The bike felt heavy initially, but once rolling it rides just fine. Granny gears are definitely necessary on hills with full kit and I was most grateful for the 2x10 set up.
I should back track a little and write a little about loading. The dropper post has been changed out for a normal rigid Thompson seat post. This allows me to tightly clamp a post-mounted rack with some basic panniers kindly given to me by a friend. They aren't sealed so I would be a little concerned about water finding it's way in during a heavy storm. However they work well with the rack, being a perfect size to avoid both my heels and the brake discs.
Sleeping kit (bivvy, OMM bag, inflatable mat) was carried in the panniers, and the tarp and sleeping bag liner I have on order from 3Trees will be added when they arrive this week. A spare pair of gloves, the Paramo, a spare buff, the water filter and cleaning plunger, jet boil and spare gas are also in the panniers. A dry bag carries a change of clothes, shower kit, a book and a tiny reading light. I also threw in a fair number of emergency food rations including packets of cous cous, Trek bars, cashews etc. Finally, for this test run, I took jeans and a jumper to wear when I got to the races. Water was in the rucksack bladder and tools, spare tubes, pump, lighting etc also on my back. There is lots of room to shift some of this to the bike including putting tools in the water bottle holder, and using a dry bag with bar harness on the front if desperate. I hate having things on the front of the bike though and am staying away from this option for the time being.
It was also a good chance to investigate the Ledbury Town Trail again with an eye to leading an occasional complete beginners ride. The problem with Malvern is, no matter how slowly we pace the steady social group, some people are never going to be fit enough to enjoy it. Even on the most steady routes there are still some climbs.
Around Ledbury I could put together a true beginner friendly route, suitable for those who find pedaling to the shop enough of a challenge. It's a really fantastic little trail running atop the former railway line, though the parks and alongside the road in a coppice.
Traffic free in the main too. I think a few folks will love it. :)
After around 14 miles of 'long way round' lanes, passing the wild daffodils still out en mass in Dymock and Ryton I found the bridleway leading to the motocross track.
As I stopped to grab a few photos, I could hear the roar of the bikes reverberating around the hills. Just a few hundred meters of bumpy descent and the test ride would be complete. Sure enough, the kit held up, and the bike was easy enough to handle. I wouldn't want to be heading down technical descents carrying all the extra weight and without a dropper post, but general bridleways and lanes are a pleasure and there is something immensely satisfying knowing you have enough with you to survive for quite some time.
Finding our van in amongst the other 5876935 white vans at the motocross though, that was the biggest challenge of the day.