Vacation Monday was the last day. But I didn’t let it go to waste.
I’d debated bringing my bike along, and ultimately decided not to. Mostly because I had the 15 miler planned on Saturday, and expected to be completely destroyed. However, despite hiking Sunday, etc, I was feeling pretty good Sunday afternoon, and had been watching other cyclists all weekend. Plus, the weekend was perfect, we’d driven the road up to the Notch and knew that it was a nice, smooth piece of pavement, and I was feeling frisky.
So, I broke down and rented a bike from these guys. Ended up being better than bringing my own bike, for reasons I’ll go into later.
The plan was to wake up early, climb the road up to the top of the pass at Smuggler’s Notch, and come down and explore in the valley a bit. I stopped in the shop Sunday afternoon to see if I could rent the bike in the evening and return it in the morning. They said “sure”, and went to grab the bike. One of the employees had been planning on taking an afternoon ride on it, and instantly, guilt kicked in. But, since we were staying pretty much across the street from the shop, I said I’d be back to pick it up after she got back. She’s happy, I’m happy, good whuffie all around.
Monday morning – alarm goes off, I pop out of bed, pull on my shorts, and sneak out the door. Started riding out of town. Took about an hour to get to the 10th Mountain Division memorial, about where they stop plowing the road in winter in an hour, and took a break. The first 7 or 8 miles were pretty much cake, but as I started getting towards the Stowe ski area, there were some pretty decent hills. Took a break here here since it had seemed really intense in the car above this point.
The climb from here to the top was not nearly so bad as I thought it would be. Two miles or so, little less than a half hour, and a couple of wicked switchbacks. The picture at the beginning of the post is about a mile above the 10th’s rest stop. But basically, I clicked down into granny gear early and often, and spun for Jesus. And wondered how a pro could keep double digit speeds up for ten times further than this climb…
Eventually, I made it!
The ride down – Wow. The top, with the hairpins, was hairy. Again, I gained a tremendous amount of respect for the folks who can descend with abandon – I was a brake-riding son-of-a-gun until I could see more than a quarter mile of straight road at a time. After that, I completely flew. Took me maybe 15 minutes to get back into town; 15 minutes to cover about an hour and a half of riding uphill. No speedo on the bike, so I’ve got no clue what Max V was. All I know is that the grin’s still pretty much impacted in my face from the wind.
After I got most of the way back to town by converting into kinetic energy (along with a little bit of joyous pedaling in the big ring/small cog just to see how fast I could go) the amazing amount of potential energy I’d stored by pushing my butt up the hill with MY OWN LEGS!, I hung a right and headed across to the head of the Moscow valley just south of this one. Not nearly as much climbing, but it felt great just to stretch out on the bike. Stopped at this park, walked for a while, and looked at what was likely a great trout stream.
Dropped the bike off at the shop after a little more than 3 hours in the saddle. Haven’t plugged it into the gmaps pedometer, but I’m sure it’s a slow, slow average speed. But it made me happy. Went back to the room, climbed in the tub for a real bath, and waited for Melissa to get done with her massage. Drove home happy as a clam.
Bike was a Specialized Allez Sport. Aluminium, Tiagra, Triple, carbon fork. Pretty decent stuff for a rental, and in great condition. I did my best to ride the heck out of it. Bike geek observations:
1) With the compact frame, I felt a little scrunched up. The guy at the shop did a great job adjusting it – moved the seat both up and down but also back and forth and tilted it until I was happy. But I couldn’t quite stretch out like I can on my Cannondale. Stem would have solved it.
2) I loved the compact frame for climbing – my knees were going over the bar instead of banging into it.
3) I hated the compact frame while descending. It was stable as a rock, but I couldn’t clamp my knees on it to keep them from knocking.
4) I’m losing all of my cyclist style points, but I’m going to be a triple riding Fred come next spring. The darn thing was amazing – whenever I started feeling the burn, there was a lower ring to click to, and I could keep spinning. Granted, my speed dropped way down – with the double, about the slowest I can get while climbing before I stall is 6 miles per hour. With the triple, I’m guessing I was hitting around 4 mph on the steepest sections and still climbing.
5) Ye cats – did I mention how I’d be swapping brake pads about every mile the next time I go riding in the mountains? Scared stiff, even though the bike was in great shape. Speed builds up quick.
6) One drawback for me on the compact frame (size 52) – not enough room to actually get a bottle into the cage on the seat tube.
7) I completely lucked out coming back from canoeing – we stopped at a bike shop having a tent sale, and I picked up a pair of decent shorts for about 50% of what I would have expected to pay. This was what made me know I needed to go ride.