13k climbing, 210 miles, 1 gear, 0 coasting
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  1. #1

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    Talking 13k climbing, 210 miles, 1 gear, 0 coasting

    Did the Central Coast Double Century Saturday. It's 210 miles with 13,200 feet of climbing. I've done it three times before, all on derailleur/coaster/freewheel bikes, with times of 12:37, 12:45, and 12:45 (yes, exact same time two years in a row). So, I felt like I needed to do something different, so why not fixed gear? I figured this would be a good test for the 508 fixed, especially since the hills at CCD are much, much steeper, and if that can be completed, then the 508 should be, too.

    I had no idea whether this was possible, especially since I bailed at 160 miles at the Davis 12/24 a month ago due to points of contact issues, chafing and blisters, and that course is much easier than this one. Some hills at CCD exceed 20%, and several have long sections of 10-12%. I thought either I'd be doing a lot of walking, or I'd turn my legs into hamburger trying to climb on the bike and then be unable to finish or finish before the 18 hour cut-off.

    So, at 5:45 a.m., I set out on my Bianchi Pista, 42x16 gears (70 gear inches). With triple wrapped cowhorn bars, I thought I lessen the chance of blisters. With that gearing, nearly all climbing over about 3% must standing, so that's a whole lot of standing. That really does a number on the hands. I have a bike computer that shows grade percent, so I can generally tell the difference between just being tired and knowing the road is steep.

    The group was slow for the first 5 or 6 miles, everyone chatting on the mild but continuous climbs. Usually, a bunch takes off as soon as we get outside the Paso Robles city limits, but not today. It really wasn't until the first descent that anyone turned up the flames (and dropped me immediately). I chose to keep my speed under about 25 mph on the descents to reduce chafing (which worked), but at the cost of coasting bikes putting half mile or so on me every longer descent.

    The course is climbing and rolling to the first food stop at 30 miles, but the last mile there is an absolute killer. It changes from 10%, then 15%, then you hit a corner with 50 yards to go, and the computer was reading over 20%, and it got steeper after that. I was traversing when I could (hard with dozens of other bikes around), but when it hit 20%, it was like someone clamped my brake on full hard. I simply could not make the cranks move. So, I hoofed it the last 50 yards up to the food stop at the summit. I felt better, though, because I was told a few people with derailleur bikes were getting off and walking, too. Keep in mind, that at 70 gear inches, compared to a bike with 35 gear inches (39x29 or 30x23), it's like riding a 40% hill in the latter gears. Not doable. It was so steep that my Look cleats were slipping backwards as I tried pushing off to walk up the hill. Under the circumstances, I felt no shame at all. Even clearing the 15% section was quite a chore, like doing one legged leg presses at body weight, with hundreds of repetitions.

    There is the narliest descent I've ever done on a road bike right after that. It's very twisty, rough, rocky, bumpy, narrow, and nearly as steep as the prior climb. With only a front brake, I took great care not to hit rocks or potholes, as I don't think I could have braked to a controlled stop there with only my legs. A 'bent passed me at a good clip, which concerned me, and two turns later I found him crashed on the road, but ok. They warned us strenuously about this descent. Between there and Cambria (at the coast), I bet I saw two dozen people with flats from the nasty road. I started tire brushing about every 30 seconds to be safe.

    The course goes up Highway 1 right on the coast for about 50 miles, which is no doubt one of the most scenic routes I've ever ridden. I hooked up with pace lines for short stretches here and there, but was immediately dropped on the slightest descent. The road gets pretty hilly at the north end, and I found myself passing riders on the climbs, then them leap frogging me on the descents repeatedly. At about 80 miles I started saving myself a bit, because the "BIG CLIMB" of the day is at 87 miles.

    The BIG CLIMB is Nacimiento ("Nasty Mental")-Ferguson road, which rises 2,800 feet in 7 miles. Problem I found is that the first 1/3 of the hill averages about 10-12%. I was absolutely pegged using every muscle in my body to make any progress. A little 12% is doable, but when it goes on for miles, it's killer. I was traversing when I could, stopping to "take in the scenery" (look back down at the ocean), and using every sort of body position on the bike to move. My speed dropped to about 4 mph, or 20 rpms at the crank. That's one rev per 3 seconds, not efficient. My arms, shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, even glutes felt like they were all cramping from the whole body force needed to pedal. I had serious doubts I'd make this climb, but after a while the road leveled a bit to 8%, which by contrast almost felt flat. A few flatter sections and even a drop or two really helped with recovery.

