One of those times has come into life when I woke up on a Saturday morning and didn’t really want to get up and out on the bike. I’m not sure why, but the idea of getting up and taking a slower paced morning was appealing. Perhaps it was because the afternoon and evening was going to be busy. Still, I knew that I needed to get out and keep what fitness I have.
Once again I was heading out on the fixed gear. Perhaps that was also part of my problem. I would have preferred to go out with the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power ride, but I didn’t want to hold everyone up as I chased them around with one gear. I would be doing this ride alone.
About two hours was all that was allotted to me. I figured in that time I would have to go out and ride and then swing by Sunshine to get new rubber for the SE Bikes Draft. The rear tire was showing the threads beneath the worn rubber. Actually, I was taking a chance riding this way, but I couldn’t make the shop stop at the beginning of the ride because they weren’t open.
I meandered toward downtown to get on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. At least there wouldn’t be a lot of climbing there. What I did find was a pile of runners/walkers. It was an organized event, though I never figured out who was sponsoring it.
Thankfully, things cleared out before I got to the SRT Cafe and Grocery. I was able to settle into a nice cadence on the fixed gear and before long I was starting to enjoy the beautiful morning. My start must have many later than many because as I was riding out, I came upon a couple of larger groups coming back toward downtown.
The closer I got to Furman the more an insane thought began to creep into my mind. “Why don’t you ride the Draft up Paris Mountain?” My legs rebelled at the idea. My lungs asked, “Why do you think of things like this?”
I looked at the clock. 45 minutes had passed since I rolled out from home. Really, if I was wanting to make it to Sunshine Cycle Shop, get the tires and get them changed before going home, then going over the mountain was the fastest option. The temptation to make the climb was getting stronger.
Finally I committed to making the climb. I knew it was going to be tough pulling the 23 pound bike with a 48 teeth chain ring (and shorter crank arms) up the mountain. I had done it before back when I had the original chain ring which was smaller. Even that time, I had to stop and take a break on the climb.
I hit the base trying to keep my momentum as best as possible. When the grade got a bit steeper, I would stand to use my weight to help push the crank arms around. When the grade was less acute, I would sit and try to get my heart rate down a bit. Whether standing or sitting, I tried to use my back stroke as well as my forward stroke to get an even flow of power.
The top of the water tower segment came in about the same time as my geared attempts. The actual water tower segment was one of my fastest. However, I could tell it as I was starting to breathe much harder and I had to seek for recovery as best I could.
A fixed gear drives you. There is no letting up. There is no looking for an easier gear. When you think one leg is about the give out, the other one just pushes it around for another revolution. You can’t really slow down either. Slowing basically means you are going to come to a stop. You just have to gut it out.
I reached the half way point in about 6:15. Still, that wasn’t bad at all. However, I knew I was just borrowing from the road ahead.
Riders out for a Saturday climb were all along the road. I kept passing one and then another. It wasn’t that I was trying to get around them. It is just I had no choice but to keep my momentum. Several of them commented on the fact of the single gear. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much but huff out a “Good morning.”
Then I reached “The Wall.” My intent was to finish what I had started. I had slowed considerably and reached the turn up to the wall in about 12:20. Who knows how much time I would burn over the next quarter mile. I stood, put my head down and started clawing my way up.
My legs were tired. My lungs were burning. However, it was my arms and shoulders that were screaming the loudest.
I really need to start doing some upper body work. Climbing with the fixed gear required me to really work the handle bars to shift my weight from side to side and get as much power as possible on the crank. My arms were yelling for me to relax my grip!
Finally, about 20 meters from the top — right as the road kicks into its steepest section — it happened. I got stuck between the down stroke of my right crank and the up stroke of my left. It was as though the bike wanted to start pedaling backward. By the way, that is entirely possible on a fixed gear!
At a standstill, I finally put my foot down. My arms were now yelling “Hallelujah!” and my lungs weren’t yelling anything. They were just pulling in oxygen.
I walked up about 10 meters and then remounted. I was able to ride across the KOM line and stop the clock at 14:22. Really, considering everything, I was quite happy with that.
Now I had to scare myself by descending the mountain on a fixed gear with clipless pedals. I would be riding the bull! Thankfully, I had brakes.
Ten minutes later I was at the bottom and heading over Piney Mountain to Sunshine where I was able to put some wire mesh rubber tires that should last me for a good amount of time in the future. Thankfully, I also had time to ice my knees (another disadvantage of climbing with a fixed gear) before heading over to my son’s baseball game.
If nothing else comes from this time on the Draft, I know it will make me appreciate the Giant TCR Advanced all the more!