This morning was getting some jobs done about the house. Tempocyclist will be glad to hear that one of them was cleaning my bike which was on the plan before he published his latest blog 😄
Post lunch the idea was a ride on the road bike of approximately 60km but I just couldn’t get motivated for it. I think it may have been a bit of burnout after 6 days in a row but I’m mostly blaming it on the weather. It was cold here all day with a mist hanging just overhead giving a hateful grey and gloomy feel to the day. Just over 2 hours on the road in that was totally unappealing.
Instead I decided to get the MTB out instead. I fancied an hour or so wandering around the local roads and forests. I ditched the usual gear and threw my walking trousers over my bib shorts and stuck on my hiking shoes having switched my bike pedals to the flats. I wanted to be able to jump off the bike and do a bit of exploring in Monellan.
In the end up I was out for almost 2.5hours including just over half an hour exploring. I even took time to stop for a few photos.
A slog on the road turned into a great local wander. I even found a cracking spot along the river for tomorrow morning. I’m really glad I decided to change my plans.
The weather overnight was down to freezing and below and with the forecast giving 2/3°C plus sleet/snow showers it definitely wasn’t going to be a day for the road bike. Using Strava’s suggested route function last night I had a decent couple of hours on the MTB planned for late morning/early afternoon.
I haven’t ridden this route before but I know all the sections having ridden them all on previous MTB or road spins. It’s uphill from the get go on minor roads from the house, into the forest for a few km before a mixture of forest and minor roads back home.
Heading into the first section of forest trails the gate was open and it was soon obvious why. The trail was a mess of half frozen mud churned to bits by digger works clearing the drains. At the top junction I was relieved to branch off onto an older trail that brought me back out on to a short section of road. The exit gate was closed but I was able to squeeze out the side where walkers had worn a rough path over a few rocks. Being lazy I tried to do this without completely dismounting, hit a big rock too slowly and managed a slow motion fall to the side on to the rough track. Thankfully not a bad fall and I managed to keep my head off the floor but I’m going to have a lovely bruised thigh tomorrow!
The day had started off bright and very sunny but shortly after going into the next section of forest it dulled down and the sleet showers started. This soon turned to snow which was strangely invigorating to ride in. There’s something exhilarating about doing something that most people wouldn’t even consider and riding a bike in a snow shower is definitely one of them.
Shortly after stopping for these photos I was back on to the roads. The snow was getting steadily heavier and less comfortable all the time. In the space of approximately 1km I went from this:
At this stage I decided the fun was rapidly going out of the day and with a lot more climbing and high ground to cover I decided to turn for home at just over 12km.
Just over 2km later and the day turned to shit completely. I started to notice that telltale bounce in my rear tyre and no matter how much you wish it away, it’s obvious there’s a puncture. It felt like a slow puncture and with two CO2 cannisters in my bag I figured I had an opportunity to get most of the way home at least without having to change the tube. I didn’t figure in a faulty CO2 pump 🙈
Neither of the two cannisters would open and it appears that the pin that pierces the seal is broken or missing. Without a manual pump I was snookered and Hike a Bike was my only option.
Just over 1km later I had worked out that I had a minimum of 8km to walk home and as I was already getting cold this was a non-starter. I was just about able to get mobile network and got through to my Dad who was at home and able to come get me. Fifteen cold and miserable minutes later he picked me up along the side of the road having walked almost 3km in total. MTB shoes are no fun for walking in and my gloves turned out to be a bad choice for today so I was delighted to get out of the weather and into his warm car for the short drive home. Shower plus warm food and all was well again.
Next bike purchase looks like a new CO2 pump and a new tyre. That’s a series of punctures in the same tyre now and I can’t work out why.
One of my favourite blogs is Tempo Cyclist. He writes about lots of things, mostly cycling related. This morning he shared a great tip that I was unaware of and think is worth sharing.
