Friday, February 27, 2009

Must Climb...

Thursday was another mild one here, about +5 mid-day. Despite a sore back that manifested while on the trainer (huh?) on Tuesday, I thought it would be a good idea to get on the bike and hit some hills. It so happens that one need not go too far to find a few good climbs; good for this time of year anyhow. I planned to ride Kingsmere Road, out to the end of Meech Road, then up and over Notch Road. This would constitute a pretty tame ride during the season, so I was curious to see how it felt.

Riding out to Kingsmere road felt good, no issues. The road was in fine shape heading out, no ice , few puddles. The climb went well enough, though certainly considerably slower than in season. I don't have a computer on the fender bike, which is probably a good thing. I used my 36x27 a bit. The road surface was pretty varied, from wet pavement to packed ice with snow and sandy gravel over top. I slipped my rear tire a few times on the way up, which got me thinking about how I'd fare on the descent. Hmmm. Some sections were snowy enough to provide a constant steam of snow spray onto my feet and shins. Kinda cool.

One at the end of the line I turned around and hit the descent. No problems, stayed off the brakes and kept to the darkest surfaces. Cool. Out and over to Meech Road next, which is also a mix of surfaces, but altogether good. Todays rain will likely clear much of the snow. Out to the RCMP gate and back, then toward Notch. By this time I knew my breakfast was inadequate, and the single gel I had would not really do. I metered it out in three hits as I approached, crested Notch, and hit the bridge back to town. Definitely in bonk land now due to my inadequate fuelage I kept up the pace to Tall Tree and managed to keep away from the white tunnel. The guys greeted me with a couple cookies, an apple and a coffee. Mmmm. That's all it took to recover. So ended my first self inflicted thrashing of the year. The other rides so far have not hurt me like this one. I will try to do the route a few more times before the Icebreaker to get the climbing going. If all goes well I'll be climbing stronger before long. Hopefully the other Tall Tree riders will be out to join me on the road soon. 

The boys from the shop are attending the North American Handmade Bicycle Show this weekend, but Neil and I will keep things rolling on Saturday. Pop in for a visit if you're in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Update: Hell of the North

A few weeks ago while on the Rapha Continental site I came across mention of a potential Gentleman's Race from in the Toronto area in April. A couple emails later, I had confirmation that the event, dubbed the Hell of the North (a la Paris-Roubaix), will run April 12th. I had assumed that the event would follow Rapha's 6-person team format, but it appears it will be a free for all instead. The route is to be 80k, which is just about the same as the OBC's Roubaix later in the month. This event should be a great opportunity to get some solid ride time in unfamiliar territory. Click the link on the side bar for more info.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sunday Snow Ride

Sunday presented a rare opportunity to ride on snow covered trails. A number of the F3 crew assembled at a secret location, and proceeded to mix riding and falling in near equal quantities. Much of the crust held up well, while some sections suffered from rutting, which made the return rather difficult. We managed to groom this snow nicely for the pair of backcountry skiers we encountered. A few of the downhills warranted sessioning, and the final descent was outstanding. A personal best ever snow downhill for myself.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spring for a day

When the forecast calls for +8 in February in Ottawa a ride must be planned. Such weather poses a rare opportunity to leave the indoor trainer/skis/running shoes/shovelglove at home and saddle up for a taste of spring. I managed to rope Jamie for a second time this week; he was happy to play hooky in order to ride.

What a great day it was, despite having to fix a severely warped rear wheel while still in Hull. No, I'm not so inattentive as to roll out of the house with a wheel on its last legs. Rather, I am so inattentive that I like to pull endo turns in front of my riding companions from time to time, which tends to result in me getting t-boned. This is just what I did today, seconds after passing a middle-aged man walking three dogs who wanted to fight me because I passed him at 10k/hr while he took up all the pavement on a narrow street. Weird. I pulled an endo-turn so I could return to take him on, dogs and all, only to be t-boned by Jamie instead.  Or because we missed the path we needed to take. My rear wheel suffered a tacoing, which I had to address. We found a good parking lot where I proceeded to smack it on the ground until it was close enough to true with my pathetic multi-tool spoke wrench. I need to resume carrying a real spoke wrench on rides. With a minor brake adjustment to assure no rubbing, we were off. A tacoed wheel is no match for +8 in February.

Again, Jamie and I headed for Wakefield, along the same route as Sunday. This time it was only a bit windy, and warm enough for a vest on top of a few layers.

