My First Brevet

According to Cyclofiend: “The SFR Two Rock 200k, based on “Willie’s JIttery Jaunt” Permanent.
Basically, SF – Petaluma (via Fairfax/Nicasio), West on Bodega Ave to Valley Ford, then South to the coast, Marshall, Pt. Reyes Station, return via Nicasio/Fairfax.”

SF Randonneurs Two Rock/Valley Ford 200K 2010
The Two/Rock Valley Ford was my first official randonneuring event. I’ve been interested in distance riding (>60 miles) for about a year or so. Most of my riding since college has been for utility purposes – shopping, commuting, city riding, errands, and transportation. Last year I signed up with some friends to ride the Death Valley Double. With a new baby, and not much confidence, I rode the century instead – but did an extra 20 miles to make it over the Nevada Border.

Since then, I’ve signed up for the Double in March, and am committed to riding all 200 miles. My plan was not necessarily to “train,” but to try to consistently ride one 100+ mile ride per month, and just enjoy myself. That’s kind of why I got into longer riding in the first place – enjoyment!

I was in the Bay Area to order an Ebisu from Iimura-san at Jitensha Studio and to ride with the San Francisco Randonneurs, whose ranks include some friends I’ve made up there. Two great excuses to drive 1K miles round-trip! Lee, Franklyn, JimG and myself exchanged a lot of emails in anticipation of the ride. The week before, I rode 90 miles on old Highway 80 in San Diego County and up a lot of Kitchen Creek Road, but it just killed me. I broke down. I was completely spent. When I got home, my wife said I looked white as a ghost. I wasn’t confident about the 200K.

The SFR club does several 200Ks a year, which I think is a great idea. These events provide new randonneurs opportunities to ride and build confidence for doing a 300K. For me, at this point in my life, anything more than that requires more time and energy than I can afford.

The forecast for Saturday called for rain and possible thunderstorms. As I arrived to the riders’ meeting, it began to rain. We let the pack go forward, and started off up to the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin. The rain was light, but a couple of times, it was coming down moderately heavy. By the time we made it to Nicasio, the precipitation began to tail off, and as we headed to Petaluma and toward Valley Ford, the sky opened and we had absolutely lovely riding weather the rest of the way – cool, cloudy, but with some wind to deal with.

As we descended into Petaluma, I noticed my handling felt very twichy. I watched JimG carve through the turns in front of me and wondered why I was feeling such instability on a usually highly stable bike. I realized I had a slow leak on my rear tire (Grand Bois Hetres). We were about 6 miles from Petaluma at the time, and I stopped a couple of times to see if I could inflate the tire enough to get me to the first control in Petaluma. That wouldn’t work, so I changed the tire near a cow on the way to Petaluma. The culprit was a bent nail. By the time I showed up to the control, my compatriots were warm, fed, and caffeinated. I bought an oatmeal bar, a scone, and some coffee. We headed off. We caught a strong headwind through Two Rock Valley, but I felt great. When I noticed I was alone, I began singing and thinking of my kids. At the second control at Valley Ford, I ate a grilled cheese, half a turkey sandwich, a red bull and a bottle of Gatorade. I think the food helped me along. Chocolate doughnuts tasted best on the road, and a couple went to JimG to ward off bonking as we later rode in the dark toward Mill Valley.

We then climbed out of the valley on Highway 1 and took it along Walker Creek (?) to Tomales Bay, which we skirted for some time before arriving at the last control at Point Reyes Station. My wife and I spent our first wedding anniversary at the end of a pier in a cottage in Inverness, and I thought about her most of this section.

Upon arriving in Point Reyes Station, I bought some veggie pizza and corn soup from Bovine Bakery, and enjoyed it with a diet coke.

Photo by JimG

We pushed on, Franklyn, JimG and myself, along Nicasio Reservoir, to Farifax and other towns, up and over the hill to Mill Valley and then the usually path back over the bridge. The climbs over Whites’ Hill and into Mill Valley felt great to me. I was running on good vibes. We made it in at about 12 hours, enjoying the rest at controls and relishing a whole day spent on the bike.

The company made the ride for me – Frankly, JimG, Lee, Nathan, and Tom constituted a great group. I can see how randonneuring can get addictive. There’s the Russian River 200K in April… This was probably the best day I’ve ever had in the saddle.

The Protovelo felt great. When I bought the frame, I had intended to ride with Albatross bars. With drops and a 9cm stem, the bike has me stretched out so that sometimes I get pain in my sides. Its big at 62cm, in a “Riv fit” kind of way. I moved the seat forward about 1cm and that helped a lot. The Hetres felt wonderful, and I had no issues with the close clearance on the Berthouds.

