Handemade Steel Mountain Bikes

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We are in the process of updating some models, and although you can’t tell it yet from the website, 27.5″ (or 650B if you will) is here, and here to stay.  Our longish-travel hard tail, the Paycheck, will get wheel size of your choice.  To get things rolling both literally an figuratively, we build up this handsome PURPLE 150mm travel, 27.5″ beauty.  She’s gorgeous enough in the shop, but under the sun she sings.

IMG_0282

The perfect opportunity to test it came up recently when Mark, Cat, and Ben invited me to join their adventure – a 4-day, point to point, loop around Mont Blanc.  4 days, 160km, a million meters of vert, 3 countries, and a whole bunch of alpine singletrack.  So good!

IMG_0279

First of all, this bike is frickin amazing.  Climbs, descends, takes just about anything you can throw at it, and looks good doing it.  In typical Bronto fashion…the bike was finished literally the day of the ride.  So every single part, aside from the seat post, was shiny out of the box when we started.  Much is owed to Fietsen Verheyen in Belgium for pulling this off.  But nary an adjustment to be made through 4 days of rain, sun, mist, mud, and cow shit.

This was my first time on the medium-sized wheels.  If you haven’t tried them – do.  They are perfect.  Not as wagon-wheely as 29ers, not as small and slow as 26ers.  I remember at in the hotel parking lot at Nahbs 2010, Kent Eriksen told us that 650B was the business.  Well Kent, you were right!

 IMG_0312

As for the ride – the descents were golden.  Of course.  Tight, hiking singletrack, plenty of rock and root and steep to challenge you, and lots of flow for the flow riders.  It was a very good balance.  Staying in the mountain refuges was interesting.  The French ones – hot and everybody was singing.  Not awesome.  The italian ones – awesome food and friendly people.  Swiss – organized, with lots and lots of cheese.  That’s pretty much how I’d sum it up.

IMG_0266

Yeah, to get to those sweet descents we had to do a ton of hike-a-bike.  At the time I was pulling my hair out (2 hours of pushing bike up hill makes David a dull boy), but looking back now it seems it was worth it.  After a particularly grueling push up the Col de Bovine, after a night of food sickness, we caught the last descent into Trient just as the sun was setting through the trees.  Ben was on a mission on fast, steep, flowy trails and I was glued to his wheel.  It was pretty much the perfect moment.  And that’s what this sport is all about.

So in summary – tour of mt blanc – research some more ridable climbs than the standard hiking route.  27.5″ – awesome.   Long travel hard tails – awesome.  Purple – well, you know.  Awesome.

I like to think of myself as a “run what you brung” kind of guy.  When visiting friends, I’ll ride just about anything if it means I can ride some trails.  I once had a rear hydraulic cable on a buddy’s bike fail halfway down Hazard County in Moab, leaving me with only a front brake for the rest of the ride.  Made things interesting for sure but turned out all right.

the beast

However – Adhering to this philosophy at home, unfortunately for my local ride friends, simply means – showing up late with bikes in various stages of assembly or disassembly.  It’s not as bad as it sounds, but has led to a couple funny circumstances, like showing up with one road and one mtb shoe (had a great ride!).

So about 2 months ago, I was in the UK visiting family for xmas.  I had always wanted to go ride the Forest of Dean, so drove out to the border of Wales in pouring rain, getting to the parking lot around 2pm.  It was probably the muddiest ride I’ve ever done, and as it was getting late and dark, I threw the unwashed bike in the car where it remained until I got home and threw it in the garage.  Where it remained until Mike asked me if I wanted to go mountain biking in the snow today.  Where was my mountain bike?  I had to give it some thought.

Ok, I said, no problem.  Clipping in in about 20 minutes.  Geared up, went down to the garage, now…where was my bike…  In the corner of the garage was a brown pile of steel tubes, covered in a thick layer of caked-on mud.  Which had by now taken the form of concrete, attached like one giant brown barnacle to my frame.  BB was seized, tires flat.

Long story short – I made it out of there.  Bike broke in ok.  And within a few pedal strokes it was back to its old self, happy to be riding again, same as me.  There was a fresh snow on the ground and we were off to get some of that glorous fresh powder traction (fat bikes be damned!).  Two hours and several beers better evening was approaching and it had been a great ride, in what would have otherwise been a day trapped indoors.  Such is the beauty of the mountain bike.

