Rides to Remember

Rides to Remember

In Seattle, the cycling season has ended. Snow has closed most mountain passes. Our bodies welcome a little rest from the long adventures. The time has come to pour a cup of tea and review the rides of this year.
Here are some of the most memorable rides of this year. Click on the links to read blog posts (blog) or see Bicycle Quarterly issues with these rides (BQ), where available.
My season started with a great ride up Yabitsu Pass in Japan. It had snowed that week, but the road was (mostly) passable. I enjoyed having the mountain all to myself, and as a bonus, I crested the pass at sunset and was treated to a most glorious view of Mount Fuji. (Blog)
February saw us explore a local favorite, the Tahuya Hills, on a part-pavement/part-gravel road that we hadn’t ridden before. We were rewarded with a fun ride, great views, and a huge bald eagle flying next to us. (Blog)
In March, Hahn and I embarked on our biggest adventure yet: We climbed the 4000 m-high Paso de Cortés in Mexico on Enduro Allroad bikes. It was an amazing feeling to cycle almost as high as the top of our Mount Rainier. The loose volcanic soil provided a great test for our ultra-wide tires. And the night-time ride into Mexico City was an adventure all of its own. In the process, we discovered that the central highlands of Mexico are a great place to ride a bike, and remarkably accessible from the U.S. (BQ)
sakura_1Spring is a great time to ride almost anywhere, and there were many wonderful rides. One that stands out was a trip to the mountains in Japan with a group of friends who’ve been touring together since college. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom, the small mountain roads were beautiful, the conversation was full of laughter – it was a great two-day ride with no thought given to speed or distance. (Blog)
In May, I entered what is billed as the “hardest bike race in Japan”, the Otaki 100 km Mountain Bike Race. Since the race goes over gravel roads, I thought that a mountain bike would be overkill, and I brought my Enduro Allroad bike with its 54 mm tires. I was in for a surprise: The roads were incredibly rough, and the organizers weren’t kidding when they recommended full suspension bikes.
What happens when a road cyclist on a road bike (albeit with wide tires) enters a full-on mountain bike race? The full story is in the current Bicycle Quarterly.
Right after that epic race, we enjoyed a tour of the Hanto Peninsula. It was a beautiful place, off the beaten path and yet easy to reach from Kyoto or Osaka, and with just enough tourism to provide the services we needed without ever feeling remotely crowded. (BQ)
June saw a great all-day ride with the “BQ Team” as we tried to find the “Lost Pass” in the central Cascades. We did not find the elusive connection between two valleys, but our ride was a great test for the Litespeed T5g Allroad bike. And this winter, we’ve already identified a few more promising roads on our maps: The search for the “Lost Pass” continues! (BQ)
The Bicycle Quarterly Un-Meeting was another unforgettable experience. A great variety of riders came out for a great weekend of riding off the beaten path. The weather turned sunny just in time for the Un-Meeting, but on the way to the gathering, many riders crossed the rain-soaked Cascades for an added dose of adventure. (Blog and BQ)
A few days after the Un-Meeting, I headed to France to participate as a judge in the first Technical Trials since 1949. It was exciting to meet young and established constructeurs, who are continuing the great tradition of French cyclotouring bikes. Riding with them over challenging mountain roads in the heart of France was a great experience. (Blog and BQ)
A trip to France would not be complete without visiting Lyli Herse. My tandem ride with the 88-year-old daughter of the great constructeur was one of the shortest rides this year, but also one of the most emotional. To pilot her not far from the roads where she used to dominate the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race during the 1940s and 1950s was a great experience, especially since we rode a tandem built in 1946 by her father! (Blog)
A summer ride to Bon Jon Pass sounds like a great way to test a modern Allroad bike, but the weather forecast’s “slight chance of showers” turned into solid rain. Despite the inclement weather, Ryan (left), Gabe (right) and I had a great ride. The full story and test of the Moots Routt are in the current Bicycle Quarterly.
September saw me back in Japan, where I discovered the ride to Utsushigahara. With beautiful scenery, challenging climbs, a gravel road above 2000 m, and the most incredible (paved) descent, it’s one of my favorite rides anywhere. (Blog)
Japan offers a wonderful mix of challenging adventures and beautiful rides at a more casual pace, like this weekend ride in the mountains near Fukushima. (Blog)
October saw a great ride over an incredible mountain pass. Since the story and bike test will be published in the Spring 2017 Bicycle Quarterly, I cannot talk about it without being a spoiler. Suffice to say that it was another highlight in a year full of great rides.
In November, the end of the cycling season was approaching quickly, so I snuck out for a last ride over the gravel passes of the Cascades. Snow was already accumulating on the ground at the higher elevations, but the sun came out and bathed my favorite landscape in a beautiful light. It’s always bitter-sweet to enjoy the mountains for a last time, before the snow closes my favorite roads for 6 months.
And just when I thought the cycling season was over, I found out that the Washington State Cyclocross Championships were in early December. So I dusted off the old Alan, checked that the FMB tubulars still held air, and headed north for my first ‘cross race in more than a year. What fun it was, and what a great way to close the season!
And after this encore, the season now is truly over. Memories keep the dream alive. Now it’s time to pull out the maps and start planning next year’s adventures!
What were your favorite rides this year?
Photo credits: Carlos (Photo 4), Toru Kanazaki (Photo 6), Natsuko Hirose (Photos 10, 11, 15, 17).

