Category Archives: double

Mulholland double century

‘’That was a spiritual odyssey,’ said Morgan after an early afternoon climb that we had just struggled up. People were actually walking their bikes up this monster hill. Just one of many. A great first ride for me and my new Seven! My bike was together a couple of days earlier, and a small problem was fixed the night before at the shop. New shoes and pedal system, new shorts and jersey; I am stoked! Pics posted soon.

We knew this ride was going to be difficult, but it was far from our minds as we grubbed Indian food with the crew the night before. This ride was just outside LA so we slept at home the night before and borrowed a car to get out there. Morgan started off smoothly by forgetting his helmet and then losing the chip you turn in to prove that you started. In his defense we had less than four hours sleep.

The group start was brilliant as we headed down Las Virgenes through the tunnel and onto the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway for y’all on the East Coast). The group split when we hit Topanga Canyon and started climbing back into the mountains. We held up pretty well and then Morgan and I got separated. Turned on some crazy side road and climbed another 1000 or so feet before descending back down to the coast. This was one of those roads that hugs the mountains and seems to drift over the ocean from above. Stunning. I was laughing as I flew down at 35 MPH…

Climbing, climbing, climbing. Loving my bike. Morgan, still riding the bike he found at a bus stop, ended up bonking hard in mid afternoon (not long after we were pulled over for running stop signs). Got some food in him and we set out from the last check point before Balcolm Canyon at mile 125. A roadie had chatted us up earlier and merely laughed when we mentioned this climb. Someone referred to it as a ‘novelty’ climb. My 39-27 was barely turning as I grinded up it. Back to the coast again before the climb up Mulholland from the PCH. This is the route I once drove over in a convertible…

We just barely finished the big descent before dark. Push push push…to the climb we knew was coming: Stunt road. At least it wasn’t hot! Last check point is at the summit and whenever new riders would appear from the climb everyone would clap! One more significant climb then a cruise back to the hotel. We rolled in with a time of 16 hours and 47 minutes. Not bad for the second hardest DC in California. 32% of the people who started didn’t finish! Morgan, unfortunately got a DNF for missing that turn early on and missing the extra climbing. Stage One of the Triple Crown Stage Race down! Two weeks till Stage Two, the Devil Mountain DC, with its 20,000 feet of climbing.

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Hemet double century

Where the hell is Hemet, CA? Close, but still had to rent a car on Friday to get there for the Hemet DC on Saturday. Found a rental car place close by; no need to go all the way to the airport on Friday evening. Back to the house in time to eat and head downtown for Plex’s alleycat race ‘Traffic’ (based on the movie). Mad heads show up: Local messengers and bike kids plus riders from NYC, Chicago, and SF in town for the messenger velodrome series race the next day. The race had five check points to pick up drugs on the way to Hollywood. I said I would only roll along, but I got caught up in it and was ‘racing’. I was in a pack flying through the city, in tons of traffic, when my chain came off! Fuck! That sucks when you are riding fixed gear. Got it back on and chilled out a bit the rest of the race.

After the award ceremony a gang of us headed over to the Midnight Riders ride at Sunset & Echo. Second Friday of every month and it rules. 200 plus people these days! I was promoting BikeSummer stuff and then some kids were playing on Free Ride Mountain bikes and BMX’s. My boy Chris let me have a go on his BMX and I was stoked. Hopped back into it with some wall rides, manuals and nose bonks on a TV and some 180’s to half-cabs. When the ride left I went home to work on my bike for the Hemet DC.

Up at 345am to make the 1.5 hour drive. New kids from SF had shown up and were still up drinking beer in the living room. They wished me luck and I offered the same for their velodrome race. 85 MPH the whole way to Hemet. Not much out there. I sign in and am off with a medium paced group. First 100 miles in 6 hours elapsed; a personal record. The course is a relatively flat figure-8 with the start point in the middle. Another first: Someone crashed in front of me in a paceline. You know when you see a group of riders and think, ‘What if one of them fell?’ Luckily we were not going too fast and I saw it coming. The lead group dropped those of us that had stopped and then we tried to catch them! I pulled for a while and the guys behind me started making comments about my bike. Basically I am usually one of only a handful of people without a $5000 bike. Mine looks especially crappy as well.

