Follow or subscribe to our blog to get notifications of updates to this site
as well as more frequent insightful, pithy commentary


bike logo



400 km Boston Brevet

by Pamela Blalock


It has been quite a few years since I have done a full brevet series on a single bike. I really enjoy doing these rides on tandem because I always am guaranteed company. So this year I have tried to find some like-minded folks to ride with. I've been really lucky so far that my pace is similar to Paul and Cheryl's and that they like to stop for real food.

I had tried to convince a few folks to take the later 4 AM start and ride as a group, but had no luck with getting any of the more moderate speed riders to join me. Most were worried about giving up the extra 3 hours of allowed time, and many more wanted to finish in daylight. It wasn't til I reached the end of the ride that I discovered why the new finish made daylight finishing so compelling.

So since most of the 4 AM starters would be riding at a brisk pace, and since I didn't want to ride alone for 400 km, I took the dreaded 1 AM start. While I really dislike the wee hours start, since I just can't sleep midday, I have almost come to the conclusion that they save me from DNF's - because when things gets tough, I remind myself that I got up at a bloody awful hour!

OK, enough of that, let's get to the ride. Well, let;s get to the pre-ride. Weather predictions were good. It was to be dry and comfortable. I toyed with the idea of riding my fenderless bike! I'd just bought a great new saddlebag that would allow me to carry loads of stuff. I had a quick-release light setup I'd made up last winter, but had not yet used, and the poor Trek was sitting in the basement looking ever so neglected since it's been so wet this spring!

The shop where I bought this bike would simply be appalled to see this saddlebag mounted on a racing machine! The frame design gives a bit of rear suspension without the weight penalty of something like a softride. It isn't the best in crosswinds, but I do like the way the bike feels over the rough stuff - so long as it's dry.

I borrowed the Schmidt wheel off my usual randonneuring steed, and had setup these lights back in the winter. I used an old aero-bar mount and a short piece of handlebars on which I mounted two lumotecs. They aren't in a capefriendly position, but my intent is to use these in non-rainy conditions. With this setup, I can easily thrown lights on a variety of bikes. Look close and you will also see a cateye in the middle for backup.


The bag is a Carradice SQR Slim. I'd tried a Bagman and Lowsaddle longflap on this bike, but when I saw the nice lines of the SQR bags, I had to give it a try. Do to the small frame and low saddle clearance only the slim model would fit, but it worked out quite well. It will also see use on our go-faster tandem, and John is now using the SQR-Tour model on his commuter.

So now with carry capacity solved, this bike is almost dry-weather rando-worthy. I do still want to find a way to carry a better pump - like the Topeak Morph. For now, it sports an awful mini-pump, but I will address this if I attempt more events on this steed. One other thing you may notice about the bike is lack of water bottle space. I put frappuccinos in that single water bottle and used a camelbak for water. This seems to work out well.

OK, so we get to the ride start, and the gun is fired at 1 AM. There is quite a crowd here, including my tandem friends, Paul and Cheryl, and Jay and Pat. The four of them have agreed to hang together for a while, and I will try to hang with them as long as I can. I learned on the 300 km that if I can hang on for the first 50, our paces start to match.

Of course a quarter mile from the start, my secondary lamp blew resulting in no light! I fumbled to reach switches and managed to turn off the secondary, so my primary came back on. It was a brand new lamp, but I hadn't actually used it before. Bad, bad Pamela! I later checked it out and determined the voltage regulator must be faulty as it always blew out bulbs around 15 mph. Peter swapped it for a good one - which I have checked out thoroughly!

The temps were quite brisk, low 40's but dry. After our experience on the cold rainy 300 km, I had warmer clothes. I started out in wool tights, wool jersey, arm warmers, and a jacket. I also carried leg and knee warmers for later in the day. I had two vests at the start, and while trying to decide which to take, apparently left BOTH in the van! I put a second wool jersey in a drop bag to be sent to Bullard Farm.

