A Hail of a Good Time

The first trip – Wallowa Valley

You know you’re having a good time when a hailstorm doesn’t dampen your enthusiasm for the ride.

Our hardy group has just finished eating a mid-ride lunch huddled under the eaves of the Murderers Creek Work Station cabin, south of Mt. Vernon in Eastern Oregon, pinned down by a torrential downpour. But the rain stopped, so we rolled out. We’re starting up a steep two-mile grade when the ice pellets start dropping. I can hear them bouncing off my helmet, my bike frame and even a beer can in the ditch. When they hit the ground they ricochet in crazy directions, which is actually pretty interesting to watch as I try to ignore the strain of the ascent. Around me I hear ironic yells of “Whoo-hoo!” and “Hail, yes!”

What do we do about it? We ride, because that’s why we’re here. And in the end, this is another great story we’ll tell on future trips. “Remember that time when…?”

To me, the stories – and the people in them – are the best part of a cycling experience, whether it’s the Oregon Bicycle Ride or the small-group trips I organize for these friends every summer. Sharing everything that comes your way on one of these trips creates unique bonds.

Our group came together almost ten years ago. I found out a couple of my friends had never ridden in the Wallowas, so I suggested putting together a trip to show them Halfway, Joseph and Hells Canyon. I invited a few other friends, and we had a great time. It’s become an annual tradition, and our group has expanded a bit over time, to five couples.

It took a while, but…

Not everyone makes it every year, but there’s always a trip. In some combination of people, we’ve ridden the Wallowas, Ashland and the Rogue River, John Day, Crater Lake, The Methow Valley in Washington, the Yellowstone region… even the French Alps one memorable summer.

The group is eclectic. Steve weighs a buck-forty and climbs like a mountain goat. Diane always thinks she should be in better shape. Mike’s like a Tasmanian Devil – a walking id – yet cultured as well. Erica weighs nothing but is faster down the hills than much bigger people. Melissa just keeps coming, and is way tougher than she looks. Mark likes to swoop by people just when they least expect it. Daphne dislikes climbing but goes like a bullet train on flats. Roger used to race and still shaves his legs because it makes him feel responsible to train hard. I’m the guy who plans the trips but always misremembers the terrain. My awesome wife Pam drives the support vehicle and patiently listens to our stories from the road.

The rest of the year, we all socialize more with some than others, but when we can all get together and ride, it’s like family. I look back over our trips and can recall with sparkling clarity certain moments and places. How everyone had a great riding day on Beartooth Pass last summer. The time Steve and I rode the craziest road in Oregon, near Galice. Fourth of July in Halfway, like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Barbecuing at the schoolhouse B&B outside Prairie City. And, oh yeah, the hailstorm.

Col de Sarenne

I’ve shared some of the best moments of my life with these people.

You might have some friends like this. You might even have met them on a BRNW tour. And that’s one of the things I like most about working on bike tours: Touring fosters great moments – there’s something inherently pleasing about the daily rhythm of a challenging ride in a beautiful place, followed by time to reflect, share, brag and tell old stories while you eat a big, guilt-free meal and then hang out for the evening.

So appreciate those bike friends, and make sure you get out there and create some new stories this year.

BRNW Rider Focus: June Lindsey

So many interesting people come along on BRNW rides, and we want to share some of their insights, advice and tales with others in our “family.” It’s a great way to convey a little of the flavor of our events, through the eyes of those who ride them.

Our first Rider Focus is on June Lindsey, who is a fixture on our rides – someone we look forward to seeing again, every time. Here are her answers to a few questions we posed.


Name, hometown, age:

June Lindsey, Mercer Island, WA, 81

What’s your BRNW history?

I’ve done at least twenty, some years both rides, starting in 1998.

Why do you ride a bike?

It makes me feel like I’m 12 years old again!

What interesting thing do most people not know about you?

I have been a ceramic artist for over 50 years, making sculptures, large vessels and occasionally functional stuff like mugs.

What is your strongest memory of your first BRNW event?

First of all, the friendly people – both riders and staff. We made friends we still meet on these rides, after nearly twenty years. It was our first biking experience in Eastern Oregon, and we were amazed at the varied climate and geography between Frenchglen and Cascade Locks. We started in the desert, went through the Malheur Wildlife Reserve, through Izee, Fossil, Antelope and Shaniko (what crazy places!) and on up through the forest around Mt. Hood, down through orchards to Hood River and along the Columbia to Cascade Locks. What a trip!!

