Arms like Popeye

Another shit night’s sleep gave way to an outstanding morning. Blue skies, slight breeze, perfect weather for a ride. I checked my tyre and it looked sealed and good to go. I decided to deflate it a bit and ride it round the garden a few times to see if it would hold. And it did!

ready to go

Breakfast done. A bucket of coffee done, I got changed and headed out just before 11am. It was chilly in the shade so I popped my gilet on. I paid the local bike shop a visit and picked up a tubeless repair kit just in case I had problems and I was away.

The first part of the ride was the road climb of Dukes Pass which kicks up straight out of town. An Alpine-esque climb with 7-10% pitches and hairpin bends! I passed a roadie on the way up (get me!) and then stopped for a pic as the vista opened up over the top. The gilet came off before a quick descent and then a left onto what I came for…gravel.

could be the Canadian Rockies

Within minutes I was in the middle of nowhere, on my own with just the rustle of trees and the song of birds for company. Heaven.

must get windy round here

I followed the forest road and rounded a left bend to begin a climb and then then Garmin complained I was off course. I decided to carry on climbing up aside Ben Venue. As I got to the top, the view opened up amongst the forestry work and I decided to u-turn and go back down. I couldn’t believe how steep the pitch was down. The legs were obviously on the money today.

up n up
what goes up must come down

After the descent I got back on course down a twisty path. Not single track. About 90cm wide but loose in places so I had to keep my wits about me. At a fork in the path my rear tyre gave out. It had gone soft. The overnight seal had failed so I decided to attempt a repair with the kit I bought. The problem was the rubber worms in it were too thick. I struggled to even thread them onto the applicator. I battled with it for what seemed like an eternity and just before I sacked it off to tube it I got it in the tyre and managed to seal it. Pumped, I dropped down to the backside of a hotel and then my front went. FFS. I have no idea what caused it. I couldn’t find nothing in the tyre and I couldn’t get the tubeless to take so I had to tube and gas it. Sealant everywhere. Horrible, sticky stuff when it dries. The problem was I couldn’t get the valve washer off. I shredded my fingers trying to move it but it was solid. If I couldn’t get that off I was stuffed. I decided to call Sally and found I had no signal either! Considering I was effectively stranded at that point I was pretty chilled to be honest. Just soaking up the sunshine. After a few attempts (I had nochoice tbh) I did get it to go and I was able to fit the tube.

I’d reached the shores of Loch Venachar and a short road section made me realise my rear tyre repair was sticking out and catching my frame making an annoying tick, tick, tick sound as the wheels went round. I didn’t have anything on me to trim them. As I started the next climb I got pissed off and decided to push the repair in a bit further. It burped sealant and air but I pumped it up and I was away with a quiet bike.

a very Scottish building on the shore of the Loch

I started the steep climb of Glen Finglas road (I’m sure that’s a malt whisky!) which was closed to traffic. I passed some walkers but had to stop to check the rear tyre again. This was going to be the pattern for the next part of the ride.

I picked up a gravel path and began the steep climb up onto the top of the ridge above Loch Venachar. The views were stunning but I could here my rear tyre ‘spitting’ and ‘burping’ sealant and air out. Every now and again I had to stop and re-pump it. I was all-in now at the farthest point on the course so I just cracked on and did what I needed to do to get round.

Trossachs path descent done my tyre was really soft again so I bit the bullet and decided to tube it. My last one. Shit or bust. Straight in and up and I was off crossing the main road to Callander and picked up a fantastic narrow lane that hugs the shore of Loch Venachar but even better, eventually carries on traffic-free. NCN Route 7 as it is, then bears right and follows a twisty path through the forest before picking up the Three Lochs Forest Drive. This is a one-way forest road route for cars that snakes around the forest. For bikes, it’s two-way and quite a tough climb, be it the last one of the day. Over the top I dropped down through the forest, past Go Ape and eventually popped out just off the end of the high street.

I was up there earlier

I rode back to the bike shop and decided to buy new tyres and tubes. Tubeless is off the menu for the rest of the week. To be honest I think the Panaracer tyres are the issue, not being tubeless.

limped home

£68 lighter for two tyres and tubes, I got home, swapped them over, cleaned off all the sealant and decided to cook myself a chicken dinner and wash it down with some red wine the cottage owner kindly left me. Life ain’t so bad really.

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