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Comments (18)

  • Bob

    Northern Transcontinental (Everett WA to Boston MA) with PAC Tour. I have wanted to ride across the country for a long time, and everything worked out this year to fulfill that desire. Obviously different than exploring on your own, but very enjoyable.

    December 16, 2016 at 5:50 am
  • Chritian Kirn

    My favorite ride for this year was crossing the Alps 2 times to visit Christo’s “Floating piers” on Lago d’Iseo / Italy. The ride was so special because my friend and I both rode bikes I built (after learning what a low trail bikes is in BQ). Both bikes handled well with only a pair of panniers in the front. Descending the Bernina pass with 85 km/h was a blast. Did I also mention that walking across the water on the orange-wrapped piers was a special experience?

    December 16, 2016 at 6:34 am
  • Jacob Musha

    In Madison Wisconsin we get plenty of snow but we don’t have any mountain passes, so the cycling “season” never ends for me! It just means a switch to knobby or studded tires and winter clothing.

    December 16, 2016 at 6:50 am
  • marmotte27

    Riding with the Confrérie des 650 in the east of France, to the sources of the Ill, up the Ballon d’Alsace, and to Ronchamps chapel. A solo two day adventure through the Black Forest. Two days with friends over three of the four Ballons des Vosges. Riding with my brother from Munich to Salzburg through one of my favourite landscapes.

    December 16, 2016 at 6:59 am
  • Robert Cochran

    I am the inexperienced child here. My best ride for 2016 was far and away a permanent (103 kilometers) with a very experienced randonneur. I made a few mistakes, the worst of which was drinking orange juice just before and again during the ride. This badly upset my tummy for most of the ride. But I completed it. I hope to do a 200 kilometer brevet in 2017.

    December 16, 2016 at 7:44 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Congratulations on completing the permanent. I once made the same mistake in a race many years ago. Usually, I put diluted apple juice in my bottles, but I didn’t have any… Orange juice was a bad substitution, and resulted in an emergency bathroom break in mid-race. Needless to say, I didn’t win!

      December 16, 2016 at 7:49 am
  • julianactive

    In April I did the Julian Bikepack Challenge. A mountain bike three loop self supported affair with 440 miles of riding and 43,000 feet of climbing.
    In July I attempted the Colorado Trail Race completing over half of it before opting out of the trail and taking back roads and the narrow gauge back to Durango. Still got in over 500 miles with tons of climbing. Not the longest event I have ever done but with the altitude it was the toughest and slowest going.
    In November I entered the World 24 hour road time trial championships because it was only 35 miles from home and I could qualify by just paying the entry fee! Since I don’t own a mountain bike, I took my Ti 29er mountain bike and modified it for the duty. Aero bars, set forward seatpost, bigger more tightly spaced gearing and Snoqualmie Pass 44 c tires run tubeless. I got in 324 miles in 23 hours good for 4th out of 8 in my old farts class. The overall winner (world record holder by the way) put in 550 miles!
    I just did a two day mountain bike bikepacking trip to the desert and back with 4 friends and my wife. 90 miles with around 9,000 feet of climbing. Wife made it with flying colors and it allowed me to slow down and smell the cactus!

    December 16, 2016 at 8:04 am
  • John Saxby

    I enjoy your blog and BQ articles, Jan–they’re very well written, with splendid photos. My ride this year was in your neighbourhood, 2300 kms from Hinton, AB, to the Washington coast via Glacier NP. It included 9 high passes, a magnificent grizzly closeup and a remarkable meeting with an Australian family as they began a cross-country ride. You might enjoy reading about it here: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/16986
    Keep up the good work, and best to all at Compass in 2017.

