It’s time for another update from our man with a plan, Zach, a web merchant here at our home office. As you’ll recall from his earlier entries, Zach has been trying hard to balance work, family life and time on the bike as he gets ready to take on one of the hardest gran fondos in the US, Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in September. Read on below to find out how he’s doing and what bikes he’s tested in an effort to find the perfect setup for the ride.
My overall training is going well. I’m still working hard, riding 4-5 times a week, and doing off-the-bike workouts. I do feel as though I’ve hit a plateau with my progress and weight loss, but this is to be expected after three months of training. I took a short rest period of about a week or so, and now the next month and a half will be full of weekend climbing trips.
One of these weekend training trips will actually be up to Harrisonburg, VA to ride with Jeremiah Bishop and his posse. I’m super excited to go up for a weekend and pick his brain about training, get a preview of the route, and enjoy the cool mountain air! If you’ve got any questions for him, post them on the comments here and we’ll be sure to ask him.
Also, I was inspired by the charitable mission of the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, and decided to raise money to support the fight against Prostate Cancer during my training. Prostate cancer is a growing health threat for men, and I want to do my part to raise awareness and help fight this disease. All funds I raise during the preparation of this ride will go to the Prostate Cancer Awareness Project. If you’re so inclined and are feeling generous, I’m taking donations on my personal fundraising page. Every dollar and penny will go a long way to help fight this disease, as well as push me a little harder towards the finish line!
So that’s my personal training update. Now let’s talk about bikes!
This ride has around a total of 11K + feet of climbing, so to say it’s hilly would be an understatement. It’s on pavement and dirt/gravel roads. It’s long, excruciating, and will be awesome. This unique ride definitely requires just the right bike with a unique setup.
Thanks to our friends at Fuji Bikes, I’ve been trying out a few bicycles during lunch rides and weekend training rides to see what feels like the right fit for the Gran Fondo. So far I’ve tested the Fuji SST 2.0 and the Fuji Altamira Di2 Limited Edition. I made some tweaks to the spec of each bike, such as changing out the wheelset to either a pair of Mavic Ksyrium SLs, which are one of the best all around wheelsets I’ve ever ridden, or a pair of Reynolds DV3K carbon clinchers, which are very aero, stiff, and fast, but don’t climb quite as well as the Ksyrium SLs. For each bike I also changed out the stem and handlebars to achieve the appropriate fit for me. Proper bicycle fit is the most important thing I’ve experienced in my four years as a cyclist. I’ve felt the difference in having a bicycle that has been professionally fit to my specific body needs, and I applied that fit to each of these bicycles.
First up was the Altamira Di2 LE, which may have spoiled the party for the rest of the candidates. The Shimano Dura Ace electronic shifting, the overall balance of compliance, comfort, sprinting and climbing capability, and the responsiveness of the bike make it a likely candidate right off the bat. It’s extremely comfortable on 100+ mile rides, yet with its carbon frame and oversized BB86 bottom bracket, it sprints and accelerates up the hills with quick precision and ease. It will be hard to pass this one up. The only problem could be the gearing setup. It has a standard double 53/39 crankset on the front, with a ten speed 11-25 cassette on the back. While the bike has been great around the rolling hills of the Piedmont of North Carolina, it’s definitely not set up to be a climbing bike. I took this bike to Western North Carolina and while I made it up some 14% pitches, I definitely needed lower gearing. Turning a low cadence/high power pedal stroke is doable for 50 miles or so, but wastes a lot of energy, and will not be suitable for the long steady climbs of a Gran Fondo. This will ultimately affect my decision and though the Fuji Altamira set the bar high, it may not be the best option.
My second ride was the Fuji SST 2.0. The SST is a lot different that the Altamira. Aside from the components, the biggest difference was the stiffness and the overall aggressive geometry of the frame. Once over 18 miles an hour the bike was extremely fast and required little effort to keep up its momentum. There was no problem sticking with the group on our weekly 40 at 20 rides (40 miles with a 20mph+ average speed). Sprinting on it was also fun. It was quick off the jump and I could feel every bit of power output being spit out the back wheel. Climbing was fairly sluggish, however. The bike seemed a bit unresponsive for me during long hills, and when stacked up against my other hill times, I was slower on the SST. The bike is also a little heavier than the Altamira. I’m sure there are other technical features I could talk about, but the overall difference was that it just didn’t feel right to me for a climbing machine. I love the fact that it’s super fast and sprints great. If I had room in the garage this would be a great addition to the stable of bikes at home, but as a climbing machine for the Gran Fondo, it’s not the one.
I’m still riding the Fuji SL1 Comp and the Gran Fondo, so I’ll write about those next, and make my decision after riding all four. I’m looking forward to getting out on those and finalizing my bike selection. Thanks for reading, and I’ll have another update soon!