A recent trip to Seattle and a morning ride on Grand Ridge led to a Bronto convention of sorts.  The parking lot in Issaquah was the convergence point for GG on his new Bronto, web guru Matt on his brown Willy, and Matt’s bro Mark on his shiny white Reverend.  Rain had subsided and trail conditions were just about perfect.

GG finds a bike his size

Grand Ridge to Duthie has to be one of the great rides near urban centers.  Fantastic singletrack, maintained by the good folks at Evergreen MTB Alliance, climbs up out of downtown Issaquah to Duthie trail center – a clover-leaf shaped network of all-season, all-weather trails that have features for all skill levels.  Climbing up, doing the full Duthie circuit, and then coming back down an alternate descent can be a solid 2-4 hour, skill-testing day.

Borgs sr and jr

There used to be a nasty bog in the middle of Grand Ridge that was year-round yuck, but that’s been completely replaced by a volunteer-built bridge that is a good 150 feet long.  All praise the volunteeer trail buidlers!

Up at Duthie we ran into the Borg on his Brown Reverend, and it was the first meeting ever of 5 Brontos on one single ride.  We ripped around the Duthie cloverleaf and pedaled on up to Soaring Eagle, another network of tight, choppy singletrack.  Unfortunately – there was a running race on the trails and we left the runners to their trails after just a few miles and pedaled back down to Duthie.  From there it was back down Grand Ridge and off to burritos.  A good day.

We haven’t been blogging much recently.  In our dreams that’s because we’ve been mountain biking all the time.  But then that would give us something to blog about.  No, it’s been damn busy in the shop, between building Brontos and Stoemper cross and road bikes.  So in fact we haven’t done much of any riding at all.

my baby

Every cyclist has these moments every now and then – so much time off the bike that it starts to eat away at you, and pretty soon you find the only thing you can do to fix the situation is to go do a monster ride.  So I threw my Willy into the car, still with the caked-on mud from the last ride months ago, and went out for a big solo ride.

It should only take one muddy ride in the winter to convince you that a single speed is the way to go, and I was glad I had mine.  It was a mudfest – hard packed trails with a slippery layer of goo on top which made corners treacherous.  But soon the experience and instinct kicked in and I could ride the tires to just about the slip point and make it through.  I believe in physics that’s called the coefficient of friction.  And as if second nature, just shifting of the weight and position and you could still go into corners plenty hot and make it out ok.  No crashes on the day.  Different than summer riding, but still awesome.

Obsessing with small details like this brought home why mountain biking is about the funnest thing I can do – it amazes me that you can have so much fun on two wheels.  Sorry roadies, there ain’t no road ride that can compare with a good trail ride.  It’s physical, it’s technical and demands focus, you always continue to develop skills, and you can leave all those thoughts and worries about the real world behind.

So yeah…we get a little teary eyed here sometimes about mountain biking.  But for good reason.  It’s what we do and quite frankly I’d rather not imagine a world without singletrack and knobby tires.

 

Bronto Pleasure Squad rider Doug W Turnbull gives us the season report in his own words:

Check out my belt buckle

I started the season racing road bikes in horrendous cold rainy Oregon spring weather.  I did lots of attacking and lots of suffering on the pavement in several races, but alas the podium eluded me.  Road racing is fun in a different more tactical way than racing on the mountain bike.  I need to get better at those tactics, but its sometimes hard to focus improving on the road when riding in the dirt is so much fun.

Typical early season racing conditions

All of that aggressive racing (and a fair bit of off-season training) helped me arrive at some decent early season form, and I entered the Cherry Blossom Classic Stage Race in April entertaining serious thoughts of winning the overall GC for my category.  I was elated when I managed to win the time trial, and everything was going according to plan until the final big climbing stage where I had a bad day and cracked, losing the overall lead by a few minutes.  At least I got a couple of cool pink leader’s jerseys out of the deal, that and a determination to get revenge on that final climbing stage next year.  In the weeks after Cherry Blossom, I won a few more time trials, but lost a lot of enthusiasm for road racing, mainly because there were numerous mountain bike races coming up on the calendar.

The final day of Cherry Blossom, in the process of losing the race lead.

When mountain bike race season arrived, the Oregon weather was unimpressed and continued to dump all sorts of liquids on to the trails, making for some seriously sloppy racing.  My Bronto Reverend and I got quite messy, but still managed a couple of podium finishes in the Oregon Mud.

Springtime mountain bike racing is messy in Oregon

I decided to escape the mire that is early season Oregon MTB racing and made my way down to sunny California to race in the Sea Otter Classic, where I learned that dudes are a bit more aggro (and fast) at that level, although I was still in the mix, amidst some quite pointy elbows.  I’m very much looking forward to contesting that one again.

