The fine art of Faffing

Your bike is dirty, its been dirty for a week or 2.

But its ok you have a really valid excuse. You came home from a night ride and promised yourself you’d clean it the next day, but the next you were told that your new bike was ready to be collected from the shop and the dirty one got a little neglected…

So you decide its time to give it the love it deserves and give it a proper deep clean.

But first a cup of tea.

Electing to be super efficient, get started by getting some stuff ready, while the kettle is boiling – genius!

While in the shed looking for the end to the hose you realise that its a complete mess and needs sorting out, start sorting and decide that this is a far bigger job than you anticipated.

Time for an existential crisis!

That’s enough of that! Time to gather your thoughts and boil the kettle again.

Make a cup of  tea!

While drinking the tea you ponder upon the last hour and decide that you can’t possibly be the only one who behaves like this and sits down to write about it (THIS!).

Finishes blog post and starts again.

Its now way too late and you have to get back to work…





It was a miracle


Mondays are pretty dull so I am going to just recall the events of yesterday’s bike ride.

Oh wait, there weren’t any events! Can this be true?

There were 18 of us which means there were 36 wheels and not one of them had a puncture, no one broke a mech hanger, no one had an off. Well there was one! But there was no major incident to report, no major faffing, no rain, no huge puddles, no punctures and well frankly it was pretty ordinary.

That’s unfair – it wasn’t a dull ride it was just incident free. This concerns me as 15 miles times 18 riders is 270 miles – karma is out there waiting for one of us…

Oh the off… Here it is, Richard caught a pedal in a rut and caught the whole thing on his helmet mounted GoPro. Photo courtesy of Richard Ford.


Faffing – Is it more than just a waste of time?

Faffing in progress
Faffing in progress – can you identify the faffers in this picture?

Faffing its a mostly British word and if you are not familiar with the expression, get a group of mountain bikers together and you soon will experience a full on faff.

What is it and why does it occur?

Faffing is basically wasting time or the excessive use of time for nonsense activities. You might think that you are doing something worthwhile but honestly it could probably wait or could be left alone altogether. When mountain bikers get together there is a necessary amount of tweaking and fiddling, probably because bikes have just been removed from the back of a car and wheels need to be attached for instance. However, attaching wheels in itself is very straightforward, but the following faff is not necessary. Check that the brakes are working and the chain is aligned and then briefly riding the bike up and down the car park a few times (to test) is permitted, but stop there. As mountain bike technology has improved the opportunity for a little technical faffing has been greatly increased as we adjust shifters and brake levers, check seat posts, lights, GPS, camera etc

The problem with mountain bikers is we do like to talk – so simply fitting a front wheel to use the above example, can take 10 minutes! If one of your ride partners strikes up a conversation about, lets say, your choice of tyres you will soon find that time has passed, you are both still stood there holding a wheel and the other riders are looking at their watches, urging you to stop faffing!

Stealth Faffing
Stealth Faffing – note the lack of any actual problem

Faffing is contagious. While waiting for a fellow biker who is faffing you are likley to find something to faff about yourself. Did I lock the car? Have I got everything in my backpack? and so it continues. Note that your faffing will overlap the previous faffing and then more faffing will occur in a kind of butterfly effect and rapidly you will have all waited around for half an hour for no reason whatsoever. There is a story I once heard that a group of bikers on the Yorkshire moors have been stuck in a “faffing loop” since 2007!

A well organised ride will allow for faffing. A scheduled faff will occur at the beginning of the ride as described above. This should be kept to a minimum and the ride leader should be strict with a set off time, and you should arrive early to allow for your own personal “faff about”. But once you have left the car park you enter unknown faffing territory.

An experienced mountain biker and ride leader will allow time for minor technical faffs when planning a ride but a full-on unscheduled faffing episode by a dozen middle aged men half way up a mountain can be a testing moment! Anything can provoke a faff such as this, a puncture, an off/accident of any type, even a large puddle; anything that can start a discussion or allow a few riders to strike up a conversation.

Types of faffing:

  • Planned faffing – pre-ride permitted, bike tinkering, catching up with friends etc – needs to be nipped in the bud quickly
  • Technical faffing – a puncture or minor technical issue causes the group to stop and a faff can occur around said puncture but it can get out of control
  • Stealth faffing – the ride stops for no known good reason and a faff begins out of nowhere. This is frustrating and very disruptive!
  • Tactical faffing – a rider finds an excuse to fiddle with a loose cleet or badly behaved derailleur to regain breath or take a rest.
  • Unscheduled faffing – an unscheduled faff can follow on from any other type of faffing. (See note above about faffing being contagious and always be aware of faff loops.)

Remember any of the above can occur at anytime and any number of times during a ride. There is a formula that I believe goes something like the total “potential” time spent faffing in minutes (t) equals the number of riders present (n) x the total number of years each have been riding (y) divided by 2 + the amount of rainfall that day in cm(r).

t = (n.y)/(2+r)

Example 10 riders each with an average of 10 years riding, gathered on a dry day is 50 mins of potential faffing time you should be prepared for on top of your scheduled pre-ride faff. Imagine how this can get out of control with some rain!

So is there a value to faffing? Should we schedule more time for faffing? Can it be avoided? I’ll let you decide…

Photos courtesy of the following MB Swindon rides:

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