On October 20, 2018 George Vargas and Lori Hoechlin completed the Solvang Autumn Double Century, put on by Planet Ultra , on the tandem with 11,900 feet in a total time of 11:41 and for those keeping track of ride time only it was 11:13. It was George Vargas’s 53rd Double Century and Lori Hoechlin’s 38th Double Century. It was our 6th Double Century of the 2018 season, all 6 on the tandem. We were fortunate and had a mechanical and flat-free day — sort of. The biggest obstacles of our epic adventure were the pothole-ridden roads and early morning cold and afternoon heat. We had ONE goal a sub 12 hour finish – mission accomplished!
I would like to thank Deb Bowling and Planet Ultra for putting on an excellent event. The looped course coming back to the hotel at 50 ish, 100 ish miles and eventually at the finish was very helpful for riders using their vehicle as an additional SAG. On the course, the SAG stops were well placed and well stocked, the course was well marked and Roving SAG was seen multiple times during the day. The volunteers were plentiful and awesome! Please always thank the volunteers at your events. For those I didn’t thank on the course, because we didn’t stop at your aid station, I appreciate you being out there as well. Honestly, I don’t think it could have been any better run! If you wish to do an intermediate-level double century this one should definitely be at the top of your list. Thank you Deb!
Next, I would like to thank my stoker, Lori, who was a steady and powerful force on the back of the tandem during the entire day. She had a few cramps on Drum Canyon coming from Hwy 246 but she toughed it out.
I would like to thank our two riding mates for nearly the entire Double, Brook Henderson and TJ Knight. They are two very strong riders and veterans of the double century community. Lori and I are usually in no man’s land either off the front or just off the shirt tails of the lead pack. Riders come and go wanting to draft the tandem. Some of them shoot up the hills or mountains and then there are others that can’t sustain the pace. Either way, Lori and I end up riding alone for 10-12 hours on these doubles. It was very nice to ride with the lead pack for the first 70 ish miles, of which Brook and TJ were an important component of and contributed equally to ensure a good steady pace. But it was even nicer to ride the rest of the course with Brook and TJ! Thank you gentlemen!
The two toughest parts of the day for us were Drum Canyon and Foxen Canyon. After finishing the first 100 mile loop we came upon Drum Canyon from Hwy 246. The steep ramps over 12% were very difficult on the tandem. Lori started to cramp which made it very difficult to keep the tandem balanced and propel the bike forward and up the canyon with one hampered rider and massive loss of power that Lori provides. When she would stand out of pure necessity to keep her legs from locking up it made the bike unstable and hard to control at below 4 mph. Normally, getting up on the tandem is a coordinated and timed effort. Fortunately, I would respond quickly enough to keep us from toppling over. Just at our worse possible moment Ronald Iseri, Roving SAG, came by us. He had stopped to take pictures of us but we definitely needed to pull over right then and there. After a cold Pepsi and a Mountain Dew and some water top offs we were back on the road and finished the climb in much better spirits.
Foxen Canyon was a LONG steady and gradual climb of single digits. It was just enough of a grade where we could not ride it in the big ring (55T) so we were in our middle ring (39T) for the majority of the 10 or 15 miles from mile 160 ish to 170 ish. Drum Canyon was tough on us physically. Foxen Canyon was tough on us mentally because it was never-ending and it never seemed like you were climbing.
Special thanks to Robert and Dee Mann. They have installed themselves recently as fixtures at these double centuries. They are selfless and seemingly always volunteering. Dee thank you so much for the homemade cookies at the lunch stop and mile 180 ish. The hug after Drum Canyon at lunch recharged me emotionally THANK YOU!
Now a quick explanation on the “sort of” comment in the introduction regarding being flat-free. Coming out of the lunch stop (mile 118) we got a puncture on the front tire. We were running tubeless and I felt the sealant spraying out of the left sidewall onto my left leg. I was concerned for two reasons. One being a sidewall puncture sometimes they don’t seal in time before all the sealant sprays out and two the front tire was inflated to 100 psi and higher pressures also prevents punctures from sealing. Typically one of the benefits of riding tubeless is riding lower tire pressures. On a tandem we are nearly 300 lbs (wet weight). Tires feel squishy unless they are at least 95% of max pressure indicated on the sidewall. On my solo bike I am between 80-85 psi on a 25mm tire on a 26mm external width rim. Fortunately, the tire sealed. When we got to the finish we checked the pressure of the front tire and it only had 40 psi in it. Maybe that is why Foxen Canyon (160 ish to 170 ish) felt like such a long slog lol!! But seriously, another benefit of riding tubeless is one of safety. The tire bead is less likely to unseat when you ride lower tire pressure … say for example you have a puncture on a descent or at a high rate of speed you should be able to slow the bike down to a safe and manageable speed before the tire completely deflates and the bead unseats from the rim.
Lastly because the event was chip-timed we had results within 24 hours! I think Double Century riders are willing to pay a little extra for chip timing in their entry fee. I don’t know how the math works out but I appreciate prompt posting of results. Once again thank you Planet Ultra for chip timing and timely posting of the results!
At the finish with L-R, Lori, Brook, George, TJ
At the start I noticed this rider’s number “the 508” came to mind 🙂 (10x finisher)
Daytime running lights front and rear for safety
The early morning train – started as 11 bikes, then 9 bikes, then 7 bikes, then 6 bikes, eventually it was 3 bikes Brook, TJ and us.
The early day shadow selfie
The late day shadow selfie we finished just before complete darkness
Alexis, Brook, George and Lori came across the line all together the delta in our time is based on the when we crossed the chip timing machine at the start in single file so as to ensure everyone would register on the machine.
And now a rant – it really bugs me when people post their Strava rides, events and/races on social media using their ride time as opposed to their total time. Why is this a pet peeve of mine? Well let me give you an example. Let’s say you are doing a Double Century and you roll out at 5am and finish at 10pm. Let’s also say that you stopped at each aid station refilled your bottles took potty breaks and socialized with the volunteers. Additionally, you stopped at the lunch stop and had a great little meal. Then you download your ride and your ride time was 14 hours. Why would you post your Strava ride on social media as 14 hours when it actually took you 17 hours?! When the results are posted your time will be 17 hours. The only time that counts is TOTAL TIME from when you cross the start line until you cross the finish line. Where and when did this Mickey Mouse shit start where people post their ride time? You’re fooling yourself that it takes you 14 hours to complete a Double Century. Then you sit back and accept all the accolades from your friends on how wonderfully you did at your DC finishing it in 14 hours. No!! It took you 17 hours and that is what you should post. Rant over
What’s next for the George “Red Eyed Vireo” Vargas and Lori Hoechlin — aka Hutton’s Vireo (when on the tandem)? I will be doing the Oceanside Double Century on October 27, 2018 on my solo bike. Lori will be racing a hill climb up Gibraltar Rd in Santa Barbara. You can follow me on Strava here Please SUBSCRIBE to the blog and please post comments. I read them all and make every effort to respond to you. Until the next epic adventure … I’ll see you on the road!