Mittwoch, 30. Mai 2007

I failed

Yes, I failed on this 600km brevet. I gave up after a good 100km. It was mostly due to weather conditions, but not only.
The first 75 km went fine, I rode with a group of 6-8 other cyclists and passed the first hills. It was fun to go downhill in the dark on unkown roads with speeds of about 50km/h. After 2 1/2 hours I decided to take a short food break, so I splitted from the group. After eating I heard the first thunder coming closer. There was lightning on the horizon for over an hour already, but it was unclear when I would hit the storm. Well, it was quite short after the break. Just a few km after the food break I had to stop again and put on my rain clothes. Briefly after that the real rain started. On the next village I stopped and thought about waiting to pass by the rain, but decided to go on. Just on the road the weather became really worse. The rain was more than heavy and the thunderstorm was impressive. On a crossroad I stopped and sheltered under a porch for half an hour. When I thought the weather would be better I started again, but then up on the hill, the weather was not better and it was not too comfortable. The last few km took a long time with all those breaks and delays. Reaching Oerlinghausen I took a longer break and waited until the weather became better. I don't know how long exactly I waited, but it was quite some time. And I thought a lot about the risk of cycling during lightning: I guess the risk is not too high, but the next day when I read that three ppl died in eastern Germany that particular saturday, hit by lightning, I thought my decision to wait for the lighning to pass by was good.
When the weather finally became better I started off again, but lost track and drove in a wrong direction for a couple of km. I went back to Oerlinghausen and searched for the right way, I nearly found it (in fact I was still on a slightly wrong route, but with the right destination) and went on to Verl. When I reached Verl it was late already and I thought of giving up. Opportunity was good, I was close to home and giving up now would bring me in bed soon. If going on I had to increase speed, because I had fallen back in time down to an average speed of only 14 km/h already (my average riding speed was still quite good with something a abit more than 25 km/h, but all those delays and the wrong way took their time). While I knew it would not be too difficult to reach the next checkpoint in time, I also calculated that I hadn't too much spare time to do a longer recreational break in the late morning which I guess was needed, because after the morning the more hilly part of the ride would have begun.
Also the latest weather forecast (got it by phone) was not too optimistic for the next day, lot of rain and not too high temperatues.
All in all I decided to break off and try again in some weeks.
The next attempt will be end of June in Hamburg.
I guess it was okay to give up, but on the other hand it would have been great to finish against all these odds. Well, next time...

Mittwoch, 23. Mai 2007

Three days until the 600 km ride

The 600 km brevet is soon. I bought some new grips for my bike, but went for the Ergon GR2L instead of the GX1. Those have some small integrated magnesium endbars which allows to change hand position. With 40 EUR they were reasonable priced.
Furthermore I got some new bike gloves from Roeckl with some special foam. Thus I am quite optimistic to not suffer again on numb hands.

What worries me a bit is the weatherforecast. For saturday evening heavy rain is scheduled. I hope it will turn out to be a wrong forecast.

The other thing I wanted to test and improve since the last brevet is eating. Now I have some isotonic drink powder instead of lemon tea. Also I got some high caloric drinks, originally intended for cancer patients and elderly people, but also good for endurance sports: 200ml contain 300 kcal. i tested one of them last weekend on a small 60km ride, that drink is quite sweet, but easy to swallow. I think the drinks will help to aviod a low energy situation like during the 400 km brevet.

Also I bought a new blue short arm trikot, wa a real bargain: reduced from 45 EUR to 16 EUR!

Mittwoch, 9. Mai 2007

Something about my Equipment

This is about my bike equipment. Most ppl going those ultradistances have a very custom bike. Most bikes are based on racing bikes, but with cahnges. One of the most important changes to generic race bikes is thhat these bikes are equiped for the night: They have light. De facto standard is "Schmidt Oririnal Nabendynamo" (SON). A fine hub dynamo, but it has its price - about 150 EUR. That is over my budget. I try to do the brevets with my budget bike.

