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Old 05-27-07, 02:38 PM   #1
buelito
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Skyline Drive on a 'fixie'

Skyline Drive on a fixie…

I wasn’t sure where to place this—under Road Cycling, Singlespeed and Fixed Gear or Long Distance Cycling. I finally decided the Fifty Plus was the place, because as I ‘fit’ in the former categories, I really am an old guy at heart .

Skyline Drive is part of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It connects to the Blue Ridge Parkway (Actually Skyline Drive is the northertnmost 100 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway). A popular ride is to start from Front Royal (mile 0) and ride to Big Meadows (mile 51) and back. It is a tough ride, with about 10,000 feet of climbing (and descending). It starts with an almost 5 mile uphill and then follows the ridgeline. It is a beautiful ride, and there are always bikers up there in the warmer months of the year.

Yeah, I’ve been told I’m crazy—well, I won’t argue. Yesterday was one tough day. There were 6 of us that rolled out of Front Royal at around 8:15 or so yesterday morning. Two were planning to do ‘around 80’, and the rest of us are all going to “Ride the Rockies” in Colorado in 3 weeks, and this was a ‘test’ to see how the training was going. We were slated for Big Meadows and back. I am riding my KHS Flite 100with a 48 tooth chainring and an 18 tooth cog.

It started well, the grade on the first 5 miles isn’t so bad, and riding the fixie wasn’t bad at all. I quickly jumped to the front (not intentional), as that is where my pace placed me. I had company, as my friend Carlos (a.k.a. “Lucho Herrera”) rode with me—and he did most of the day. We decided we would regroup at the top of the first hill, then ride as a group until the next uphill, and regroup at mile 24. We would ride from mile 24 to 31 as a group, and then it was to each his own.

We ended up waiting quite a bit for the two off the back, but it was a very pleasant day. Everything went well until about mile 22…there was a sign on the road stating “Caution—loose gravel”. Not the type of pavement I expected on Skyline (you guys who were here 3 weeks ago didn’t say anything about this!!). We had to ride carefully, as it was pretty gravelly, which made handling tough. Of course, I can’t coast through the loose stuff, as being on the fixie forces me to pedal 100% of the time. On the first downhill I was riding just in front of “Lucho” when he told me we were going 34 miles an hour. That is very fast on a fixie (at least on one with the gear ratio I have). I put on the brakes a little to slow it down to around 30, which was much more manageable.

We ended up waiting about a fifteen minutes at mile 24 for the last two to arrive, and then a further 15 or so while they stocked up (it was getting hot) and used the bathroom. Finally we were off, and stayed together until the bad pavement ended, at the intersection of Rt. 211. There the pavement got smooth again, and we just kept on going. Very quickly we divided into 3 groups. “Lucho” and I were off the front, Bill and Javier took the middle and Sergio and Carlos brought up the rear. Carlos and I kept a steady pace going, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the barrage of hills above the tunnel was not that bad on the fixie. The worst part was probably the last hill into Big Meadows—with the wind blowing in our faces as we struggled up the last grade. We got there in 3:50 minutes of riding time. Not too bad for all the climbing we did. About 15 minutes later Bill and Javier arrived. We ate and tried to limit our stop, but it ran to close to an hour. Finally we were ready to go again.

The return trip was a lot tougher for me than for anyone else, as it is predominantly downhill. They would all fly down the hill, while I kept it at around 25 or so miles per hour, pedaling like crazy, using the brakes and getting very sore arms. At the foot of the next climb, I would ride up to Bill and Javier, pass them both and try to catch “Lucho”. (I never did). On the next downhill, Bill and Javier would fly by me and we maintained this type of order for the duration, until the next-to-the last downhill, which is about 6 miles long. My backside was hurting a lot from sitting most of the day, and my arms were hurting. I actually stopped twice on the downhill to give both a rest. Then it was keep going. As I hit the base of the last climb, Bill was just going around the bend ahead—that is about as close as I got to him, as once over the top, it’s all downhill. The last two miles were brutal on my arms… and on my legs. They were getting really tired. I was very happy to see the Ranger station/entrance to the Park roll by-- I was done. Total riding time was just under 7 hours for 102 miles—and about 10,000 feet of climbing (and descending).

Will I do it again? You bet…but I think I’m going to put a rear brake on the bike to ‘rest’ my legs a little on the downhills.

Next big ride will be “Ride the Rockies” in about 3 weeks… and I intend to do the whole thing ‘fixed’.

Train safe-
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Old 05-27-07, 08:50 PM   #2
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You cwazy!
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Old 05-27-07, 11:56 PM   #3
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You fixed gear guys are tough...congrats. Fantastic accomplishment.