My main objective for the season was the High Cascades 100 mile mountain bike race.  I trained hard and arrived at some sort of fitness peak in time for the Test of Endurance 50, the first of the super long mountain bike races on the calender.  I felt strong for all 50 miles and almost all of the 8,500 feet of climbing and rode my way on to the second step of the podium.  This turned out to be my best result of the season.  My ToE result helped my confidence going in to what would prove to be an even more brutal test at High Cascades.

On the podium at the TOE

Shortly before High Cascades 100, I found out that I was going to have an opportunity (thanks to our buddies at Platypus Hydration) to compete in the legendary Leadville 100 race in the thin air of Colorado the following month.  Knowing this took away some of the stress going in to the race at High Cascades since it was no longer the biggest event on my race schedule for the year.  Once the race got underway, however, it became clear that High Cascades would likely be the most difficult race of my season.  Over the course of ~106 miles, we climbed something like 15,000 feet.  What made this especially difficult was the fact that the course was over 90% singletrack, much of which was fairly rooty and rough.  I got dehydrated and suffered horribly; I’ve never felt so utterly destroyed on a bicycle before.  I somehow survived, and surprisingly managed to make my category podium when it was all said and done.  Most of my apprehensions about Leadville disappeared after HC100, mainly because I couldn’t imagine a race being more difficult than the one I had just endured.  If Leadville was indeed going to be harder, at least it would be unimaginably so and I could technically not worry about an impossible level of suffering in the run up to the event.

HC100. Brutal.

I took several days to recover from HC100, and then began doing some long training rides to prepare for Leadville.  When the event became imminent I took a week off of work ahead of the race and flew to Colorado to attempt to acclimate to the 10,500 foot Leadville altitude.  I had a scheme worked out based on the advice of a human physiology professor friend, and I was determined to implement it to a t. I started in Colorado Springs where I hid out in the dorms of the Olympic Training Center with my wife Lisa (a tandem pilot for the US Paralympic team) for a few days, and then worked my way up in elevation, sleeping in the back of a rental Minivan.  I did one easy ride in Leadville a few days before the race, and didn’t feel horribly affected by the altitude.  It seemed like my acclimation plan was going to work.

My altitude acclimation home: a van at 9,000 feet.

The morning of the race I made my way to the circus that was the starting line, and was horrified by the number of riders in our starting corral.  At Leadville, your start position is based on your race time from the previous year.  First-timers have to start at the back (behind even the slowest riders who had entered the event once before).  Most riders in the first-timer corral had their bikes laying down in the road holding their start position.  To avoid some of the certain congestion that would occur behind slower riders, I picked up and carried my Bronto over my head, walking in to the middle of the field of bikes.  Unfortunately, my buddies and teammates Matt and Ethan ended up at the very back of the first-timer corral.  I should have found them and brought them with me, but it was almost impossible to find anyone there in the dark with close to 2,000 racers anxiously milling about before the start.

The Leadville start: Chaos

When the race finally got underway for us (several minutes after the Pro/sub 9 hour field left with the gun), I immediately pinned it and began working on passing slower riders on the downhill paved initial few miles of the course.  It was just as sketchy as a Cat. 5 road race, only with many more riders.  I’ve never been in a field that big, and the fact that the bulk of the first-timers were pretty freaked out by riding in a pack made for a hairy start to the race.  When we finally got to the first steep climb on the course, I was still stuck among the riff-raff, and had to take some fairly creative lines on the climb to weave around racers who were struggling with the grade.  Matt and Ethan reportedly had to come to a complete stop multiple times on that same climb due to the congestion, which is a bummer because they are both extremely strong riders and lost a big chunk of time there through no fault of their own.  The organizers really need to do some kind of race category based corral system to avoid that kind of thing…

Around 25 miles in to the race, I had finally stopped continuously passing other riders, and worked in a rotating paceline at ~24mph with other guys that were just as strong as me.  It was bizarre to be doing such a thing in a mountain bike race, but it was certainly the most efficient way to cross the extended flat stretches in the middle of the course.  In this way, Leadville was almost the exact opposite of HC100.  The Leadville course did get ridiculously hard on the singletrack climb to the high point of the course at the 12,600 foot high Columbine Mine.  The climb up the powerline trail around mile 75 was perhaps even harder, partially because I was fairly cooked at that point of the race.  The final 25 miles were certainly a slog, and I was flirting with dehydration but gritted my teeth and kept turning over the pedals. I finally made it to the final paved stretch through the outskirts of town leading in to the finish line.  This was an extended gradual climb, which was perfect for totally emptying one’s gas tank.  When I crossed the line, I was very much on “E” and had to lie down for quite a while after collecting my finisher’s medal.

