Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mt Adams SxSW 200k pre-ride report: it's all about Gifford Pinchot, and beer!

Mt. Adams
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
This is a great ride, folks. Challenging? Yes. Doable? Yes. Beautiful? Yes. Worthwhile? Also yes.

Mr. Kramer doesn't exactly live in the flatlands. So his rides tend to take advantage of the beautiful, rugged terrain on both sides of the Columbia River. Perhaps this contributes to his strength as a hill climber.

This is a little problematic, however, on his 600k's, as those rides tend to be significant tests of strength AND endurance. But most randonneurs seem to know this, as the self-selection on Kramer's XTR 600 produced an admirably low DNF rate.

Kramer's 200k's are also challenging ... but DOABLE. Perhaps not the rides for personal bests at that distance, but they're certainly good and beneficial workouts.

The Mt. Adams SxSW 200k brevet is in that category. And it's also gorgeous! (Think National Forest with lotsa trees.) There are also some nice, long descents that provide good payback for the uphill work you'll do.

The ride starts (and ends) in Stevenson, WA, which is a half hour’s drive closer to Portland that Bingen or Hood River (where many of Kramer’s rides start). This is significant, cuz Stevenson is home of Walking Man Brewery, which has garnered a very good reputation among beer connoisseurs in the Northwest. I’ve always wanted to visit this brewery, and this brevet gave me the chance. But more on this later.

The first 22 miles of the brevet are on rolling Highway 14 to Bingen. The most memorable moment of this segment was the 100-car freight train full of double-stacked containers that passed right next to me. Freight train activity doesn’t seemed to have slacked off in the current economy. If where I work is any indication, it’s the preferred method of shipping inbound product to our facility (when time allows).

I’ve ridden between Bingen and Trout Lake several times, so the ride didn’t get really interesting to me until North of Trout Lake (about 46 miles into the ride). Coincidentally, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest starts just beyond there.

Forest Road 23
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
Forest Route 23 towards Randle is smooth and lightly traveled. Lotsa trees keep the road shaded much of the time, which keeps the steady incline relatively pleasant. There are brief downhill respites around mile 50 and 54, but basically it’s continuously uphill to FR90 (the Lewis River Rd). Another interesting and nice thing about riding through the National Forest is that it’s relatively free of litter.

The road surface of the Lewis River Rd. (FR90) is funkier than FR23, which requires some vigilance. Particularly noteworthy is the second of three short gravel sections, which appears suddenly after a potentially rapid descent. The 3rd gravel section, at about 6/10 of a mile, is longer than the first two. I had no problem negotiating them on 23mm tires.

Curly Creek Road
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
And then there’s Curly Creek Road. This is the workout of the ride, folks. Five miles of steep uphill. The good news is 1) there’s a nice viewpoint 3 miles up the road, and 2) the descent on Wind River Road makes it all worth it. On a memorable hot July 3rd, I had to stop and collect myself twice along this stretch.

Eventually on Wind River Rd you leave the National Forest, and return to normal rural Washington, which is more-or-less epitomized by the lumber town of Carson. The south end of Carson is where you catch Highway 14 back to Stevenson. 3.4 more miles, and you’re at the Walking Man Brewery!

Walking Man patio
Originally uploaded by tangobiker
I arrived at the brewery/finish 12 hours and 9 minutes after I started, and immediately splurged on a taster tray (10 small glasses). I have to say all the beers were good, even the styles I’m not normally attracted to (like raspberry beer and barley wine). My favorite, though, was their Imperial IPA, called “Homo Erectus.”

The weather on the day I did the pre-ride was predicted to top out in the 90’s. But it didn’t feel that hot through most of the ride. Perhaps it’s because I started at 5:30 AM. But more likely, it’s the trees and altitude. Much of the Forest Roads were shaded during my ride.

Hope to see many of you cyclists next Saturday, July 11th, on John Kramer’s “Mt Adams SxSW” 200k brevet.

Photos from my pre-ride are here on Flickr.
John Kramer's blog report is here.
Registration is here.