Lessons Learned From Urbana

As I’m still a newbie at this randonneuring thing, I feel like I still have a lot to learn about riding. I’m writing these “lessons learned” posts as a reminder of things to think about.

I did everything I said I would in my last post. Luckily, I didn’t get a flat this time. My new tights fit me fine, and my new headlight works great. I did eat before the ride and throughout, so I didn’t bonk at all, but there were times when I did feel hungry.

So what did I learn from Urbana?

Get a saddlebag or a rack trunk bag. I think my handlebar bag gets in the way of my brake cables, which proved to be a problem this time. It definitely gets in the way of my headlight. Since I have a small bike, I don’t have room for a decaleur in the front.

Buy a breathable rain jacket. It didn’t rain, fortunately, but I continued to wear a rain jacket for the duration of the ride. I was sweating a lot, and when I got to the finish in the evening, I was chilled. Luckily, it wasn’t so cold out, but it could be potentially dangerous in colder weather to wear that jacket, so I need to get another one.

Consider buying an indoor trainer. I rode a stationary bike when I was holed up in hotels for work. Although it’s not nearly as fun as being outdoors on a real bike, I did find that it did give me a good workout. I try to get out and ride when I can, but for those days when I can’t, especially in the winter, I need to ride anyway, and a trainer would be a big help.

Consider getting a Camelbak. I need to hydrate more. I know this.* But I hate carrying stuff on my back, and I’m bad about cleaning bottles as it is. Maybe I just need to remember to drink more often.

Take pictures! I brought a camera, but I was so worried about my time that I didn’t stop to take any pictures. Hopefully, I will work on riding more throughout the year so I don’t have to worry about making to controls on time, and thus will be able to stop and document the ride.

I’m going to keep riding. My goal is to finish the next brevet on time!

*I wrote this post ahead of time, but last night, I wound up in the ER from extreme dehydration. That’s never happened to me before, and I’ve done long rides in the summer. So I should definitely do something about this sooner rather than later!


11 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From Urbana

  1. what kind of rain jacket do you have? I saw showers pass have a good closeout sale on some of their jackets now (but limited sizes).

    • I saw that Showers Pass has a sale! I’m going to get one of their jackets. I have a packable Columbia– great for walking around, bad for biking, I’ve discovered.

      • Showers Pass seem like good jackets, though I don’t happen to own one.

        I wore my waterproof/breathable jacket all day during Urbana. I don’t believe that there is any waterproof/breathable jacket that ventilates well enough to keep you dry underneath. So you have to have enough layers underneath to stay warm when damp. Wool works very well for this task.

        As to the problem with the handlebar bag interfering with your cables, there are potentially some workarounds for this. I would suggest that you post on either the DCR listserve or the Google:Randon group and see what people suggest. I use down-tube shifters so this isn’t a problem for me.

        Having a handlebar bag is an incredible convenience and time-save for randonneuring so it’s worth seeing if you can find a workaround. Being able to conveniently snack without stopping, or take off or put on clothes without having to get off your bike and fiddle with a saddlebag or rack bag is very nice.


  2. You should consider a Pipsqueak bag b y Rickshaw for your handlebars. MG uses one so she can give you the lowdown. It will hold a little camera and a snack and not much else.

    I don’t clean my waterbottles but I do empty them and let them drain in the dishdrainer next to the sink. There is no funky stuff in the bottom.

    I am impressed mightily by anybody who takes on 100+ hilly miles. One of these days, I’ll get into the swing of things.

    • That Pipsqueak bag is super cute. I need something a little bigger for these rides, though, so I can fit more snacks.

      I’d love to see you at a randonneuring event someday! I don’t recommend Urbana as a first brevet, though.

