Our Own 300 km Brevet

Our Own 300 km Brevet

Mark and I were signed up to do the Seattle Randonneur’s 300 km brevet last weekend. A few days before the brevet, it snowed, and the organizers decided to play it safe and cancel the brevet. Mark and I decided to ride 300 km on our own instead. If it was icy, we’d take a lowland route, but otherwise, we’d head into the mountains on our favorite roads.
We met at 6 in the morning, and by sunrise, we were already descending into the Snohomish River valley. It promised to be a gorgeous day.
We were riding our 650B randonneur bikes. Funny thing, we talked about a lot of things all day long, but not once about bikes. When you have a bike that is close to optimal, you no longer think about it and just enjoy the ride. The photo was taken while we stopped at a bakery, but this being a brevet, we got some pastries to go rather than sit down for a while. We also limited our photo stops, and most of the images you see in this post were taken while rolling along.
We headed into the mountains on familiar backroads, enjoying the beautiful, sunny day.
The recent dusting of snow made the scenery all the more spectacular. Fortunately, the roads were free of snow and ice.
Usually we turn around in Index, but today we continued to Skykomish. Mark was reluctant, as he dislikes Highway 2. I kept telling him of this beautiful backroad that winds its way into Skykomish. When we finally got there, the road was washed out after just a mile or two.
The Skykomish River had changed its course right through the former roadway. In the photo above, you can barely see the now useless bridge in the background. In the photo, the embankment on which Mark is standing hides much of the river, which was was too wide and deep to ford on a cold spring day. In late summer, when the flow is greatly reduced, it may be worth a try… as I hate to lose a wonderful specimen from my collection of backroads.
Neither of us had been to Skykomish in years. Skykomish used to be where the trains across the Cascades changed from steam to electric locomotives, and where locomotives themselves were maintained. This left behind heavy metals and other toxins that started to find their way into the river. Over five years, much of the town was moved, the contaminated soils excavated, and the town rebuilt. It was odd to see a town with older houses, all repainted, with new roofs, linked by brand-new streets. It looked like a model railroad that hadn’t been “weathered” to make it look realistic.
One building had more than enough “weathering.” Sadly, the grand old hotel remains closed and decaying. Presumably, it’s so old that the soil underneath never was contaminated.
The store in Skykomish provided generous portions of ice cream. Too generous even for famished cyclists. We lost about 15 minutes here…
We had been riding into headwinds all day, as cold air flowed out of the mountains. Just before we reached Skykomish, the wind turned as the warm air from the lowland began to rise up the valley. All the way home, we had to battle headwinds again, which increased in intensity as the day wore on. But we did not complain with weather and scenery like this!
We returned home at 7, after 13 hours on the road, glad to have ventured out on this gorgeous day.

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Comments (17)

  • Steve Green

    If that’s a normal individual portion of ice cream, there’s no wonder you’re grinning!
    Looks like you had a great ride.

    March 28, 2013 at 3:46 am
  • Lyle F. Bogart DPT

    Nice write-up, Jan! The photos made me homesick for the Pacific Northwest again. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    March 28, 2013 at 4:12 am
  • azorch

    Thanks for sharing. This is what it’s all about!

    March 28, 2013 at 7:08 am
  • Chris Andress

    Very nice! Looks like fun. I am just getting back into cycling after a long hiatus (15-16 years), but hope to one day get back into longer rides. Don’t know if I would do brevets specifically, but probably want a bike set up that way for comfort on long rides…

    March 28, 2013 at 7:16 am
  • Dan

    Jan, what road is that out of Index?

    March 28, 2013 at 7:43 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We took Reiter Road to Index, then crossed the bridge and headed up Highway 2. The road with the washout is the turnoff before the tunnel on Hwy 2.

      March 28, 2013 at 7:52 am
  • Matthew J

    Great photos. That ice cream is literally over the top!