Since I had expected to be in the desert all day I was rather impressed with the scenery. Many miles of the route were along and around these beautiful lakes with green mountains surrounding them. One downer was the wind we had ALL DAY. Even if it was not headwinds, it was annoying. One guy I was with, Bern, is at least 65 and is training to race the 508 solo. He didn’t mind the winds because that ride is well known for having crazy winds. At the end of the day, we had 6 miles straight into the wind. It was a guy with a 508 jersey who pulled us along. I had been fighting the wind for a couple of miles at 15 MPH or so and this guy jumped up and held a pace of 18 MPH. Sick! At the last turn this guy, who had not been pulling, took off and was ‘racing’ to the hotel. I thought this was whack cause we were no where near the front (by hours!). The other guys took off after him and I thought they were down for the racing. Turns out they were pissed that he didn’t pull and was trying to come into the hotel ahead of us! We ended up pulling him back in and all rolled into the hotel together. Best time yet: 13 hours and 20 minutes. Drove back and crashed out for 10 hours of sleep!

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Solvang double century

Morgan, Max and Myself hit Santa Barbara Critical Mass on the way up and then ate dinner with the punks. They thought we were cat-calling a girl, but really we were just excited about a good mustache. Then drove up to Solvang and met Matt Pro who sporting a sweet mustache! Wish I had a picture…
Max, Matt Pro and I slept in the van together. A tad tight. Morgan slept in the bushes. Matt Pro up an hour early to get a start cause he’s riding fixed!
Cold cold start. Max and Morgan went on and on about Mole Cows that live in the hills. Fantastic, green scenery. I rode mile 187 naked in what I hope to be a new custom. We all finished near the very end and Deb from Planet Ultra laughed at us. Two of the four wanted a hotel (I won’t tell which two) and the other two grudgingly accepted. We ate burritos and crashed out. Stoked on our crew.

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Death Valley double century

When imagining a double century in Death Valley (DV) I thought of a long, arduous day in the heat, by myself, struggling against the intense conditions. The March 5th DC was much different; four of us drove out together to camp and Morgan and I were together for nearly the entire rode. And the weather was fantastic for the ride; despite the pouring rain we drove through the night before. DV is a national park that is home to the lowest point in North America (Badwater) at 282 feet below sea level and is within eyesight of the highest point in the US, Mt Whitney. The insane rain that hit Cali this year has put a lake right in the middle of Badwater. Fortunately the same rain led to a HUGE blossoming of bright yellow flowers that contrasted beautifully with the jagged black mountain ranges.

First lesson: Alarms on cell phones don’t work when they are not getting reception. After getting to sleep at 1am or so I managed to wake up on my own at 535am, 10 minutes before the ride started. We ate bagels and drank soymilk as we rode from the campground to the starting point. The ride was set-up for two out and backs of 75 and 25 miles, respectively. Before we started I ran into Gerd, the 71 year old from Berkeley (who ended up finishing in under 13 hours!). Just like in OC I jumped in with the fast pack and was streamlining for a while. Some guy asked me if I was at the Butterfield DC cause my bike was still dirty. We were making great time and I assumed Morgan was in the group. I stopped at the first pit stop (the fast group kept going!) and looked for Morgan. Ten minutes later he came rolling in, panting hard. It ends up his number flew off his bike in the first mile and he went back to get it!

People who ride double centuries are, as you could guess, a unique bunch. Much friendlier (and odder!) than the roadies I come across on weekends at home. Morgan and I go for the chill pace for the two climbs through the desert, chatting with people as we go. The temperature started rising and the lack of sleep was evident. Second lesson: read the route slip. I thought lunch was at the turn around point (mile 75), but it was at mile 130. Something as simple as not getting lunch when expected could bum you out when you are tired and hot. The return route was excellent; the vastness of the desert was overwhelming as we descended the passes we had climbed up and over. The layers were outstanding from the bright flowers and the close mountain ranges to the snow topped ranges in the distance.

