 95) and the Bird-in-Hand Bakery (mile 97); an Exxon in New Holland (mile 105); an Exxon in Riegelsville (mile 176); across from the Citgo control in Bloomsbury are two truck stops, with a Burger King and Subway (mile 186); Milford Market/Citgo (mile 195); Wawa in Doylestown (mile 219); Wawa in Lafayette Hill (mile 239).

The ride out of Philly in the early morning hours and the late night return to Philly should be quiet. The route is made up of many tranquil roads with little traffic; the busiest are mostly around the controls, but riders won't be on any of them for long. When possible, depart controls with other riders for at least a couple of miles to navigate through the busy sections and increase your visibility on the road. On the pre-ride, Lancaster seemed to have the busiest roads, particularly around Bird-in-Hand. When encountering traffic, be visible, assertive, and communicative, and remind yourself that peaceful roads are coming up soon. Riders should especially stick together after the penultimate control in Bloomsbury to ride the final 100k in the dark.

The trees and flowers are in full bloom and lovely. Be prepared if you suffer from allergies. The fields in Lancaster County are ripe and smelly including unpleasant odors from burn piles.

Staats Rd at sunset

Sunset provided a nice distraction while climbing Staats Rd on the pre-ride. The descent after the climb and the ride back to Philly was in the dark. The temperature dropped very quickly during that descent. We experienced varying temps in the early morning hours and after dark, with chilly air around creeks and rivers. Be prepared to be strategic with your clothing so you don’t overheat on the climbs or get cold on descents. Removable arm sleeves, zip-able vests, and other easily removable gear is very helpful. After a full day of riding, 50 degrees at night feels a lot colder than it did in the morning.

Fog encountered in the Brandywine Valley. Temps were significantly cooler along creeks and rivers in the morning and at night.

Most of the roads were quiet and easy to navigate at night. The busiest road we faced in the dark was River Rd/NJ-29 from Milford to the Lumberville Bridge. There was less traffic on this road than what you see during the day, and there is a wide shoulder along most of it. Be prepared for significant riding in the dark by wearing your reflective vest and ankle straps and having your lights charged. Again, group up with other riders at the Bloomsbury control to ride the final 100k in the dark for increased safety.

The cue sheet (version 11) and RWGPS file (updated 2023-05-8 15:21:49) reflect the changes based on the pre-ride. It is recommended that riders break up the route into smaller sections to download to your device. We split it into two halves by using the Birdsboro control as the halfway point. There is cell service on most of the route. There were stretches without cell service but they did not last long.

***Chamounix Classic 200 Notes:

A pre-ride is not planned for this event. Iwan Barankay reported a fallen tree on the Lincoln Drive Trail near mile 123. It might be cleared out by the day of the event, but keep your eyes out in case, especially if riding this section at twilight.

***Original Post:

The 2023 ACP SR Series continues with the Four State 400, which will be held on May 13.  Registration is open until 11:59pm on May 6. Details are available on the PA Randonneurs website.  The event starts and finishes at the Chamounix Carriage House in Philadelphia and will take riders through Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey. It is a new route that features several areas known by PA Randos, including the Brandywine, Lancaster County, Oley Valley, the Reading Prong, Bucks County, and the hills around the Musconetcong Gorge in NJ.

A pre-ride is planned for May 6. This blog post will be updated with a course report following the pre-ride.

The new route contains a lot of climbing. For riders who are nervous about the amount of climbing, it might help to break the route into smaller sections. The biggest climb of the route is at the beginning of the final 100k with a climb over Staats Rd. After that, there is a long flat section on River Road followed by some gentler hills on the way back to Philly.

Total Climbing
Biggest Climb

The ride organizer conducted course scouting rides over the winter during the route planning process by breaking it into two halves. During these rides, the first 200k was found to be pleasant despite containing more than half of the overall amount of climbing. The second half contains the steepest climbs, including Oysterdale Rd out of Oley Valley and Staats Rd over Musconetcong Mtn. These climbs will be challenging given their distance into the ride, so be sure to save energy. More details and tips to come in the pre-ride report.

We will also be offering a 200k event for those not wanting to tackle the challenge of a 400k. The 200k route will be the Chamounix Classic. Registration for the 200k is open until 11:59pm on Wednesday, May 10.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Eastern PA Fleche 2023 -- Ride Reports

Preliminary results for the 2023 PA Randonneurs Flèche are available on the website along with finish line photos.  Barring any issues, results will be submitted to RUSA and ACP soon and will become official eventually. The process takes time.  As usual, don't expect your Flèche certificate from the ACP until next Spring.  Think of it as your reminder to register for the 2024 Flèche. 