    March 28, 2013 at 9:28 am
  • Heather

    The weather was a bit funny last weekend, but it was clear, snow was superficial at best at sea level. Good thing you went on with your own brevet! I love small back roads, maps, exploring and finding quiet places to ride. You are lucky that you have so much choice and variety! I live on a peninsula cut off from the mainland so only so far you can go without taking a ferry. The distance is not even 100km ferry to ferry, so one would have to ride back and forth to get distance in. The highway(the canadian section of 101) is not enjoyable to bike(at least according to me) and there is not much in the way of alternatives, so it’s the highway or nothing aside from the odd side road that just links back to the highway. I mostly stick to my commuting routes into town, or the little village, follow the highway to and fro the towns but have no desire to ride further up the highway again anytime soon.
    It’s busy, speeding industrial trucks, debris, people on holiday who act rude, people speeding off the ferry, often no shoulder and drivers with a hate on for cyclists. The highway has a bad reputation amongst cyclists but am always amazed to see people willingly coming up to ride it in their lycra and carbon fibre machines. I feel badly for people on touring bikes who stop and ask where they can camp. The have a look of terror on their faces having expected something very quiet and pastoral. Maybe I am overly cautious but hands down the main reason most people are afraid to bike here(despite nice climate, short distances and such) is that they perceive the roads as unsafe. Even life long commuters move here and stop biking.
    The active logging roads are a bit rough for road and rando bikes, heavy on gravel which I find unbearable on descents. I do use some ill used back roads, and know where bikable trails are to get around. Mountain biking is of course huge up here, but people drive big trucks to the trails instead of just cycling along. Most road/commuter cyclists just stick to a very limited area which has a few back roads and farms, often doing the loop over and over.
    At any rate, a goal is to move somewhere with many quiet roads and options for rides. This is something to consider if moving to an island or somewhere cut off like this, but love cycling. Are you going to be content doing the same few routes and are the roads quiet for an enjoyable ride?

    March 28, 2013 at 12:49 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It’s a problem in sparsely populated areas that there are few roads. That is why cycling in France is so enjoyable – a dense road network with many backroads that see little traffic, as they parallel faster, busier roads.

      March 28, 2013 at 1:21 pm
  • Johan Larsson

    Must be the best picture ever of you, involving ice-cream… 😀
    Seriously, spectacular mountains and scenery. Too bad about the washed away road and bridge. Are they both completely abandoned, and never will be repaired again, probably?

    March 28, 2013 at 3:45 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Hard to know. In my experience, unless these old roads are needed as alternative evacuation routes in case the main access bridges for these towns are washed out, they unfortunately remain abandoned in this age of budget cuts. In the last decade, we’ve lost the road up Jack Pass and a few others… Reiter Road to Index was rebuilt after a washout because it’s the only way out of Index if the bridge is gone…

      March 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm
  • marmotte27

    This headwind out headwind home thing is what I face on many days on my commute, which goes up a mountain valley. Luckily it’s just about 8 kilometres but even so it puts several minutes on my time.

    March 29, 2013 at 12:10 am
  • DummyDiva

    Great “rolling” pics.

    March 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm
  • Paul

    Listening to your interview with G. Terry about “Planing”. You may take a lesson from the golf industry and shaft stiffness. I have a club head speed of 97mph so I need a Regular shaft. Pro golfers, for example, can swing at 110 mph and more and need a Stiff or XStiff. I could never, ever hit those clubs because there would be no whip or snap in the shaft to “kick” the ball.

    April 1, 2013 at 8:11 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      There are many examples where flex is important. Grant Petersen talked about sprung gym floors that make it easier to jump in the interview we did in Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 3, No. 4. Mark Vande Kamp wrote an article in Bicycle Quarterly Vol. 3, No. 2 on native American hunting tools called Atlatls – basically sticks that threw spears – that work only with the right amount of flex. However, in bicycles, for many decades, it has been assumed that frame flex is lost power.

      April 1, 2013 at 8:56 am
  • Gert

    Just come back from my own first brevet this year 200km, which I rode ahead of time, as it is my first as an organiser. Freezing cold in the morning and then sunshine. At the controls it was actually nice out of the wind and in the sun, with coffee and chocolat cake. And then I realised my poor planning: 100km between coffee stops, One of the controls does not serve coffee. But well I made it. Not so beatutiful scenery as your, but a cold Northeast wind.
    By the way. In the new “Tour” there is mention of a new book about the science of bike riding.
    “Das Kleingedruckte beim Radfahren: Physikalische Hintergründe Ihres Radsportalltags” by Peter Appeltauer, a theoretical physicist. As I know You read german, I thought I would mention it. I am going to order it one of the next days

    April 1, 2013 at 1:20 pm

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