Category Archives: Populaires

The Road Less Travelled 130K Populaire on the Rawland dSogn

Over the past weekend, Felkerino and I met up with fellow D.C. Randonneurs Chuck, Crista, and George to ride the recently approved Road Less Travelled Populaire.

This ride, designed by George Moore, totals 130K/83 miles, with approximately 60 percent of featuring unpaved roads. It starts in Haymarket, Virginia, and takes a blend of back roads and pavement to Purcellville, on to Middleburg (the heart of Loudoun County’s horse country), and back again to Haymarket.

Horse-drawn carriage near Middleburg

Felkerino and I thought a ride like this would be an excellent change of pace from the regular road riding we do. Because the course had so many unpaved sections, we decided to leave the tandem at home and ride single bikes. We readied up our 650B Rawland dSogns, threw some fatty rumpkin 40mm tires on the bikes, and headed out for a fun day in the country.

Felkerino and the Rawland

I had a blast riding my Rawland. While the beginning and ending miles of the route were mellow, the bulk of the ride felt pretty much like a perpetual roller coaster. Overall, the route has over 6,200 feet of climb in 83 miles.

Some of the climbs on the ride were steep, but with the Rawland’s mountain gearing I felt I could climb anything. Also, having done so much climbing on the tandem, the relative lighter weight of the Rawland made me feel speedy and strong. In reality, I was not speedy, but the Rawland made me feel like I was!

My Rawland and me

The 40mm tires gave me extra confidence on the hard-packed or sometimes gravelly downhills, as did the disc brakes. The brakes are so responsive on this bike that I have to be careful to not grab them to tightly. A little bit will usually do.

I had to pay extra attention on this ride, not only because I was steering for a change, but also because the road surfaces varied in quality and the patchy shadows cast over the roads in the tree-lined areas made the road more difficult to see. The minute I stopped paying attention I would inevitably dip my tire into a pothole.

Rawland dSogn, taking a break

The Road Less Travelled was the first ride of the season where I accepted that winter will actually arrive soon. Though the day’s temperatures rose into the 50s, we began pedaling while they were in the 30s. (I know, I know, that’s nothing compared to many other parts of the country right now. It’s all relative!)

The leaves on most of the trees had fallen, and many of the bright colors of fall had given way to varying shades of brown. The route was still picturesque, but I can only imagine how much more stunning it would be if ridden earlier in the fall, or during the green of spring and summer.

Bare trees and the long shadows of late fall

Felkerino and I did not race through this ride, but we did need to keep moving in order to finish within the mandated time limits. To see more pictures of what the ride offered, check out Felkerino’s photos here, and my small set here.

Like I said, it was great fun. We launched relatively close to D.C., started in daylight, finished in daylight, challenged our legs with the ups and downs of the route, and saw lots of “new” lovely areas just beyond those familiar paved roads. This excellent day on our Rawlands left me wanting to do more dirt road rides.

Some Coffeeneuring and a Populaire

A big CONGRATULATIONS to all the people who completed the Coffeeneuring Challenge this weekend. Remember, you must e-mail me your submissions to gersemalina “at” Yes, even if I have been twitterspying on your adventures, you need to e-mail me your final submissions.

Due date to send in your coffeeneuring trips is November 2. I look forward to reading about your rides and the places you patronized.

NOTE: After you send me your coffeeneuring paperwork, I will send you a response. If you do not get a response from me, then I did not receive your submission.

Winter made a brief appearance this Saturday. I wasn’t expecting snow to be part of coffeeneuring, but it was for those who had to work in two rides this weekend. Eek! Not sure if I should say “I’m sorry about that,” or “Don’t procrastinate your coffeeneuring.” In any event, the coffeeneurs who braved inclement weather get a round of applause from me!

Felkerino and I did no riding on Saturday, but ventured out to Harwood, Maryland to ride a century with a few of our randonneur friends. Our route took us from Harwood down to Solomon’s Island and back.

