A weekend in Philadelphia, June 2008

Thursday 5th June
Ride to the airport was 40 minutes (only just nudging over 50 degrees, but at least I missed the rain!), then 10 minutes to dismantle and pack up the Speeding tikitTM. Lots of room in the case with the tikit in speeding configuration! Was exactly at 50lbs at checkin (bike+trailer+Detours trunk+spare stem+aero bars+shoes+clothes+tools). That new, lighter Samsonite suitcase would be useful, especially since it is good to only have one piece of luggage now. I went online to check the start list for the Time Trial on Saturday - final count is 274 entered! Which is great since it pushes my start time back past 9am. Two flights later and three hours lost to the time difference and I landed in Philly a little before midnight. David Seidman, a Bike Friday customer who rode his Pocket Rocket across the country in 2004 (the year after me!), had very kindly offered to put me up, and was there to pick me up in a ‘Philly Car Share’ Prius. Despite it being late, we went on a quick tour so I could see where the hillclimb and time trial courses were, before we headed home and I eventually got to bed sometime after 2am.

Friday 6th June
I eventually got up and found food before making my way over to visit Michael McGettingan at Trophy Bikes – the Bike Friday dealer in town and the one responsible for all the folder events this weekend. The shop was pretty busy, so after checking in I headed out to investigate the race courses. The time trial course was very straight forward – an out and back on a flat road that would be closed to traffic on race day. The hillclimb, on the famous Manayunk Wall (which the pros will race up 10 times during the Philadelphia International Championship on Sunday) was interesting: The start was just off Main Street, then after accelerating off the line there was a quick right and left over cobbles, before hitting the climb proper. Not terribly steep to halfway, then it ramped up to 17% for the second half, before levelling off a little to the finish line. Only a kilometre long, so fast and furious! I rode up with three CSC pros, out on a training spin from the look of it. I then rode back to town and Trophy, where I met up with pro photographer and BF owner Al (last name?) and his friend and ended up joining them for lunch – of course the tikit came too!

After lunch I went back to David’s for a quick nap, before getting ready for the evening hillclimb – I was starting at 6:30. Fortunately I left plenty of time to ride over to Trophy for the group ride to Manayunk, as I only made it about four blocks before my rear tyre went flat….. I changed the tube but wasn’t happy about the slit in the tyre left from a large piece of glass (the little Primo tyres are great, but not the best for city streets!), so I went back to fit my spare tyre before heading off again. Nice and hot at over 90 degrees. I took one more easy ride up the Wall when we got there. I tried to do a warmup before the start, but there wasn’t anywhere to go – between traffic and signals it wasn’t possible to ride at a good tempo anywhere nearby. So I just sat in the shade – I wasn’t exactly cold anyway! The first rider up the hill was one of the CSC pros, setting the target for the rest of us with 1:34. The race had 69 pre-entries, which swelled to over 100 on the day, including 14 in the folder class – a pretty good turnout! I was a bit nervous because although this sort of event is my speciality, having had mono I hadn’t done any training in over a month, and had no idea how my form would be. Still, c’est la vie, I would just have to give it a go and see what happened. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and GO! I hit the cobbled corners without losing speed and got the gear spinning in the saddle – remember to breath! – until the steep bit, then it was hold the same gear, out the saddle and give it everything. I started to slow before the top of the ramp – definitely lacking a bit of top end power, but held on to the line to stop the clock at 1:35. Not too bad, but would it be enough? I collapsed on the side of the road to catch my breath, before heading back down to await the results. I ended up with the fastest folder time - last year’s winner, Peter Daulkner on a singlespeed Brompton ended up 9 seconds behind me, but the Bike Friday contingent of two tikits, one Pocket Rocket and one Pro took first, third, fourth and sixth! The overall event was won in 1:26, and my time was good enough for around 12th overall – I would definitely like to come back when I am at my usual fitness, as my initial reaction was that I thought I could probably get under 1:25…….

The Trophy crew had beers and burgers just round the corner, so after waiting for the presentation, I hung out with them for a while. But with another race looming in the morning, at 9pm I enjoyed a nice night ride along the riverside bike path back to town (still in the upper 70s, great weather!). Then I swapped the stem over (to a much lower position) and fitted aerobars to have the bike ready for the morning.

Saturday 7th June
The time trial started at 7am – but with 274 riders and my sneaking my way into the Pro/1/2 class (despite not having a USCF licence), I had the luxury of a 9:10 start time – still 6am on west coast time, but better than 4! My little bike got a lot of curious looks whilst I warmed up, then it was time to start. I hadn’t ridden a time trial in a while, and not at all on this bike, but I had got a good position on it, so it was just settle in and find the pace that I could hold for about twenty minutes. Riders were off at 30 second intervals, so once I could see the rider in front of me I could start pulling him in. I eventually overtook him a bit before the turn around point, and shortly afterwards I was caught by the guy 30 seconds behind me…. And then disaster! I messed up the gear change at the turn and dropped my chain! I got it on fairly quickly, but probably lost about 20 seconds – and so had to re-catch my 30 second man on the way back. I also got caught by the rider who started a minute behind me shortly before the end (wouldn’t have happened without the chain drop, curses!). I am definitely not used to being caught in a time trial – not being at my usual fitness level sucks! Still, aside from the chain issue, the bike did great – 54 x 9 was a big enough gear, although the jump from the 9 to the 10 was a bit big; always the problem with the Capreo cassette. My final time was 19:52 for the 8.4 miles – about 26mph average. Only good enough for 16th out of the 18 rider Pro/1/2 field; though the additional 20 seconds cost me three places. The winner did a storming 17:15! When all the results get on the web I can see how I did overall.

Afterwards I met up with David and we showed off our bikes to a few folk before heading back home for a shower and (a well earnt I think!) breakfast. The afternoon’s activity was Michael’s fast fold showdown; normally this would take place on the riverside path, but with temperatures in the high 90s it was moved to a shaded area opposite the shop. This meant the course was very short – start, ride to a marker, fold the bike, run to a stool, sit and cross the legs, unfold and sprint back. The guys from Dahon and Swift were there, as well as assorted owners. In the first round, Steve from Dahon just piped me – he was using their Jack, which is basically a full size mountain bike with just one hinge in the middle, so a very quick fold! We all had a second go and although we all went quicker the result was the same – Steve first, followed by me less than a second behind, followed by the Swift not far behind. All good fun, and then we were ready for a drink in the cool!

Sunday 8th June
Today was the big race; not for me, it was time to watch the pros do their thing! And honestly, with high humidity and 96 degrees, they were welcome to the 156 miles of racing! The folders met to watch the start, and then we cruised the expo area, where I gave impromptu tikit demos when people asked about my funny little pink bike. That continued as I spectated on various parts of the course over the next few hours, before ending up back at Trophy in the afternoon for some folder testing and talking. By then I was feeling pretty fried from being out in the heat all day, so it was nice to get home for a cool shower; just time to pack the bike back in it’s case and set the alarm for a very early start for the trip back to Eugene tomorrow.