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My fenders with their extensions allowed Jamie to ride in tight without getting hosed, but I had no such luck as his bike lacked an extension on the rear. After getting a few facefulls of grimy salt water I opted to either ride off his shoulder or pull. I mostly pulled, which definitely created plenty of 'sensations.' Good sensations though, productive. We managed a good tempo, averaging around 30k/hr, which is good all things considered. My wheel held its shape all the way home; good thing, as I didn't have time to burn. A bit of WD-40 here and there to prevent corrosion until I have time to clean the bike, and on with the day. Splendid.

The out and back to Wakefield from Ottawa makes a great early season ride. Roughly 80k in total, the route is rolling, even feeling hilly early in the season. Later in the year it feels fairly flat. How perception varies. Traffic tends to be quite tame, and courteous. The road has a useable shoulder much of the time, and is in decent shape. This time of year there are necessarily holes, and the odd bit of snow near town, so bigger than average tires are nice. We tend to use 26s and larger; 28s on bikes lacking clearance for larger, and 30s and 32s on bikes with the room. I'm using the file-tread Vittoria cyclo-cross tire at the moment, and find it a good option. When you slam into the odd pot-hole its nice to have some extra rubber on to protect the rim. 

Hoping for more opportunities to ride outside soon. Sunday might just fly.

Monday, February 9, 2009

So it begins...

Jamie and I decided to get out for a ride rather than ski on Sunday. The forecast had been promising above zero air all week, but as the day drew nearer the forecast looked a little less appealing. I was on the fence, but Jamie's enthusiasm to get out on the bike easily swayed me, and a meeting time and place were agreed upon. 

We met up at Gamelin and Lac des Fes and headed north. Headed for Wakefield, we opted for the mellow route: Mine Rd, Notch, Scott, 105, River Rd. This is the most direct way to ride to Wakefield, and the traffic tends to be pretty quiet, and for the most part, considerate. 

We met a strong headwind as we pedaled north. Being Jamie's first and my second proper ride of 2009, our legs were not quite up to pounding into the wind. I rode too high a gear much of the time and felt it around the knees. It really is best to keep the cadence up in the wind. The roads on this route are not smooth or wide enough for echelon technique, so the cross-winds took their toll on us regardless of positioning. The wind element was the one factor I overlooked in my preparation, which I paid for with cold feet. I was trying a combination of polypro liner socks with thin wool then and gore-tex socks over top. If not for the wind this would have worked at -7 or so, but it was not adequate then. Likely not enough air between feet and gore-tex socks. I'll hope for better results on Wednesday, when it is supposed to be +8 and raining. Ride, eat, rest, work, repeat. Or something.

We arrived at Pipolinka in Wakefield just in time to keep the toes from cold to the point of being a real problem. Hot epanada, coffee, treats, water, tea, juice, spring roll and banana make a great lunch for the two of us. After some very pleasant conversation and a good rest we pulled out wool back on for the return 40. 

Rolling back south we encountered the only snow section on the ride. Just outside Wakefield, about 1km of the road is covered, a mix of packed and loose snow, depending on sun exposure. The knobby 38c tires that slogged over the road everywhere else were very predictable on this stuff. However, Jamie's 28c lightly treaded tires were no match for the snow, and a dynamic dismount was required about halfway through. No problem, pretty tame compared to mountain bike spills.

Along the Gatineau river we dropped the hammer with the wind at our backs. The climbs we faced allowed us to test our legs; would they falter as they had on past first rides? No, not this time. While slower than usual, we managed fine, testament to the benefits of spending time on the skinny skis every week and commuting to work on the bike. Swirling winds posed a challenge as we progressed, but thoughts of completion stayed away until nearly home. We parted ways in Hull, both content to still have power in the legs, though perhaps some discomfort. So much better than the empty feeling one can get early in the season. 

So it begins. Wednesday will likely be unseasonably warm, and pose an opportunity to put in some more quality miles. The ride to Wakefield will suffice for a time, probably until March, when extended routes with more climbing should become practicable. The backroads are likely ok now, but getting some solid steady effort rides in for a few more rides will be good. Hopefully the weather in March will allow for adequate preparation for the Tour of the Battenkill and the Paris-Roubaix. The Uxbridge Icebreaker might even get into the mix on the first weekend of April. If so, the 50k mtb race will offer plenty of intensity to draw from for the following events. Sounds like a plan.

If I think I'll actually be able to convince more than a couple others to forsake their skis and ride in March, I'll post plans here. Otherwise, I'll stick with email fishing.