Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Revised 2009 Brevet Schedule

April Fools Day is tomorrow, but this ash isn't a joke. 

Due to the persistent, residual ash on the brevet courses, and the related health concerns, this season's brevet schedule has been revised.

Since last Thursday, I’ve received numerous e-mails from riders voicing their concerns about volcanic ash on the roads. Initially it was difficult finding a definitive answer regarding ash exposure, as most of the advice from local and federal agencies only addresses exposure typical to a residential cleanup scenario, not an all-day athletic event. However, after discussing the situation with several physicians, other cyclists, state health officials, RUSA officials, as well as hearing from an occupational medicine physician, I believe it's prudent to let this stuff settle down for a month.

Notwithstanding another volcanic eruption, there are two areas of concern specific to ash exposure to cyclists. First, is increased lung ventilation during prolonged vigorous exercise; in our case for periods exceeding eight hours for a 200K ride. Second, is the risk to the eyes. One of the official recommendations was for all riders to wear goggles. I can’t imagine riding 200K while wearing an N95 facemask and goggles.

While the real-time air quality readings, according to state officials, in the areas of our rides are currently not showing any immediate problematic levels, state officials confirmed that they are not taking into account the ash and dust that street-level, long-distance cyclists are exposed to by 1) stirring the ash up themselves when riding on the sides of the roads where ash accumulates with gravel, dust and other debris, 2) cars and trucks passing cyclists and kicking up clouds of ash dust that riders ride directly into, or 3) simply by winds on the course.

The good news is that we still have a big variety of new rides available. I haven't canceled any rides from the schedule. I've just moved them around and pushed them together, trying to be as accommodating as possible while minimizing conflicts with other events on the calendar.

Please see the new, revised, ash-free ride schedule HERE.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Take the Bike Show Survey

Your bike is in tip-top condition, and you're not in such bad shape yourself for the beginning of the season. Yet, with no brevet this weekend you find yourself knocking around the house, checking hourly for volcano updates on the innernet, in need of some direction. Well, I have the solution! I urge you to spend some time listening to The Bike Show podcast. Download a few shows, or all of them, as they're available in the archives. They're great to listen to, especially while on the trainer.

I have a few favorite cycling-related podcasts, and Jack Thurston's, The Bike Show, is bar none the best cycling-culture focused podcast going. Jack covers a broad range of cycling topics including on-the-bike rolling interviews, PBP, the Giro, Belgium pavé, the summer solstice Rolling-to-the-Stones ride, as well as a tour from England to France linking 12 bakeries en route! Oh la la!!

And while it might be a push for brevet-riding Alaskans to relate to the London fixie scene or a tour of London's lidos, Jack imbues his show with a real continental flavor, and an inspiring excitement about being on the bike that is easy to appreciate. And his music selection is terrific.

Jack's show is like no other, and is refreshingly different from the racing-centric podcasts dominating the internet. Be sure to sample a few as some shows are better than others. It'd be a shame if you passed judgement too early and missed some of the really good ones.

And after you're hooked...take the Bike Show survey.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Homer 200K Date Change Due to Volcanic Eruption

It's funny that some people still think it's winter here in Alaska. Not the hardy riders chomping at the bit to christen the inaugural End-of-the-Road 200K brevet in Homer though. Sure, at this time of year, and at this latitude, we Alaskans expect a bit of snow, ice, wind, cold, etc.; key ingredients for character building. (Lord knows, we need some character.) And while we knew Redoubt has been grumbling for some time now, frankly I didn't think it would come to this. Remember my post about "Randonneurs for Global Warming?" I really didn't mean it! Honest!!

Well, thank goodness there's a free weekend before the Kenai Peninsula 200K.

It's official, folks. The End-of-the-Road 200K will now be on 4/4/09. Granted, molten lava isn't flowing down Northernlights Blvd. quite yet. But, there's just too much ash in the air between Anchorage and Homer to put this ride on. I've been receiving a steady stream e-mails and photos from the Homer contingent describing and showing every speck of ash hitting the ground there. Those guys are on top of it! They've been on the beat letting me know the volcano's every burp as they're shoveling themselves out. I have photos from the Spit to the hills, and all stops in between. Rumor has it that if the ashfall lightens up enough to see though, they're going to hold their own version of the Homer 200K: 35 consecutive laps between Two Sisters and the Salty Dawg. I'm hoping that after the second beer at the Dawg, they get some sense and stop early. That ash can be really destructive to bike chains and cassettes.

So, go hit the trainer. Go tweak your steed a bit more. You just gained an extra week. Maybe it's a sign...

Hey, by-the-way, it was really great to see a bunch of you at BP's Cycling Fair today. There was a great turn out of Anchorage's broad spectrum of cycling interests accounted for. Huge thanks go to John Ingold for setting the whole thing up, and inviting the Alaska Randonneurs. I hope they do it again next year!

Monday, March 23, 2009

AK Rando Rides to the End-of-the-Road

We're droppin' anchor in Homer next weekend folks, merely one week after SIR's 200K opener. I just can't resist those soft ocean breezes down there this time of year, when we're still surrounded by snow here in Anchorage.

