Sunday, October 19, 2014

Last ride of the month–on my new MTB

Sunday, 31st July 2014: I used to read MTB magazines and having owned an MTB for 20-ish years I have enjoyed riding my MTB from the flatland bridleways and byways of the flatlands through to the single-track at Thetford up to the mountains of the Lake District. However over the last ten years or so I haven’t used my MTB much.  Over the last 20 years I have also increased the number of bikes I own from one to quite a few.

At one point I bought a tandem to make cycling with the kids easier (and way more social). When commuting to London I got a Brompton so that it was easier to get from the station to the office in London. However the bulk of my cycling has been using my Marin San Sausalito. A hybrid bike I bought for general getting around in Cambridge, which was the right mix of robustness and not expensive should it get stolen. whilst also being pretty ok to ride.  It has its quirks, like all bikes but at one point when I noticed a crack in the seat tube I started thinking about its replacement and took it to Ben Hayward Cycles for a second opinion.  I bought the bike there some time ago. Yes it was cracked, yes it should be replaced and by the way they thought it had a lifetime frame guarantee, the confirmed the deal with Marin and then replaced the frame.  That is why I go to my LBS (local bike shop).

During the years I have also tried different tyres, I was looking for the elusive, super-fast, but puncture-proof tyre.  The right tyre (tire) also depends upon the type of cycling you do and where you do it.  At one stage I used to use Specialized Armadillo tyres (23mm) when I did most of my cycling on the road – commuting to and from work. It seems to me that the although the roads have their challenges I tended to get more punctures the more I cycled on shared-use or dedicated cycle paths (here in Cambridge).  So as the balance of my cycling moved off-road I switched to Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres. Of course the manufacturers do evolve the composition of their tyres. Although I have had flats with my Marathon tyres they are streets ahead.

Why am I telling you all of this. Well at the time of the ride in this post I have had my Trek Stache 8 29er for a couple of weeks and I was definitely enjoying it.  The change in MTB technology from front forks through to disk brakes and larger wheels made a huge difference to my grin factor when I went out on the local trails.

There is a downside to my new MTB though. Now when I go riding, I generally always take along something to fix punctures, including patches, tyre levers, pump, spare inner tubes and a multi-tool. Although I didn’t really think about punctures because I don’t get them very often.

So I set off – and headed out along NCN51 until I turned off along Barston Drove between Swaffham Prior and Reach. Farmers don’t hang around when crops are ripe they have to get to work, you can never rely on the weather – whatever the forecast. Unfortunately there was rain forecast for later in the day!

Golden Round Bales along Barston Drove

I carried along and Blackberry Droveway and Straight Drove/Reach Lode Underbank to the Lodes Way/Reach lode bridge. I then headed down Split Drove to Headlake Drove and then back to the line of Straight Drove and onto Harrison’s Drove.  My route then took me through Upware along the road and over Dimmock’s Cote Road and Docking’s Lane ( a short byway that can get pretty rutted) to NCN11. I headed back to Wicken and then to Soham via Drury Lane. There is a byway/bridleway/byway route to Wicken, along Drove Lane and Brack’s Drove. It can be a bit troublesome on my Hybrid (Maisie) but on Tillie it was no trouble at all.

Bracks’ Drove – betwixt Wicken and Soham

Bracks’ Drove – betwixt Wicken and Soham
after Google+ did its auto-awesome trick

A little bit further along – was this a snack delivery?  Although it looks as if he is getting out.

Combining in Summer – a short break

I then headed through Soham, planning on heading back through Burwell via the byway past Tollgate Farm and then to Broads Road. However the bike started getting sketchy. Hey no problem, I stopped on the track opposite Orchard Row and upended the bike.  I found the thorn in the front wheel – it was a teeny little thing and all I needed to do was pop the tyre of the rim and the appropriate spot and pull out the inner tube and patch it up and then pump up the tyre. I was pleased with my Lezyne pump – small but capable of pumping a reasonable amount of air per stroke.

I turned the bike over and flip, no wonder it was getting sketchy the back tyre was going down. So I did the same trick and flipped the bike over, after a short ride I decided wither there was another hole or my patching skills were crap. it turned out there was another hole and another teeny-tiny thorn. Wow these tyres look big and gnarly but they must be as thin as paper. I guess that is to keep the weight down. By now the wind was whipping up and I was having difficulty trying to pinpoint the hole so I called in the 6th emergency services (my wife) and more or less escaped the wind.

The first thing I did was research tyres when I got home. A pity you can’t get Marathon plus in 29”.. Three punctures in one ride. Not a record, but equal to my worst.


  1. I believe you can get Marathon Plus for your 29", only they are labelled as 700c. For example 700c x 45. Perhaps not knobby enough, though, depending.

    1. I did meet for a beer with another MTBer, at a pub somewhere in the middle. He had Marathon plus on his 26" full-bouncer and thought they were ok and puncture proof. Also a lot of people reckon going tubeless and using Stans is the way to go.

      I'd probably be ok with losing the knobbiness but my current tyres are 2.3" wide and the max M+ seems to be 1.75" - so losing width and tread?

    2. In the 2.3" range MTB seems to be tubeless is the way to go due to the sealant that goes with it. Mud and punctures seem to be a thorny combo to deal with.