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Old 08-31-08, 01:59 PM   #1
train safe
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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).

train safe-
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Old 08-31-08, 03:13 PM   #2
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Nice story. Can't wait to add a fixie to my stable.
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Old 08-31-08, 07:54 PM   #3
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that is great I just started back riding and just got my first fixie.I have been riding it now 11 days and love it.The area that I live in is not real hilly mostly short up and down.The longest ride so far is 15 miles at the place I turn around is one of the longest and steepest hills in the area 1.5 miles down then 1.5 miles up 25 years ago on a geared bike I did it with no problem.After reading your post maybe I will get the nerve to try it soon.I probably need to lower my gearing I am now running the 49/15 that came on the bike but if I get in a bind I have a 18 tooth free wheel on the flip side.
when I was riding before I always wanted to ride up mt mitchell but never got around to it.When I started back riding a month ago I told my wife I planned to ride and get in shape so I could do mt mitchell next summer.I was planning to do it on my old road bike but after reading your post mybe I will do it on the fixie thanks for the inspiration.
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Old 08-31-08, 08:26 PM   #4
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I had a single speed once, it was a Schwinn Tiger. It sounds like a great ride but I guess I just don't get the single speed/ fixed gig. Guess I'm too lazy or a big wuss. I like gears
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Old 08-31-08, 09:18 PM   #5
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Yeah, I did a 134 km ride on my fixed gear on Saturday, a hilly route to the east of Vancouver. My Benotto track bike also has two brakes (carbon fiber road fork plus I drilled a hole thru the rear brake bridge), but I'm running a 70" gear (42x16). That 36mph down the hills is quite impressive (that's about 60 kmh) - the max I can hit on the descents is about 57 kmh). Also, doing steep grades in 48x17 (about 75 inches?) must be very tough.

The nice things about a fixed gear on the climbs are the weight advantage (no derailleur, no cassette, no 9 useless cogs), the lack of friction involved with the chain moving thru two additional spring-loaded pulleys, and being able to let the cranks get over top dead center by themselves each revolution. If you get dropped on the climb, it's perfectly understandable, as is gettng dropped on the descent. But if you manage to keep up with the geared riders, you are Super Stud, so it's a no-lose proposition.

I've been doing a lot of the organized rides on the fixie primarily because it makes it more of a challenge. Anybody and his dog can finish these rides on their carbon fiber pro bike with 10-speed cassette, yawn, so what? But it takes a real cyclist to do these rides, especially the long hilly ones, on a fixed gear. In the early days of the Tour de France, Henri Desgrange wouldn't let the riders use the newly invented derailleurs, even on the unpaved roads thru the Alps. He thought derailleurs were for tourists and wimps. I wouldn't go that far, but I do think that using a fixie on an organized ride gives you more for your money - it takes more energy so you eat and drink more at the food stops, and you know you got to pedal the entire distance!

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