Why do you keep coming back?

The challenge and the people. I ride and go to the gym so I can continue to do these tours for another year … and maybe, another.

What did you see on a BRNW ride that you never thought you’d see?

A fire! It came rapidly down the hillside close to our campground, and we had to evacuate to the other side of the river for hours, leaving everything behind.

What is the most unusual or challenging place you’ve ever ridden?

A ride in the Pyrenees in southern France over many of the cols of the Tour de France was the most challenging and most spectacular ride of my life.

What is the single most important item you bring on a bike tour?

A comfortable, broken-in bike saddle.

What advice would you give a first-time BRNW rider?

Train enough that you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery and not suffer (too much). Ride about 1,500 miles beforehand and you’ll be ready.

Feb. Training Blog: Building a Foundation

In winter you get out however you can.

Hi, everyone! Since Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, it looks like we’re in for six more weeks of winter. But that’s no reason to not ride your bike! I took a warm-weather vacation in Maui a couple weeks ago and was able to get in a quality base week of slow, steady riding. I’ve also been able to get out on my cross bike here in Bend, with knobby tires and warm clothes. It was beautiful.

In last month’s blog the goal was to work on our mental game, getting prepared for training as well as recovering from the holidays and beginning to build a solid foundation. Well, now it’s time to get serious about the foundation. It’s like building a house: The better foundation you have, the longer the house will last and not crumble under stress.

But first: Hopefully you’ve looked at your 2017 calendar and planned some goal events leading up to your BRNW ride in July and/or August to help you get ready. If not, now is the time to plan these “target” events.

OK, two things we need to continue working on this month: overall strength and cardiovascular fitness (base training).

For your strength training, the most important things to work on are your core, your legs and your upper-body strength and stability. The core is the foundation of all other parts of your body. Without a solid core, you’re more prone to injuries – not to mention the fact that you’ll suffer on long rides. Be sure to spend at least two days a week working on your core; three is even better. You can do Pilates, yoga or a simple core routine.

Here is a great core workout from Bicycling magazine that takes about 15 min to do.

For lower-body work, you want to strengthen the following muscle groups: lower back, glutes, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves. Exercises that I like include some form of squat (single leg, reverse lunge, body squat), leg press machine or step-ups with or without dumbbells, deadlifts (focus on good form and technique), hamstring curls of some sort (can be done with a stability ball or machines) and calf raises.

For the upper body, you want to focus on the upper back and chest, biceps and triceps – all of which help stabilize you on the bike. Exercises include bench press, some form of rowing, biceps curls and triceps push-downs. The goal is not to get bulky, but rather to build a solid foundation while riding your bike.

You should always start with a light weight and work on form first before you increase the weights and/or reps. Consult with a personal trainer or coach to set you up with a periodized strength plan – it will make all the difference when it comes time for your long rides.

Slow and steady gets you to the top of Haleakala.

The other aspect of training this month is working on your base/cardiovascular fitness. And remember: The old adage that says you have to go slow to get fast is very true. The more time you can spend in your endurance or “aerobic” zone (heart rate 55 to 75 percent of max) the better off you’ll be in the long haul. Here is a great article written by one of my mentors about the importance of this type of training.

You may wonder about “time-crunched training” for those who don’t have much time to train. That type of training will get you fit fast, but it may not last. As mentioned in the article above, by doing the lower-intensity endurance training you set your body up to tolerate harder efforts later and to use lactate for fuel, which is a key to tolerating long endurance activities. So if you can try to get in at least one day a week of the longer easier efforts, you’ll see benefits down the road.

Here’s a sample schedule: Bike or other aerobic activity three days a week, strength/core two days a week, and an optional third core day. Or you could add the extra core work on an aerobic day so you get two days off each week. Try to get on your bike at least one day a week if you can, to get your body used to the motion of riding. For your aerobic days, I suggest two of them should be 90 minutes to two hours in length, and build up one of these days progressively by 10 to 15 percent every week.

Remember, too: If you’re riding outside, wear layers, be sure to remember to eat and drink (you need more calories in cold than warm), and be sure to use lights both during the day and at night. Also, be sure to have visible colors on. There has been research showing that having your moving parts (feet/legs) clad in high-visibility colors is the most effective way to have cars see you.

If you’re interested in more in-depth coaching/training guidelines, feel free to email me – or you can also check out our awesome coaches/training plans available at Wenzel Coaching.

You can check out Wenzel Coaching’s YouTube videos on some of the recommended strength exercises here.