Fixed gear for Mount Washington in July

My recent trips up Kearsarge and Okemo gave me ample opportunity to consider what I am about to attempt in July. Fixed gear up Mount Washington. This will be no picnic, I am sure of it.

For the uninitiated, fixed gear is a single gear that does not allow you to coast. It is a direct drive system where the pedals are always turning with the rear wheel. I have done some fixed gear climbing this year, and even raced the Crank the Kanc TT fixed, and feel like it offers some real advantages.

I’ve been up the big hill five times now. I still don’t know the road as well as I should, and I’m using the latest version of Google Earth to help with the recon.

5 mile grade: where you punch the ticket to Bonkville.
The best way for me to break down a time trial is to approach it in terms of segments, and I’ve never really been able to do that on Washington. The road is so monotonous that it’s tough for me to just “know” how to split it up. As well, I’ve never gone up just to learn the road – it has always been a blur of effort. Hopefully this will help a bit.
And I will need help. The lowest fixed gear combination I’ve been able to put together so far is 22t up front, 23t rear. If I had a 26t rear cog, I would be very confident. 23t I think I can do the whole way, but if I bonk, which I’ve done almost every time I go up the mountain, I will be super screwed and probably have to abandon.
Or maybe not. It’s so hard to know. The one gear mentality is very, very different. You know it’s all you’ve got, and you just know you have no choice but to turn the pedals. There is no shifting. No decisions to make. The decisions have all been made for you. Every ounce of energy is invested into moving the bike forward.
I reach back to the trip I made up Kearsarge last fall on my 22×18. The first mile of that mountain is very similar to Washington, and at the time I remember feeling that if I had just a slightly easier gear, I would be comfortable attempting Washington on it. Well, that’s what I’ve got. So that’s what we’ll do. I have no chance to get this setup to Ascutney before the practice ride to test it.
If I’m right, and it works out, it will be pretty amazing; maybe more relief than anything. And if I’m wrong, it’s going to be a long day in hell, which looks exactly like this:

Photo by Matt Jarvis

This was from last year’s race. Pretty easy to see that it’s all come apart at this point. I’m staring directly at the pavement, gearing is maxed out, I have zero water in that bottle, and I don’t even know what kind of line I’m taking. What I do know is that the riders behind are proceeding in a straight line, and I’m not.

One thought on “Fixed gear for Mount Washington in July

  1. Fixed gear is cool. I'd go 1:1, I think. But under no circumstances should you use disc brakes, because doing so WILL RUIN HILLCLIMBING FOR EVERYONE!

    Just had to get that off my chest.


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