I tried myself at an imperial century (100 miles) along the Rhine but had to admit defeat about 100 km into the ride. The weather was brilliant and brilliantly hot and humid. Instead of pushing myself too hard, I decided to veer off to the east and head to the next station to catch a train back home.
The gravel along the Rhine is perfection; small pebbles and dust. It was easy to find a good cadence and just glide along.
In places the water meadows along the Rhine reminded me of a bike ride I did in the Everglades, which felt very strange.
This was also my first attempt at finding out what works for me in terms of gear and bike setup for longer outdoor rides.
- Basic drivetrain setup was 46/30 gearing in the front, an 11–30 cassette in the back. This was perfect and the tight gear spacing in the higher gears allowed me to find the optimal cadence almost all the time.
- The tyres (WTB Nano 40) were overkill. I wanted to ride on my other wheelset shod with the Specialized Sawtooth 700×38c but I found two loose spokes on each wheel two days before and couldn’t have them checked out before the ride. Went with my more roudy wheelset because I simply didn’t want to deal with the hassle of swapping tubeless tyres for this ride. This slowed me down considerably on roads but on the other hand made for very comfortable, dare I say supple, riding on gravel.
- I brought 2.5 l of water, knowing that I’d be able to refill along the way and I was happily surprised that the bottle carrier attachment on the Specialized saddle held up even over rougher sections. That said, the titanium cages let go off my bottles twice. I think for this holder, I’ll need cages that have their opening to the side.
- The Muc-Off dry lube that I put on the chain held up really well but I should’ve taken some with me, because by kilometer 80 it was pretty much gone.
- The aero arm rest (the ridiculously named Profile Design “Airstryke”) was such a good choice for this ride, even despite my doofidity of not getting my body reacquainted with this riding position before attempting a 100+ km tour. Still, the ambundance of hand and body positions was definitely welcome.
- The first generation Hammerhead Karoo worked perfectly as always. This thing continues to impress.
- The two bags I’ve used (both from Road Runner Bags) did their job and I think I’ve packed well.I should’ve brought more snacks for this ride, both sweet and savoury. I didn’t encounter nearly enough shops and restaurants along the route I had built.
In the end I rode 122 km. Just ~ 7 km shy of the 129 km I pedaled during the Zwift Uber Pretzel virtual ride earlier this year. I was properly exhausted after but not completely destroyed, which made me happy.
Once temperatures cool down a bit, I’ll try the 100 miles again. I think all the reading I’ve done on Bikepacking.com, The Radavist, and Gravel Cyclist has had me pretty well prepared and the only things I’ll have to change before the next ride are going to be the tyres and the amount of snacks I bring for this route.