Sunday, August 24, 2008

8/24/08 Hiils of the West Coast Ride Report

The Cervelo Curse has been lifted. What follows is not meant to denigrate a great marque, and certainly I don’t intend to pick on any particular rider. Amongst the HOWC regulars, it’s become somewhat of a paradox, as well as a little source of humor, that anytime a new rider to the group shows up on a Cervelo, we pretty much can plan on that rider cracking like an egg. It could be a coincidence, but over the last five years I don’t recall a single new rider joining us on a Cervelo ever actually finishing the ride.

Chris on his new R2.5 doesn’t count, because he got that bike (hint-for free) after he started coming on the ride…and pulling the group at 30mph.

The Cervelo is just one particular brand of the very nice bicycles that frequent the HOWC, and it certainly has nothing to do with the bike, because they are great bikes.

So my hat is off to Steve, who rolled up on a shiny new white R3, and not only did he finish the ride, he rode well, and hung tough on a hard 68 mile ride.

Now on to the important stuff--today’s ride. Despite the fact that it is dumping rain as I write this, and that we got rained on during the last .25 miles of our ride, we actually had great weather this morning. Today was a day it was good to get out early. Given the forecast of a 60% chance of showers at the ride start, I wasn’t surprised that there were only five of us.

Over the last three years since we moved the ride to the super strenuous pace listing, almost inevitably a small group of three or four riders will take responsibility for seriously hard pace making. On a good day, I may be one of them. Given that the ride is listed as featuring a “22+mph” pace, I view the HOWC as kind of an open ended, open class ride. We usually focus on climbing at a hard pace, but if riders want to jump on the front and pull at 28 or 30mph on the flat, I’m not going to try and slow them down. That’s what the “+” means to me; the riders who want to ride the hardest and do the work dictate the pace. Either you can hold the wheel, or you can’t, but riders will really dig to stay in touch.

When we have a small group such as today, it would be easy for everybody to shrug their shoulders, and say “piano”, let’s take it easy. As in the recent past, once again Luke consistently drove the pace, and it was a high pace. He did a majority of the work on the front, and if someone was slacking when Luke pulled off to take a break, he’d jump right back up there. Clearly, he intended to get a solid effort in today.

Every year I ride a lot of hard miles, and every year at some point I go through a low point. I never actually get sick of riding, but I seem to lose the motivation to ride really hard. Up until 2007, this normally occurred at the end of September after I completed my annual early September cycling trip.

The past two summers I have participated in two incredible cycling adventures in June. Both years I worked hard to prepare for the trip, and it now seems that my low point has moved up to August.

A month ago it seemed so easy to go hard, and I was riding stronger than I ever have. Now I have lost the impetus to hammer, and I’m sure I would have just puttered around if I went out by myself today. It seems to be more mental than physical, as I think I still have pretty good form.

There would be no puttering today, and that’s the beauty of a hard group ride like the HOWC. Many riders tell me that they base their fitness plan around the ride, and unless you race, this makes a lot of sense. The HOWC is not a race (even though it may resemble one at times), but there is never any doubt that the opportunity to push yourself will arise. The group format provides a subtle form of competition, and therefore a rider is incentivized to work harder than they ever would if they just went out to do climbing repeats on their own.

Thanks to Luke, none of us had a second to even ponder lollygagging, and for this I am very grateful. He wasn’t the only one who got some good training effect out of today’s ride. I would like to ride well on the High Pass Challenge, and taking it easy today wouldn’t have helped me accomplish that. We’ll all have plenty of time for mellow riding once the rains hit. For now, it is ride hard, climb high, and ride fast!

After navigating the minefield that is Marginal Way past the cruise ship terminals, we worked our way south, through White Center, Burien, and then down to Three Tree Point, one of the true lovely spots of the Seattle area. Marine View Drive was a great way to get to the Des Moines Waterfront for our first break, and then we hit Green River Dr. down to Auburn. Luke must have pulled for at least 3 miles at 25-27mph on that last stretch. We turned north, took the Soos Creek Trail towards Renton, and then rode back to downtown via the west side of Lake Washington.

It was yet another fantastic ride with another great group.

On another note (it’s my blog, so why not), last Friday I purchased a 2009 Specialized Langster in polished alloy. Nicknamed The Hipster, my new bike is a singlespeed/fixed gear. The rear hub has a fixed cog on one side and a single freewheel cog on the other, and you just turn the rear wheel around to switch modes.

Ever since we moved downtown seven years ago, I’ve watched the bike courier crowd navigate through the downtown corridors. I must admit to sharing both a little admiration, as well as some trepidation, about the whole “ride without brakes, and be one with your machine, man” cult. So while it has never been a priority, giving this kind of riding a shot has always been in the back of my mind. Talking with Luke a week ago about the Langster he uses as his commuter bike moved it to the forefront of my thoughts.

Let me assure you that I have no intention of removing two perfectly good brakes from this bike, and I’m going to leave it in the freewheel mode for now. I’ll report back later, but my first ride was something of a revelation.

I have a nice winter bike that I hardly ever ride. It’s a racing bike with much the same gruppo as my #1 bike, but the winter bike is not as nice, so I don’t want to ride it. After riding about 50’ on the Hipster, I realized why. My winter bike is the same type of bike as my #1. Pretty much everything about the Hipster is totally different, and I think that will motivate me to get on it. The ability to simply take a hose to it after a wet ride will be nice as well, as there are no derailleurs to get mucked up.

Bring on the rain.

I hope to see you on the road.

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