Luke Saunders - The Gap
As we reached the top of the climb, we took a short break to take in the view that surrounded us. You soon get cold once you stop so we quickly got back on the bikes, unlocked suspension and made our way towards the descent we had been heading for.
Going into these descents you are always aware that walkers are about using the same routes as riders so you need to be careful… although we all like to let off the brakes whenever we can, right? We began to descend down the rocky path which overlooked a stunning view of the gap. As I got down the first section and approached a left hander I noticed 2 walkers further down the trail, once I had passed them I was able to let off the brakes and rattle down the path that was scattered with sharp edges and loose rocks, the terrain you are better off hitting fast and not braking.
I quickly noticed each rock and bump feel more and more harsh, I was hoping it was just the tyre bottoming out and I’d got lucky... not this time! After pulling over to one side it was clear that the tyre had split as sealant was beginning to seep out of the tyre, mixing with the wet mud on the ground. The tyre didn’t seem to be sealing itself and at this point I’d realised my tubeless plugs were at home in the saddle bag of my gravel bike - typical.
I continued to try to pump the tyre up but I wasn’t getting anywhere fast and knew I had a spare tube in my bag so rather than wasting time I thought it would make sense to stick the tube in and carry on the ride (he says)...
I fitted the tube into the wheel and began to pump, inflating the tube seemed to be taking forever but I just assumed it was the pump at first. As I continued to pump, it became apparent there may be an issue with the tube/valve as the tube seemed to be going down faster than it was inflating - Great!
Now of course, at this point you’d hope your friend would have a spare too, which he did... back at the car 8 miles away!
Here I am, halfway down a mountain with a sliced tyre running out of ideas to repair it. With an unseated tyre and only a hand pump on me I had no options but to ride the rest flat. We stuffed the tyre with grass with the hope to pad out the tyre and create a layer of protection between the tyre and rim.
At this point I was fully prepared to destroy my rim riding back as staying on the mountain much longer wasn’t an option, we were both getting cold. We continued the descent at a slower pace although the bike didn’t seem too draggy on this terrain and letting off the brakes seemed to reduce the fishtailing.
At first the tyre being flat wasn’t causing any issues at all and it was relatively easy to ride on, however after a little while the grass started to bunch up into a cluster inside my tyre causing the bike to buck up and down on each wheel rotation. As the grass had formed into a solid block in one section of the tyre it allowed the rest of the tyre to stick together where the sealant had been. The tyre sticking together caused the tyre to roller over the rim and it was all over the place, up and down - side to side, rubbing on the frame.
I pulled the tyre apart and wrapped a few cable ties around the tyre and rim to try and force the tyre flat to protect the rim and make a flatter surface to pedal on. The cable ties definitely helped however, riding on the road with a flat tyre just got harder and harder.
After arriving at the bike shop in Brecon and it being closed, I realised that was the end of the ride for me, call it a day at fix it at work (slam69) tomorrow...
Arriving at work with just a wheel on a Monday morning normally means something has broken over the weekend, so when I enter the shop I’m not surprised by the look on Graham’s face when he sees the state of my tyre laced with cable ties...!
While I patiently wait for the “F” word to leave his mouth we discuss the events of the day before...
“ahh you see, if you were on a Fatbike!..”
Could’ve predicted that one! Although he may be correct, I’ve not yet given into the fat bug that seems to be spreading faster than ever!!
Back in the workshop and I need to get this tyre off, now normally these tyres are pretty easy to get off even without a lever. However, with the tyre being full of grass it made removal harder than ever! There was literally no space whatsoever between the tyre and rim.
Initial inspection: Checking for any loose spokes, cracks in the rim or dents. Surprisingly the wheel looked fine, no obvious signs of damage at first, although after giving the wheel a closer look there were a few small sharp edges that had been created along the edge of the rim and there was one small ding, much smaller than most dents we see.
I tapped out one small ding and filed off the sharp edges then put the wheel in the jig.. One reason I personally would never run carbon rims on an mountain bike!
I was pretty blown away by how true the wheel was considering, only around 5mm movement which was soon eliminated with a few turns on the spoke key - this buckle may well have occurred before the gap as I rarely check these wheels.
3 years of abuse and these wheels just keep on going, I can’t fault them at all (DT Swiss E1900). They seem to take whatever I throw at them. During these years I’ve stubbornly only ever run maxxis high roller 2 tyres front and rear, no matter the weather. They seemed to do everything I wanted, however after warping one and slicing a few I feel it’s finally time to change up to something with a tougher casing...
Michelin wild enduro is my new choice of tyre;
Magi-X front 2.4
Gum-X Rear 2.4
Rimpact tyre inserts front and rear
The wheel lives to tell another story...
Words and photography* by Luke Saunders