Of the five registered teams, four teams started, three teams finished. Of the 25 Registered Riders, 18 started; 13 finished (72%).  The reason for the high DNS/DNF rate was the weather: 100% chance of rain, heavy at times, pretty much all night long. And some wind. And some cold. And scattered darkness, becoming 100% dark. Not a very "inclusive" weather forecast. But there's a certain, special kind of person that finds challenging "Rule 9" conditions to be irresistible. These people are called "badasses". 

Patrick in happy anticipation of a Rule 9 opportunity

Four teams,  Romancing Flatlanders, Coast Cycles, Flèche and Bones, and Annie's Arrows, comprised such badass type people and ventured out, undaunted, on Saturday morning. Come what may. 


The Romancing Flatlanders -- still pretty dry at this point.


Two of the four teams started from the NYC area, one from Washington DC, and another from Quakertown, PA.   Even without the presence of NYGTF this year, the NYC and DC starts represented a wide dispersal of start locations, very much in the spirit of the Flèche event. Great job, captains, crafting such spatially diverse routes.

But some of that diversity ran afoul of nature. As the storm came in from the West and lingered at the shore, teams that routed to the West hit the storm early and then ran back into it again as they approached the finish, but seemed to have some respite from it in the middle. On the other hand, one of the teams, the Flatlanders, seeking the mild terrain along the shore, found themselves located in the middle of the lingering storm. Facing the prospect of grinding through endless rain and wind all night long, the Flatlanders abandoned after about 200K of this Type 3 "fun". 

The other three teams were soaked too, but not quite as relentlessly at the Flatlanders, and these three were able to make it through to the end. Sunday morning the clouds vanished and the sun came out.  Finish photos show happy faces basking in sunshine, belying what they went through to make it there there.

Hard partying after the Flèche

Getting volunteers to run the flèche can be difficult because people want to ride the event and that pretty much precludes them from helping out.  An exception to this rule is Ben Keenan, who, after riding all night through the rain with his team, took a brief nap and then helped the organizer clean up and stow gear after the finish party.  

Brad Layman helped out at the Flèche finish with some set-up/clean-up and also with shuttling some tired riders to their homes or cars. Brad and his wife Amanda recently completed the Boston Marathon (Chapeau!) and Brad didn't feel up to riding the Flèche sandwiched between that big run a few days earlier and his upcoming preride of the 400K (where he will be organizer).  This is what it looks like when Brad "takes it easy".  Thanks Brad!

Cecilie Gaffney, originally destined to serve as the power-stoker in the Gaffney sub-team component of aka More Cowbell had an illness that prevented her from riding. Nevertheless she found the strength to show up with tomato pie and pastries for the finishers and well wishers. Thank you Cecilie.

Also helping with the clean-up were CJ Arayata and Ryan Stanis.  CJ also helped get the word out that well-wishers were needed at the finish to cheer the arriving teams, and he delivered this Rocky Statue Pep Squad to the porch of Chamounix Carriage house. For the most part arriving by bicycle, the RSPS deployed a staggering array of coffee production apparatus so as to coffeeneur without walls as they awaited the finishers.  As they sipped coffee and cheered the teams, I wondered if any of these pep squadders, many of whom rode in on dyno-hub powered, headlighted, randoesque looking steeds were starting to get rando curious? Vous avez l'équipement. Avez-vous la ténacité d'être un randonneur?

Outdoor coffeeneuring by the Rocky Statue Pep Squad

Breakfast was provided in large part through the volunteer efforts of RBA emeritus Andrew Mead. Andrew drove in from Lancaster, measuring cup in hand, and proceeded to make pancakes and sausage for all comers. 

Iwan Barankay writes...

Thank you for setting everything up at the hostel. The fresh pancakes were particularly amazing. They should put it on the package: "Tastes best after riding 12 hours in heavy rain."

Coming up next in the PA Randonneurs calendar is the ACP SR Series that continues with a 400K and simultaneous 200K run out Chamounix Carriage House. All the details are on the website. Hope to see you there. 

Monday, April 3, 2023

Water and Wind 300K Ride Report

The Water and Wind 300K was a little too true to its name. Rain in the morning, rain (T-storms) in the evening. There were 50 mph wind gusts. Tornado watch. Yeah. It may have been 1 April but the weather wasn't foolin' around. Tough day.

