The Big One


Following the recent spate of longish bike rides, and as there was a weather and logistics opportunity, today I decided to do something record breaking – my longest ever mountain bike (MTB) ride. The previous longest was around 85km. The aim today was to break through that elusive 100km barrier. Of course, it was all going to depend on my available energy. The plan was to ride from home through Henty and Mangoplah to Wagga Wagga.

So after a home made muesli breakfast, the ride began at about 8am with plenty of energy in the tank and some dates to munch on for energy on the way, as well as ample water.
Although quite cool at the time the ride started, it soon warmed up enough to shed the wind-breaking layer, and when the Sun was not behind clouds it was glorious!

By the time I got to Mangoplah, I was feeling a little fatigued, at least the leg muscles were – the energy levels were still quite adequate. Maybe the legs were still a little fatigued from the recent batch of longish rides.

On the ride, Mangoplah has some decent undulations on both sides, but the ones between Mangoplah and Wagga Wagga seem worse than the ones south of Mangoplah – although that could be because of more muscle fatigue by that stage.

The whole ride by the most direct way is 85km, but to stretch it out to 100+, the idea was to take a more circuituous route once on the outskirts of the Wagga Wagga urban area.I also seemed to get a little lost in the burbs, which also added some length to the ride.

Then a circuit of Lake Albert, and a meander into the main shopping area, and it was time for some lunch.By that stage the energy levels were somewhat depleted. After a lunch of Gnocchi Napolitano, I made my way slowly to the railway station where my Love would pick me up. The total distance of the ride was 102km – not only is this the longest MTB ride I have ever done, but it’s also in the top 3 of all rides I have ever done. Which brought the km total for the week to around 230km – it’s been a long time since that has been done too.

2000km later…


The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

The new Jamis Durango mountain bike

Three months ago I purchased a new bike, a Jamis Durango 29inch Mountain Bike (MTB). At the time it was ‘on sale’ and cost about 2/3rds the normal price, so it was a desireable option for the price. The previous bike that was purchased new was a 26″ foldable bike, which travelled an estimated 20,000km over the time I had it, and last year was on it’s last legs. Before I purchased the Durango I had looked at road bikes, single speeds, cyclo-cross, even a footbike. But none of them seemeed to fit my needs – either I had to travel hours to purchase, price was too much for my budget, or I had concerns about the a bike’s ability to handle the sorts of roads I often travel on. “Roads” might even be a bit of a overstatement of some of the places I had taking the 26″ foldable and a 20″ foldable bike I had been riding before I purchased the Durango, so anything that couldn’t handle some rough tracks really wasn’t a viable option. No ultra-thin rimmed road bike for me!! Then I was in a bike shop in the nearest regional city to our home, and saw the Durango. “A mountain bike wasn’t necessarily the most desirable option” I thought, mostly due to them being heavier than other bikes, and greater tyre resistance on the road, but the more I thought about, the more the Durange seemed like a good choice. It also had disk brakes on the bike, and the lockable suspension front forks for the extra bumpy tracks, which seemed like a good idea for where I was likely to ride. So I purchased it.

 

Mud - there has been plenty of that this winter!

Mud – there has been plenty of that this winter!

Three months, and 2000km, later I am happy to report that the Durango has been, without a doubt, the best ‘fit’ for me of any bike I have ever owned. Not only has the bike allowed me to do some rougher and muddier trail rides (can you hear me giggling uncontrollably, and see me grinning uncontrollably as I negotiate large mud puddles on farm tracks near home), but it is a dream to ride on the bitumen too. My average speed on most rides on the new bike is about 5km faster than it was on my previous bikes – something that really surprised me as I thought the heaviness of the bike (around 14kg) would have the opposite effect. As far as long rides go, I have probably done a higher proportion of long rides on the Durango than on previous bikes – over the last few months I clocked up some rather long rides on the new bike, about 85km being the longest. But haven’t managed a 100+ ride like on the 26″ foldable, yet. Other notable road rides on the new bike include a 50+ km ride in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains with a local cycling group, two 65+ km rides to Albury and back, a 60+ km ride to explore some disused railway formations near Ryan and Henty, and a 50km exploration ride along a road called “Gluepot Road” (I had imagined there was a valid reason why they called it that, and so hadn’t attempted it on any of my previous bikes). With the very wet last few months, and often muddy stock and farm tracks, I would have been very limited on just about any other type of bike. This is where the mountain bike really came into its own as I felt a lot more confident traversing some of the very large puddles and mud patches I encountered on the various rides. A total of 2000km in 3 months is a decent effort, even on a much lighter road bike!

 

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

A bit of Edgehill Track in the tyres of the MTB

About the only things I needed to do were replace the seat that came with the bike with a more comfortable seat, and figure out a way to carry multiple water bottles, and other ’emergency’ kit such as spare tube, tools, money, etc. The seat replacement was easy – I replaced the seat with the ultra-comfy ‘big butt’ seat from a previous bike, problem solved. But the water bottles and emergency kit was a bit more complicated and I still haven’t managed to figure it out satifactorily. Not long after purchasing the bike I purchased a Topeak seat mounted bag which I thought would fix that problem but as it turned out the size of the bag when attached to the seat post / back of seat fouls the rear tyre. So the bag is mounted on the front of the bike in a rather weird way, but at least it “works” there (even if it looks a little strange) and doesn’t foul any other moving parts on the bike. That solution is still not quite satisfactorily, but as the bag cost me a whopping $90+ dollars, I figured it will have to do for now.

 

When I took the bike in for it’s 3 month warranty ‘adjustment’ service, the guys at the bike shop said the chain was already fairly worn, and when I told them how much kms I had done they understood why. And one of them made possibly the biggest understatement I have heard in a while : “sounds like you are enjoying the bike then”. Enjoying? Yes! Really really enjoying!

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Eliana negotiating a large mud patch on Wyoming Lane near home

Hickman Lane flooded - very bug puddles

Hickman Lane flooded – very bug puddles

The staff at the bike shop suggested I convert the drive train (front and back cog sets and chain) for a more durable set, which would cost around $600 fitted. That would bring the total cost of the bike up to about $1000, still considerably below the $1500 I was quoted for a cyclo-cross bike I originally looked at. So I am hoping to have the conversion done as the budget permits. Another possible upgrade that might be worth me considering is an upgrade of the brake system from cable to hydraulic disk, but I have no idea how much that might cost.

So here is the run down…

The Durango mountain bike has overall been a great choice. It is durable, tough, good on all types of road surfaces (probably mostly because of the 29″ wheels), feels very saure-footed on slippery sections, and is heaps of fun. The price at the time of purchase, and the fact the little 20″ K-Rock foldable bike I was riding wasn’t really suitable for me to do long rides on, and the extra time it would take to save the money to get a $1000+ bike, were the main reasons I initially decided on buying the Durango. But after 3 months of riding anywhere and everywhere, I am glad I did.

Gluepot Road calls

Gluepot Road calls