Despite starting in the 30s, the day warmed up nicely, the sun kept us company, and the trees still radiated fall color. I have usually ridden in this area during the winter so seeing the trees in such a vibrant state was a nice change. It won’t be long until the leaves drop and we enter the more stark season of winter; I was glad we were able to work in a good fall ride.

Tree-canopied riding on Solomon's Shortie

Traversing the quiet Maryland roads

Our route took us by a McDonald’s, where we found this festive sign.

No Face Coverings!

Good thing it wasn’t a cold day or we would have risked not getting our McLattes! A few more pics of the ride can be found here.

Speaking of procrastinating, my partner in bicycling decided he would take up the coffeeneuring challenge, too. Felkerino decided to make his challenge extra exciting and waited until the last day of the challenge to do his final ride to coffee.

Because we rode a populaire that same day (which may not be combined with coffeeneuring), we had to do a separate coffeeneuring ride after we returned home. Who came up with these rules, anyway? Felkerino roped me into the coffeeneuring action with the promise of dinner after completing the coffeeneuring.

And so it was. With four hours to go, Felkerino completed his final ride with a double decaf espresso from Tryst. Well done, Felkerino.

Happy Halloween!

On a final note, Happy Halloween!!

South Mountain X3 Populaire – 84 miles

This past weekend, Felkerino and I ventured out with friends to ride the South Mountain X3 Populaire, which was designed by Crista Borras.  South Mountain X3 is an 84-mile ride that starts in Thurmont, Maryland, and takes you three different ways over – you’ll never guess- South Mountain.

If you’re looking for a ride that is less than a century, offers beautiful climbs, and features diverse terrain, the South Mountain X3 populaire is the ride for you.

The ride begins with over 20 miles of rolling rural roads and gentle terrain to loosen up the legs. The route passes barns, goats, llamas, and cows. That’s a lot of fauna (except for the barns). To make the start extra special, you even ride through a couple of covered bridges.

Riding through the Covered Bridge

After leaving the farms behind, the ride meanders through the cannons, statues, monuments, and terrain of the battlefields in Gettysburg National Military Park.

Paul in Gettysburg

Not long after Gettysburg, the route enters orchard country. Apple trees are everywhere. The route takes roads that make the rider think that the mighty Big Flat is coming up in the near future (OH NO!), but at the last minute the cue sheet directs you away from Big Flat and takes a pleasant meandering climb over South Mountain instead (OH YES!).

Orchard Country

The Michaux State Forest awaits on the next stretch and, upon leaving it, you get a fantastic downhill that seems to last forever, but really only takes you to lunch. Don’t worry though, another wooded South Mountain climb through Caledonia State Park starts right after lunch so I recommend you keep that in mind and don’t eat too much pizza. It also offers up a nice downhill stretch after you reach the top of it, and the next stop is a Sheetz in some small Pennsylvania town. Don’t eat too much here, either, because you might be tasting it again right after you start climbing.

Chris in Caledonia State Park

The final South Mountain ascent at mile 69 is a toughie (up Old Route 16), but nothing unbearable.  For some reason, it doesn’t seem quite as picturesque as the previous two, perhaps because the steeper incline doesn’t allow one to relax and soak in its unique beauty. However, the winding wooded section near Camp Ritchie Road is a delight. Also, after you reach the tip top of the climb, Maryland 550 rewards you for all your effort and rushes you down through more farm country to the posh McDonald’s finish in Thurmont.

Barn on 550

Gentle terrain to start, three extended climbs, three long downhills, orchards, battlefields, farm animals, and lots of quiet roads. 5,000 feet of climb in 84 miles. South Mountain X3 populaire has it all and I highly recommend it.

What to like about the RUSA P-12

Randonneurs USA (RUSA) recently introduced a new domestic award called the P-12.  To qualify for this award a person must ride a sub-200km randonneuring event for 12 consecutive months. You cannot qualify with an event that is longer than 200km. This award is modeled after the popular R-12, where riders must complete an event that is 200km or longer for 12 consecutive months.

