Sunday, June 15, 2014


Plans for big rides fell apart this weekend. The weather was too suspect for a group of us to commit riding a big chunk of the Rapha course in Vermont. The sleet and torrents of mud debacle a few weeks ago was enough for a season. Or three. And the hamstring that decided to spontaneously self destruct while watching TV a week ago would have been none-too-thrilled to push through six hours of dirt road climbing. So we all ended up do our own thing after the weather cleared up later in the day.

Bleeding from hamstring muscle that cramped while watching TV a week earlier.

I headed over the Pack Monadnock with my 29er hardtail MTB for some repeats. I wasn't going to waste fresh legs by waiting another day to ride or do something totally junky in training value. I've been getting in a pittance of high-end work lately the way it is.

So why bring an MTB instead of a much more efficient road bike? I've never liked descending Pack on a road bike. The asphalt has washboard bumps coming into switchbacks, there are frost heaves, and the surface would no doubt still be wet and a little slick. After my horrific crash coming down Kearsarge last August, I became even more apprehensive descending. A mountain bike with disk brakes greatly reduces the risk. With front suspension and wide, soft tires, you barely notice the bumps. The hydraulic disk brakes are far more effective than caliper rim brakes. So what if the bike heft and rolling resistance adds 1-2min to the climb. You're still getting the same workout in.

Many other cyclists were visiting the park, nine others while I was there. On my first time up, I passed a guy with what looked like standard road gearing, maybe a 39x25. Now I wouldn't want to push that up Pack, but I probably could if I had to. A comment was made about having it made with my gear-inches. I just smiled and kept charging on.

Hmmm, I started thinking to myself. I'm on a 29er, which is a larger diameter tire than a road bike. I was in my middle chainring, and not in my biggest cog. What were my gear-inches? At that moment, at the very lowest I would have been 29" * 32/30 = 31". Yeah, pretty low, but not a crazy amount lower than the lowest ratio many set standard crank road bikes up with. There was a tacit assumption made that I was pushing up the mountain so much faster because I had so much lower gearing. I thought it was because I was putting out high 300's Watts of power.

One time riding my full suspension MTB up Wachusett, a roadie said it must be nice to have granny gears as I passed him. I looked down and I was not in my granny gear. In fact, I would not have been able to pass him in my granny gear. Funny things, our minds do.

A little later, maybe on my second or third time up Pack, another rider who I think was also on a MTB asked what I was training for. I hollered out Washington. I started thinking again, because this is what you do when your brain is starving for oxygen and you taste lactic acid in your mouth. At least when you go off into some analytic corner of your mind, you stop thinking about the discomfort.

While most riders that hit Pack are training for something, is it possible that I could have been riding up Pack just for the shear joy of it? The Hill Junkie has been known to climb hills for fun. Another assumption, that nobody would ever climb a mountain more than once if they weren't training for something. I suppose I was training, but I have visited Pack in the past with no training in mind.

Three times up at a pretty stiff pace did my legs in. I went up a fourth time at tempo pace. I've never done more than four on a road bike, and I've never done more than three on a MTB. The MTB takes a lot more kilojoules to get to the top than a road bike.

After the work was done, I visited a nearby ridgeline trail. The overcast day and damp conditions made the non-stop granite pretty much unrideable. The views up there are always nice though. Not quite the hours in the saddle I was looking for on Saturday, but the intensity session on Pack was needed.

Mt Monadnock

Damp, off-chamber granite on the ridge was treacherous

Pack from Temple


Anonymous said...

ever try pickle juice? it helps me when I am in a bad way with electrolytes.

the bully said...

Watching TV can be dangerous!

Tim Iwanowicz said...

That Wapack Trail ridge is a favorite for a few of us in P'boro. Kind of beats you up.