Morgan was doing great for his first double. At mile 150 we reached the starting point for the final out and back as the sun set behind the mountains. At check-in a bunch of people quit! We turned on our lights and pushed on. I love riding in the dark! We enjoyed the tail winds and hammered past numerous people. At the final checkpoint we chatted with Chris Kostman, the organizer, for a bit. Morgan and I have put this guy on a pedestal recently. His triple iron man races, his excellent writing and his inclusive events have given him near idol status in our minds.

Last 25 miles. Head winds. Morgan was feeling it. We turned off our lights to ride under the billions of bright stars and he almost fell asleep. At 9pm we roll into the finish with a time just under 15 hours. I’m stoked! Had plans to drive back to LA over night in time to do the LA bike tour at 6am, but this shit didn’t pan out and we crashed out in the tent. Next day we had a beautiful drive back to LA, with no rain, in our rented hybrid civic. Rad weekend. Morgan’s comments: ‘Saturday was rad. Lasting images: (a) field of yellow flowers (b) the Sisyphean ordeal of Salisbury pass (never getting closer) (c) no lunch ’til mile 130 (d) pounding up that hill in the dark just after leaving stovepipe (the latter memory sticks in particular, as it was so difficult for me then, but I had some vague sense that it would be over soon…).’

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Butterfield (butterflood?) double century

Last September 25th, on my attempt to ride my third double century of the year to qualify for the California Triple Crown, Matt Pro and I ended up getting lost at mile 150 and not finishing. How frustrating! The details of being stranded in the cold and the dark are not all that exciting, but I decided then that I would do the first three doubles of 2005.

Double centuries (DC) are ranked based on the amount of climbing (called total elevation gain) that is done in the 200 miles. The ones I did last year were actually rather difficult, with Mt. Tam being the most strenuous at 15,000 feet. The Butterfield DC with its 8100 ft of climbing is only moderately difficult and, as the first DC of the year, is a great ride to loosen up your legs. Starting and ending in Orange County, the set route was through some territory I had ridden on. And I wouldn’t have to travel super far to get there.

With a borrowed car from my boss and the day off I headed to my friend’s house in the OC around mid-day on Friday in the pouring rain. That night, after searching for my lost keys for about an hour, I found them under the couch (and was then able to tighten my Kryptonite skewer) and was asleep by 1130pm or so. The sound of pouring rain was evident as soon as my alarm went off at 415am. It was also evident when I had to put dollars into an uncovered machine to pay the tolls on the stupid freeway twice! Off of the freeway I notice a pack of blinking lights; the early DC group had left the hotel and were on their way!

I got to the starting point at a hotel (late!), threw my bike and gear together and for a minute considered not even wearing rain gear. Would it really matter after 14 hours in the rain if I had it on or not? I went with it and think I made the right choice. Just caught the twilight (ha!) main start and was off. Later I found out that less than half of the 216 registered riders even left the hotel.

The fast pack took off and I hung with the middle group. A moderate climb separated us further, but I was with about 10 people who were just above my ability. People were chatting; someone said they did 5 doubles last year and then someone else said the person next to them had done 10. He followed that statement with ‘Yeah, and he is 71 years old.’ Gerd, a retired chemistry professor, has been riding about 6 years since his wife bought them mountain bikes when he was 65. Amazing.

From the 615am start till about 1030am it down-poured. That didn’t stop the pack I was with from averaging speeds around 21-22 MPH. Early on the ride I was thinking about what could make riding at 30 MPH more dangerous. I came up with 3 things: 1) In the dark, 2) In the rain, 3) In a pack of people that you do not know. We were doing all of them.

At the lunch check point at mile 95 or so they informed us that there was flooding and wash-outs in Temecula; we had to turn around and return the way we came. By this time the rain had slowed, and then stopped, and the sun was creeping out. Rolling with a pack of four, we were pacelining (riding in an aerodynamic line alternating the front rider) and making great time. Our rain gear had time to air out and the intense head winds we faced earlier in the day now pushed us on from behind. Most of the route was through Southern OC on bike lanes, routes, and paths on, or near, the coast. Despite much of it, there really are beautiful sections of OC.

