Monday 27 June 2011

Maglia Rosa: My Latest Book Review

I am presently in Austria for two weeks of cycling and hope to ride the legendary Grossglockner High Alpine Road while I am here. On May 20 the racers of the Giro d'Italia cycled this, so it is only fitting that my most recent book review at is about a wonderful history of the race, "Maglia Rosa: Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d’Italia," by Herbie Skyes. You can read the review here.

Friday 17 June 2011

Rapha Rides the Victorian Alps

The people at Rapha do some interesting things to promote their clothing, and often feature rides on their website that you might like to do. Here is a little video which includes an interview with an Australian cycling historian, along with a ride in the Victorian Alps, which don't look very Alps-like to me but in a 250 km ride the cyclists climbed 5,000 m, so it is pretty serious since it is double what I did over a slightly shorter distance on Sunday.

Rapha's webpage, along with this video, also has a feature on a 1,000 mile bike race in Australia in 1934 that sounded pretty cruel.

Rapha Rides the Victorian Alps from RAPHA on Vimeo.

Monday 13 June 2011

The Infamous “Pommes” Ride: Bonn-Eupen-Bonn

It seemed like a good idea when my friend Nick suggested that we sign up for the “By Bike Tour” early this year. It was a route that would take us from Bonn through the Eifel Mountains to the German-speaking enclave of Belgium, with the town of Eupen being the turnaround point. At this point we had planned to be in better condition but the usual excuses applied and I do not really have the required miles in my legs and too many kilos around my middle, so I was a bit apprehensive. On the other hand, having done the 200 km Mountains of Misery in Virginia, I thought that I would be fine going an extra 25 kms, and probably with less climbing. In a moment of weakness, my American friends Tom and Tim also signed on so at least this misery would be shared.

The ride began in 2005 when three amateur cyclists, riding near Bonn, were chatting about the best french fries in the area. One of them remarked that Belgian was famous for its frites so they should go there if they wanted some. Incidentally, the German term for french fries is “pommes frites,” the same as in French, but it is often shortened to “pommes,” as I heard in Berlin, or “fritten” in the Rheinland, reflecting the proximity to the Netherlands/Belgium. The challenge was accepted and they rode off to Eupen, 112 km away over the mountains. The story goes that on the return ride the french fries were heavy on their stomaches, but a tradition was set and the ride has grown each year, with 400 starters last year. This year the ride was limited to 600. The only ride offered is the full distance, and there are only three food stops on the way. This promised to be epic.

I was up at 4:45 yesterday morning and Tom picked me up in the Official Team Car at 5:30. His GPS wasn’t working but he was able to find my place anyway but once the GPS came back to life we discovered we had missed the turnoff for Tim’s house. No matter as we were early enough.

Getting to Bad Godesberg, a suburb of Bonn, we easily found the sports field and picked up our starting kits. Besides our numbers and a ride route map, we got two water bottles (adding yet more to my already-massive collection), various energy drink powders and gel tablets and not much else. Although I knew it beforehand, it was a bit disappointing to think that we would go to all this effort and not get a medal or certificate but the ride’s the thing.

Unfortunately Nick could not join us at the last minute for family reasons, so at 8:00 we all lined up at the start, a shot was fired and off we went as a big group. There were police cars and motorcycles to block traffic to get us out of town, which was very nice. The pace was reasonable, although a little on the brisk side considering what was coming, and we stayed comfortably near the back as we made our way through the green countryside. The weather was good, with no sign of rain, and cool enough for arm-warmers. I was a bit worried about the wind, which we had really suffered under during the Euskirchen RTF two weeks ago.

En route through little villages in the Eifel (photo by Tom)

Eventually the escort vehicles left and as we came to stoplights we soon found ourselves in a little group. The group did not work very well as Germans are not very good at pacelines, in my experience. I was at the front for a while and when I moved left to let the next rider pull through, nothing happened. It was apparent that they were content to sit on for the rest of the day. Of course, this meant that we would be going slower and using up more energy.