But somehow our randonneurs were tougher. Fully 37 out of 38 riders who clipped in day-of completed the course in good time. Combined with the four pre-riders (who had some rough days, too), this is 41 out of 42 riders finished, or 98%.  Congratulations and well done to all. Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let us know if something is not quite right.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

Approach to the Gap from the South wonderfully devoid of traffic.

Everyone that clipped in at the start knew they were in for some "interesting" weather. For almost a week the prediction of rain and wind on Saturday was unvarying. Fortunately, the rain held off long enough to allow a dry start, but within minutes raindrops were felt and the wind started to pick up. Again fortunately, it was primarily a tailwind, speeding the riders northward toward Delaware Water Gap. The first riders crossed this 90 mile stretch in only 6 hours with the rest of the group following in relatively short order.

 The Delaware Water Gap control was staffed by George and Bev Retseck who made sure riders were properly fed and hydrated before they began the second and more challenging half of the brevet.

As riders reached George and Bev, the weather became quite nice, with bright sunshine and temperatures reaching 70F.  Those of you who DNSed for fear of bad weather missed a real gem of a mid-day. Although there were noticeably fewer blooms observed in Cherry Valley, North of the mountain, signs of Spring was visible everywhere, the cold morning rains forgotten.   This delightful weather continued as riders reached the 200K point, near Easton. It continued to be nice for most of them up till when they began the difficult climbs to the South of Easton through Wassergass. 

Riders and locals enjoying the beautiful weather at Wassergass

But even as the earlier riders climbed through these hills, we could see something nasty chasing behind them. The skies darkened and trouble soon arrived in the form of T-storms. A tornado watch was issued. When the rough-stuff hit, riders sought shelter all along the course. There was no way to ride through that brief but intense downpour. Some riders knocked on doors to beg entry, some cowered on porches. And then there was Nick van der Kloot who seems to have sat out the whole thing eating pizza in a restaurant, arriving at the finish happy and dry.  What? There was a thunderstorm?

Riders sheltering from the not so nice weather in Wassergass

 While the riders were struggling out on the course, Volunteers kept guard on the home front.  Recent events have led us to keep an eye on the cars parked all day at Chamounix. The parking lot guard force was led by event organizer Iwan Barankay, with his fearsome assistants Nick Manta and "Tuxedo".  Also taking a shift watching cars were Nicole Mitchell, Eric Wright and Anton Lindberg. Thanks to the brave watchfullness of these volunteers, riders can rest easier out on the course.

Nick and his assistant keep close watch over the cars

After zooming around the course as first finisher and grabbing some sleep, Ben Keenan volunteered to help with the clean-up in the morning. Nicole, Sophia, and Darren also lent a hand, and most riders gathered their bed sheets before they left, which made it easier. 

Over the years we've had several riders complete our big events on a fixed gear bicycle, but I don't recall anyone doing this on a fixie without brakes.  That has now changed, Greg Lang finished all 11166 and 1/2 feet of climbing, and descending, all with a single gear, without coasting, and without braking (other than with his legs).  Some question whether this is "safe". In a world obsessed with "safety" that some believe must be guaranteed by third parties,  I for one am encouraged by talented and independent minded folks like Greg who provide their  own safety on the bicycle by means of sharp eyes, a quick mind, and two strong legs. Chapeau Greg!  

But, yeah, if you are an ordinary road biker, it probably isn't safe for you to ride a fixie without brakes on the road, and maybe you shouldn't ride one with brakes, either. I mean, you can't be too safe.  These brakeless, gearless bikes have no place on American roads. Ban them.  Keep track bikes on tracks where they belong. Leave dangerous on-road fixie riding to licensed professionals. 

Greg Lang (on a fixie with no brakes!) enjoying the beautiful day. What rain?
(Simulated ride with a professional rider. Don't try this at home.) 

Photos taken during the event are collected here.

Ello Shertzer writes:

Wow, what a day. My Wahoo was acting up all day, and I felt like the weather was just playing a big April fools joke on us. In Easton right before the Wawa I got a gnarly nail in my new tire, but luckily when I pulled it out the sealant did its job. I was riding with Tommy when that big thunderstorm rolled in and we were on Mountain View Drive with no shelter in sight, just that big wide road with trees on either side. We rang the doorbell at a house or business that had a no trespassing sign, and it’s probably a good thing that no one was home. We ended up deciding to continue riding until we could find shelter, and when we saw some people sitting out on their porch on West Rock Rd, that was our opportunity. They were very nice and in awe of our efforts, and they let us hang out on their porch until it was time to get moving.

