Not So Relaxing Day Relaxing

2 solid days riding and one intense evening in a row finished me off physically so this morning dawned, and then 5 hours later I got up. This sounds horrendously lazy, but dawn in summer in Scotland is at about 4am.

Some tasty bagels later and apparently Aimi was still feeling energetic so got a lift to Fort William and tromped off up Ben Nevis on her own – nutter. I had a day of blogging, movie watching and bike maintenance planned, with no urgency and plenty of chatting and eating in between. 

Or so I thought…

I started off dealing with the flat. Taking off the flaccid old tyre, exhuming the inner tube that let me down and replacing both with fresh new ones.

The tube that failed had 2 long gashes in the inner diameter where presumably the rim had bottomed out on a rock and pinch-cut the rubber. But they were really long and suspiciously close to a moulding seam, so while I was crossing rough terrain, and hitting rocks, I’m not 100% convinced it wasn’t a manufacturing defect.

The new tyre is called “Magic Mary” and is reportedly very sticky and soft rubber. This will give good grip, at the expense of lifespan but I’m MTBing in Scotland, this is when I want my bike on top form. New tyres are always tricky to get over the bead, but with some high pumping pressure and some tugging and bending, it popped into place. 

Next I knew that all this downhill action would likely have eaten thru my rear brake pads, so they could do with a check. There is a retaining pin that unscrews with a small hex key to release the pads. Undoing this, the threaded body of the caliper snapped. Not a nice easily replaceable part. Not something cheap. Not anything that can be fixed with a bit of MacGyver-ing. The main, aluminium, precision machined, body where the pin threads into the caliper itself, sheared off. 


This could be MTB holiday over for me. 

There is literally no way to fix this damage. Tubes are £8 from every bike shop in the country. A Hope Tech 3 E4 Brake Caliper is about £90 and at least a few days away by post. 

Operationally, the brake still works. But without the retaining pin, I’d be running the risk that the pads may not be there when I needed them. Without the pin, they would be very likely to jump out while bouncing down the rocks and then I’d have no rear brakes. Maybe I could control myself on just the front brake in an emergency, but would likely result in an OTB (over the bars) crash – something I did when I was about 14, breaking my collar bone, and I now take all precautions to avoid.

As luck and forward planning would have it, I actually packed a load of tools and spares to bring with me on this holiday, knowing that something would need to be repaired. All the normal things like, tubes, spare pads, chain links, zip ties etc. And then at the last moment, I thought,

“I’ll just chuck these old brake sets in, just in case someone needs them”

I’m very glad I did now, because they came off my bike when I swapped over to the Hope brakes so the hoses are all the correct length and I know they fit my disks. They aren’t as good, but anything is better than nothing right now if it gets me back out there.

They fit and then I went about filling and bleeding the system. This is something I’ve done many times on motorbikes and I find it quite therapeutic and satisfying. To know it’s done well, and working nice and tightly is a reassuring feeling for a safety critical system. But for some reason, no matter how much I tried, these brakes would not firm up. 

Any squashy feeling at the lever in hydraulic brakes means there is air in the system and when used, won’t give you the full stopping power. It meant that I was able to pull the lever fully back to the bar and the wheel kept turning – not the desired result. After more than an hour trying to bleed the system, I gave up and watched 007 Octopussy, feeling thoroughly dejected that my holiday was over.

After the cheesy nostalgic balm of Roger Moore, I gave bleeding the brakes another stab. I even called up the local bike shop (which was closed) and asked for his advice. His advice was just do a better job of bleeding the brakes… But it seemed to be the right advice because after dicking about with it for another 30 mins, I got them bled and working correctly.

By this point, some of the lads were back from art shopping with their respective females and felt some energetic biking was needed. We headed up the local woods and did some of the routes again.

The day ended with a very tasty, but colon burning, dinner followed by Harry Potter Cards Against Humanity, which let me flex my obscure talent for retaining Harry Potter trivia. No other trivia, as any pub quiz can demonstrate, just Harry Potter trivia it seems.

Looking thrilled…