Race report: Round and Round Spokane

27 05 2015




by Jacob Sheppard

I’d heard about this idea of a 24-hour relay race on MTBs, but I didn’t really get it. 24 hours? Trail riding in the middle of the night? Stripping off your kit at 11 pm knowing you’ll just be squirming back into it at 2 am? I race bikes so I understand the allure of suffering, but this kind of suffering was a head-scratcher for me.

So when Nick Adsero emailed me looking for a fourth member of the RCR team at the Round and Round 24-hr race in Spokane, to take the place of an injured Josh Simpson, I was skeptical. But way too curious to say no. I warned Nick that I didn’t own a bike, or MTB skills, or experience, but when he still wanted me to jump in, I took it as an opportunity to try something new, not to mention an honor to race bikes with some of the RCR originals. So I got a bike, signed up, and tried not to think too much about what a stupid, stupid move this might turn out to be.

Memorial Day weekend in Spokane could be any kind of weather imaginable. On Friday, as people were setting up camp in Riverside Park and getting in their pre-rides on the 15-mile course, a squall line came ripping across the landscape, with drenching rain and nonstop lightning and thunder. And then 15 minutes later the weather was gone, and the course was bone-dry and dusty. That was it for the interesting weather, it turned out – the rest of the weekend was hot and dry (well, except for the nighttime racing, which was downright pleasant).

Our strategy for the race was simple – rotating through our four-man lineup one lap at a time. Steven Smoothy Williams – the ringer – went first, then Nick, then Mike Brown, then me. The plan was to keep that rotation all the way through.

The race starts LeMans style, with an unnecessarily long run (more than half a kilometer) before you can get on your bike. I’m guessing there are few dirt races in which the holeshot matters less than this one, but nevertheless, some folks went HOT from the gun. Smoothy kept it steady, though, and waited until he was on the bike to start picking people off who’d wasted their legs on the run.

I was all nerves for the 3 hours before my lap – first MTB race, hadn’t done a pre-ride, had no idea how to dole out my energy over the course of the race, etc… When my turn finally came, of course I went out too hard, and when I hit the one significant climb on the lap, less than 15 minutes in, I was already feeling the effects of the heat and the effort. At the one semi-technical descent of Devil’s Down, since my meager tech skills disappear completely when I’m tired, I chickened out and took the bail-out route around it. At the top of the bail-out, I was probably 15 seconds ahead of the guy I’d come around earlier in the lap. At the bottom, I didn’t see him, and thought “oh, I guess the bail-out route isn’t too bad a handicap!” It wasn’t until near the end of the lap that I finally caught the guy again – he’d probably put close to a minute into me while I was plodding around the bail-out.

I hit the line at the end of my first lap feeling way too spent, and I was worried about the rest of the race. But a bunch of water bottles and a dip in the river later, I’d shaken the bad feelings and was ready for more. At this point (evening), we were sitting in 2nd place, only a few minutes back from the 1st place team. We started to realize that if we held it together, we were in good shape for a good result. But 24 hours is a long time, and Browner, who’s done this race 25 times or something, kept telling us, “Don’t even look at the results until the morning. They don’t mean anything until the morning.” But we’re racers, and we had to look.

After a couple rounds through the line-up, we had a sense for the times we were putting up, and how they compared to the other teams. We were feeling good about that, especially about Smoothy’s times – consistently blazing fast. And slowly, we eased into 1st place. But we knew that the 2nd place guys were matching up with us pretty evenly, and it was looking like it could be a battle.

