Hard going up; SCARY going down
This past weekend, I drove down to Wintergreen, VA to “recon” a race I’ll be doing in April. It’s an uphill time trial that ascends the slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains up to the Wintergreen Ski Resort. Or better stated: it’s a bitch of a climb.
I was ready for it, though, and slogged through for 47 odd minutes. Hard, but not overwhelming. Of course, I didn’t do it a “race speed” and I was carrying an extra 20 lbs of winter clothing, my “training bike,” water bottle etc.
Going back downhill, though, was a different matter. Even after riding up, I still wasn’t all that familiar with the roads, and I didn’t want to push it going down. Now, I’d say I’m a pretty good, but not great, descender. Moving down 15% slopes with hairpin turns, though, pushed me right into the “terrible” category.
And when you’re terrible, you’re forced to ride the brakes to curb your speed. The problem? When you’re on the brakes, the bike doesn’t want to turn. So, you’re either going 50 mph and not being able to turn because of the speed, or 20mph, but not being able to turn because of braking. Not a good choice!
But, I inched down until the road straightened and I let it go, hitting nearly 40mph. At that point, I heard a clear “thump, thump” every time I touched the brakes. I thought a rock or something had wedged into my brake pads, but I made it back to my car safely.
Only then did I see my brake pads were worn down the nub, and my entire rim had heated up so much, the carbon was warping. I figure if I had ridden a bit longer, I’d have had a nasty blowout. And a nasty blowout at 40mph, would have been, uh, disastrous.
Next time I do the course, I’m only going uphill and meeting Nancy at the top. Much less scary that way!