2003 Davis 400km Brevet
April 19, 2003 Sat
The day would start much like it would end: in darkness, solitude, under the soft
glow of an ever-watching moon.
(More pictures are here.)
Here's a short
report I emailed out to a few friends after the ride:
Sometimes low-tech solutions, light 3M packaging tape,
saves the day.
Well, I'm back from Davis. (I finished at 2:19am--or 20.3 hours after I
started--and then I slept in my car until 6:30am, keeping with my new habit
of waking up at 6:30!) The ride went really well until Mile 125. Then I
went a little too hard on the first of a series of surprisingly tough climbs
(I should have studied the elevation chart better... I thought there was just
one major climb, so I went pretty hard on that one... and then came about 5
more "blips"...), and it took me about 40 miles to recover. Then the
mounting bracket (the one I manufactured on Friday night) for my lights broke
at Mile 175. Some mechanical engineer I turned out to be!! Luckily, it
happened just 1 mile from the first store we passed by in about 50 miles,
where I bought a roll of 3M packing tape. Then I wrapped gobs and gobs of
packing tape around my lights to my handlebar... see attached picture of
That wasn't the end, though (not even close!). So then it got dark... and
extremely cold. I'm glad I brought my beanie cap, lobster gloves and an
extra jersey (I almost didn't), but my feet were still freezing. At the last
checkpoint (Mile 208) I had the clarity of mind (barely, as I was starting to
fall asleep) to take some sandwich bags, tear off the zip-lock portion of
them, and put them around my socks and sandwich (ha ha) them in my shoes.
That turned out to be a pretty good idea as my feet went from frigid to
merely very cold during the last 42 miles after that.
However, the night went from very cold to extremely cold. I could only muster
about 13mph not only due to reduced visibility (my new LED lights were really
impressive, but it's not quite like having a sun out!), but because everytime
I went faster, I would get so cold I would start to shiver. The scary part
is it could have been far worse. It could have rained, and then I would have
Ultra-cycling is hard.
Well, the email excerpt from above summarized the ride pretty well, so I will leave
it. Saves me some time from writing a full-fledged report. :)
But here are some additional comments:
- As I mentioned, the Cateye VL400 5-LED light was awesome. It was very bright--
almost as bright as my heavy (2 lb) dual-beam Cygolight that only has a 2.5 hour burn
time--is much lighter, using only 4 AA batteries instead of a lead-acid battery,
and due to efficiency of LEDs, has a 15 hour burn time. After using this light in the
600km brevet with similar success,
I decided to sell my Cygolights on Ebay.
- About the custom bracket I manufactured for the Cateye light: in general,
I hate having anything mounted to my handlebars, because I frequently have my hands
on the top of them for climbing or getting into a very tight aerodynamic tuck (with
hands next to the stem). So, instead of using the stock plastic handlebar bracket,
I manufactured a zinc bracket for the lights--similar
to the custom bracket I successfully used for the Cygolight in the past--the day before
the ride. This bracket mounted to the stem bolt and a hole I tapped in the bottom of the Cateye light.
However, due to the weight of the light (it is lightweight, but still weighs something),
and the way I mounted the light, there was a rather significant moment/stress exerted
at the bend of my bracket. After 175 miles of flexion and vibration, the bracket finally
developed a stress fracture, which fortunately I was able to catch in time before
my bracket broke completely, and my light fell off of my bike, possibly getting lost or
shattered. That I caught this just as I was coming into Calistoga, just one mile from
the first store we were to pass in several hours, was a complete stroke of luck.
The day before the ride I had also mounted a small Maglight penlight to my helmet. I'm not
sure how long this light lasts, but my feeling is probably somewhere from 2-6 hours on
the AAA batteries it uses. It was very handy for reading my map and cyclometer (the latter
being important so I could compare how many miles I had ridden with the map). I was inspired
to mount this light after misreading the map in the 300km
brevet and subsequently getting lost. For the 600km
brevet, just 2 weeks later, I invested in a brighter and lighter
PrincetonTec Aurora that used 3 LEDs and 2 AAA batteries (that nevertheless has a 25-hour burn
time on high-powered mode) instead of this penlight. For ultradistances I highly recommend having
a helmet-mounted light in addition to having a handlebar-mounted light for the aforementioned reasons.
We were blessed by dry weather on this ride, but the night (particularly, the last 50 miles, or 4 hours
of riding) was truly the coldest ride I have ever done since the
1999 Davis 200km Brevet, in which it poured during most of the
ride. In fact, I was even colder than during the 2002
Heartbreak Double! This was the most miserable I had been during all of the brevets...
being frigid late in darkness. I'd learn from those moments that keeping warm was far more
important than being aerodynamic (esp. since cold air was the limiting factor of my speed--if I went
much faster than 13 mph, I'd be unbearably uncomfortable--and at 13 mph, aerodynamics hardly
comes into play!)--which made me resolve for the 600km,
I'd bring a whole more more clothing to ensure I stayed warm, even if meant more weight and bulk.
This ride held the record for the longest ride I've ever done (previous record: 206 miles
in the 1999 Devil Mountain Double),
but just for 2 weeks! The 600km Davis Brevet
easily eclipsed this by >124 miles!
- 251 miles
- 6:00am mass start, 2:00am Sunday finish -- 20.3 hours
- Average Speed: 13.8 mph moving, 12.4 mph overall
- Max Speed: ~38 mph
- Total Climbing: ~15,000 feet
(1=ho hum; 5=best)
- Scenery: 4. Napa Valley is always lovely...
- Support/Organization: 2. Good organization but truly a no-frills ride emphasizing self-sufficiency. At least the registration fee is very low!
- Food: 2.
- Weather: 2-. Great, until it got dark and extremely chilly.
- Relative Difficulty: 3. Climbs leading to Cloverdale were the main challenge.
- Overall Rating: 3.
Route Sheet (DjVu, 170 kB)
This page was written in May 2003.