Nighttime started out uneventful. Everyone’s times went up a little, but not too much, and we all knew the course by now (no more bail-out route for me) and still felt good. Sleep was hard to come by – the time it took to recover from a lap and then get ready for the next one only left 1.5 hours max in between – but we were hanging in there. At 3:15 am, though, Nick came into camp after a lap that had taken much longer than we expected, and told us he’d put his rear derailleur through his wheel about 3 miles from the finish. He got the wheel spinning again and ran/kick-pushed his bike across the line, adding 20 minutes or so to his lap time, which was enough to drop us down into 2nd. Like Mike said, the results don’t mean anything until morning…

By the time morning came, though, things were looking up again. Nick’s bike was fixed (always carry a spare hanger, kids!), Smoothy was still putting in monstrous laps, and the rest of us were still ticking along consistently. And we were back on top!

At around 6 am, we could see the game plan for finishing it off. We’d do one more round through the line-up, and then we’d probably have time for Smoothy and Nick to do one more lap with Browner and me getting off easy. I tried to throw down in my final lap, and I was spent by the end, but my time wasn’t quite up there with earlier in the race. Didn’t matter, though. Smoothy absolutely railed it for his last go, and then Nick just had to watch the clock and spin on his lap, coming in at 12:03 pm and putting the cap on our 1st place.

Even with Adsero’s early-morning mechanical, we finished just about 30 minutes head of 2nd place. The feeling of winning after an effort as demanding as those 24 hours was really, really sweet.

Like Mike Brown said, “It’s fucking hard to win a bike race.” So stoked that I got the opportunity to ride with these three RCR legends and do my part to get us a win.


Photos by Bryan @ Woodinville Bicycle, which is not Recycled Cycles, but is awesome for taking so many good pictures.


Non-race report: Phil’s May Day Classic

11 05 2015

by Jamie Schoenborn

A couple of weeks ago, I did the Phil’s May Day Classic ride, a 50-104 mile ride to raise funds for the WA State Bicycle Alliance and the Orting Food Bank.  I know this is not a race report. However, it was such a well done ride, by really great family/team, and the price was outstandingly reasonable ($30-40 depending on when you reg), so I’d recommend this ride to all in future years, particularly if the weather is good. It’s run by Phil and his family from the Phil’s Bike Shop down south. For the CX racers, he helps put on SCX and now Cross Revolution; he knows his stuff. It was run really smooth, and with 200+ riders it didn’t feel like a ‘ride’ other than having manned food stops and arrows on the roads (by comparison I think Bike MS has over 2000 and STP caps at 8000). It was common for me to ride for long stretches never seeing others, and being at the front of the ride, they were taking names/numbers and telling where you were, so it did feel a bit like a race.

I did the 104 mile ‘mountain route’, which starts in Federal Way, and has three food stops in the cute historic towns of Orting and Wilkeson (which you do twice, each), and then one at the turn around up on Rainier just down the road from the Carbon River entrance station. Elevation was about 4250, if I remember correctly. Course is almost entirely on quiet roads in rural wooded/river sections, farms, or semi-rural with random houses; a few short sections on busier thoroughfares, but these were early before traffic started or had a decent shoulder; several bike trail sections but they were all pretty quiet and not at all like the BGT nightmare.

So quiet I saw fresh bear poop on the road, but no actual bears.

Pavement throughout was great. Very strong head wind on the return, which I heard is typical, this made the return a lot (mentally and physically) harder and longer than I expected, given it should be mostly downhill. I worked on the 20+ mile descent off Rainier, it would be a very fun descent with almost no other traffic otherwise.

I started out comfortably slow, but continually passed others. I had ridden 70 miles pretty fast the day before with team SPIN (our Bike MS group last year) and my legs were a bit tired. Since I was riding solo, I was hoping to find a few people on the course to ride with, so I kept going, thinking all the 100 milers would be up ahead. However, when I reached mile 40 at Wilkeson and heard I was the first woman and only a few other riders were ahead of me, I just couldn’t help but keep the racer in me down. It was 20+ miles uphill to the turnaround, and I love climbing, so drilled it. I saw the top 5 riders coming down only a few miles from the turnaround. Since I was still waiting for people to ride with and the turn-around was in warm sunshine and had a fire going, I let my swollen feet recover a bit over lunch. I did find a few guys to draft behind at mile ~65 but they were so unsteady and heavy on the brakes for no reason, I dropped off and decided to ride solo (probably a mistake). I hit a few dark patches around miles 75-90 where the headwinds got to me, and I was getting too tired to catch all the road markings and missed a few turns,  but by the last long/steep hill I knew I was only 10 miles away and pushed through to the end.


