Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hills of the West Coast Ride Report Smooth as...Butter, Silk, and Tubeless

Miles: 64 Climbing: 4000’ Route: Sam Smith Park—Mercer Island—Honda Hill—Issaquah via Newport Way—Highland trail to Sammamish Plateau—down SE 40th to Snoqualmie Valley—W. Snoqualmie River Rd.—Carnation Farm Rd.—Ames Lake climb—202 North for a mile—244th Ave. climb—Inglewood Hill Rd.—212th—E. Lake Sammamish—W. Lake Sammamish Parkway—Enatai—Mercer Island—Sam Smith Attrition Rate: 11% (but he should get a pass on this one)

We had a great ride today with a solid group of nine riders. Most of the crew were regulars, but nevertheless, it was impressive at how well we worked together. We ran a paceline all the way through the Snoqualmie Valley, and it felt like I was a part of a well oiled machine. We’ve all been in herky-jerky, unsafe feeling pacelines, and it was great to be riding with a group of skilled riders who were focused on the group as a whole. During the entire ride, riders on the front rolled off slowly from stops until hearing the call “all on” from the rear, and yes, we actually stopped at the stops. What a concept, eh?

I felt great all day today, but for some reason, I just didn’t feel like an intensive climbing focused ride. We had several people with us who were on yesterday’s Bainbridge Island Torture Fest, and nobody put up an argument when I said I’d like to do a longish ride out through Snoqualmie Valley. I say longish, but only because we list 40-60 miles at this time of the year, and we went a little beyond that.

As I rode out to the ride start from Downtown Seattle, I was still considering my other route idea: climbing Cougar, Squak, and Tiger Mountains each two times via two different demanding lines. We do a lot of that type of thing this time of the year, but the hills will still be there for us another day. It was nice out, despite the once again present northwest wind; heading out to the Valley was a good way to take advantage of the fine weather.

I was deploying different “equipment” than I normally use on the HOWC. About a year ago, R&E Cycles built me a beautiful Rodriguez custom steel classic. I personally designed the Lapis Blue and Pearl White paint scheme, and we used a horizontal top tube with a -17 stem to give the bike the flat, raked out elegant retro-type look that I enjoy so much with thin tube steel frames. I think of the bike as a combination of old school style with new style colors and components. I really love this bike and I am proud of it, and I just can’t bring myself to call it my “Winter Bike,” even though I just removed the full fenders that I used all winter. I think of the Rod bike as my “Second Bike,” and since my modern “Superbike” was in the shop, it was either Rod or the singlespeed Bullet Bike. Since I have had Rod, I’ve hardly ridden the singlespeed, which is sad, because that bike is very cool and fun to ride.

Of course, I have used the Rodriguez with fenders on winter HOWC’s, but never with the new tubeless tires that I just mounted a few days ago. Shortly before I got the Rod bike, I bought a set of Campy Eurus Two-Way Fit wheels for my S-Works Tarmac SL2, with the intention of ultimately using tubeless tires. I’ve been waiting for more tire manufacturers to jump in with tubeless product to go with the increasing number of tubeless wheelsets available. After riding tubeless for two days, I don’t know what the tire companies are waiting for. Like all tubeless compatible road wheels, the Campy wheels work with either standard clinchers or tubeless tires, and I have been very happy using GP4000s tires, which are by far the best clincher I have ever ridden. Check the Want Ads, as there will be some new, sealed in the box GP4000s tires up for sale. I’ve never ridden tubular, but the tubeless ride is supposed to be very similar. The comfort of the ride, the grip, and cornering were substantially better; it was almost like I was on a different bicycle. I can’t wait to try them on the SL2, which already handles like a slot car on rails.

I may have been riding a mix of old and new technology, but it didn’t seem to slow me down, as I was very pleased with how I rode today. I was going pretty well on the “heavy” steel steed.

I thought the ride went just about right effort-wise for this time of the year. We had a few people delve into the Hurt Locker late in the ride, but as I mentioned with the “Attrition Rate,” they get a pass. Even though it was not a climbing focused ride, there were still plenty of hills, and we went longer than the high end of the stated mileage for April. We had a few riders digging deep to survive, and one didn’t finish with us, but he told us to go on and that he knew the way home.

I think that everybody rode to the ride start, and I had over 70 miles by the time I got home, while others must have had 80 or more. I think it’s likely that all of us were pretty tired by the end of the ride, but what good is a hard ride if you don’t push a little bit? I never think of this type of day as “training,” because for me it’s just one type of riding that I do. While I can’t ride hard every day, I wish I could, because it’s just such a blast.

Oh well, during those easy riding days I’ll stop and smell the roses, and dream about my next ride where I can cut loose a little bit.

I hope to see you on the Tarmac.

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