After witnessing all of the inspired riding at Sunday’s High Pass Challenge, on Monday I headed out solo to Cougar Mountain. I was hoping to find the enthusiasm and motivation for one last “blaze of glory” up a few of the hard climbs that I frequently time myself on.
Having set of number of new “PR’s” in July, I was aware that I had not attempted hard attempts on several of the area climbs including the Zoo Hill and Pinnacle off of Cougar Mountain Dr. On Montreaux and 164th, I had managed to go lower than my previous best times, even though I had not made a “full out” effort. I say full out, but in actuality, all of these climbs were done in the context of a longer ride, either solo, or as part of a Hills of the West Coast or Team HPC ride. None of the new PR’s I managed to achieve were TT efforts, or I would have had to take a taxi home after one climb! Nevertheless, they were very hard efforts, and done in conditions similar to past PR climbs.
Included among my July personal successes were Somerset Dr. (5:55), Olympus to the top of Squak Mountain (16:10), Mountain Parkway to the top of Squak (14:37), 153rd to Horizon View/Summit (9:15), and the climb up to Newcastle Golf Club (3:39). Noteworthy is the fact that on the longer climbs my new times were between 1:03 and 1:45 lower than my previous bests, so I know I was going about as good as I can go. No, I wasn’t screaming up climbs like Lance Armstrong, but it felt really good. Even if I was given back my youth and had the best coaching in the world, I would never ramp up these climbs like Lance, but compared to my previous self, I was doing well. This is the kind of competition that is fun for me.
I also threw in a new PR to Sunrise at Rainier, even though I was disappointed with my performance on that one.
After returning from Europe in late June, I cooled my jets for a week, and just did short, easy rides. The next week, purely by accident, I discovered that I had the form of my life. I was out with a few friends that I ride with frequently. They were setting a pace that normally would require a little bit of work for me to hang with. I won’t say it was effortless, but I appeared to be working a lot less hard than they were, and I just could tell that something was different. So this is what they mean by “peaking”! I guess I wish I had been able to time this peak for my cycling trip in Europe, but realistically, I think it was my cycling in Europe that gave me the peak. Maybe they pump EPO into the general water supply over there?
As I rolled across Mercer Island, my intentions of hammering my way up Zoo and then Pinnacle were fading fast. My heart just wasn’t into it, and I knew that if I tried to force it, I would be disappointed with my effort or my time, and likely with both.
I managed to get myself in tune long enough to at least climb up to Horizon View/Summit, and I did it in 10:15. Even though this was three seconds faster than my previous best before I went 9:15 in July, it just wasn’t fun, and not because I was going 10% slower than I had been.
Where has the thrill gone? It was so easy to go so hard in July, and now I have lost all impetus for the big effort, at least mentally. Put me back on my singlespeed!
When people ask me how my ride went, most of the time my first thought is not usually how the route was, or how I enjoyed the people I might have ridden with, or even if I had good energy for the ride. Almost always what comes to mind is what I call the IPD rating. IPD is short for idiot per day. How many people did stupid things…cars, pedestrians, other cyclists, me?
These incidents seem to come in batches. I’ll go for a long time and ride many miles in relative bliss. One can never let their guard down on a bicycle or motorcycle, and sure enough, if and when you do, your complacency can extract a high cost.
Today it started with a Metro Bus rapidly pulling out right in front of me. Come on, driver, aren’t you paid by the hour? Or was I wearing an invisible cloak over my fire engine red jersey? What about the next two women car drivers who did the same thing? One was talking on a cell phone (without the hands free device now required by law), but the other appeared to be totally ignorant of any of her surroundings. Scary!
Luckily for me, I was well rested and my concentration was sharp, which provided me with a large anticipatory “envelop”, and I was easily able to avoid a dangerous situation.
Given that these incidents occurred in the first 15 miles of my ride, I settled into a zone of heightened concentration for the remainder of the journey. Hopefully I can carry that concentration with me whenever I get on a bike, cross a downtown street, or just roll out of bed.
On short, steep hills up to 10 or 12%, this singlespeed bike actually climbs better for a given effort than my racing bicycles. By better I mean faster, and since I am riding it, therefore, I am going faster on these types of hills.