Jamie at Mile 40 in Wilkeson

I feel pretty good about my time; 8:06 total hours (almost entirely solo) with stops, including a very luxurious 45 minutes at the turn-around; total ride time was in the mid-6 hour range. I was the first woman to finish the full 104 miles, and was the 7th person to the mid-point stop on Rainier, even starting over 30 min after course opening; it got a busier on the return, mixing in with the 50 and 75-milers, so I don’t know where I finished overall, but the only other two women who were close to me and riding in a large group came in about 20 minutes after I did. I ate non-stop, and caught my friends in town for a beer over the Sounders game; even better.

Totally recommend to put on the calendar for next year – it’s the first Sunday in May. You can reg day-of for $40 so worth seeing what the weather is like. I would hate to do that ride in a cold rain, and being that close to Rainier increases the likelihood. It’d be great to have some teammates to ride with next year. All routes were good, but I’d suggest at least the 70 miles (not much climbing). I loved the long quiet ride up to Rainier for the 100 miles, which is where most of the elevation comes in.

More at: http://philsbikeshop.com/mayday/

An interview with Steve Donahue

8 05 2015

April 22, 2015

Steve Donahue is the co-founder and owner of Recycled Cycles. Steve and the shop have supported Recycled Cycles Racing since the 90s. RCR’s Ryan Dean interviewed Steve in his office downstairs in the Boat St. shop, surrounded by some vintage Campagnolo parts, boxes, and bikes.

RD: Steve, thanks for taking the time to visit with us as we try to learn a little bit more about your history as well as that of the shop, which has been operating nearly a quarter of century! You and Scott opened the shop in 1994, right?

SD: That’s right, we started out with just the lower level where we are sitting now. We didn’t really know what we were doing, I don’t have an MBA or anything like that. But we’re pretty happy with how things have turned out, although I never dreamt the business would grow to this size.

RD: You were originally a mechanic?

SD: Correct, I grew up trading BMX parts with my friends, tearing my bike down and building it back up again for fun. My mom thought it would be good for me to see if I could get a job in a shop, and so she hooked me up with a local outfit called “Bicycle Village” in Annandale, Virginia. That’s where I learned the craft before moving out to Seattle and ultimately opening this place. Regrettably I don’t get to wrench very much anymore as most of my time is consumed by running the two locations, and so I’m mainly doing administrative stuff.

RD: The vision statement you and Scott laid out for the shop back in ’94 seems to be evident today, to provide an alternative to the traditional bike shop by offering used bikes and parts at lower prices and be a place that professional bike people would want to work – if you were to start it again today, would you change things much?

SD: No. We might tweak some things here or there but generally we are happy to stick to the ideas that got us started in the first place.

We like being a place that you can hook up your young child with a 12” bike and also get your commuter fixed.

We never stock high-end bikes but appreciate when our customers trust us to guide them in special order the bikes they need.

RD: “Frame builder” never spoke to you as something you might dabble in?

SD: Never, just not something I wanted to pursue. When customers needed welding done we’d just send them over to Val Kleitz or R+E or some of the other fine frame builders in town.

RD: I think Recycled Cycles Racing might be the longest single title sponsored team in the Pacific Northwest – true?

SD: I don’t know about that, but we have always tried to be a place that employed and welcomed racers and have had sponsored the team since the early days. I remember when the jerseys were just screen-printed and the ink would run when the guys started sweating. Generally, we try to keep our hands off the team stuff and it may be that’s why it has lasted as long as it has. At the end of the day we just want the race team to be good ambassadors for the shop, the brands and for cycling in general.