  3. dear “I eat nails for breakfast”:

    since youre obviously super tough, it will come as non-news that the alleged breathable rainwear available for cyclists suck — only eVent comes close and it’s a fortune…and most eVent jackets dont pack down very well…

    Ed and Mary like the Gore Bike Wear Goretex shell, which is great choice. in general, look for adequate venting, especially through a back vent! — as this also prevents billowing…a real pain in the ass… The showers pass jackets are fine…I have one, and its okay…unless you can get it on sale, buy it from REI so if it sucks and you hate it in six months you can return it…

    And there are lots of bags and ways to carry stuff on your racy bike for longer rides and brevets…look at Bill Becks setup on his racy Trek. he carries everything he needs, plus the kitchen sink, plus his camera stuff and he is still plenty speedy. you know about Peter White Cycles on the Web?…Team Estrogen on the Web? and Rivendell Bicycles on the Web?…Velo Orange?…they all have good info, and good stuff…

    Of course, I predict that in the near future youll be buying a bike like a Surly Long Haul Trucker as the middle ground between your commuter bike and your racy bike…this middle ground, randonneur type and touring bike is simply too easy to ride for most rides in all kinds of weather…and too easy to use for errands, etc. which, by the way, are MUCH more fun to do outside even in the winter on a bike you can carry your warm clothes with you, than riding on a trainer indoors!!! ouch.

    and: fenders.

    oh, i also see a generator light setup in your future…yes, i do…

    So many enjoyable miles ahead for you this summer, and so much more bike stuff to buy…

    — Mike

    PS: try to stay hydrated…geez, hospitals are scary for healthy people…you dont need a camel back to stay hydrated… ask lane, or eric…they drink plenty, with nothin’ on their backs…sometimes it even doesnt have alcohol in it.,..

  4. Dear Lisa,

    Im a shut-in. Im scared of people.

    I live vicariously through Lane, MG and Ed and Eric…

    PS: i looked closer at your “other” bike; THAT’S your randonneur bike! it’s all ready to go!…fenders, maybe a new rack, a generator front wheel, headlight, tailight…or you could put a better tire on the rear, and use the front wheel off of your “racy” bike for longer rides or brevets (and put a better tire on it, too). well, anywho…just some thoughts…

    What band are you in and what instrument do you play?

    • You should come to Friday Coffee Club. All your friends are there!

      I admit that my “racy” bike (not really all that racy) isn’t the best for randonneuring. It doesn’t carry a load all that well, and during Urbana, I discovered that it’s a little twitchy when I get tired. But what I love about the bike is that the gearing is smooth and great for hills, and I feel mostly comfortable on it. My commuter, on the other hand, carries stuff well and handles great in all road conditions. However, the gearing is not as great, and I don’t feel as good on it. I had two different people from different bike stores (one described here: https://ramblingrider.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/bike-fit/) tell me that this bike is actually too big for me. I suppose I could try riding a century on it and see how it really feels. But I’m leaning towards buying another bike entirely for brevets.

      P.S. I’m not in a band. I play classical music.

  5. Great job on finishing a tough ride. You clearly have the mindset this sport requires if you finish a ride like that and start looking for ways to improve the next time out!
    I second Mike’s comments. I have a few to add. I have yet to find or hear of a real “breathable” rain jacket. Basically, if a fabric keeps water out, it keeps sweat in – especially if you are working hard while wearing it. Venting is key. A good venting system helps to release the heat/trapped moisture generated by exercising under a water proof rain fabric. Think of a good tent, it need lots of air flow. And if it gets too cold, you can close the vents.
    Another (better) question is why are you wearing a rain jacket if its not raining. Especially if its making you sweat in cool temperatures. That’s like getting the worst of both worlds. I suspect you did not want to be cold. If that’s the case, there are jackets and tops that do a much better job of keeping out cold while letting out excess heat and moisture. Wind vests, especially ones that are open mesh in the back are great part of a layering system since they block wing up front and allow venting in back.

    Second point – dehydration is not just about taking fluids in, its also about managing sweat loss and preventive excessive sweating. So all the stuff above is just as important for preventing dehydration.

    As for the bike – its really not about the bike. Its more about time in the saddle. So ride what you have or what you enjoy. Hopefully both. Because once you consistently get the miles in, the fitness and finishes will come.

    • Thanks for your comments, Iron Rider. I guess I didn’t make it clear in my posts that I recognized that the amount of sweat I had generated from wearing a rain jacket directly contributed to my dehydration. My biggest mistake was thinking that I was drinking enough to offset that– clearly, I wasn’t. I will definitely not make that mistake again. I do own a rain jacket with vents (it wasn’t the one I wore), and if I ever have to do a ride in the rain, I will use that one– or else not wear a jacket at all. I was too much in a hurry to take off the jacket– it wasn’t really about the cold.

      You can be sure that I will be putting in more miles once I fully recover! Thanks again for your advice.

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