What I Learned Bike Touring from Wytheville to Floyd, Virginia

Today Felkerino and I headed off to Floyd, a southern Virginia town that abuts the Blue Ridge Parkway. A scenic and challenging day in many ways, it brought home a few themes about bike touring.


1. If the route isn’t working, change it.

Continue reading What I Learned Bike Touring from Wytheville to Floyd, Virginia

Bike Touring from Blacksburg to Wytheville, Virginia

The weather:  Sunny and dry

Miles ridden:  92


Mountains:  Three, one being the notable Walker Mountain ten miles outside Wytheville.

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Into the Teeth of the Virginia Highlands

The past two days of riding have brought home the fact that all rides are not created equal.


Felkerino and I plotted our 70-mile days, climbing away from Clifton Forge, over Dolly Mountain to Covington, and across Hay’s Gap to overnight in Paint Bank.

Continue reading Into the Teeth of the Virginia Highlands

Bike Touring Southern Virginia on the Lead Sled

Felkerino and I are off bike touring in  Virginia this week. We began our ride in Waynesboro and are winding our way south to Wytheville.

Day 1 we rode to Lexington, a quaint historic town.

Yesterday, Day 2, we arrived in Clifton Forge, part of the Alleghany Highlands region.

We’ve employed the mountain Cannondale tandem for the trip. So far so good.

Two small Ortlieb panniers in the front, Carradice Camper saddlebag in the back. The bike handles well with a load and climbs solidly.

We’ve moderated our mileage to around 70 miles a day for the first three days, which allows us to sleep in, stop when we feel like it, and savor the journey.

Continue reading Bike Touring Southern Virginia on the Lead Sled

Colorado High Country 1200K: A Breathtaking Trip Out West

The Colorado High Country 1200K is a 90-hour, four day jaunt through about 750 miles of the great states of Colorado and Wyoming. Felkerino and I rode it last month and this month I wrote my story about it.

Welcome to Colorado

I fretted a lot in the months leading up to the ride. Weather, terrain, altitude, training, gear choices. You name it, I worried about it. To top it all off, Felkerino caught a bug right after we flew into Colorado, which had us waffling about whether or not we would even make it to the starting line.

Someone told me the only way to curb the nerves is by starting the event. Then you can put all your energy into turning the pedals over (and over and over), and you have no need or time to stay up late scouring workout logs to assess the adequacy (or not) of your preparation.

Ranch en route to Walden – Day 3

After ride organizer John Lee Ellis sent us off into pre-dawn, things fell into place. Ride preparation, good luck, as well as the excellent event organizing and volunteer support flowed together to create an amazing and unforgettable ride.

Our days laid out in the following stages:

Day 1:  Louisville, Colorado to Saragoga, Wyoming. 219.9 miles
Day 2:  Saratoga, Wyoming to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. 198.1 miles
Day 3:  Steamboat Springs to Walden, Colorado. 181.3 miles
Day 4:  Walden to Louisville, Colorado. 147.5 miles

I’ve assembled this report like a highlight reel. It doesn’t follow any chronological sequence, really. Rather, it lays out the highlights of what made this ride special.


Despite my dampened motivation about the brevets this year, Felkerino and I still got out there, knowing that the High Country awaited us in mid-July. The D.C. Randonneurs series set up well for us, as we participated in our 600K the weekend of June 9. I finally got my act together during this ride, moving efficiently through our brevet with the knowledge that we’d be clipping in for a ride twice that distance one month later.

After completing the 600K, we settled into maintenance miles for the next few weeks. Given that the 1200K began five weeks after our 600K, we felt it made no sense to put in any additional big efforts, as it would not improve our fitness and we needed some recovery to put the pop back into our legs.

Our approach worked, and we showed up in Boulder with fresh legs (though Felkerino did have a harsh little cough he was managing up until the day before the ride) four days prior to the official start.

The following morning, Dave Cramer of Massachusetts, Bob Olsen of New York, and I got together for a shakedown ride to Boulder. The next day Felkerino and I went out and rode up to Jamestown using a route one of our Twitter connections cued for us. These rides gave us an opportunity to test out our legs as well as the bike. Both felt good, ready to take on the big event.