RD: I think some pretty famous names have passed through the shop at one time or another – can you give me some examples?

SD: Well, David Richter was our first manager many years ago and was part of that original racing group. Other names that come to mind were Tom Peterson, who raced on the juniors team and won the junior national championship in an RCR kit. Doug Sumi and Tre Wideman have each gone on to pretty cool pro mechanic gigs, and of course Dan Harm.

RD: Someone on the team was interested to know what your favorite post activity beverage is.

SD: Mirror Pond Pale Ale!

RD: I read on the site that you guys are a drop-off collection point for the “Village Bicycle Project” that collects working bicycles and ships them to Africa – is that still active?

SD: Yes, it has been a little quiet lately but we still collect and distribute bikes to the Village Bicycle group. They do great work!

RD: Can you tell me a little about how the Recycled Cycles logo came to be? I confess I saw it on someone as a tattoo the other day and that freaked me out a little bit.

SD: Ha-ha I think I know two people with that tattoo. Many years ago we worked with a guy named Zack to design the logo. I think we gave him a Giant Sedona mountain bike in exchange for the original artwork. We asked him to do something for us that was “a little bit Harley-Davidson” and “a little bit Schwinn’y’” He came up with what you see today and we have been really happy ever since.

RD: Is there a remarkable customer story you can share? Someone who dropped $15,000 on a diamond-encrusted Cipollini? Or maybe the most famous customer you have ever had?

SD: Hmmmm. I can’t think of a single customer thing like that, but I can say that Eddie Vedder has bought two bikes from us. Two [Surly] Pugsleys, which he had us strip down to the frame so he could have them custom painted and then rebuilt – they were beautiful when all done. We’ve had Conan O’Brian in before since his wife is from this area as well as several Mariners.

RD: The shop has a pretty impressive collection of collector’s items between vintage bikes, parts and other memorabilia. Was this an intentional effort on your part to build this growing asset?

SD: It happened organically, we just had people bringing this stuff in over the years to trade or otherwise turn in and we set aside the really classic vintage stuff. We don’t have any plans for the collection in the future but it sure seems like Seattle could have a bicycle museum based on all the stuff that has gone on around here.

RD: Do Seattle cyclists have a vibe that’s different from cyclists in other parts of the country?

SD: Definitely. Seattle cyclists will ride in any kind of rain with temperatures down to 35 degrees. Below that, even on a beautiful sunny and clear day, less people ride. Some of our busiest days in the shop are when it’s raining. I think there is a certain esprit d’corps shared by cyclists who persevere through the inclement weather that draws them together. It’s like they want to show how tough they are!

RD: If this whole bicycle thing hadn’t worked out, how do you suppose you would spend your time professionally?

SD: I’d probably have a career in law enforcement; I majored in criminal justice in college and am very familiar with the ins and outs of that profession. But for now I’m all into keeping Recycled Cycles going strong.

RD: After all these years in and around bicycles, can you think of one machine that would be your dream bike? Do you have it now?

SD: Actually yes, I do have it now, and what’s funny is that I bought it from the shop on consignment, which is something I had never done until this bike came along about five years ago. It’s a beautiful white Schwinn Paramount from 1985. It’s been upgraded to 9-speed Dura Ace and looks just awesome hanging in my garage. I need to ride it more.

RD: Ok, last question – If you could have dinner with anyone in cycling history living or dead – who would it be?

SD: Hmmm. I might answer that question differently from how it was asked, rather than seeing a person today from history I’d rather go back in time and watch the Schwinn brothers in action, or failing that, the Wright brothers in their old shop. I recently had a chance to tour the Henry Ford museum and saw that he had a penchant for historical workshops and actually commissioned someone to deconstruct and rebuild the Wright brothers’ workshop on his Greenfield property. Pretty cool stuff.