Me, still looking pretty happy at this point (photo by Tom)

At around Km 70 we came to the rather modest food stop, which offered water, energy drink, bananas and some cookies. It turned out that we were among the last to come through, even though we had been averaging over 30 km/h, headwinds and all, to get here. The group ahead of us seems to have stayed intact and the food stop people said when they came all hell broke loose since there were around 200 cyclists. After we left the food stop, we were down to just the three of us and for the rest of the day did not see more than 4-5 other cyclists on our ride.

The climbing came pretty regular now but the scenery was really beautiful as we passed through the small towns and we did have more than a few excellent descents, including one that took us across the very-confusingly named Rur River (no, not the Ruhr and not the Ruwer). We crossed the former border into Belgium near Roetgen and were astonished at the terrible quality of the Belgian roads but at least there was not much traffic. After the town of Raeten we came to the larger town of Eupen, where the route brought us over a nasty 15% grade right in the centre of the place. A number of Belgian riders had started in Eupen, doing Eupen-Bonn-Eupen, and we rolled under their starting arch to a rather sad and picked-over food stop. I loaded up on my own gel and energy bars while Tom and Tim ate the offered sandwiches, which appeared to feature cold schnitzel from a big plastic bag marked “Schwein.”

Only 116 kms left to go! We knew that the road back along a different route would begin with a serious climb but the road out of Eupen was truly terrible. It was a tank road, made from concrete slabs, so there was the constant thump-thump-thump as you hit the expansion joints. In addition, it was in dreadful condition, with massive holes everywhere, plus heavy traffic to boot. It climbed and climbed with no turns at all. We were not reassured by the sign indicating that the road would be in poor condition for the next 11 kms!

This nightmare eventually ended as we approached Germany again, crossing the location of the former defensive Siegfried Line, and getting onto some blessedly smooth asphalt. We were riding through a huge park, the Parc Natural des Hautes Fagnes and soon another one, the Nationalpark Eifel. There was a great deal more of climbing and descending, and around Km 130, after a glorious descent, we turned a corner under a bridge to be confronted by a horrific 20% grade. I had to get off the bike to shift to the proper gear and as I made my way slowly up (and I do mean slowly), a van, its gears grinding away, pulled up alongside. It was the Broom Wagon and they wanted to know if I wanted to quit and get in. I shook my head and concentrated on getting to the top of the ridiculous hill and the van had pulled over and the rear doors were open. I was surprised by how many people had quit already but I told the driver I was continuing. Even though I had had cramps twice on the climbs already and was feeling tired, and another 90 kms was a long way to go, there was no way I was getting a ride back on the van, particularly since I was doing this ride partially to celebrate my birthday. I was already breaking the ride down into 40 km stages in my mind and I told Tom and Tim that as long as we had daylight I would get to the finish.

In Schleiden I momentarily lost the others, who had gone off to a gas station for some addition refreshment, but this was just as well as I had the chance to focus on the big hill out of town. I cramped badly about one-quarter of the way up, but stopped and drank and massaged the muscle in my leg and then I could continue. The others soon caught up and eventually we came to the final food stop on the way, at Km 170.

There was a big group of people manning the stand and they applauded when we rode in. We refilled bottles and ate more bananas and worked out the kinks a bit. They told us that the finishing line would be taken down at 6 pm, which surprised us as the website, Tom thought, said it would be open until 8 pm. It was 5 pm now, so there was no way that we would do 50 kms of climbing and descending in that time, but all we wanted to do was finish.

There were some nasty hills and some roads with very heavy traffic to negotiate as we approached Bonn. I fell back a bit and tried to keep a steady pace going but then my GPS battery, which is good for 10 hours, gave out and I missed a sign on the otherwise very well-marked route. The result was that I got slightly lost but just headed for Bad Godesberg, which is not all that large. I had some problem finding the sports field but managed to get the GPS awake for a moment to get the general direction. Shortly after 7 pm I rolled under the start/finish arch, which was mainly gone, and easily found Tom and Tim since there were hardly any cars left in the lot.

