Maybe I should have joined the modern age years ago and fitted tubeless tyres to my mountain bikes. The reasons that I haven’t are a slight aversion to change, the difficulty and expense of making the change and the fact that around 3 punctures per year are barely inconvenient. I can certainly remember 2 puncture events this year and today it happened twice on my ride. I’d decided to ride to Rivington, or more accurately, Leverhulme Park which is a country park adjacent to the tiny village of Rivington. I crossed the canal to ride over a field which cuts out some road. As I lifted the bike over a gate I could see a twig stuck to the front wheel. It was a hawthorn twig and a thorn was stuck into the rubber. Initially I thought I’d been lucky and that it hadn’t punctured the inner tube but after a mile it all went very squidgy. I pulled over and fitted my spare tube before continuing.
I arrived at the village and started to climb the 750 feet to Rivington Pike which is a rather artificial looking rounded mound above a woodland which has lots of trails. All went well. I was using a cadence or rate of pedal rotation of around 80-90 rpm. I’ve found that this saves the leg muscles compared to using 60-75 rpm even though it does increase the rate of breathing. Earlier I’d reread some blog posts about the Pike so knew that I’d feel uncomfortable tackling any of the higher risk descent that I would have used 20 or more years ago so chose a technically easier one. According to the app. Strava my easy paced time was 71 st fastest of 1,858 riders. I must be good at this!
I rode along to the top of Wilderswood which was the scene of many adventures on my then favourite downhill segment in the late 90s. It’s still fabulous with twisting single track, lots of rock and drop offs before widening. I was going to turn off from a very rocky, straight section before the wider part to climb back up for a second downhill. As I slowed I could feel that the rear tyre, this time, was punctured. It was a pinch puncture where the inner tube has been trapped against the wheel rim leaving 2 slits. With no spare tube left I fixed the tube which had punctured first since it only needed one patch and climbed back up. I used a trail which is great as a downhill and it proved to be savagely hard as a climb with lots of exposed tree roots and steep steps. I had been a bit concerned that I might fatigue easily today since yesterday I used my pedal powered boat. I hadn’t realised how much effort I’d been putting in on the outward leg and on the way back I really started to cramp. It’s amazing how using the slow cadence which the boat forces on you hardly makes your breathing increase at all but devours the muscles in short order. I’d obviously recovered well over night because I climbed easily enough even where I had to grind the pedals round in my lowest gear.
I used another old school downhill through the Terraced Gardens which has some very sharp, downhill turns. They’re too sharp to ride round with any speed so I used the technique of locking the rear wheel as I turned in and allowing the wheel to slide round until I was pointing out of the corner. I hung my inside leg out in case the bike wanted to fall over and was pleased with my riding. I rarely seem to need this method on my usual trails but it was great fun. I was soon back on the road and noticed that my tyre was losing pressure. Maybe I’d disturbed a previous patch or a thorn which had been in the tyre before my first puncture I just made it without needing to add any more air and will need to get 2 new tubes since I’m still not totally convinced by tubeless. I covered 13.69 miles with 1,601 feet of ascent on a great dry weather ride.
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I’ve got tubeless on my trail bike – BUT – the shop set them up that way from new. Not sure if I would have gone through the rigmarole of converting from tubes to tubeless myself. I hear it’s a bit of a faff. It has sealed one or two small holes out on the trail though!
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