Pagoda 200k on a Fat Bike

Fat bike outside the Pagoda

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about riding not just a 200k, but a full Super Randonneur series on a fat bike. The biggest issue I had was trying to find an appropriate tire. For obvious reasons, most producers of fat tires don’t go out of their way to design a treadless tire for street riding. Surly used to, but they’ve discontinued them as of this year.

I found the Vee Tire Chicanes a few weeks ago, and decided to pull the trigger. The tires are listed as 3.5” and have a tan sidewall as an added bonus. Mounted on 80 mm rims, I think they come out to around 4”. Several test rides showed that the tires are pretty fast rolling; only a couple miles per hour slower than my road bike. I think the upright position of the fat bike is more to blame than anything.

View from Skyline Drive

Yesterday’s Pagoda 200k was the first brevet in the series and also the first test of the tires on a long distance ride. The ride was beautiful and featured 10,000 feet of climbing, which would have made for a difficult day on its own. Unfortunately, we had to deal with a relentless wind for the entire ride. I rode to the first controle about 20 miles in with some old friends, Gavin, Bill, and Matt. I was able to keep up with them, but not without a lot of effort in those conditions.

I let them roll out and took a longer break as I waited for CJ and his crew to come in. We had driven up together, so it made sense to try to ride together. We suffered through ever increasing winds throughout the day, especially riding between exposed fields on the way into and out of Reading.

We got to experience some scenic climbs, including the climb up Skyline Drive to the Pagoda. After this there were several other climbs, but there are only a couple that stick out in my mind as being terrible. Wind was definitely the worst part. But it was good weather, and we didn’t have to deal with any rain, always a plus. CJ and I finished the ride together at just over 12 hours, which is pretty good, all things considered.

Swamp Fox 200k

Sunrise over the ocean.

Pretty much every year, my family vacations in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Last year, I decided to make a 200k route from Myrtle Beach to Charleston to satisfy my monthly R12 requirement.

Most of the long distance rides I do fall under the sport of randonneuring, which is long distance self-supported riding. The rides are called brevets, and the minimum distance is 200 km, or about 124 miles. There are different awards available to members of the overarching organization in the U.S., Randonneurs of the USA, for different accomplishments. One of these awards is for riding a 200k every month for a year, the R12 award. You’re allowed to create your own routes, called permanents, that qualify for award when ridden.

A couple of paved bike paths parallel Route 17, a nice change of pace.

I had ridden to Charleston in the past but only on busy Highway 17. It’s the straightest shot down, but the fast traffic isn’t very enjoyable. I set out to make a more scenic route.

You would think that a coastal South Carolina route would be easy since it’s flat, but this route was anything but easy, to my surprise.

Over the river into Georgetown.
And over the river out of Georgetown…only 70 miles to Charleston by my route!

The route was incredibly beautiful, taking back roads where possible and riding only minimally on Route 17. The roads I found were beautiful and not heavily trafficked. The August heat takes its toll though, and this day was particularly hot. There was nowhere to buy water on the route for about 60 miles in the middle of the route. I had prepared for this by bringing a large water bladder with me, but even with that, I still had to battle dehydration, and the convenience store at about mile 100 was very welcome.

One of many dirt roads in Francis Marion National Park.

Two other factors that made this difficult were the fact that I decided to ride this on a fatbike and that there were tons and tons of bugs around the forest roads in the middle sections of the road. I knew the challenges that come from head and riding the fatbike, but the bugs were completely unanticipated. I’m not really sure what kind of bugs these were, but their bite was as bad as a yellow jacket. I had to keep riding, or they would bite me immediately. Even when I was riding, they would be attacking my legs. I swatted at them to no avail. I rode like this for two hours before returning to Highway 17. The welts stayed with me for a few days though.

The bridge into Charleston is a work of art.

It was still about 10 miles until the convenience store oasis mentioned earlier. Google maps had promised other convenience stores along the way, but to my dismay, they were all closed down long ago. I stopped at a couple spigots along the way to get what water I could.

Charleston was the site of the first battle of the Civil War and is also home to historical sites from the Revolutionary War, so I used this route as an opportunity to visit the historical site of Fort Moultrie. Riding to Charleston from there was a hop, skip, and a jump. Overall a really fun ride but not for the faint of heart!

Moultrie prevented the British from taking Charleston during the Revolutionary War, so we named a fort after him.