When we turned inland, around dusk at mile 150 or so, the rain started again. Our pack was holding strong and I played my part in the pace line by pulling us up some of the bigger hills through the never-ending sprawl that is urban OC. At the final check point we were told that as many as 40 people had dropped out! I pushed down my tenth or eleventh PBJ sandwich with two ibuprofen (I had a wisdom tooth pulled earlier in the week and could barely eat even soft food) and we started out on the final twenty-five miles.

Laughing at the rain was the best way for me to deal with it. Really, would sitting around watching TV be any better? Eventually, I adjusted to it and it no longer mattered that is was raining. Most people I talk with about double centuries think it is about the physical challenge, but to me that is only a small component of it. Once you are capable of riding that distance it is no longer as important as other factors. Much of it is mental and, while spending all day on my bike, I have time to draw parallels and symbolism with the rest of my life.

Finishing at the hotel our crew said our good-byes (‘See you in Solvang!) and I met up with Morgan to drive back to Los Angeles. Straight to the BikeSummer party at Basswerks for some chilling before a much anticipated good night of sleep. Two weeks till Death Valley!

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Knoxville double century

Here’s a quick summary:
We didn’t leave LA till 7pm, therefore we arrived in Davis around 2am.
Slept for a few hours at Tim’s place (same as for Mt Tam!).
Got to the start late and were the last two to leave.
Spent all day being playing catch-up; barely made the lunch cut-off.
My cassette fell off at one point (don’t ask).
We miss a turn b/c it was marked poorly, and rode 14 miles out of the way, round trip.
The sweep SAG missed us cause we were off-route.
The checkpoint with our lights and warm clothes was closed and gone.
Riding downhill in the dark and cold sucks: You want to go faster to warm up, but you can’t see shit.
Eventually we get in touch with the organizers and they say they have to come get us.
We wouldn’t finish till 3am if we rode on.
Super cold waiting for them.
My first DNF on a ride, ever.
Happy Birthday!

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Tour of Two Forest double century

A day on a bicycle, exploring, at slow, antagonizing low speeds and exhilarating high speeds, is a day well spent. My recent interest in double centuries has awarded me the possibility of spending Saturdays exploring some of the most beautiful parts of the world, by bicycle of course. This past Saturday I rode 200 miles on the Tour of Two Forests Double Century organized by Planet Ultra.

At 430am, after a couple hours of so-called sleep, my friend Matt Pro and I are mummy-like as we organize our stuff in his Hollywood apartment and prepare for our drive to Santa Clarita for the 615am start. Our excitement is only slightly concealed by our sleepiness. But, what may have been concealed was our better judgment. We decided to not fix the slow-leak in his tube and not to bring warmer clothes.

Honestly, the morning was unremarkable. Some cold weather, a little mist, good conversation pertaining to California history, and the usual rural landmarks kept our brains functioning through mid-morning. Then Matt’s tube started to act up. Slow leaks are tricky because part of you says, ‘Don’t waste time fixing it, just keep pumping it up every hour!’ When your tube is low on pressure it takes significantly more energy to keep the same pace. Not fun! It ends up that a patched rip in his tire was putting tiny holes in his tube. In the end he had changed or patched the tube 4 times before scoring a new tire.

The two forests we traveled through were the Los Padres and The Angeles National Parks. Stunning. I have traveled a decent amount in my life, but I have to say that California has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. In one day you can travel along beaches, through mountains and across deserts, and numerous types of each! With National Parks comes mountains, and with mountains comes climbs. Mid-day, temperature in the 90’s and we are struggling up some big ones. Not steep, but long. ‘Hey, look way up there! Is that the pass? Didn’t that car pass us 20 minutes ago?’

Part of the ride went through sections of forest that were nearly destroyed by the fires in 2003. Here we are, cruising along as the sun is going down, about 140 miles behind us, through the remains of a fire. Trees still standing though they more resemble silhouettes. Shrubs still holding strong, despite being blackened to a crisp, blowing in the wind. Only the occasional dog that chases us breaks the unnatural silence.

