Sunday, May 18, 2008

Davis Double on a Fixed Gear*-2008

May 17, 2008, Davis Double on *87% fixed gear (46x17), 13% singlespeed (46x20.) 100 degrees! 200 miles, @8,000 climbing (did old route Big Canyon Climb instead of Cobb Mountain) with Don on fixed gear and Dave on recumbent. 15.6 avg, 5:02-10:00 (*46x17 is like a regular bike's 39 x14, 46x20 is like a 39x17.)
(The following is mostly a ride report email I sent out right after Davis. I do like a fixed gear but I will NEVER do another double on it again.)
Dave is a professor and Don and I are just the lumpen proletariat because as Dave said "I have to use this bike, YOU guys don't have to use the ones you picked."

As you probably know a fixed gear means you have two gears only on the bike, and only one gear while riding--to access the 2nd gear you have to flip the rear wheel. Due to chain constrains the 2nd gear can't be much different that the 1st, 3-4 teeth difference max. And there is NO COASTING, the pedals automatically turn with the wheel and you have to keep up with the pedals--though the ez side of my wheel is like most fixedgears with a singlespeed option which allows coasting (Don has two fixed sides) as a bail out if you crack. So apart from your legs always in motion you can't readily get off the saddle on the flats so your butt takes a pounding. On the flats the gearing is a little to light--on the hills it is to damn hard.

Apart from being good on the flats, you can easily fly up a 1-3% grade, which amazes people when you fly past them on an uphill. It is actually on fast flats or downhills where you suffer the most--your speed is limited to how fast you can churn the cranks and your primary gear selection, so unless you have a monster track setup (which would rule out any climbs) forget about hitting 30-35 to catch a tandem or paceline. A fixed gear is an anti-recumbent--whereas even though Dave did the whole Death Ride on one we'll fly past him on uphills and watch as he zooms away on downhills and the flats.

(1) Don, Donna, Dave (the 3 D's) outside Pasta ? night before the ride. (2) Dave says hell with his first double being on a recumbent--he wants a cushy bike.

Going into this I should have been worried, as longest fixed gear ride had been 124 miles covering the Winters to Middletown (and back) portion of the Davis Double, but I really wasn't. As Johan Museeuw says if asked if he is stressed he responds, "why should I be stressed...I prepared good..tomorrow I will do the maximum, that is all I can do." We'll I did get a little concerned when I pulled my SI joint in my back last week, and that it would be hard day when the forecast for the Davis & Clearlake area called for highs for 97-100 degrees. But I am more worried about Donna and Dave doing their first double which has suddenly morphed into a hard one, and learning to flip the wheel on the fixed quickly enough so Don doesn't go to sleep.

Day before the Davis Double Donna and I do a nice 30 mile ride on the ag land between Davis and Winters--Davis a nice college town that is always booming (upscale Chico, where seemingly all students ride bikes while text messaging) and Winters, a farm town being refurbished. I ride in singlespeed mode--when I first pass Donna she declares in puzzlement "you're coasting!?!," she's never seen me "flip the wheel" before.

Morning of the Davis Double Donna tries to leave at 4:30 but was (LOUD TAP-TAP-TAP-BANG-TAP on car window) back a little agitated as her tail light didn't work and wireless cyclocomputer didn't work when headlight was on--she knew taillight was on the fritz and I had warned here about wireless cyclocomputer problems--I gave her my extra taillight but she'll learn to minimize distractions by planning ahead for each Double, as there are lots of surprises that pop up by themselves. I went back to sleep and then I was 2 min late to start as at last minute realized that I didn't need helmet light, as morning light was suddenly breaking through. Unusually quiet at the start as usually there are tons of riders leaving at 5:30 first light, I think the forecast for 100 degrees had many more people leave at 5:00. It must be warm--for once Don has 2 water bottles and I'm not wearing a vest at a start. Don on his fixed and Dave on his 'bent. Workers on the road mark all the early morning turns--one guy dancing and spearing with his flag, very cool. We got a nice 20-21 mph pace skipping rest stop #1 (mile 23), though Dave and I had a contest to see how many times we could stop to piss on the road. Fixed is hard to crank up above 21 for 200 miles, so when fast groups passed that we'd usually hook on with we had to let them go, and too hard to close the gap if a good paceline or tandem was up ahead. So we passed many slow riders and couldn't stay with fast ones so we were on our own for much of the day. One rider hooked on with us for awhile and announced that he did Solvang and that "Planet Ultra Sucks," for lousy support, and then apologizes for saying "suck." Naw--that's OK. Last week English professor Dave certified that "clusterfuck" was suitable for use. Dave went to chase someone and Don/ I hooked in with some other guys--one talking about someone they know with 20 y/o kids who just had an unexpected baby. Ouch.

