Road descending: Remembering what fast is
Just finished a two-hour road ride with my neighbor Larry. I am a mountain biker for a reason, but freeroading is rad.
Route: From home in the Boulder hills down to Olde Stage Road, over to Left Hand Canyon Road, up to Jamestown, over Lee Hill Road then back up to the house.
Setup: ‘Cross bike with drop bars, 34c tires (fat!) and lilly-livered cantilever brakes. I really need to dial in those straddle cables, but whatever. Oh yeah, and full-wrap fenders. I fear no puddle.
Excuses: The more debilitating your excuses, the more awesome your performance. I’ve been getting four hours of sleep per night for five weeks. Last night I crushed myself on the trainer. Sympathetic weight gain. I have fenders! And darn — my helmet mirror is on my other helmet.
Uphill: My mind, soul and legs felt heavy, weak and slow. Neighbor Larry is a hammer, and I settled for a rear view of his repeated throw-downs. Go Larry!
Downhill: I adhere to the ancient tradition of freeroading. Get yourself up the hill as economically as you can, then pin it down. It’s been 10 years since my freeroading peak, but that sweet, speedy precision: It’s still in there somewhere.
Coming down Lee Hill Road — straight/fast punctuated by turny/tight — I was rolling along fine, pretty fast, out of touch with the bars and brakes and tires, but going fine. Then WHOOSH! a dude in Garmin Slipstream pro kit zipped by.
So that’s what fast is.
Time to let it roll. Brake late, fold it in and find the next turn. Scan way ahead. Blend the entire road into a wave of high-speed, high-traction happiness.
Speedy Pro Guy kept looking over his shoulder: “Who’s this goof with the fenders?”
Hey man, I worked for this descent, and I’m gonna make the best of it.
Hey Lee, we’ve got guys drafting us past Rock City.
A little history for everyone:
Circa 1995. Scott and I had just won the tandem class at the Mt. Diablo hill climb in NorCal’s East Bay (that was all Scott), and we were pinning it back down.
Back then, no single bike could hang with the double-heavy juggernaut. I was racing a lot of DH, Scott was fearless and we had some sticky 1.5″ slicks. Some dudes latched on at Rock City, as Scott says, and we dropped all but one in short order.
The last guy held on across a long, fast straight. We dove in deep, braked late and folded into the turn. Double braaap!
The poor guy didn’t make it. He hit the hillside and got helicoptered out.
After that, NORBA banned Scott and me from mass start tandem downhill road racing.
Racing that bike at Sea Otter XC with muddy V-brakes:
“We’re on a tandem and we can’t stop!”
This wouldn’t be Larry DeWitt would it?
No sir. Not the Larry DeWitt who placed 86 out of 973 at the 2009 Leadville 100.
So much for six degrees.