A couple of years ago I completed an R-12 and, while I was glad to have done it, I did not feel the need to do another one. I felt pressure to complete an official 200km ride or more each month. I am not the most organized person so sometimes it was a hassle to schedule 200km+ rides if there wasn’t a club brevet that month. For the most part, this wasn’t so bad, except for the trickier months like December and January. Holidays, snowstorms, and scheduling permanents, oh my! I was also somewhat lazy about riding or driving to ride starts. I prefer riding straight out my door.

On the up-side, I had good randonneuring friends who helped me schedule a few permanents and made for excellent riding company. Thanks to them (and my great tandem partner) I completed the R-12 and bought myself the medal as everlasting proof of my accomplishment. Then I put it in my desk drawer and went back to just riding brevets and touring.

OK, now that I have established my street cred (or the street cred I had at one time) let me take you back to my story.

The P-12 award. Why a P-12? The RUSA site notes that the P-12 “is intended to encourage riding shorter events, particularly in harsh climates where longer rides might not be offered.” Initially, that made no sense to me. RUSA encouraging people to ride shorter events? Can they do that?

However, as I was out riding a 100-mile populaire with Felkerino and friends a few weeks ago, it hit me. Why not encourage shorter events? There’s a lot to like about doing a winter ride that starts in daylight and finishes in daylight. Those winter 200km permanents can be painful, especially when the sun is loathe to make an appearance.

8 a.m. Populaire Start = daylight!

I loved that Felkerino started our populaire at 8 a.m., enjoyed a leisurely coffee stop AND lunch, and rolled into the finish just after 5 in the afternoon. No need to worry about starting with throbbing hands and feet and finishing with the dark monster bearing down upon us. It felt so good! So civilized! I know we can’t do that every weekend, given that we like to do longer randonneuring events, too, but sometimes it’s nice to relax into a more moderate challenge.

During one of our decadent coffee stops, I discussed the P-12 with some of the others in our group. Turns out there are more appealing elements about the P-12 than I had even considered!

Variety in ride length. Populaires are between 100km to 199km in length (or 62 to 123 miles). There is a lot of flexibility in ride length! Have something going on in the afternoon or want to do just a “fun ride?” Arrange for a shorter populaire. Want to ride a century, but don’t feel like the extra miles for a 200km? Choose a longer populaire. Want to challenge yourself to a hilly route, but not wanting to exhaust yourself with 200km of hilly? There’s a populaire out there with your name on it!

Ease of routing. A populaire is also easier to route. Not being much of a router, I don’t know the complexities of planning and controlling 200km rides, but I have heard from a verified expert that a populaire is much easier to route than a permanent. This has inspired me so much that I am considering figuring out a route for a populaire that begins close to my house. Perhaps the P-12 will encourage randonneurs to try their hand at routing as well! What better place to start than a populaire?

No award or medal. If a rider successfully completes a P-12, there is no award or medal to purchase. That’s right. No hardware. I like that. No need to save up those pennies for a P-12 medal, just the pure pleasure of 12 consecutive populaires!

Time out for a photo on the Populaire

You see? There’s a lot to like about the P-12. I may not do one this year, but I would like to do more populaires and perhaps make it a goal for 2012. What about you? Any P-12 plans in your future?

Raceyatarocco’s Populaire


Joel and Chuck

Originally uploaded by Gersemalina

What an awesome day in the Mid-Atlantic! Felkerino and I decided to take full advantage by riding a 102.8-mile populaire out of Frederick, Maryland. Our ride was an out-and-back course that took us on fairly gentle terrain through Frederick County and into Adams County, Pennsylvania. That means no mountains, ok? We’ll save those for another day!

Our ride was full of sun and temperatures that started in the mid-30s and rose into the mid-40s. Heaven! The warm conditions helped me revel in the beauty of the snow-covered landscape. It’s hard for me to appreciate snow when I’m freezing.

In addition, we coordinated our populaire with a small group doing a 200K Permanent that passed through the same area. Felkerino and I truly enjoyed the company. We’ve been doing a lot of solo riding this winter and it was nice to have riding buddies for part of the day.

Want to see what the ride was like? You know what to do… click on the picture!

A good weekend ride makes Monday at the office SO much better! Hope you were able to enjoy the day, too.