The last fifty miles were ridden under the stars, guided by our headlights. The organizers were gracious enough to give us a fifteen-mile downhill. My front brakes were not working (I will not get into the details!), as we descended at twenty-five miles per hour through repetitive twists and turns. Each series of turns seemed to mimic the previous one until finally the mountain opened up and we descended into the town of Santa Clarita.

Nearly seventeen hours had passed when we returned to the start point across from Magic Mountain. In these seventeen hours I experience not only vast temperature changes and sceneries, but also an array of emotions. Pedaling becomes so routine that it is meditative. My mind jumps from joy to sadness in a matter of miles. Old memories suddenly leap to the front of my mind. I consider old and new ideas. Suddenly I realize I have ridden ten miles and cannot remember a single thing I thought about. Was my mind blank for nearly forty-five minutes?

Tonight (Friday) Matt and I are traveling up to Davis to do the Knoxville Double on Saturday. If I finish, despite this lingering cold that has cost me three days of work, I will be eligible for the California Triple Crown. ( Hopefully my cold and cough dissipate in the next twelve hours. This route has less climbing than others at 11,000 feet (compared to 15,000 and 13,000) and claims wonderful scenery. It will be a fantastic way to spend my twenty-sixth birthday.

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Mt Tam double century

200 miles in one day. It’s a goal I set for myself way back when I first started doing long rides in Fall of 2000. It was at my first organized ride ever, the Santa Monica mountains century earlier this summer, where I learned about the existence of organized 200 miles rides called double centuries. It’s called the California Triple Crown, a series of double centuries all over the state. I checked the website the night after that ride and was hooked.

Saturday morning I woke up at 245am, drank some coffee, ate what food I could, and hopped in my rental car. The extra $5/day for the CD player was so worth it. Public Enemy and Gangstarr kept my energy level up on the one-hour drive to the start of the ride in Merin County. I downed a quart of silk latte. The start of the ride was at an elementary school and the place was buzzing. At least 125 people on bikes plus organizers and supporters. I stand in line surrounded by geared up roadies; slightly intimidated by all of the people for whom this is normal. I get my number and am on my way back to the car to unload my bike. Is this it?

I had just finished putting on sunblock (still dark out) and sorting out my lights when the start begins. I hop on my bike and take off with the main group. After a couple of miles we are split up by a small climb. A fast group takes off in the front and I am still with the main group. At one point we are flying downhill on a road with full tree cover. At about 30 miles an hour all I can see is the spot of light in front of me from my light and dozens of blinking red lights. Amazing! If I am doing anything at 530am I would want it to be this.

At the first pit stop, at mile 22 or so, I look at my computer and my average speed is 18 MPH. This is damn fast for me, my ‘fast’ training rides were at about this speed, but for only 25-30 miles. I have 178 left. I decide to not pace with the main group. Here we also drop our lights and warm clothes in marked paper bags. The organizers kindly shuttle this stuff ahead to the second to last stop, where we will be needing them again for nightfall.

The first big climb of the day was up the infamous Mt. Tamalpais. 2500 feet to the top where we check-in, turn around and descend. Astounding views of San Francisco, the ocean, and the mountain ranges from our position above the fog line. During the descent, and some time after, we hit fog and cold weather. Damn the crazy bay area weather! Eventually I will be sweating in 90 plus heat, but at this time, around mile 50, I am almost shivering. Like I have said before, when you spend hours and hours on a bike, outside, you truly experience every change in the environment.

Around mile 80 I ended up chatting with two women in their forties. Turns out they have both ridden many tough centuries and other hard rides. We formed a pace line and chatted away. They were so impressed that this was my first double and only my second organized ride! Eventually we caught another group and about 8 of us paced together. Riding at about 21-22 MPH on flat we picked up some miles quickly. I held my own at the front for many of them, but our group split up at the next big climb.

These organized rides are ‘supported’, meaning that food, drinks, minor mechanics, and first aid is available at a number of pit stops along the way. My problem is that I hang out there too long eating and drinking! Vegan food is abound usually in the form of pb/jelly sandwiches, clif bars, fruit, bagels, fig newtons, Gatorade, granola bars and hammer gel (yum!). The lunch pit stop was stocked with veggie burritos and one of the last ones had figs, one of my new favorite fruits.