Rather than try to rehash what TC has already eloquently described head over to his blog and read what he has to say. While there I’d recommend having a look at his older posts and giving him a follow if you don’t already 👍
My last spin on the MTB was in May when I managed to break my derailleur hanger! I did eventually get a replacement once lockdown was over but fitting it was fiddly and I couldn’t get the gearing dialled in. The bike needed a good service and cable change so I decided to leave it until I could get it to Halfords in Letterkenny. The 31 Days of Biking challenge took over and then the purchase of my new bike and the poor MTB remained hanging up in the garage in semi retirement.
I eventually got myself organised and left it in for a service a couple of weeks ago and got everything sorted and in good working order again ready for the inevitable change in weather that would put me off the road bike.
Today the weather wasn’t too bad but for some reason I couldn’t get motivated to ride the road bike. The weather was mild but grey and drizzly and the thought of 2-3 hours was dispiriting. Having decided to just go for an hour I decided to use the MTB instead to get a decent workout in the legs and make sure everything was good after the service.
As always leaving the house is the most challenging bit and while I was dropping down the hill from the house I quickly decided to extend the route to make my 25km spin into 30km. The novelty of the MTB though soon had me smiling and enjoying the ride so 30 quickly became 40 and then 45, eventually finishing up just over 46km.
Most of the spin was on roads, a mixture of back roads like above and slightly busier main roads but with it being a lockdown Sunday afternoon traffic was pretty light and no lorries which is the biggest bonus.
On the way out of Killygordon I decided to do a bit of exploring and dropped down off the road, under the bridge and along the weir access lane along the riverbank.
I’ve only ever been down this lane once or twice and not for a very long time. The river was full and fast after the recent spell of heavy rain and the weir was in full flow.
The lane ends at the weir but there were rough tracks going a bit further, likely created by local fishermen walking upriver and perfect for the MTB.
It’s the ability to randomly change route and head off track that I love about the MTB. Exploring off road brings out my inner 8 year old and reminds me of the fun I had as a kid with a bike growing up in a small village.
My mini riverside adventure gave me an interest in more. Going into Ballybofey I thought about Drumboe but figured it would be pretty busy on a mild Sunday afternoon so went on down the main road with a plan to visit Monellan instead.
Monellan was busy enough too but nothing too annoying for either me or the families out walking. I buzzed around the forest tracks and two of the rougher little paths. I decided to skip the section where I broke my hanger in May but did get to ride the path we discovered earlier this year for the first time.
Leaving Monellan I made my final route change and headed up the steep road climb to Gleneely School and round my normal walking/running route and back home. Having talked myself out of a 2-3hr road spin for an hour I ended up being out for 2hrs 15min and really enjoyed myself.
It’s unlikely that many cyclists will be missing a gillet from their cycling wardrobe. For me it’s an essential. It’s very rare that I leave the house without one of some form, either on me or in my pocket or saddle bag. It’s only on one of those very rare days that we’re guaranteed warm sunshine that I will venture out without one.
My main gillet is my Club one that I wear over either a jersey or my Perfetto from Autumn through to Spring. It’s usually too heavy for Summer use and as it’s not waterproof I also need something for the cooler days and/or when I can expect a heavy shower or two. That’s when the Reflex comes into play.
I bought my first one of these a good few years ago, not long after I started cycling regularly and when I realised that a full waterproof jacket wasn’t going to be practical on the warmer days. I’m one of those people that generate a lot of heat and I’m most comfortable when my arms are bare or just lightly covered.
This gillet is still in decent shape but the lack of visibility of the black colour concerns me on duller days and the reflective strips are getting worn looking having been stuffed and unstuffed countless times over the years. I’ve been very happy with it so when the time came to replace it Sportful was my first choice again.
The design had been updated slightly over the years and now has a much better reflective pattern. There are a number of colour choices with Sportful showing fluro yellow, white and black on their website and Wiggle giving a further two of fluro orange and blue. I went for the yellow this time as I wanted something to increase my visibility.
