My goal was simple—to ride from Front Royal to Panorama—mile 32 (more or less) on Skyline Drive on my fixie. I was reasonably confident that I could do it, having ridden up numerous relatively short but steep hills. The goal was to see if I could handle the long sustained hills of Skyline Drive. The first 5 miles are uphill—not tremendously steep, but a sustained effort. Of the first 24 miles, 17 are uphill. Makes for a lot of climbing. There were 12 of us, but I was the only one on a fixie… they all thought I was a little nuts, but it goes with the territory
I told one of my friends that I would see him at the top, as I really needed to maintain my cadence if I had any hope of getting up the hill. It was slow and steady. I ride a 48x18 (about 70 inches). I was surprised at how well I climbed. Most of it sitting down, using the full range of the pedal stroke. Then I would stand for a bit, just to use different muscles. I found myself with two others at the front of our group. Then we hit the first downhill… well, that’s where the ‘freewheelers’ had me. I had to use the brake to slow my cadence in order to keep control of the bike… The downhills were tough. Back on the flats, and on the uphills, I caught back up and the process repeated itself until mile 24 (Elk Wallow). We came down a three mile hill to get there. That hill was what I was worried about on the way back. From Elk Wallow to Panorama is a gradual downhill, and I was able to maintain a great pace. We all got to Panorama together. Four of the group decided they wanted to go on to the highest point on Skyline, which is about another 9 miles up the road. I was tempted, but opted to return as I had planned. This was a ride to see if I was able to ride the hills.
The return was rather fun. The ride back to Elks Wallow was fast. A false flat (sort of) that just ate up the miles. A quick bathroom break at Elks Wallow, and it was up the toughest hill. I started standing, but then sat and used the whole pedal stroke to power my way up the hill. Again, we quickly broke away from the group (the same 3 of us as before), and attacked the hill. I was in a steady constant grind, and my partners were spinning low gears. They would go by me, then I would come up to them and go by. We did this for the full three miles. I didn’t feel bad at any time during the climb. It showed me what I was hoping to see—that the fixie is an efficient climbing machine if the rider is in shape. Then came the downhills. Again, I was dropped, but not as badly. I worked on my cadence and remained in touch with my two partners all the way back to Front Royal.
Next time, I will go to Big Meadows and back (51 miles each way)
All in all a very enjoyable ride, and now I am going out on a limb saying that if I get into Ride the Rockies next year, I am taking the fixie with me