2014 Oregon Gran Fondo Photo by Kenji Sugahara
In Oregon we have a fun series known as the Oregon Triple Crown. It’s a series of three Gran Fondos over the course of the summer. 2013 was the first year of the Triple Crown and there were only six riders that completed it. These are big rides on lovely roads, but what makes it tricky is that the third Fondo in the series is a really tough gravel road Fondo known as the Oregon Coast Gravel Epic. It’s 73 miles long and 10,000 feet of climbing over some lovely terrain – and while some folks have done it on a standard road bike, the winner is usually on a 29er hard tail mountain bike. Last year we completed the Gravel Epic on our touring tandem, but it was the only event in the series that we attempted. Our goal this year is to be the first tandem to complete all three events in the 2014 Oregon Triple Crown.
So, on Sunday June 1st we tackled the first, and longest of the events. The long loop of the Oregon Gran Fondo is 117 miles of heavily forested and seldom driven paved roads west of Cottage Grove, Oregon. There were several tandems in attendance this year, but only two of us set out on the longest of the three loops. Our Paketa tandem is set up with a 50/34 compact crankset and 12-28 rear cassette and gave us every gear we needed to click off the miles. The pavement ranged from asphalt perfection to some pretty rough forest service roads. Paved, but not maintained in a very long time. Despite the variety in pavement we stuck with our 23c tires and were once again pleasantly surprised with how well our Paketa with its Spinergy TX2 wheels took the buzz and edge out of the worst sections of pavement.
The food stops were plentiful and while this was a race for some, we took full advantage of each opportunity to stretch our legs and dine at every rest stop smorgasbord! It was the usual cycling fare of Heed, bananas, PB&J, and chips. But each stop had a few special treats ranging from a generator run espresso machine to watermelon and strawberries with Nutella! We were ahead of the other tandem so aside from doing our best up the timed 5 miles that made up the King of the Mountain section, we made sure to take our time and enjoy the ride.
At 117 miles this was our longest one day ride on the tandem together. And the longest ride that Amy had ever done in a day. I’d done this same ride two years ago on a single bike, so was excited to come back and share the experience with my stoker. The miles seemed to click by faster on the Paketa, and I’ll credit the good company as much as the machine.
Our Paketa is day-glo metallic green with matching green-spoked Spinergy wheels. It’s a nine foot long conversation starter! We had a lot of conversations with people about our tandem throughout the day. Example: What’s a Paketa? (A super cool tandem that’s made in Colorado. Paketa means rocket in Russian.) How does the magnesium frame ride? (It’s impressive. Light like alloy, but has the road-buzz-killing quality of a carbon frame.) How does the belt drive work? (Smooth, clean, light, and maintenance free – so long as you set it up right to begin with.) What’s it weigh? (A little under 26.5 pounds with Shimano Ultegra and Lightning cranks).
Rolling across the finish line in Cottage Grove we were greeted by cheers and an impressive lunch put together by the race organizers and their local vendors. This is a fantastic event with enthusiastic volunteers and an eager host city (Cottage Grove, Oregon). If you’re from outside of the state it’s a lush, green ride and a nice intro to our lovely Oregon cycling roads. It’s definitely worth the travel time.
So, the first of our three Triple Crown events is checked off our list. The second/next Fondo in the series is the Tour of the Aufderheide. It’s a pretty straightforward century ride of only 100 miles. ** Yikes! I’m not sure when I started referring to century rides as “only 100 miles”…
We’ll ride the Paketa again for that one. We’re getting way ahead of ourselves here, but the Gravel Epic might require a tandem with fatter tires. If it’s even a bit wet then those gravel roads will demand something closer to a cyclocross bike or 29er hard tail mountain bike. But, if it’s dry, then we might get adventurous. Meaning we might set our goal to be the first tandem to complete all three events of the Oregon Triple Crown – all using the same Paketa race tandem!
Henry & Amy of Bend, Oregon