The grey matter on the brake pads got all over the place, including the cracks in my fingers as I type. But they stopped the bike fine! The Kogswells worked to perfection, the Ebisu looked and rode wonderfully, I”m sure, and Natan’s Romulus did the job great, save for an un-broken-in saddle that was causing him some discomfort. Tom’s Atlantis could go anywhere. It was a wonderful day. I can’t wait to do it again.



  1. Jim G

    Awesome! Definitely plan to do the Russian River 200k later this year — it’s a great route, one of my favorites! And thanks again for the life-saving donuts!!!

  2. rob hawks


    Wow, great photos and great write up! Our 200kms all have different start locations (except the last two): GGB, Crissy Field, San Rafael, Hercules (2). The last one of the year is a real social event with a staffed lunch control in Winters in the park, and lots of open countryside and vineyards. The June one is special too. Starts at 8pm! We’d love to have you join us on those rides. BTW, didn’t get a chance to scope out your bike. Do you have photos of it somewhere?

    rob hawks

  3. Carlos D

    Congratulations! It seems you had a great ride. JimG and I have ridden many miles together (probably a few thousand by now!) and he’s always great company. BTW, I also sing during brevets, it is a great way to enjoy a rainy ride…

  4. Jacob K

    Nice pictures and write-up!

    Two questions:

    1. Are those just bmx pedals with regular shoes?

    2. How do you get to SF from SD with your bike? I’d like to make it up there to check out the area do some riding at some point but I’m not sure of the best/most economical way. I’m assuming that Amtrak would be better than flying?

    • Esteban

      Jacob – 1.) Yes. 2.) a 92 Volvo sedan. Certainly not the *most* economical way… but I averaged about 27mpg.

  5. Franklyn

    It was great riding. I usually do a little Buddhist chant on the road, especially when I am riding by myself.

    I signed up for the 300k, but not sure if I am in shape for it. I am also considering doing 200k’s with the other two randonneur organizations in the greater Bay Area: Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa

    Santa Rosa Cycling Club has a 200k in March, and I really love riding in that part of California. The folks down in Santa Cruz have a couple of 200k in the summer.

    my wife and I are probably doing the night 200k in June. We will have our SON’ed-up Ebisii ready.

  6. leaf slayer

    Esteban, great write up! Thanks for taking the time to post it and the pictures. Yes, randonneuring is addictive. Definitely do the 300k if you can swing it. The 300k is my favorite distance. A big congratulations on finishing your first brevet.

    –leaf s.

  7. Sterling Hada


    A wonderful write-up, well-worth the wait and your pictures are beautiful. I loved the reference to Manka’s Inverness Lodge. I think that’s the cottage at the end of the pier that you mentioned. I could be wrong. A gorgeous Protovelo. I looking forward to my wrist healing so I can ride again. Congratulations on your first brevet. It’s the start of a sometimes challenging, but wonderful world of riding, camaraderie and fun.

    Hope you can ride up here again. You’re welcome anytime.


  8. Gabe

    Nice write up! Hope to see you on the 300k, or the 200k in April. So stoked to hear you say that you had a great day on the bike. Sorry I did not get a chance to say hi during the event.
    For me the most enjoyable event is the 400k. Since you are doing the double, maybe you could swing the 400K as well? Anyway, good job and congratulations on your first Brevet.

  9. slo joe recumbo

    Félicitations on your first brevet!!!

    Looks as if we have two loves in common: Randonneuring and Photography. I especially enjoyed the shot looking back at foot angle.

    Hope you continue with randonneuring. As you may have discovered the comaraderie is worth the journey. About brevets I’ve paraphrased Yogi Berra: Half of any brevet is 90% mental.

    Ride Long and Prosper.

  10. Beany

    When I first read this, I thought you were nuts. Now I’m seriously thinking of doing some of these rides. I want to get some 100 and 200Ks in this year and maybe next year I’ll try out a brevet. Maybe even Kitchen Creek. I’m very curious to try it out, I’ve ridden a small section (from Guatay to Pine Valley to Jacumba and back) solo but have yet to try the rest of it. I’m jittery with anticipation 🙂

  11. Esteban

    Good! It is so fun. And there are trips you can take around brevets. Head up to SF, Seattle, Portland… it makes a fun event to plan travel around.

    For me, there’s always this moment in distance riding where it stops being fun. The pain just puts focus on the work that lies ahead. But then you finish (or have the finish in mind)_ and something different overcomes — the pain goes away and this great sense of euphoria settles in. On the brevet described in the post, I never felt bad – just good the whole time and after.

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