I recently changed the chainring of my Boardman FS Pro mountain bike. I’d been losing the chain occasionally so thought it was time. The 3 components of the drive train, chain, chainring and cassette of, in this case 11 gears, all wear together so often if you change one part the chain slips and you have to replace the rest. With the new chainring things were fine but I thought that I may as well replace the chain as well since it obviously had some wear. This time things were not fine. The chain was slipping on many of the gears so I knew I needed an 11 speed cassette as well. This was going to cost me £95 but at least everything would then be new. Even the mech. which shifts the gears has also been replaced recently so I’ve spent quite a lot of money but now hope to get 2 years or more of trouble free riding. Today the new cassette hadn’t arrived so I chose to ride one of my 3 classic bikes instead.
I wanted to ride some of the less adventurous trails near home at Birkacre and Coppull Mill. These trails are short but provide excellent riding with plenty of corners and other challenges. Because they’re short I often do several laps of a circuit at each venue. My first choice was to ride my Whyte PRST4 which hasn’t been used since last year. The transmission on this bike is rather worn, I know, but I thought it would be OK for a shorter ride. When I took it out and fitted the pedals I found that the gear changing mech. was stuck. I tried to free it with some lubricant but concluded that it was past repair. I didn’t have a suitable mech. in my stock of old spare parts so had to chose a different bike. I’ve ridden the Whyte JW4 several times recently so for a change decided to use my oldest bike, which is actually the one I’ve owned for the shortest time. The Proflex Attack LE is 24 years old and a very early example of a full suspension bike. The springing at both front and rear was taken care of by an elastomer system, which is just a chunk of synthetic rubber which is compressed like a spring but springs back in a controlled way to avoid the bike riding like a pogo stick. When I got the bike last year I found that the rear elastomer had been replaced but the front was very tired, not really working in the way that was intended. My solution was to build my own suspension fork using a modern air/oil shock absorber for spring and damping functions and the result had impressed me, though I think I’ve only ridden it once or twice off road since then.
Whilst I was fitting my pedals I could tell my blood sugar was low. I’m not diabetic but definitely hadn’t eaten enough and was slightly trembling. Time for some maintenance for the body before I set off. Apparently sugar is not the best thing for a quick energy boost. You’re better off eating starchy things like bread or potato so what better than that English classic a crisp sandwich? (Since we call French fries “chips” we call what most of the world calls chips “crisps”!). Not only would this contain plenty of carbohydrate and fat from the butter, for longer term energy, but the crunchy texture and salty insouciance would be delicious. I followed it with plenty of water because crisps are salty and the bread contains a surprising amount of salt as well. Mission accomplished, I was refueled!
The Proflex has a limited amount of rear suspension travel of only a couple of inches, around a third the amount of my Boardman. On the road it feels quite rigid and I was soon turning into the edge of Duxbury Woods. The trail was baked hard and I enjoyed it’s twists, turns and undulations, then on a steeper incline the chain jumped from the lowest gear into the spokes. I spent a while adjusting the rear mech. stop screws to stop it being able to move so far inboard. I climbed a steep bank and cut through more woodland to Eaves Green. From the housing a dirt road leads down to Birkacre and has a fast downhill segment. I had to slow right down at the start, ensuring I kept my 2 meter spacing from a couple who were walking. The number of people out walking in the country has been many times the norm. I hope plenty of them develop a love for the countryside and keep the walking up when the virus is just a memory. It’s good for the soul to be out in the natural places. No time for sentimentality, I picked up speed curious to know how my homemade fork would perform on the first bumpy right hander. This corner had completely overwhelmed the original fork on my first ride on the Proflex last year but now the bike felt glued to the trail, easily absorbing the stoney surface. The rear gripped well too and i expect would have certainly out performed a hardtail with no rear suspension. Several more corners brought me to a set of steps which stopped me. I then rode up to the top of the small patch of mountain biking delights and carried on to Coppull Mill. Last year I’d ridden a fabulous little circuit on a few occasions. Unfortunately some individual had taken it upon themselves to vandalise the trail by cutting trees down to lay across the track. I was pleased to find that these have all now been cleared so I rode 3 laps. I wasn’t pushing the pace too much because it’s important at this time not to risk needing the help of the hospitals! Also I was showing a certain amount of deference towards my 24 year old bike but I loved the sinuous downhill. A great feature of the circuit is that the downhill twists and turns but the climb back up is straight so you’re thrilling on the descent for almost half the time, which is a rare treat.
The Proflex Attack LE, enjoying it’s place in the sun.
The handlebars are very narrow, around 20 cm (8 inches) narrower than a modern bike. The trail ahead was baked dry with virtually no rain since the end of February.
I rode back to Birkacre and did the delightful downhill section, the Proflex still impressing, despite it’s age. Mountain biking as we know it was less than 15 years old when this bike was made in 1996. The technology keeps advancing and it’s impossible to guess what will be the next trend. Having said that you can’t guarantee that a modern bike will get you there quicker. The focus is now so much more on downhill trails that on a circuit, also involving climbs, an old bike can often more than hold it’s own. I suppose that the Proflex was a little too early to match a modern bike but I’ve improved it greatly with my homemade fork. I considered doing a full lap of my favourite circuit at Birkacre but decided against it when I reached the long climb. I was feeling quite tired so took the mainly off road route back home. It was a good ride in excellent weather. My segment times on the app. Strava were unimpressive today. This may be proof that in the last 24 years bikes have improved though this is no guarantee that you’ll have more fun. There’s something so special about riding a slice of history.
When I arrived home a parcel was waiting for me containing the new cassette for the Boardman, which I’ve already fitted and will ride in a couple of days.