fixies and bald eagles...
Wow- How else can you describe the day? The goal was to do the “Blue Ridger”, a ride starting in Marshall, Virginia that is a 56 mile loop, going up to Mount Weather (one of Homeland Security’s emergency op centers), then up Naked Mountain. All in all, a hilly and tough ride. Although there are two “main hills”, there are lots of rollers and shorter hills throughout the ride. We would then add another 10 or so to make it a 66 mile ride. This is in preparation for next week’s Civil War Century in western Maryland.
I added a twist. I am doing the century next week on my fixie (see description below), so I decided this would be my last ‘test’ before the century to see if I could do the hills on the fixie. It was definitely tough, but not as bad as I thought it would be. The initial hill, starting in the town of Bluemont always intimidated me in the past. I always thought it was the steepest section, but today it wasn’t bad at all. Once over the top, and up the highway, we turned onto Mount Weather—a daunting hill when viewed from below, because it goes straight up. I just got into a rhythm and kept moving up. There is a point where the hill levels off for a bit before the final push to the top. Right below that leveling off place is where I struggled the most. That is the steepest part of the hill. I reached my slowest speed—all of 5 mph on that stretch, but then it was OK. There were 7 of us, so at the top we regrouped and then continued along the ridge to the Mount Weather Op Center, which we passed and kept going. The downhills, which are usually my favorite part of a ride, are not as much fun on a fixie. I got to about 36 mph at my fastest, but that is really too fast for the fixie—I feel much more comfortable at around 30 mph. We then did a stretch on Rt 50, lots of traffic, but that’s the way it is.
Once we got off Rt 50 and on towards Naked Mountain, we saw a sight I have never seen in Virginia. There was a bald eagle standing guard over the carcass of a deer in a field. We all looked and pointed, and of course, no one had a camera… At any rate, it was the highlight of the day.
And, on to the ‘other’ tough hill on the ride—up Naked Mountain. Again, it is a long climb, but it doesn’t really get tough until the last half mile or so, and the last little push before a flat, leading to the top of the hill is the steepest part. I was able to duplicate my 5 mph speed on that section, and then just powered up to the top.
From here it is a long down hill (with a couple of surprises) to Rt 17, which we follow parallel to Rt 66 back into Marshall… The last 10 miles are one of my favorite parts of this ride, as you can really generate speed. We were going at around 22 mph—it felt good. We traded off on the front and made great time back into Marshall.
Once in Marshall, we restocked at the 7-11 and then headed off for another 10 miles.
A beautiful day, with a bald eagle sighting, and I did it on my fixie. I am ready for the Civil War Century next week.
(Technical note—for those unfamiliar with a fixie—a fixie is a 1 speed bicycle on which you cannot coast. If you pedal forward, it goes forward. If you pedal backwards, it goes backwards. You have to pedal 100% of the time. Mine is equipped with 2 brakes. The gearing is a 48 tooth chainring with a 17 tooth rear sprocket. More or less equivalent to riding a 53x19 on a road bike. I used to have it set up with an 18 tooth in the back, but it wore out and my local bike shop only had a 17 to replace it with…so that’s what I have).