Solvang Double Century (fixed gear)
A snapshot of the cycling travels and events that I've chronicled makes it obvious that I love to do this ride year after year. I've learned to love it all the more because of the fixie. Despite this being my fifth straight Solvang Double Century in a row, and my second time on it on a fixie in a row, it really felt new and special again. Thanks to the fact that Lisa herself decided to take it on with HER fixie. And I have never, never been so chill on a double century before. I absolutely had a great time here this year.

Lisa pulled off her first double on a fixed gear marvelously. Of course I never doubted that she could do it. Seeing how I managed it OK last year, she was motivated to do the same, and has developed a lot more ability and confidence on her fixed gear bike year in just one year. Like I always say, we're each other's worst/best instigators.

With 509 official starters, and 482 finishers, this was by far the largest field on the road in Solvang that last weekend in March for this event. Among the usual faces we've grown accustomed to seeing here year after year, we enjoyed seeing other friends who were new to this event -- new to double centuries even in some cases. Of these, however, we were particularly impressed by the physical and spiritual comeback of our Quackcyclist compadre, Jesse S., who finished his first double century in fine fashion (and grabbed California Triple Crown credit later in the year, in fact) after his hip fixin' a couple years ago.

Also in the mix: fellow members of our hometown cycling club, the Oakland Yellowjackets, Jason and Lisa -- who successfully completed the Death Valley Fall Double last year on their tandem (for each, their first double century). Solvang was shaping up to be their first double century on solo bikes, until a last minute decision had them rack up the tandem for the trip again. Of course, like in Death Valley, they made the ride look easy.

I shared the entire ride start to finish with Lisa this time. With only one exception: on a 10 mile stretch or so when I hit the gas with 2 fixed gear argyle-socked bandidos from Diablo Cyclists, pulling a string of 8 riders. What fun it was. And that mild-mannered demon Don Cartwright... what an awesome wheel to be on.

Counting Lisa and myself, there were just seven riders in the fixed gear discipline. And like it was last year, I felt we were outclassed by all of them: some veterans of the Big Fix, included. We had on-road encounters with all of them: which means -- as the ones who probably started earlier than most -- we were of course passed by all of them. The last of those whom I encountered was a guy named Sergio, whom I vaguely remembered. We shared a few miles together after the final descent of the day, about 15 miles from the finish. As we chatted, he admitted that he witnessed some guy early on the ride last year on a fixie and that inspired him to give it a try himself. Then I remembered him all of a sudden because that 'some guy' just happened to be me, and I had a quick flashback to our pleasant encounter last year. So it was really cool to see him on his way to a fine finish on HIS new fixed gear bike this time. And what a fine steed it was, no less (custom Serotta, with nothing but tasty bits).

Lisa confesses there were two memorably low points during her ride. The first was during the early hours before dawn. Who could blame her? It was fucking cold. Swear you've got icicles beneath the nostrils COLD. This had such a profound effect on the smoothness of Lisa's pedal stroke, that I wondered if the rails on her saddle were gonna survive the pounding they were getting in the first 30 miles.

The arrival of the sun brought much enjoyed, temperate warmth and Lisa clearly felt and looked better on the bike immediately. But the next low point happened between CP3 and CP4, about miles 120 to mile 150 to be more exact. Her speed dropped dramatically during this stretch and she was in notable discomfort from tight hamstrings (mainly). At the Guadalupe checkpoint, I had her lay on the pavement as I administered some long hamstring stretches, and that appeared to fix her up really well. On the monotonously long stretch from Guadalupe to Los Alamos (and to the finish, for that matter), she was on again, and finished on a really high note, even when I forced a higher pace in the last 10 miles without warning -- a flashback to the our Davis 200K brevet finish earlier in the month.

Another Solvang Double Century in the bag hopefully means a sucessful prelude to another good season of big rides. Hopefully!

Distance: 196 miles (including one missed turn) | Elevation gain: 6,300' | Ride time: 12h35m
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