Wrecked after Leadville.

I crossed the line 8 hours and 39 minutes after starting that morning, which was good enough to earn me the preposterously large sub-9 hour finisher’s trophy belt buckle.  Todd (The Torch) was a bull rider in his former life, and has given me some solid fashion pointers on how to properly rock this new accessory.

Leadville marked the end of my 2011 race season, but I am already looking forward to what next year will bring.  On the road, I am going to do my damnedest to TT my way to GC victory at the Cherry Blossom Classic or perhaps another stage race.  On the dirt, I would love to travel back down to Sea Otter in the spring to rub elbows with the Californians again.  Later in the year I plan on tackling the Cascade Creampuff 100 again, a race that has a special place in my heart since it was the one that motivated me to get off my ass and get serious about racing way back in 2010.  Finally, I would absolutely love to have another crack at Leadville, especially since I will now be able to start in the corral with the big boys.

My Bronto has been an exceptional race steed all season, and even now on off-season fun rides with my buddies I feel like it continually eggs me on to ride faster.  I’ve been lucky to have such a phenomenal ride to race and train on over the past year and am stoked to see how the Reverend and I will fare in 2012.

The Bull's Reverend

-Doug (The Bull)

I sit here writing this with 77F/25C degree weather beating down on me, the irony being that this is the warmest day we’ve had all year, and we are officially in autumn now.  Europe had a shit summer, no two ways about it.

But oh what a summer it was for the Bronto Pleasure Squad.  In just our first full season of racing we had some of the most exciting racing adventures all across the globe.  We won races.  We broke stuff.  We laughed, we cried. 

Starting out over on the Europe side of the Atlantic, we had the Tachelet brothers setting out on a season of adventure riding, starting with the Trans-Belgium.  Yes, the mighty Trans-Belgium, not to be confused with the Trans-Alps, Trans-Rockies, or Trans-anything else.  After all, none of those silly girl’s races have you crossing an entire country in one straight shot!  Alas, our team’s hopes were dashed in the last 50km by thunderstorms and lightning.  Not to be deterred, they crossed the English channel (by boat) and competed in the Trans-Wales, a 7-day slog through the rolling Welsh hills.

Lefty Bronto battles on in Wales

After starting conservatively, the Tachelet bros moved up the GC throughout the race, eventually winning the final stage and taking 3rd overall in the final classification.  Nice job guys!

Podium!

Meanwhile, in more traditional XC racing, local Belgian pro Ben Berden was getting his Bronto on while preparing for the cyclocross season.  He competed in the Belgacom Flanders Cup, MTB City Challenge, and more.  At one time leading the City Challenge series (think of a crit through cobbled streets with stunts, on a mtb).  Ben eventually won the Limburg Province championship to cap off a nice and consistent season.  Nice job Ben!

Ben mixing it up on his Belgian Blue Bronto

And then to cap off the season – SSWC.  In Ireland.  Which, by the way, is a very long drive from Belgium.  No fewer than 3 Brontos congregated in middle-of-nowhere, Ireland, to partake in this year’s edition.  Including 2 brand spanking new fully rigid single speeds with couplers, thanks to Josh and Christine!  And while the weather and very poor beer selection was a sucker punch to the gut, the people, town, and above all the course were fantastic.  Super fun riding, good times.  Next year – SSWC 2012 South Africa!

Yes, we actually did this

So that’s all from Europe, now it’s cyclocross and we are getting our Stoemper on!  Next up – report from our USA racing.

Apologies for the long radio silence.  The workshop has been running full steam for a while now and, well, blogging as fallen to the wayside.  But plenty has been going on.  A little re-cap is in order:

Todd has been pumping out sexy new Brontos in record speed.  So fast that they get out the door before we have a chance to photo them up properly.  Here’s a new blue one that went to Texas.  Blue!

Texan Bronto

This week we’re finishing a couple complete Reverend bikes, one going to MANITOBA, Canada, the other one taking its maiden voyage at the fabulous Mountain Bike Oregon event this weekend in Oakridge, OR – where Todd will be a guide, drinking free beer and bombing down shuttled singletrack runs all weekend.  Bastard.