The pre-event rides also allowed us to explore the area, and feel like we were really on vacation. Yes, the ride was part of our vacation, too, but it involved intense physical work and sleep deprivation. Not so vacationy. It felt good to arrive to the Boulder area a few days early in order to acclimate and enjoy a couple of mellow days. And being a cyclist in Boulder was awesome. Everywhere I turned it seemed like there were people out riding their bikes. It was a sport rider’s paradise.

Pre-riding with Bob and Dave around Boulder

Ride Organizing.

If ever a ride challenged an organizer’s routing skills and flexibility, this one did. In the days leading up to the ride, wildfires burned in Poudre Canyon, which John Lee had planned for us to ride through on both Day 1 and Day 4. Another fire broke out near one of the roads we would use to travel to Laramie. Firefighters contained the blazes in Poudre Canyon, but all of the burn resulted in a landslide that blocked the road there. John Lee diligently proposed new route possibilities, including the possibility of crossing Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the United States, on the final day.

Fortunately for us, the fires near Laramie were contained prior to the ride start, and the landslide in Poudre Canyon cleared in time for us to experience it on the final day. Thanks to John’s routing skills, we were treated to many beautiful roads and mountain passes, some of which were last-minute substitutions. And no Trail Ridge Road… PHEW!

John Lee Ellis at the top of Willow Creek Pass – Day 3

Good Weather, Cold Mornings.

With the exception of a few raindrops on the first day of the High Country, the weather was almost ideal. As soon as the sun rose over the mountain so would the temperatures. For four days, we left the muggy air of the Mid-Atlantic behind and breathed the crisp dry air of the West.

Mark T and Dave on Day 3

The sun would shine brightly throughout the day and, in order not to worry about burning, I wore sun sleeves that my friend Barry recommended I purchase. “They weigh nothing and cost next to nothing.” It was $30 well spent. Protecting my arms prevented a sure sunburn, since I could never apply enough sunscreen to keep up with the strength of the sun.

Winds were always manageable, even through some of the more wide open spaces. We even had the pleasure of riding with some tailwinds.

The latter three days started out cold– in the high 30s to low 40s, I would guess. Mentally, I did not accept that July mornings would be this cold. I brought booties along, but thinking I would not need them, I left them in my drop bag until I endured two mornings with numb toes and stiff ankles. I’ll never forget the beauty of Gore Pass, and I’ll not soon forget how frigid my feet felt.

I brought along a wool skull cap, and then laughed at myself for even considering that I would wear it. Into the drop bag. As we descended Cameron Pass on the final day, our acceleration into the cold morning numbed my brain until all that remained was a vision of that sweet warm purple wool skull cap. If only if only. I know Felkerino was feeling the discomfort, too, as I ended up loaning him my helmet cover.

Sunny Day 4 Morning in Poudre Canyon


Randonneuring encourages self-sufficiency. There is no SAG wagon if you break down and for the most part, riders are on their own to figure out food needs and any mechanicals that arise throughout the day.

Nevertheless, events like this need volunteers for whatever level of support the ride organizer wants to offer (within the RUSA and ACP rules, of course). For us, that support included a snack oasis at a somewhat desolate spot near the Wyoming border, as well as super-efficient staffed overnight controls.

Riders at the Oasis in WY

At each overnight stop, someone immediately signed our card, assigned us a room to sleep, told us where to park our bike, and directed us to food. Volunteers laid out drop bags in advance of our arrival so we knew right where to find them. After hundreds of miles of riding, their help meant a lot.

Volunteers in Walden, making it happen

To top it off, we ate hot breakfasts every morning. Awesome! With food being the fuel to get us through the ride, I had extra appreciation for the hearty control meals. Thank you, thank you, volunteers!!

Star-Filled Skies.

I forgot how breathtaking stargazing can be. On a ride as long as the High Country, I can guarantee that Felkerino and I will be pedaling plenty of miles in the dark. Sometimes those segments can be monotonous, especially in the stoker zone, as you pretty much see nothing on all sides unless someone else’s headlight illuminates a peripheral patch for you.

The evening riding on this ride was absolutely the best I’ve ever experienced. Felkerino and I had the company of other riders so I often had that peripheral light helping me. We were the only traffic on the road so the riding was perfectly peaceful. The stars gleamed brightly in the sky, with the luminous dust of the Milky Way visible to the naked eye. It’s been years since I’ve seen skies like that.