    I got lots of strange looks from riders as they'd pass, sort of bug-eyed "is that a fixed gear?" I got that all day on the climbs, especially the steep ones, and I think every single rider asked "what gears you using?"

    Finally cleared the mountain and nearly collapsed at the top, then prepared for a similar descent down the other side to Fort Hunter Ligget, an army base where they have lunch at 112 miles. After the descent, it was rollers for the next 15 or so miles, and I was back to the leap frog with the coasters. Rode a bit with Chris Kostman (508 and other ultra promoter), there and after lunch. I'm always amazed how he can carry on normal conversation (from his end) on a 10% climb when everyone else is gasping for air, but he always does.

    Since I still had doubts about the completion time, I didn't spend but about 20 minutes at lunch (off the clock for lunch at this event). So we (with CK), headed out fairly quickly. After a few miles he got his third flat tire for the day, and I don't think I saw him again (hope he wasn't stranded, but he said he was ok -- thought he'd catch me on the next long descent where I once hit 57 mph).

    The course is rolling to moderately (under 10%) hilly until Interlake Road after the rest stop around 160 miles. After a liberal application of Chamois Butt'r and taking on more Hammergel and lights picked up from the drop bag left at the Lockwood rest stop, all was well. That is, until the Interlake climb. It's about 2 miles of 10-12%, and man was it tough. One rider behind me complained that it was too painful to watch me mashing at 25 rpms, then went around. It was pure torture, and I had to stop for a minute about 1/4 mile from the top. The steep climbing was taking its toll on the legs, and at some point a brief rest was necessary to work up a little strength to go on. However, once recovered a bit, the summit was reached, then a long descent similar to the climb went on a for a few miles.

    After what seemed like about 10 miles directly north into a headwind, we jumped on Highway 101 for a mile headed south, then exit for the Bradley rest stop around 180 miles. I was in and out of there quickly, as I wanted to get up the next long, but not steep, climb and have some fun with that 15-ish mph tailwind all the way to the finish. The last long climb isn't too bad, but seems to go on and on with some smaller rollers, but with a steep section right at the top to finish you off. The following descent is fairly steep, and about half a dozen riders I passed on the climb came blowing by at 45 mph compared to my "governed" 25 mph. We regrouped a bit on the road to Paso Robles, but with lots of rollers, it was again back to leap frog up and down the hills; the fixie just doesn't "play well with others," when it comes to descents. It got dark just before the 200 mile mark, so I slowed a bit to be careful, as my eyes were a little blurry, and one of my two LED headlights was flickering on and off, making it really hard to see the road edge when an oncoming car's headlights blinded me. Another rider and I finished just before 9 p.m., making the "official" time just under 15 hours, recalling that lunch is "off the clock (total time would have been about 15:14)."

    While I was certainly happy to complete the ride in a decent time and had lots of fun, my legs actually were not in the bad of shape towards the end. Don't know if I could have made any more 12% climbs, but cruising along on the flats at 20+ mph was no problem. I was pleasantly surprised, given that I had some serious doubts whether this ride was even possible fixed, with all the points of contact issues plus the long, steep hills. Over the last month lots of people have provided good advice on some issues, like using cowhorns, keeping the speed down on the descents, using a taller gear, and using some cornstarch in the shorts (thanks, Cindi S.). Hitting the home gym pretty hard, too, helped with the "whole body" nature of hard out of the saddle climbing, when every muscle in the body is recruited to make the cranks go around at 25 rpms on 12+ percent grades.

    This was a test for potentially doing the 508 fixed, and now I think it's completely possible, with enough endurance training and careful attention to the points of contact. The grades on the 508 are not nearly as steep, but longer, which is relatively better for fixed gear. The legs seemed to recover decently from the CCD's hills even with really hard mashing, so the 508 should not be as bad. I guess the test was a success. I was about 2 hours slower than doing the route before, so if the 508 spread is the same, that would put me around 42 hours there. Food, hydration, and electrolytes are no longer an issue for me, as I've firmly established a well working routine with Sustained Energy, Endurolytes (both thankfully supplied at the food stops at the CCD), and Hammergel, and the knowledge to use them wisely from Steve Born.

    I think with enough training on a fixed gear, most riders with decent knees, leg strength, and a solid masochistic streak could do something like this. The hills, up and down, are a real challenge, but to me that's what makes it fun. Doing something you didn't think you could do is what this bike thing is all about.

    Thanks to the CCD volunteers and promoter Brian Stark for a fantastic event. It is very well run, with lots of good food stops and roving SAG cars, all of which slowed to ask if we needed anything along the way. One nice lady in a blue Cherokee stopped twice to give some of us water between food stops later in the ride, which was very welcomed. The course is very well marked, which I appreciate, as I dislike having to pull out a route sheet or ride through the anxiety of wondering whether I missed a turn and am miles off course.