Tom crosses the finish line (photo by Tim)

By the time we packed up, and then stopped at Tim’s for a celebratory beer, and Tom dropped me off, it was 10 pm. After a hot and welcome shower, I had a cup of soup and a sandwich and collapsed into bed. My back was stiff and my legs hurt but I felt a sense of accomplishment at being one of the 278 people who finished the ride of the 301 who started, even if nobody official noticed it.

The GPS conked out at 215 kms but the ride was close to 230 kms by the time I added in my detour. We had managed a creditable 23 km/h for the distance, which included around 2,500 m of climbing. But my planned recover ride today was just the 400 m to my favourite café, where I enjoyed a late breakfast and a nice slice of rhubarb streusel cake to celebrate my birthday a day late. But no french fries...

Saturday 11 June 2011

A Herd of Tin Donkeys: 1982 Colnago Super “Saronni”

The Colnago Super, with a classic Del Tongo team jersey

My collection of bicycles has grown considerably since I arrived in Germany last year as I have added a number of interesting steel bikes to the fleet. High on my list of Bikes I Must Have has always been a Colnago, and in particular, a Saronni Red Mexico or Super.

Giuseppe Saronni and Ernesto Colnago in 1983

Ernesto Colnago is one of the Grand Old Men of the racing bicycle industry, having worked as a mechanic for Eddy Merckx and his famous Molteni team. Colnago established his company in 1954 in Cambiago, Italy (near Milan) but it was through Merckx and in particular his One Hour Record bicycle of 1972 that Colnago became famous. Although almost all Colnago bicycles today are built in the Far East, the company continues to be led by the founder and still seeks to innovate. Although some consider Colnago’s reputation overblown, to many the bikes remain representative of the highest standard in racing cycling.

Working with lightweight Columbus SL steel tubing, Colnago developed an iconic range of high-end racing bicycles in the 1970s and 1980s, the Mexico and very similar Super models, which were followed by the long-lived Master and Master Light steel bicycles. Colnago retains a steel bike in its lineup even today as a nod to its glorious past. And part of that glory and the legend of Colnago came through the exploits of racer Giuseppe Saronni.

Born in Piedmont, “Beppe” Saronni became a pro in 1977 and in a twelve year career was to win 193 races, including 24 stages of the Giro d’Italia. He won the Giro overall in 1979 and again in 1983, and included in his palmares are the Tour de Suisse, Milan-San Remo, the Giro di Lombardia and La Fleche Wallone. In 1982 he won the road World Championship in Goodwood, England, with an astonishing sprint that earned him the nickname of “the Goodwood Rifle-shot.” Protected perfectly during the race by the powerful Italian team, watch Saronni blast off in the last 200 meters of the race (at 0:58):

At Goodwood and the Giro and a lot of other races, Beppe Saronni rode a Colnago in a very distinctive wine-red paint scheme. This beautiful colour became known as “Saronni Red” and you can still get it on the current steel frame from Colnago. These are very expensive and are designed to be used with current groupsets but I had hoped to find an older bicycle in good condition, or at least a Saronni Red frame that I could build up with period components.

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be the winning bidder of a Colnago in what looked like good condition but part of the bargain was that the bike had to be picked up. Getting up early, I took a three hour train ride to Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, a picturesque little town in the wine region of Rheinland-Pfalz. I met the seller and we had a coffee in the charming old part of town before I took possession of the bike. I had planned to ride for a few hours before my train back but the seller was concerned about the condition of the tires, which he thought were original. I suspected that this was possible since everything else looked period except the seat. I decided to make my ride a short one and planned to leave on an earlier train.