With skies that stunning, I looked forward to our early morning departures from the controls. We were fortunate to arrive before dark each of the three nights of the 1200K so we moved up our exits from the controls the next day as a result, leaving at around 2:30 each day.

Up in the night sky, I saw planets, constellations, and maybe I even spied the Curiosity Rover at one point. Kidding! I did not see Curiosity. On the fourth and final day, our riding group of Dave Campbell, Bill Beck, Felkerino, Jeff Bauer and I pulled over for one reason or the other. The night sky drew our glances up and we all paused to savor its beauty.


The High Country represented the first time I’d ever ridden in Colorado and Wyoming, and I could not get over how awesome it was. Having done most of my endurance riding on the East Coast, I was more used to shorter and steeper climbs, with more limited vistas.

Riding out west contrasted starkly to the east. While both are beautiful in their own way, the majority of the climbs on the High Country 1200 were about a billion times longer and graded more shallowly, with the exception of the two-mile pitches to the summits.

Sumitting Willow Creek Pass on Day 3

Almost all of the summits on our ride were forecast with signs that read “X Summit. Two miles. Whenever I saw that, not only did I know we were close to the top, I also knew that it was time to get out of the saddle and grind away.

Willow Creek Summit – 2 Miles

John spaced out the climbing well. Even though each day involved plenty of climbing, the descents and mellow sections in between the mountains allowed us time to rest and recover. As I said, the passes were long, but usually forgiving in their pitch. The water flowing through the mountain creeks, blissful light of sunrise and late afternoons, open views from the high plains, and the mountain landscapes served to distract from the sustained effort of climbing for miles at a time.

The High Country 1200K made me feel like Felkerino and I were a couple of bada$$es. Climbing mountain passes on a tandem will do that. Climbing mountains that are graded enough to make you work, but not so steeply that your knee cartilege starts wearing off will do that. This route crested several passes over its four days, and each one of them was spectacular.

Mark T. on Gore Pass – Day 3

John also included a section known as “20-mile road,” a 20- mile road about 10 miles too long that rivals the Heartbreak Hills of the Endless Mountains 1000K in its steep dips and climbs. This was a last-minute addition to the route due to the fires outside of Boulder. Apparently, the road was originally dirt, but had been paved in recent years to accomodate the traffic in and out of a coal mine that had been built in the area. We would arduously climb up up up, standing in the granny, only to give back all the ground we had gained in a brutally swift downhill.

Tim A. on 20-Mile Road

By the last five miles of that road, I started to take it personally whenever we would give up any ascent, knowing that we would have to recoup it somehow. It was a gorgeous, but mentally and physically challenging stretch of the course. Just when I thought I might have to write John a strongly worded letter, we reached our final granny grinding ascent of 20-mile road and arrived at the control. I was slightly frazzled and aggravated, but with knee cartilage intact.

Fortunately, 20-Mile Road abutted one of my favorite parts of the route, Stagecoach Road. This peaceful stretch wound through a state park (also called Stagecoach) and by a lake. We passed through in late afternoon on the second day of the ride. Long shadows and warm light made for a beautiful 15-mile or so run through this lush green undulating section. It also included some zippy downhills, resulting in some fun tandeming back to Steamboat Springs.

Jeff B. on Stagecoach Road

As I mentioned, Poudre Canyon opened up to the public just days before we passed through it. The transformation of the canyon due to the fire was shocking. The sour burnt smell of scorched vegetation lingered in the air. You could trace the path of the fire by looking at the land. A tree that completely escaped the fire’s wrath stood beside others that had not been so lucky. It was hard to comprehend. As we left Poudre Canyon and entered the towns near it, homemade signs stood in people’s yards thanking and recognizing the firefighters for all of their work.

Rando Cameraderie.

One of the other riders remarked during Day 2 of the ride that our randonnee was really a group ride. “Some weird kind of group ride,” I remember thinking. “The longest, hilliest group ride I’ve ever been on.” As the ride progressed, I think I understood his comment.

Our ride was clearly organized into four distinct days. At the end of each day, a comfy bed and warm food awaited. Riders were welcome to continue further, but they then had to figure out their own sleeping and eating arrangements. Most riders stuck to the pre-determined stages of each day, which meant that we were all riding within hours of each other each and often crossing paths throughout the day.

