Sunday, February 21, 2010

Stephen Whiteman's dirt review of Will deRosset’s Red Dirt Randonnée and Manhattan Express

Stephen originally posted this write-up on Will deRosset's Red Dirt Randonnée and the Manhattan Express, both Colorado Brevet Series Permmanents, on the Colorado Brevet Series Blog in Aug of '09. Brought to you with a couple more pictures and commentary. Eric

(Monday, August 3, 2009)

On two Saturdays in the last month, Eric Althen and I ventured north to explore Will deRosset’s seasonal permanents, which traverse the hills west of Fort Collins. The Red Dirt Randonnée and the Manhattan Express each explore isolated areas of incredible beauty, their miles of dirt roads transporting us on a tour far removed from our usual routes.

Not far from home as the crow flies, but a whole different world.

The rides are structured similarly, each climbing to Red Feather Lakes before descending Red Feather Lakes Rd. (CR74E) back to Fort Collins. The roads taken along the way are very different, however.

We rode the Manhattan Express, a ride Will describes as “a two-climb route,” over the July 4th weekend. After crossing South Horsetooth to Masonville, we proceeded several miles towards Stove Prairie before turning onto the dirt road that wound its way through forest and alpine meadow to Box Prairie and ultimately over Pennock Pass.

This crazy tube/tire dilemma came after a broken spoke repair we made off the side of the road. Preparedness!

A typical stretch of road on Will deRosset’s permanents: red dirt winding into the distance.

At a control we take a break and search for water.

Miles of climbing were quickly undone by the steep, gravelly descent down to the Poudre, which we then followed upriver towards the day’s second significant climb. Climbing out of Glen Echo, we found ourselves looking for traction up a nasty 2.5 mile track averaging 9% grade, with substantial sections at 12-14%. Turning on to the ride’s namesake, Manhattan Road, we climbed at a milder 6% for several more miles before dropping into Red Feather Lakes. Refortified by ice cream and plenty of water, we finished the day with the rolling descent into Livermore and a final twenty miles of quiet red dirt roads back to town.

Looking back at where we’d been, late day north of Fort Collins.

Having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on the first of Will’s rides, this past weekend Eric and I returned for the Red Dirt Randonnée. Will made the ride sound milder than the Manhattan Express by promising that the climbing was broken into “smaller pieces,” which, in retrospect, was accurate: instead of the M-E’s two major climbs, one stretching over 25 miles, the RDR brought us five climbs of three to six miles, none as nasty, but cumulatively just as challenging as those we encountered on the M-E. Heading north from Fort Collins, we made our way to the Wyoming border, another beautiful climb over a succession of false summits through grassy fields rippling in the wind.

Eric at the Wyoming border.

We then turned to the winding, varied ascent through Prairie Divide to Red Feather Lakes. This road was as peaceful and isolated as any we had ridden, at times rising through open prairies, climbing through the woods, and following creeks through small canyons rimmed by fantastic, otherworldly rock formations.

An open expanse above near Prairie Divide.

This is Red Dirt Randonneuring!

Not only did these rides take us through areas of Colorado enjoyed by very few, far from the cars and reflected heat our usual paved routes, they also challenged us from start to finish. As a randonneur, these were my first experiences with having to watch the clock closely, as making the controles on the way up to Red Feather Lakes in time was by no means a given. Our efforts were easily exceeded by the reward each day, however, as we enjoyed truly epic rides.

Stephen Whiteman.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Does this look like a piece of crap to you? Like them spinnin' tires do you?"- Joe Dirt.

The Gold Belt Century page is now complete! Check out the ride description and photo's from last years ride. Be sure to leave your name in the comment section if your planning to attend, your not committed to it, I just need a head count.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Single Speed on a Budget

One thing you'll see a lot of around here is bicycles. For me it's as much about the equipment as it is about the ride, all part of the experience. I'm constantly building up new bikes with an assortment of new, used, and vintage parts just to see how it rides. A lot of the bikes I couldn’t afford in the 80's are now readily available and cheap. So you want to build an inexpensive bike for dirt road adventures that will work, use steel, because 'steel is real'! Vintage steel bikes can be had cheap and you can't go wrong. There is a reason every other material is constantly being compared to steel, it works. There is only two downsides to steel, it's heavier and it can rust. So skip that donut for breakfast and keep your bike off the bottom of the ocean floor and your good to go. As far as value and ride compliance nothing else compares to steel. There are other materials that work too, I love my modern-vintage titanium Serotta, but you'll pay for them. I wanted to build a bike on a budget for my boy's, something simple and fun. I used a mid-80's Schwinn World Sport frame and fork, given to me by Kirk at Creek Side Bikes. Not much value in these old bikes as is, you can buy them complete for next to nothing. Unfortunately the components of the era are marginal at best, even when they were new, but the frame is where the value is. They ride great, and most importantly they can except a big tire which make them an excellent choice for a dirt roads. From the 50-80's bikes were built to ride on America's roads and a lot of those roads were rural dirt roads, they're perfect. Some, like my favorite, Schwinn, were built in Chicago and Japan when it was cheap to do so. Schwinn produced some of the worlds finest bicycles, go price a new steel frame built in Chicago or Japan today and you'll see what I mean. Not all bikes from the 80's are created equal, you'll need to do your research to find a good frameset that will work well. If you need help with parts orders for your vintage steel project be sure to give Kirk Webster a call at Creek Side Bikes, he's an expert on vintage bicycles and stocks many NOS parts, including Campagnolo.

  I started off by removing all of the unnecessary tabs to make a clean SS/fixed gear.

Once everything was removed I took the frame and fork to my favorite Powder Coat shop here in Golden and they hooked me up with a High Gloss finish. Looks great, it's durable and cheap.
This high-speed low-drag Rolf wheelset came from a Denver dumpster, not so great when I got them. Sweet now, and they spin forever.

We used vintage Gran Compe cranks and brake calipers from the Schwinn I road in high school! 42 x 18t gearing.

Bo (14) road his new bike 35 miles on the Santa Fe trail, a dirt (and snow, mud & ice) multi-use path from Monument to Colorado Springs the day after Thanksgiving. He uses 23c tires but could easily run a 33c tire with fenders! An advantage of switching from the original 27" wheel to a modern 700c, not to mention a huge tire selection in the new wheel size. He loves the skinny tires but is also an extremely confident Mnt Bike rider and motocross rider from age 4. Getting loose on the dirt is not an issue for him... Cool bike Huh!?!?!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Welcome to the Colorado Dirt Road Randonneur!

I've started this Blog for those interested in epic dirt road rides in and around Colorado. After riding 4 Dirty Century's and accumulating over 1000 miles on unpaved roads in 2009 I was hooked with all they have to offer. Dirt roads are less traveled with minimal traffic to contend with compared to hot tarmac, and if that is reason enough you will also find yourself in some of the most beautiful and remote areas in the state. Please check back for ride idea's complete with maps for your next ride idea. If you have a ride you've completed please share! And most importantly join us on one of the future organized rides coming up this year. As I plan spring training rides of interest I will also post those as well.