    Maybe Climb to Kaiser fixed next?

    Doug

  2. #2
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    Thumbs up

    Very cool. Congrats.

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up

    Hey Doug, DANG! Thanks for posting the report.

    Quote Originally Posted by DougSloan
    Did the Central Coast Double Century Saturday. It's 210 miles with 13,200 feet of climbing. I've done it three times before, all on derailleur/coaster/freewheel bikes, with times of 12:37, 12:45, and 12:45 (yes, exact same time two years in a row). So, I felt like I needed to do something different, so why not fixed gear? I figured this would be a good test for the 508 fixed, especially since the hills at CCD are much, much steeper, and if that can be completed, then the 508 should be, too.

    I had no idea whether this was possible, especially since I bailed at 160 miles at the Davis 12/24 a month ago due to points of contact issues, chafing and blisters, and that course is much easier than this one. Some hills at CCD exceed 20%, and several have long sections of 10-12%. I thought either I'd be doing a lot of walking, or I'd turn my legs into hamburger trying to climb on the bike and then be unable to finish or finish before the 18 hour cut-off.

    So, at 5:45 a.m., I set out on my Bianchi Pista, 42x16 gears (70 gear inches). With triple wrapped cowhorn bars, I thought I lessen the chance of blisters. With that gearing, nearly all climbing over about 3% must standing, so that's a whole lot of standing. That really does a number on the hands. I have a bike computer that shows grade percent, so I can generally tell the difference between just being tired and knowing the road is steep.

    The group was slow for the first 5 or 6 miles, everyone chatting on the mild but continuous climbs. Usually, a bunch takes off as soon as we get outside the Paso Robles city limits, but not today. It really wasn't until the first descent that anyone turned up the flames (and dropped me immediately). I chose to keep my speed under about 25 mph on the descents to reduce chafing (which worked), but at the cost of coasting bikes putting half mile or so on me every longer descent.

    The course is climbing and rolling to the first food stop at 30 miles, but the last mile there is an absolute killer. It changes from 10%, then 15%, then you hit a corner with 50 yards to go, and the computer was reading over 20%, and it got steeper after that. I was traversing when I could (hard with dozens of other bikes around), but when it hit 20%, it was like someone clamped my brake on full hard. I simply could not make the cranks move. So, I hoofed it the last 50 yards up to the food stop at the summit. I felt better, though, because I was told a few people with derailleur bikes were getting off and walking, too. Keep in mind, that at 70 gear inches, compared to a bike with 35 gear inches (39x29 or 30x23), it's like riding a 40% hill in the latter gears. Not doable. It was so steep that my Look cleats were slipping backwards as I tried pushing off to walk up the hill. Under the circumstances, I felt no shame at all. Even clearing the 15% section was quite a chore, like doing one legged leg presses at body weight, with hundreds of repetitions.

    There is the narliest descent I've ever done on a road bike right after that. It's very twisty, rough, rocky, bumpy, narrow, and nearly as steep as the prior climb. With only a front brake, I took great care not to hit rocks or potholes, as I don't think I could have braked to a controlled stop there with only my legs. A 'bent passed me at a good clip, which concerned me, and two turns later I found him crashed on the road, but ok. They warned us strenuously about this descent. Between there and Cambria (at the coast), I bet I saw two dozen people with flats from the nasty road. I started tire brushing about every 30 seconds to be safe.

    The course goes up Highway 1 right on the coast for about 50 miles, which is no doubt one of the most scenic routes I've ever ridden. I hooked up with pace lines for short stretches here and there, but was immediately dropped on the slightest descent. The road gets pretty hilly at the north end, and I found myself passing riders on the climbs, then them leap frogging me on the descents repeatedly. At about 80 miles I started saving myself a bit, because the "BIG CLIMB" of the day is at 87 miles.

    The BIG CLIMB is Nacimiento ("Nasty Mental")-Ferguson road, which rises 2,800 feet in 7 miles. Problem I found is that the first 1/3 of the hill averages about 10-12%. I was absolutely pegged using every muscle in my body to make any progress. A little 12% is doable, but when it goes on for miles, it's killer. I was traversing when I could, stopping to "take in the scenery" (look back down at the ocean), and using every sort of body position on the bike to move. My speed dropped to about 4 mph, or 20 rpms at the crank. That's one rev per 3 seconds, not efficient. My arms, shoulders, lower back, hamstrings, even glutes felt like they were all cramping from the whole body force needed to pedal. I had serious doubts I'd make this climb, but after a while the road leveled a bit to 8%, which by contrast almost felt flat. A few flatter sections and even a drop or two really helped with recovery.

