Photo by Jason DeVarennes

Friday, August 31, 2012

Getting my Mt Washington Fix

Regular readers know that the pixie fixie (that's the bike) was due to make another appearance at Mt Washington this year for the bike race up to the top. Leading up to the ride, the Fixie Pixie (that's me) tried to get back into proper fixie mode. I admit that I have been a bit shifty since late spring, with lots of long hilly rides with gears, but starting the first of August, I pulled out my road fixie and rode it a lot. Then I borrowed a belt-drive bike set up as fixed and test rode it for a week. And I raced the pixie fixie up Mt.  Equinox to test out my new slightly higher gear. So by the time August 18th rolled around I was definitely back in a state of not knowing how to shift.

It's been an action packed year, with lots of long distance rides, as well as a few hill climbs. I got a good kick-start with the Strava-Specialized climbing challenge back in the spring, and continued to do lots of climbing in the longer events. My first hill-climb race of the year was the Newton's Revenge race up Mt Washington.  I was finally persuaded to give gears another chance, and ended up having a pretty good race with gears, taking 5 minutes off my previous best time. But I really wanted to have another go on fixed. After all, I tell folks that fixed is actually an advantage.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Belt Drive Fixie

"Why fixed?"

It's a question that I hear lots. Actually I hear this question mostly when I am riding fixed. Which isn't always, but this month it has been a lot. In a blog posting last week, I mentioned that I would be doing Mt. Washington on the pixie fixie again. So leading up to that event, I've been avoiding those shifty bikes in favor of fixed. Therefore it seemed like an ideal time to do an extended test ride of the Seven Cafe Racer S set up with a Gates Carbon Drive belt and a fixed cog. I'd first spotted this bike at Ride Studio Cafe last year. It was set up as a single speed. I took it out for a short test ride last spring, and then asked Rob about fixing it, and letting me take it for some extended rides. He ordered the fixed cog right away, but the bike was actually booked on a flight to London for a some test riding and reviewing there, so I'd have to wait a little while before I could really put it through the paces.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fixin' to Climb Mt Equinox

The pixie fixie has seemingly been in hibernation for a while, but all that changed recently. After stoking the tandem for a week, I wasn't sure I could handle going back to doing my own steering, braking and shifting all at once. So I decided to leave out shifting for a while. I pulled down the road fixie and just reacquainted myself with steering and braking.

Then I pulled down the pixie fixie (note the difference here - pixie fixie is the pink bike with the teeney fixed gear. Fixie Pixie is the small gal with the pink jersey and braids who rides the pixie fixie). Anyway, I pulled the pixie fixie down from the hook where it spends most of the year and starting prepping it for the race up Mt Equinox. First up was changing the rear cog. I've used 20/20 gearing for all my previous (successful) races, but decided this year to throw caution to the wind, and step it up a notch by using a 19T cog in the back! I also decided it was time for some new tires. Not that I have ridden the bike a lot, but apparently the tires had quite a bit of use before I put them on the bike last year. So I treated the pixie fixie to its own dedicated pair of brand new tires. Finally I moved my super-light pedals over from the geared hill-climber. I double checked that the wheel was on nice and tight. Last year, I had a incomplete (DNF) on Mt Equinox when, after changing the cog, I didn't tighten the wheel enough and it came loose on the descent. I did not want a repeat!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 4

The final day, and there I was checking the weather again. Initially the forecast had looked good, but now I saw a big swath of green and yellow headed our way on the radar. What a pity we still haven't mounted the fenders. I'm ashamed to admit this, but we've been doing so much dirt road riding and simply had not wanted to risk damaging them. Oh well, I'd have to suffer the indignity of a wet bum. We put our rain jackets into the seat bag, and headed out trying to get as far along as possible before being overtaken by the storms.

We passed through the charming looking town of Skaneateles at the top of its eponymous lake. It looked like a lovely place to spent a night, or at least have a coffee, but the storm brewing behind us kept us on the move. The rain caught us in earnest as we began the first real climb of the day, and the thunder and lightning were almost of top of us when we reached the summit, where Chuck and Crista were waiting in their van offering bananas and encouragement.  I quickly put on my jacket, while John took a banana and we apologized for not hanging out due to the lightning! We just wanted to get off the mountaintop. We got down as quickly as we could, while still showing some caution for the wet and steep roads, and those ever-present stops signs!

