by George Muenz
I first heard the word Randonneurs from
Teresa McKernan whom I met while riding with the Vancouver Bicycling
Club. Since she had recently acquired a recumbent, I assumed
it was an activity of like minded enthusiasts who rode around
the country in these things talking on ham radios. The kinds
of riders who wouldn't leave the house for less than a 2 month
I had just started riding last July at age 52 after not having
been on a bike for 40 years. In fact, I was against taking up
bike riding as I had been a distance runner and riding a bike
for fitness seemed less pure, as if there was a mechanical assist.
However, I did follow triathlon, and they ride bikes. So, given
that I had not been able to run for several years and was frustrated
at being out of shape, I decided one Friday to buy a bike. I
tend to do my research after the purchase, so walked into La
Bicicletta and told Tom that I wanted to buy a bike and that
it should probably cost around $2000.00. Tom showed me a few
in that range, and having heard of Cervelo, I selected a great
bike then called the Soloist Team. Needless to say, the budgetary
figure went out the window after getting all the gear that goes
along with riding. Rode the bike that evening, and having never
used clipless pedals either, I promptly fell the first second
I got on it. There should have been a sign on the bike that said
"Bike must be in motion in order to clip in" A kindly
passerby picked me up and gave me some tips, which didn't stop
me from falling a few times after that, all of them from a dead
Riding in traffic for the first time was scary to say the least.
However, one doesn't become a distance runner without a strong
streak of perseverance, so just kept at it. I was so clueless
about bikes that when I heard what sounded like excessive noise
coming from the bike, I took it to the store where they advised
me that yes, you need to put air in the tires!!!
2 weeks after buying the Cervelo and now having completed my
research, I sold the Cervelo Soloist and purchased the all-carbon
Cervelo RS. I also purchased a winter bike. Did I say my budget
was $2000.00? Don't hire me to manage your money.
I started riding with the Vancouver Bicycle Club as I wanted
to learn how to ride, learn routes in Vancouver and enjoy the
club camaraderie I was familiar with from running clubs. It was
great riding with them, though I'm sure some of them were quite
amused at my braking all the way down the Second Narrows bridge.
The rides got longer, 40,50,60, and at one point 73K. I was starting
to like this sport! In time, I felt more confident on the bike,
and got stronger. The first few times up the UBC hill were tough,
and I recall walking up the first hill coming back from Deep
Andrea from VBC mentioned the Pacific Populaire, and my first
thought was, 100K, I can't do that. In the meantime, I had also
started to do Sunday rides with the group from La Bicicletta,
and began to learn what a paceline was, and the rides were at
a faster pace with only one stop.
April 5th, I was an hour early at the registration, even though
I had pre-registered. I liked the vibe at the start. I was used
to going to and participating in races, and this was more relaxed.
Good thing I read the course changes carefully and even inquired
about the turn onto 16th as there were apparently some people
who cut the course short.
The ride started off nicely, and I felt quite comfortable. At
4th Avenue I decided to start moving ahead and got into my rhythm.
On Marine drive, there was a crash right in front of me with
2 people going down. I still need practice in fast group riding,
so I was cautious as I rode. What I really liked about the ride
was that I would hook up with different groups along the course,
some people I knew or had seen on training rides. Finished strong
and was quite pleased.
Sure enough, talk of the 200K came up. I can't do 200K! On the
morning of April 18th, I was at the Steveston Hotel for the start.
That's where I somehow also became a member of the BC Randonneurs
Cycling Club! My inexperience showed even before the ride started
as 3 minutes before the whistle, I realized my water bottles
were still in the car. Quick sprint to the car, and back just
Went with the lead group for the first 25K, until they dropped
me on the downhill of the Alex Fraser bridge. Remember my braking
on the downhills of bridges? So, there I was by myself, with
no idea of where to go. Luckily, Dave from Velovets showed up,
and we rode the rest of the way together. Again, there was an
ebb and flow of groups, we would ride with one group, then another,
then on our own. It was great, the hills on 232nd, not so much.
Did make it up though, had it been another 50 meters? Not so
At 40K left, I ran out of fluid and food and was starting to
fade. Dave gave me part of a PowerBar and some Gatorade which
totally rejuvenated me and I finished strong. At the Buck and
Ear, someone even bought me a beer, and I don't even drink. Again,
this was a great experience. It did help that both times the
weather was great, I might not have enjoyed it as much had there
been a monsoon as experienced by some in the 300K.
I really appreciate the work of the club members in organizing
these events, I know how much work goes into these things. So
now, I somehow find myself signed up for the Ride to Conquer
Cancer at the end of June (can use any donations to meet my fundraising
goal) and the Canada Day Populaire on July 1st.
I do know that I can't do these Eau De Hell rides, right?
May 7, 2009