Riding Fixed, Up Mountains, with Pros – Episode I: Mount Lemmon

Riding almost 7000 feet of elevation gain over 58 miles with only a single, fixed gear doesn't sound like your daytime talk show. Well actually, to State Bicycle's own Bryan "B-Hard" Harding it's a bit of a party. Maybe he just loves the camera, but we love him too. In our very first episode, B-Hard takes us up Tuscon's epic Mount Lemmon climb with UHC pro cyclist, Travis McCabe, covering some hard-hitting questions on healthcare, partying, and hair removal you've all been pondering as well. Veg out with us and don't break a sweat – not sure they did either.
Fuck your granny gear.

A very well-packed Bryan seen here.

Something I've come to know about him from the many bike trips we've taken is that he's always well-prepared. Not in a Boy Scout, be responsible sort of way, but for some reason James Franco from Spring Breakers comes to mind. Like a "look at all my shit," doesn't matter if it's overweight, be fun sort of way. But back to Boy Scouts and down to the bare necessities, the following are B-Hard's top 3, most critical, don't leave for a bike ride without these items:

  1. Kershaw folding knife
  2. Stanley flask w/ Bulleit Bourbon
  3. ChapStick (brand name, blue label)

When we arrive to Tucson, Travis meets us at the hotel for a bike building party. We find out that outside of pro cycling he is also a caregiver for an elderly, disabled woman, and he was birthday partying with her just before stopping over. Swoon!

It's late and we gotta get up soon, at 4:30am as a matter of fact, to get to the mountain by sunrise. This is us packed up:

Saxon, our videographer, carries a lanyard of various colors of gaffer and masking tape in his tool bag, but this isn't the same kind of preparedness we discussed earlier. I'll let you in on a little show biz secret here: more tape is more credibility. You don't have to use your tape, but if you want cred on set, you damn well better have a selection and a lot of it.

It's bright and early and Saxon delicately changes Bryan's diaper, or maybe he was setting up audio here, I can't tell for sure. Meanwhile, Travis is readying for his ascent whilst smashing what appears to be an iced long john or Choco Taco. It's a pro athlete engineered supplemental meal replacement performance enhancing sneaky snack, and I just can't disclose these secrets, maybe later tho.

Just north of Tucson, Arizona, Mount Lemmon boasts the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains, with summit elevation at 9,159 ft. That's a long way to go from the foothills around 2400 ft. The boys are well on their way and in high spirits. B-Hard goes into straight up interview mode. "State your name."

"Travis. Jacob. McCabe."

"I hear some people also refer to you as 'McBabe', did you start that yourself?"

"I might of."

Full disclosure, despite the endorsement from healthcare giant, UHC, Travis declines to comment on the Affordable Care Act. We apologize, and you may direct your attention elsewhere.

Fig. I

Take a lesson, this is a dictionary worthy hand up, and so gentlemanly of Bryan to share. Notice his hand technique, the soigneur holds the top of the bottle, leaving the neck and full length of the bottle available for the rider.

"So, Travis, is it fair to say you party?"

Fig. II: Hand Up, perfect form

"Oh yeah... It's calmed down though. It's gotten better."

Fig. III: Performance Enhancement

We drive ahead to get some distance shots of them coming up and they're motoring! Almost miss 'em but they're in there all Where's Waldo like.

About a third of the way up, the life on the mountain starts to look much different and it cools off substantially. You can find some of the world's greatest landscape and species diversity in Arizona. There have been recent Jaguar sightings in the Santa Rita Mountains just southeast of Tucson and also some rumors of rare dinosaurs on Lemmon.

TL;DR: no dinos on Lemmon

The ascent picks up a little grit before Windy Point Vista, about half way up. It's snack time.

I can't tell what he's got, maybe a Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich? No really, we signed NDAs and can't tell you what exactly gives pro cyclists their edge. It's however unmistakeable from the bottle that Travis drinks Glacier Cherry Frost Brawndo, The Thirst Mutilator.

Now, Bryan knows snacks and you know that he knows that. Maybe he's delirious from the ride, so he takes the opportunity to stretch and contemplate his "drink" choice, water, like in the toilet. There are plenty of miles left to make better decisions.

Not too late to reconsider that gear ratio

"#thisthingismydick" –B-Hard

They're well fed and looks like Travis approves the gear change. Game on

"So, Travis, you got some pretty uh, good looking legs. They got nice shine. I notice the lack of hair, so what is your preferred hair removal method?"

"Typically do the razor, and I don't use like, shaving cream. I just like, soap lather up real quick."

B: "This is business. You don't need to make this like, into a night."

T: "I do like that smooth, shaved leg feel."

B: "Smooth legs on smooth legs. Like, in the sheets. Like, when you've got a smooth legs uh, sheets sandwich goin' on."

T: "I'll throw my leg over her to sleep, and she hates it cause she's like, 'your leg's too heavy.' And she's tiny. She's like a hundred pounds."

B: "So many watts."

T: "I've cut out the beer quite a bit."

B: "So you drink Michelob Ultra."

T: "Yeah."

Up here the air and scenery feels quite different from the Sonoran Desert landscape at the base. The Catalina Highway up Mount Lemmon passes through abundant Saguaros to grassland and woodland, six vegetation communities in all, emerging into a mixed conifer forest up at the top where you find the charming village, Summerhaven. The climb tapers off, and it's a short but victorious descent to suffer salvation at...

The Cookie Cabin!

"I'll start with a hot coffee and a slice of pepperoni."

"Ohh make that two slices of pepperoni."

Gearing up for the descent, no pun

"I'm not a real fixed gear rider, and I'm afraid to go downhill fast [without a brake]..."

"So I just did a very legitimate, quick brake job setup..."

"Routed very stealth-like through the frame."

"This is always just the teeth kicker for me after that [climb]."

Game on!

Brakes, no brakes, and bears, oh my.

I'll speak for myself here, but what's rewarding, or at least recovering about a long climb is that nice coasting descent. Forgive my superfluousness or redundancy but there is no coasting on a fixed gear descent, so it's another 29 miles of pedal strokes for these guys!

Mundane behind-the-scenes shot of offloading footage and charging batteries

Game on!

Fig IV: stealth-like, very legitimate brake job

Fig V: smooth, shaved leg feel, nice shine

"My ultimate goal is to ride a bike, enjoy it, and just be happy."

"The only time we would go out and drink is if we won."

"But then we won all the time."

About four hours of riding and 13,000 pedal strokes up and down the mountain deserves some Mexican food and Eegee's. See you next time, Cookie Cabin!

Thanks for watching and stay with us! Where should we ride next?


2 Comments

Tony
Tony

August 26, 2017

Awesome post! Next year you guys should check out the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic in SW Colorado! It was really fun on a fixie!

Rey
Rey

July 16, 2017

Cool rides within Northern Arizona:
1: Spring/Late Autumn: Sedona to historic downtown Flagstaff via State Route 89A, 30 miles (one way, have mercy)
2: Early Autumn/Summer: historic downtown Flagstaff up to Arizona Snowbowl via US 180 to Snowbowl Road 14 miles (28 Miles roundtrip)

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