34:34, My New Favourite Ratio

by Chikashi

In order to build the bike to take to the Alps, I needed to have the rear wheel rebuilt principally because of the difference in the rear dropout width (frame). It turned into a bit of a saga, from what resembled a Fawlty Towers episode to something out of a Black Adder episode. The wheel was completed recently, so I was finally able to go climb a few hills.

I went to test the newly built (but vintage) bike in Liège this past Saturday in 34°C heat. Since it was going to be more or less a maiden ride, rather than attempting a potentially overly ambitious ride on a bike that has not yet been fine-tuned, I thought that I would do just the northern loop of the 2012 Liège-Bastogne-Liège figure 8 route.

Two pleasant surprises happened at the beginning of my ride. Once I got off the train at Liège Palais, it was a real faff trying to get out of Liège, getting lost thanks to incomplete and imprecise directions on my Google Maps print-out. A pensioner out on a casual ride with his grandson approached me and asked where I was heading, as it was a bit obvious that I was desperately lost whilst looking at the silly print-out. Once he figured out where I was trying to go, he offered to actually lead the way until we reached the foot of my first climb going up Thier des Critchons. It was probably less than a mile away from where we were, but the gesture was really very touching.

Soon thereafter, I was going through the town of Embourg, and two barbers standing outside their shop, seeing that I was heading towards the hills, shouted out to me, ‘Allez! Allez!’ and waved. Heart-warming gesture. I couldn’t help but crack a smile.

I have never experienced such surprises whilst cycling in Flanders, but these sorts of surprises in Wallonia give one the impression that perhaps there is hope for humanity.

I reached Remouchamps soon enough and started climbing the famous Côte de la Redoute where the gradient reaches 22°. The last time I was there, a little more than a year ago, I had a standard drivetrain set-up and had to walk most of the way up. This time, with a 50/34T compact-double up front with the largest rear sprocket of 34T, I made it all the way up. Not without effort, however.

Later in the loop, I accidentally joined a large group that was participating in a cyclo-sportive and struggled along with them, up various hills, miniscule in comparison to the Cols that we will be climbing in the Alps. It was interesting, but not surprising, to note that all of them had either a compact-double or a triple chainset. I also noted that I am not exactly ready to scale the Alps…

The bike, it turns out, rolls rather nicely. Smooth as silk. The saddle needs to be raised a bit, the handlebar position is perfect, the drivetrain does not seem to need any fine-tuning, the wrapping orientation of the handlebar tape needs to be flipped and the rear brake needs a slight adjustment. It seems that I did not do too badly assembling it.

So, I have only 2 weeks left to prepare… As I said previously, your sponsorship of the G2MC Charity Ride is guaranteed to give you extremely good value for your money given the deliciously high my-pain-for-your-sterling ratio. Rather higher than 34:34, I should think.

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