Last week was half term, which provided a great opportunity for me to get some miles in on the bike. Or bikes in fact.
Usually I’m tied to the house in the mornings sorting out the kids but with my wife off work I had all the excuses I needed to get out early for a commute to work. My plan originally was to try and get in more miles than I’ve done in a week for a long, long time with three days of 28-mile commuting as well as top and tailing the week with our usual Sunday ride.
To make it a bit more interesting I decided that since the route was fixed I’d have to vary the bikes instead. First up was my Orange Five.
Riding into work on Tuesday morning along the North Downs Way I was treated to a sunrise of classic Autumn beauty. Knowing I had a god few miles ahead of me this week I tried my hardest to throttle back my effort, dropping to the granny ring up Alsation and spinning along quite gently.
A great start to the week but things went horribly wrong on the return that evening with steady rain and high winds making conditions on the easy XC route treacherous. I couldn’t see with the rain on my glasses, I had no mudguards (and got soaked) and for much of the time the air was so heavy with moisture that it was like riding in fog. Slow and arduous, not helped by my right hand X0 trigger shifter breaking. It meant just three forward gears from using my front triple!
With the trails thoroughly sodden I passed on the Wednesday night ride as I was planning to press the Inbred singlespeed into service on Thursday morning. This is now running a 17T rear cog and I had no idea what the ride would be like.
As it turned out, Thursday was also a damp morning but at least I now had mudguards to cut down the spray. What I soon found was that the Inbred was playing up too. The anticipated Zen ride with my newly reburbished rear hub turned into a real sod as each time I went to put any torque through the pedals something slipped.
I’ve recently replaced the chain and rear sprocket as well as servicing the freehub so it could be the chain is slipping on the front chainring, or the freehub is not engaging properly, or the chain slack is not being taken up properly. I’ve no idea which of these it is, so a quick wheel swap from the Orange may be required to test.
It was immensely frustrating to hear and feel the drivetrain slip, accompanied by a loud crack just when I needed to put the power down and resulted in my walking parts of Alsation and a few other inclines along the way for fear of doing something terminal. Everywhere else I could spin without any trouble and was thoroughly enjoying myself having a bit of a hoon but mentally it was draining knowing I had another day of riding to go.
So, Thursday evening found me back tinkering in the garage, swapping light mounts and fixing a puncture on my old Marin Muirwoods. Setting out once more in windy but mild and dry weather on Friday morning was a bit of an effort but once on the trails I started to enjoy the old bike.
It’s surprisingly well-suited to this kind of riding although a bit of bounce from the front would have been nice. But it never really had that when it was new so the Carbon Cycles fork seems entirely in keeping!
V-brakes were vague but predictable so all in all it was a fine ride to work. There are times when I’m reminded how good the Continental Vertical was as a tyre, even my six year old wire beaded ones seemed to be pretty good to me (even on Sunday’s Leith Hill ride I had no complaints about them).
Coming back in the evening the wind had started to dry the trails nicely and the firmer ground, together with the fact that mechanically the bike was working well gave me my quickest time of the week. Despite that, I was finding that the soft trails had easily added around 20 mins to the times I was setting in high summer.
All in all, a tough week of cycling that was made interesting by the differing trials, tribulations and characters of my three bikes. It was apparant that the trail itself was never the same two days running as well, so if you’re wavering about winter riding and are waiting for a time when things seem ideal I’d say forget it. Just get out and ride as the saying goes.
As for getting the ride clothing sorted for wet riding in 10° temperatures? Well, I don’t seem to have found the perfect combination yet!