Last year I picked up a dyed-in-the-wool racing bike. A GT GTR Series 1.0, lightweight aluminum with carbon stays. Very light and very fast. I only ever rode a handful of times but I was significantly faster than my GTR 4. What’s funny is that my PR Strava stats are almost the same between the two bikes. I’m actually doing better on the leader boards overall with my 650b bike.
Ride report time: This was an amazing ride. It had pretty much everything; mountains, gravel, wild dogs and copious amounts of caffeine.
I started the ride taking my usual route north to Canton. Not much going on for the first two hours or so. Dark and quiet, I don’t think I saw a single car until I got on Canton Road. Once I hit Waleska road the traffic picked up and it was a little stressful with the narrow shoulder, rumble strips and traffic. I eventually worked through there and continued North through Burris Crossroads, but hit a snag when I found out Mineral Springs road off Bethany is closed/pretty much does not exist. Ended up accidentally detouring to Waleska highway and coming up through Jasper from the South as opposed to the West as originally planned. No big deal.
What was really odd was that I had just randomly seen a message board post about Jeep Fest the day before and ended up seeing dozens of off-road equipped Jeeps and even passed what looked like a main camp ground. Apparently the sheriff of Tate county holds an offroading event every year. Seems pretty cool.
Anyway, I got through Jasper pretty well, chased by a dog but in a friendly way. Stopped to take pics and marvel at the mountains. As I continued north to Talking Rock I missed a turn and ended up with a 5-6 mile gravel detour. It was so great being on 42mm wide tires! No worries about pinch flats and the bike just felt great on the gravel. I’ll need to come back and try the Whitestone Road E heading west. There’s a pretty awesome gravel climb with a few switchbacks. Wasn’t in the cards today. I continued getting lost and found another road worth investigating. Raven Cliff seems to be all gravel and climbs up a pretty steep mountain. I got back on course and hit Talona road. I had though the climb up Talona Mountain was a lot closer so I ended up checking my phone a few times and was surprised by the gravel. It’s about 4 miles of gravel with a few miles of stark white crushed stone that gets blown up by passing trucks and ended up blanketing the trees and plants on the side of the road like a winter storm. Very confusing/surreal to see.
Talona Mountain is intimidating but I managed to put in a good effort. It’s a pretty full package climb. Switchbacks, straights, a short steep descent in the middle and some very steep grades as well as a nice gentle finish. Even has good sightlines to boot! The current segment is garbage so I made a new one and ended up with a really good time! I’m amazed at how well I did considering I had 70 miles in my legs and about a dozen miles of gravel! Probably that 100mg of caffeine providing a serious assist.
There is a giant cross and a the standard cell/weather/NSA stuff at the top as well as a nice viewing area. I took a few pictures and looked at the scenery for a bit before heading down. The descent was fun and it was really great to have so much traction on demand with the Hetres. At this point I’d been riding for 5 hours and wanted to get home as efficiently as possible so I decided to just do my outward route in reverse. This was an excellent idea.
Riding everything in reverse was fun and pretty much as expected except for one thing. Talking Rock road heading southeast is insane! Non-stop climbing at 3% is terrible! Really took a lot out of me.
Once I got back to Jasper I made a slight change so I wouldn’t have to climb AW Lawson westward as it’s pretty steep with no shoulder and moderate traffic. About this time I started dragging and getting tired. Ended up stopping on the side of Waleska Highway and using Google to try to figure out the fastest was back to Canton. I was hurting something fierce and was so sad to find out the best way was right back the way I came. I kept trying to eat and turn the pedals but this part was awful.
Once I got to Canton I pulled over and sat in the shade, took off my shoes and charged my phone while I tried to rest. Got a good ten minutes and felt ok to go on. I kept thinking just another 10-15 minutes and then I could call for a ride. Really bad place to be, couldn’t eat, water was making me nauseous and I wasn’t sweating very much.
Made it to the ball fields north of Woodstock and just blasted myself with water in the bathroom. Washed my hands and face and soaked my head. Felt amazing and this alone got me though to Canton road. I had directions to take all the crap side roads with a million turns and a million little climbs but after riding Canton road last time and being treated pretty well by traffic I decided to try it again. Same as before, everyone passes with a ton of distance and no one is rude but they go really fast. So that’s pretty ok I guess.
This part was also awful. Made it to West Oak and all I could think of was the Wallace Road climb. I told myself I’d just walk it, it’d be fine, Jan Heine walks all the time, it’s good rest. So it was pretty obvious I was going a little bonkers at this point. I did end up riding the entire hill but I felt like garbage. Once I hit the Franklin road corridor I was home free. I knew I had 25 minutes at the most and just counted down the miles, trying to stay on top of my pedals. Made it home and got up the stairs in one piece. I was so blown. Ended up 6 pounds lighter than when I left!
Although the last 3 hours were really hard I have nothing but good takeaways. I had no cramping issues, I had no irritation issues on my right side and my feet didn’t even hurt that bad! My fit felt good and I felt comfortable on the bike in all positions. I worked on stretching on the downhills and tried not to be so tense. For the first 6 hours I alternated a gel and a bar and felt pretty good. I do think I either need to stop drinking from random hose spigots or maybe deep clean my camelbak? I washed it pretty good last night but I can’t explain why I ended up nauseous. I only peed once, at the ball fields and it came out green. Nothing I ate was green so that’s probably not a good thing.
After last week I really tried to work on my sleeping. Except for thursday where a drunk person who lives with me woke me up and saturday obviously when I woke up at 4am to exercise for 10 hours I got really good sleep every night and came home for a short nap every day at lunch time. I felt really good for the first 6 hours, once I filled up at that church on Talona road it was downhill. But I’m not sick or anything, just had weird nausea and low energy. Or maybe that’s what happens after riding for so long? I thought it might be the caffeine but I only had 100mg & 50mg about 2 hours apart. So probably not.
Gear wise this is my second long ride on 650b and I am really blown away by how well this wheel size rides with Grand Bois Hetres. Overall I’m definitely slower but oddly enough I am also faster for some short stuff? I set a really good time up Talona and also during the week I set some really excellent PR times on local hills. Like a 16 second improvement up Northside from my 700c racing bike like 2 weeks ago. So that’s weird and kind of cool, it’s like effort gets rewarded and otherwise you just cruise along on this shag carpet but feel fast. I’ll take a 1-1.5 mph loss for the massive improvement in comfort and ability to ride pretty much any road I can get to around here. And I haven’t really even explored the handling! I can tell there’s gobs more traction available for cornering/turning but it’s hard to really commit after being ingrained with 700c limits. Anyway, 650b for me, I’m never going back.
That’s pretty impressive.