the mt. washington hillclimb, part 2

Hill climb gearing

July 18 was my one oppor­tu­ni­ty to attempt Mt. Wash­ing­ton by bicy­cle before race day. I had a cou­ple of goals in mind: find­ing a rea­son­able pace and test­ing my hill-climb set­up.

It’s worth point­ing out that the ride is much too steep and long for con­ven­tion­al road bike gear­ing to make sense—an effi­cient cadence would not be pos­si­ble. It seems like every­one has an opin­ion about what makes a per­fect set­up. Some peo­ple run with a road triple crankset up front, or maybe a com­pact crank. Some peo­ple install a moun­tain cas­sette on the rear wheel, which usu­al­ly requires a long-cage moun­tain derailleur to go with it. Since I have only one road bike, and re-tun­ing derailleurs is not my idea of a great time, I came up with a dif­fer­ent con­fig­u­ra­tion: a moun­tain crankset, hold­ing only a 22T chain­ring on the front, and a con­ven­tion­al 12–25T road cas­sette (and stan­dard derailleur) on the back. With this set­up, I can achieve bet­ter than a 1:1 gear ratio. And the only parts I have to swap out are the cranks, bot­tom brack­et, and chain! (Shame on Shi­mano for mak­ing road and moun­tain bot­tom brack­ets very slight­ly dif­fer­ent.) One unfor­tu­nate con­se­quence of hav­ing the bike con­fig­ured for hill-climb­ing is that my top speed on lev­el ground becomes about 8 MPH, which can be embarass­ing if you’re actu­al­ly try­ing to get some­where.

We stayed at a friend’s cab­in in Tam­worth, then drove up at the crack of dawn. There aren’t many oppor­tu­ni­ties to catch me awake and alert at 5:30 AM, but this was one, as the road would close to bikes after 7:00. Bad news greet­ed us upon our arrival, though: in spite of the stun­ning sun­rise and pic­ture-per­fect weath­er on the ground, the course was closed due to high winds. Above tree­line there was a steady 55 MPH breeze gust­ing to 70. Appar­ent­ly they will run the race in winds up to 45 MPH, but beyond that appar­ent­ly peo­ple have dif­fi­cul­ty stay­ing upright. After much moan­ing and groan­ing and re-check­ing of wind speeds, it was deter­mined that we would be allowed to ride only the first two miles of the auto road. So up we went. It was the hard­est two miles I’ve ever biked! At least there was a bonus: we were per­mit­ted the unusu­al oppor­tu­ni­ty to ride our bikes back down. Wheeee!

After all the bikes had cleared the course, the auto road opened to cars. We paid the toll and drove to the top so I could study the route. Check out the day’s pic­tures here. As you can see, the weath­er above tree­line is just as intim­i­dat­ing as the slope of the road!

6 Comments

  1. Ilka Fedor August 13, 2010

    You did a test run the DAY BEFORE the race?  Burn­ing legs of steel! Con­grat­u­la­tions on a mas­sive accom­plish­ment Scott!

  2. Ilka Fedor August 13, 2010

    You did a test run the DAY BEFORE the race?  Burn­ing legs of steel! Con­grat­u­la­tions on a mas­sive accom­plish­ment Scott!

  3. Ilka Fedor August 13, 2010

    You did a test run the DAY BEFORE the race?  Burn­ing legs of steel! Con­grat­u­la­tions on a mas­sive accom­plish­ment Scott!

  4. Ilka Fedor August 13, 2010

    You did a test run the DAY BEFORE the race?  Burn­ing legs of steel! Con­grat­u­la­tions on a mas­sive accom­plish­ment Scott!

  5. Ilka August 13, 2010

    Sor­ry for all the com­ments – I blame it on my West African, virus-rid­den com­put­er and shod­dy inter­net!

  6. Freddie August 13, 2010

    Bwah-ha-ha-ha!!  Even your com­put­er has malar­ia!!  … seri­ous­ly Ilka, come home!

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August 11, 2010 August 11, 2010 cycling by Scott [permanent link]