07/08/2020 - In Praise of

In Praise of Dull Riding

In our most recent emailshot, Cy expounds upon a new found affection for quiet byways on the local, and bit box bikes. Click here to join our mailing list

Cy writes....

I wanted to write about 'dull' riding. In the UK, throughout lockdown we were fortunate enough to still be allowed out to ride our bikes. However, for some time you were restricted to just an hour per day, and for longer again, always from your front door. Now, I made a conscious decision back in 2007 to move somewhere that I could have awesome mountain bike riding straight out of the door, hence my move to South West Sheffield. You would think that would put in a better position than most to enjoy riding through these difficult times, but i came up against a slight issue. With EVERYONE restricted to walking or riding from their front door, my local MTB trails got incredibly busy, to the point where my local MTB loop - as well as being more than an hour even at a fast pace - was just full of people walking on the trails where usually there are none, and we can pick up some fair speed in places. Combine this with a large number of people still congregating around gates and trail junctions, and it made for hectic, rather fraught, and sometimes conflict filled rides as I tried to keep my distance, enjoy myself, ride responsibly. In short, it was simply too busy in my local woods and moors to have an enjoyable ride. I'm sure many of you will have come across similar issues.


I do have another area easily within reach though, just to the South there's a kind of nomansland between Sheffield and Chesterfield with lots of bridleways and quiet lanes. I generally avoid it because the tracks are very tame and a bit dull on my RocketMAX, and there tends to be long linking sections of road where 1kg+ sticky rubber enduro spec tyres suck out your will to live. It's also hella muddy a lot of the time, as I found to my dismay when trying to ride the trails in the November after I moved here 13 years ago. That experience scarred me enough to have hardly been back since!

What is does have going for it, though, is that it's a really pretty area, you can cover quite a lot of ground, and it's QUIET! I did a ride around it on my (entirely sub-optimal for the terrain) RocketMAX and met 3 people in 2 hours, and due to the dry conditions through April and May the trails were in mint condition. I needed an Escapade! Unfortunately (for me) due to the sudden insane level of demand for bikes, we didn't have any in stock for me to build, and we had sold the demo bike I usually borrowed. To the spares box......

Bit Box

Hat tip to our man Baybutt here. He built a bitsa old Solaris last year, so this is definitely inspired by him.

Now, I understand that being a bike company owner of nearly 20 years standing, my bit box is likely to be a little deeper than yours, but even so I was pleased that I bought a mere 6 new items to get this running, and what I had "in stock" like an old 9spd rear mech, random mismatched QR wheels, old road shifters, a rigid seatpost completely useless because of dropper posts. It was the kind of thing a lot of us bikers tend to have lying around if you've been doing it while. It's definitely not bling!

Things I bought new:

From the bit box, the frame is a pre-Longshot, pre-MAX Gen2 Solaris, QR axle, size large. Reach is around 435 if you're interested. I usually ride our 515mm reach XL MTB frames. Wheels are a part-damaged Escapade front wheel, an 8 year old ex-demo rear wheel. Cranks are repaired with heli-coil axle. Drivetrain and brakes is my old 10spd 105 STi running ex-demo Shimano BRR317 mechanical discs from pre-flat mount Escapade days, an even older Shimano XT 9spd rear mech. Finishing kit is some sample flared drop bars we got about 5 years ago (I don't get on with regular drops, it's just how my wrists work, plus the wide drops are good offroad), an old, old Bontrager carbon post, and a spare saddle, and my plastic Burgtecs.

And for quick rides from the door? It's perfect! Even though a roadie would think the tyres are enormous, they feel like time trial slicks to me compared to my sticky Verdict on the RocketMAX. It rolls along roads nicely enough for me, and is super comfy because the tyres are big and tubeless, and makes all those 'dull' bridleways really fun, because it's kinda sketchy! An Escapade on Road Plus wheels and tyres would be a similar kind of thing, but I have really loved giving a new lease of life to all these old parts. They're definitely not up the to job of proper mountain biking, even if I had built this as a conventional MTB hardtail, because they're a bit baggy and just not a good as the modern stuff, but for bashing about blissfully quiet lanes and byways, looking at the view, it's just been so fun.

Grab 'n Go

You know the other thing this has got me out of the habit of? Thinking I have to kit up and do a "proper" ride. Because even my shortest local mountain bike loop has over 250m of climbing and about 90 mins duration, I tend to put up a bit of a 'getting out the door syndrome' barrier to fitting in rides. I need to be kitted up, with my pack, knee pads, proper kit, lots of water, spares. With this, particularly during those sunny periods in early May during full lockdown, I wouldn't even change my clothes. I'd just grab my helmet, gloves, GO! Just riding in civvies was so liberating, and I found myself popping out for quick 30-40 min loops most days, and maybe something longer twice a week. It's been a really nice change of pace, and change of mindset. To the point where I'm working towards a bottle-and-framebag setup on my RocketMAX to encourage me to just grab-and-go on that too. Obviously this only really applies during fairly good, dry, warm conditions, but it's an attitude I'm really keen to hold onto for next Spring.

If nothing else I would hope this encourages you to do two things:

Here's to dull rides!



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