I rode out of Neustadt, fully aware that if I had a flat tire there was no way for me to fix a tubular and I would be doing some walking, so I trained to ride a course parallel to the railway. The bike was in very good condition: the paint was still very shiny and the metal components unmarked for the most part. The decals were also quite good, which was surprising on a 30 year old bicycle finished without a protective clearcoat.

One of Saronni's own Colnagos, this one being at the museum at the Madonna del Ghisallo

I passed through vineyards and some small villages but my enjoyment of the ride was suddenly cut short as the seatpost let go and dropped into the frame. I had brought some tools with me but I was unable to tighten the seatpost binder bolt so I just rode to the nearest railway station that would bring me to the main line in Mannheim. I had lunch in Mannheim while waiting for my train. It was a busy weekend for travel and I was unable to get any reservation earlier than the one I had originally planned but at least I had some good food while waiting.

Subsequent to my return to Düsseldorf, I did some research on the bike. The seller had thought it was a 1981 Mexico but from the Campagnolo Super Record parts it dates to 1982, the same year Saronni won at Goodwood. The bicycle is in fact a 1982 Super, which is characterized by round tubes in the triangle, cables going under the bottom bracket, crimped chainstays, a spool-shaped chainstay bridge and "Colnago" lettering on the chainstays.

Here is a useful website to figure out what kind of Colnago you have.

The rubber brake hoods were shot and I have replaced them with correct Campagnolo replica hoods and I have changed the nasty plastic bar tape for some lovely Colnago-branded white cork tape. The brake cables were replaced. The strangely long 135 mm 3TTT black stem has been replaced by a pantographed Ernesto Colnago black stem, also by 3TTT and at a slightly shorter 130 mm. These stems are rather difficult to find but I wanted the bike to look as close as possible to the factory standard. Pedal cages and straps have been added and the modern gel saddle replaced with a NOS 1981 Selle San Marco Regal saddle, with copper rivets. This is the same saddle as on my Raleigh Team Professional and is very comfortable as well as beautiful.

Richard, my Mechanic par excellence, changed the stem for me as I could not figure out how 3TTT’s secret adjustment screw worked and he also corrected the more serious problem of the ovalization of the seat tube. He has worked his magic on the seatpost so even if the bolt, which now fits, fails, the seatpost will not drop down into the tube again. In his view, old Colnagos are among the best bicycles built as Ernesto’s primary concern was fit. I can certainly bear this out as the bicycle is very responsive and rides very smoothly. The only changes left are to rebuild the front wheel using the Mavic GP4 rim but with a Campagnolo Super Record hub (for some reason the front wheel has a Shimano hub) and I have the new hub already. I have a new set of decals, which I may wait a few years to use, and a pair of new Continental tubulars, although the present Vittorias seem to hold air well enough.

When I restored the Raleigh Team Pro, I found an old test report in Bicycling magazine, which compared the bike to its competitor, the Colnaglo Super. Now that I have examples of both brands I can conduct my own test. Much like Jan Raas and Freddy Maertens did at the 1982 Amstel Gold Race!

Amstel Gold, 1982: Jan Raas on a Raleigh Team Pro and then-World Champion Freddy Maertens on a Colnago Super (in Saronni Red!)

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Cycling and New Friends

Tom, Tim, Rudiger (l to r)

Rudiger's Wild Ruhr Ride, May 14, 2011

One of the greatest pleasures I have derived from cycling is finding new friends to ride with, sometimes in quite unexpected ways. I have ridden with Chill in Switzerland and the Duck in North Carolina after becoming acquainted with them through their blogs; Mario first rode with me on an organized tour in Sicily; I met Nick through Facebook; the Badger checked into a room next to mine in at a dreadful EconoLodge the day before Mountains of Misery in 2003; Ricci’s bike shop is nearby but we share a common interest in classic lightweight bikes; and most recently I have ridden with some Awesome Ausländern (“Foreigners”), Tom and Tim, along with their local roadie pal Rudiger, as a result of Tom’s having read this blog and realized I lived close by.

