Saturday, 23 February 2013

5 Climbs to Open 2013

I've just arrived back home from Surrey where I've spent two days ticking off 5 more climbs bringing my total to 35. It was bitterly cold with traces of snow and if I'm being honest I was using the trip as  an early season fitness test (not very it turns out) as much as a chance to bag some more climbs.

A full write up complete with shaky, poorly edited, videos and random photos will follow in a few days but for now my thoughts on the five climbs tackled are:

York's Hill - Would have been more fun on a moutain bike. And smoother.

Box Hill   - A nice, if very cold way to start a Saturday. Not the fastest ascent ever but I did have three other climbs to consider.

White Downs - Starts OK, gets brutal, and narrow.

Leith Hill - Started out OK, turned into a bit of a nasty drag to the top which coincided with my energy levels waning.

White Lane - Bit of a rat run for local drivers. Would have been more manageable if I'd started out in the correct gear. Doh! Damn cold at the top and there is only an exposed lay by to get changed in.

Thats all for now. I have a small Fiat that looks like a mud bomb has gone off inside it that needs to be dealt with and a load of video footage to sort through. Watch this space for a comprehensive update.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Oh my God…its full of speed

Sorry for the terrible misquote of a classic Arthur C Clarke line but that’s kind of how I feel about my new fixie. After a bit of faffing around with the brakes (which are proving to be very important so I’m glad I spent some time getting them right) and some hassle in finding the right bottom bracket my On One Macinato is finally finished, road ready and…well, bloody scary if I’m being honest.

My whole life I’ve ridden bikes with a free hub on the back wheel. I’ve ridden single speeds before but never a fixed gear and, well…lets just say that the modern free hub is a greatly under appreciated bit of engineering. But more of that later.

The Macinato is a lovely looking bike and is actually the first where I’ve actually bothered to cut down the steerer tube. For a £150 frame and fork it’s a nicely made bit of kit. The chap who runs my local bike shop confirmed everything on the frame runs straight and true. I built it up for bad weather training rides but its going to be a shame to get the nice sparkly red paint all mucky. There is no clearance for mudguards so I’ll also be getting mucky.

It looks so benign propped up against the garage door...

I built up the On One for some hard core hill climb training and to develop a bit of extra suppleness and power in my pedalling. I figured a fixed gear was the best way to do it and as I had most of the bike in the garage in various piles of spare parts it has proven to be a pretty cheap bike to build. The only major expense apart from the frame and fork has been getting a decent quality rear wheel built by my local bike shop and even that wasn’t too expensive. I’m beginning the see the attraction of fixies; they’re cheap. I’ve kept the gearing fairly low for the time being with a 40t chain ring on the front and a monstrous 20t sprocket at the back. If that sounds low it is because this bike has been built for going up hill. I’m finding that a low gear is also ideal for learning how to ride fixed.

Source of both terror and exhilaration in equal measure

The bike handles beautifully and rides smoothly on the 25mm tyres I’ve fitted. Its been a while since I’ve ridden anything that feels so direct and sharp to be honest and without the weight of multiple chain rings, cogs and shifters I suspect my training rides are going to be fun. Well, I’m sure they will be once I’ve learned the right way to ride a fixed gear bike. I would consider myself a pretty experienced (if not necessarily the fittest) cyclist but trying to get my head around the new world of cycling I now find myself in has been rather confusing. Now, I know it is possible to slow down a fixie by applying backwards pressure on the pedals but I live on top of a hill and, as someone who is used to coasting down the steep bits whilst applying the brakes, I’ve very quickly learnt rule number one in fixed gear riding the hard way; Don’t Stop Pedalling! Ever. I don’t think the ‘feet up in the air whilst the pedals spin like a food blender' look is considered particularly cool in fixie circles. I’m starting to get the hang of not easing off on the pedalling but it does feel quite alien at the moment. Mind you, riding a fixie certainly gives you a good work out on the hills so it should be a good training tool. The bikes acceleration is also pretty good with such a simple drive train so getting the bike up to speed doesn’t take a lot of effort.

The secret of a good training ride is finding a nice spot for lunch

The new fixie should also help me build up my stamina. During January I became aware of an uncomfortable truth. Spending last year cycling up steep hills has completely ruined my ability to make long, sustained efforts on the flat. Even my training rides last year consisted of me thrashing myself up various local hills and then coasting down the other side. Great for short term power and getting familiar with the granny ring but pretty much useless for building base fitness. Once I get the hang of it the fixie will be pressed into service on some fairly long training rides. I’ve also started doing some longer training rides on my heavy old touring bike in recent weeks. The Macinato will be used on short punchy weekday lunchtime rides and my old Thorn Sherpa (officially the heaviest bike in the world. Fact) will be used for training at the weekends. I’ll find out in a couple of weeks if my slightly more structured approach to my training pays off in a couple of weeks time when I tackle the remaining hills in Kent and Surrey. That reminds me, I must give the Uncle John a clean and service at some point before I use it again. Can’t be seen on Box Hill with a dirty bike, what would the resident MAMILs think?