I thought about rounding up a posse to head down to LA for this but work got the better of me. Next time, Mudfoot. Hopefully there’s a next time.
Last Friday I took a little ride out to the Headlands and then a butter lap around the city. Well, 28 miles isn’t that little but it’s a nice loop with an out-and-back. I got some PRs and the views made a heck of a great way to start the day.
What does it mean to climb a mountain on a bike? The act is such that one must settle into a sustainable rhythm for the duration of the climb while leaving enough in the tank for the rest of the ride. Giving it all for one ascent is good for a time trial, but not for a ride with other, perhaps longer, climbs.
Climbing a mountain requires a certain amount of cognizance of one’s own limits.
Climbing a mountain with a group can be a strange game. A mixed group offers its perils. Your stocky sprinter friend may have effort enough for the first third, but he’ll bag it and collapse. The willowy type will float away –– the temptation is strong to follow them, but to do so is to risk peril and cramps. Eye your fellow riders, judging them by weight and past experience. It’s obvious to note that, but it’s true.
Beating your friends up a mountain is also parcel with beating the mountain itself. You want to feel the satisfaction in equal parts from achieving dominance over people you care about while also conquering a huge feature of terrain.
Metering out effort via power or heart rate is perhaps the more scientific and accurate approach, but gut intuition has its place. You’ll make your attacks when it feels right. Try not to let your competition ride away from you. If you do let them ride away from you, you’ve already lost. They won’t slow down until they reach the top. You shouldn’t slow down until you reach the top. Don’t be the last one up the mountain, but if you are the last one up the mountain, you also beat the mountain. That is victory.
Learning how to beat your friends up a mountain is also learning how to lose.
(The below does not apply to mountains; it applies to hills. Mountains are a different topic for a different day.)
1,000 feet from the top of the hill, you listen carefully over the sound your own breathing and the wind for the sound of your competition’s breath. Gauge how harsh it sounds: if it’s choked and gasping, that’s good. Push on harder, get it ragged. At 600 feet, look back to see if there’s a shadow. If there is, push on harder. If there isn’t, push on harder.
200 feet, turn around completely to gauge your opponent. If they’re gone, roll on easy. If they’re right there, go as hard as you possibly can. Continue pedaling hard over the crest and spin on –– never let off at the top, lest you get taken out on the flat top of the hill before the descent toward the bottom. You would be well-served to shift into the big ring at this point, maybe sip on some water to wash the phlegm down your throat.
That is how you beat your friends up a hill.
At the end of June last year, my friend Adam proposed a group of friends get together for a morning bike ride around the Marin Headlands before work. Adam and I gave it a go the next morning. We met at 7 a.m. at the corner of Baker and Fell where the Golden Gate Panhandle begins and climbed Hawk Hill just across the Golden Gate Bridge before work.
Shortly thereafter, the ride became a routine with a rotating crew of 7 or so friends, and now every Wednesday morning at 6:45a, we gather at the same spot to tackle a 20-30 mile ride before we head into the tech mines. Adam started an email with the subject “Roll Call” to determine who would be joining for the ride the next morning and eventually we all came to know the cycling club as that.
This past Sunday, we went on an inaugural weekend ride that we’ll be adding to our weekly routine. Ever since first riding down the west side of Hawk Hill via Conzelman Road, at its steepest a -20% grade, and doing the full Headlands loop, I’ve wanted to capture the experience, and on this ride, I finally brought my new GoPro Hero3 to do so. What you see above is as close as I can come to sharing the thrill of the ride.
This is my Wednesday group ride. It’s a great mix of folk as Bill recounts here. I’m also pleased to have been part of this video. It was a fantastic Sunday.
Unpublished photos from the 1953 Tour De France. It makes today’s racing look completely gutless in comparison.
Beyond where the pavement ends, that’s where I came to my stop on a ride last week. I took in the lodgepole pines, bear warning signs, the melt water in the ditch. The distant hum of I-80 a reminder that I was not really alone.
I was tired –– many of my rides have been hard and climby to prepare for a full year of racing, touring, commuting –– so I was moving slow up the climb into California’s Sierra County. I felt unsatisfied with how I was riding, the heavy soreness in my legs, the cold chill on my ears. There was no zen moment, except when I stopped to view the valley.
The descent back down and the ride toward home was much better. Likely due to the wind at my back and the promise of lunch, I moved along better than I did when I started out. And I now think that I was also spurred along by that moment of quiet and calm where I was able to rest and take in a small parcel of the Great West.
I started the day off on the wrong foot. I awoke early, looked at the weather and grossly underestimated my need for more layers. Bibs, a wool baselayer and a long sleeve roubaix jersey. Plus a wind vest. Too much synthetic, not enough natural fibrous warmth.
My mind also slipped on the fact that I had changed out my wheelset back to my Mavic Ksyrium SLs. A truth that was quickly brought to my attention by my slippage and wonky rear shifting. Oh yeah, that cassette needs an extra spacer.
The wind cut through my core to the bone and I called it after a few blocks. I headed home and decided to let it be.
Later in the afternoon, I took it again as a sign that my wireless keyboard had exhausted its rechargeable batteries — two sets of them — and with no wired keyboard to be found, I decided to make up for this morning’s mishaps and headed out for a quick jaunt up to Twin Peaks. I made it up and down the backside and then, legs still full of vigor, went back up against the headwinds and climbed it out.
I took the photo above, after I climbed back up the backside and this was when I remembered I needed the extra spacer in the rear wheel. I decided to cut the ride short, satisfied with the efforts.
I’m surprised and transformed. I used to abhor climbing. Now I kinda like it, relish it a little. This I can attribute to the primal/paleo lifestyle that I’ve been adhering to for almost a year, and the body transformation that’s occurred because of it. That may be a post for another time.
Today, up, up, up!