Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sunday's Lake Pepin Adventure

This past Sunday, some friends and I gathered in Red Wing for a circumnavigation of Lake Pepin. With the Almanzo 100 just six weeks out, the goal was to practice riding our bicycles long distances over hilly, gravel roads. We had six riders, all with interesting bicycles. One Curt Goodrich (mine), two Rivendells (Atlantis and Hillborne), one Rawland Sogn, one Surly Cross-Check, and one old Trek converted to a 3sp 650B machine. The Trek 3sp deserves special mention, as I built the wheel for it several days prior. The hub was vintage Sturmey-Archer (40h) and the rim was a modern Velocity Dyad (32h). It took some trial-and-error to get the 3x lacing to work out. When I saw the wheel turn up for this challenging ride, I started to panic that the oddball mismatched lacing would lead to some calamity, and I would be forever shamed and regarded as a failure in my chosen profession. Luckily, the wheel held...

This was our route.

Upon crossing into Wisconsin, we immediately modified the original route for reasons that seemed unclear at the time, and seem even more unclear now in hindsight. In any case, for the first few miles, we were riding pavement, which while hilly and pretty, was not the gravel we were craving.
In my role as route planner, I was entrusted by my companions to design a gravel road route. I could sense the white-hot rage building and boiling under the surface of my outwardly jovial companions when mile after mile of blacktop rolled under our fat tires. Where's the gravel, MF!

Soon, we made yet another impromptu route change, and within a mile we were rolling through some freshly poured gravel that squirmed as we rode through it, rather than on it. Luckily, the fresh gravel covered only a short segment of road, and in no time we were rolling easily over a more manageable surface.


Out of Maiden Rock, we turned up a gravel road that I have ridden many times. Its most distinctive features are the water-crossings. The first was actually an ice-crossing, but the next two or three streams were fully liquid.

With soaked feet, we started the climbing in earnest.

We bombed back down into the valley for a lunch in Stockholm. I misunderstood the specials menu at the restaurant and inadvertently ordered two lunches. I ate both, and was more than full, and didn't realize what what I'd done until I saw that I owed $20 when everybody else was closer to $10. Live and learn. With two lunches in my belly, I didn't feel faster, for some reason.

Past Stockholm is a stretch of gravel called Bogus Rd. Bogus has a wonderful hill climb that had me in my granny gear for the first time since pulling two kids in a Burley out of Hidden Falls Park in St Paul. Definitely a good one if exercise is the goal.

We saw this interesting turn that seemed to be heading in the right direction.


After another lunch/snack in Nelson, we headed back into Minnesota. We opted to skip a big climb out of Wabasha and rode the highway as far as Lake City. We got off the main drag as soon as possible, and made our way on Lake City streets toward Territorial Rd.
On the way, we had a mishap with a steel water bottle lodging itself between chainstay and spokes. An on-the-spot wheel-truing got us rolling again, and back on the gravel of Territorial and the appropriately named Hill Avenue out of Frontenac. The Hill Ave descent is really spectacular. We rolled back into Red Wing shortly after dark with 102 miles on the clock.


Anonymous said...

Jim- Fascinating recap of a long day in the saddle. Which bike offered the best performance in those adverse conditions? And what was the total elapsed time/average speed of the ride?

thanks - David

eric said...

Sounds like a great ride! Thanks for the recap and photos. Like David, I too was curious about which choice of rubber is best suited for such an occasion.

Jim Thill said...

My 26x2.0 tires seemed to do pretty in the gravel. At least one of the guys with skinnier tires (~35 mm) expressed the desire for a wider tire.

On the other hand, we dealt with very little "gravel" that wasn't packed as hard and smooth as concrete.

Anonymous said...

I had said something about (I was on 33's, not sure if I was the only one). After the ride, and fooling around again on some gravel close to home I've decided that they are fine. It was a bit unnerving at first on the downhill, but now that I'm a bit more used to it they feel fine.

Anonymous said...

Wow - sounds like fun. It sounds somewhat expensive with all of those pricey food stops though. Have you ever considered packing a nice lunch? I know that you have packs on your bikes. I'd like to go on a future ride, but I'm concerned about the cost of the restaurants.


Shaun said...

I was running 700c X 38mm Schwalbe Marathon Racers for this ride. They worked really well. I was thinking of going to a tire with a bit more aggressive tread for the Almanzo. But after riding the smooth Racers on this ride (and getting some feedback from Jim and others), I decided smooth tires are the way to go. In fact I asked Jim to set aside a pair of 700 X 40 Marathon Supremes for me. I'll stop by HC to pick them up soon Jim.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim - when are you planning your next gravel adventure?

Jim Thill said...

I have a pretty full schedule April and May, so maybe we can do something like this again in June.