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RIDE LIKE A GIRL: A 2019 Midwest Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur Series on a Fat Bike with 4.7” Tires

PROGRESS. EVOLUTION. GROWTH.

Endurance cyclists have a common thread that binds us together, a wandering soul.  Like wild horses roaming The Great Plains, we feed our spirit with wide-open spaces, new frontiers and adventures.  These elements embody the free spirit of the sport of randonneuring.

WIDE-OPEN SPACES

NEW FRONTIERS

ADVENTURES

In my quest to explore a new cycling frontier, I set a 2019 goal to complete an Audax Club Parisian Super Randonneur Series on my 2012 Surly Moonlander Fat Bike with 26 X 4.7” Big Fat Larry tires.  Although I had previously completed two long rides (100 miles and 124 miles) on my Surly 4130 CroMoly steel fat bike, this goal would be charting unknown waters and pushing the limit.

LOVE AT FIRST FLIGHT

I fell in love with the 2009 Space Black Surly Moonlander back in 2010. At that time, I was upgrading from my Trek Hybrid 7600 to my first road bike.  Fondly, I recall walking into Spokes bike shop in Wheaton, Illinois in the Spring of 2010.  When I walked into the shop, I saw the Surly Moonlander immediately as I opened the door.  I had never seen anything like it.  I was awestruck.  I was without words.  It was big.  It was beautiful.  It was bold.  I had no business looking into this strange (but quite mesmerizing) bike, but it had a special allure to it.  I purchased a Pinarello FB Quattro carbon road bike, as it seemed like the natural progression from a hybrid.  But truth be told, I could not get this bike out of my mind for many, many years.

In 2012, a friend in my local bike club (Elmhurst Bike Club) had two Surly Pugsley Fat Bikes and generously let me borrow one of them for almost a year.  I will never forget the minute I put my foot over the top tube on my first ride.  I instantly smiled with joy.  I felt like I was floating on a cloud of happiness.  Pedaling without boundaries over curbs, potholes, tree stumps, large rocks… anything!

26D150D4-2ADA-439C-8753-69CA97BF5066The Loaned Surly Pugsley from John Loesch

A9C7E895-FF17-45C6-8191-72ED864E6FE1_1_105_cLoaned Surly Pugsley with Fenders at the Fat Bike Birkie 2015, Cable Wisconsin

That spring of 2013, I did a century on it and even rode it on some fast group rides to test my limits.  It was an absolute blast. 

IMG_4067

I knew I was going to be buying a fat bike someday.  That was without question.  But if only I could find “the 2009 Surly Space Black” Moonlander…

As fate would have it, in early 2015, a friend of mine contacted me about someone who had “the 2009 Surly Moonlander” in Space Black and was interested in selling it.  I could not believe it.  I had been searching the Internet and bike shops to find one since 2012, to no avail.  Unfortunately Surly was no longer manufacturing the Moonlander.  The individual only rode it a few times and it was collecting dust in his basement.  He rode a Harley Davidson motorcycle and purchased the Moonlander because it “looked like a Harley.”  I jumped at the chance and purchased it for $1,500.00.  At the time, many of my friends were trying to talk me into getting a newer, updated carbon fat bike with upgraded components.  But I really wanted this particular bike.  It was nostalgic for me.  It brought me back to the feeling I had when I walked into the bike shop back in 2009.  It felt like Christmas morning to me.  And I was about to get a present I wanted for many years…

“Big Mama” Moonlander was born…

CED89DBC-C308-4337-BE14-00D24219EEAB_1_105_c“Big Mama” Surly Moonlander running Bud and Lou 4.8 Snow Tires

Our adventures began in January of 2015, when we began local and larger events in the Midwest, competing in many races/events over the next few years:  Fat Bike Birkie (Cable, Wisconsin), Great Lakes Fat Bike Race Series, Horribly Hilly Hundred (Blue Mounds, Wisconsin) and Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra (St. Charles, Iowa).  And no matter how difficult the race/event was I always had a smile on my face.  I came to the simple conclusion that my fat bike is my INSTANT SMILE GENERATOR!