Quadzilla - Day 3

After two hard days with over 10,000 feet of climbing each day, we were looking forward to this easy day with a mere 6,000 feet. There was even a little temptation to make it easier, by riding directly to Auburn, without taking the dogleg up to Lake Ontario. Fortunately Mark had emphasized that the ride up to Fair Haven State Park was beautiful and the views of Lake Ontario would be well worthwhile.

Still we were pretty tired. We rolled out of town with MaryBeth and Vida, and enjoyed getting to know them better as we rode along, chatting away. Shortly before reaching Waterloo, I heard comments about stopping for coffee, so I kept my eyes peeled as we passed through town, and we found a lovely coffee shop just at the edge of town. As we sat down to enjoy our find, Robert pulled up with the same idea. He had sprinted off the front, but had missed a turn, resulting in some bonus miles. Great minds think alike though and he was also ready for a break in Waterloo.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 2

Cyclists seem to be more obsessed with weather and weather forecasts than anyone. Inevitably when gathered among a group of cyclists, discussion turns to weather, weather apps and weather forecasting tools. We've all got several weather apps on our smart phones, ipads and laptops. Some of us are on a first name basis with the local TV weather reporters. I will even admit I subscribe to a weather twitter feed. We obsessively check and compare and sometimes shop around to find the most favorable forecast - being optimistic creatures and all.

Conversation at dinner Wednesday night kept turning back to the weather. We'd had an absolutely glorious day for riding Wednesday with crystal clear blue skies, although the humidity had started to rise a bit late in the day and some clouds were rolling in for the final climb.  It was just starting to sprinkle a bit as we walked down to dinner.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Quadzilla - Day 1

Early in the season, when we looked at various events on the calendar, Quadzilla-Staged was to be one of the target rides for the Ride Studio Cafe Endurance Team. In previous years, Quadzilla was run as a 400 mile, 28,000 foot ride around all 11 Finger Lakes with a 40 hour time limit. The new staged format added 100 miles, another 10,000 feet of climbing, and expanded to four days with 200km routes each day. This would allow for proper meals and full nights sleep in comfy motels each night.  It would also mean all the scenery could be enjoyed in daylight! Maybe I'm just no longer a proper randonneur, but for some reason this format appealed to me. The initial plan had been for QZ-staged ride to also serve as a team photo shoot, so we would bring both the tandem and single bikes, since we'd have the photo car to carry the extra bikes. But at some point, the expense of a full week on the road caused the other team members some concern, and they decided to conserve resources. I'd already registered and booked all the accommodation and to be honest, I was fairly stoked about doing the ride. Now without the photo car to carry the extra bikes, we decided to just bring the tandem. Mark Frank, organizer extraordinaire, told me that Crista Borras and Chuck Wood would also be on their tandem, so this was even more incentive to bring the tandem. That and the route profiles... Woohoo, look at those downhills!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

More Vermont Dirt

After a couple of days in the Ascutney area, we packed up and started heading west on our way to Ithaca. We took our time though, stopping in Brownsville for breakfast, Ludlow for coffee, and Manchester for lunch, then Bennington for an afternoon ride and overnight stay. We found a charming motel downtown, then had the great fortune to find a lovely 30 mile route on ridewithgps. It had some nice dirt roads, lovely vistas and three covered bridges, plus the Bennington monument.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mt Ascutney Hillclimb Race

Sorry it's taken me so long to get a new post up. I know that I won't get any sympathy for saying this... I've just been too busy cycling (aka creating content for the blog) or more to the point, too exhausted when I'm done cycling to be able to do any blogging!

After a fabulous weekend in Northampton doing the Grand Hundo and seeing RT in concert, I faced a dilemma. Strava was having another climbing challenge, but this one was pretty ambitious and only a week long. It started on the Sunday after the climbing-intense Grand Hundo, and ended the following Saturday - or so I thought.  We had a race up Mt. Ascutney on Saturday, to be followed by a pretty hard week doing Quadzilla - Staged. We were also in the midst of a heat wave. The logical thing was to ignore the challenge and get some rest. But I can't seem to resist a challenge and I decided to try to fit in a few extra climbs during the week. I did at least pass on the temptation to try to do more climbing on Wednesday than any other female in the world. This was enforced by some pretty violent storms in the area that day, not to mention the brutal heat wave.