SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


San Francisco Randonneurs Two-Rock/Valley Ford 200k Brevet

Soggy @ Nicasio
Oh boy what a day! Left home at 6am to meet up with Lee and Gabe, to then meet Bryan and ride up to the start of the San Francisco Randonneurs Two-Rock/Valley Ford 200k near the Golden Gate Bridge. At 7am, eighty-two riders headed out for what would be, at least for me, another epic day.

The plan was for Lee and I to meet up with Franklyn and Estaban at the start, and ride throughout the day together, which is mostly what happened. We hung back at the start to let the pack disburse and to avoid the starting-line adrenaline jitters. Even before we hit the bridge, it started sprinkling. Rain would splash us awake several times on the first leg of the journey -- starting or stopping with each crest of the next hill. Several times, I was reminded that yes, full fenders are a good thing, with proper front and rear mudflaps the icing on the cake as well.

On this ride I had the opportunity to test out a new-to-me piece of rain gear. Most rando folks have heard of RainLegs, which are grey-colored nylon waterproof chap-like things you strap to the front of your legs to ward off the oncoming rain drops. I'd heard generally good things about this Danish product, so when I noticed that a US importer was selling the improved black-colored version (called "RainMates", and now with snap-on shin gaters) for a decent price, I ordered a pair. I can now report that, while these are not perfect, they are quite good, and I will likely never again wear traditional full cycling rain pants. This product works wonders and is comfortable to wear with no sweaty or clammy feeling caused by trapped perspiration. In fact, I continued to wear the chaps even after the rain let up (for most of the day, really), in part because they kept my thighs and knees warm and they were just comfortable enough to not be a bother. Things to be improved include the fit and construction of the waist belt -- the belt is far too long, and having it fully encompass one's waist vs. just being stitched at the edges of the chap's fabric seems like it'd be a more robust design. Also the knee pads could be narrower to prevent them flapping against the bike's top tube, making an annoying "slap slap" sound with each pedal rotation. The wearer must be wary of catching the crotch of the RainMates on the nose of the saddle when transitioning from standing to sitting. Also the legs of the chaps can ride up or down, causing misalignment at the knee, leading to improper venting (cold knees) or annoying rubbing.

I also wore my Showers Pass Double Century rain jacket, which has become a standard piece of rando gear. It is an excellent jacket -- the fit for me is perfect, the jacket breathes well enough to double as a wind shell, the garment is light weight and folds up compactly when not needed, and today I learned that the jacket is totally waterproof. Again, I wore this jacket all day long on this ride, even after the rain stopped. The zippers are slightly finicky to operate -- a style with slightly coarser teeth might be easier to open and close, although this might compromise the weather resistance. The armpit vents could be slightly longer as well for more airflow. Overall, however, I really enjoy wearing and using this jacket

Just north of Fairfax, White's Hill is often a defining moment weather-wise, and much to my surprise it was NOT raining on the north face as we descended into San Geronimo Valley; in fact the sun almost poked out as we regrouped at the bottom of Nicasio Valley Road. But, sure enough, just as we started rolling again, the rain made one last stand. Rancho Nicasio wasn't an official control, but many riders were pausing there to take on fuel or return some fluids, and it was a welcome though brief respite.

Halfway to Petaluma, the rain seemed to lapse, though I don't recall exactly when or where. I do know that I'd never before ridden to Petaluma all the way up and over Red Hill, and fortunately the climb up wasn't as brutal as the otherwise familiar descent made it seem. In short order, we entered the town and made our way to the first offical control, Peet's Coffee. Coffee and pastry were consumed, and while we perhaps lingered here a bit longer than was wise, it was a welcomed break.

