Category Archives: Randonneuring

Mary Gersemalina: Coffeeneuring, Community, and Some Seriously Long Rides

CMB Photo by Felkerino
Photo by Ed Felkerino.

From policy wonks working to effect change to trail builders giving mountain bikers a place to ride to a cyclist helping a friend buy a bike; advocacy comes in many forms. Mary Gersemalina’s version of bike advocacy falls somewhere on that spectrum with a marriage of coffee and cycling. Mary created coffeeneuring, a formalized coffee shop ride series that plays on the rigid rules of randonneuring (Mary is also an accomplished randonneur). Though the whole thing may sound a little odd at first blush, coffeeneuring is catching on and getting people out on their bikes and last year expanded to include participants in Canada, Europe, and Australia. Mary and her husband, Ed Felkerino, are also behind Washington DC’s Friday Coffee Club, a weekly, pre-work event that encourages DC’s bike commuters to stop and get to know one another.

In this interview, Mary discusses her inspiration for coffeeneuring and its quick growth, the impact of Friday Coffee Club, the attraction of 750 mile bike rides, her randonneuring adventures in the US and abroad, and more.

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My First Bike: Joshua Bryant

My First Bike explores the life and work of professional frame builders by going back to the start and looking at the first bike they ever built. Today’s My First Bike features Joshua Bryant of Cycles J Bryant.

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.

I built my first bike in the basement of my apartment in the winter of 2007.  I had recently gotten back from a honeymoon bike touring around central Europe. Towards the end of the trip, my Kogswell P/R was stolen. I set out to build a bike that was similar, but lighter in weight than that bike. I had a rather dimly lit basement and spent any free time I had mitering tubes, prepping material, brazing, etc.  It was made from somewhat light gauge Nova tubing, 8-5-8, and was spec’d to house 650x36b. It sported a front rack and a wired headlight. I rode that bike on many of my first brevets, a couple flèches, some gravel exploration and a few overnight camping trips. It was modeled after the great French Constructeurs, but teaching myself, I didn’t execute a few of the finer details I was going for as well as I had hoped. I had a lot of miles on the bike thinking of how to properly execute my vision and my next bike turned out much closer to what I was looking for. I rode this first bike for about 3 years until I set out on a 300k training ride, preparing for the Cascade 1200 several years ago. I ended up wrecking the bike pretty bad. Luckily, the only real damage to the bike was the front wheel exploded. The bike is still rideable and fairly true even, but it’s hanging in my basement for now.

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My First Bike: Dan Boxer

My First Bike explores the life and work of professional frame builders by going back to the start and looking at the first bike they ever built. Today’s My First Bike features Dan Boxer of Seattle’s Boxer Bicycles. 

Give me the short rundown of your first frame: when was it built, where, materials, any special details about it, etc.

I built my first frame at United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, OR in September 2005.

It was designed to be a 650B wheeled randonneur. It was meant to carry a handlebar bag with a dedicated, handbuilt rack; use dynamo lighting for the headlight; braze-ons for the battery taillights; provide clearances for the then-oddball size 650B x 38mm tires and fenders; and the big “challenge,” braze-on brake bosses for MAFAC Dural Forge “Racer” centerpull brakes.

As it happens, I was able to convince the instructor Ron Suthpin that it was okay for me to use the Richard Sachs Newvex lugs, even though they were a bit ornate on the shoreline for a first build to braze very cleanly. I also snuck in some lightweight tubing, .7/.4/.7 Columbus downtube, .8/.5/.8 top tube.

I went a little “fancy” on the dropout connections, trying to emulate the French style where the very end of the scalloped stay or blade end is not filled. It looks cool and requires good heat control to make the filler go where you want it to, especially for a first build. I asked the Ron, and Gary who was assisting Ron at the time, how to do this technique and was advised against it. But I went ahead and did it anyhow.

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A Look Inside Alex Singer’s Shop

Alex Singer was a French frame builder in the post-war “Golden Age” of constructeur bicycles. Focused mostly on building touring and randonneuring bicycles, the constructeurs considered bikes a holistic unit and built racks, fenders, and lights to complement their framesets as such.

Though Alex Singer himself has long since passed away, his grand nephew Olivier Csuka continues to carry on his legacy at the Alex Singer shop outside of Paris. A Belgian filmmaker put together a short video tour of the shop set to music. Sadly, it doesn’t show any frame building (they don’t build on Saturdays so that they can accommodate all the customers coming to visit the shop), but it is nonetheless a neat look into an important landmark in cycling history.

Alex Singer Cycles from hanckxlife on Vimeo.

Paul Rozelle’s 24-hour, pre-PBP, fixed-gear, Mont Ventoux ride

Paul Rozelle on one of four ascents of Mont Ventoux. Photo from Picasa.

Mont Ventoux is one of cycling’s great monuments. The highest peak in Provence, it’s been featured 18 times in the history of the Tour de France and the source of high drama and tragedy. Every year, the mountain draws huge numbers of recreational cyclists wanting to test themselves on the climb and connect with a tangible piece of cycling history. This year, Paul Rozelle joined those ranks and tackled the mountain as well.

Rozelle is an American randonneur. He traveled to France this summer to ride Paris-Brest-Paris and decided to take a side trip to Mont Ventoux three days before the start of PBP. Rather than simply ride it once, Rozelle rode each of the three roads and the unpaved fire road that lead to the summit in order to earn a medal that the Club des Cinglés du Mont Ventoux awards for doing so. Adding to the extraordinary difficulty, Rozelle rode the whole thing on the only bike he’d brought for PBP, his fixed gear. Three days after completing the Mont Ventoux challenge, Rozelle went on to ride PBP in 80:01!

Rozelle wrote a great ride report on a randonneuring Google Groups listserv about his experience on Ventoux. He graciously gave me permission to republish the story here along with some photos he took that day. The report is long, so I’ve added links below to the start of each “chapter” to help you navigate and/or pick up where you left off if you don’t read it all in one sitting. Enjoy!

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