Valles Caldera 200k

This past weekend I rode the New Mexico Valles Caldera 200k brevet. We had nice, if a bit cooler than normal, weather. A few threatening clouds, but no precipitation. If you like rural routes and mountain scenery this is an absolutely beautiful ride! About 123 miles of the 127 mile route you’re riding through public lands. You’ll also enjoy this ride if you’re a climber. It has over 11,000 feet of ascent. If you are particular about road surface this may not be the ride for you. Most of the route has frost cracks at regular intervals. Also, it’s probably best to do this ride during the middle of the week if you have the option. On a beautiful weekend day, there are a lot of city dwellers that want to get out of town and enjoy the beautiful scenery and multiple recreation opportunities.

“Brevet” is French for cold, windy bike ride

I wish I could take credit for the title of this post, but I’m just repeating the words of another of the six Malpais 300k riders last Saturday. I’m infrequently that original, and would in any case, add “wet” to cold and windy, since that has as often as not, been my experience.

It was a perfect day in New Mexico; sunny and dry, with few clouds in the sky and a high of 63 degrees. A perfect day that is, if you watched from your window and never stepped outside. The NOAA three day, hourly history for Saturday between 6am-8pm, reports that winds in the area averaged 20-29mph, with gusts from 26-40mph. Mercifully, if anything can be merciful about fighting the wind for 12 hours, it was blowing from one direction. (In fact, I’m starting to wonder if I live in one of the few places in the world where the wind commonly blasts your right side, only to blast your left the next second.)

As usual, with the exception of the uncontrollable weather, it’s difficult to fault an NM Brevet. It is probably getting boring to read how fabulous the ride coordinators and volunteers are, but they are. Exceptional!! As is the Malpais Route! About 193 miles of the 195 miles were on rural roads. There were many stretches where fewer than one vehicle per mile passed. I would rank it among the most beautiful rides I’ve done. If one is fond of the desert southwest it’s worth a trip to do this ride.

Regardless of the wind, I wasn’t having a superb day on the bike, but I managed to make my way to the finish before dark. I was certainly glad for the short ride to my hotel room (there are several hotels within 1/4 mile of the start/finish), a warm shower and bed.

Radium Springs 200k!

Ok, so it started out a little chilly…24deg F, but by the time we reached Hatch, NM, 24 miles into the Radium Springs 200k, my fingers had thawed. The 136 mile route is beautiful and at least 90 miles of it has very little traffic. It first travels west and north, with a very gradual climb. After an easy warm-up of about 50 miles, we headed into some hills; steep-ish, short-to-medium climbs….nothing too extreme. After Nutt was a fast 20 miles, east, back into Hatch. The last 20 miles, riding south into the wind were a bit of a grind, but more mentally, than physically difficult.

The New Mexico Brevet Series organizers and volunteers are awesome! The level of support was as good or better than any organized century I’ve ridden. At $25 per rider entry fee, I don’t see how they even cover their costs. Not only was there drop bag and sag wagon support, they provided sandwiches, fruit, brownies and soft drinks and home-cooked dinner afterwards.

Even though I’d ridden Tejas 500 eight weeks ago, I felt only minimally prepared for this ride. Seeing Radium Springs on my calendar three weeks out, I’d added a weekly long ride on the rollers of 3, 4 and finally 6 hours to get ready.

If you ride Radium Springs it’s probably a good idea to have a light that’s bright enough to comfortably ride with and a bright taillight, and a good amount of reflective material on your bike and clothing. Daylight is pretty short on December 6th, and the traffic between Hatch and Radium Springs really picked up late afternoon and evening. All the drivers gave me lots of room, but I’m sure they aren’t used to watching for cyclists that time of day/year.

Coming from the north, we stayed at Truth or Consequences, about an hour from the start rather than driving farther south to Las Cruces. That saved a little driving on Friday and Sunday. I hope to do more NM Brevets in the coming year!