    I got lots of strange looks from riders as they'd pass, sort of bug-eyed "is that a fixed gear?" I got that all day on the climbs, especially the steep ones, and I think every single rider asked "what gears you using?"

    Finally cleared the mountain and nearly collapsed at the top, then prepared for a similar descent down the other side to Fort Hunter Ligget, an army base where they have lunch at 112 miles. After the descent, it was rollers for the next 15 or so miles, and I was back to the leap frog with the coasters. Rode a bit with Chris Kostman (508 and other ultra promoter), there and after lunch. I'm always amazed how he can carry on normal conversation (from his end) on a 10% climb when everyone else is gasping for air, but he always does.

    Since I still had doubts about the completion time, I didn't spend but about 20 minutes at lunch (off the clock for lunch at this event). So we (with CK), headed out fairly quickly. After a few miles he got his third flat tire for the day, and I don't think I saw him again (hope he wasn't stranded, but he said he was ok -- thought he'd catch me on the next long descent where I once hit 57 mph).

    The course is rolling to moderately (under 10%) hilly until Interlake Road after the rest stop around 160 miles. After a liberal application of Chamois Butt'r and taking on more Hammergel and lights picked up from the drop bag left at the Lockwood rest stop, all was well. That is, until the Interlake climb. It's about 2 miles of 10-12%, and man was it tough. One rider behind me complained that it was too painful to watch me mashing at 25 rpms, then went around. It was pure torture, and I had to stop for a minute about 1/4 mile from the top. The steep climbing was taking its toll on the legs, and at some point a brief rest was necessary to work up a little strength to go on. However, once recovered a bit, the summit was reached, then a long descent similar to the climb went on a for a few miles.

    After what seemed like about 10 miles directly north into a headwind, we jumped on Highway 101 for a mile headed south, then exit for the Bradley rest stop around 180 miles. I was in and out of there quickly, as I wanted to get up the next long, but not steep, climb and have some fun with that 15-ish mph tailwind all the way to the finish. The last long climb isn't too bad, but seems to go on and on with some smaller rollers, but with a steep section right at the top to finish you off. The following descent is fairly steep, and about half a dozen riders I passed on the climb came blowing by at 45 mph compared to my "governed" 25 mph. We regrouped a bit on the road to Paso Robles, but with lots of rollers, it was again back to leap frog up and down the hills; the fixie just doesn't "play well with others," when it comes to descents. It got dark just before the 200 mile mark, so I slowed a bit to be careful, as my eyes were a little blurry, and one of my two LED headlights was flickering on and off, making it really hard to see the road edge when an oncoming car's headlights blinded me. Another rider and I finished just before 9 p.m., making the "official" time just under 15 hours, recalling that lunch is "off the clock (total time would have been about 15:14)."

    While I was certainly happy to complete the ride in a decent time and had lots of fun, my legs actually were not in the bad of shape towards the end. Don't know if I could have made any more 12% climbs, but cruising along on the flats at 20+ mph was no problem. I was pleasantly surprised, given that I had some serious doubts whether this ride was even possible fixed, with all the points of contact issues plus the long, steep hills. Over the last month lots of people have provided good advice on some issues, like using cowhorns, keeping the speed down on the descents, using a taller gear, and using some cornstarch in the shorts (thanks, Cindi S.). Hitting the home gym pretty hard, too, helped with the "whole body" nature of hard out of the saddle climbing, when every muscle in the body is recruited to make the cranks go around at 25 rpms on 12+ percent grades.

    This was a test for potentially doing the 508 fixed, and now I think it's completely possible, with enough endurance training and careful attention to the points of contact. The grades on the 508 are not nearly as steep, but longer, which is relatively better for fixed gear. The legs seemed to recover decently from the CCD's hills even with really hard mashing, so the 508 should not be as bad. I guess the test was a success. I was about 2 hours slower than doing the route before, so if the 508 spread is the same, that would put me around 42 hours there. Food, hydration, and electrolytes are no longer an issue for me, as I've firmly established a well working routine with Sustained Energy, Endurolytes (both thankfully supplied at the food stops at the CCD), and Hammergel, and the knowledge to use them wisely from Steve Born.

    I think with enough training on a fixed gear, most riders with decent knees, leg strength, and a solid masochistic streak could do something like this. The hills, up and down, are a real challenge, but to me that's what makes it fun. Doing something you didn't think you could do is what this bike thing is all about.

