Of course, now that things seem to be relatively settled, I had to go rock the boat. Last Friday I woke up a bit early, fired up the computer and signed up for the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb, to be held on 16 August 2008. This is a very popular race; registration filled in less than 30 minutes this year. Mt. W is known to have the “world’s worst weather,” which merely compounds the challenge of riding 7.6 miles up a road with a 12% average grade. In fact, last year’s race was canceled due to 70 mph winds and driving rain at the summit. Yum.
And I know exactly why I signed up, too. I hate heights. I tend to climb OK in training but not so well in races. There’s only one way to know if I can overcome those weaknesses and make it to the top.
In the few days since I registered, I played around with the various online calculators to try to get an idea of what my finishing time might be. Given reasonable inputs for weight and power, I’m coming within a few minutes of a “top notch” finish. So, now I have a more concrete goal – get my bike and my butt up the mountain in 1:20:00 (an average speed of about 5.7 mph). That’s going to require some weight loss, some hard training, and some good old fashioned luck. I’m borderline obsessed with that number now, because I’m not sure I can do it.
Come August, I’ll find out.

RIP Sheldon Brown

I was saddened today to learn of the death of Sheldon Brown; husband, father, musician, and quite probably the most accomplished bike geek ever to pedal the earth. He has suffered from multiple sclerosis since the fall of 2006, but apparently succumbed last night to an acute myocardial infarction.
Though I could not find evidence of them via Google’s archive (which only goes back to 1996), I recall reading Sheldon’s usenet posts as far back as 1990 or 1991. Though the signal-to-noise ratio of the rec.bicycles.* newsgroups varied over the years, his contributions never wavered from the clear, informative and amusing, particularly his April Fool’s Day posts. As long as I have been interested in the technical arcana of cycling, he has been a leading resource. He leaves behind a true encyclopedia of bicycles at www.sheldonbrown.com. I consider it the best general-purpose bike website in existence, and I’d venture to say that’s a widely held opinion among bike nerds. He did it out of his love for bicycles, and in that is a true role model for “giving back” to a community of like-minded folks.
Though he was a manager at the relatively local Harris Cyclery (and, I assume, the prime mover behind their considerable Internet business), I only had the pleasure of meeting him once. Like so many others, I know him primarily through his writing. But I’d like to think that he’d appreciate this quote from Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love:

Whatever God there be, please take care of this fine person. He always did his best.

Farewell, Captain Bike.