We spent many hours in the pleasant company of other randonneurs. That was great. People were serious about completing the ride, but not so serious that they wouldn’t engage in conversation about rides gone by, scenery, bike tech talk, or whatever comes up as a topic on brevets.

Jimmy, Mark, and Ed at Gore Pass on Day 3

There were some sections that Felkerino and I rode in solitude, but not many.

At the finish. Thanks for waiting for us, Dave and Bill!

It’s difficult for me to express how much it meant to keep the company that we did, so I hope the photos I’ve included give you some idea. Thanks to everybody who rode with us and helped the miles go by.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Dave Campbell and Bill Beck for waiting for Felkerino, Jeff Bauer, and me at the finish so that we could all ride in together with the same finishing time.

Made it!

Until a ride actually unfurls beneath your front wheel you have no idea how it will go. You work away faithfully, put in the miles, make travel plans, do the other real life stuff you gotta do, and watch the weather websites like a deranged hawk. You imagine what the ride will be like ride based on your preparation, ride descriptions, weather forecasts, and any ride reports you can get your hands on.

I feel so relieved and grateful that Felkerino and I had the ride we did. I know it’s because of the good luck we had with the weather, the gorgeous landscape and carefully planned route, the efficient and hardworking volunteers, and the people with whom we shared the adventure.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen and thanks to you all for reading.

Bikes to Like: Felkerino’s Cannondale T700 Tourer

Some people have inquired about the various steeds that call the Dining Room Bike Shop home. You can check out most of mine on the “My Bikes” page. Over the next few weeks (or however long that actually translates in terms of time I have to blog) I’ll be featuring the bikes Felkerino rides.

These reviews will not be uber technical so if spec description overload is what you seek, best go check out some other blog. Rather, they will be descriptions through my eyes, my eyes being those focused on the practical and other aspects that catch my attention.

First up is Felkerino’s aluminum, made in the USA, Cannondale T700 tourer. This bike, of 1992 vintage, is one of the first road bikes Felkerino ever owned as a grownup, and serves as his primary commuter.

Continue reading Bikes to Like: Felkerino’s Cannondale T700 Tourer

Using Shared Infrastructure Sharingly: Chris on #BikeDC Speaks

After several weeks of #BikeDC Speaks posts from the women of the #BikeDC community, we are back this week with a guy’s point of view on riding in the D.C. area.

Chris is another familiar face from #FridayCoffeeClub and, if you ride along MacArthur Avenue, you may spot him there as well. During his years of commuting in the area, Chris has observed and learned a lot about cycling in the city. AND as a new parent who hopes to have his daughter accompany him on rides, I thought he would make a great guest contributor.

Without further ado, here is Chris’s take on riding in D.C.

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BicycleSPACE and the D.C. Murals Ride

After all the heat and humidity we’ve endured over the summer, this past weekend we received a welcome reprieve. Especially Saturday.

Warm sun, light breezes, pleasant temperatures. Far too gorgeous of a day to stay inside, Felkerino, his daughter, and I joined BicycleSPACE’s mural ride to see where it would take us and to simply enjoy the day.

Jordan and the “Monkey Wagon,” issuing last-minute instructions

We weren’t the only ones with this idea. A large group of locals assembled at BicycleSPACE’s shop to take part in the ride, which toured approximately 25 murals located in various parts of the city. Who knew D.C. had so many murals? Not me!

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Bikes to Like: Rick R.’s Trek Elance 300 (650B Conversion!)

It’s all about bikes this week, and today features a guest post from Rick R. about his Trek Elance 300.

A North Carolina rider, Rick completed a full Super Randonneur series with the D.C. Randonneurs. Felkerino and I rode many miles with Rick (and Christian) on this spring’s Warrenton 300K. Felkerino and I joked that we were under attack by the 650B brigade, as both Rick’s Trek and Christian’s Terraferma are set up with 650B Grand Bois Hetre tires.

Riding similar paces allowed me to thoroughly admire Rick’s bike, and I’m so glad he agreed to be a guest contributor for Bikes to Like.

Continue reading Bikes to Like: Rick R.’s Trek Elance 300 (650B Conversion!)