It is a speed bike by Bergamont: Bergamont Beluga Speed.
I changed some things to use it daily. I added:
- light weight alu cariers
- fenders by SKG
- a stand
- Cateye Opticube EL300G (front light)
- Sigma Sport Cuberider II (back light)
- Sigma Sport BC 500 cycle computer
- a Trelock BS400 lock (but this is not taken with me while on brevet ;-))

While I prefer for daily usage a genric metal basket for luggage transport I use two rather small bike carrier bags by Agua when abroad. I used one of them for the brevets to take my stuff with me.

Just before the first 200km brevet exchanged the original saddle (Tattoo TT Kevlar) to one by Specialized (Avatar) and replaced the brake shoes (now Shimano Deore BR-M530). The rest of the bike remained unchanged. My clothing was rather normal - I even wore jeans.

For the 300 km ride I improved my clothes. Wore generic biker short trousers with additional leg warmers. Also I bought some long finger bike gloves by Roeckl. While the jeans were okay for the 200km this was definitely better.

After the 300km brevet I changed some compounds on my bike. The tyres were exchanged. The original Schwalbe Speed Cruiser tyres were removed and some Schwalbe Marathon Racer (700x30C) were put on. They are fast, lightweight and robust. Also the pedals were changed to click pedals by Exustar (E-PM82-S). One side of the pedal holds a Shimano SPD compatibe click in system, the other side of a bear pow profile for generic shoes. Of course I also bought some Shimano shoes (M70T3) for the pedals.
Regarding my equipment the 400km distance went fine, I only had some trouble with my right hand, which felt a bit numb after the ride. Now I am thinking of changing the grips. My interest is on a pair of Ergon GX1 grips. But - holy cow - those grips are 36 EUR. Anyway, will test them.
I would like to add a triathlon handlebar extension, but I guess the PBP rules do not allow them (for security reasons). But for the 600km distance such should be allowed. I am thinking about it...
The bike computer is rather low end (to say the least), but I don't know if it's worth to upgrade. I still think speed, distance, ride time and clock is enough informatation.
All in all I guess there is not too much to exchange, maybe a better gear change or a carbon fork (I like those designed by Specialized with the anti vibration mechanism), but I guess it is okay as it is now.
Also I think time is up to exchange the chain and cassette (but this is no upgrade, but just a wearout replacement).
All in all that bike costed me yet a bit below 1000 EUR and I think this now tweaked bike is quite good for the brevets and still very good for my everyday cycling (to work and such things, no car here). While no doubt most of the other bikes around at the brevets have the better material I think I got most for my tight budget. I think if I had more money I would buy a dedicated bike for the brevets. But with my little salary as doctoral student I have to mind about budgets and decided to have only one bike for everything (daily use and brevets). It does the job and I like it.

Should upload some photos...

Mittwoch, 2. Mai 2007

400 km done

The 4oo km are done now, too. But with some issues. The biggest was eating and keeping the energy level. The first 100 km went quite fine, but then the energy was gone already. My eating schedule for the day before was absolutely not sufficient (had no pasta or so, just some pan potatoes). Also I waited too long to eat something during the ride.

When hunger was strong then I took a lunch at Burger King. I knew that this might be stupid, but I had to test it. I didn't knew how stupid it was. After eating I really felt bad and this feeling lasted for a couple of hours.

On early evening I felt better, but then I lost track of the way and it took me some km and time to get back on track. With my delay I had problems at the controls which took me additional time.

And then the night came and it became really cold, I expected it to become cold, but I was surprised how cold it became. I decided to take a break for a short hour and slept from 3:00 to 4:00 in some bus waiting stand. It was cold, but all in all not too bad. Cycling the night was quite brilliant, the way was crossing deep forrests and lonesome landscapes, the moon was shining bright - lovely

The last hours I enjoyed the early morning and the rising sun and I was glad to reach the finish after 24 hours and 50 mins and 429km (riding time was 19 hours and 30 mins). After the ride I enjoyed a breakfast and slept an hour and then went back to Bielefeld.

In the end still respectable, but I was expecting a total time of a good 20 hours and a cycling time of 16-18 hours.

End of May I'll try the 600km...