Thanks Iwan for organizing this ride! Thanks also to George and Chris and everyone else who volunteered and pre-rode!

Ben Keenan writes:

Everyone that finished (or started) that ride showed courage and guts, and thanks a million to everyone that shared the miles. You are all awesome! There were many memorable segments, some beautiful, some hard, some maybe both at the same time. Seeing mist rise off the Delaware, riding along Cherry Valley Road as the sun came through for a while, trying to hold it together without much success in the hills after Easton. I think the hills that got me the worst were the final short but wall-like ones on Church Road and Harts Lane just before getting to River Road. Thanks as always to the volunteers (Iwan, Nick, Chris, Brad, George and all others) for a well-run event and a great day. Days on the road are the best, and hope to see everyone out again soon.
Ceci and Pat Gaffney write:

Thank you Iwan for organizing the brevet yesterday. It had all the elements of an epic adventure; warm rain, hot sun, gusting winds, cold hailstones, and deeeep puddles. Overall we had quite a pleasant day until the last 25K. Thanks to Chris, George, Beverly, Nick, Anton, and any other volunteers that I am missing who helped us all get through the day. See you at the 400!

 Brad Layman writes:

That was one for the ages. While the namesake Water and Wind Gaps were beautiful to ride through, it was the water and wind brought on by the weather that gave us the most to talk about. First, before the ride started, everyone was sharing what kind of gear we were planning to bring, balancing our hopes of staying warm and dry with the limited storage space we'd have on our bikes. Then at the finish, all the talk was about the crazy storm that rushed in at the end of the day. Extra kudos to everyone for surviving that storm and finishing the ride. I think we will be sharing storm stories for a long time to come and I'm glad I was there for it. Thank you Iwan, Chris, George (and Beverly), and Nick for putting on an excellent event. I hope to see everyone at the 400 next month!

 With the first two events of the SR series in the books,  events that were by all accounts challenging, it's time to take a mid-SR series break with the funnest randonneuring event of all, the Flèche. The date for adding teams has past, but there's still room for riders. Besides being the most fun you can have on a bike without sleep, the Flèche is a required event for the R5000 and R10000 medals. More info here

Are you going to PBP. Certainly you'll want to bring some PBP trading pins with you. These are available from the PA Rando Store, or can be purchased at any PA Rando event. 

And of course, for you to go to PBP, you need to complete a Super Randonneur series.  The PA Rando SR series is a tough one, but people who finish the PA series have had good results at PBP. There are two more events, the Four-States 400, and the Jim Thorpe 600. You can finish these, yes you can, but only if you start them. Sign up soon! 


Chris Nadovich

RBA, Eastern Pennsylvania



Monday, March 27, 2023

Water and Wind 300K Brevet pre-ride report

A pre-ride of the Water and Wind 300K was conducted on March 21 by Chris Nadovich and George Retseck, Iwan Barankay on March 26, and Nick Manta on March 27 in addition to partial pre-rides by Iwan a few weeks ago when it was still snowy along the Northern stretches. As a result of these pre-rides, updates were made to the cues. The latest cue sheet is version 6, and the latest RWGPS route was modified 2023-03-27. Both are available online. Full information about the event is on the event website.

This route is gorgeous. Please take a look at our pre-ride photos. We worked on many refinements – especially Chris – to add more flow to the route getting out of and back into Philadelphia but also to showcase nothing but the finest hills and roads between Philadelphia, the Delaware Water Gap, Wind Gap, and back. There are so many highlights to this route, but my favorites are the multiple times we are on River Road or when you can see the Blue Mountains off in the distance. There are also some tough moments – I am thinking of the pretentiously named Sunrise Boulevard (mile 81), which felt more like sunset to my endurance – but the scenery at the top is always priceless. Another gem is Route 611 leading up to the northeastern control, which is closed to traffic, allowing you to roam for free along the cliffs. 
As you are roaming along the cliffs, be aware that there's a lot of debris scattered on the closed route 611. There are also two spots where you need to lift your bike over barriers. 

 Watch out for wildlife, especially deer, early in the morning and late at night. When you see one jumping out onto the road, watch out to see if there are more. At one point, I stirred a flock of about 20 adult Wild Turkeys, and they then flew low over my head, which was just very cool. 
You will cross the Delaware multiple times, which requires you to walk (yes, angry wardens will materialize out of thin air if you don’t), yet another opportunity to take in the views and stretch out your legs and shoulders. 

