A week ago, I was talked into going on an organised MTB in the Surrey hills. It’s an increasingly popular event where riders are encouraged to wear Santa Claus outfits and put some Christmas bling on helmets and bikes.
As the day came nearer, my plan to replace my worn chain ring, chain and rear cassette through the cycle to work scheme had been blown out of the water. They refused the application because they were under the impression that I was rebuilding, not replacing worn parts. After 6 weeks of nagging, harassing and presenting a coherent argument, I was informed that yes, the scheme had been altered to include the purchase of components provided that I could prove that they were for the use of safely getting myself to work on the commute. This was my argument in the 1st place-duh! How one proves this is a little more difficult but I have 4 years of data on Strava that they can wade through if they have the time…
So, as the front gear was not working, I had 9 gears in the big chain ring at my disposal. I figured that I had a good base level of fitness to tackle 46km of sloppy muddy trails, fresh from a day of heavy rain 2 days beforehand. So what could go wrong on the 890 metres (~3000 feet) of climbing?
Not much as it happens. I didn’t fix my front wheel on securely at the start and ended a wobbly first steep descent in sandy soil unable to brake. Once this was sorted out, there were many steep rocky sections that my gearing could not manage. But I did out climb many who were better at descending who had passed me on the downhills.
I walked up a couple of very steep parts once I came to a stop, resentfully letting others past in their granny gears. I did make it up a section that was really a waterfall as water poured down the trail up to the chain ring in parts. I was pleased with that as many gave up and walked through it.
My friend John gave me the nickname of “Big ring Boris-pride of the Santa fleet” as I ascended the last rocky hill. I should state here that I christened my bike long before the Brexit referendum but am considering a name change. Horace seems most likely as it rhymes with Doris, the name of my crosser.
Near the end, a few e-bikes whizzed past me creating more resentment. I don’t have particular feelings for these contraptions but felt cheated to be bested in terms of time after my day of hard slog. I like the idea of owning one to get me around when I am much older and they do have potential to reduce road congestion allowing commutes without the bother of showering and changing at the end. Hopefully they will be a helluva lot cheaper in 20 years.
While I was cleaning my bike later, I noticed that I couldn’t change up to the 2 largest rear cogs. I may only have had 7 gears to work with. I used them the following day after dropping the boys off at school and returning later in the day to collect them on a sort of recovery/errands rides. But I haven’t ridden much since due to lower back pain. I need to get back to stretching after my rides again.
Tomorrow I have the choice of taking Boris to the bike shop (after a week of unsuccessful attempts to get it there) or risk aggravating more pain by riding. This should get me past the yearly distance goal and it will be dry for a change. But cold.
I think that I’ll stretch my hammies instead…