Riding Fixed

It is all gravel bikes now, trails and bridleways. It is interesting to think that the current waves of interest have their roots in the bike boom of 2005 or thereabouts; it reignited a lay passion in bikes and got people riding, taking that gateway drug which leads to freedom and a lifelong addiction.

I sort of have a gravelly bike, it’s a triban 520 and is a lot of bike for the money. i got it to cope with a monstrous hilly winter commute and it did the job beautifully. Slimy roads are a lot nicer on big tyres and a relaxed frame. I wouldn’t say I use it to go along paths and restricted byways, I’ve always done this on whatever bike I’m on. This includes failand woods on an R5 with tubular bongo wheels, so I apologise to the MTB fraternity for that KOM back in the day.

Anyway, long preamble. I got the fixed wheel out of the cupboard the other day. It needs a bit of work from Argos; the seatpost is seized after my neglect and a lot of very damp winter rides. Some of the threads are very sketchy. But it felt joyous to ride. It is my favourite bike. It makes me feel better about life and cycling. It felt strangely anachronistic to be riding fixed out and about. After the heady craze of a few years ago they seem to have all but lapsed back into the old school again. I’m fine with this. I am no longer affecting old school, I am old school.

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Hill Climb Bike

I got back from a relaxing and lovely holiday yesterday. Which means it’s time to start thinking about the last phase of the season: the eternal quest to defy gravity, quickly. Like most disciplines, Hill Climbing requires a degree of specialist equipment, with a clear focus on the old adage, ‘less is more’. It’s also a discipline that lends itself to riding fixed. This year, my intention is to do a few more than normal on the single gear, typically i do one or two fixed, just for fun. With the National Championship being held on the Rake, i think it’s likely that i’ll ride fixed. Therefore i’m going to commit and ride a few more this season in a similar manner.

no bar tape. key feature.

Today i set about converting my Bob Jackson into hillclimb mode. I have a sense of affinity with the bike, i’ve had it for a number of years and it has done me proud. I ran it ragged round the streets of london as my commuting bike for about 3 years. I’ve raced on it at Herne Hill velodrome, and it’s also hit the boards at Newport. When i moved to Bristol the bike was stolen. I’d injudiciously left it locked outside a pub in Stoke’s Croft and when i came back out there was only a void where once there was a bicycle. Miraculously, and in no small part due to the eagle-eyes of a friend in London, the bike came up for sale on ebay nearly a year later, and even more miraculously, considering the rank inefficiency of ebay and their general pandering to petty crime and larceny, i managed to get the bike back.

I rode the Bob Jackson in my first ever competitive event, a hillclimb on Burrington Coombe, where i came 5th. I was dressed against the cold, rather than in the skimpy hillclimber’s attire. I had heavy wheels on and 25mm tyres. I did take the bottle cage off though. This year Bob had a refit at Argos Racing Cycles and is now a beautiful deep orange colour.

It’s now pretty much in hillclimb mode, barring a few changes to save a bit more weight.

it has a campag chainset, an adapted road double, with 3/32 drivetrain and miche sprockets – much easier to change. the front is a 39t, the rear currently 16t, but I anticipate going down to 20 if necessary. Rear wheel is arc-en-ciel super champion laced to a hope hub, front is a px carbon (660g with tyre). bars and stem are cinelli, seat post is FSA, saddle is a thin strip of torture weighing 125g.

Frome Cobble Wobble

Tomorrow is the Frome Cobble Wobble. it’s a savage and very short hillclimb up a cobbled street in Frome. It should be a really fun day out, there are a lot of riders signed up. I’ve entered in the fixed/ss category and will be using the bob jackson vigorelli. i have no idea what will happen; it’s probably too short for me, and the powerful men may well be able to go off hard and cling on. i shall give it some welly and hope i don’t get an injury.

after this, it’s hillclimbs all the way, 6 weeks of brutality. next weekend is haytor, and then a national warm-up/dry-run on dovers hill, with a two stage hillclimb. i’ve been seeded on a 5 – as high as i’ve ever been placed, this adds pressure, but also makes me feel secretly pleased. the big names are riding this one, lots of very very quick riders, including a gaggle of previous national champions. i like the events, i like riding, i guess i like competing – but i don’t like the ‘not-knowingness’ of it all. or maybe i do, because without the sense of the abyss, there would be no sense of achievement. this bit is hard to explain. i think i may need to take some time to try to write about the competitive element that makes racing so odd, how it shakes my brain and rattles my psyche.

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