Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My First "BIG" Ride. New Respect, New Addiction?

Up until now I have been an urban rider, mostly commuting. When I have time I stretch my commute to about 16km (10 miles) each way, but I am often late and my shortest route to work is only about 4.5 miles. Sometimes I'll take a "long" ride on the bike paths on the weekend, maxing out around 30km (almost 19 miles). On those rides I get home feeling great and only somewhat tired, so I began thinking about hitting the highway. Last Saturday I grabbed a cycling route (one of the shortest they had) from a local cycling club's web site and set out. I posted recently about wanting to build a geared tourer, but since that bike is still only represented by a tiny jingle in my piggy bank, I took my fixed gear commuter. Despite being a commuter, it has many highway-worthy qualities.

I was pretty excited and a little nervous since I had never done such a thing before. The route summary said it was 55km long, and I was riding to and from the start/end point, so I figured I was in for about 60km (37 miles). I was careful to put water and food in my panniers for a mid-way break, made sure all my tools and tire/tube repair stuff was present and accounted for, and checked that my cell phone was fully charged.

About one third of the way into the ride I looked down the highway ahead of me thought, "wow, this is far". Everything was going really well, and I was thoroughly enjoying the solitude and overall lack of cars and noise. My bike was running beautifully and as near to silent as it gets.

Long story short, I got a little lost twice, which added some distance, and was slowed by a not-too-bad-but-nagging headwind on the second half of the trip. There weren't any hills big enough to make me walk as I had feared, so that was good. I was left sore (not too too bad; I rode with very little pain Monday morning) and happy and kind of disappointed that it took me three and a half hours to go, in the end, 71km (44 miles). It felt like I was riding faster... I don't use a cycling computer and had to use an online route mapping tool when I got home to see how far I had actually travelled.

I always thought highway touring cyclists were pretty cool. Now I am in awe, especially of those fully-loaded people you see in some wild and remote areas. I can only aspire to that kind of hardcore-ness. That distance was about as far as I think I care to go on a fixed gear. Until I can get this other bike together, I will probably do more trips just like this one, because it pushed me pretty hard, but didn't kill me. I do know that I'm already scheming about how to do it again this Saturday... I knew I wasn't obsessing about enough things lately.

Keep your eyes on the scenery, unless there's somebody coming; in that case maybe keep 'em on the road.



Keri said...

ah, the love of the open road! Don't worry about speed, just enjoy yourself.

Lisa and I are doing our first self-supported bike tour next month — a week of riding from Richmond VA to Philly.

RANTWICK said...

Groovy. I look forward to some posts about it after.

ChipSeal said...

OK, Rantwick, I was with you until "groovy".

That aside, what a righteous adventure, dude! The cruising silently along is really boss!

What a pleasure to push the limits and expand one's horizons. There was a time when those hard-boiled bicycle tour folks did their first ride of more than 35 miles!

You have just graduated into a rare sub-set of cyclists- the long distance cycling club! Huzzah!


RANTWICK said...

Hey thanks, ChipSeal. You're one groovy dude.

cafiend said...

Totally, groovy, Rantwick! Especially road-touring with the fixed gear. That being said, I like my multi-gear bikes as well.

Unless you have other constraints on your route, check the forecast to put the head wind where it will be easiest to handle. Either get it out of the way early sand take the tailwind on the return or set up the upwind leg so it crosses the wind like a tacking sailboat and takes advantage of natural cover.

Get a flip-flop hub for the fixie (if you don't have one) and set up a fairly low cruising gear and a bigger downhill/tailwind gear. Q/R hubs are totally kosher for quick wheel flips.

Have fun!

RANTWICK said...


I have a flip/flop hub, but quick wheel flips aren't easy with my fender & chain tensioner setup. I'm using a 44/17 setup (just shy of 70 gear inches) which is great around town but leaves me spinning pretty fast all the time out on the highway.

RANTWICK said...

I may just go for a single flip at home to a bigger gear before setting out on long rides...

Unknown said...

The highways around London are very nice Rantwick, glad to hear that you had a good time out there. Heck, before long you'll probably be hopping down to Port Stanley on the weekend.

Think you'd be able to post a link to the route? There seems to be plenty of options for getting out of the city, but it'd be nice to see what other people enjoy.

RANTWICK said...

Kevin - yep, it was a nice first time out. I got the route from the London Centennial Wheelers website. It was one of first entries in a big fat PDF of rides that they do, mine was the one to Thamesford.

You can find that PDF file here.

cafiend said...

70 inches?! In Maryland I ran 67 in summer and 63 in winter. I was in traffic a good bit. I also try to keep a high cadence.

Up here in NH I run the 63 for climbing and general cruising, with a 73 on the flip side. On the nastiest climbs I've been known to weave.

Fixed gears take you from grunt to ultra-spin.

I stretched my rear fender to accommodate wheel movement. I'm using an old road frame, so the long dropouts open to the front rather than the rear. It makes it easier to drop the wheel out of the fender and feed it back in. I don't use a chain tensioner.

RANTWICK said...

I just re-calculated. Yeah, I just switched to 69.3 this spring, having ridden 65.4 last summer. I found I was spinning out fairly often. Maybe I need to work on my top cadence instead of gearing any higher! The hub would also accept a single speed freewheel... hmmm. I have one around, but it's got 20 teeth, which would only be 58.9 gear inches. I think having only done the one ride, I'm just going to leave well enough alone and see how my body adjusts.

My first fixed was like yours for dropouts, but now I have rear-facing track ends. I was having trouble getting just the right chain tension while maintaining correct alignment, and the tugs helped a lot. I almost wondered if there was something a little off with the rear triangle that was pushing the rear wheel a little out of whack, because I hadn't experienced that problem before. Since it is aluminum, I was afraid to try and bend it at all...

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