Newsletter - 2004 Archive

BC Randonneurs logo BC Randonneurs logo

BC Randonneurs
Cycling Club
BC Randonneurs logo BC Randonneurs logo


600 km: Abbotsford to Abbotsford to Abbotsford to Abbotsford
by Susan Barr

The prelude: Give me a brake!
I'd decided it would be a good idea to have my bike overhauled before the 600 km; everything was working fine, but it had been a loooong time since things like the headset and bottom bracket had been looked at. So I took it into the bike shop, left for Chicago, got home from Chicago, picked it up on the one day I was at home, left for Toronto, got home from Toronto, and with only one day left before the 600, thought I should probably take it out for a quick spin to see whether it (and I) still worked. Well, it turned out that my front brake was not connected. Being the mechanical simpleton that I am, I thought it would be a quick easy fix, so I rode - gingerly -- to the bike shop. Initially, they thought the brake was not fixable, but said they'd try to do so, or else would replace it. My plan had been to cycle from the bike shop to pick up my orthotics, but instead I set out on foot, planning to catch a bus. But my ignorance of the transportation system was quickly exposed: buses didn't run from "here" to "there" during non-peak hours. I continued on foot, but didn't like the fact that my cleats were crunching on the pavement, so took them off and proceeded in sock feet. I was by now late for the orthotics appointment, so started to jog, carrying my bike shoes and helmet. My route took me under the Granville Street bridge, the roosting ground of many hundreds (thousands?) of pigeons. And sure enough, one of them scored a bulls-eye, right on my head. I arrived at the orthotics shop shoeless, sweaty, and with pigeon shit all over my head…. But eventually, everything sorted itself out; I got the orthotics, and later on was able to pick up my bike, with brakes fixed and functional.

The main event: Give me a break!
We started out at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning from Abbotsford (which meant getting up at 3:30 a.m. for the drive out). I had on thick wool socks and rain booties, and my feet were warm, which was a good thing. Although it was raining, it was a gentle rain, and wasn't too cold, so I was feeling relatively optimistic about the event. Somehow, I ended up with "the fast guys" (Peter Stary, Michel Richard, Eric Fergusson) and managed to hang on for 100 km or so, by which time we were on the Trans-Canada Highway heading to Hope. It was pounding down rain and we were going uphill, so sanity prevailed and I let them go (and if you believe that….). I did catch up with them at the control in Hope, but decided to "chill" for awhile and wait for a group going at a more appropriate pace. That group arrived about half-an-hour later (by which time I was well and truly "chilled"), and we stayed together through about two hours of torrential downpour to a control at Abbotsford.

Shortly thereafter, after going up a significant hill, my rear shifter decided that it didn't want to leave my lowest gear. As already indicated above, I am a mechanical simpleton, and the guys I was with didn't know what was going on either. Luckily (or so I thought at the time), Gary was from the area, and directed me to a local bike shop. The shop was one step up from the bike section of Sears, selling primarily mountain bikes in the $100-$300 dollar range, with mechanics who looked like they were about 13 years old. They weren't too sure what was going on, but thought it might be a cable problem (even though the cable had just been replaced during the overhaul). So they replaced the cable and managed to get the bike shifting, at least to some degree. I thanked them profusely, got back on course and fortuitously connected with another group of cyclists (Ali and Roger Holt, and Scott Gater). After about five minutes, however, I was again 'shiftless', and to make matters worse, I couldn't get into the big chainring at the front, so was down to two gears.

At that point, I was thinking that it might be time to call it a day - trying to complete the next 400 km with two gears, the biggest of which was a 42x25, didn't seem like a lot of fun. But Roger told me he could put the chain in a gear manually, and "fix" it there - I would still have only two gears, but at least they'd be a bit more functional. So I decided to do that, and see how it went - we'd be back to Abbotsford (and the car!) at 370 km, at which time I could re-evaluate. Plus, it had stopped raining, for the moment at least, which made the world a better place.

So we proceeded, and the rain held off for a few hours, but returned with a vengeance for the last few hours back to the 'overnight' control at Abbotsford. Everyone in our group had different plans - two wanted to continue after something to eat, two planned to sleep for a few hours and leave at about 4 a.m, and I was hoping to sleep (or at least, rest) for longer and leave at about 6. At about 4:30 a.m. though, I got bored with resting, and it was almost light out, so I set off. I managed to get a bit lost getting through the city, and added a few bonus miles before finding a gas station that was open and could direct me back to where I should have been going. After a couple of hours, I caught up with the Roger, Ali and Scott, and settled in with them. We stopped at a McDonalds for breakfast (egg bagel - really hit the spot), and after we started again the rain tapered off, so things were good again.

Or more accurately, they were 'almost' good. At that point, I was trying to ignore the fact that my ankles were *quite* sore, and that every pedal stroke was uncomfortable (this is an attempt at understatement - I was actually hurting big time). I managed to continue to ignore them until we stopped in Agassiz at about 540 km, at which point I took off my booties and socks to look at the damage. Bad idea! My ankles were a festering, blistered mess: the rain had turned my skin to mush, and my lovely warm, heavy wool socks had literally stripped the skin off. I slathered on Polysporin, took a handful of Ibuprofen to try to dull the pain, and off we went again. The ride up "Woodside" (with some 12%) made me realize that there's a reason that most bikes now have more than two gears, but it was the last significant hurdle and before long we were at the finish - where Patti Marsh had lawn chairs, snacks and drinks waiting (and even provided shampoo for a shower!).

In retrospect, I was glad I'd managed to hang in and finish the ride - thinking about the 1200 km would have been even more daunting without having completed a 600 km this season. It was also a learning experience - those warm, heavy, rough wool socks are obviously not the solution I'd thought they were. The only problem is that I'm not sure what is!!

July 20, 2004