A(n un)dependable MTB ride

So following on from my first metric century ride a couple of weeks back, I’ve been itching to get back out for another good long ride – not so much to actually get back out for another good long ride, but the thought’s been there.  I’ve had other things on and the weather’s been poorly and I’ve had sore legs and I’m excellent at making excuses!

But yesterday I finally got round to heading back out again for a solo ride.  Being a relative newbie to long distance rides – of a distance which proper endurance riders would probably only consider a warm-up – I’m still a bit apprehensive about getting too far from base, solo, in case I pick up that invariable puncture (I’m terrible at changing tyres!).

So I opted for my ever-reliable mountainbike and decided to go check out some of the awesome forest tracks which are scattered throughout our area.  My goal was head up the hill above Ardrishaig (where I stay) and down to Cairnbaan, then head out past Achnabreck, do an easy loop of Loch Glashan, returning to Lochgilphead, then back home along the canal.  

I tell you, that’s a tough climb up the continually steep hill – with only 1 brief respite – from Lock 4 of the Crinan Canal all the way up to Kilduskland Reservoir!  I’ve biked and run this climb once each previously, so I know it’s just a case of knuckling down and keeping the legs moving.  It was going as well as it ever has (ie. painfully yet steadily) until – snap – my (cassette) gear shifter broke.  The up-shifter was working fine and as per normal, but the shifter casing was now loose and the thumb-lever for down-shifting just didn’t catch anything.  This wasn’t to plan – especially for my “Reliable” bike – but quickly discovered that by pushing the casing tight, I could then shift down gear, so, problem by-passed!

That was, until at some point descending the small loop of the Fire Tower MTB Trail, the entire shifter mechanism departed from my handlebars.  And as I didn’t notice until I got all the way down to the carpark, I then had to retrace my descent, looking for these departed parts.  Needle-in-a-haystack, yet amazingly, I did find all components: lever, casing, spring and even the 2 small washers!

gearshift-fail

So I now had a choice.  Head back to Cairnbaan and cycle the canal towpath back to Ardrishaig, or keep going regardless.  Figuring that I still had 3-speeds of 3rd gear (slow, very slow and snail-pace), and this then meant I could climb hills and allow gravity work any descents, I kept going.

The track out to Loch Glashan is mostly ups and downs, only when pretty close to Glashan does the track flatten out in places, and so it was here, at about the farthest distance away from Lochgilphead when I discovered the folly of my exercise – cycling in the fastest incarnation of 3rd gear still only allowed me to pedal at about 50rpm (slow), any faster and my legs would spin without reward.  Frustrating, yet I figured this might be serendipitous training for endurance tour cycling, where the goal is simply to get great distances, rather than to cover set distances quickly .

So with this unintended training refocusing, I did as best I might and settled into a sorry routine of struggling up more hills, meandering downhills at pathetic pace (now with strong headwind), and plodding away between times.  I even managed a fair detour to see some wind-turbines up close – seeing as they were there; Really amazing structures, especially when standing immediately underneath these massive blades whirring round at incredible speed on a windy day.

Very glad to eventually make it back to Ardrishaig.  Kevin at Crinan Cycles shall be getting a visit soon, and I reckon next cycle outing will be on the old (puncture)-dependable CX.  Check out my full ride on Strava 24 if you want.

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