30/03/08: I like big bikes, and I cannot lie…

Well, nice to see that the BBC weather report is as accurate as ever. There we were, bracing ourselves for cold, windy conditions, with heavy rain…and instead we got blue skies, a calm breeze, and a decent temperature. Nice.

Tried out an Orange Diva, and it was startlingly different from my Trek. For a start, Oranges just look HUGE. They bought out the 14″ Diva, and I thought it was Mr Toast’s bike!

I sat on it, and it bizarrely felt like I was riding a Harley. The handle bars were quite a bit wider to what I’m used to, but I actually kind of liked it – it felt like I had a bit more control when turning. Whether I’d still like the wider bars when going through the narrow tree-lined sections of the Follow the Dog, I don’t know! Brakes were fairly hilarious, as I nearly faceplanted the first time I used them. Yes, £280 hydraulic brakes are a bit more bitey than the V-brakes that I’m used to. So good though, being able to brake with the slightest pressure from one finger, instead three (or four, if it’s wet!). Quite scary that just the brakes on the Diva are nearly two-thirds of the cost of my current bike!

It would have been nice if I could have tried the Diva out over trails that I’m familiar with (OK, Follow the Dog), as I could have got more of an idea of how riding a full suspension compares to my hardtail. I’ll get that chance when I go to the Singletrack demo day at Cannock Chase next month – I’ll be riding a Giant Anthem and a Specialized Safire, but it would be nice to take an Orange as well. Hmmm….

Mr Toast was quite taken with his Orange 5, and I think is now trying to justify why he needs three bikes. He uses fabulous reasoning like ‘I ride lots!’ and ‘I deserve it!’

Ride: Woburn Sands

Trail: Er, various, just rode where there weren’t ‘No cycling’ signs. Not really familiar with the area, so I don’t think we found the best trails.

Highlights: Trying out a new bike, and a different trial. Going hell for leather down a hill and not worrying about rocks or roots.

Bad bits: Not taking any ibuprofen, so my knees rapidly swelled up like balloons, slightly reducing my enjoyment of the day. The deep sandy and muddy bits paggering my already battered knees!

Post ride food snaffled: Pub meal at the Malt Shovel!

Good dogs seen: Bit of a disappointing haul, quite frankly – there was a Cairne terrier and a wire haired jack russel, but that was about it.

Oranges are not the only fruit

But they are rather nice bikes. Going to test the Orange Five Diva on Sunday. As per usual, the weather for this weekend looks like it’s going to be complete crap, but that’s probably for the best, as Oranges go rather well with mud. I’ve seen quite a few zipping around Follow the Dog, and it’ll be interesting to see how the single pivot Diva compares to the more conventional Giants and Specialized I’ll be trying out next month.

24/03/08: Nice weather…for penguins…

Friday – it was a bit nippy. Maybe the weather would be nicer some other day in the Easter weekend?
Saturday – organising wedding stuff
Sunday – weather forcast was a bit grim. Weather didn’t actually seem that bad, but we stayed in. Maybe the weather would be better on Monday?

Monday – the weather report said sunny. The sky said differently. Still, we were sick of being in the house, and wanted to get biking, so we gritted our teeth, strapped the bikes on the bike, and headed out to the Chase.

Then it started snowing. It was, indeed, a bit nippy.

The hour drive was dark, grey, and gifted with flurries of snow. Got to Cannock Chase…and huzzah! The sun came out! Thank you, BBC weather report, you are occassionally right!

I expected my knees to play up (as they tend to in low temperatures), and was generally expecting to find riding to be a bit miserable and grim, but bugger me…perhaps it was because I was pre-tanked on ibuprofen, but I really enjoyed it!

Anyhoo, here’s my first ride report:

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: First 3 sections of Follow the Dog, various green tracks

Highlights: On my first circuit, taking the first section without hesitation, even managing the berms with relatively little trouble. On the second circuit I managed to climb up the steep slippy hill on the second section, which I ballsed up on my first circuit. Deliberately plowing through puddles and mud pits in an effort to make me look like a real mountain biker! Seeing a little sausage dog chasing a ball.

Bad bits: Cocking up the hill on the second section on my first circuit. Chickening out of the boardwalk, which I’ve done loads of times before, but just felt a bit cowardly. On my second circuit, I nearly lost control of my bike and went into a tree – managed to stay on though. Stupid congregation of walkers and their pack of dogs insisting on blocking the entrance to the second section, forcing bikers to plough through loads of undergrowth to bypass them. Appparently aforementioned stupid congregation decided to walk the dogs on Follow the Dog. Oh dear.

Post ride food snaffled: Bacon sandwich

Good dogs seen: Minature daschund, English Bull Terrier, chipper Jack Russels.

What’s this?


For some reason, I’ve decided to start a blog. Apparently, it’s what all the cool kids are doing nowadays. The main focus of this blog will be to document my mountain biking progress.

Basically, physical exercise and myself…well, we’ve never been the best of friends. I was never particularly sporty as a child. I never enjoyed any of the typical school sports -although I’ll confess to a passing fondness for the obstacle courses, bean bag, sack, and egg and spoon races which are sadly abandoned once you reach High School. Once I hit High School, PE was something to be endured, not enjoyed. When I knackered my knees at the age of 14, it was a blessed relief. OK, I waddled like a duck, but Yay! No PE!

I finally found an activity I enjoyed at the age of 17 – Tae Kwon Do. I’d always wanted to take up a martial art, but my mother wouldn’t let me. I wasn’t great at it, but I loved it and hit blue belt before the dodgy knees struck again. I tried taking it up again (along with aikido) after two operations, but sadly, iffy knees and high impact sports don’t mix.

Then I met Mr Toast. Mr Toast has a fondness for (and one might say ‘obsession with’) mountain biking. The more he enthused about it, the more I thought, ‘Why not? I like nature, and the doctors recommended biking to strengthen my knees (although I don’t think they had mountain biking in mind…), so why not combine the two?

So I took it up at the end of last summer. Make no mistake, I’m RUBBISH at it, but I actually enjoy it, and anything you can enjoy whilst being rubbish at it has got to be worthwhile! But I want to get good, I want to get fit, and I want to be able to confidently throw myself down hills, and to climb up them without dying. So, this blog is meant as a record to inspire myself to do that. Enjoy!