Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Pista Rides Again

The other day I decided to dust off my 2005 Bianchi Pista track bike, and slapped on a new chain/cog/chainring, bar tape, brake pads, pedals. Not that I'm sick of my wonderful Ciocc (road) bike, but I figure over the fall/winter months it won't hurt to switch it up a bit. I rode fixed on the road and the track a few years ago, but it's been a while since I've hit the road with only one gear and no coasting.

I used to run a 40x14 and skid a ton, but that's probably what killed my knees back then (77 gear inches, ouch on the uphills!), so now with a 49x19 (68") I can hit the hills with a little more speed. It's not a huge drop but definitely gives me more room on the hills, and forces me to spin even faster on the downhills.

A few photos. The fall colors are apparent, and with the rain and colder temps it's hard to mistake this time of year for anything else.

In the I-90 Tunnel:

As a side note, after years of suffering through winters with knickers, I finally bought some full-length tights. I was really missing out, the extra warmth is nice!

Track handlebars are more curvy than road bars, and without hoods to rest on you're usually either up top or in the drops. And as you can see I have a front brake for the oh-shit moments. But 99% of the time I'm either speeding up or slowing down using the legs. Downhills become a workout, it's definitely different.

Another great thing about fixed gear riding is that once you settle into a nice cadence, it's so smooth and you really do feel "one with the bike," as they say. Though honestly half the time the drivetrain is pedaling for you, e.g. on the upstroke. In fact many road riders/racers train on fixed gears to improve their pedaling 'form', but in fact I think it can make your stroke a little lazy, e.g. you might not be pulling up as much anymore. So I keep that in mind and try to apply force all the way around, to make sure I'm getting a good workout.

And the fixed definitely helps makes me spin! According to this nifty cadence calculator, at a peak speed of 47 km/h on my 49x19 gearing (68") I hit 154 rpm. Of course, that was for all of 30 seconds so there is still work to do, I'd like to be able to hold that for longer by the time next season rolls around. Last year in crit racing I had the gas to stay in the race until the end, but didn't have much to show for a sprint. Hopefully that will change in the coming months, and this bike is part of that plan.

>By the way, I'm not sure how anyone can ride a fixed for long distance rides! I recall Robert slaying a hilly (aren't they all?) 200k last year on his fixed gear.. and SiR extraordinaire Bob B. has been known to do some big rides on fixed gear as well. Hats off to you guys! When I did a two-day STP on this bike back in 2005 my knees were killing me on the second day. But maybe I'll break this out for a 100k populaire next year or something.

Another reason I brought out this bike was to get ready for some track racing out at Marymoor next year! I gave that a shot years ago, but back then I didn't have the endurance even for a 5-lap race. I'm pretty sure I'll be able to do better next time around.

Gears or no gears, here's to a wet fall...


Mars Girl said...

Okay, so, if you could do STP in a fixed gear, I'm imagining it's not too hilly? ;) I'm just wondering. Though I've seem some of those fixtie guys taking some obnoxious hills around here... I'd just like to know what I'm in for as far as STP goes. I was expecting some decent climbing even though everyone from out there says it's not a hard ride.

mattm said...

Ask ten NW cyclists about how hilly STP is, and you'd probably get ten different answers. =] Compared to something like Ramrod or a mountain brevet it's "flat," but compared to an actual flat route it does have a few inclines. But given the local terrain it's about as flat as a double-century can be.

The max elevation is only about 500 ft, and total gain is said to be in the 3-4k foot range. "The hill" is in Puyallup, 50 miles into the ride and is 5-6% for a mile or so. People make a big deal of it but it's not too bad, you could walk it if need be.

There are a bunch more ups and downs along the way, including one memorable steep 50-foot pitch right when you get into Portland.

I've heard lots of local riders say "the last 50 miles is flat" but I definitely don't think that's true at all! There are some "rolling" type inclines around there, and mostly it's the mileage that's wearing on you at that point.

Hope this helps!

Mars Girl said...

Actually, that does help. I think steep-wise, I have done some pretty steep stuff out here (in Ohio, believe it or not--we have river valleys everywhere with 15% grade in some places). I think I'm pretty comfortable with 5-6% climbs. The mileage I'm not worried about. I do centuries out here all the time. I've got the whole "moderation" thing figured out. (I was planning on doing the two-day ride, not the one day). I was figuring STP might have a long climb somewhere. I'm trying to remember what it was like in Colorado, but I was not as much of a cyclist when I lived out there as I am now...and I was still able to climb passes...

Dan O said...

Cool pictures in this post - nice.

I've been riding forever, but have yet to try a fixed gear. I'd want a brake though - for sure.

Seeing the newbie hipsters on fixed gears around Seattle - little scary.

Anonymous said...

I've got my fixed/single which I bust out every few weeks for my commute. As you say, it keeps me in proper form for my spinning. I did a hilly (6000') century on it earlier this year and have vowed never to do something that silly again! I use a 44/18 ratio, and while it's great for climbing long grades like Novelty Hill, or even steep grades like Union Hill, it's terrible for descending.
I have been spending more time on the singlespeed side since that fixed century, and enjoying myself much more!

What chainring are you using on there? Looks pretty sweet.

matt m said...

Hey Clifton, they chainring is a "Rocket" brand, it was the only one the LBS had in the right size, and I'm impatient so I went with it. (I prefer the road-style rings but I can live with it)

Brian said...

Did the Snoqualmie Falls (with the upper loop) ride from West Seattle which turns out to be about 125 on my fixie last season. 42x16.

Notice I said last season because I won't be doing THAT again. I'll stick to riding the Lake and maybe Snohomish every now and then.

George said...

Matt-- Good to see you riding Fixed. I did a century last weekend and did commuting during the week (32 miles each way)49 x 18 ` 72.5 GI. It's time to build the base for next season. I might do the brevet series Fixed.

I have ridden my FG in every conceivable terrain, from paved to light dirt and fire roads to flat, hills and mountains. It's really a lot more fun than multi-speed ;)

Get "Out There" and get some! Here's one ride with a 30 mile climb on my FG

Aaron Edge said...

— I rode last year's STP fixed, two days. First day was flat minus the big hill. The next day was hilly in general. Nothing too bad and because I was training only on a fixed-gear all spring and summer (160-200 miles a week), it wasn't hard and I passed almost everyone that I came next to along the way. That's not me bragging... I'm just sayin' that it is possible and fun to ride fixed in this town and be fast, with it's hills and the STP as long as you train. I've never had knee trouble from my fixed-gear (or my road bikes) like I do when running. Great post, have fun!