My ears are sunburned.
Or wind burned. To be honest, I’m not sure which – after languishing for months indoors, it seems I’d forgotten all about skin care and UV protection. Neither was I particularly mindful of the prevailing riding conditions several hundred miles north of home. In point of fact, I had no idea where Lake Pepin or Redwing were actually located beyond the generalization of “Minnesota.”
Me (as I finish loading the car, five minutes before hitting the road): “Hey, how do we get there?”
Wife (rolling her eyes): “What does the Garmin say?”
And with little more fanfare than that, this is pretty much how we came about embarking upon our journey to the Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour. As I’ve made abundantly clear in the past, my preference leans toward solitary riding and I tend to avoid most forms of group riding and ride “events.” What differs about this affair is that (a) riding takes place on vintage bikes, (b) it’s an actual ride, not a short parade of museum pieces, and (c) the riders are undoubtedly similarly to me, in their slightly skewed concepts about aesthetics and life philosophies. The ride itself is purportedly 85-ish miles over two days – but that doesn’t take into account any additional voyages down side roads, lingering and exploring the quaintly charming towns one rides through, or the OOORE (Occasional Optional Off Road Excursion).
Saturday morning we arrived a little before 7 am to a near empty parking area. It was at this point that we discovered the phrase “Be prepared to leave promptly at 7 am” was some sort of evil initiation rite for the first time rider. Although a few riders showed up over the next forty-five minutes, the majority arrived around 8:30 and after very casual registrations took place, we all rolled out somewhere around 10 am. Vague as the start time turned out to be, the ride organizers are quite clear about some things though: Leave your derailleurs and Lycra at home – this is an internally geared affair, the ride is leisurely and not a race, the philosophy hearkens back to an earlier and much more civilized day and age. In some ways, The Lake Pepin Three Speed Tour is reminiscent of the tweed ride phenomena. Riders are most appropriately attired in English duds from the thirties; most carry baggage and sport tweed caps – Carradice bags were in abundance, as were Brooks saddles of all sizes and shapes. And the ubiquitous Raleighs, along with scores of other similarly British tourist bikes, were oiled and rolling.
I was pleased to start and end the ride with my friend Ron. He has recently completed a Phillips three speed road bike. Along with another rider on a lovely Bates, the three of us comprised the drop bar category of three speed riders. All three of our bikes are somewhat “creative reinterpretations” of British club racers, rather that faithful restorations.
Camaraderie, rather than competitiveness, was a pleasant way for cyclists to journey over the roads and hills and rivers of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Stops were frequent and speed was not mentioned. After all, that would be bad form, sir. I enjoyed making new acquaintances, meeting folks like Shawn Granton who I “know” from various online locales - but was greeting in person for the first time, and was enjoyably startled by the number of people who knew me from The Early Morning Cyclist.
On the first day, we stopped to enjoy a quasi-English garden luncheon. The costume of our group entertained many passersby and the vintage bikes stimulated not a few conversations.
I’ve never met a hill I couldn’t tackle on my Raleigh International three-speed conversion, geared as it is. The devilishly steep climb up to Maiden Rock – a side excursion, at that – proved to be my undoing and I wound up walking a couple hundred yards until the angle became more reasonable.
Getting to the top of the climb, then riding a loose gravel road, we thought we’d arrived at our destination. Little did we know that there would be a couple miles of bushwhacking ahead of us before we arrived at the Maiden Rock overlook.
The view from the top was well worth the extra effort, and the stiff wind that we felt was welcome as well after sweating and struggling up the slope!
My decades-old Carradice did its job well. As a reward, I’ve adorned it with the commemorative bag tag from the Tour. (I am afraid the leather straps from which the bag hangs off the saddle need replacing though. I guess fifty years is all one can expect out of them.) The bag support that I fashioned to function like a Carradice Bagman – and which has served me well over the past year or two – made the rough trip up and back, and supported the loaded bag the entire tour without issue. Back home this morning, I put the International on the bike stand to clean everything up, post-tour: One of the bag support stays snapped off in my hand! Time to fabricate a new one, I guess. Oh well, I did take today off from work after all…