Keith Stone is smooth...With gears...I'm not!
With my mountain bike season officially over at this point it's time to have some fun. Knowing I'm gonna be racing geared next year I've decided to start paying my dues early. With the exception of experimenting with a one by nine setup (34T and a road cassette) for a race or two last year I haven't ridden a geared bike since 2005. Back then I was a sport class rider, now I'm a pro with sport class geared skills. Let me explain.
Shifting is not a natural thing for me in the trails. Normally I pedal hard and when I see a hill: I pedal harder, when I see a steeper hill: I sprint and when I see a hill that's to steep to ride: I run. Sit, stand or walk that's the three gears a single speeder lives by. On a geared bike it seems like you need to plan ahead (way far ahead) because if your going mach 1 on a flat section you most likely have to slam on the brakes, dump a bunch of gears and spin like a madman to get going again.
Repeating this like a million times in the first two laps I was completely spent. Normally my lap times are very consistent with not much difference between the first and last, I pride myself on this. Not today though. Losing the lead group because I drove the front wheel into a sandy downhill corner causing a complete yard sale at about mile one. I was now left to figure out the geared thing on my own. My plan was to ride Josh's wheel for a while to see how it's done but instead I resorted to riding my geared bike like a nine speed single speed for a couple laps. Thirty one minute lap followed by a thirty three followed by a thirty six. Do I need to go further? you get the point? Thanks to the granny ring I didn't have to DNF (it may have been less embarrassing). Around lap 4 I was off and smelling the flowers as the top expert guys started coming up on me. I would try to jump on but it didn't last and would fall off after a few minutes. Amazed at how fast everyone can spin I knew I needed to get going again when a couple sport class riders (on a preride) bridged up to me and shouted words of encouragement "He's just ahead, go get him". Demoralizing to say the least. I finished the race in 2hrs 16min. Fifteen minutes behind James who I beat by five minutes last week on my single at the 40. Hmmmm. Much room for improvement.
Sunday I went to the 909 to try to learn this geared thing again, only this time I enlisted the help of Jane Pearson to show me the ropes and the Kelly brothers to set the pace. Riding Jane's wheel I learned where and how to shift and keeping up with Brian and Rob I actually learned how to ride. At the 909 that is. I don't know if it will translate to other venues but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for me and this geared thing. Stay tuned..