    December 16, 2016 at 8:05 am
  • JJ

    Best ride of the year was a 200k from Vancouver, BC to Edison, WA with the BC Randonneurs. I’ve never heard of Edison and it turned out to be a fantastic little hamlet, packed with people, and incredible food and coffee. The ride up and down the Chuckanut was fabulous. Drivers were extremely considerate, a great experience.

    December 16, 2016 at 8:53 am
  • Jim

    The Unmeeting was a blast,I retraced Jan’s tracks going north through the Mt Adams wilderness and went over White and Chinook passes finishing with 300 miles, Sept I rode another 300 miles in Eastern Oregon just 3 weeks after dislocating my elbow. I finished up with a short overnight ride along the Iron Horse trail in early November to camp along the Yakima River. Thanks for the inspiration BQ

    December 16, 2016 at 10:08 am
  • Luis Bernhardt

    Three beautiful 1200’s highlighted the year: 1) the Cascade 1200, over White Pass into central Washington, then back to Mount Vernon via Washington and Rainy Pass; 2) the Rocky Mountain 1200, from the southern interior of British Columbia to Lake Louise in Alberta, over the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, then back down into BC; 3) the Cracker Swamp 1200 in central Florida, a cloverleaf with nightly stays in Tavares and riding over parts of Florida that go well beyond the stereotype of Florida, plus an introduction to the awesome taste of sous vide cooking. Plus one 1000 km ride in northern Nova Scotia (with a stop in New Brunswick), lots of short, steep climbs, lots of them, and the opportunity to explore a part of Canada not often explored by most Canadian riders.
    But I did lack a ride near San Diego in order to make it all four corners of North America. Some other year!

    December 16, 2016 at 12:54 pm
    • B. Carfree

      I seem to recall you riding a Rodriguez Outlaw fixed gear in the past. Did you use that bike for these 1200/1000 km rides, or have you mellowed on gearing over time?

      December 16, 2016 at 7:06 pm
  • Cynthia

    My favorite ride was when I was able to ride my skinny-tired fixie in the driveway and around the front and back yards, while coping with a chronic illness flare-up. It definitely (and embarrassingly) palls in comparison to all the rides posted, but most definitely better than nothing.
    Jan, if I was able to tag along on any of the rides you mentioned, it would absolutely have been the one that accompanied your very last photo! I can’t help but drool at the prospect of something like that waiting for me at the end of a ride. Which makes me curious. I’ve seen coca-cola, potato chips, and ice cream as part of your ride diet in your photos. Given your disciplined attention to riding gear and training, these are not exactly fuel rich or healthy foods. Are they a part of your regular diet, or occasional special treats?

    December 17, 2016 at 1:43 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      My daily diet is very different from what I eat on long rides. During my first visit to Japan, I found that I did very well with Japanese food, so I’ve adopted that diet (rich in fish, meat and vegetables, with few carbohydrates). On long-distance bike rides, my caloric needs are much, much higher than in everyday life, and easily ingested calories in the shape of ice cream, salty potato chips and Coca-Cola (which provides liquids that I find easier to drink than plain water) are useful.

      December 17, 2016 at 5:40 pm
    • Jacob Musha

      It seems counter-intuitive, but I will echo Jan’s words about eating food on long rides that I would normally consider junk. After twelve hours in the saddle it’s basically impossible to replace the calories I’m burning, but I still need to try, otherwise I will bonk. At that point I’m deficient in essentially everything: fat, salt, sugar, protein, and carbs. But all of it is necessary. So I’ll stop at gas stations for pizza, chicken sandwiches, candy, and soda.

      December 19, 2016 at 8:47 am
  • randonneefolle

    This year I had to forgo most brevets due to knee pain (now luckily overcome!), but finishing the 200 on my new 650b bike that I had finished assembling the night before was memorable. And on my first self-built wheelset, too!
    Other than that, a four-day trip over Easter through Bohemia, southwestern Silesia and eastern Germany to Berlin was a wonderful experience in spite of being the cause for the knee pain that made me skip most brevets. In fact, it was so good that I repeated the best parts of it in summer with a friend who had been unable to join me the first time.
    And then, basically every ride since my wife and I relocated to Oslo in August is an adventure, with the infinite number of hilly gravel roads to the north. I am constantly amazed how well wide 650b tires fare on all kinds of terrain. Including the thin layers of ice that have made me put on studded tires on my city bike for the first time ever. I am looking forward to the many brevets offered in Norway!
    P. s. Is that an U.P. in the teaser picture for the Spring issue above? Exciting!

    December 17, 2016 at 11:57 pm
  • Mateo

    Those 54mm tires sure look nice. Is there any possibility of them ever being made for 700c/29er wheels? it seems we all want your tires in every size imaginable!

    December 18, 2016 at 12:17 pm

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