Saturday was beautiful in Ottawa. Earlier in the week I'd sent out an email soliciting company for a ride on Sunday. The weather was to be mild, around zero, and there was a minor risk of ice rain. The list of potential wheelmen grew to 6 or seven with hours. I hatched a plan. I'd been planning to build a Steelwool Limited frame up with the parts from my fixed gear in the spring. The Limited fits large tires and fenders, takes brakes front and rear, has excellent road geometry, and is built with standard diameter tubing. It builds up into a great road machine, heavier than the aluminum and carbon framesets I've been using for my fixed road rides, but also far more versatile. Rather than take my Steelwool Secteur 18 out, I thought I'd build the Limited on Saturday and give it a roll. So I rode over on out 'station wagon,' a Kona Ute, fixed Roubaix strapped on, and enjoyed the +2 balminess outside.
Come Sunday morning, I was out the door to meet Neil, Jamie, Steve and Ariel at Gamelin. Brad and Marty would ride about an hour later, also keen to take advantage of the weather. It was a day of firsts: first ride on the Limited, first 100k fixed ride for Steve, first ride since July for Ariel, first time riding Shouldice for Neil, and first time receiving an awesome nickname for Jamie: Iceman. See, Jamie seems to be nearly impervious to cold. He removed his jacked about 30k in. He's always the one wearing the least. Iceman.
We rolled a straghtforward route to Wakefield, then continued north for an extended loop. The 105 and River road were excellent, devoid of ice. As we transitioned onto River road a man outside the restaurant yelled 'Get a car!' I found that rather amusing, as did we all. Particularly ironic as Neil is a car mechanic. He has one. I don't want one, but hey, I like a ride once in a while.
There is a low section of River road near Wakefield that always features ice. We made it through fine. Neil and Steve ran studded front tires. Iceman was on slick Contis, myself on a file tread and a semi-slick. No problems. We all ran full fenders and flaps, though we only really encountered dry pavement and snow covered dirt north of Wakefield. All in all, the road surfaces were completely fine for either treaded or studded tires.
All in all our route had us all door to door a little over 100k, which is longer than the first ride we did last year. Yet the legs felt better, indicating the trainer time is certainly helping. I'll gear down from my 44x16 to a 46x17 for the next ride though, this was just too tall with the heavier treaded tires and lack of in-season fitness.
I'll write more on the Limited as I spend more time on it, but for now I'll say my first impressions are positive. The first thing I noticed was the remarkable stiffness in the bottom bracket area. The bike runs an oversized bb shell to accommodate the eccentric. I've been riding a variety of steel bikes for a while, and this is definitely the stiffest in feeling bike in the pedals. With a tall gear, I found the bike did not work with me. However, when I got it rolling I found it synced with my spin very well. I felt the seatstays were noticeably resilient, absorbing road shock rather well. Jamie remarked that his feels much smoother in the rear end than his Salsa Casserole, which has larger diameter stays. The front end of the bike is completely neutral. It steers itself, its just there. Riding no hands is completely natural, and the bike feels very stable spinning way to fast down hills. I noticed no unwanted flex in the front end whatsoever. The fork seems to balance well with the rear end of the bike. I think my bb drop is around 72-73 mm in its present position; it felt neither low nor high. This is a bike that hums along really well at speed. We'll be riding Rideau Lakes on fixed gears this year, and this will be my tool of choice. I'm looking forward to it!
Here's a map of today's route.