    Thanks to the CCD volunteers and promoter Brian Stark for a fantastic event. It is very well run, with lots of good food stops and roving SAG cars, all of which slowed to ask if we needed anything along the way. One nice lady in a blue Cherokee stopped twice to give some of us water between food stops later in the ride, which was very welcomed. The course is very well marked, which I appreciate, as I dislike having to pull out a route sheet or ride through the anxiety of wondering whether I missed a turn and am miles off course.

    Maybe Climb to Kaiser fixed next?

    Doug
    deadlegs

    I've breathed the mountain air, man. (J. Cash)

    It's a long way to the top
    . . . if you wanna rock and roll (ac/dc)

  4. #4
    On your left!
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    Wow...

    Wow, that's all I can say, just Wow.

    Wow
    Wow
    Wow
    Wow...

  5. #5

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    You the man!! And you just raised the bar in my book....

  6. #6
    hrv
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    Awesome job, and I figured going taller would help

    Also keeping a check on your spinning sounded like the key also. It's been great reading about your on-going road to the 508. Keep us posted!

    hrv

  7. #7
    Skinny Legged XC MTB geek
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    You are sick

    but you are also an awesome cyclist! Sounds like vivid recall of every painful mile.

  8. #8
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    Great ride report Doug.

    Sick, Sick, Sick

    You do that 508 and Nurse Kratchett will be at the finish line to fill up your water bottles and Elvis will be there to hold your Pista.
    "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." --A. Einstein

  9. #9
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    You da man!

    Great job, Doug. Hope you didn't hit 57mph on this ride...

    Which LED lights were you using? I did my last brevet with a Planet Bike Super Spot (LED), a Cateye EL400 (LED), and an old Cateye Hl500 (Halogen). The Planet Bike was barely adequate front illumination, but had a nice wide beam. The Cateye halogen was a nice bright spot, but lacked the wide beam of the Planet Bike. The Cateye LED was a nice helmet-mounted and helped with navigation (illuminating signs) and illuminating roadside repairs. Cateye's new EL500 looks interesting...

  10. #10

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    lights

    No, the 57 mph was in a 53x12 gear a few years ago, chasing down two tandems to wheel suck.

    I was using an EL200 (older model) and the Cateye Opticube. The EL200 is ok, but gets totally washed out with oncoming headlights. The Opticube is ok, when it works, but kept flikering off on me, being essentially worthless. I have an EL300, which I should have used, but I figured the smaller light would be ok for the short time and terrain I'd be riding in the dark on this ride. I was wrong. I haven't seen the 400 (unless that's the Opticube?) or 500, yet.

    I have three sets of Cygolite dual beam lights, which are great, but relatively heavy and take up a bottle cage. I also have two sets of Niterider Digital Pro LCD lights, which are total crap, as they unexpectedly just go off at any time (something wrong with computer in them).

    I almost never ride in the dark, so I've not experimented much with lights. In the 508, there is always a car right behind, so lights are not an issue. Next time I'll use a decent light, though.

    Doug



    Quote Originally Posted by PdxMark
    Great job, Doug. Hope you didn't hit 57mph on this ride...

    Which LED lights were you using? I did my last brevet with a Planet Bike Super Spot (LED), a Cateye EL400 (LED), and an old Cateye Hl500 (Halogen). The Planet Bike was barely adequate front illumination, but had a nice wide beam. The Cateye halogen was a nice bright spot, but lacked the wide beam of the Planet Bike. The Cateye LED was a nice helmet-mounted and helped with navigation (illuminating signs) and illuminating roadside repairs. Cateye's new EL500 looks interesting...

  11. #11
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    400=Opticube

    Dim lights being washed out by on-coming headlights is a problem. The momentary blindness with dim lights leaves you (me) vulnerable. It contributed to me going down in the 400k brevet. The 500 is supposedly 10 times brighter than the opticube/400 (1200 candlepower vs. 90 candlepower), but is just now being introduced by Cateye.

  12. #12

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    500 sounds good

    The 500 sounds ideal, particularly for weight and run time. I'll keep an eye out for it. Thanks for heads up.

    Doug

    Quote Originally Posted by PdxMark
    400=Opticube

    Dim lights being washed out by on-coming headlights is a problem. The momentary blindness with dim lights leaves you (me) vulnerable. It contributed to me going down in the 400k brevet. The 500 is supposedly 10 times brighter than the opticube/400 (1200 candlepower vs. 90 candlepower), but is just now being introduced by Cateye.

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