Early season training

As promised, I’m going to keep a log of my training this spring here, for the benefit of both 🙂 of my loyal readers.

Last week (fifth week of the year, Sunday – Saturday) I managed to pedal 34km. That may not sound like much, but (a) it’s January, (b) I’m trying not to ride pavement, and (c) that includes 1300m of climbing! Work it out, that’s better than a 7% average grade.

Fortunately it’s been unseasonably warm and dry for a few weeks, so a lot of the dirt roads around here are rideable. There are still patches of ice and mud on north-facing sections, which really slows things down. And I have to hose off the bike after every ride.

However, it is starting to snow even as I write this, and by the time it’s over 36 hours from now we’re supposedly going to have 16 inches on the ground. Guess I’ll be fatbiking this week!

In other developments: I did purchase a shorter stem for the Gnarvester, but when I went to install it I noticed that the faceplate wasn’t tightening down evenly. I took out my ridiculously accurate digital calipers and found that the center bulge in the handlebar was not uniform — it was about 31.8 on one side and 32 and a few tenths (don’t remember exactly) on the other side. At first I thought “manufacturing defect that I never noticed until now”, but then I remembered a crash I had in early 2015 that slammed that end of the handlebar against the gound hard, and I think perhaps that deformed the bar. Now the bar is titanium, so I’m sure it’s safe to use, but cracking the stem clamp is what I’m worried about. So… time for a new bar too.

First training ride of the season

Well, it got up to about 60 degrees today — January in Colorado! — so I couldn’t quite make myself drive to higher elevation and freeze my ass off snow-biking. Instead, I took out the Gnarvester, the bike I am going to ride in the Alberta Rockies 700 this summer.


14.5 miles at an average pace of 8.5mph; I was slowed down not just by the climbing (1870 feet) but also by the fact that some of the roads were muddy and/or icy. The Boulder Creek Path in Boulder Canyon was especially treacherous.

Today’s ride made me realize two things: first, I have to convert to metric. The entire ride I found myself mentally converting my ride stats to km ridden, meters climbed, etc. Not only do I not want to be doing that all spring, but when I actually get to Alberta, and all the road signs are metric, I don’t want to constantly have be thinking, “ok, it’s 30km to the next water stop, let’s see that’s about 19 miles so it should take me 2 hours”. Especially not when I’m too tired to think! I want to think “fluently” in metric. So I’m going to pull the battery out of my Rox 8 and reboot in metric mode, and from now on, all the ride stats posted here will be metric.

Second, I have to get a shorter stem. My bike position is great for cranking along on a flat smooth road, but it sucks for climbing, and the AR700 is all about climbing.

On a related note, today I weighed my bikes. I’ve been trying to decide whether I wanted to take my 29+ Gnarvester or my Twenty2 Cycles fatbike on this ride. I think the fatbike is overkill, but I thought if the weights were close, it might be worth it for the comfort. I bought this scale on Amazon the other day and it arrived yesterday. The weights: 29.2 lbs for the Gnarvester, 33.2 lbs for the Twenty2. Advantage: Gnarvester. The only downside to the Gnarvester is that, with its 1×11 SRAM drivetrain, it doesn’t have as low a low nor as high a high as the Twenty2’s Rohloff. However, I think the 4 lb weight advantage ought to help on the climbs, and the reduced rolling resistance should help everywhere else.

Alberta here I come!

Ok, after much hemming and hawing (and cross-checking vacation schedules with the ex-wife), I’ve decided I’m definitely doing the inaugural Albert Rockies 700 this summer.

Now to get in shape! The ride is 690km with about 9km of climbing. For the metrically-challenged, this is 425 miles and about 30k feet of climbing! So even at the relatively slow (and certainly non-contending for any podium position 🙂 ) pace of 7 days, that’s 62 miles and 4400 feet of climbing per day. To do it in 6 days, it’s about 74 miles and 5000 feet of climbing per day. And I can’t conceive of doing it any faster than that.

One mitigating factor is that there is oodles of daylight up there at that time of year. According to sunrisesunset.com, sunrise will be about 5:30am and sunset about 10:30pm; and there is enough twilight to carry on outdoor activities without artificial illumination for about 45 minutes before and after those times. (In fact, the sky never goes totally dark at that latitude in midsummer.) So it is no problem finding enough hours in the day to ride the miles; it’s an issue of finding enough miles in the legs!

Since I live in the foothills of Colorado (just west of Boulder), there is no shortage around here of either dirt roads or climbs. However I don’t think that weekend-only riding is going to get me ready for sustained, day-after-day effort. Luckily (funny, this never seemed luck before), I work about 20 miles from my house and I can commute mainly on low-traffic roads and trails. So my plan is, starting about May 1, I will commute to work on my Carver Gnarvester (the bike I’m planning to take on the ride) as many days a week as I can stand. (I can’t start before May because there aren’t enough hours of daylight and it’s pretty scary riding the canyon where I live in the dark.) Since I have child custody every other week, this will be a one-week-on, one-week-off sort of thing. In the final week of training, I plan to do the commute with my full gear kit.

In addition, I’ll have to do an occasional weekend ride to train for distance. But the multi-day commute is to condition me to getting up every morning and riding no matter how tired I am from the preceding day(s).

I plan to post my training rides here as I do them, and then I’ll update from the trail to see if the training prepared me adequately. Hopefully, this might give other people, who are considering taking on a multi-day bikepacking route but are wondering if they are in shape to do it, an idea of how much training is enough, and whether it’s possible to do enough training while holding down a job and taking care of kids!