Saturday, 18 April 2009

Blame the bike.

Not fast enough uphill? Blame the bike! Not fast enough downhill? Blame the bike! Not keeping up with your mate on the level? Not having a good day? Having trouble on even the most moderate technical riding? Got a few aches and pains? Feel like doing some childish whinging? Blame the bike!

It's easy when you get the hang of it: just build up a repertoire of mechanical issues and pull them out of the bag whenever the heat is on. Here's a few basic ones to be going on with:

  • Tyres too soft/hard
  • Gears jumping/not indexed properly
  • Cables dirty
  • Seat too low/high
  • Brakes dragging
  • Suspension too hard/soft/rebound damping too slow/fast

There are many more creative ones as well which, unlike those above, can't be quickly and easily solved with nothing more elaborate than an Allen key or a pump. The real skill is being able to use all of these excuses on the same ride without getting a punch in the face, or some withering abuse at the very least.

Dave and I did a 74km circuit yesterday, starting in Kinlochleven. Kinlochleven is a funny town; the setting for Patrick McGill's "Children of the Dead End", it has a weird, cut-off feel about it, as though it existed in another realm entirely. It's hemmed in by big mountains which have lots of trails leading into them making for some outstanding descents on a bike. If you start a ride here, conversely, it means going uphill steeply for a long way. Our ride takes us up the road to Mamore Lodge and on to Loch Eilde Mor and then down to cross the Abhainn Rath at Luibeilt. The weather is perfect, apart from an easterly wind. We stop after the river crossing for some food and to drink in the splendid views. The onward route crosses a col before a (disappointing) descent to Lairig Leacach bothy. It's all really hard work. The surface is very rough and maintaining forward momentum is difficult (blame the suspension settings!).

We make good fast progress from the bothy into and through Leanachan Forest and on through Inverlochy to get to Glen Nevis and the start of the WHW back to Kinlochleven. It's a long fire-road climb and I need my bag of excuses again (gears jumping, brake discs dragging). We're greeted by a pretty French girl (probably) at the top who flashes us a winning smile and revitalises our flagging mojos. The last leg is unremittingly rough and punishing. The surface is strewn with loose gravel and boulders for mile after torturous mile until we reach the merciful sign pointing downhill back to the start. All my contact points are numb from the 5 1/2 bone-shaking hours in the saddle, but I manage to ride the rocky descent back to the road and actually enjoy it. My arms are screaming at the bottom and I'm very glad to be back at the van.

"So are you still going to ride the Kinesis in the race?", Dave asks.
"I'll reserve judgement until a suitable period of sober reflection has passed, but right now I just want to throw the fecking thing in the bin".

Now that was a proper mountain bike ride. I went through all three of my emotions (hunger, tiredness and disappointment) and emerged with a big smile on my face.

R1012415 Click the pic for more.

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