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Old 05-28-07, 12:31 AM   #4
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Theres only one place for you and that is in the Road riding group. Doing it on a single speed would be bad enough- providing it was a more sensiblr gear for the hills- but to have to kep pedalling on the fast downhills aswell is Stupid.

Still- nice to know that when senility hits you- You still have the energy to remember the pain you went through on the downhills. Wonder if they do a Recumbent fixie with a Brooks saddle just to make it more of an adventure for the insane.
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Old 05-28-07, 05:17 AM   #5
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Just amazing!! Going up wouldn't be too bad but I just can't imagine the descents.

I hope to do that stretch when I ride the full length of the BRP stretch starting on Skyline Drive. I had hoped to do it this year but looks like it might be 2008.
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Old 05-28-07, 06:01 AM   #6
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Onya mate

I'm still building up to doing some silly distances on the fixie - just dropped my gearing back to what you have. I reasonned that the loss of top speed would be more than compensated by the easier time my legs would have of it

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Old 05-28-07, 07:28 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terrierman
You cwazy!
That's what I think too.

If he's lying he deserves to have his ass kicked. If he's telling the truth, there's probably nobody here who could kick it.
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Old 05-28-07, 08:28 AM   #8
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"Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailleur?
We are getting soft.... As for me, give me a fixed gear!"

-- Henri Desgrange, in L'Auto-Velo, 1902
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Old 05-28-07, 10:19 AM   #9
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I can understand the challenge of a single speed, especially one customized with your choice of gear ratios, but the fixie craze is beyond me. Why someone would not want the opportunity to coast from time to time, while maintaining the same challenge for hill climbing, is something that I don't understand.

However, I certainly admire what people are able to accomplish on them.
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Old 05-28-07, 11:06 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Tom Bombadil
However, I certainly admire what people are able to accomplish on them.

I don't - they must be stark staring bonkers to ride a thing like that. But as that is the normal state of the 50+ forum- I suppose we just have to accept that some of us are more stupid than others.
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Old 05-28-07, 02:08 PM   #11
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I think you need to ride one to understand what draws people to them... I have been biking for probably 25 years in this incarnation...and started riding fixed as something different about 4 years ago. At first I hated it--that not being able to coast part was really tough to handle. However, it has become my primary commuter (46 miles round trip) which I do 3-5 days a week year round. A couple of years ago I did a century on it, just to prove to myself that I could do it. We (a friend also did it fixed) did the century in 6 hours 15 minutes including stops. It had some brutal hills--but we had a pretty good ride. Last year I did about half of my 9000 miles on the fixie. The rest was on my road bike, and some on a mountain bike. This year, I put Ride the Rockies on my calendar, and decided I wanted to do it in a manner that was different thatn most--and so I decided to do it fixed. To do that, however, I had to train fixed over all kinds of terain. Skyline Drive was my 'final exam' as it were. It proved to me that I can do it. Now the problem is going to be dealing with altitude in COlorado (Skyline Drive has its highest point at 3680 feet above sea level). Ride the Rockies starts at over twice that

I have a lot of control on the bike, I moderate my spedd with leg speed. It translates really well to my road bike-- I find I can do hills much better now that I have trained for them on the fixie.

I must admit I miss the coasting--but you know, that's one of the things you accept when you go fixed.

We did a 56 mile ride today on the road bike, and it was great! I was flying down the hills at 45+ miles per hour-- a great feeling, but it is different.

As an aside to jppe- Last year when I did Mountains of Misery (I did the double metric), I was near the top and passed a guy who was doing the century--on a fixie. He said he had stopped probably a dozen times on that last hill, but he was riding the whole thing. That also made me think a bit--that would be a tough ride on the fixie. I think I'm too old for that

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Old 05-28-07, 02:32 PM   #12
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If I had a fixie, I would fix it at something in the neighborhood of 38:21 gearing.

If someone stole my 48t front crank, I might not notice for a long time. It has been a few weeks since I used it.

Hey, perhaps I'd better go out and check it now!

The main thing that the 48t crank does on my bikes is to get grease on my pants when I forget to wear my Fred strap.
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Old 05-28-07, 04:46 PM   #13
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Mountains? How about over the Cascades and the Rockies? Here is a journal of a 12 day adventure from Issaquah, WA to Cloquet, MN on a Fixed Gear (42x16/17).

Stark staring bonkers? That's a small price to pay for fun such as this, I would think.
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Old 05-28-07, 05:18 PM   #14
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Amazing! I've seen fixie riders on a few organized rides doing 50 to 62 mile rides. Grinding up the hills looks tough enough, but the blur of legs spinning on the downhills is what is truly impressive. Skyline Drive would be a challenging and beautiful ride on a geared bike. On a fixie it is just hard to imagine.
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Old 05-29-07, 09:58 AM   #15
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Awesome - I plan on riding this in fall, but on as many gears as I can scrounge up. Good job!
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