I’ve worn it quite a number of times now and find it really good at what I want it to do. I mainly use it as an additional windbreaker over my Club gillet and Perfetto on very cold Winter days or just over a jersey on fast descents on cooler days. It also gets good use when I get caught in heavier, more prolonged showers when a soaking is unavoidable and unwanted. It has a very handy integrated stuff sack that allows it to compress into a very neat package for a jersey pocket or saddle bag. I’ve also worn it out running on warmer but wet days and found it good for keeping me dry while preventing overheating.
Overall I’m still happy with the new version but I do miss one feature from the original. It had mesh panels down the sides that made it much more breathable. I’m sure removing them has made it more waterproof but they suited me.
I’ve seen some negative reviews on Wiggle that the zip is flimsy but so far I’ve had no issues. They may have upgraded it as it looks and feels sturdy to me.
Value: 9/10 simply because I’m tight fisted and always feel like I’m paying too much! It was €40 when I bought it which is pretty much the RRP.
Durability: 8/10 a decent zip and robust fabric. Negative reviews on Wiggle have me cautious for the longer term.
Effectiveness: 8/10 a great windbreaker, about as waterproof as a gillet can be but would have preferred to see better breathability via the older version mesh panels or a shoulder vent.
I’m not the handiest person when it comes to bicycle repair and maintenance and my main cycling fear during lockdown is that I would break something beyond my basic repair skills. That happened yesterday!
My cycling mileage has steadily decreased over the 8 weeks of restrictions but the MTB has been neglected the most. Apart from a short and uninspiring spin around the local roads my MTB hasn’t seen much use since since the end of March.
On Tuesday our exercise restriction was relaxed to allow us to go up to 5km from home for exercise. This covers two and most of a third forestry area that are perfect for a 60-90min blast on the MTB. On our last couple of visits to Monellan for walking we also discovered 2 new trails off the main tracks and perfect for a bit of “natural” MTBing.
On Friday I managed to shake off my resurgent cycling ennui and decided to dust off the MTB. Down the road, across a rough farm track, back on the road for 2km and into the woods. The first bit of trail runs down the side of the river and along the original estate wall before meeting up with another trail. Along the wall the trail passes through a number of narrow gaps between trees and on some of these someone has added piles of small branches to create small jumps for ponies. These also make perfect small jumps for a MTB. The third jump has been made too big to take with a bike so I detoured to the left to avoid it. As I passed I didn’t see the end of one of the branches sticking out that managed to catch my rear wheel and drivetrain. By the time I realised what had happened the damage was done!
Thankfully the hanger did its job and broke before the derailleur itself was damaged. A bit of online research and it looks like an easy repair but getting the part will be the tricky bit. There are a multitude of hangers available to buy and you need to buy the exact one to match your frame.
Normally a quick call to Halfords and I would have one within a couple of days. Unfortunately all the Halfords stores are currently closed in RoI and services in NI are highly limited plus my nearest NI stores are approx 45min away.
An online chat with the UK website resulted in a recommendation to contact a store and discuss with store staff as the online rep was working from home with limited access to information. I’ve decided to wait until tomorrow to try and make sure I get a more experienced member of staff on shift.
At least getting home was easier. Catriona and Conor were walking in Monellan so a short wait for them to appear on the trail and I was able to head to the car park, load the bike into the back of the car and wait for them to finish. A 4km walk home pushing a broken bike wouldn’t have been much fun!
Yesterday was such a good day with warm Spring sunshine for probably the first time this year that I decided not to waste it and threw my gear together in the afternoon and headed for Barnes Gap forest.
I fancied something a bit different from Friday’s spin and thought the trails up there would be good with a possible climb to the summit in the back of my mind.
I was aware of the works in the forest as there is a construction company installing a windfarm. On my last visit they were working between the summit and the quarry with minimal security at the quarry end but safe enough as the site shut down for the weekend. Big change now! The works have spread out along most of the main trails with massive sections quarried out to provide stone for the widening of the trails for increased access for construction vehicles. Most of the trails have changed from potholed gravel and stone to chunky hardcore and rock. Where the vehicles have been working and travelling the trails are a mixture of smooth and some rock but the newer sections are very rocky making the going particularly difficult.
