When I left the house to pack the van it was raining heavily and still dark. I didn’t feel particularly motivated to drive the 100 miles to Basingstoke for the Evans Cycles Ride It event. The weather conditions only got worse as I drove up the A303, as I narrowly missed the rear axle of a mini that was lying in the outside lane. The driver had collided with the central reservation and his car had fallen apart.
Luckily, I wasn’t speeding. I say this, as I recently discovered that my M Sport Transit Custom is only allowed to do a maximum of 60mph on a dual carriageway. Just a note of warning to you other van drivers – If your van has side windows, a row of seats behind the driver and a window in the rear, then it is classed as a ‘multi-purpose vehicle’ and the speed limit on a dual carriageway is 70mph. If not, then it’s classed as a commercial panel van and its 60. I’ve had a rear window installed so I can go 10mph faster – Utter madness!
Whatever you think of Evans Cycles as a shop they are very good at organising these recreational ride days. It had a similar format to the recent rides I have done. A staggered start over an hour and awards for your time, based on average speed; Gold >9mph, Silver >6mph and Bronze <6mph. There were three options for length: Short 17miles, Medium 27 miles and Long 35 miles. I opted for the latter to get my monies worth.
Despite the weather there were a lot of riders, all clad in various levels of waterproof attire, and a few insane hard-core ones wearing shorts. I have tried many variations to try and keep dry and this time I cracked it. On my feet I wore Salomon S-LAB X ALP Carbon GORE-TEX Shoes over calf-length Bridgedale waterproof socks. I’ve tried this combo before and found they keep the water out for an hour or so but then it runs down your shins and fills up the socks. So, this time I wore Endura waterproof over-trousers and matching Jacket and Gloves.
I looked a bit like a cheap ‘Milk Tray’ man.
It didn’t stop raining for the whole ride and I had dry feet at the end so that was a result.
I’ve always wondered just how my eMTB would cope with extremely wet conditions. I have to say it did very well. I submerged the motor on more than one occasion, only for a few seconds and unintentionally, but this coupled with the constant splash from puddles had no negative effect on the motor or battery.
My drive train however, suffered. I run the EX1 setup which was designed specifically for the eMTB. Despite initial misgivings in that I felt it needed a few more ‘middle’ gears, I have got used to it and normally it changes perfectly. The mud had other ideas. It constantly jumped up and down gears and twice the chain jammed in the rear derailleur. I tried to clean it as best I could, but when everything is covered in mud, that gets tricky.
The ride was well signposted and only very short sections were on the road, the rest used bridleways and droves. This would have been a completely different ride in the dry, lots of narrow single track and long lanes with 4×4 ruts. In the wet it was a real challenge. The back-wheel span quite a few times but overall, the new 2.8 Maxxis Minion DHR performed well. The downhill sections needed total focus as you could see the tyre marks of previous riders that had gone sideways and the tell-tale arse-print next to them.
I found maximum speed, with minimal steering adjustment the way to go. I learnt from my days on MX bikes that it is best to have a light grip on the bars and let the bike squirm as it needs rather than try and adjust all the time. It worked and for one of the first times this year I completed the ride without falling off.
On the last few miles the long route re-joined the short and medium ones so after an hour riding on my own I was happy to see other equally muddy faces. I finished the race alongside two other ebikers – Mick and Richard both on Specialised. They had enjoyed the mud bath as much as I had. I saw another couple of eMTBs in the car park and overhearing a conversation with the organisers apparently there were a lot more ebikes than usual. At last, we are taking over!
Despite a touch of man-flu and taking it easier than I normally would, I finished in the top 5 with a time of 2hours 36 minutes giving me an average of 11.92mph. I used one battery after 19 miles and had 60% left on my second (500w). Basingstoke wouldn’t be my first destination for mountain biking, but I would like to return and do the route again, but only if the sun comes with me.