Fitz’s Challenge – Classic 165km preparation

Apparently one is not supposed ride the 165km Fitz’s Classic as one’s first imperial century. Instead I should find a flat 161km event and pootle around. Something in my favour this year is that I will be riding as a group of four; among which is a 30-time Fitz’s veteran. The support, guidance and morale-boosting will be invaluable.

Well… I missed my 15kg weight loss target by about 12kg. I haven’t retested my FTP since September, but I suspect it has improved.

I have made some effort. I have ridden some famous climbs for the first time, including Red Hill, Mt Majura, Mt Pleasant and a successful summit of Fitz’s Hill a month ago. I’m not overawed by it, but it certainly demands respect, especially as it is after 70km.

Looking back at last year’s post mortem (numbered below), I have some updates and improvements for this year (bullet points).

  1. Indoor trainers teach continuous pedalling.  You can’t underestimate the efforts that your legs, feet, bum and gentleman’s area go through on a long ride without traffic lights and intersections.
    • True that. My legs don’t fatigue like they used to. I can turn for 2 hours without stopping.
    • There is always tension on the chain at the set power level, whereas on the road the freewheel doesn’t tension the chain. Perhaps legs become more circular indoors?
    • Three words: Aussie Butt Cream
  2. Strava arm warmers will also keep you cool in hot weather and free from sunburn.  I have slivers of burn on the tiny gaps between my gloves and sleeves.
    • I found Bontrager arm covers that are thin and cool but SPF50+
  3. I need something under my helmet to prevent “horns” from being burnt into my forehead.
  4. And something to stop sweat pouring into my eyes on descents.
    • Ditto on the skullcap.
  5. Load the course into your Garmin.  Knowing what you are about the face and how long you need to face it is very good for pacing and confidence.
    • Done
    • I would have liked to have trialled the course on my KICKR.
  6. If the course is not downloadable from the ride website, try or similar.
    • I copied it from a friend who completed it last year.
  7. Prepare your bike.  My tyres were new, I degreased the drive-train before full tuning, brakes were tightened for fast response.  My KMC chain doesn’t like my Ultegra top jockey wheel, but at least I never missed a shift.
    • I just discovered that the KMC catches the next cog on the Deore cassette slightly every half-rotation, which explains the noise.
    • Ultegra chain also catches, by to a far lesser degree. Shifting is sweet.
    • Tyres aren’t new, but I found two tyres that were in good condition.
    • Tioga tubes are hopeless. Replaced all around with tubes that lose 1psi per day, not every 5 minutes.
  8. Keep it steady for the first third.  If you feel good, then push it.
    • The group shall.
  9. Ride at your pace.  Jump on a train if you can, but don’t burn up trying to stay on.
    • The group shall.
  10. Eat and drink regularly.
    • I’ve got gels, salt tablets, seaweed strips from the Kyoto Marathon.
  11. Some drivers have no idea about overtaking.
    • Safety in numbers
  12. Motorcyclists have more respect for cyclists than drivers do.
  13. Have fun.

We’ll found out tomorrow. Weather should be OK for the out, but expecting a big NW headwind and possible rain for the return. I’ll earn it.

New wheelset, sweet as

Picked up the new wheelset from Ride365.

  • H PLUS SON Archetype rims
  • Double-butted black spokes with red nipples
    • 24 front
    • 32 rear
  • Novatec hubs
  • Total weight 1660g including skewers
Photo doesn’t do them justice

About $900, though I got a 10% Pedal Power discount even on the labour, bringing them down to $810. Sweet as.

What are they like?

The lighter weight (cf. 1720g + for Bontrager Race TLR) is not immediately obvious. My climbing times have improved, but I’ve been training more. I rarely do explosive efforts, so I can’t compare acceleration. And I can’t put the old wheelset on for an A-B comparison!

Surprisingly, the most obvious difference is during fast cornering. The wheels seem to hold their line so much better than my old wheels. I might improve my descending times as much as my ascending.

Braking was much improved too; however, I have only just worn through the anodised brake track so I’ll have to wear them in a second time. Might be time for new brake shoes, too.

Custom built for Clydesdales – Just get some

The wheels that came with my bike retail for $750-800 a set. Even a fairly exotic custom-built wheelset can be less than $1000; the highest quote I have found was $1200. Spec Dura-Ace hubs, bladed spokes and deep-section rims and the price will go North.

Some said the double-eyelets were the only way to ensure spokes would not pull through, even at high spoke counts; however, others (including Paul at Ride 365) say that a strong rim band is just as important. (My first Bontrager Race TLR failure was acknowledged as a manufacturing defect because the rim band was machined too much.)

Every big bloke I’ve talked too (well, George) has had many years of trouble-free service from their custom-built, 32- or 36-spoke wheels and use lighter wheels with fewer spokes for racing only, which may only last a  year or so.

If your LBS is on board, they should credit you the wheels that came with the bike against a custom set. Maybe minus a ‘restocking fee’.