As more bikes rolled up to the Junction Ranger Station, things began to take on the appearance of an impromtu Concours d’Elegance, with an impressive presentation of steel steeds. The Riv Weekender folks began to take over most of the available space, continuing to chat and get to know folks within the group. It was a great opportunity to prowl around and get close to other poeple’s bikes, and to check out how they handled the hardware setups. Everyone in our group seemed excited to share the features of their
rigs, and our boisterousness seemed to increase as more Weekenders
“Outsiders” who rolled up to the rest point tended to do a double-take. They would see one bike that caught their eye, and usually comment on it - something like “that’s a nice old bike!” Then, they would raise their vision slightly and realize that fendered, racked and lugged frames surrounded them completely. Most would then blink, or at least engage in a vocal pause of several seconds, as they realized that they were quite the minority. Their eyes would do a little cartoon slot-machine spin when we told them that a given bicycle was only a year old, as an example. Their skinny-tired bike would whimper a bit, and try to cover up the fact that it had so little clearance. But, it was a big tent and if anyone wanted to fit under it, they did so just fine.
Erin had the gadget of the day, with her iBike Power Meter. This was a little monitor which was about the size of a pregnant cellphone. With what seemed to be a rather minor set of calibration steps, you had a reasonably simple power meter, which could give wattage outputs and updates on calories burned as well as altitude gain, in addition to the standard speed and distance info. I’d heard her on the beginning of the ride talking about calories burned, and had wondered how she had that info at hand. But, the unit itself was reasonably unobtrusive, had a paucity of wires, and maintained a nice simple interface. It seemed like a powerful little tool.
Pretty much everyone had collected by this point, and the question began burbling, “Who’s going up?” Erin and Horace, Ron and a few other folks answered in the affirmative and we commenced to stowing the munchies and shaking out the sit-stiffs. I decided that while I didn’t necessarily feel energetic, the first part hadn’t hollowed me out. So, I threw a few logs in the fire and rolled upwards. Ron & I started out near one another, and we passed some riders who were buzzing their way upwards on a pair of mountain bikes. We chatted a little bit, until they saw that someone had stolen my derailleurs, which caused a “No way/Way” volley until I unclipped my feet and let ‘em see the pedals move around a couple rotations. Before that, I was just some goofy guy with with geeky fenders and mudflaps on his bike. After the demonstration, I was clearly someone not to be trusted with sharp objects. Secretly, I hoped that I wouldn’t collapse in a heap a bit up the roadway.
I found myself rolling along with John, who was motoring upwards on a butterscotch colored Saluki. Unlike most of the bikes, it was bagless, and he toted his gear in a Timbuk2 bag that looked like it had a few miles on it. As it turned out, he was riding a borrowed floor demo bike that the gang at Rivendell had hooked him up with. He was actually out on business from Ohio - which pretty much got him the “came from the furthest point” toast at the camp - and had lucked out in finding an extra spot on the weekend, plus the aforementioned 650B ride. He talked a little about how there was no climbing to speak of in his home state, but managed to set a ruggedly steady pace as he moved upwards.
The weather continued in our favor as we made our way toward 3,000 feet. Though it was a sunny day, the wind which blew over us had just a pinch of chill, which kept things from getting too nasty. Other members of the weekend tribe eased up and passed, and we played a bit of the climbing slinky/leapfrog. The Diablo Valley vista seemed like a good opportunity to play the pencam card*.
Back on the road once again, the 3K sign actually passed by, again with its brief associated increase in pitch, and we worked our way up some switchbacks. It seemed like we were finally beginning to run out of mountain, but I couldn’t really be sure quite how much remained to go. The summit building would pop into view - not looming so much higher, but it seemed to recede away towards the horizon. One of the pitches got the better of me, and I wobbled off to the side of the road and snapped a few more photos. At this point, I really was beginning to feel a hunger knock, and thought about my nice sandwich patiently awaiting my arrival down in camp. Clearly a tactical error had been made. I rummaged around in my bag and found a few things to eat, which helped a bit and got me back on the road.
Brian-who-used-to-work-at-Rivendell eased up and past on his Quickbeam. He was running a White Industries double cog freewheel, which let him sit up and spin through stuff that was bringing out my inner Tourette’s. He kept our sprits up as we swung around the final turns.
Now, I did know about the last little pitch up to the summit - so I swung off to the right to try to carry a little momentum into it. For those of you who haven’t been up this mountain, it’s a little end-o-the-climb treat - a straight & narrow one lane rise that jumps up to the small parking area and summit building at something like 18%. It’s not super long, but it’s a bit nasty - especially if you were kooky enough to bring big gears and a bike that won’t coast.
I thought I’d be able to snake my way up with a traverse, but the width of the roadway made that rather difficult. My reflexes were just floppy and drained enough from the climb to muff the timing and end up in the gravel a few times. Upon a restart there was nasty feeling of pushing as hard as you can and having the bike not go anywhere. I know I stopped cold at least 4 times, and it was probably more like 7. I was polite enough to let a couple of cars pass.
One of the things about fixed-gears is that you become intimately aware of any change in gradiant. As the bike neared the top, I could tell it began to lessen slightly, and I hung on to at least roll up onto level ground with a pretty good sense of accomplishment. Easing over toward the building, I found a few others in the bunch already enjoying the top of Mt. Diablo. We hung out a bit, discovered that they sold serious ice cream bars in the visitor center and watched the coming and going of other cyclists as well as those who had driven to the summit.
After that bit of rest, I rehung the rear wheel into coastable mode. Now came the fun part - the descent!
It’s just one of those odd little anomolies that I don’t get to descend at full speed too often on the Quickbeam. A great deal of my riding has descents, but my leg speed hits max long before I reach anything close to terminal velocity. Since the Quickbeam gets run in fixed mode most of the time, I just keep pedaling. But, when you’ve got 3,800 feet or so stacked up beneath you, it’s worth the extra minute or so to flip your rear wheel.
The roadway on the top part of the Mountain had been repaved and was in excellent condition. The Quickbeam felt stunningly solid beneath me and I worked up slowly to speed. It suprises me how wonderfully the bicycle handles on a descent when you can stick your outside foot down and really let it roll. I forget how nicely the bike deals with those conditions. I tried to snag a couple of riders coming down, but could barely get the pencam out in time.
The descent was a whole heapful of swoopy goodness. The new road surface made things riduclously smooth and enjoyable. We harvested our gravity with huge dripping bags before regrouping briefly at the Junction Ranger Station. Then Brian again led us for another couple miles of descending to the campground.
End of Part Two
*The beauty of carrying a camera - or specifically the pencam - on a bike is that you can always ease over to the side of the road or trail and whip that sucker out. You don’t have to apologize for it or explain why (not that it was an issue on this weekend, of course), and it gives you that nice little moment to allow your eyes to uncross and breathing to sound less like an adnoidal whale sounding. …and you wondered why I took so many pictures.