Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crater Lake 2014

Recently, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon has been hosting specific days during the summer in which parts of the route going around the lake are off-limits to motorized traffic. Essentially, for a short period of time, the park becomes a haven for cyclist. Despite being particularly windy, the lack of cars really made for a dreamy day.

We drove in to Bend, OR the night before and arrived around noon time. Already, the parking lot was filled with cars; obviously many people had already set out on the trail by the time we arrived.

The majority of the riders out were on traditional road and tri frames. Lotsa aluminum and carbon. However a good number of folks came on whatever they had; 80's MTBs, old steel sports tourers, townie bikes, tandems, at least one recumbent, newer disc brake laden MTBS, and so on.

I believe I was the only one on a randonneurish type of bike. Generator lights and fenders did little on such a pristine day, but neither seem to create a deficit on performance for my own sake. I was both passing riders on fast carbon bikes and being past by stronger riders--particularly on the hills.

Speaking of hills, the ride is anything but flat. Nor do the hills 'roll' gently between up and down; if anything, the climbs and the descents lasted for very long periods of time and were physically draining. There were many outlooks along the route that functioned as breaks for many riders, and I overheard many people discussing the amount of elevation gain they were measuring with their smart phones. 

I enjoyed the challenge, as each meter climbed made the view of the lake that much more spectacular in the end. While I wouldn't recommend it for folks with little to no experience with longer distances, it was by no means the most difficult route I've experience. The climbing is tough, but I think the descents are what I would worry the most about for inexperienced riders. 

I found myself reaching very high speeds on the downhill. I could tell that the vibrations from the road were putting my mechanical skills to the test; I began to worry about a fender coming loose, or a straddle cable coming undone at a critical moment as prepared for a sharp turn. The Grand Bois Extra Leger tires were doing a great job of mitigating any problems generated from the road. 

But my worries proved ill-founded. The bike held up splendidly; only the wide 'q-factor' of the Deore cranks prove to be mildly annoying for my personal preferences. Having a third water bottle would have made me felt more secure, but wasn't necessary. 

I highly recommend this ride if you get the chance when the snow melts. The views are amazing and the lack of motorized vehicles is a nice change. The diversity of different riders makes it easy to set your own pace without having to feel ashamed of your own speed. I also noticed that the gender split was far more even than it usually is for these types of occasions, at least partially removing the 'boy's club' feel.

For dates, check up with for when the next closures are. The National Parks website is also another good resource to check.

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