After exchanging some e-mails, Tom invited me to join him and his friends on a ride from Ratingen, around 8 kms from my apartment, and I did so on May 4. It was easy to get there even if the roads were pretty major but as it was early in the morning they were also traffic-free. I was a bit puzzled about dealing with all the streetcar tracks in Ratingen but managed to find my way without too much trouble to the small bakery where I saw three racing bikes and their riders. Tom introduced me to everyone and we set off at a good clip to the northwest, heading towards Heilinghaus and constantly climbing, it seemed.

The course we did was through a lot of small back roads as Rudiger enthusiastically drew us deeper and deeper into darkest NRW. Anyone who thinks it is flat around Düsseldorf need only spend a few hours in this area to learn that there are hills a’plenty. Rudiger had selected some prime ones for us and at 33.6 kms we had a brutal climb for a short distance east of Wülfrath that tested us all somewhat. 12 kms further along another hard climb beckoned.

On the Ruhr

Rudiger’s Wild Ride then brought us close to the Ruhr, and at Kupferdreh, south of Essen, we managed to persuade Rudiger we needed a refreshment break. We stopped for some coffee at a little café directly on the Ruhrradweg. The bike path is a very popular one in the region and this Saturday already saw a lot of traffic, with plenty of older Germans riding the heavy heavy bicycles that they love so much. We then rode a flat stretch along a widening of the river towards Werden at a good speed and had to take care among the crowds but eventually we were clear of the river and a final bit of climbing brought us to Kaiserswerth on the Rhine and Tom’s place. 91.62 kms on the road, and over 900 m of climbing for a good Saturday’s workout.

Although we had enjoyed quite good weather, it now began to rain and Tom was kind enough to drive me home in his excellent little Ford Fiesta. He was impressed with my ridiculous collection of bicycles and we agreed to ride again soon.

From the Erft to the Urft RTF, May 28, 2011

After our first successful ride, Tom discovered that a local bike club not far from Bonn in Euskirchen would be hosting an RTF (Radtourenfahrt), which is the German tour for an organized "cyclotourist" ride. They usually offer a selection of distances, refreshments en route, and excellent roads. This would be in the Eifel region, west of where I rode with Nick when we had done the Erftradweg, which goes through Euskirchen. I was quite keen to do the 150 km version as it promise some outstanding climbing and would help me catch up with my training deficit.

Tom and Rudiger collected me in the team Ford Fiesta at 7:15 and we drove towards Cologne to pick up Tim. That was our plan, anyway, but things went awry when we ran into brutal traffic congestion on the A3, which was down to one lane in each direction due to the omnipresent construction. We eventually worked our way around the traffic jam and got Tim but it meant a fairly late start when we got to Euskirchen. The first thing was to find a parking spot, which was not so easy as this RTF is clearly very popular and there were already a lot of cyclists present or out on the road already. The longest course was over 200 kms, and those riders would have started three hours before us.

After signing in, paying 7 Euros and getting a race number, we headed out on the course. It was a lovely area, and the course was extremely well-marked, so we found our way without too much trouble, occasionally seeing other cyclists but generally on our own. The organizers were particularly proud of their local hills and as you began to climb each one there was a nice sign showing the distance and gradient, although this was sometimes a bit depressing.

The hills were not terribly long but were in places very steep. However, the extreme windiness of the day made the first part of the ride, to the west and south, unbearable as we rode into a brutal headwind of some 30 km/h. This made progress on the climbs exhausting and we soon realized that with our late start and the headwind, coupled with our slow speed, we were not going to ride the 151 km course today. We instead opted for the 110 km one and found the route easily thanks to the markings the club had put up.

