Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vertical Insanity

Its hill climbing madness around here. That is to say, I don't climb hills very well, and anyone who climbs faster than me is mad. But I have a twisted sense of dedication, so its my duty to keep up with the pack. Or try to. Mostly. Sometimes.

My excuse is that I weigh alot. Most of the folks I ride with weigh about a buck-seventy or less, so I make out that the extra thirty pounds I carry is all the difference in the world. On the group rides I really like to show off my power by pulling the lead-outs, but when the grade passes 5%, I sit up and take it easy. Truth is, I'm vertically apathetic - I just can't say so in mixed company. Its not cycling-chic. One must cotton to the pain! Or speak of the suffering! Can a brother get some sanity up in this bitch?

An old hand once told me that I "smooth it" up hills. I guess that charaterizes it pretty well. I have a certain cadence and breathing rhythm that I like to maintain, and humping it up Marshall hill with a grimace on isn't smooth. More important, I've noticed over the years that the typical driver is more apt to run you off the road if he sees you hunched over the bars, grinding your teeth. They subconciously think "Fred" and try to do you a favor by putting you out of your misery. Whereas flashing a cool, confident glance from a relaxed, upright position gets you an escort plus half-dressed women and cold beer at the next light. Guess which one I go for?

So why everyone on the group ride has to try to fly up these hills is beyond me. The kids? You can't tell them anything anyhow, so I let them go on with their hill-repeats and their suffering-fests. But the older folk? My generation? Its brain washing I guess. Maybe too many Gatorade commercials and "Cyclism" reruns on Versus. I was aghast to find out that one of my Sunday compadres does interval sprints uphill "just like you see in the Tour". May the ghosts of Fat Tire have mercy on his soul.

On the other hand, riding a single-speed puts a whole new perspective on riding. Call me the Gray Hipster, but I enjoy riding a fixie more than my racing bike. Why? Because no matter what I do, I can only go so fast, especially uphill. I tend to get a better look at my surroundings, and cars get a better look at me, too. I've found that my riding is style is perfect for a fixie. That cadence and breathing rhythm that I like keeps my efforts constant, and I can get around any terrain or in any kind of traffic with more power, manuverabilty, and visibility than a multi-gear bike. Its all in the leg speed.

Its also more relaxed. When the grade gets steep, only smooth will do it on a single speed. Sometimes the only choice is to stand up and mash it out; but the effort doesn't feel the same as spinning large in the bottom chainring. As a matter of fact, it doesn't feel much like effort at all. I've tried to find the same gear combinaton on the Litespeed without luck. Experimenting isn't an easy thing to do on fast group rides, and I have to maintain my suffering facade. Nevertheless I keep trying, and so I continuously get dropped on steep hills. Not that I'm really losing anything, its just so tempting to try to keep up.

So in the interest of picking up more style points while improving my climbing power, I must first improve my explosive, mild-mannered smooth.

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