Monticello Dam/Cardiac Climb was great---we did stop at Rest Stop #2 (mile 45) which also has a long line for to few porta potties. Continuation of climb was fun, especially as we went through the 2-3 mile stretch of butterfly world. I thought it was funny as hell--one nut job in front of me was wildly swatting his arms around his face--he must have thought these were doberman butterflies. Secret to riding 200 miles is to try to keep calm and don't get distracted--especially not by butterflies. Up the climb a few riders in the know congratulate us for riding fixed gears--we just reply that we are crazy--but the encouragement is nice. Don keeping tabs on me on the downhill as I set a personal record of 30.5 on the fixed gear. Dave waiting at the turn to Napa and we paceline nicely to Pope Valley. On downhill parts we can't keep up with strong cyclists on regular bikes, but coming off a roller somebody would zoom past red faced and on the next uphill I'd put in an attack to pass them. Meanwhile a recumbent came by so Dave had someone to play with. We'd get onto another group and I'd yell that no one should let that little bike get away (getting even with Dave for telling us how coasting is fun.)

Don/I skip RS #3 (Mile 46) and everyone feeling good to Pope Valley #4 (Mile 76)--though now it is getting warm and ice and soda would definitely have been a plus here. Instead just tepid water and cytomax, and unlike past years NO Hammergel products on the whole ride. Here Donna pulled in and was off while we lounged around--at the rest stops we stopped at we took full advantage by not leaving quickly.

Here is where trouble began--and unlike past David Doubles the fast folks now way ahead of us and we had passed many of the slow ones--so not many people on the road. Right before Pope Valley Don had his chain fly off--not the greatest thing to have to keep worrying about. When I heard the noise it was the only time all day I tried coasting the fixed (though I did try hitting the imaginary shift levers 3x on the hills.) During the day we'd have to stop about a half-dozen times for a chain reset. Then the sudden heat buildup hit Don hard, and when we passed Donna she also looked wiped out. It is a rare time that I'm pulling Don around--partially retuning the "favor" for all the pulling he's done in the past. I stop calling out "scenic water crossing" over every piss puddle we cross (a tribute to the old Manteca crossroads), as I know when I'm blowing up everything bothers me.

I tell everyone that at Middletown, RS #5 (Mile 95), we should stop at general store first to get cold drink/ ice in us inside before we go to rest stop across the street and begin the hot climbs. This may have been the good idea of the day. Everyone quickly on board albeit Don who said he'd go to the rest stop--but when we got to the store Don walked in about 2 minutes later after seeing the dirty ice at Middletown. Donna came in only about 10 minutes after us. We probably hung out for 20-30 minutes downing iced drinks--and I filled up a third bottle for the climb out of Middletown. Then it was off to the real rest stop for some minimal food. Too hot to eat a lot and Donna wasn't going to eat anything but I got her to down some Fig Newtons.

Up to here I felt great. While fixed is real demanding on your legs, great muscle workout, for me it is easier than the aerobic/ cardiac strain on a regular bike when you do intervals. On a regular bike it feels you are doing a series of wind sprints--on a fixed it feels you are lifting bags of concrete. And now everyone doing their thing in 100 degrees.

The big climb of the ride used to be Big Canyon, which is long but gradual, but due to a deteriorating road the big climb is now Cobb, which is much steeper, and I couldn't do it on my fixed (Don did it last year on his fixed gear.) The week before I showed Donna Cobb and I couldn't really do it on anything less than a 39x23, though a 39x21 probably would have been doable during an event. My fixed bikes easiest gear is a 46x20. Donna went up Cobb but Dave-Don-I went up the old route--Big Canyon. The climb almost as long, but not nearly as steep, and is a beautiful wooded back road closed to through traffic. Which means they haven't repaired the road in years--and it features dozens of pot bunkers (think British golf), sometimes totally across the road. I almost wiped out in one. Other times had to swing over to the gravel side of the road. Though road is closed to through traffic there is some local traffic but Don rode like he was in England as what little shade there was was cast on the left side of the road, and that is where he stayed. About half way up the pot bunkers stopped but so did the shade. I enjoyed the great view--I don't think Don or Dave did.

1) Donna on Cobb Mountain 1 week earlier, 95 miles sooner, and 20 degrees colder than on the Davis Double. 2) Some of the ruts on Big Canyon, Ward suggested they were caused by falling body parts (use your imagination.)

I stayed in my 39x17 fixed mode for half the climb--but was very amenable when Don suggested we stop and turn wheels for easier gearing for the steeper upper part of the climb. I did and now was on singlespeed until I turned the wheel back after the steep Resurrection downhill. Don had tightened the nut so much with his toy wrench that he couldn't get his wheel off and around, so he was stuck on his "hard side" until we'd see a bike mechanic at a rest stop--oh that's right, no bike mechanics at any rest stop. Davis support has been better in the past.

The top of Big Canyon still has stenciled on the road "The Top of the DC." Cobb doesn't have that--a pickup truck would run over anyone who'd try to stencil it in.

We had missed RS #6 on Cobb so now real long lunch at Lower Lake (mile 114) (where I had the Yoga Doug special--turkey piled on roast beef piled on ham. Think Don/ Dave had the iced sock sandwich. Don would keep that around his neck all day--riding behind him down Resurrection and his dripping ice sock was like being next to an air conditioner. Dave featured his sock on head like a Mohawk. Long lunch spent with Sam Kinnason like teacher who was waiting to sag in..

