Posted by: fizzhogg | April 12, 2011

ROCK STAR

Yes, Virginia, there is a HUGE difference between aluminum and carbon fiber.

Good Lord. Yes, Gaz hinted at it, but you didn’t really tell us the complete truth, did you, mate?

Yesterday was my first ride on UNFAT II, which, after yesterday’s first ride, will from this moment forth be known as THE GOAT. Is it Goat as in The Greatest Of All Time? Or is it the GOAT as in, she climbs like a mountain goat?

Yes.

The Ride

It was 48 degrees F when I wheeled Unfat II – The Goat out of my little place in Cycling Mecca. I was nervous – did I just blow a ton of money on something I didn’t need? Something that won’t be that much different than The Unfat Machine? I thought back to a couple of warnings the LBS gave me when I picked up the Goat.

1 – “It might feel a little whippy.”

Huh?

They explained that, compared to The Unfat Machine, the Goat may feel whippy, as it is so much lighter and responds so much faster, that a rider who is not prepared for this may in fact… crash. Due to whippiness.

Okay, be ready for whippiness. Gotcha.

2 – Be careful on steeps hills of popping the front end.

Huh?

They explained that the Goat is so light compared to the UM that when I’m climbing up a particularly steep grade, and am pulling back on the bars as you are supposed to do, take care not to pull the front end completely off the ground.

No wheelies. Gotcha.

Okay, so I roll the Goat out of my place and clip into the Dura-Ace carbon pedals. Now, here is where I should pause to share with you that my little place in Cycling Mecca is located at the base of a narrow driveway that, while only about 30 meters in length, has a gradient of 18-20%.

That’s right. It’s always fun when I leave and have to circle around, putting the UM into my granny and then struggling to crank up that grade before my ride has even started.

Let me pause yet again to remind you that the UM was a triple crank. 52/39/30 in the front, 12-25 in the rear, for you gearheads. And despite advice to the contrary from Hova, I went with the compact 50/34, 11-28 on the Goat. Less weight, less shifting, and when you compare granny to compact, the 30-25 ratio is almost identical to the 34-28. Meaning, the triple really only has a slight advantage over the compact.

Anyway, enough calculus. Or trig. Or algebra. Or whatever the heck it is we’re talking about. Bottom line – I have no more triple.

Where was I? Oh, yes. So, I clip in and start to pedal – thinking (or not thinking) that it will be just like my old bike in that I will slowly begin to move toward the grade.

Uh, no.

I push down with my clipped-in foot and the Goat responds like a machine possessed – exploding toward the grade. In less than two full cranks I am already going up, my left foot is not clipped in, and the Goat is WHIPPING all over the place.

I make one of the best decisions I’ve made in recent years and decide to stop.

I dismount and walk her back down the 5 or 6 meters that I had already climbed in a spastic zig-zaggy motion.

Back at the bottom I reevaluate. Okay, so yes, whippy. Okay, so there might be something to this whole power transfer thing. I move back as far as I can from the driveway (the grade), and clip in again, this time fully concentrating on getting that second shoe clipped in before I begin to ascend.

I manage to pull it off and before I know it I am halfway up the grade and… popping wheelies. Two, three, four times the front of the Goat jumps off the ground like some Mexican dog snapping at a pinata.

But before I even know what’s happening I am at the summit of the grade. I went up this 18-20% (based on Hal 9000’s calculations) so fast I wasn’t even aware of it until it was over.

That, dear readers, is what’s called foreshadowing.

ROCK STORE

As I left my little place and began riding on the chubby bike lanes of Cycling Mecca, I was just trying to get used to the Goat. The power transfer thing is truly unreal. The difference between pushing down on these Ultegra pedals as opposed to the SPD’s of the old Unfat Machine is staggering. I had heard cyclists like Hova talk of power transfer – of how when you have these types of pedals, your power is transferred to the bike so much faster and so much more efficient. But until you truly experience it, you have No. Clue.

Getting used to the types of pedals takes a bit of focus, but it is not daunting. Just spend 5 minutes practicing clipping in and out, getting used to flipping the pedal with your toe to get it in the proper position. Yes, it can be annoying at first, but the trade-off is worth a week of annoyance. Seriously, you suddenly feel like you are 25% lighter AND 25% stronger – just because of clipless pedals.

