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Old 09-14-09, 11:23 AM   #1
lhbernhardt
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Mt. Baker Hill Climb

I rode this event yesterday (Sunday, September 13). This is a 24.5-mile (39 km) climb of Mt. Baker, an extinct volcano masquerading as a ski resort about an hour's drive east of Bellingham, WA. The climb is supposedly 7%, which means it's easy if you take it slow, and quite a tough climb if you race up. There were about 750 riders in total, of which about 250 were in the competitive category, going for times.

I have never been a climber (my specialty when I was racing was road sprints from the breakaway group), so knowing I would get nowhere near the front of the 50-59 age group, I decided to ride in the single-speed fixed gear category. Being too much the purist, I rode the event in a fixed gear. My one concession to the climb was dropping the gear from my usual 42x16 to 42x17.

Well, the first section of the climb is rolling, so there are some short descents, and I realized I should have used a single speed (i.e., a freewheel with one cog), as I was totally spun out on the early descents. And then I probably should have used an 18 for what would come later. I did manage to stay with one bearded dude on a single-speed mtb until we got to the actual climb, and then the lightweight wiry fellow took off, with my blessing.

I don't know my finishing time (their computer screwed up, so no results are yet available); I just know that when I stopped at the top of climb, in the parking lot at a place called Artist's Point, my computer showed that it had taken me at least 1h52. I would have needed to finish in 1h40 to end up anywhere near the top of the single speed/fixed gears. Those guys can climb!

My one consolation was that I rode on my commuter bike, a steel Benotto track frame (albeit with "coded optionals," such as all-carbon fork, carbon handlebars, carbon seatpost, and Shimano wheels modified with Surly Fixxer to take a track cog). I quite enjoyed passing dudes on their expensive state-of-the-art professional carbon fiber road bikes with mountain gearing. One dude I passed even had a set of all-carbon wheels.

It's not the bike, it's the motor...

Here's a picture of my bike on a pre-ride of the same mountain about a month earlier, hence the absence of the race wheels:
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Old 09-14-09, 02:40 PM   #2
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With my luck the volcano would have decided to become unextinct just as I was getting to the top!!

My college roommate just moved out that way so this sounds like a good excuse to pay him a visit.
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Old 09-14-09, 02:58 PM   #3
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Congrats on the ride! I did that ride three weeks ago, with a triple, and I would have been one of the folks you passed if you made it up in under two hours.
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Old 09-14-09, 11:49 PM   #4
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Sounds like a fabulous climb and event. Nice work climbing in a 42/17.
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Old 09-15-09, 11:20 AM   #5
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With my luck the volcano would have decided to become unextinct just as I was getting to the top!!
I know what you mean. You get used to living "under the volcano" when you're on the West Coast. I'm not a geologist, so I use the term "extinct" very loosely. Mt. Baker is one of the "extinct" volcanos that make up the Pacific "Ring of Fire." The others include Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helens (which blew in 1981, as I recall, and made the approach to Spirit Lake look like a nuclear bomb hit the place), Mt. Hood, Mt. Shasta, etc. etc. So I wouldn't be too surprised if one of these hills blew again Real Soon Now. I'm just hoping that the wind is blowing firmly in a westerly (toward the east) direction when Baker goes!

L.
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Old 09-15-09, 03:32 PM   #6
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I am no geologist either but do recall Baker as still being an active volcano. I believe it is nearly as active as St. Helens as far as venting goes but in any case, is not extinct.
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Old 09-15-09, 03:42 PM   #7
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I believe some of the early explorers documented fire in the sky in the direction of Baker. I forgot where I read that or I'd get you the source.

Is that ride safe when it's not a biking event? I would love to ride somewhere like that.
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Old 09-15-09, 04:38 PM   #8
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Is that ride safe when it's not a biking event?
Yes, I did it 3 weeks ago. Here's the thread:

Another mountain ride - up Mt. Baker Highway to Artist Point
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Old 09-15-09, 08:29 PM   #9
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congrats you give me inspiration I plan to ride my first century in 25 years this weekend and I am riding fixed.I would like to ride mt mitchell in the future but need to spend some time improving my climbing.The problem is were I live there are not many long hills guess I need to plan some trips to
the mountains and quit procrastinating'
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Old 09-17-09, 06:03 AM   #10
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Great work. That is one of my goal rides, probably next year.
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