Silence is golden. Track bicycles must have certain equipment to be legal when raced on a track. This must include big burly chains that would look more at home on a motorcycle, or maybe a lawnmower. Apparently a burly chain requires a burly lube, and since switching to Dumonde Tech’s wet lube, I now experience the “Sounds of Silence” as I roll along. The newfound stealth lets me creep up behind unsuspecting cyclists on fancy bikes (like my other bikes), and then blast by them on short hills.
Even when I am tired, I want to ride the Hipster hard. This is a good thing, since there really isn’t much choice if you encounter headwinds or significant hills. It’s just so damn fun to ride this bike, why not go at it a little? I have no device of any kind mounted, so I have no idea what my speed, heart rate, or power is, and that just suits the personality of the bike and its rider just fine.
Before I started riding the Hipster, I expected to deal with a lot of built in limitations, especially in the Seattle area, where it’s hard to find 50’ of level pavement. Much to my surprise, these “limitations” appear as challenges, and for that reason alone riding the Hipster is a blast.
Now that I have fixed the noise, about the only other thing I could work on would be the weight. In a way I kind of enjoy the “built like a Sherman Tank” feeling, especially in contrast to my 14.5# S-Works Tarmac SL. Just putting some good Conti tires on took 11oz of rotating weight off of the Hipster. The solid axle track wheels are heavy, albeit with the impression of indestructibility. The wheels, and the whole bike, have a really solid feel, especially now that I ride in a cone of silence whether pedaling or coasting downhill. Part of the fun is blasting by “targets” on fancy bikes, and knowing that I am aboard a solid piece of equipment makes it all the more rewarding. The weight doesn’t seem to be impeding my progress up the hills, but what would it be like if the bike weighed 5# less? One of the reasons it climbs so well, is that it has a stout aluminum frame without a hint of flex, and I certainly wouldn’t give that up to save a little weight.
If you told me that this was the only bike I could ride for the rest of my life, I’d be totally content with that. I might miss the racing bike and its functionality that enable me to lead my weekly Sunday ride, or go on long mountain tours…or I might not. God, I love this thing, and it’s clouding my decision about replacing my SL with a new 2009 Tarmac SL2. Am I thinking of dropping the cash and upgrading simply for a color change?
On Wednesday, I took the 7:35am passenger ferry (along with 3 other people) to Vashon, did a good ride, and then rode home from the Fauntleroy ferry terminal. The passenger ferry had unloaded a seemingly impossible number of people, and a similar number was waiting to board the last run to Seattle for the day when I arrived at the Vashon terminal.
I was scratching my head as to why there were so many houses for sale on Vashon, and I now think it’s because the writing is on the wall for the passenger ferry. I had to return to Fauntleroy because there were no passenger ferries back to downtown Seattle until the next morning.
When the passenger boat goes away completely, housing values will plummet, as there will be no direct ferry to Downtown Seattle. People (most, at least) still have to make a living, and that doesn’t happen without a commute to Seattle. Homeowners are trying to get out before it gets really ugly.
Today on Magnolia was one of those rare days when I felt a little tired and quite strong at the same time. Getting back on the Tarmac was fun after several days in a row of riding the Hipster. Switching between bikes and the different riding styles that they dictate is freshening up my whole attitude toward cycling. I think I am burned out on hard riding, but then I jump on the singlespeed and go hard. The next day I do a few hard paced climbs on my racing bike.
I think I’m only really sick of the repetition of certain forums for hard riding. While I love leading the HOWC, it’s the time of year where I am really ready to let it go for awhile. I may show when Jeff leads the ride in October, but then I can choose how I want to ride, and even if I want to do the whole ride.
I rode the Hipster on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday for a total of 112 miles, and that makes 224 since I bought it just a few short weeks ago.
I have no doubt that I will climb faster in 2009 because of the strength, both mental and physical, that I will build over the winter riding singlespeed. Having the confidence and knowledge that I climb steep grades faster standing up will propel me up hills faster, assuming I can achieve the level of fitness I had in July. I’ll be another year older, but another year smarter, and I seem to be figuring out ways to go faster, not slower, as I age.