Some more specific points 

- Review our blog post about parking at Chamounix. Do not leave valuables in the car.

- Pace yourself: This route is hilly throughout. Safe your legs, as you will depend on them from beginning to end. 

 - Eat and drink: because of the climbing, you burn calories faster. Please reflect on what you can and want to eat and drink on and off the bike. I aimed to take in 40-60g of carbs per hour of cycling, more at stops and less on the bike. 

 - The rando rule for stopping is shopping, eating, using the bathroom, or napping. Don’t stand around. You want to keep your stops short and productive. 

 - First control and second breakfast: The first control is at Rice’s Market (mile 53.4). Go to the long green barn with the ice cooler out front with the “Shops in the Barn” sign. You will find an Amish bakery inside, serving coffee and tea. The clean, if quaint, restrooms are behind the barn in the light brown building. If you don’t want to eat at this control, the route passes Milford’s excellent Bagel shop (mile 86; has a restroom) after crossing the bridge at the next corner on the left across from the gas station. 

 - Eat pie at the second control! It would be best if you had the energy for the next long ascent to Wind Gap. They only have a porta-potty. 

 - The third control is after you are speeding down into Wind Gap. Don’t miss the left turn at the traffic light. If you don’t want to eat there, I recommend pushing to Easton instead, as the next stretch is easy if a little bumpy on the Plainfield Township Trail. Please alert pedestrians when you want to pass them on the trail. 

 - Not a control but highly recommended: In Easton, we highlighted a Wawa at mile 122.5. This is your last refueling option for the next 27 miles. Bear in mind that soon after Easton, you have two challenging climbs. Please make sure you refuel there. 

 - The route takes you back to Philadelphia through Manayunk, which is busy on Saturday evening. Watch out for car doors and pedestrians. 

 - Because of the rain, hard shoulders can get flooded. This may cause you to weave in and out of traffic. Ride in groups when you can, and, though not required, I encourage you to wear safety vests and use lights even during daytime. Rain can also cause road debris and rock slides, especially on Route 611. 

 - The ride starts at 5 am, and most of you will finish after sunset. You must have front and rear lights (set to steady), a reflective vest, and ankle straps, or you can’t start the ride.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Parking at Chamounix


Please park cars along Chamounix Drive in front of the Carriage House. Do not park back in the circle by the mansion or on the side alley to the left of the Carriage house. There have been problems with valuables being stolen from cars in these areas. Park on the left side of Chamounix drive within easy view of the front porch of the Carriage house.  Park end-in, not parallel to the curb.

Parking Layout

Do not leave valuables in your car. There should be nothing visible that might tempt thieves. You can safely leave clothes and other gear inside the Carriage House.

There are other free on-street parking alternatives a short distance away, including along W Ford Rd.  These may, or may not, be better. Several commercial parking garages are also nearby.

Monday, March 20, 2023

PBP Webinar

Please join us for a live presentation from Deb Banks, Eric Norris and Bill Green covering the bag drop services offered for PBP 2023. Deb, Eric, Bill (and Mark Behning who will be off riding a 1000km brevet) are all previous PBP finishers and are attending PBP in 2023 just to offer a vital service       
to riders. 

Following that presentation, Mark Thomas will go over some of the details of what to expect next if you have pre-registered for PBP. This will cover due dates for completing your qualifiers, when you can start to convert to full registration, and what is required to do that. If possible there might be a recap of numbers involved for pre-registrants from the US.

Following Mark's presentation, Deb's Team will have gone over the questions submitted and will read questions and give answers as part of the presentation. 

To close out, Mark will also answer any questions submitted. 

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.                                              
When: Apr 2, 2023 10:00 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)                         
Topic: Randonneurs USA PBP Prep Seminar #3  

Please click the link below to join the webinar: 

Passcode: 687481 

Or One tap mobile :                                                            

 +16694449171,,87819782357#,,,,*687481#  or                              

If you can't make it, this presentation will be recorded and put up on          
the Youtube   channel 


where Seminar sessions 1, 1.1,  and 2 have been placed. 

