Similarities between 'going lightweight' and single speed mountain biking

Well, as some know and others don't, I am one of those dodgy people who both walk the hills, and mountain bike. Many times I have chatted with people in both disciplines, and whilst the vast majority understand the others views and share a liking for outdoors, health etc, I have also seen examples of people with a great dislike for the others hobby. Only August this year, whilst walking up the LLamberis pass, I saw some bikes downhilling having a great time. They were traveling at a fair old pace but as they saw me and the other half, they politely slowed down, and passed on the far side of the pass. With exchanged nods, they continued down until I heard several cries emiting from a group of walkers following us up. They were about 5 in strength and wouldn't at least give a little room for the mtbers, and instead hurled abuse at them. Now, it was about 10:30 so offiicially the bikers were in the wrong, but come on... They must have got up before the break of dawn to heave their steel beasties up the hill. Then for whatever reason, the got a little delayed and came down a little late.  But they were considerate, polite and friendly. But got nothing in return other than abuse.

On the other hand, i have seen many bikers riding down paths crowded with walkers, failing to slowdown and scare the walkers out of their wits.

So one simularity between people participating in both persuits is a subset of idiots.

However, whilst riding my newly converted to singlespeed mountain bike around Cannock Chase, I pondered another similarity - the getting back to basics in both mountain biking and lightweight backpacking. Part of the ethos of lightweight backpacking isn't just buying the latest lighter version of the previous light thing. Its also about getting rid of redundant kit, using things for multiple purposes, getting rid of  a few comforts and being a little sadistic. It also lends itself to laziness - not having to carry heavy loads, not having to pack so many things - just walk, camp minimally and walk again the next day.

Now, I can definitely relate to the laziness part, and this in part is why I have discovered single speed mountain biking which is defined as: removing the 300+ quids worth of drivetrain related components and replace them with 1) a single rear cog, 2) a single front chainring and 3) a chain. The main advantage to this regression in functionality is to ease maintenance - no more fine tuning of gears, no more poor shifting or ghost shifts. Less to clean, and that that is left (hubs, bottom bracket shell etc) are far easier to get to. In fact, only this morning I managed to clean the bike properly without having to remove the chain. Bliss.

Now, unfortunately and unlike lightweight backpacking, the 2lb of weight loss brough about from removing this stuff does not translate into an easier bike to ride. I draw a parallel with lightweight stoves not being as fast or as easy to cook on that larger car tent based ones. Uphills are murder, and several downhills can't be attacked with the normal gusto, simple because you run out of gears. However,  I still the downs as I sit back and get through them concentrating on momentus and line rather than pendalling my nuts off.

However, I am currently contemplating how these persuites can actually be combined. Gears, and the maintence their off have been one of the main worries about taking to the hills on multiday rides. Too many tools, and spare bits and pieces to carry. And a bike isn't the easiest thing to carry if i need to get to a bikeshop for a new derailleur.

But my final similarity for this post relates to the looks from other people. I remember sitting on a train last year talking to another walker. He asked what my lakeland adventure would bring me. I told him I was expecting a 3 day walk over several mountains. He then asked where I would be overnighting. He presumed I would be hosteling etc. as I only had a 35 litre pack. In my tent I explained. But where is it? I noticed this very same confusing look yesterday when I was riding around 'The Dog' in Cannock. I had got to the top of the biggest hill, and whilst my heart nearly left my chest and I thought I had left my lungs behind, when I approached two guys having a rest they were surprised that I was pushing such a big gear and struggling so much. Then they realised why - I couldn't shift down ;(

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