Some of the roads were familiar from the Erft trip. I had loaded the GPS course for the long ride but it turned out to be incorrect somehow (although the first 20 kms were right, so perhaps it was the course from last year) but it didn’t really matter as there was not much danger in getting lost. Once we turned northwards, we enjoyed an excellent tailwind and some flatter roads. We lost Rudiger for a short while near Bad Münstereifel as he tore down the main street in a small town and passed the turn sign, which I luckily saw a moment later while trying to chase him. Tim and Tom were just behind me so at least the three of us stayed on course.

Having some distance in my legs now and a flat road, I felt much stronger and was able to join up with a small group of very strong riders, holding a steady 47 km/h, but this fell pretty quickly as we turned back into the wind. Then I tagged along behind an impressively large rider for a while to recover. We introduced ourselves and had a pleasant conversation; he is the IBM Germany manager in Düsseldorf and we will have a business lunch soon. So, road cycling really is the new golf!

Tom, kindly holding up my bike during a photo session

Our group arrived back in Euskirchen, where we turned in our numbers, getting our 1 Euro deposit back. We had had a tough ride of 117 km with 1200 m of climbing, averaging a surprisingly good 22.4 km/h. It was my second RTF ever (the first being a ridiculous thing up and down and up and down the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin in 1999) and the organization was first-rate, with sufficient refreshments, a good choice of roads, fine route-marking and great scenery. I would like to go back to try the longer course without the wind but riding on either side of Bonn, in the Eifel or the Bergishes Land, is well worthwhile for any cyclist. To ride it with good friends is the icing on the cake, of course.
Figuring out how to repack the team car
Rudiger, Tim, Tom (l to r)

Tired but happy: Sprocketboy, Tim, Rudiger (l to r)

Saturday 4 June 2011

Riding the Siegtalradweg, kind of

At my British friend Nick’s suggestion, today we planned to ride a section of the 140 km (or 128 km, depending on the source) bicycle path running alongside the Sieg River, to the east of Bonn in the Bergisches Land. Nick and I had ridden a section of this near Eitorf and I thought it would be a nice relaxing ride and a way to introduce my colleague, Henri, who is new to road cycling and has just purchased a very nice Storck Vision Lite bicycle, to the joys of riding in Germany. All of the websites I looked at suggested that the bike route was pretty flat as it followed the river valley and this would be a nice introduction. I figured out a route starting in Betzdorf that would allow us to get a tailwind as we headed west towards Bonn and I was hoping to ride 80-100 kms, finishing in mid-afternoon.

As Robert Burns noted, the best laid plans ‘o mice an’ men gang aft a-gley and our plans to went somewhat awry. Nick decided he would ride from his home in Seelscheid-Neunkirchen to meet us at the Betzdorf train station, which we arrived at after a transfer from Cologne which all went very smoothly. Nick’s ride was not so smooth since he began at 7 am and discovered every hill (including some 14% grades) between his home and Betzdorf, arriving with nearly 70 km in his legs and nearly 1,000 m of climbing!

After a late start, we realized that we could not find the Sieg bike path and heading in a likely direction along a river discovered we were following the Heller, thus keeping the Lost Boy tradition of immediately going in the wrong direction alive in Europe. Turning around and going back through Betzdorf, we headed westwards through some very busy streets as everyone in Betzdorf was going shopping but the traffic almost immediately evaporated and we found ourselves on an excellent road, the Landstrasse 62, that brought us quickly along the floodplain of the Sieg and even through some forests.

We had been told that the path itself had not been constructed everywhere and really only began near Hamm/Sieg. The road we were on was well-marked and we could make good time, so we were not complaining. It was framed by hills that had been excavated over the ages for coal. The road took us through Wissen, where Germany’s saddest railway station exists, being located under a series of concrete overpasses and consisting of a single ticket vending machine next to the tracks. We eventually found a place to get onto the paved path along the river but it kept coming back up (usually up a steep incline) and then at one point we took a turn along what was supposed to be our bike route but turned into something quite different

Once again we followed a river along a road that began in poor condition but improved. It clearly had almost no traffic ever and we were surprised to pass a nice-looking Gasthaus. Where did the customers come from? But then the fun was over as we realized we were heading in the wrong direction entirely. We decided to try and get to Hamm/Sieg and get back on course but this required climbing the most difficult hill of the day for us from the hamlet of Bruchertseifen up to Roth, some 120 m vertical in only 2 kms of climbing. My Basso was meant for flatter roads than this so I did not go up in a hurry, although I was eventually able to catch up to Henri for the mountain points.