If you don’t have them… get them. Now.

It’s like the Goat is a living, breathing creature. Some sort of mythic dragon that is desperate to gain flight. I was spinning along at 23mph and honestly, it felt like it does when I spin at 16mph on the UM.

Since I had not ridden any bike in over three weeks – and in that time my eating habits have nose-dived – and I had probably gained four or five pounds, I was nervous about doing any sort of difficult ride. I just wanted to ride and get used to the Goat. But the more I pedaled, the more I felt like there was only one destination…

Rock Store.

Yes, I hadn’t ridden in 24 days. Yes, I was fat and bloated and out of habit. But the Goat seemed to be begging, no, ordering me to go there. So there I went.

My personal best time up Rock Store had been 23 minutes, 15 seconds. I had ridden it four times before yesterday. My second best time was 23:42. I figured that maybe the strength of the Goat would balance out the fact that I was not in riding shape, and maybe I could get close to, or if luck was on our side, even break my record.

I started the climb in my… I don’t know the real cycling terminology so I will just say – I started the climb in my third-to-easiest gear. Meaning there were two more easier gears I could shift into if need be. I began to climb.

And climb.

Maybe 300 meters into the climb I shifted. Now I was in my second-to-last/easiest gear. And I kept cranking and the Goat kept climbing.

I was feeling the same as I always do up Rock Store – it’s freaking hard. I tried to get into a rhythm, both with my breathing and pedaling.

And I kept climbing. Hoping I would be able to make a run at the end to try and break or at least tie my record.

At the halfway mark of the climb, I realized I had not yet shifted into my easiest gear. On the Unfat Machine I was forced into my easiest gear long before the halfway point.

As I neared the final phase of the climb – which is a right turn, then a sweeping left, before a false front and the final 100 meters which rises at 10% – I shifted into my easiest gear.

And hammered it. And the Goat burst forward, and I swear I saw a grin on its face… if bikes have faces.

I hit the summit and looked at my time.

HOLY TOURMALET, BATMAN!

21 minutes, 20 seconds.

Wait, what? No way. Hal had to be wrong. I checked again. And again. It could not be. There is no way I could have shaved nearly two minutes off my previous best.

I asked Hal if he might be wrong.

“I’m sorry, Fizz. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Be wrong that is.

Without anything other than switching to this incredible machine, I had destroyed my personal best up Rock Store. I dismounted the Goat and just stared at it.

Is it of this earth? Perhaps not.

I could see maybe breaking my record by… 10 seconds. Even 30 seconds. But if you’d told me I could shave even a full minute off my best time, I would have schooled you on how little you know about cycling… because I’m a moron.

21 minutes, 20 seconds. ALMOST TWO FREAKING MINUTES better than before.

Seriously? I must have checked Hal four or five times as I sat there at the summit. 21:20.

Wow.

If I hadn’t had work stuff looming I would have continued riding. Besides the freakish speed and climbing ease of the Goat, the other thing it is – is incredibly easy to ride. I want to ride it forever. Without stopping. Ever.

But alas, yesterday, I had to turn around and go home. So I descended Rock Store.

Faster than I ever have before.

Remember the whippy thing? Uh, huh. Whippy is the correct adjective.

It corners so much faster than the UM, it feels out of control, but that’s on me, not the bike. Because I noticed in the straight-line descents, it is rock solid – so much stiffer and unmoving than the UM.

As I rode home with a smile on my face so huge that bugs thought it was a picket fence, a line from the Talking Heads kept running through my mind:

You may say to yourself, my God, what have I done?

Eat better.

Ride your Madone.

Lose the gut.

 

 

Fair winds and following seas, Willy

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Responses

  1. Ok, so now I am officially jealous.

    Congratulations! As always, a great read. Post some pictures!!!

  2. I hope you won’t be too embarrased by me saying that this post was probably one of the most entertaining blog entries I’ve ever read, you have a real talent for writing mate! 🙂

    Now how do I get myself a carbon bike?

    Where’s the credit card…

  3. Oh, and “Holy Tourmalet Bat Man” pissed myself laughing!

  4. In fairness my CAAD9 is the one with BB30, so there isnt a HUGE leap from Alu to Carbon from the CAAD9, now if I had jumped from the CAAD8 to Carbon then yes, it would have been HUGE.


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