After we turned from Lower Lake Walmart, stupidass (the author) got po'd at someone and went hard up the next climb and was quickly at the top. "Wow-Resurrection is easy" I thought..until Don ruined my dream by telling me it was still a few miles off. Actually hot Resurrection wasn't bad except when 1) Don/ I found ourselves on the shoulder which suddenly veered behind a construction concrete barrier (needed a direction sign), that soon became the dirt shoulder, that ended on dirt/gravel rollers still behind the concrete barriers--wow cyclocross, and 2) I ran out of water which I almost never do. Here I worried about Donna who drinks much more than me. Meanwhile we are passing cycling folks sleeping on the side of the road. Just when I was really po'd about crappy support this year a sag van was on the opposite side of the road with water and ice so we all stopped there, I downed a bottle instantly, Don worried Dave that the rest stop was 30 minutes away--as it turned out it was about a mile further up Resurrection, RS #7, mile 137.)

A week earlier 1) Donna knows she reached the top of Cobb when she passes The Church of the Concrete Madonna. 2) In front of the Lower Lake High School Lunch Stop, which would be the lunch and iced sock sock stop on the Davis Double.

Another long rest stop where I thought I drank enough but didn't. Worth the $75 entry fee to see Don's 140-150x (42x16 @ 28-30 mph) cadence for miles and miles plunging down Resurrection as I get wet following closely behind, by his leaky sock. At bottom we all regroup as I switch my wheel back to the fixed 46x17 side. Now I did like the 46x20 for the climb, loved the ability to coast the steep downhill (as my cadence is piss poor), and get out of the saddle on the flats for a butt rest, but the fixed gear side is so much more efficient, and was happy when I could switch it back. As you keep spinning on a fixed there isn't that lactic buildup after you coast for awhile, and you do get instant feedback.

Fast run through Cache Creek which was almost dry--guess there really is a drought. Dave sped ahead and Don/ I two manned, mostly a tight 19-21 mph range to the Guinda RS #8 (mile 160.) Without worrying about hooking onto someone's wheel, really noticed more of the surrounding area. Again I ran out of water. Jeeze.

Luckily I had sent my lights here as we'd finish this DD 2 1/2-3 1/2 hours later than usual. Dave anise to go--he just wanted to finish so we wished him well. Luckily had emergency endorolights in my drop bag, and Sports Beans. Knew I wouldn't be that hungry in the heat so my usual rest stop meal after lunch was a slice of bread (yes-"nothing on it", repeated to worker) and pack of Sports Beans. One rider throwing up in the corner, another being led inside for medical attention, and unlike a Planet Ultra ride (where they DON'T SAG), lines of people taking numbers for the next sag back to Davis. I saw that we were near the back of the ride as my drop bag was one of the few that remained, but Donna's was there also which had me worried that she'd already be on a sag as she doesn't do well in the heat and I thought she probably will have sagged in from the Top of Cobb or Lower Lake Lunch stop. We had planned to ride in with Donna if we saw her here. Asked one volunteer to check her number against list of DNF's, but he only a a partial list--good news was that she wasn't on it.

Don and I pressed on in twilight through the disgusting Cache Creek traffic section though I liked the town (Capay?) that bricked their should which provided Brookstone Chair vibro comfort for the keaster and feet. Finally off the main road and onto the farm road where it got cooler and now would have a tailwind back. Another long stop at the Farnham Ranch (RS#9, 181 if you did Cobb, 178 if you did Big Canyon.), where Don took the lead, no doubt thinking I'd take a wrong turn and go up Cardiac again. Now we were in frog/ cricket world. Stopped to help someone out who ran through all their tubes while Don gave them one--found out it is hard to ride a fixed at night and clip in when you don't know if the pedals are facing up. Passed on RS #10 (mile 193) and suddenly were in Davis. Without being able to see the water tower the end snuck up on me.

We pulled in @10:00. Saw Donna's bike on top of the car so my worst fears realized but was pleasantly surprised. She had hung in there until mile 181--and after the Cache Creek stream of traffic nightmare she wasn't to keen to ride in the dark alone. But after we ate and walked outside there were still people coming in--she saw she made the same mistake I had made at Central Coast when I was tired and felt that no one was behind me and two hours later people were still coming through. So she had a good ride setting a new mile record for her in lousy conditions, I heard Don swear never to do a double again on a fixed (quickly, have him sign something), Dave did great on his first double on the anti-fixed gear bike, and I finished appx 80% fixed/ 20% single speed, feeling good even if I couldn't sit. Had plate of ribs for dinner (think bbq sauce is a vegetable) joined by Doug and "On Your Left Lady" Joanie. Nice day under lousy conditions. Later found out that Clubmate Joe hammared through the course chasing Grizzly Peak Mark--finishing 3 hours before us--even with two "pull off the road as almost dead" moments. Gotta get him on a fixed gear.

Now it is on to Eastern Sierra and Mt Tam and will ride very aggressively. I think this was good training re being more consistent and keeping a good minimum speed going on the flats.

Of course next day--well dehydrated--was at Pac Bell Park in shorts and a tee shirt and froze in the breezy 55 degrees.

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