Jay seemed and Pat seemed to be feeling frisky on the very tandem friendly start and pushed the pace a few times. They eventually settled down the two tandems and their klingon rolled into the battery check together. We all made quick woods runs, and soon started back up. Or so I thought. Elizabeth and Susan were rolling out, and I thought the tandems were right behind. I stayed with the ladies briefly til I realized my drafting buddies weren't around. I stopped under a street light and saw another group approaching. Again thinking they were in the crowd, I resumed. At some point we had a group of about 8 or 10, including Elizabeth, Susan, Peter, Bernie, Dale, and a few others I didn't know. I decided to try to hang with these guys for a while, at least till we were past the rough downhill sections of route 101. It was actually a quite pleasant pace, but then nature called, and conveniently a port-a-loo appeared. Unfortunately this was the start of some discomfort for me, as I felt a strong urge to pee, but no real results! This continued til past the halfway point, where thankfully I started to feel better in this regard!

About the time I emerged from the port-a-loo, I saw Paul and Cheryl fly past, and soon after Jay and Pat. It was a tandem roller, and I had no chance to catch on. Fortunately I found them at the control at Bullard Farm a few miles later. After a short refueling break, and a change into a fresh jersey, we rolled out together. The great thing about having Bullard Farm as a checkpoint both out and back was that I could leave my soaked jersey hanging to dry! The temps were still quite cool, and I still sported wool tights.

We enjoyed the climb up Grace and smooth descent down into Northfield. Having done this route many times in the past, I was quite familiar with the turnoff to near Gill and we made a way toward Turners Falls. We took a bathroom break at the gas station at route 2, and I traded my tights for legwarmers. Here I managed to take the only picture of the day! I carried the camera all day long, and only took one picture!

We pressed on and took another break near Deerfield, where I fueled up with Frappucinos which powered me up the climb to the turn around in Ashfield. Jay and Pat were ansy to get started and headed out a while before Paul, Cheryl and myself. The tandem slipped away from me on the long descent, but we regrouped, and then had a short stop for a dropped chain on the tandem. I began to notice a bit of non-helpful wind, and tried my darndest to keep the draft.

We planned a stop at Starbucks in Amherst where I began to experience some digestive issues. I'm not quite sure what was going on. My stomach felt fine, but I just couldn't seem to swallow anything that hadn't been chewed thousands of times, and even had trouble drinking my frappuccino!

The climb up Pelham hill went by without too much distress, but I felt quite warm. I was certain we'd never see Jay and Pat again, when we spied them at the store in Wendell. Jay was drinking chocolate milk, which is apparently a sign that things aren't going well. I knew it was downhill to the control, and felt confident we'd have an easy time of it to the control.

We reached Bullard Farm for a second time, where they informed us there were baked beans simmering. I don't know why I didn't take advantage, but I simply filled my bottle and camelbak and tried to ingest a bit more solid food, but it just wasn't going down. As soon as we left the control, I knew I was in trouble. I just couldn't hang with Paul and Cheryl. I suggested that they go on, but they eased off for me. We took a long break in Barre. We were all pretty hungry, but I again struggled to get the food to go down. I managed about half a chicken sandwich, and put the rest in my pocket. I again suggested they should not be held back, especially given the terrain, lots of ups and downs for the next 15 miles.

While I really wanted company, I felt I might do better at my own pace, and not feeling I was holding them back. I did start to feel better and was able to eat a bit more. I did spy them one more time donning night time gear, but the descent that followed quickly separated us.

Darkness feel as I left Hudson, and I had a closer look at the cue sheet. The finish had been changed since the last time I rode this route, and I did not like what I saw. Instead of following 62 through Maynard to Concord, we would be taking 117 down to Lincoln. 62 has been under construction in recent years and has some bumpy sections, but it is relatively wide, well lit as it is lined with more businesses, and is lower speed. 117 is narrow, winding, dark and higher speed. So this was why some riders were determined to get in before dark. I briefly contemplated the alternate route, but knew that John was riding out to greet me in the closing miles, so I pressed on on the official but much less desirable route. Not long after passing through Maynard I spied John heading toward me. He turned and we rolled back in together, just a few minutes after Paul and Cheryl and a few before Jay and Pat!

It was a joy to finish this event and work through my early bladder and later nutritional problems. I'm afraid I'll have to start using more chemicals again for the longer events, if I can't get solid food down. I'm hoping this was a fluke and I'll just take the chemicals as a backup, but I will have them, since I know there is only so far one can ride on fumes!

I'm now facing 2 weeks off the bike, as I crew for RAAM, but hopefully the rest for the legs will be helpful. And I'll have two weeks to get the butt back in shape for the 600 km