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Bikefag Deep V epic: The 4,767-Foot Fixed Gear Climb

June 20, 2009

Question: why would a blogger climb to 10,300+ feet on a purple fixed gear bicycle while wearing an ironic deep V t-shirt?

Answer: to find out who he truly is.

IMG_5273

Bikefag Deep V Epic: The 4,767-foot Fixed Gear Climb

The Setup:

I set out to climb one of Boulder, CO’s classic climbs on my purple fixed gear: Left Hand Canyon to Ward, CO, then continuing above Ward to Brainard Lake at 10,300 feet.  Left Hand is the perfect road to gain elevation on a fixed-gear.  It’s steep-but-not-too-steep for the first 15 miles.

Then the road turns right.

The two miles before Ward are an 8% average grade with sections well above 10%.  I knew coming into the ride that this part would suck badly.  If I could handle the two steep miles into Ward and then the two steep miles after Ward, I was home-free.

Three easy miles to sunny, beautiful Brainard Lake, elevation 10,300 ft.

What it would have looked like on a normal day..

What it would have looked like on a normal day..

Everything goes to shit

Unfortunately, on the afternoon of the ride everything went to shit.

Neither myself, nor my domestique/photographer/car-owner Dan Lionberg were in any way prepared on the day of the Deep V epic.  We had three flat tires between the two of us.  Neither of our bikes had brakes (a necessity on the steep, 22-mile descent back down).  Neither of our front wheels were machined for brakes.  And it was supposed to rain/hail/snow by the time we got to the top.  And at the rate that we were getting our shit together, I feared, we wouldn’t make it to the top before sunset.

I found an XT shifter/V-brake lever and took the front brake off of der Eisentraut.  Brake pad alignment looking good..

I found an XT shifter/V-brake lever and took the front brake off of der Eisentraut. Brake pad alignment looking good..

Worried about his legs going into the weeklong Tour of America's Dairyland, Dan opted to ride his "climbing gear" - 42-22

Worried about his legs going into the weeklong Tour of America's Dairyland, Dan opted to ride his "climbing gear" - 42-22. Pussy..

Left: what a bikefag rides on the road.  Right: what an ACTUAL track racer rides on the road

Left: what a bikefag rides on the road. Right: what an ACTUAL track racer rides on the road

After an hour of stealing parts from other bikes, borrowing wayfarer sunglasses from roommates, and digging a yellow deep V out of my closet to match Dan’s Deep V wheels, we were off.

The Ride

The Bikefag about to slay Left Hand

The Bikefag about to slay Left Hand Canyon

Collegiate Cycling Track National Champion Dan Lionberg executing a one-handed, leg-over road-stand at the foot of Left Hand

Collegiate Cycling Track National Champion Dan Lionberg executing a no-look, one-handed, leg-over fixie mount at the base of Left Hand

The ride started out easily enough, with Lionberg setting a good pace for me to sit in and grind my 42-17 on the comparably easygoing early creekside pitch.

We quickly noticed an interesting phenomenon.  Dressed as we were, no roadies would wave at us.

Dan Lionberg, who spends more time in spandex than a dance instructor, was delighted by this phenomenon, and started hamming it up with the passing roadies coasting back down the climb.

“What’s up, bro,” Dan would yell, waving.  “Got any papers?”

No acknowledgement of our existence.

“What’s up, Lance?”

No acknowledgement.

We must have passed 25 roadies, waved at every one, and received zero waves back.  It was astounding.

Granted, Left Hand Canyon is generally filled with a good number of assholes any time, but I usually get a wave from one out of two roadies when I’m all tarted up in kit.

As we rode further and further up the canyon, the roadies coming back down became fewer and further-between.

Still all laughs at 7,600 feet

Still all laughs at 7,600 feet

But at mile 15, when the road turned right, the ride turned from an ironic demographic experiment to a very genuine experiment in human pain.

The two miles coming into ward are steep, with the first pitch maxing out at a grade of at least 14%.

Party's over at 8,600 ft.

Party's over at 8,500 ft.

Too steep for 44-17

Too steep for 44-17

Too steep to take pictures

Too steep to take pictures

Riding such a steep pitch on the Purple had me leanin‘ and Swervin’.  I was on turtle time.  Pedal strokes seemed to take forever.  The horizon slipped away.  How could I go on like this?

Mercifully, the pitch eased from “really steep” to “pretty steep.”  I started getting used to turtle time.  I had my lean on on the Purple and I was feeling good.

Coming into Ward, the pitch increased above 10% again.

Coming into Ward, 9,200 ft.  Steep.

Coming into Ward, 9,200 ft. Steep.

Swervin and Leanin.  Note how fast Dan is catching me with his 42-22.

Swervin and Leanin. Note how fast Dan is catching me.

I'm like a turtle when I ride the purple

I'm like a turtle when I ride the purple

Made it to Ward, 9,300 ft.  Elevation too high for the camera.

Made it to Ward, 9,300 ft. Elevation too high for the camera.

Having made it to Ward and the Peak to Peak Highway, with at least another hour of daylight left, it looked like the Purple bike would make it.  Just another thousand feet of high-altitude climbing into a thunderstorm and we were home free!

High altitude nohandistan

High altitude nohandistan

10,000 feet

10,000 feet

The final climb, 10,300 feet

The final climb, 10,300 feet

Where no deep V has gone before!

