How to fall off a mountain bike with grace and good humour.

Back from my hols, almost raring to go for a mountain bike ride - some slight hesitation prior; who wouldn't rather be on a beach with their family than spinning through Surrey woods? Especially given that the weather has been so awful of late. I don't mind a bit of rain, but so far in the UK summer has been absent. It was 7 deg C the other day. Anyway, once on the creaking beast that is my ailing PACE RC303 these days, all was well. One soon gets into the spirit, especially when riding one's home turf. The climb up Reigate Hill was interesting as it looked as though somebody had been through with a buzz saw. Debris everywhere and on some trails I had to get off and push the bike under branches. Funny but these were not broken bits of tree, but quite substantial branches that had been pushed down and decided to remain in position. I did try and move some of them, but just couldn't. Saw needed me thinks.....

At the top I waited for AD; did the usual stuff; changed the pressures in my tyres, mall-adjusted the headset, played with adjusting the gears, rode around a bit, read War and Peace twice and wrote a 15,000 word dessertation on it in Arabic, moved house to a different country six time zones away, got a job, had kids, they moved to college, you know, the usual whilst waiting for a recalcitrant AD. Then, finally, AD turned up on his hardtail just as the Surrey Hills glaciers were in retreat*. Ah. Recognise the symptoms of an "I don't really want to go for a ride but will do just to please Muddy" now - if he's keen then the susser comes out to play, not keen then the Trek. So we had a little amble around, a big lazy '8' to Box Hill and back.

And aren't the trails odd? Dry in parts, yet seriously muddy in the dips. One dip AD stalled so I backed off, thinking he'd muppeted it all up, and so I tried a different line. Hit the middle and it was as if my suspension had collapsed at the front. Had that weird sensation of falling as I too stalled.

Box Hill proved to be fun. £7 for two indifferent coffees and a piece of cake that proved to be oddly insubstantial, just air. AD has lived in the South all his life, so is more used to this kind of thing than I, a mere resident of 22 years, but even he was taken aback. But it was interesting to see the road crews. Sure many were the regulars, but by heck there were some oddities there. The newbies I can appreciate, with their brand new matching kit and non-cyclists legs. Hats off to them, they may stick at it. But for me the odd ones were those clearly bitten by the "it's the Olympics, I must get the old bike out again" lot that amused. Clearly they knew the drill and could ride, but really, cramming your new 20 stone frame into your old 11 stone kit and then parading around as if there'd been no change was funny. One guy was lying on the floor doing some odd exercise routine, whilst many were preening their feathers in an "I am an alpha male" kind of way. Sorry, you may now be a middle manager for Pfizer pulling in £100k but you're not a fast boy any more. Wrong club, wrong place. And yes, I am heading that way myself - but I'm not cramming almost 40 years worth of alcohol abuse into a full lycra outfit and pretending otherwise. Sorry post alpha males; you're fat and it's not a good look.

I digress. On the way back AD was in auto pilot, letting his bike ride itself down the hills and moaning about phantom punctures on the ups. Well into moan mode. On one drop I got bored so decided to speed the pace up and make a pass. As I did I just caught a tree that had fallen. It was the merest kiss, but down I went big time. Naturally AD was oblivious and called out "I need a piss" and stopped [he's like a camel normally]. It looked as though I stopped and dismounted, so he never even saw the tumble. Pride intact there. Well unless I'd be daft enough to write about it on a blog.

Now, sitting here writing this, I realise I've still got to fix the puncture I got when almost at my door. Man do I regret moving away from tubeless to fit the Aspen tyres. They cope surprisingly well in the mud, and don't spoil a ride, but they are fragile. Hate fixing punctures, but I've still got to un-adjust the overly tight headset and re-align my gears so that they stop being 7 speed. Then there's that bloomin' creak.

Overall a happy little spin and I enjoyed it. But then, this morning after 14 hours of rain, I know full well how lucky we were to get a brief window of goodness.

12/06/2012: Update.

I use Squirt lubricant pretty much exclusively on my bikes, come rain or shine. Now today She Who Says No has gone off to Birmingham for two days, so our kitchen became a workshop. I stripped the rear hub on my Hope Pro II's to see if I could isolate the horrid noise. Well, well 30 months of no maintenance reveals a gunked up set of pawls and springs. Whoever says Squirt is clean should look at my hub. Thick, black wax that is dried Squirt. The springs didn't and the pawls were horrid looking things. Cleaning it all up revealed some broken springs and a bit of rust where the wax hadn't allowed the hub to dry. My bearings were largely OK, although two were graunchy so will be changed.

Now whilst I'm happy with the Hope / Stans wheelset my rear wheel is starting to look like Trigger's broom. All that is left now from the original wheel of 30 months ago is the hub and cassette carrier, and that's almost shot.

One suspects that the noise at the start of the ride was me pushing against a single pawl. As the miles mounted, the wax melted back to a lubricant, freeing off more pawls.

So, top tip: If you use Squirt do not assume that it is all clean and lovely. It's a wax and wax is pretty horrid stuff. Every so often strip down the hub and clean it out with a rag not degreaser. Then a drop of light oil onto the pawls and springs please.

Interestingly I popped into the wonderful C & N in Redhill to see about the bearings. They have a few decent full sussers as their demo fleet for £50 a day. Now initially £50 seems high, but think about it a bit deeper. This is for a £2,500 bike. That bike will depreciate in one year by at least £1,250. Servicing and replacement bits, say £300. Say 12 months will hit you for £1,500. That's 30 days hire. Looking at AD and his bike, he probably uses that for less than 30 weekends a year. Say if you have a susser and a hard tail for Surrey, would you be inclined to ride the hard tail in the wet and mud, saving the susser for high days? A trip to Swinley or Leith Hill perhaps?

It seems to me that if you limit the susser rides to say ten a year, then it makes more sense to blag a demo bike for £50 each time than buy one. You get a fully serviced 2012 model each time, not your upgraded 2010 version. Sure you can't take it on your annual trip to Wales, but to me it seems in many ways a bit of a no brainer, especially as I'm sure if you do it regularly the bike shop will cut you some slack. Look at it another way; how much would it cost to professionally service your own bike? More than £50. Thinking of my own fleet, even doing it myself I figure a good service will cost me more than that in parts.

*AD has actually taken umbridge at this statement, saying that whilst he was late, he wasn't that late. There's no way my both of my kids could have gotten through medical university in that time frame. One could have qualified as a neuro surgeon yes, but not two. It's just silly to claim otherwise, and I apologise to AD.