I lost count a long time ago of how many rear derailleurs have met their end while out riding — ripped off, busted apart, you name it — no biggie as the life of a rear derailleur on a MTB is often a short and sweet thing. But looking through old slides the other day I came across one of the funniest MTB mechanicals I’ve had over the years which involved a substantial branch and the rear wheel. Somehow the derailleur survived, unlike most of the spokes.
I lived in the Victorian Alpine country for six or so years in the early 1990’s and spent every Summer on the MTB roaming the high country, mainly aboard my ’91 Stumpjumper. The overgrown fire trail that descends the ridge between Howmans Gap and Bogong Village was always good for a huge grin inducing, high speed fang – fast and flowing through thick forest, losing ~500 metres of elevation in 6km or so of riding. Loved it and it connected into other trails, so often worked it into the route for all day epic rides.
While hauling along the trail one day a good size branch flicked up, went through the back wheel and became lodged across the rear stays, pinned in place by the rear brakes, instantly shredding most of the spokes before the wheel came to a stop. I thought it was pretty funny at the time, apart from having to walk the remaining distance to Bogong Village and hope to catch a lift back up to Falls Creek. Had it been the front wheel, well I guess the story would’ve been a LOT different!
One cool thing about the un-spoken incident is that it lead to getting a sweet new set of hand built wheels with sexy Ringle hubs, Mavic rims and DT double butted spokes. In a vain attempt to preserve the schmancy new wheels I spent many hours after that with a shovel and rake, clearing a single track width line all the way from Howmans Gap to Bogong Village… which made for an even more fantastic hoot on the Stumpy.
A bunch of years has passed since then. A huge bushfire burnt through the High Country several years ago and MTB is a lot more popular, so I’d reckon the fire trail has seen a lot of use and isn’t the secluded treat it once was. But if you’re heading down this route just keep a look out for those branches, they like to eat wheels 😛