Leaving Petaluma onto the straight and largely flat roads towards Valley Ford, our merry group was splintered by the rolling hills and merciless headwinds. Lee and I were riding along in company, and the others had pulled ahead. We chatted for a bit on the random subjects that enter the pedalling mind, and came upon another rider, who I later learned was Phil. As those winds were picking up, Phil sang out "Jump on the train!" indicating we should hang onto his wheel. I surged ahead, but lost Lee on one particular roller along the way. I clung to Phil's wheel, knowing full well that without his help, I'd never make it to Valley Ford in any sort of decent shape against winds like this. As we trudged along in the middle 'ring at twelve miles per hour, I wasn't too worried about Lee because I thought I'd spied a couple of other riders near him, and I'd assumed that those three might together work against the oncoming winds. It wasn't until much later at the next control that I learned that he'd been totally alone out there, and I felt quite bad about that.

Valley Ford was as far north as we were going that day, so after that pause we u-turned and headed back down Highway One, enjoying a tailwind for what felt like an unfairly brief stretch. Instead of heading back towards Petaluma, our route tacked west, aiming for the coast. The winds stopped battling us, blowing mostly from the side or rear quarters, but more climbing had we to endure. For many miles of this leg, there are wild blackberry bushes growing along the roadside, and I remembered sampling their ripe fruit while returning from bike camping at Bodega Bay a few years ago. There were no such excuses for stopping today, save for a brief pause to photograph an enormous sow suckling her piglets -- too unusual a photo op to pass up!

Soon we arrived at the coast and had clear skies and jaw-dropping views onto Tomales Bay. The improved weather rejuvenated me somewhat, and after pausing for another photograph, I tried to make good time to the next control, since I was starting to be mindful of the cutoff time. Lee was just a little bit behind me on the road, and I started debated what to do if time got tight. The rolling road ended as I found myself passing the bottom of the infamous "Marshall Wall" roadway, and then when I saw the Hog Island Oyster Company my spirits soared because I knew the home stretch was in sight!

Although the Marshall Store wasn't a control on this route, I stopped there to make use of the facilities, leaving my bike easy to spot for Lee. Lee was there after I reappeared, and we remounted and continued on our way. My stomach had been sour on and off all day, and while I knew I needed fluids and calories -- not to mention a store receipt to hand in with my brevet card -- I absolutely could not think of a single thing that sounded appealing! "Hmm, sugar and caffeine usually help -- perhaps a Coke?" I considered..."No, too sweet!" my stomach retorted. "Oh I know -- a Pepsi!" "YES!" rejoiced my innards. As soon as my target was acquired, I pedalled with renewed vigor towards Point Reyes Station!

As I rolled along I again was torn with dropping Lee behind. I'd been in similar situations on brevets, and had benefitted from the help of others -- I decided that I would "pay it forward" and help him any way I could from Point Reyes Station onward. I arrived at Bovine expecting to find no one, but all my comrades were still there enjoying their coffee and pastries under the waning sunshine! After saying hello, I scampered across the street to the grocery store for my dreamt-of can of Pepsi and some water to refill my bottle. When I returned Franklyn announced that Lee had sent a message stating that he'd decided to bail at Point Reyes Station. I was disappointed to hear this, of course, but when Lee finally rolled in, he appeared content with his decision. After ensuring he was OK, Franklyn, Estaban, and I continued on for the final push.

By now it was after 4 PM and I was concerned with our finishing time. We climbed the easy grade up towards Nicasio, marvelling at the amount of water running through the reservoir's spillway. We passed by Rancho Nicasio, but I had to stop just past the turnoff for Lucas Valley Road for a Clif Shot and to switch on my tail lamp before entering the darker tree-covered stretch of the route. Estaban was ahead, and Franklyn rolled by at this point. I started off again and caught up with Franklyn. The climb over Dixon Ridge felt quite challenging, and I was happy to zip down the other side, back into San Geronimo Valley.

