Harder work than it should have been.

I wanted to do a good ride to improve my fitness yesterday and that’s what I got. Not, however, because I rode more quickly than usual but because I had a mechanical problem. I chose to ride to the top of Great Hill, a ride of 15 miles with around 1,500 feet of ascent. The sky was crystal clear and the ground almost completely dry, so excellent mountain biking conditions. I used a very familiar, mainly off road route to the village of White Coppice where I decided to ride the technical side of the river to the woods. I tried twice on the toughest little step but couldn’t make it. The first time I veered too far to the left and the second I hit a rock which stopped me dead in my tracks. The rest I managed. I was hearing a grinding noise which I presumed was coming from the bottom bracket of the bike, where the pedals attach to the frame. I need to have a look back at home

I was feeling like it was tough going and on the climb up the woodland fire road I was struggling. The difficulty continued on the next ascent and after a less steep section I was faced with a very steep, rocky climb to the final stile. I was giving it 100% just to keep going. The grinding noise was getting worse so when I stopped I turned the pedals backwards to find a big resistance. On inspection I could see that the right side bottom bracket bearing was unscrewing itself and binding against the pedal crank and chainring. I thought that I’d have to miss the final section to the top of the hill and limp home as best I could. Instead I found a rock and used a tool from by tool bag to knock the bearing around to loosen things up. The cranks turned much more easily now and I completed the climb.

The offending item back at home after I’d fully tightened it into place.

The stiffness in the pedal mechanism had truly exhausted my legs but at least I had the best descent I know to pay me back for my efforts. The trails are now on top form after a generally damp April. I decided to ride home by road from White Coppice as I feared that the bottom bracket may loosen itself again. The thread on the right hand side has a left hand thread so if the crank catches against it , it will unscrew. I was totally finished and found the small rises on the road felt like major climbs, punishing my already tired legs.

I found that when I tightened the bottom bracket at home, the bearing on the left is very worn. As far as I can recall this is not an old component. I must have replaced it late last summer? We used to have cartridge bottom brackets with much more substantial bearings but the industry has decided that we need to save 100 grams. Bike weights have increased as suspension has got more ambitious and 15 kg is now considered an acceptable weight so I hardly think that an extra 100 g would be a problem. At least I had, quite by accident, one of the best training rides I’ve had in ages!

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