Summer Commutes on the Velo Orange Mixte

I tend to have an overall preference for diamond frames, and never considered myself a mixte sort of person. However, a couple of years ago Velo Orange was selling off a batch of their mixte frames at the attractive price of $300 so I mixed up the bike stable by adding a mixte to it.

Velo Orange Mixte, acquitting herself well after climbing a steep hill

Over the next year Felkerino and I (okay, mostly Felkerino) built it up with a variety of parts from the Dining Room Bike Shop, including the front Rivendell Mark’s rack by Nitto, Nitto S83 seatpost, gearing, pedals, Tektro brakes, handlebars, and the bags.

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I Get By with a Little Help from My Gym Friends

Good times at the WSC Hip Hop class

When I first started going to the gym, I did so because I wanted to strengthen myself for cycling. Then I wanted to strength train because I completely freaked out about getting older and realized the importance of weight-bearing activity. Later I continued my gym visits because I enjoyed the challenge to my body and muscles, the progression of my fitness, and the feeling of my body strengthening from my efforts.

However, going to the gym also introduced me to a new and unexpected community of people. Gym people. Because I initially possessed limited knowledge about how to strength train, I attended group classes. Nervously I asked someone about how to set up for class. People were really helpful and told me exactly what I needed. Hand weights, a mat, a bench, whatever.

Eventually, I got the hang of the whole class thing, and with renewed confidence I adopted a regular gym routine. I expanded from doing only strength classes to also going to cardio classes.

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Getting Better All the Time: Leslie T. on #BikeDC Speaks

Leslie T., superhero transportation cyclist, and I go way back to the days I first began riding with the D.C. Randonneurs. If there is a way to get there by bike, Leslie will figure out it. When work requires her to travel, she takes a bike along. Vacation? It usually involves a bike. Getting around town? Bike, of course.

You may have seen Leslie out and about. She volunteers with WABA, partakes in the occasional touring and group ride, and regularly attends #FridayCoffeeClub. Here is what Leslie had to say about cycling in the Washington, D.C. area.

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The Appeal of the Run Commute

Run Commute by the Smithsonian

Because I have a fall running event coming up, I’ve inserted a couple of run commutes into my weekly commute diet. While cycling is my primary mode of commuting, mixing it up with run commuting has proven quite pleasant.

Not surprisingly, my running route to and from the office varies from my bike routine. First, I don’t run in the streets. HA! Second, I don’t run in the 15th Street bike lane. HA HA!

I’ve figured out a quiet, low-traffic, point-to-point run commute route. It takes me through one of the Smithsonian gardens and across the National Mall, both of which I find to be particularly peaceful in the morning.

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Reviving the Lead Sled: our Cannondale Tandem

Due to unforeseen circumstances (to be discussed in another post), our Co-Motion tandem will not be around for a while. In the meantime, Felkerino and I still want to tandem together so we decided to put our original brevet tandem, a Cannondale mountain frame, back into service for some summer rides and any upcoming fall brevets we do. Because of its industrial dark gray hue and bulky aluminum tubing, Felkerino nicknamed it the “lead sled.”

Cannondale tandem, back in service

Felkerino invested some serious time this past week to make the Cannondale rando ready. He put on new tires, transitioned our saddles and handlebars over from the Co-Motion, and measured and remeasured to mimic our Co-Motion measurements as much as possible.

This weekend we took the lead sled out for a 73-mile shakedown ride to see how it- and we- would fare. While it’s quite a switch to go from riding a steel tandem that’s been made especially for you to a stock Large-in-front, Medium-in-back aluminum-frame tandem with 26-inch wheels, our ride went better than I expected.

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Cycling-Specific Commentary: Ride Safe!

If you regularly ride a bike, you know that people will say some weird stuff to you. Stuff they wouldn’t say if you were, say, walking. Or, let’s say, in a car.

This week, the phrase I kept hearing whenever I left my office with my bike in tow was “Ride safe!”

Me: “Have a good night!”
Other person: “You too. Ride safe!”
Me: ?

Velo Orange and me at the Lincoln. Ridin’ safe.

Normally I don’t pay attention to these things, but because so many people said it to me, I got to wondering about it.

Continue reading Cycling-Specific Commentary: Ride Safe!