Q: What’s the point?
A: Go read the About page for the reasons why I’m organizing this event.
Q: Is this race sanctioned by any governing body?
A: Of course not. No self respecting governing body would come up with something that was so laid back and required this level of self sufficiency.
Q: Are there any prizes?
A: No. Unless you consider admiration of your peers and recognition on this blog to be a prize….which you very well might….and I encourage this point of view.
Q: Is there an entry fee?
A: No. After all, how could I charge you a fee for you deciding to go ride your bike on public roads?
Q: Is pre-registration of any sort required?
A: No. But I do like hearing from folks who plan on doing the ride, so please drop me a friendly email. (tomhovan3 at gmail dot com)
Q: What is the course like?
A: Well, there is no specified course, of course. Go read the Rules pages to find out why that is the case. The roads, both paved and dirt, and occasional trail that you’ll likely be travelling on are rarely flat. There will be ridge climbs of 700 to 1000 feet. It will be almost impossible to avoid at least doing a few of those. The dirt roads are mostly limestone gravel (layered thickly in some areas), with a few being mostly dirt with occasional mud patches. Trails in Rothrock are technical (steep and rocky), but are very avoidable, however their use could be advantageous and potentially time saving if you’re riding a bike capable of taking them on. The rural, paved roads in this part of the world have decent surfaces, and are lightly trafficked, generally speaking. A ballpark estimate of the dirt road / paved road mileage is about 50 / 50.
Q: What kind of bike should I ride?
A: That is up to you. Anything is fine as long as it’s solely human powered. Of course, different bikes are best for each of the different surfaces you will encounter. A full suspension mountain bike with 2.3″ knobbies will allow you to ride just about any trail in Rothrock, but that might not be totally necessary, and the mountain bike will be slow on paved roads. A road bike with 23 or 25 mm tires will be the opposite, and will really suck on these gravel roads. A bike somewhere in the middle part of this continuum is probably best. I suggest you consider having a second set of wheels with different tires at the start / finish line in case you might want / need them. For example, you might consider changing wheels at the start, right after after seeing where the checkpoints are, or changing at some point midstream of the event.
Q: Can I ride more than one bike?
A: No. As described above, you can swap out wheels (and other bike parts) and accessories from your ‘gear cache’ at the start /finish area if you wish, but the bike / frame you start on has to be the one you use the whole time.
Q: Where can I get food and water out on ‘the course’?
A: This is part of your pre-event planning. Learn where food and water can be obtained in the area. There are some state parks where you can get water, and a few country stores where you can puchase supplies. Of course you can / should carry whatever you think you will need. Remember, no supply caches other than at the start/finish area are permitted.
Q: Is outside support permitted?
A: No – that means no meet-ups out on the course, no following cars, etc. There are a few common-sense exceptions, however: 1 – You can asssist your fellow riders and be assisted by them. Participants are not considered to be ‘outside’ the event. 2 – If you are lost, you can ask random passersby for directions. No harm, no foul. 3 – If you are injured or sick, please don’t let this stupid thing stop you from getting the help you need. Sheesh.
Q: What kind of other gear, equipment, etc. should I carry with me on the bike?
A: Since the event is unsupported, you need to carry whatever tools and tire/tube repair items you see as forseeably required. For me personally that means two tubes, a patch kit, tire levers, mini pump, tire boots (to fix sidewall gashes), allen key set, small screwdriver, chain tool, quick link, spoke wrench, fiberfix spoke, a few repacement bolts, a couple zip ties, a small wad of duct tape, and a tiny pocketknife.
You will need a digital camera with a reasonably-sized LED display screen on the back to be able to furnish proof of your having reached the checkpoint where such evidence is required.
You also need navigational equipment (maps, maybe a GPS and/or compass, etc.). Study the maps and practice using any equipment ahead of time.
You’ll need clothing that allows you to adapt to the range of weather conditions you might experience.
Q: Do I need lights on my bike?
A: Since the event is officially run dusk to dawn, assuming you don’t come in late (and get DQ’ed in the process), you may not need any lights. However, if rain and/or fog is expected, having some small “be-seen” lights (both front and rear) on your bike is very wise. Also, if you suspect that you could come in late (after sundown), then by all means, please equip yourself to be both legal and safe. Remember, the event will require you to ride on public roads with vehicle traffic. You are responsible for your own safety.
Q: What kind of time and distance riding will this likely require?
A: You’ll have about 12.5 hours of daylight on the day of the event, so no more than that. The distance you ride obviously depends on your navigational choices, however when choosing checkpoint locations it will be a rough guideline of mine that a reasonably efficient set of navigational decisions should allow a rider to complete the full set of checkpoints by riding no more than about 110 to 130 miles. Due to the terrain and surfaces you’ll encounter, a 12 or 13 mph moving average will be pretty respectible. Do the math and you’ll see that not everyone who starts the event is destined to reach all checkpoints before sundown.
Q: Do I need maps?
A: Yes. Good ones too. Rothrock and the surrounding valleys have a fairly complicated network of paved roads, dirt roads, and trails. One excellent and highly recommended resource is the Purple Lizard map of Rothrock. I’d almost go so far as to say this map is mandatory, but I won’t go quite that far. It’s worth every penny.
There is also DCNR’s public use map, which is ok – but isn’t as detailed and doesn’t show topo like the Purple Lizard map does. If you don’t know the area that well, the DCNR map can make certain routes look fast and easy when they are anything but.
For decent, free maps of the paved roads in the area, check out PA DOT Maps. You could also make use of a DeLorme Gazeteer or similar map that shows topo features.
Q: Do I need a $750 GPS?
A: No. I suppose one could be helpful if you wanted to trust its auto-routing feature (e.g. it might send you on the hardest possible course), but I suspect you’d have to be very skilled (i.e. fast) at entering in all of the waypoints (i.e. each of the checkpoints) so that it actually saved you time over old fashioned navigation. Also, the dirt roads and trails you either need or want to take might not be recognized or included in the GPS’s maps. And lastly, remember, you won’t know where / what any of the checkpoints are until 20 minutes before you start riding. That won’t be nearly enough time to plot and download a .gpx or .tcx course file of everywhere you might want to go into your device ahead of time.
Q: If I get lost, is anyone going to come rescue me?
A: I doubt it. Unless you can get cell phone coverage and you wife, husband, or friend both take pity on you and can actually track you down. Seriously though, cell phone coverage is very limited in Rothrock.
Q: Is the course closed, or is traffic being controlled during this event?
A: No and No. No provisions are being made by anyone to assure your safety. Safety is up to both you and the hand of fate. Follow all traffic laws and use common sense.
Q: Are there any wild animals I should worry about?
A: Yes, the rare but dangerous Nittany Skunk Ape could be lurking nearby. If you smell a skunk, ride faster.