Where no deep V has gone before!

Track climbing specialist Dan Lionberg not even fazed

Track climbing specialist Dan Lionberg not even fazed

High altitude no-handed victory skid!

High altitude no-handed victory skid!

We’d hit plenty of rain on the way up, but once at the top, it became evident that we were minutes away from being caught in a real storm.  A couple of snapshots at the top was all the celebration we had time for.  We started riding down minutes later.

The ride down was almost more brutal than the climb up.  Our hands were losing feeling so we had to steal a trash bag off of a stop sign and wrap pieces of it around our hands for the ride down (sorry, Brainard Lake..).  Then we spun our legs at 200 rpm os so, right at the edge of spinning out for almost an hour.  My hasty front brake setup hardly slowed my Purple Bike down at all and it wasn’t helped by a frozen left hand (like, my actual left hand) and a wet rim.

As we got lower down into Left Hand Canyon and the dusk warmed up a little bit; as we got more and more used to the idea of our legs moving at comically fast cadences; as we rode out of the rain, and let the downhill tail wind spin us down the canyon, the ride became sort of hilariously surreal.  Near the bottom we could have a 200rpm conversation until one of us looked at the other’s violently-spinning legs and started laughing.  We were gonna make it, we said to each other.  We were getting off this thing alive.

We managed to get to the car just about the time that it turned from dusk to night.

IMG_5294

We made it.

It was an “epic” ride, in its way.

And several lessons were learned:

1: American Apparel Deep V t-shirts aren’t all that bad to ride in.

2: Ditto that for wayfarer sunglasses.

3: Weinmann DP 18 rims can handle the rigors of being ridden more than 17 blocks.

4: Roadies are douche bags.

5: My Purple Bike rules.

6: Wear a helmet.

7: I truly am a total bike fag.

9: Don’t ride a fixed gear to Brainard Lake.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2009 7:47 am

    Thank you for share.

  2. June 20, 2009 11:18 am

    Congratulations! When is your knee replacement surgery scheduled? And how’s Dairy Land been going? Say hi to Triple X if you see some of us…

  3. June 20, 2009 1:45 pm

    When it comes to climbing and fixed gear, I’m only worried about getting down.. Anyway, great going. Very impressive.

  4. Anonymous permalink
    June 20, 2009 6:39 pm

    Sorry dude, but doing a moderate climb on clapped out equipment is by no means “epic” and doesn’t make you look cool, ironic or otherwise. One word for this post: Weak.

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 21, 2009 1:13 am

      Fair enough

    • June 22, 2009 5:34 am

      Yes. Epic, an objective measurement if there ever was one..

    • surfimp permalink
      June 25, 2009 4:06 am

      You must be one of the roadies who didn’t wave?

  5. Anon of Florida permalink
    June 21, 2009 12:25 am

    Where can I get something similar to Dan’s Helmet and sunglasses? They are a spectacular combination, itching to be emulated.

  6. Gregg permalink
    June 22, 2009 6:19 am

    ANONYMOUS… I beg to differ. Doing almost anything the hard way is ‘epic’. That includes going out with girls your mum warned you about.!

  7. June 22, 2009 5:37 pm

    Left Hand Canyon roadies obviously don’t rule so hard. It’s poor form not to acknowledge fellow bike travelers, regardless of setup.

  8. go-go-deluxe permalink
    June 22, 2009 7:55 pm

    funny. making me laugh at work on monday is good. dumbass people in the canyon fucking hell. I hope if I’d seen you I would have screamed FAG!

    I wore a loner “hairnet” like that at the northbrook velodrome back in the stoneage. it’s much cooler now.

  9. 10thousandfeet permalink
    June 22, 2009 9:04 pm

    To hell with the epic or not epic argument. This was still a really cool ride, and would probably put a lot of us geared riders in jerseys to shame. Way to go on the purple bike and deep V and thanks for sharing!

  10. Peter C permalink
    June 23, 2009 5:53 pm

    You should see about a rapha sponsorship

    • bikefag permalink*
      June 23, 2009 6:17 pm

      Bikefag wet dream come true!

  11. June 24, 2009 4:35 am

    i’ll lug ye olde Vitus 979 up there – but with discman, sunglasses, and black tank top it will be an ascent in the Lone Wolf style, with mostly one-handed bicycling (the other hand holding said discman to prevent bumps). and yes ‘electric wizard’ will score the final stretch.

  12. surfimp permalink
    June 25, 2009 4:11 am

    Bikefag I love your blog, please keep up the good work! Don’t let the haters get you down, they’re neither brave nor stupid enough to palp a love machine of Purp’s stature.

  13. June 25, 2009 7:59 pm

    anonymous haters are anonymous.

  14. June 29, 2009 9:28 pm

    I wish we had climbs like that here in Michigan. We have some steep hills, but nothing that goes on for 22 miles. Very jealous.

  15. August 11, 2009 3:06 pm

    Two things: I recently made the climb to Brainard Lake (on modern road equipment) from Boulder and also the ratio on my fixed gear is 44-17.

    I honestly can’t imagined ever making it up into Ward on that gearing. You’re a monster.

    • bikefag permalink*
      September 16, 2009 6:37 am

      I guarantee you could do it. I cannot guarantee that you would make it into Ward without walking though.

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