On my loop I entered and left the forest twice each. Neither of the two entrances were signed but both exits were. If I’d seen the signs early on I probably wouldn’t have gone but by the time I saw the construction I was committed and decided to go ahead, especially as all the vehicles were parked up for the weekend. The only security was at the quarry end again but he couldn’t have cared less about me as he was standing chatting to someone.
Halfway round brought me to the summit trail. No windmills going in up there so the track was in good shape. I headed up with the option to retreat if my legs gave up on me. It’s a tough old climb this one at 2.2km and an average gradient of 7.4%. According to Strava it’s an elevation increase of 165m but I’ve no idea how that reflects on other climbs. All I know is that it’s pretty relentless with very little respite and a number of steep sections hitting 12-14% and I’m sure 20% on one of the final sections. The steepness is a real challenge but it’s the loose gravel on some of the steep sections and especially on the tight corners that are the most difficult. Pleased to say I made it to the top without having to stop and even managed a PB for my 3rd attempt taking 45secs off my previous time.
The views from the top were amazing. I’ve been up here a good few times, on foot as well as on the bike and this is definitely the best views I’ve had. I hung around for a few photos but the windchill was significant enough to speed me along.
The drop back down isn’t for the fainthearted either! The steep descents are slippy now with the loose gravel and the turns are tight enough to test. With images of A&E flashing through my head I kept on the brakes and took it fairly handy all the way down.
At the base I continued on through the construction site, stopping for photos before exiting out on to the main road. A short stretch of tarmac and back into the forest to loop around back to the car to give me almost 19km and 400m of climbing in 1hr 20min and a big smile on my face.
One of the biggest concerns about avoiding the virus is the impact of isolation on people’s mental health. Luckily it’s Spring and the weather is reasonably good so it’s not hard to get outside and do something. The boys have been spending a good bit of time kicking the football and Owen has even started running in a bid to keep up his football and Gaelic fitness when he can’t train.
It’s very easy to fall into bad habits, staying up late at night and lying in late in the morning as well as eating all the wrong things. It’s also very easy to lose motivation and get very lazy. While I’ve definitely been quite lazy I’ve also made an effort to get out and off my arse too.
Since Monday I’ve gone for a walk each day (3 x 6km and 1 x 10km) and today was a biking day with almost perfect cycling weather.
My MTB has suffered much of the same maintenence neglect as my road bike so yesterday I spend the afternoon giving it a deep clean with a big focus on the drive system which was full of gunk. Today I spent 2 hrs and 30km getting it clattered in mud from a variety of local forest trails!
With my change of job this year has come an unplanned bonus, traditional Xmas opening hours and therefore traditional Xmas holidays. We worked right up until Xmas Eve with an early dart home and have been closed for the last 3 days giving me my first Boxing Day off and at home for 7 years and, according to Facebook Memories only my second in the last 10 years!
It has been a nice, family orientated Xmas this year with the last minute addition of Mum and Dad and my brother for dinner on Xmas Day, visiting a lot of the rest of my family on Boxing Day in Mum and Dad’s and obviously having 3 days to spend with my own family.
As a bonus I even managed to get out on the bike for a couple of hours this morning. A spin organised by MTB Donegal in Barnes Gap which turned out to be really enjoyable and gave me a fitness confidence boost that I wasn’t expecting after at least 2 weeks of inactivity and crap eating culminating in the excess that is also a traditional Xmas!
In perfect Peppa Pig style “everyone loves jumping up and down in muddy puddles!” or in my case splashing through them and bunny hopping over them 😊
Friday nights have morphed with the shortening days into MTB night. Two winters ago a group of us were out nearly every week for 2-3 nights but last year the rest of the group moved to the Dark Side and switched to Zwift instead. Admittedly it’s warmer and drier in Zwiftland but it’s still hard to beat the feeling of a frosty night spent rattling around forest trails and splashing through puddles.
This year it looks like I’ve managed to recruit a new group from the club that are interested in getting wet and muddy every Friday night and tonight we had our first spin out together.
A really enjoyable couple of hours of hills, banter, complaining, downhill speeding and of course…….muddy puddles!