E935A7D4-C615-4B54-B18D-7D01D1BA5FBB_1_105_cFat Bike Birkie 2016 in Cable, Wisconsin.  Photo Credit: Kelly Randolph Photography

E1005200-1C4E-4A51-B4B4-40AD7E60BF9B_1_105_cGreat Lakes Fat Bike Race Series; Farmhand Race 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan

D3BC6B0B-F8EE-40E0-88E1-E6252E5056F0_1_105_c2016 Wisconsin Horribly Hilly Hundred 200K with 10,700 feet of elevation gain.  Blue Mounds, Wisconsin

When I began randonneuring in 2015, my primary bike for randonneuring was a 58 cm steel Riverndale Ramboulitte.  I purchased it from a good friend and fellow randonneur Robert Booth (recipient of RUSA Mondial, Ultra Randonneur, K-hound, Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 and 2015 Ancien) who is one of my randonneuring mentors.  I qualified and completed the 18th edition of Paris-Brest-Paris on that bike in my first season of randonneuring.  In 2016, I switched to using my 56 cm Salsa Warbird aluminum gravel bike (with a carbon fork) as my primary randonneuring bike based on comfort and fit.

The Salsa Warbird is a versatile bike that I easily swapped my 38 cc tubeless Teravail Cannonball gravel wheel set to my tubeless HED Ardiene 28 cc rims for randonneuring.  Additionally, I transitioned from using the front and rear bike racks on my Rivendell to Revelate Design bike packing bags. They were lighter and more functional for my needs, especially on longer gravel events.  I used them on Dirty Kanza 200 in 2016 and really liked them.  So when I began to think about use “Big Mama” in randonneuring, I looked to replicate this same set up on my CroMoly steel Surly Moonlander.

As I recipient of the World Ultra cycling Association’s McMillion Scholarship in 2017, I attended the Inaugural Pacific Atlantic Cycling Gravel week with PAC Tour and completed the week on my fat bike.  I continued to fine tune my fit on my fat bike and train on that as I knew the future goal I had in mind for 2019.  The seed for this idea was planted back in August of 2015.  As the saying goes, “all good things come to those that wait.”

9F38FD1D-9E84-44E4-9622-9BC5D40771AEPacific Atlantic Cycling Tours 2018 Gravel Camp in Patagonia, Arizona.  Photo Credit PAC Tours

The prospect of doing brevets on my fat bike would force me to be strategic with my off-bike efficiency to complete each brevet in the given timeframe.  I would take my fit and set up from my Salsa Warbird and then replicate it on my Surly Moonlander.  My passion for riding gravel and randonneuring seemed like a perfect match for adding my fat bike to the mix.  Some may say it was a crazy idea, but you only get ticket in this life.  The bigger question to ask was really “Why not?”  And so the deep wonder set in and I began to strategize how I would breach the artificial borders of randonneuring and go more rogue than I have before.  It was enticing to me.

2E94099E-E086-41BB-BB7B-F7C6F9B5C692_1_105_c2018 Coulee Challenge 1200k Grand Randonnee Salsa Warbird set up with tubeless 28cc HED Ardienne rims

DDCC0C80-2C0B-477F-BB4A-36247BA268AA_1_105_c2014 Surly Moonlander Fat Bike Set Up at the Beginning of the 2019 Audax Club Parisien Series; Driftless Randonneurs Where Eagles Dare ACP 300K

So I began my 2019 Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur Series on my Fat Bike with the goal to complete an Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur Series on my Surly Moonlander with 4.7 tires.  I did not change too much of my configuration at the start and kept my flat bar on there with my Ergon GP1 grips.  I wanted to see how I felt after the first brevet before making changes.

Here is my initial set up at the start of the series in May:

2014 Surly Moonlander Fat Bike Set-Up

 

At the Beginning of the Series

 
Frame Medium Frame
Brakes and Brake Levers Avid BB7 and Avid SD-7
Rims and Tires Surly Clown Shoes Rims (100mm width) and Surly Big Fat Larry tires (with tubes)
Shifters Microshift Thumb Shifter
Front Derailleur Shimano SLX
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore
Cog or Cogset Shimano HG-61 9 speed; 11/34t
Handlebar Salsa MotoAce with 17 degree bend with Ergon GP1 grips
Gearing/Cassette  
Crankset Surly Mr. Whirly Offset Double; 22/36t
Frame Bags Revelate Design Bike packing bags included:  Pika, ½ Frame Bag, TT handlebar and 1 feedbag
Lighting Gemini Duo 1500 Lumen with 4 battery pack
Computer Garmin 1000
Water Bottle capacity 2 on frame, 1 on front fork
Pedals Shimano Deore XT
Saddle Cobb Dirt Plus

WIDE-OPEN SPACES

NEW FRONTIERS

ADVENTURES

FIRST EVENT:  AUDAX CLUB PARISIEN 300K (188.5 miles)

DATE:  5/4/19

CLUB:  Driftless Randonneurs

ROUTE/LOCATION:     Where Eagles Dare in Richland Center, Wisconsin

CLIMBING:      8,030 feet of climbing (42 feet per mile of climbing)

TIME:  17:40

CONTROLS:  Richland Center, Plain, Rock Springs, Spring Green, Blue River and Boaz.

HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDED: Riding along the lower Wisconsin State Riverway; endless bluffs, river valleys and breathtaking scenery in the unglaciated region of Western Wisconsin; the section from Blue River to Boaz filled with ample rollers, basking in glow of the sunset on Co Rd X; bombing the fast descents; feeling accomplished with improving my off-the-bike efficiency at the controls.

CHALLENGES: Overall, I had a great first brevet of the series on a challenging route.  I already had a ¾ of a full series completed in qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris so I felt strong on the bike.  Other than the lead out of Richland Center, I rode the entire brevet alone.  After the brevet, I did have some general soreness into my bilateral palms from using the flat bar with Ergon grips despite the grips being ergonomically fit.  I knew I would have to make some changes for the next one.

SUMMARY: I shared this brevet with 6 others, including fellow Driftless Randonneurs Carol Bell, Richard Burnside and Regional Brevet Administrator Greg Smith.  The Driftless region really lures you in and reaches deep into the depth of your soul. It grabs a hold of your heart and changes you.  It is a very special place and Greg Smith,  Regional Brevet Administrator, really showcases the beauty of this area and puts together some spectacular, challenging routes. I highly recommend you take an opportunity to ride with the Driftless Randonneurs.  You will not be disappointed.

3F630CE5-4840-4616-A6B4-59B37580347DAt the start of the Driftless Randonneurs Where Eagles Dare 300K; Richland Center, Wisconsin.  Photo Credit: Richard Burnside.

DB9F796D-E95B-48EB-AFE2-FEF57D1343A2

A9F62A70-9606-4CC9-86CE-9DD6DFFC76C2_1_105_cReflecting Post Driftless Randonneurs 300K at my finish.

After the 300k with the Driftless Randonneurs, I made some changes to my set up which included drop handlebars with bar end shifters, a larger cassette and a custom built Bar Yak Ultra outboard handlebar mount.  The detailed changes to my set up post 300k are highlighted here:

2014 Surly Moonlander Fat Bike Set-Up

 

After the First Brevet (300K)

NOTE:  HIGHLIGHTED AREAS ARE UPGRADES
Frame Medium Frame
Brakes and Brake Levers Cane Creek Drop V Linear Pull Brakes
Rims and Tires Surly Clown Shoes (100mm width) and Surly Big Fat Larry tires (with tubes)
Shifters MicroSHIFT Bar End Shifter10 speed Mountain Double/Triple Shimano Compatible
Front Derailleur  
Rear Derailleur RD-M781 BLK Deore XT GS 10 Speed Top Norma
Cog or Cogset Shimano HG-61 9 speed; 11/36t
Handlebar Salsa Cowbell drop bar (40cm) with 1 degree flare; Lizard Skin DSP Handlebar Tape 3.2mm
Gearing/Cassette Shimano CS-M771-10 speed 11/36t
Crankset Surly Mr. Whirly Offset Double; 22/36t
Frame Bags Revelate Design Bike packing bags included:  Pika, ½ Frame Bag, TT handlebar and 1 feedbag
Lighting Gemini Duo 1500 Lumen with 4 battery pack
Computer Garmin 1000
Water Bottle capacity 2 on frame, 1 on front fork
Pedals Shimano Deore XT
Saddle Cobb Dirt Plus
Supplemental Gear Added Bar Yak Ultra

4D3A22A3-7421-436F-997B-209BFC0631EE_1_105_cUpgraded Surly Moonlander after 300K brevet with new drop handlebars, upgrading shifting and installation of Bar Yak

YOU ARE YOUR ONLY LIMIT.

SECOND EVENT:  AUDAX CLUB PARISIEN 200K (125.4 miles)

DATE:  8/3/19

CLUB:  Great Lakes Randonneurs

ROUTE/LOCATION:  Psychedelic Eagle, Woodstock, Illinois

CLIMBING:  3,125 feet of climbing (25 feet per mile of climbing)

TIME:  9:56

CONTROLS:  Controls for this route through Illinois and Wisconsin towns included:  Woodstock, Lyons, Eagle, Whitewater, Delavan and Hebron.

HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDED: bombing the fast descents; feeling accomplished with improving my off-the-bike efficiency at the controls with total off bike time of 43 minutes; finishing a brevet on a single speed the last 45 miles because my bar end shifter broke (involuntary conversion to single speed); enjoying the healing solitude of quiet Midwest roads, watching Sandhill Cranes in the southern portion of Kettle Moraine State Forest and Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; beating a storm at the finish

CHALLENGES: In comparison to my 300k, this one had a few more challenges related to my bike.  At approximately 30 miles into the brevet, I started to have some problems with my bar end shifter.  It kept skipping and shifting whenever I would hit a bump.  At mile 80, my bar end shifter stopped working completely (thankfully in an easier gear), so I had to finish the last 45 miles as a single speed fat bike.  I was thankful that most of the climbing was behind me so I was able to keep moving at a decent pace.

SUMMARY:  With a larger group of 16 at this distance, I shared the first 30 miles with others and leapfrogged with the lead group at each control.    After the brevet, I again felt strong.  My efficiency at the controls continued to improve.  I finished 1:04 hours later than the first rider.  I felt proud of this, considering the weight of my bike and resistance in pushing the fat bike with the Big Fat Larry treads.  I was excited for the upcoming 400 and 600k coming up in the next month.  Those would be true tests of both my physical and mental fortitude.

5BD8BC61-3F10-4FA9-8722-347B7E97C581_1_105_cSharing the Psychedelic Eagle ACP 200K in Woodstock, IL with another Surly bike and Ancien Brian Lewis-Jones.

IMPOSSIBLE IS ONLY AN OPINION.

E0A7927C-1C0E-465A-9B3A-D89F60869D20At the start of Puff the Magic 600K, Woodstock, Illinois.  Photo Credit: Richard Burnside.

THIRD EVENT:  AUDAX CLUB PARISIEN 600K (376.6 miles)

DATE:  9/7/19

CLUB:  Great Lakes Randonneurs

ROUTE/LOCATION: Puff the Magic, Woodstock, Illinois

CLIMBING:  9,718 feet of climbing (25 feet per mile of climbing)

TIME:  38:21

CONTROLS: Controls for this route through Illinois and Wisconsin towns included:  Kirkland, Oregon, Broadhead, New Glarus, Evansville, Milton, Darien, Hebron, Lyons, Eagle, Whitewater, Delavan and Woodstock.

HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDED: Sharing this experience with my parents and seeing them at the finish; finishing the 375 miles at my goal time; continuing to fine tune my off-bike efficiency; seeing a hot air balloon during the misty fall sunrise; blissfully bombing the loose gravel roads; feeling like an eagle soaring as I became one with my steel horse; passing through Broadhead, Wisconsin during the Midwest Antique Airplane Club “Grassroots Fly-In” Airplane show; the quaint towns of Albany and Pectaonica; riding through Pecatonica during a fall festival; traversing the route along the Sugar River, Lake Sommerset, Pecatonica Wetlands and Swenson Wet Prairie State Natural Area; the loud lioness roar of my 4.8 tires on the road; sharing and celebrating the finish with old friends (Robert Booth, Driftless Randonneurs) and new (James Taylor with South Willamette Randonneurs and Tony Favarula, Great Lake Randonneurs); seeing the pure joy and exhilaration from a fellow randonneur who completed his first 600K and completed his first Super Randonneur Series.

CHALLENGES: Less than 3 hours sleep between 400k and 200K and mental fatigue in the morning of second day.

SUMMARY: As I finished the 600K, one of the best moments was pulling into the finish with fellow randonneurs and seeing my parents waiting for me with a huge sign.  We all sat around and shared our experiences over pizza with post ride libations and celebrated with fellow riders and family.  The camaraderie in randonneuring is quite special; it is very similar in gravel events I have found.

“BE brave enough to live creatively.  The creative is the place where no one else has been.  You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition…” -Alan Alda, Actor

8A915BEE-8F88-4E2A-8735-D97FDD657716_1_105_cThe addition of the Bar Yak really gave me more handlebar space on my Salsa Cowbell drop handlebars.

A short video taken by my parents at the finish…

47B4338E-D521-4CD4-8F20-34A1A2A949A9_1_105_cCelebrating the 600K finish with Tony Favarula, Robert Booth and James Taylor

431A6C5C-00C5-456F-92F8-242E5E171346_4_5005_c

FOURTH EVENT:  AUDAX CLUB PARISIEN 400K (251.6 miles)

DATE:  9/29/19

CLUB:  St. Louis Randonneurs

ROUTE/LOCATION: RUSA21, Edwardsville, Illinois

CLIMBING:  5,305 feet of climbing (21 feet per mile of climbing)

TIME:  21:31

CONTROLS:  Controls for this route through Illinois included:  Edwardsville, Breese, Okawville, Ava and Sparta.

HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDED: Sharing this adventure and experience with my mother; continuing to fine tune my off-bike efficiency; the loud lioness roar of my 4.8 tires on the road; sharing the start and first 80 miles with good friend (Robert Booth, Driftless Randonneurs) who was doing a 600K; appreciating the beginning of fall foliage; the serenity of night riding.

CHALLENGES: Overall, I really did not have too many challenges with any of my bike or my body on this brevet.  By this time, I had my fit and bike packing bags finely tuned, my shifting was spot on.   The only problem I ran into was my Garmin 1000 was not functioning correctly and re-routing me to the beginning at mile 60, exhausting my battery life.  So I turned on my phone and used RWGPS from that moment on.  I had no problems after that.

SUMMARY:  I was really happy with my ride and finish.  I shared the first 80 miles with Robert Booth, fellow Driftless Randonneur, which is always a blessing in so many ways.  I rode 168 miles alone so had time to reflect on the series and each ride.  I felt blessed for the opportunity to be on my bike in doing something that I love.  That is the true gift.

5C9CC2A0-8C9E-405E-BABD-916E9097758E_1_105_cAt the start of the St. Louis Randonneurs 400K ACP Brevet in Edwardsville with Robert Booth, John Jost and Dennis Smith, Regional Brevet Administrator of St. Louis Randonneurs.

A short video of us all at the start, taken by my Super Domestique (my mom) …

DFA21E96-31A3-485C-AF0C-AD9A2EC34EE7_1_105_cSerenity in Southern Illinois on 400K ACP Brevet 

Forget all of the reasons why it won’t work.  

And BELIEVE the one reason why it will.

46629986-F59F-4CBB-8F5A-25BA0155E36E_1_105_cIs “Perpetual Help” in the RUSA Handbook?

In conclusion, each brevet was a gift, individually wrapped with exquisite surprises, beauty and challenges.  Throughout the series, I felt like an intrepid explorer, roaming the plains, fed by wide-open spaces and an epic new adventure.  Randonneuring offers a chance for a deeper connection with the world you pass through so it’s up to each and every one of us to make the most of it.  I know that I did this as I completed a full Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur series (200k, 300K, 400K and 600K) on my fat bike.  It was not easy.  I believe being uncomfortable in life and cycling is key to growth.

I was resolute.

I was courageous.

I broke boundaries.

I was inspired to see how far I could push myself.

I dared to redefine what is possible in randonneuring.

A triumph of the human spirit to complete an Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur Series on a fat bike. The feeling of finishing an Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur Series on my Surly Moonlander fat bike with 4.7” Big Fat Larry tires was very gratifying and very rewarding to me.  I had done something I had dreamed of doing since 2015 when I started randonneuring.  From my investigation, I believe I am the first person, female or male, to complete a full Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur Series on a fat bike in the United States.  

So what is next for me and “Big Mama”?  In reflecting on completing a full ACP series on my fat bike, I am interested in building another fat bike for more adventures in randonneuring, gravel, snow and bike packing events and races.  In randonneuring, I look forward to pushing my limits to include events with more climbing and distances farther than I encountered in this first series.

My gratitude extends to Bob Olsen and Wheel Werks in Crystal Lake, Illinois for revamping and upgrading my Surley Moonlander for brevets; Bar Yak and Joe Stiller for my BarYak Ultra; and Revelate Designs for producing such functional and durable bike packing bags; and Surly for producing the Moonlander fat bike, my INSTANT SMILE GENERATOR so affectionately named “Big Mama”…

“Big Mama” Surly Moonlander + Audax Club Parisien Super Randonneur Series= PRICELESS

Embrace Your Passion:  Color outside the Lines.

FE7646ED-395A-46CF-B11E-9B8CA5642E27_1_201_aProud moment with my parents at the finish of Puff the Magic 600K, Woodstock, Illinois

BE Your Own Kind of Beautiful.

BE BOLD.

Break Boundaries.

BE Inspyrd.

PURE RANDO on my Surley Moonlander.

The long rambles in the countryside continue…

72D94991-12E5-4EF8-8531-F6C4B7FCC7DE_1_105_c

 

PROGRESS. GROWTH. EVOLUTION. Richland Center, Wisconsin

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