Yesterday I had the whole day to myself, so I decided what any logical cyclist would do, load the bags and head up into the mountains for a day. This ride was a test ride for two purposes: determining range and water needs for some wilderness overnight trips and a possible trip all the way north to Atascadero some day. Water can be scarce in the back valleys, so I packed almost two gallons. I know it is overkill, but I thought I could be out as long as 8 hours without fresh water, so I loaded up enough for the whole trip and a little extra. The planned route was an out and back through Ojai and then up the Hwy 33 towards Pine Mountain Rd:
It was planned to be a long day of climbing with some very nice descents coming home. The weather was a bit gloomy, the blue sky peaking through at times, and there was a threat of rain, all the makings for an adventure.
The clouds gave way to beautiful skies as I pushed closer to Ojai, The pass into the mountains is through the gap between the two telephone poles to the left.
This all was still just the warm up for the real climbing to come. As you leave town the grade pitches up another couple of percent for a few miles.
The temperature was still pretty mild taking a bit of the sting out of the climb. A few mile more and I was making my way through the tunnels at Wheeler Gorge.
This is where the Roadeo was really starting to shine. Even with 20 or so lbs of stuff loaded up I was making one of my best times with less apparent effort. My lowes gears on this bike are 30×28. After the tunnels it is miles of switchbacks and rapid gains in altitude. About 2/3 of the way up it was time for a break to soak up the views.
Another push and I was at the top. The ride home was looking to be really fun at this point.
The next eight miles or so were a nice break as I dropped into Rose Valley and worked up through the rolling climb towards Pine Mountain Rd. Things were looking good. I was feeling strong, drinking a bottle an hour, the bike was holding up. Then it started. I thought I was picking gears poorly through the rolling hills, often spinning a bit before it would catch, kind of like when you are in too low of a gear for your speed after a bit of coasting. I knew in my heart what it was and I did not want to beleave it. At about 40 miles in and just past the 4000 foot elevation sign the freewheel exceeded all expectations, doubled it’s efforts and blessed me with freewheeling action in both directions. This was going to be a longer day than I expected. I sat down, drank a can of coconut water and reflected on a plan of attack. Thinking it may just be sticky prawls I used what I had, gave the wheel a spin and shot some water into the freewheel. Oil would have been better, but was 40 miles back home in the garage. It was about 25 miles back to even get cell phone coverage. The plan resolved to a combination of coasting down hill, walking and kicking along like a scooter through the flats. Moving as quickly as I could I wanted to get home before the weather turned worse.
Don’t I look happy?
The wind had picked up and I was heading home straight into it. This was the start of the unplanned experiment in low rolling resistance and low-speed stability. For some of the rolling hills I could even keep up enough speed to make it up and over some approaching inclines. Then there was this:
Two miles and 400 feet of slow altitude gain back to the pass. The view was incredible, and you notice all sorts of things you would miss moving at biking speeds. Plenty of time for that alone with your thoughtfulness. After almost 30 minutes the first and only person the whole day to stop and see if I was OK asked if I needed a lift. I asked how far to the pass? He replied about 200 yards. I thanked him for stoping, but declined the ride since this is part of what I had worked so hard for.
The weather had turned a bit since earlier, and I was really hoping it was dry the whole way down. The reward was worth it, fast and clean with fresh pavement and only a couple of cars the whole way down. I do not think I would have pedaled much on this leg any way. I only had to walk a short mile or so near the bottom and then a mile or so through Ojai. Almost 30 miles with no forward drive, save for gravity, and I was still making great time. The last 10 miles would be along the bike path from Ojai to Ventura. The path is reputed to be downhill the whole way, and I was about to find out. By this point I was determined to make it home on my own power. With slow motion manic zeal I pressed onward. There were stretches that I could pick up some real speed, and then the others. Imagine being out on your normal ride and passing a guy in full aero tuck coasting along what you previously thought was flat at the blazing speed of 5 mph. As long as I was still passing the walkers I kept coasting. The miles were still clicking off at surprising speed. Every time I thought for sure that it would flatten out I was able to keep rolling along. Granted it took some serious concentration, the tightest tuck I could manage and at times I was powered by will alone. The best part was the silence. Again the slower speed allowing for time to take in the views that might otherwise not be savored.
Eight hours and twenty minutes after leaving home I rolled back into the garage. A shockingly respectable time for 80 miles, 4000 ft max above sea level and a soap box derby return home. A thought experiment in low rolling resistance made real by need. All said it was a great day. The bike performed great, excepting the freewheel. Knowing that I can coast along 0.5% grades for miles with my Jack Browns is amazing. The weather was spectacular in a dramatic sort of way.
Today I put on the old Suntour freewheel I had in reserve, tomorrow I talk with the people who sold me a more “modern” version.