Meanwhiles, over in Europe, the Bronto Pleasure Squad (EU Crew) has been tearing it up on the dirt.  The Tachelet Brothers recently took their shot at the Trans-Belgium, a one-day event that lasts something like 20 hours.  Yuck.  Next up is the Trans-Wales event in August.  Meanwhile Ben Berden has been racing week-in, week-out.  From the Belgacom MTB Cup to the City MTB Challenge.  Nice to hear Belgian fans yell out “steel is real!” as he rides by.  His rig is of course tres tres Euro: Dugast tubulars, bar ends, 26″ wheels:

Super Euro

A mini Bronto-fest strategery meeting was recently held in Portland, OR.  Needless to say, the morning after heads were a-hurtin’, but that didn’t stop us from riding 3+ hours of world-class singletrack on Surveyor’s Ridge, above Hood River, OR.  Good times.

Bronto Garden

And if that’s all not enough, we’re just getting our road and cross project off the ground: www.stoemper.com If you like Bronto but want a cross or road bike, check it out!  Lots more Stoemper love coming soon.

It’s a fact that there are few things in life that are more fun than riding a mountain bike.  Maybe Charlie Sheen has figured it out, but I doubt I’ll ever make it that deep.  And until I do, there’s mountain biking.  Road biking’s great and all, the suffering, the freedom, the lycra, but ain’t nuthin like dropping into a tasty piece of singletrack.  And one of the most beautiful parts of mountain biking is how diverse it can be.  Single speeding.  Fully suspended gravity riding.  Hell, even a season of XC racing if you’re ambitious (or have a lot of free time).  It always seems like just when I’m about bored with my bike or my local loop, something comes along that makes me weep for joy.  Such was the case when I swung my leg over our latest model, the Paycheck.

BBITW

The Paycheck has been in our minds since day 1.  It’s the bike that was designed for the kind of riding we have in Oakridge (or most of OR for that matter) – big, long climbs, and long singletrack descents.  So it would have more or less XC geometry.  But a longer travel fork.  And a slightly relaxed head tube angle.  Room for big tires.  Oh and it had to be sexy as hell.  So when we threw all those requirements into the jig, out came what I am now calling the best bike in the world.  Or BBITW.

I recently had a chance to spend some quality time on the BBITW, starting in Landgraaf, Holland.  The word “Holland” doesn’t really inspire you to go get your mtb, I know.  But Landgraaf is a special place, it’s down in the far, south-east corner of the country, really more Germany or Belgium than Netherlands.  And it’s up and down singletrack all day long.  It’s the best riding around here.    The Paycheck tore it up.  Steep loose climbs?  Check.  Flowy singletrack?  Check.  Gnar root-riddled climbs?  Check.  PAYcheck.

Yeah it was a pretty fantastic ride.  But no real long, sustained climbs.  For that, I would have to leave Benelux.  So, I took the ferry over to Dover.  Crashed at the sister’s place.  And woke up the next morning to hit Afan Forest Park, in south Wales.  Dark rain clouds hovered.  Overnight rain had drenched the trails.  3hrs of singletrack awaited.  It was going to be an excellent day.

bring on the scary trails

But first, a word about British mountain biking.  It’s jolly good!  UK is the country with the mtb culture most like the US.  Big dual-squishy bikes.  Big tires.  Steel single speeds.  And singletrack.  Lots and lots of singletrack.  The British have this excellent scheme where they are trying to re-grow forests.  And in a (wise) effort to make some money off these projects, they have built a network of over 50 (!!!) MTB-only trail centers across the country.  Complete with marked trails of different difficulty levels, and usually some services like a bike shop and cafe.  Brilliant!  And since the country is small, you only ever have to drive a couple hours maximum to get to some sublime trail riding.

dirty

Yes, the British, despite their preference of warm, flat beer, or the fact that they eat beans for breakfast, have made trail-building an art form.  Four-season riding with absolutely delicious trails that drain well and stand the test of time.  Afan, one of the older trail centers, was no exception, and Paycheck was up for the challenge.  So…off we went.  I dropped the fork height and settled in for the climb.  The Paycheck likes to climb.  Even with the fork height at 140mm, it climbs just fine.  But drop the fork and you feel a little bit like Julien Absalon.  Then comes the good stuff.  Open the fork back out, and just let the bike roll into the trail.  The Paycheck loves to go fast, demands it.  The faster, the better.  We have a 90mm stem on there now, so it feels most comfortable at speed.  Super accurate steering, it just goes where you want it to.  This bike eats  up anything you throw at it, almost as if it were a full suspension.  And little drops and booters are taken in stride.

filthy Bronto gets a free bike wash

In short, it was an excellent ride.  And with free bike wash to boot.  But I had another day so I headed north of Birmingham to Cannock Chase – http://www.chasetrails.co.uk/.  Another fantastic trail center, but this time totally dry and very different riding.  Fewer big, edgy rocks, more flowy trails with berms and jumps at every opportunity.  Like a little A-Line for trail bikes.  The Paycheck was in its element.  3 hours whizzed by like a stroll in the park and left me with a huge grin on my face.

