Strava Gran Fondo 6

The story of how I road more than 130km in one go for the first time in my life.

Strava Gran Fondo 6
Summer roads
I’ve finally completed a cycling challenge on Strava, which I count as an accomplishment.

The Fondo Story

Strava half-marathon challenge shirt
The Strava half-marathon challenge shirt

Over on Strava, challenges happen on a regular basis, either for running or for cycling. Most of the time, especially for cycling, they are way out of my league, like riding a ridiculous amount of kilometres in a rather short time (1266km in 40 days, I don’t have time for that) or lots of climbing in even less time (not enough easily reachable hills in my hood). While I did complete a running challenge (the Strava Races Half-Marathon in April), awarding me with a nice (limited edition) Tech Tee (pictured in action on the right), I never had a go for any of the cycling challenges.

A Fondo, on the other hand, sounded doable. If you don’t know what a Fondo (Gran Fondo, to be exact) is, head over to Strava’s explanation. The emphasise, as I see it, is really on trying a new route. I wouldn’t have had any problem to pick a route of 130km that I’ve done before, but for my first Strava Fondo I wanted to go with the true spirit.

The Plan

There weren’t many opportunities to go out and ride 130+km this June, with running races going on and work also happening. On June 18th though I had a day off from work and my wife was en route for a long weekend in the mountains together with the kids. The place is very familiar to me as I’ve been there often to start the hike up to the cottage and I always wanted to ride my bike there some day.

Using the Ride wih GPS I figured that the most direct route from there back home was about 100km. Too short. Then again, the most direct route wasn’t the nicest, so I started planning in earnest, trying to find small roads in unfamiliar terrain and connecting the last bit of the route to terrain that I did know. I ended up with a really nice route of 135km heading mostly north-west. That should do. Forecast was good (enough), about 20°C and dry.

Food for a Strava Gran Fondo day
Will it be enough food?

I prepared a bunch of food to take with me, checked the bike and loaded it all in the car. I would join the family for the drive to the mountains and would ride home on my own (which also meant that, once in the car, I’d have very little chance to quit, for the family would need the car on Sunday).

The Fondo-Day

As we drove towards the mountains on Wednesday morning I noticed the rather strong wind, blowing in the direction we were headed. Not good. Not good at all, since this would mean I’d be riding straight into the wind for most of the day (the disadvantage of a point-to-point route). Oh well, too late to turn around. And since I wasn’t in a hurry I just readjusted my planned riding time and went on.

After parking the car, getting changed, and kissing the family good bye I loaded the route on my Garmin Edge 500. Except, it wasn’t there. I was certain that I had transferred it successfully the night before, alas, somehow it wasn’t there. Luckily I had my small out-and-about phone (an XPeria Active) with me and was able to load the route from the Ride with GPS app. But this also meant I’d be checking the route from my phone instead of getting visual hints right in front of me, which would likely slow my down in some situations. Oh well. Wind and less than ideal navigation…

Fondo day, 20km in
20km in

The wind changed from annoying to crazy at times as I road the first few kilometres. This ticked my HR strap off completely, sometimes reading a heart rate of well over 200 for minutes at a time. I guess the sensor picked up the flapping of the jersey. Oh well.

Other than that, the route turned out to be really nice, the weather next to perfect (blue sky with small white clouds, chilly in the mountains in the beginning, but warmer the farther home I got) and the legs felt surprisingly good, considering my minimal riding before that Fondo day.

Fondo day, 50km in
50km in, getting warmer

Shortly after this picture it was time to take the arm-warmers off and continue my way to Bad Tölz. This would serve as my more-than-halfway-coffee-break place, and it took me longer to get there than I thought it would. Mostly because I managed to miss two turns for the lack of route information on my Garmin.

Apparently, the coffee didn’t help my navigation skills, because soon after I missed another turn. This time however it also turned out to be a route planning error, because the original route had me go along a gravel foot path. Not good, but this seems to be some kind of tradition that no matter how many mapping tools I check and no matter how carefully I look, I always end up with a bit of gravel road on my long adventures.

Thankfully I managed to find the correct way and continued my way home. With about 20km left to go I was on familiar terrain again and really enjoyed the ride. Yes, I was still riding into the wind, but that particular stretch is a slight decline, and look at the road, isn’t that perfect? I honestly think that Bavaria is one of the best places to ride a bike! Plus, German drivers (usually) respect cyclists on the road.

Strava Gran Fondo, almost home
120km done, almost home

To prove my point I present you a short time-lapse video that I did with my Garmin VIRB camera. Unfortunately I had chosen 2-second intervals for the time-lapse. I’ve since learned that 1-second intervals make for a smoother viewing experience. Also, please excuse the lack of audio, I’m not yet into this whole video-producer thing. Gotta start small…

The End

After a total of 5h51’ from start to done I was glad to be home. I’m really happy about my food and fuelling strategy, I even had a few sticky bites left. I was nowhere near a major bonk. I spent the rest of the day mostly on the couch, interrupted with some(?) eating. Head over to Strava for all the details of the ride, including the craziness of my HR strap (250bpm? Sure, sounds reasonable).

Now excuse me, I have to order the limited edition Gran Fondo 6 Jersey! Thanks for following along!