I caught up with Estaban just at the top of White's Hill. Together we sped down the other side, and rolled back through Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, and Larkspur, reaching the climb back up Camino Alto. By this time it was fully dark, and I was extremely glad for my dyno-hub lighting system. As we were climbing I realized I was close to bonking, and started fantasizing about food. Chocolate sounded quite good at that point, but I didn't have any. Estaban and I paused at the top, and in between gasps for air, I muttered something about wanting chocolate. "Hey, want a chocolate mini donut?" I usually buy a pack of these on brevets, but had overlooked them at the first control, so this was music to my ears and manna to my stomach. Best. Donut. Ever! Estaban mentioned something about chocolate milk, and it was then that I remembered I had a bottle of chocolate Ensure stuffed down in the bottom of my handlebar bag..."in case of emergency". Which it definitely was at the moment. Ahhhh! Normally the taste of that stuff makes me rethink the purchase, but it totally hit the spot, and -- now clear-headed, I knew I had the energy to get back home!

At that moment, Franklyn appeared, and the three of us spent down towards Sausalito with lights blazing. We rolled uneventfully to the final climb up towards the bridge, and I reminded them (and myself) that since it was after sunset, we needed to cross on the eastern side of the bridge. Pressing the entry button atthe north security gate... zipping across the bridge with increasing fervor with only moments before finishing...then then south side gate...flying down into the visitor's center near the Strauss statue -- oh wait where is everybody?!? That's right, I'd forgotten we had to ride back down to Chrissy Field, past the Sports Basement, and on, back to the overpass at the bottom of Halleck Street!

We pressed on, hoping we wouldn't miss the finish. Just as I began losing hope of finding it, out of nowhere a reflective vest appeared in my headlamp's beam -- "Randonneurs, over here!" Rob and a few other volunteers were there next to the Chrissy Field Center, waiting for us to finish. Our official arrival time was marked as 7:20 PM, making for a long day of twelve hours, twenty minutes' pedalling time. Rob asked me how I felt: I was quite tired, but happy I was able to finish! After a drink and the last of the riders to arrive (only three more after us), I suited back up and pedaled the last 6 miles home, arriving back home just before 9 PM, and with about 137 miles on the cyclometer.

Distance: 137 miles (door to door, route was approx 125 miles)
Bike: Kogswell 700C P/R
Time: 6 AM to 8:30 PM total, 12:20 official brevet time

Need more?
Estaban's report
Franklyn's report



Blogger Sterling Hada said...

Great job and excellent write-up, Jim. I'm only sorry I missed the brevet because of this effing fractured wrist. SRCC200 for me!

8:59 PM  
Blogger rob hawks said...


Nice write up. Phil is a riding buddy from the GPC club. It was good to see him return in your company. You'll have to tell me how the course rates against the Lighthouse route, elevation-wise. I see from notes that Bruce B. recorded 7,085' when doing Willy's Jittery Jaunt, the perm. upon which the Two Rock route is based. Also, didn't the beauty of Two Rock Valley take your mind off of the wind?


9:12 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Jim, you are a true gentleman. I really appreciate you looking out for me, but I was very content with how I was riding. I should have let you know that early on, but I think I was too tired to! It was a GREAT adventure and I learned a lot along the way. I felt bad that you were holding back along Tomales Bay and was glad that you picked it up to Point Reyes Station. I had contemplated resting for a while there and putting together one last effort, but the last thing I wanted to do was put myself in a bad position. All told, I would do it again in a heart beat :) Next time though, I'll be a little smarter in how I approach things.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Man...that's a long day on the roads. Glad to hear the gear worked well and you saw such a variety of scenes. Sorry to miss this one!

7:59 AM  
Blogger ruthworkssf said...

Thanks for the write up. With every blog I read about the ride, it makes me regret not doing it even more. I like your tech gear review too. I've been on the fence about those rainlegs. Gabe said he really likes them too, so perhaps for my birthday this year...
I've been dropped on a 200k before with 4 hours to go, and I am glad you decided to wait for your friend, that was a really nice thing to do.

7:03 AM  

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