Took the S&S-coupled Rodriguez fixie (42x16) down to Seattle last Saturday for the "Flying Wheels Summer Century." Lately I'd only been doing randonneur brevets n the fixie and metric centuries on the tandem, so this was probably my first big full-century mass ride since last year's Seattle Century (which was about 12 km short of the full 100 miles (148 of 160 km).
The Rodriguez is pretty much the pure essence of a bike - absolutely no extraneous parts, steel True Temper OX air-hardened frame, stainless steel couplers for air travel, and equipped with my "summer configuration," carbon fiber wing bars, carbon aero seatpost, carbon 165mm cranks, and carbon waterbottle cage bolted on with the Minoura kit (the frame has absolutely no bosses, just a pump peg in case I want to hang the pump under the top tube if I'm using a 2nd waterbottle cage on the seat tube, and split cable stops underneath the top tube for the rear brake. Oh, and that bottle opener brazed to the seat stay!
My Hutchinson TopSpeed front tire was showing signs of deformation, so I installed a new Conti GP Attack 22mm front clincher just so I wouldn't be caught in the middle of nowhere with a tire casing split wide open (I've done that before).
I set off from Vancouver, BC at about 5:30 am and rolled into Marymoor Park just after 8 am. It was still kinda cool, so I set off in arm warmers, but I dispensed with the leg warmers with a quick detour to my car coming out of the park. Also, as is my custom on these rides, I set off with one empty waterbottle, to be filled at the first food stop. I can't believe these guys who can go thru two or more waterbottles between stops! One regular-size bottle is just fine for me for getting from one stop to the next. Besides, I like to try out the various energy drinks they have available. However, it usually means having to stop at each and every food/water stop on a hot day!
I could not believe the number of cyclists out on the roads. You did not need to pull out the cue sheet/map; there was always somebody to follow in addition to the red arrows on the pavement. The first hill came early, before I was fully warmed up, but it was no problem in the 42x16 out of the saddle. There's a technique you can use that uses your body weight to do the climbing, so it's not much effort unless the hill is REALLY steep, like 15% or greater, which none of these climbs were. Once warmed up on the flats, it was just a matter of jumping from pace line to pace line. The most consistent theme of this ride seemed to be the gaps riders would leave. You'd see a pace line of maybe 20 riders up ahead, so you'd accelerate up to it, but by the time you tagged on, it was a string of five opening a gap to the fifteen riders ahead. So you jump to the next group, but they're now three riders leaving a gap to the twelve up ahead.
This would never happen in a bike race, except on climbs or in a criterium where once the gap opens, your race is over. I guess people were just riding at a pace comfortable for them. And that, I find, is the advantage of riding the fixed gear - it's hard to Peter Principle yourself into a group that is too fast for you just because you've got gears big enough. If the group is too strong, like some of the teams that were out using this ride for training, you're just not going to catch them.
It was fun, though, to be dropping guys on the hills - guys on expensive carbon fiber frames with fancy lightweight wheels and Campag 11-speeds, watching them disappear backwards from the saddle of a steel fixie (but we won't mention the coded carbon fiber optionals...). I didn't have the heart to tell them my age, although I did stop near the top of one hill just so I could take a "trophy picture" of my bike, with all the guys I'd passed strung out down the hill behind it... You have to enjoy it while you can. I guess I'm still just too competitive.
As the afternoon progressed and the warm weather finally arrived in the Pac NW, I was able to remove the arm warmers, and then I had to completely unzip the jersey for the final climb, riding along with the sides of the jersey flapping along off to the side just like the pros, so much more comfortable than the old-style pullover jerseys! Thank you, whatever pro team invented the full-zip jersey!
I rolled into the finish inside six hours, including all the time spent at the food stops. Found the biergarten, had a couple of IPA's and an Italian sausage, and finished off with a nap. Nice to finally be able to start working on the tan.