No sooner have i just completed a botty suffering 200k with little training, i am planning another and a little soon.
many times on Mr Pickwicks January sale did i think 200k is a bloomin' long way, the time it takes is so significant that you start in the darkness and finish in the darkness, longer than a standard days works by another 50%, i was left thinking that i could enjoy long rides if they were, say, no more than 8 hours. After completing the ride i did mention this in passing but i dont think my buddy Tim even noticed, completing 200k's week in week out its as part of his life as 3 square meals so it probably didn't register.
That said, stupidly the next day i text Tim saying "are you free on the 18th" my thoughts were to a local (to me) 200k which from the description implied it might be flat enough to do single speed.
AAAAAaaaaarrrrrgggggghhhhhhhh what was i thinking, i have just suffered more than I have done for a couple of years on any bike ride and i am suggesting doing another one, 2 weeks later, in the winter, with no gears, what an idiot. Of course i couldn't rely on Tim to suggest that the idea was a dumb one, so i find my self booked on to the "Willy Warmer 200k" audax
Over the christmas break i built up a new single speed cyclocross bike, a combination of new and second hand parts, looks pretty cool but at this point i have only ridden round the block to set it up and spend some quality time with my little girl on her single speed. again i am feeling a little optimistic and perhaps being sucked in by new bike excitement.
I looked at the gps route for the Willy Warmer it looked like the steepest hills were 8% ish maybe with short areas being up to 12% but these hills were few and far between.
I looked at routes i knew at both home and work to test my ability to get up hills steep and long enough to be comparable to the 200k on the 18th, this would be the decider for me if i was going to commit to gears or single speed (of course Tim had already made his mind up!)
Wednesday i decided to try out my lunchtime loop, this is a mostly flat route, only about 15 miles but it goes up the shallow side of a pretty steep hill right next to my work which i reckoned must be an 8%'er.
I was pretty chuffed that i road it well and the steep hill ended up being 10%. looking good.
Thursday i thought i'd do the same with a slight difference. The main hill "Beacon Hill" is very steep in my humble opinion, i have only ridden up it once before and it felt at the time that it nearly killed me. Irrespective of all the tough hills i cycled on LEJOG in 2010 and everything before and since then including the 25% devils stair case in wales and the notorious ditchling beacon, i kid you not, the hill outside my work is the only one i fear. My difference was to be to attempt this intimidating hill with only 1 gear, realistically i wanted to see how steep it really was and how far i could get up it and how hard and long would it then take to walk the rest. after "THE HILL" the route would be the largely flat route of the day before.
I set off, not without some intrepidation, i don't use the route as part of my daily commute so i didn't know there were temporary traffic lights part way up, these were initially a welcome sight, i had climbed up the shallow start which was enough to be getting warm and a little out of breath. The lights were against me so i thought when they went green i would let the cars go, so i would be able to struggle as best i could for as long as i could without an audience. This was not to be some flippin builder in a truck let me out, when did a flat bed truck ever let anyone out, sicko knew i was going to struggle i reckon. having been let out by the building i now needed to perform, engaged pedals and off i went, initially i went like a whippet, i was quite impressed and delusional for a time whilst i had the pressure of the truck and following cars breathing down my neck, then the weaker part of my mind engaged, quickly assessing, Sherlock Holmes style, the possible escape routes, the width of the road, allowing for vehicles to overtake and the end of the temporary lights, assessment complete my pace plummeted. The following vehicles got bored and whizzed past having seen what they expected to see, a MAMIL struggling up a hill that they had to engage low ratios to get up themselves. What they didn't see though was me getting off and walking,
i dug deep, my knees screamed (not recovered from the 200k days previous) but i trudged on and made it to the top, if i wasn't so knackered and wobbly i would have punched the air and then turned round and given Beacon Hill "the bird" what a result, no longer will "Beacon Hill" hold me to ransom, completed on a single speed i was really really pleased with myself. I uploaded my route on STRAVA (2014's route plotting weapon of choice, jury's out on whether its any good yet) where upon i saw that i was 485th fastest up beacon hill, on the front page in the top ten was Rabi from work, a super fit 20 something who aptly went to a fancy dress party recently as a Greek gladiator, pecks an' all, i was a little deflated but not much. tops out at 20.1%, that IS steep and a good omen for the impending Willy Warmer.
Saturday and my final ride of the week was a sort of reconnaissance ride, i wanted to see how long it would take to get to Ascot train station on my single speed, assuming that it would take longer with only one speed.
My preferred route is to take the towpath along the Thames up to Windsor, this however was flooded near Eton which resulted in having to stop in ankle deep freezing cold water, no longer a preference and stuffing up my time check i cycled home, turned around in order to do another run at it, next preferred route was to take the national cycle network route round the back of Eton up to the Windsor and Eton bridge, stuffed again...flooded, confounded rain. back track again, decided to get back to the road and take my least preferred option up to the station, turn around and back home again. It was a nice ride with bright clear sky's lots of cyclists out which is nice to see, unlike the continued snobbery of cycling factions. A peculiar phenomenon, roadies snear and the mountain bikers, mountain bikers snear at the roadies, single speeders snear at both. As my attire was a combination of road gear, mountain bike gear finished off with my commuting jacket whilst riding a single speed cyclocross with disk brakes, everyone sneared or rather i should say, ignored me and my jolly care free greetings. A lovely ride never the less with a long gradual climb peaking at 7%.
3 rides of testing my resolve up varying hills and i am happy to have gained the confidence to commit to single speed'ing the Willy Warmer feeling i at least have a chance of getting up every hill without walking, fatigue permitting it is after all still a bloomin' long way.
total distance the week was 87K, total this year 287K