Tales from the Tarmac: Finessing the Fondo

Tales from the Tarmac is the weekly home of the stories, insights, opinions and occasional rants of Art’s Web Content Editor, Kevin Rouse. Read at your own risk, and please don’t ever take him seriously—it might just go to his head.

I’m a fan of the fondo. In fact, I’ll be using this stage to shamelessly promote my semi-professional gran fondo career. Just kidding. But really though, I do like me a good fondo.

Somewhere between a race and a Saturday group ride, there are many avenues by which to pursue the gran fondo. Me, I prefer to be towards the pointy end, but I’ve also had my share of time at the back, smelling the roses.

It’s really no stretch of the imagination as to why the fondo format strikes my fancy—if you’re not aware, I’m a pretty big fan of hard days in the saddle


My first introduction to the world of the fondo came in the form of the inaugural Spy Optic Belgian Waffle Ride. Not your average fondo, the ride boasted plenty of unpaved portions and the moniker ‘Hell of the North (County)’—offering one of the most suffer-friendly route in Northern San Diego County, and starting from Spy Optic headquarters in Carlsbad, California.

Finding myself in the lead group 70-miles in (thanks to a fortuitous wrong turn by the lead duo, but hey, I’ll take what I can get), I began harboring hopes of glory in the form of a top-10 finish, but a mischievous coke can had other plans. Jumping out of a jersey pocket on a dirt descent, a skittish rider in front of me unleashed a formidable panic stop before going down right in front of me, sending my front wheel directly into the square of his back.

It was only as I was furiously fixing my ensuing flat in hopes of catching back on that I saw it. A nasty crack at the head tube/downtube junction.

As my cursing finally subsided, I contemplated the hours on the side of the road I would inevitably spend if I were to wait for the SAG wagon, and gingerly hopped on board my wounded steed and rode the next few hundred yards, probing for any signs of any impending catastrophic failure. A bit of flex, a faint crunching sound didn’t bode well, but overall I was quite impressed with how the bike was holding up. Limping home to fight another day, the next climbing-heavy 50 miles were a sure sign that even if my bike had held out the rest of the ride, my legs most definitely would not have.

But, nonetheless I was hooked.

The whole next year, thoughts of reclaiming lost glory at the BWR never fell too far towards the back of my mind.

More of a motivator than I care to admit, the BWR had me training harder and earlier than ever before—I wasn’t going to let Round Two get the best of me.

Showing up in the form of my life (yes, a glorified group ride had this much power over me, and, no there was nothing on the line other than pride and a place on the results sheet) I can safely say the BWR had an unhealthy grip on me—in a good way.

I can safely report that I did much more than limp home this time, but that’s not what’s important—at least for you anyway.

What is important?

Rides like the BWR are all about riding for the sake of riding—and the fondo has something for everyone (everyone from first to last had a blast—and suffered plenty).

So, should you ever feel the need to reinvigorate your stoke—or even rediscover it completely, just look to your nearest gran fondo for an affirmation of why it is you ever decided to ride a bicycle in the first place.


Kevin Rouse may have been a bit late to the bike-riding party, but he’s certainly making up for lost miles. Having discovered cycling while studying journalism at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, he enjoys long days in the saddle whenever—and however—he can get them. You can usually find him on two wheels, but if not, you’d be well served to check the nearest coffee shop.