I had jumped onto one of the Friday A.M. townie rides affectionately called "The Coffee Run" because it ends at Starbucks. The ride consists of 8-10 greying gentlemen pushing road bikes at 19MPH for 30 miles over an ever-changing road selection while mock-taunting each other about creaky knees.
On this particular day the Coffee Run meandered to the base of Jericho Mountain and the beginning of a climb known amongst this group as "The Bitch". The Bitch is a steep climb that increases in grade throughout the length until, at the end, it stands straight up to test not only endurance but even wheel grip.
To be fair, it isn't epicly long, but it's enough to take this rider to his max heart rate and endurance by 3/4 of the way up. The thing is, I secretly loved The Bitch and in many seasons I made it part of my regular route. Climbing was traditionally the best part of my riding resume.
Now, I hadn't topped The Bitch in a few weeks, but that was no worry. I was fully prepared to scamper this climb with the biggest dogs of the group, if not lead it out. Up we went. Everything started fine. Legs pumping, heart rate climbing. I was out of the saddle earlier than I wanted, but that was to be expected. I wasn't leading, but I was in the hunt. Up. OK, max heart rate a little early. Leg burn setting in. Steeper now. A few guys inch past. "C'mon, push" I hear myself thinking. Grab another gear. No more gears to grab? Uh-oh. Full-tilt plus, and now the steepest part ahead. With tongue out, gasping, heart thumping and legs on fire I topped the hill and held my own, but I was pretty wasted for the rest of the ride.
It got me thinking. Maybe it's time to make some age concessions. I still ride a non-compact crank with a 12-23 corn cob cassette. There are more useable configurations for casual cyclists in hilly areas, but it's what I have always ridden and I like the tight gear ratio choices. That, or maybe I just wanted to impress the chicks. Either way, I am not getting better as it relates to cycling, I am getting older, slower and wiser.
Today I ordered my 12-27 cassette. It's a full 8% increase in ratio over my 23. With Merckx as my witness, I even peeked at compact crank setups. I'm not quite there yet, but soon. Very soon.