After passing through Hamm/Sieg rather quickly, we crossed the Sieg at Au (!) and found the path again and were able to follow it for quite a while for a change. In Windeck we realized that we were getting thirsty in the hot sun so we decided to look for a place to get a cold drink and possibly some food. There was a ruined castle to see as well so we went uphill a bit to take a look.

Drinks were served at a place next to a 1789 watermill that had been restored and looked very nice. We had some alcohol-free beer which was quite refreshing and which will not tire you out in the heat of the day and exertion of riding.

While Henri and Nick relaxed a bit, I turned the Basso uphill and made my way as far as I could to the castle ruins, having to walk the last section of road which was steep dirt. The view was quite spectacular over the Sieg Valley and the castle ruins themselves were impressive. It must have been quite impressive to look at, the foundations of the towers indicating it was a major fortification. The sign on the wall that gave the detailed history of the castle suggested its heyday was from the 13th to the 17th Centuries, when it was pretty much destroyed by cannon during the 30 Years’ War. Typically, it then became a quarry for the locals needing building materials. A fancy villa was built next to it in the 1850s but this was completely destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II and there are not even any foundations left.

Leaving Windeck, we continued all the way to Eitorf, first along the bike path and then along the main road without getting lost. We caught up with a group of four cyclists who were managing a really pathetic paceline but moving pretty well nonetheless. We sat in and, when two of the riders jumped, we went with them. It was fun but then they all went their separate ways as we came to Eitorf. We had made some good progress so it was time to celebrate! Returning to our favourite café in Eitorf, we had some sandwiches and liquid replenishment before walking around the corner for a well-deserved (particularly in Nick’s case) ice cream.

Leaving Eitdorf, our navigation of the Sieg did not go so well as we headed towards Hennef, first going into a dead-end and then winding up on a mountain bike trail that saw some walking, although Nick managed this quite well with his mountain bike experience and Henri looked good with his 23 mm tires too. The Basso is actually set up to ride this kind of “road” but my lack of experience on the trail made me nervous. And strangely enough during our ride on the mountain bike trail we had some very light (and rather welcome in the heat) rain.

Eventually we found our way to Hennef and the railway station where we met Nick’s girl friend, Nadja, who had taken mercy on him so that he did not have to add to his 160 kms and 1900 m of climbing for the day and could get a ride home without climbing four more ridges. After we enjoyed some more cold alcohol-free Weissbier at the surprisingly nice station café, we parted company. Henri and I took the S-Bahn to Köln Deutz-Messe, where we transferred to an absolutely packed Regio train for the mercifully-short 30 minute ride back to the main station in Düsseldorf.

Although Henri and I only rode about 90 kms and just over 750 m vertical compared to Nick’s epic ride, it had been a hard and somewhat frustrating day as the failure of the bike route to live up to its promise had dented our pleasure somewhat. But parts of it were really excellent, and it was still better than the gruesome Erftradweg!

Thursday 2 June 2011

Fine Art Photography: Clark Vandergrift

Two of my Lost Boy friends have alerted me to a very talented photographer, Clark Vandergrift, who, in addition to his fine art photography, has done some short videos on cycling that are quite lovely. Here is one showing the races at Bike Jam, a bicycle festival that includes amateur races held each year in Baltimore, Maryland.

On his photography website here there is also an atmospheric video about training, "Roadie," which you can enjoy here. And unrelated to cycling is his highly creative "Tree People" which you can check out on his website as well.