Thursday, March 27, 2008


Solvang is always been the big ride I look forward to every year. The last three years have been tough. 2 years ago I was ailing. I made the ride with thunder, lightening and hail. Last year I had 5 broken ribs and it was the first time I missed the ride in over 15 years. This year life got in the way again and I only rode the 50. OTOH, I have been riding a single speed/ fixed gear for the last 7 years and was competing in mountain bike rides in including the Police Olympics and the Sea Otter, during the same period; the Police Olympics resulted in a 2 Bronze and a Silver medal. Anyway I thought I'd share some Solvang photos from 5 years ago (if you click on the photos they get bigger). Most of the pictures are of Foxen and Ballard Canyons, which are the last 40 miles of the ride. First here's the climbing graph from the ride web site.

The first picture however is on the route from Lompoc to Santa Maria.

Below is the SAG stop @ Santa Maria; 60 miles into the ride.

Now we start Foxen Canyon. The route starts off flat and slowly starts to climb.

Foxen Canyon just prior to the 70 mile SAG.

The Foxen Canyon SAG.

Foxen Canyon; time to start climbing.

Foxen Canyon and one of the windmills

Foxen Canyon; one of the climbs takes it's toll

Foxen Canyon after the last big climb.

Ballard Canyon looking back after the switchbacks.

Ballard Canyon looking down the other side.

Solvang, the finish line.

But my favorite by far was 5 years ago when my wife and I rode the Solvang Century on our tandem. I'm hoping that will happen again soon.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cheating a 50

Anyone who has spent any time riding bicycles understands the concept of cheating a 50. You may not have called it “cheating” and even realized you were doing such a thing, but it was simply doing the same thing by a different name. “Cheating a fifty” came from my ex-wife's brother Randy. He is a natural athlete who was able to keep up with his wife on 50-mile rides, even though she was a world-class tri-athlete. Sponsored rides are usually geared toward a century or 100-mile bike ride. Most Century rides also have a 50 mile rides and sometimes “metric centuries” (65 miles). The challenge of a 100-mile bike is multi-faceted. First it’s just longer. If you average 50-mile ride for a “slowski” like me is say 3.5 to 4 hours; a 100 miles may take you 8 hours. There is also the obvious fact that a longer ride also means you need to be in better shape. Just because one can ride a fast mini-triathlon (25 mile ride), doesn’t mean their time in an iron man would simply be 4 times longer. What seems to be the culprit here is the breakdown of glycogen. In other words, the average person carries around with them about 2 hours of riding. That can easily be doubled if you take a couple of rides @ week. So most riders have a 4 hour 50 mile ride in them. 100 miles? Well that’s a different story. In order to ride 100 miles, you are going to ride enough, so your system can convert what you eat into usable glycogen. In other words, it takes most folks about 10 hours to convert what you eat into usable energy. To ride a 100 miles you are going to need to convert what you eat into energy in about 3-4 hours. This takes a lot of hours of riding. If you have been putting in a handful of 30-40 mile rides a month, you will be able to cheat a 50 miler. However you will probably seriously bonk a 100.

With all that said I cheated a 50 @ Solvang this year. Due to a combination of heath problems and overtime, I have not been able to put in the rides necessary I would normally need to complete the Century. For those that do not know I ride on a fixed gear, so conditioning becomes more of an issue, then if you have bail out gears. Further, I have been experimenting with toe clips, which reduce once climbing ability (I am told) by 30%. I can testify to that as 5 days earlier I tried a training ride in Canyon Country, CA (near Los Angeles). These were my old stomping grounds, 17 years ago. The rides there are almost always windy and very dry. The ride I chose is from the southern tip of Palmdale, down Sierra Hwy to Sand Cyn and back Soledad Cyn (60 mi). Unfortunately the return trip was into 30 MPH winds. I bonked about 5 mi from the end and I had to walk several of the steeper hills; something I never do. This ride convinced me that not only could I not ride the century, even if I rode just the last 40 miles from Santa Maria, I probably would not have been able to climb the two big hills at the end. Hence, I rode the Solvang 50 miles.

The ride was a sign from heaven. From the beginning to the end it was windy, but I had the strength to finish; a beautiful day and an enjoyable ride. I had the strenght I needed and finished with strength to spare. God is good. I was able to start a little earlier, about 8:30 AM and rolled in about 3.5 hours later. The last time I rode the Solvang 50, the route between Solvang and Lompoc (same as the 100mi), used Santa Rosa Rd both ways; this resulted in an uninspiring ride. This time the route took us back using Hwy 246, which a circular and much better route. I don't know how long the 50 mi ride has used this route, since, as I said I always ride the Century Route (except the one previous time about 15 years ago), and if I am in the same place next year as I was this year, I would look forward to the ride again.

That is not to say the century has never changed. The ride used to go through Vandenberg but that ended with 9/11. This ride also took the riders up Harris Grade, which added 1000 feet of climbing to the ride. Currently the route from Lompoc to Santa Maria is on Cabrillo Hwy. Not a bad route, but you still end up on a "freeway" type highway for part of the ride. The meat and potatoes part of the ride (coming from a vegetarian) is Foxen Cyn; 25 miles of a gradual incline, a beautiful country road through pastures and vineyards. Foxen Cyn ends with two steep climbs at the 80 and 85 mile mark. I have ridden this ride maybe 18 times.

The other highlights of this ride is you get a patch at the end of every ride and they used to give you 2 tickets good for a soft drink or beer. Yes they used to give you 2 beers at the end of the ride. That ended about 10 years ago, they still have beer but you have to pay for it. Lodging there is also an issue. Since my present wife wants to travel with me and even rode the ride one year on out tandem, I have had to make sure I have quality lodging; spending the night in a Motel 6 is my wife's definition of roughing it. So for the last 4 years we have rented the same room, which we reserve especially for the occasion. Anyway, with my job, wife and kids, I probably have less time to ride now then in the last 10 years of my life. No Matter. I will still have Solvang to look forward to and to keep me riding; my wife also has a renewed interest in riding again so this year is already looking up! God is good