Episode 4: flying solo (up the 1 in 20)

Route: Thornbury to Sassafras
Distance: 106km
Duration: 4 hours 3 minutes

Looking back down the 1 in 20.

With the Donvale Demon out of action due to family commitments, and Brendan in bed battling a Christmas-party-hangover-from-hell, I was left to fend for myself on Sunday afternoon. Without the collective motivation that comes from riding in a group, I found myself reluctant to get rolling.

Eventually, at about 1pm, I got off the couch and rolled out. It had been a while since I’d tried my hand (well, legs) at the ol’ 1 in 20 and I was keen for a bit of a challenge.

I made my way to Chandler Highway where I joined the Koonung Creek Trail. I’m not sure if riding along bike paths contravenes some rule of “pro” cycling but it worked perfectly for me. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of fighting traffic (and traffic lights) most of the way to the ‘Nongs, so being able to ride fast and uninterrupted was terrific.

Easy enough to do when you're riding alone.

I used to ride the Koonung Trail quite frequently in my high school days but until Sunday I’d never ridden the “new” section that extends beyond Springvale Road. Turns out it’s a pretty great ride, despite a few short, sharp pinches near the Mullum Mullum tunnels.

I followed the path as it hugged the Eastlink tollway, eventually turning off at Boronia Road. From there it was a quick jaunt to Bayswater and from there to The Basin via Mountain Highway.

The whole point of the expedition was to test myself on the 1 in 20 and so, when I got to The Basin, I had a quick break to steady the legs and calm the nerves. My best time before Sunday was 19 minutes 30 seconds and I was keen to go under 19 minutes. I’d done a bit of research on Strava and worked out that I’d need to average 21.2km/h to reach my target.

More 1 in 20 views.

I set off at about 21km/h, knowing I would be able to increase my average considerably in the false-flat section a few kilometres into the climb. I managed to keep my speed above 20km/h until the false-flat and I was feeling strong. As the road startened to flatten out, I engaged the big dog and ramped things up.

I think I might have gone a little hard in the false-flat and while I’d managed to see 34km/h at one point, I paid for it when the climbing resumed. My speed dropped below 20km/h and I had to work beyond my threshold to maintain even 19km/h.

After a couple of minutes spent trying to get my heart rate under control, I started feeling better and my speed crept up again. I crossed the line feeling totally spent but confident that I’d gone under 19 minutes. Stupidly, I’d forgotten to start the lap function on my new Garmin 500 so I had to wait until I got home to discover I’d climbed the 1 in 20 in 18 minutes 31 seconds.

A terrific result for me — a PB by almost a minute and a great indicator that I’m fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been.

I wasn't the only one appreciating the great views.

After a quick drink at Sassafras, I turned around and descended to The Basin before retracing my steps back to the bike track at Boronia Road. Despite being reluctant to get rolling earlier in the day, by this point I was very glad I had. By the time I reached Quarry Road in Donvale, I felt like an extra challenge.

I left the bike track and made my way through the quiet back streets of Donvale until I came face-to-face with the monster that is Glenvale Road. It might be a short climb but it’s probably the steepest piece of road I’ve ever ridden up. If you ride it right from the bottom (from Oban Road) you face two nasty pinches, both of which exceed 20% gradient.

My Garmin 500 was reading 22% at one point and on the second pinch I had to stop for a breather despite having a compact crankset. I eventually got to the top, found my way back to the bike track and got into a nice tempo for the ride home.

I got home around 6pm, satisfied with another great hit-out and looking forward to my next ride.

The brute that is Glenvale Road. Doesn't look like 22% does it?

The only downside to the whole ride was an annoying clicking sound my bike seems to have developed. It only happens every couple of pedal strokes but beyond that, it’s difficult to determine exactly what it is or where it’s coming from. I’m hoping to get it fixed on Saturday morning so I can get out for another long ride on Saturday arvo or Sunday.

With roughly 12 weeks until 3 Peaks rolls around, I feel as if my training is progressing very nicely. As mentioned, I feel fitter and stronger than I ever have and I think all of the additional riding is paying off. In fact, before Wednesday this week, I managed to string together 13 consecutive days of cycling. This was a combination of work commutes, longer weekend rides and spin classes, and the hard work seems to be paying dividends.

Don’t forget you can follow my progress over at Strava and if you’re up for some cycling-related banter, come and say  “hi” on  Twitter and Facebook.

Until next time, thanks very much for reading, and please stay safe on the roads.

86 days to go …

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8 Replies to “Episode 4: flying solo (up the 1 in 20)”

  1. Matt,
    Just re-joined the road cycling ranks after 20 years off the road – been in training for 6 weeks now & looking to do Richmond to Sassafras via Koonung Trail this weekend. Looking forward to the 1 in 20 in particular.

    1. Thanks Timo. I’ve ridden down it before (I’ve never gripped the brakes so hard!) and I was going to turn around and ride up…until I turned around and looked at it. Then I rode away and pretended I’d never seen it.

  2. Great work on the PB – 18 minutes is a cracking time!

    We usually cruise out via Doncaster road – plenty of lanes and generally quiet enough on a weekend. You can then squeeze in Craig rd (next to Glenvale) on the way out there. Come via Mitcham road for a nicd little section down past the creek The rest of the ride out is pretty straight forward, just working your way over to mountain hwy.

    Too many fun roads to explore!

  3. Just to add another possiblity to the list above, I had an annoyiong click for weeks – turned out tobe a chainring bolt that needed a tweak.

    I replaced a chain and greased every bolt on my bike before I found the problem!

    well done on the PB – I can’t get motivated enough to go hard without someone pushing me to keep up.

  4. Clicking and creaking can be hard to trace. Possibilities that come to mind, in increasing order of difficulty/time/expense to fix yourself

    * Skewer not tight enough (front or rear)
    * Dirty/worn/overlong chain
    * Undertightened cleat bolts
    * Worn cleats
    * Wheel magnet striking frame or sensor
    * Valve stem tapping inside of rim
    * Loose seatpost clamp (note: if seatpost is carbon, use Ritchey Liquid Torque to increase grip without exceeding safe torque limit)
    * Misaligned derailleur (front or rear)
    * BB not tight enough, or needs greasing
    * Brake/shift cables grabbing inside housing
    * Cable housing bouncing against frame
    * Loose headset
    * Incorrect bearing preload on cranks or hubs
    * Spokes rubbing or undertensioned
    * Material fatigue in bars, fork or stem
    * Cracked wheel rim
    * Material fatigue in frame or fork

    This is just off-the-cuff. I’ve encountered *all* of these. I’m sure a good mechanic can think of even more.

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