So what can I say, I’m in love with this bike.  And I have to give it over to Todd who is going to be a guide for MTB Oregon – http://www.mtbikeoregon.com/ – one of the best events on the planet.  Sad to lose my baby but happy to share the joy.

Euro XC

For those not in the know, there’s XC racing…and then there’s Euro XC racing.  It’s kind of like, there’s pop music, and then there’s euro pop music.  So yeah, lots more hair gel.  Right now the euros are dominating the latest version of XC racing that the UCI has distilled from its original form.  You can 29″ and riser bar and single speed all you want, but the fastest guys on the planet are still riding 26″ wheels, bar ends, silly tires, and frames made of carbonium.  And a handful of those racers recently assembled in the south of Belgium to do battle.  And Bronto was there.

Euro XC Bronto

In fact, Bronto was racing!  Our local pro Ben Berden is spending the summer getting in shape by doing Belgian mtb races.  If you think that Belgian mtb races are like cross races without the mud…well you’re basically right.  Especially with the retarded service pit in the middle.  Boy, when I used to race…  But yeah, these guys go real fast.  Olympic champion Julien Absalon, World Champion Jose Hermida, and a whole bunch of really speedy leg shavers from Belgium, Holland, and elsewhere lined up to do battle with Ben.  Even the Kazakhstan national team was there.  And the Australian champion.  In short…it was going to be a tough day.

World champ warming up.

Ben lined up and ready to rock and roll

Kazakhstan!!

Since it was his first race of the year, Ben lined up way in the back.  Between the gun and the first descent, he had clawed up to the middle of the pack.  Very respectable. The descent was however plain stupid, just running straight down a very  steep and loose hill.  I guess it was good for the spectators.  Lots of really good crashes.

Yes. People were walking down the descent.

whoops

a lot of this

Anyway, Ben continued to do battle, until a broken chain did him in.  So Bronto went to the beer tent.  And then for a bike ride.  But it was pretty cool to see Bronto doing battle with the world’s best.  Next up – Belgacom cup race in Averbode.  Flat.  Sandy.  Euro.

a lot of these in the race

The European single speed championships were recently held in sunny Belgium, on a fine weekend deep in the heart of Wallonie.  Single Speed Belgique, a group of francophone single speeders, put on a pretty fantastic event that attracted the usual single speeding riff raff from all over the continent, and even a few from the US.  Yes, it was a beautifully orchestrated chaos.  The race promoted, Bruno, had his shiny new Blue Bronto there to show off.  It glistened in the sun.

Bronto was a sponsor and showed up just in time for the after-party.  Yes, for reasons we won’t get into here, we missed the actual “race” part of the weekend (who puts races on Saturday?? seriously).  But that’s ok because the ever-important drinking that followed was really important.

There was a crazy Belgian band, the Blind Horses, no shortage of Belgian beer, and good times had by all.  I was instructed to look for a certain Mike Yarnall who rode in only white briefs.  Alas, he had passed out before dinner.  Weak americans.  Compatriots Gary and Josh stood tall in his absence though.

mike yarnall - champion drinker

Fast forward to next day.  Taking down camp and also a 30km fun ride with a Belgian lunch in the middle.  Many of you think Belgium is flat.  You are mostly right.  But down in the south they have some hills.  Mean, nasty hills that laugh at you.  Luckily for me, I hadn’t just finished a race the day before, so I felt better than the guy who had passed out at 8:30 the night before.

So we rode up and down hills.  The Bronto rode tough, as always.  It was a gorgeous day, views of little Belgian villages and fields of yellow flowers.  At about the 2/3 point, we entered an old castle-type coutyard and sat down for some more beer and cheesy bread.  Mmmm…cheesy bread…..

And then pedaled the last 10km back to camp, packed up and hup! hit the road to find the nearest frituur.  Yes, good riding and good times with good friends.  Congrats to Bruno and the SSBE crew for putting on a fantstic event.  Next year they say it’s in the south of France.  I guess that means we’ll be bringing beer with us.

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