Instead of riding brevets and doing a 1000K or a 1200K this year, Felkerino and I focused on a weeklong Colorado bike tour, which included two days of riding around Boulder and a seven-day loop rich with hills and mountains. (Felkerino is writing a post of our routes and the gear we took over at The Daily Randonneur, so please stand by for that!)
As we were climbing Loveland Pass, Felkerino asked, “Do you think this tour will change you as a rider?”
After giving it some thought I responded that I did not view our tour this way. Rather, our riding in Colorado highlighted how we have changed both as riders and as a team.
Felkerino and I rode our first tour together in 2005, an eight-day jaunt from Rockville, Maryland, to Niagara Falls. Over the course of our trip, we averaged 97 miles a day. We carried four Ortlieb panniers on our old Cannondale tandem, and we toured on 700×28 mm tires. While perhaps not known for its mountains, that tour took us through the gnarly territory of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Finger Lakes area around New York.
What I’m telling you is this. On that first tour in 2005, we:
- rode more miles than our dispositions could keep up with;
- carried too much crap; and
- chose tires that were what we would now consider way too narrow.
Over the years, we have honed our system. For this tour, we completed 597 miles in seven days, an average daily mileage of 85. That seemed to be about perfect. We did not have to get up insanely early, and we could pause to take photos and stop to check out little towns along the way.
We ditched the four panniers, opting for a Carradice Camper on the rear of the bike and an Acorn Mini-Rando bag on the front. In order to glide over gravel sections and any rough pavement, we used Clement 700×35 “Adventure Tires.”
The changes I saw and felt on this tour were not just about gear choices and daily distances, though. I also observed increases in Felkerino’s and my mental and physical strength over years of riding together.
Until this year, a tour like this would have been unfathomable and I cannot imagine loving it the way that I did.
Randonneuring, because of its contrast to pure touring, is excellent bike tour prep. It makes 100 miles seem normal– on the short side, even. The brevets over the past years helped me understand and appreciate what it is to be completely in the here and now, as opposed to feeling the need to keep pushing ahead to the next control or the overnight. I hardly ever feel like I’m exactly in the place I’m supposed to be and yet, I existed in that state for seven straight days.
Ironically, we still began our tour with the Trail Ridge 200 RUSA Permanent and not a true tour day. We spent the day on the clock collecting signatures as we went, but it was alright and actually helped instill some good discipline into that as well as future days.
It also made every day that followed a little easier since Trail Ridge Road set the bar for our long steady climbs. It was the most difficult pass of our tour, due to its elevation, the time we spent scooting along the ridge, as well as the traffic we encountered going up.
In the past, if we had started out touring with a 134-mile day that included going up Trail Ridge Road, I would have been sluggish for the coming days as a result of the big effort. Instead, my body was well-conditioned and totally up to the task (except for the being afraid of falling over the mountain part). AND I thought if we could get up Trail Ridge Road, we could climb anything.
Our route invigorated me, and I awoke each day eager to see where the day’s ride would take us. Every day’s terrain was different. The day between Kremmling and Glenwood Springs was unshaded arid beauty throughout. McClure was a gentle up in between stunning rock formations. Kebler Pass shaded us with its plentiful aspen trees. The gentle switchbacks on the quiet road leading us over Cottonwood Pass took us up to incredible views. Yes, we tired along the way, but never did I wonder how I would make it through the day.
Felkerino showed how he has developed with routing, and we also received the expert and generous assistance of Colorado randonneurs John Lee Ellis and Tim Foon Feldman, who helped us create a perfect summer bike tour. We could not have kept going at the pace we were, but for seven days, it was bliss.
“Do you think this tour will change you as a rider?” Of course, every tour changes me in some way, but really, this tour showed me how much change we have already been through.