Our intrepid Homer-based randonneurs pre-rode most of the 200K course last weekend and report that, "It's all doable, even without studs." How's that for optimism? Pat, Joe, and Derek all went beyond the call of duty to keep me abreast of the course conditions, and they did an excellent job, with photos and all! I'm really grateful for their support. Its stuff like that that makes randonneuring work up here.

So, expect some ice on some of the road shoulders (it's still March in Alaska), but for the most part, nothing you can't ride around.

Looming large, though, isn't the question of "To stud, or not to stud?" (By-the-way, I recommend you wear 'em if you got 'em!) Rather, it's Mt. Redoubt. Currently the winds are favorable, blowing ash to the north and leaving Homer ash free. We're keeping a close eye on the situation, and will let you know if anything changes.

Before you show up to the start of the inaugural End-of-the-Road 200K brevet, next Saturday, at Two Sisters in Homer, be sure to review the ride details, the rider expectations, and the regulations. It's important stuff, and you've got to know it if you're going to ride any of the brevets.

Also, this is a great ride to test bags, lights, food, gear, etc. out on before you get on those longer rides. Take advantage of it.

Shoot me an e-mail if you have any questions.

See you at the beach!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Speed Linking in the Echo Chamber

Just a few noteworthy items...

Check out the fantastic "compendium of advice for new (and experienced) randonneurs collected from the DC Randonneurs listserv."

If you're planning on riding the full brevet series this year, you might want to acknowledge that achievement w/ the new RUSA Super Randonneur jersey. Personally, I liked #4. BTW, this jersey is only offered this year.

BikePortland.org has been following the LAB National Bike Summit 2009. There's some important stuff going on there. Especially Rep. Oberstar's speech on "Seeking a National Legal Standard to Ensure Traffic Justice."

The first ever Alaska Randonneurs ride schedule poster/flier is available for downloading. It's a great piece of work done by one of our local riders. Print it out in all its full-color glory, post it conspicuously, and e-mail it to all of your friends.

Check the conditions down at the Cosmic Hamlet By The Sea.

I drove back from a few days of skiing in Girdwood on Tuesday. The highway is ridable all the way to the Rabbit Creek exit. It's sloppy and cold, but ridable. Fenders and mudflaps are highly advisable.

The local forums are talking about the awesome Iditarod Invitational, the upcoming ABC bike swap, and the BP Cycling Fair. Alaska Randonneurs will have a table there.

Over on the Rando forum, there's been an interesting discussion regarding a possible increase in "local" 1,200K RM randonnees in 2011 (PBP) in response to the current global economic downturn. Does Alaska need it's own 1200?

Are you planning on riding PBP in 2011? Now is probably a good time to start talking about it, and how we can best run the Alaska Brevet Series in preparation for PBP.

And finally, Pat Irwin was gracious enough to post photos of his Homer brevet pre-ride when he was checking out the conditions (I'M KIDDING!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Alaska Randonneurs Forum Group

I just created a new forum group as a place to discuss and ask questions about the Alaska Randonneurs brevets. I probably should've done it sooner, but I'm just starting to get this website stuff figured out.

So, if you're new to randonneuring, or simply are looking to carpool to Homer, Kenai, or Gakona for one of the rides, check it out HERE.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Randonneurs for Global Warming!

Homer begins our bicycle Odyssey. You won't have ten years to complete this one though, and you have to use a bike, rather than a boat. RUSA regulations give you an ample 13.5 hours.  It’s early in the season, but as my friend Bob says, “Any reasonably fit cyclist can ride 200KM in a day. The recovery the following day might be tough, but it’s certainly do-able.”…and worth it, I might add.

As far as global warming...all I want is just enough to insure the roads will be clear for riding the inaugural "End-of-the-Road" brevet.

You won’t want to miss this ride. Homer is Southcentral Alaska’s banana belt, so I’m counting on the temperatures to be about ten whole degrees warmer than Anchorage. I’m also counting on the weather to cooperate enough to keep the roads clear. However, the 7 inches of snow we got here in Anchorage yesterday was quite a reality check. We're still locked in winter, but the grip is loosening fast. Keep the faith, folks! We’ve got nearly four weeks for it to melt. That’s plenty of time.

Get a preview of the route HERE. It's going to be a beautiful ride, with sweeping views of Kachemak Bay. For those riders into geographic superlatives, this ride will not only hit the “End of the Road”, but it will also reach the western most point accessible via the continuous North American road system.

As March 28th approaches, preparations for the Homer ride are solidifying. So make sure your RUSA membership is current. 

Two Sisters Bakery is on board to ‘host’ the start. I got an e-mail from them the other day assuring me that there will be enough biscuits and assorted victuals on hand so riders are well fed and caffeinated before Le Grand Départ. I’m still waiting to hear specifics about parking there at the bakery. Please check back here at the AK Rando blog for updates regarding parking. We don't want to jeopardize their hospitality by taking up spaces in their entire lot for the whole day.

I’m also working on some nice accommodations for non-Homer riders so you can be well rested before the ride, and for the long drive home. I’ll post an update to that here too.