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Old 06-14-10, 05:26 PM   #1
lhbernhardt
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Flying Wheels on a Fixie

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.

Luis
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Old 06-14-10, 05:45 PM   #2
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What can we say? That was wicked sick, dude.
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Old 06-14-10, 05:49 PM   #3
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great ride report Luis-- I have done numerous centuries on my fixie as well-- it is just like you describe. However, one of the best comments I ever received was going up a steep hill on the Civil War Century in Maryland, and as I pssed a few people, one of them said--'but you don't have any gears!' left him stumped Too bad you are on the other side of the continent from me... there aren't many 50+ fixed gear riders, and it sure would be fun to ride with one.

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Old 06-14-10, 06:52 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lhbernhardt View Post
Nice to finally be able to start working on the tan.

Luis
You my man, are something else.

Took two I hope you noticed.

Fred beyond Fred.
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...ixnay on the exsay alktay.
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Old 06-15-10, 09:46 AM   #5
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Sounds like an excellent ride for fixed gear! I'm geared 42 x 15 so just a tad higher, and so far have ridden three centuries on my fixed gear.

The things that really wears me out are the descents. Flat areas, climbs, no problem, but the descents wear me out (and everyone - pretty much - is passing me).

How do you ride the descents? Looking for helpful tips here, since I can only spin the cranks up to about 28 mph.

Rick / OCRR
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Old 06-15-10, 04:22 PM   #6
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How do you ride the descents? Looking for helpful tips here, since I can only spin the cranks up to about 28 mph.

Rick / OCRR
28 mph is good - that's 45 kmh, which is maybe spinning down a 6% grade. For the longest time I could only max out at about 59 kmh, but I recently hit 67 kmh (on 42x16) on a steep descent on a group ride just because I was trying to impress an old ex-trackie friend (we rode as partners in a mini-6-day race at the old China Creek Velodrome in Vancouver some time back in the 70's). (We were trained by an ex-pro 6-day rider, so we were doing hand slings back when everybody else in North America were using hip slings with the "jamming tool.")

It helps to use 165mm cranks - the shorter the cranks, the easier they are to spin. Also, the particular pair of shoes I was in on the 67kmh day had the cleats mounted just a bit further forward than I would have liked. I was going to move them back a bit until I saw how fast I could spin downhill in that configuration!

The only other advice is to just float the pedals, something you can only learn to do on a fixed gear. Your saddle height has to be dead-on; otherwise, you will be bouncing out of control. When you start to max out, start accelerating the pedals. You'll be spinning like crazy, and you can't maintain it for long. I usually get up to a bit over 50 kmh and then put on the brakes and just float. The bike will continue to accelerate as you release the brakes, but it's not as hard then. Just don't ever backpedal. I don't use a lock ring (I think they are downright dangerous!); I make sure the cog is tightened with a tool, and I've never had a cog unthread (unless the chain falls off, but that only happens if it's not aligned).

Luis
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Old 06-15-10, 05:19 PM   #7
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Congrats on the century. With respect to climbing and passing others on expensive carbon bikes, all I can say is they must have been pretty weak. I looked at the profile and there was nothing over a 400 vertical feet of climbing. We do 1440 feet in the big ring for low cadence drills. The real question is how fast do you climb? 3000, 3500 or 4000 feet per hour. Climbing speed is the issue not whether you have fixed gear or a geared bike. If you are passing cyclists, your climbing speed is greater than theirs and you are producing more power. One can produce power at a low cadence or a high cadence.

Last edited by Hermes; 06-15-10 at 07:54 PM.
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