Sunday, September 28, 2008

9/28/08 Hills of the West Coast Ride Report

Whew, that was hard!

On Friday, I did 60 pretty hard miles on the singlespeed (you don’t get many “easy” ones), and I felt it in my legs on my short Saturday ride. I was operating under the premise that Jeff was going to be leading today’s HOWC, and I figured I could start with the group, and hang around until I felt like going home if I was tired.

Well, Jeff got sick, so I led the ride. I had already decided I was going to take the Bullet Bike (new nickname), and find out how I would do riding singlespeed on a hard group ride. I knew that it would not be the best weapon of choice, but I had to see for myself. Besides, yesterday I thoroughly cleaned the other bike, took photos for ebay, and readied it to have the components stripped off and installed on a new frame.

There were eight of us, and all were strong riders eager to have a go at it on a picture perfect morning.

With a 70 gear inch ratio, my pedaling “top speed” is realistically around 22mph, and had we chose to stick to a strenuous pace I would have been ok on flat sections. I still would not have been able to keep up on gradual downhill roads, but you never know unless you give it a shot.

As it turns out, pedaling at 140rpm on flat and downhill sections is more tiring than climbing steep hills at 60rpm, even while standing up on the whole climb. I would lose the draft, become unhitched, and then have to work extra hard on the next uphill section to get back on. Chasing hard riding cyclists over and over is tough work!

I offered to split the ride, but that wouldn’t have worked because everybody wanted to ride hard. It wasn’t fair to hold the group up, and I also couldn’t expect them to hold back going downhill. I wanted everybody to have a good ride, so I did the best I could.

I had to be home early today, and could only do 35-45 miles. If time permitted, I had built in an optional loop around Mercer Island on the way back downtown. By the time we got there, my legs were a little cooked. I don’t think it would have mattered anyway. Once we would have finished the initial gradual uphill section, I knew pandemonium would break loose (it always does on the loop), and I wouldn’t have had a chance of staying with the group through the fast rollers.

So, of the eight of us, seven went around Mercer Island, and I rode home by myself. Not great protocol for the “Ride Leader”, but I had a great ride, and everybody seemed to enjoy themselves. That’s always the goal on the HOWC ride, so mission accomplished.

The moral of the story is that the singlespeed is ideal for certain things, and not so hot for other types of rides.

Tracy has been really busy with both work and finishing her Doctorate by June of 2009. She gets in a short run whenever she can, but Tracy has pretty much abandoned her bicycle, and she misses long rides on her bike.

As an "incentive", I told her that in 2009, I would ride Ramrod or do the STP-one day with her, but she didn't see that as much of a treat to look forward to. We could also ride the High Pass Challenge together, but I actually had so much fun volunteering with her as a team that I think I'd rather do that again.

So I have added a new item to the list. I will ride the STP with her on my singlespeed (as long as she promises to wait for me on the downhills!). If she wants a real challenge for the two of us, I'll even do it in one day.

Guys, if you are reading this, I hope I didn't compromise the spirit of the ride, and I won’t show up with the Bullet Bike on a group ride again. Give me a shot in a group of two or three, where the singlespeed is more in its element.

I hope to see you on the road.


LB said...

Pandemonium would be a good word to describe the Mercer Loop. Paul peeled off for home and the six of us had a furious ride around the island. Everyone pitched in with some hard pulls. It was really fast.

While it is totally possible to keep up with 'normal bikes' over the course of a ride, keeping an even pace with a group as you ride single speed is REALLY hard if not impossible. I think you kept up with the advertised speed of the ride so no worries.

STP on one gear! I think that is crazier than on RAMROD or HPC!

psorr said...

Thanks Tom for heading up the ride on short notice. I'm recovering from the flu and will probably be back to 100% by Thursday, just in time for the rains to hit again!