St. Vrain 400km Brevet, CO Felix Wong

I wonder if the weather of the last week in the western U.S. had gotten to Harold Camping‘s head. In both his home of Oakland, California and my home of Northern Colorado, dark clouds had blanketed the skies and deluged the valleys—unusual for May in both places. Perhaps Camping envisioned the need for Noah’s Arc before boldly declaring that May 21st would be the end of the world.

“If the world is going to end on Saturday,” I thought, “I might as well go for a bike ride.”

So at 4:00am, I rolled out of Louisville, Colorado with 28 other bicyclists who were lit up like Christmas trees and headed towards the mountains northwest of Boulder and then the plains as far north as Wellington and as far east as Platteville. The following image shows the route and elevation profile, and as you can see—in stark contrast to the Death Ride-like Cripple Creek 300km Brevet I did two weeks ago—the only significant climbing in this randonnée was up Lefthand Canyon and St. Vrain Canyon, both occurring during the first 100 miles.

The course and elevation profile for the St. Vrain 400km Brevet. (Image:

I took it fairly easy in the first 100 kilometers—wasting a bit of time pulling up leg warmers which kept riding down and also having to stop ever 30 minutes or so to water some not-so-thirsty weeds—before finally catching up to some riders in St. Vrain, Lyons, and Masonville. From my hometown of Fort Collins, I rode entirely alone and saw no other brevet riders except for two I passed east of I-25 at various points.

For what was supposed to the Last Day the weather was surprisingly mild (well, maybe not so surprising to the weather forecasters who didn’t get the end of world memo), and we were blessed with clear skies almost the entire day. A northerly wind started to pick up when I reached Fort Collins meaning that I had to ride in a stiff headwind for about 45 minutes, but I really didn’t mind since I knew once I got to Wellington, this wind would be at my back for much of the remainder of the brevet.

In fact, when I got to the second-to-the-last checkpoint at a convenience store in Gilcrest, I nearly was gloating when I said to the cashier, “The weather has been near-perfect except for the wind—and even then, it’s been mostly a tailwind.”

[Mile 212, 5:12pm] At Checkpoint #7, a convenience store in Gilcrest.

But perhaps one of Mr. Camping’s gods had heard me because almost immediately after, the winds seemed to change. Along with my mechanical luck. With a mere 35 miles to go, my rear tire started to make the dreaded hissing noise before becoming mushy—the clear sign of a flat.

The culprit: a fat staple. It made a hole too large for my Slime Lite tubes to self-heal.

I swapped in another tube in a mere five minutes and was ready to congratulate myself for the rapid response time when the tire basically exploded and almost shattered my right ear drum. Turns out I didn’t seat the tire well before inflating it. I was now down to one spare tube so I was more careful with this one. I couldn’t inflated it to full pressure with a 12-gram CO2 cartridge, however, and I was soon paranoid enough that I was going to consequently get a pinch flat that I stopped a mile later at a gas station to re-inflate the tire with compressed air.

So I ended up losing 20 minutes due to the flat. Next time I think I’ll bring three spare tubes and 16-gram CO2 cartridges.

I still made it to the end before darkness, and on the drive home I reflected on how it was a good, mellow randonnée. And not my last one. False prophets aside, it is almost never too bad of a day in May to go for a bike ride.

Wish List

The following are some things I should take care of before my next brevet, which will be 600 kilometers.

  • Cyclometer: Need to replace the batteries in both the sensor and receiving unit. Cyclometer was not working at all for the first two hours, which I believe was due to temperature-related voltage dropoff in the old sensor battery.
  • Cycling shorts: I need a new pair, one which doesn’t ride down my waist (due to worn lycra and elastic) and ideally, better padding.
  • Cycling gloves: My current ones are too old and falling apart.
  • Water bottles: These also are too old (maybe nine years!) and are starting to leak such that I was getting Gatorade over my gloves and handlebar tape.
  • Water bottle cages: The Super Bike deserves something better than the ancient, mismatched alloy water bottle cages I currently have mounted on there.
  • Lights: Need to verify how long my new Plane Bike Blaze 2-watt light can run on a set of AA Ni-MH rechargeable batteries. (Spare ones will be in my camera.)
  • Make sure I have enough tubes, CO2 cartridges, and patches packed.
  • Try to quiet the rear hub—the freewheeling action is very loud, almost Chris King-like.

Ride Data

  • 255 miles
  • Total climbing: 7,900′ per MapMyRide
  • 4:00am start, 8:25pm finish -> 16.4 hours. (Official results)
  • Moving average speed: 16.3 mph
  • Map (MapMyRide webiste), Route Sheet (PDF, 295 KB)


(Scale of 1-5, 5 = best)

  • Scenery: 3
  • Support/Organization: self-supported
  • Food: self-provided
  • Weather: 4
  • Relative Difficulty: 3
  • Overall Rating: 4

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[Mile ~55, 7:58am] Riding towards the mountains northwest of Boulder.[Mile 212, 5:12pm] At Checkpoint #7, a convenience store in Gilcrest.The course and elevation profile for the St. Vrain 400km Brevet. (Image:

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2 comments on “St. Vrain 400km Brevet, CO

  1. Comment by MikeH

    Another great ride, Felix!

    I’ll defer to your considerably longer touring experience, but why no pump? I’ve never worried about finite air capability (patches and tubes are another story) with a pump, and even with a heavier pack of gear for longer 1-day rides, I haven’t had pinch flat problems or anything even if I only get a meager 65-80psi in a rear tire.

  2. Comment by Felix

    Hi Mike! I didn’t mention it, but I actually did bring along a mini-pump—primarily as an emergency backup measure. It requires something like 300 arm strokes to get a 700c tire up to decent pressure, and by the time I thought “I really should pump up the tire more to avoid a pinch flat” I spotted the gas station in the distance.

    So because of its tedium I am loathe to have to use it, but bring one along nowadays for the reason you mention—it would be terrible to get stranded due to finite air capability.

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