I spent a lot of midday on my own. This included a ridiculously steep climb at mile 130. It was one of those climbs, in the open sun, where you have trouble turning your pedals over in the easiest gear. I was standing for a lot of it. My legs are aching, as is my lower back, and I am regretting my early morning pace. ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’ I hate riding uphill. I much prefer riding downhill and/or with tailwinds! If there was ever a lazy person who did a double century it is me. At the next stop I realize we are on the same course as the metric double century (125 miles) riders and I try not to turn my nose up to those doing fewer miles.

Around mile 150 I am feeling sluggish in even keeping a fast pace on flat. I am seeing fewer and fewer riders and my motivation is low. My mind is searching for something new to think about! I force myself not to stare at my computer and calculate my pace, miles to go, etc. Around 175 I meet up with a guy I had talked to briefly earlier and we start riding together. Not pacing, simply riding side by side. It turns out that it is his first double, but he just ran the SF marathon the previous weekend! We end up riding together the rest of the day (and into the night!).

At the mile 186 stop we meet the guy responsible for the course. He is ecstatic that this is our first double and tells us that we will be hooked. Yeah too late my friend. It’s great when someone involved in an inherently exclusive hobby is not exclusive to who does it and actively encourages others to participate. After that we had one last climb before a descent and some flat to the 200 mile mark. But, as always, I was having gear problems. My light was going in and out and my friend’s battery died. We had my back-up commuter light, but in the pitch blackness it was little help on the descent. Luckily someone with two LED lights caught us and led the way to the end point. 200 miles in 16 hours and 42 minutes. I was shooting for 15, but what are you going to do? I finished within the cut-off time of 17, so I was happy.

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Signed up for a double century, wtf?

About 6 weeks ago I committed to doing a double century (200 miles in one day, under 17 hours) on August 7th in Marin County (across the golden gate bridge from SF). I trained as much as someone like me could train. I had a hill day, an interval day, and a long day each week. My new riding buddy, Matt Pro, and I did Los Angeles to San Diego in one day- about 165 miles- two weeks ago. I feel good, but I don’t have a lot to compare it to.

Anyway, I flew up to Northern California on Tuesday for a conference for work on Wed/Thur. Which, in itself, was a fun time. Oh wait! My 10-year streak of not paying for taking my bike on a plane was broken! I was lazy and didn’t measure my boxes and got called out. She actually measured my boxes! One 7 inches over and the other 4 (length plus height plus width). I was able to talk my way into just paying for one oversized box; $45. Much better than the $80 for bike or $90 for two over-sized boxes. I really cannot complain since I didn’t have to pay for my flight.

All week I have been back and forth between Sacramento and Davis. Davis is amazing! I have eaten at least a dozen and a half figs STRAIGHT OFF THE TREE. My friends Tim Radak and Temra Costra are urban scavengers (and wonderful hosts!). Amazing. And last night I went to a bar because Tim’s housemate’s boyfriend was performing with someone else named Ben as ‘The Benjamins’. In dramatic fashion I am waiting in line for some food and this kid with a beard and dreads asks me if my name is Matt. I say yes and he responds. ‘Yo its Ben Lewis! From high school!’. Yeah. A friend from high school I haven’t talked to in 7 years. He lives in Davis and was the other Ben in ‘The Benjamins’. And, randomly enough, his older sister was in town visiting from Monterrey. She made reference to me at her prom. Crazy!

Now it is 1015pm. I have to be up in 4.5 hours to drive to the start of the ride one hour away. Check-in is at 430am. I am super nervous. Can I climb 15,000 feet in one day? Will I be able to finish in 17 hours? Will my bike hold up? My knees? I am unsure what to expect. I just made a mixed CD for the rental car ride and am staring at my bike all ready to go. We’ll see what happens. I will post as soon as I get back to Davis. The car ride back here might be rough, but that’s what coffee is for. Good night.

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