Concurrent with this seminar, there are a couple/few pre-recorded interviews that will be released of past PBP riders where we delve into their previous riding, how they came to randonneuring, what they did to prepare for their first PBP, what their first PBP experience was like and what advice they got that helped and what they themselves might recommend.

rob hawks                                                                       
SFR RBA                                                                         
RUSA Membership Committee                                                       
RUSA Brevet Coordinator                                                         
RUSA RBA Liaison       

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

PBP Pre Registration Update

The ACP has modified the PBP pre-registration process to allow riders with  no BRM brevets in 2022 to pre-register. Starting on March 25.                   
Also the date on which pre-registrations will be cancelled if not converted  to full registrations has also changed from June 20 to June 10.                 

Preregistrations are first open to those who have completed at least one BRM (qualifying ride) in 2022. The  preregistration date depends on the longest brevet validated in 2022 and spots are subject to availability at the time of preregistration.

BRM ridden from Nov 01, 2021 to Oct *31*, 2022

Preregistration starts on

  • 1000 km or RM 1200+: January  14, 2023
  • 600 km: January 28, 2023
  • 400 km: February 11, 2023
  • 300 km: February 25, 2023
  • 200 km: March 11, 2023
  • none: March 25, 2023         

(at 12 PM French Standard Time => CET, UTC +1)

 The full rules can be found here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Covered Bridges 200K Ride Report

While February's 200K set records for low starting temperatures, the March 4 Covered Bridges 200K had what is believed to be a record number of registered riders.  By the time registration closed a few days before the event there were 66 people on the list! 

Starting from the 2023 SR Series headquarters, the Chamounix Mansion Hostel, fifty-four riders set off with the sunrise on a blustery morning with hopes of conquering a challenging and scenic course.  Fifty-two riders plus six pre-riders made it around the course in good time for a 97% finish rate.  Preliminary results have been posted on the website.  Please review the results and let us know if something is not quote right.  The results will be submitted to RUSA after review and will become official once certified.

Riders preparing for the start
Riders preparing for the start. photo by Iwan Barankay


Photo by Ello Shertzer

The heavy rains that soaked the area on Friday night were pushed out by strong winds that dogged riders as they made their way to the first control in New Hope, PA.  From New Hope it was on to the Tinicum Park control where riders were greeted by RBA Chris Nadovich, who was waiting with a catered brunch to help fuel them up the hills to come.  And did they come.  Uhlerstown Hill Road, with it's grade approaching 40% in some spots, provided a mid-ride pop that surely will be remembered by the riders.

The course passed by the former Weisel Youth Hostel around mile 80. While not an official control, the Weisel Youth Hostel served as the home base of the PA SR Series for over ten years. Veteran PA Randonneur riders were treated to some familiar faces as they passed by. Tom Rosenbauer (former RBA and founder of PA Randonneurs) and Bill Olsen (who has completed more PA rides and ridden more PA kilometers than any other club member) stationed themselves there to make sure that the riders had enough water and good spirits to make it to the next control. 

The penultimate control of Tabora Farms provided the riders with the sustenance needed to make it those final 35 miles back to the hostel, and a trailing well helped as well. 

Photo by John Squires

Event organizer Iwan Barankay positioned himself at the base of the final climb and reported that all the riders were in good spirits as the approached the last little grunt up to the hostel.

Phtots by Iwan Barankay

There was a feeling of excitement back at Chamounix as riders returned and gathered to swap stories from the road over pizza and refreshments in the Hostel's great room.  As mentioned, we had eleven riders complete their first brevet; Jordan Aune, Ritam Chakraborty, Tristan Dahn, Grahm Godbey, Chris Kline, Jacob Klink, Bryce Lackey, Dan Powers, Michael Reali Jr., Kate Sparacio, Jesse Starger.  Congratulations to all and we hope to see you back on the road with us again soon.

Thanks to everyone who rode and volunteered.  These events wouldn't happen without you.  Special thanks to Adam Bowen and Cecilie Gaffney, who managed the breakfast, registration, and official starting duties, and for the rousing pre-ride pep talk by Cecilie.  Brad Layman, who was on hand to greet and check in all the riders at their return.  Chris Nadovich, Tom Rosenbauer, Bill Olsen, and Ed Bernasky who manned controls and checkpoints aiding riders on their journeys.  And, Iwan Barankay for handling the duties of organizing the ride.  Our next event, Water & Wind 300K, will be held on April 1, 2023.  Event details can be found here.  We hope to see you all there.

There is a good collection of photos from the day that can be seen here.

Sean Keesler made a great video of his 200K adventure, which can be seen here.


Bob Dye wrote: