25/05/08: Who let the dogs out?

Bah, I failed to update my blog for the rides on the weekend 17th/18th May. I was fairly pleased, although I did have a few steering issues – I kept ballyhooing into trees for no good reason. I saw some deer though, nomming leaves and being generally bambi-like.

Aaanyhoo, I had a rather splendid ride this weekend gone. It was by far by fastest lap, and that was including ‘the new section’ at the top of the fireroad hill. We thought the weather was going to be proper grim, as it was pissing it down on the journey there. But we got to the mystical land of Rugeley, then onto the trail, and lo…the sun came out.


On the first section, I took all the berms at the end without stopping or overshooting them – I normally come a bit of a cropper on the last one. Second section was pretty much the same as usual, with the exception of a rather sheepish looking couple with a border collie, who had evidently wondered onto Follow the Dog by mistake. Third section I was faster than usual, although I still get TERRIFIED on the boardwalk (no butterflies this time though). Had to take my waterproof jacket off at this point, as I was boiling to death.

Got up the fireroad hill without too much trouble, although I’ve tried to cut down my ibuprofen consumption, so my knees were groaning a little.

The new section is great now that I’m getting a little more confidence. I managed to get around the entire thing, not only not stopping, but also not catching my feet, pedals, or any other limbs on owt. Doesn’t sound like much, but it is to me! Took all of the jumps and the log bit at the end. Nice.

Did the woody section very fast*. As the trail was fairly quiet, I wasn’t stopping between sections to let people pass or go ahead of me. I actually got airborne at one point, and let out an involuntary ‘Whhheeee!’ (as in the verbal exclamation, not body fluid…). I’m not entirely sure how or why, and I had to look around to make sure no-one heard me. I think it’s a side-effect of mountain biking – I think if you could have captured that moment on camera, you could have made a lolpicture and captioned it ‘Joy’.

Felt a bit battered on Ill Phil’s Hill, and went crazy fast* on the wooded section after that. Did the last section, was bemused by a strange whizzing noise until I noticed the man on the zip wire above (Go Ape’s just opened). All in all, a good day.

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog

Highlights: Again, the entire thing.

Bad bits: Nothing!

Post ride food snaffled: Bacon sandwich and a flapjack thing that had stealth raisins 🙁

Good dogs seen: Where to start? I think it’s proof that good dogs = good ride. Saw a sweet Jack Russel having a bit of a shout in a car, THEN a minature schnauzer! And it got better! A husky! And then, the masterpiece…


Yes, I do believe that’s a Border Terrier. And it’s a Border Terrier with a puppy! Everyone knows a thing, accompanied by a smaller version of that thing, is always cute


10-11/05/08: On the floor again

Twas a good weekend, very hot and sunny, and the first time I’ve been over the Chase this year when it’s been pretty much dry.

I felt a bit more confident as the ground was drier, so pushed myself a bit more, going faster, braking less. Unfortunately, as a result, I have come out of the weekend slightly injured.

My first minor injury was a result of my greatest feat so far – on Saturday, I actually cycled all the way up the fire road hill. Admittedly, I was very slow (lowest gear possible, or ‘Granny gear’ as Mr Toast calls it), but I had a huge sense of accomplishment when I got to the top. I had a little sit down, admired the view, and set off again. As I was still in granny gear, however, the pedal span round a bit quick and scraped my leg. Yes, I am indeed a pro.

The second was on a wooded section – there’s a short but steep uphill, with a nasty root at the top. There was a small child with two guys waiting at the top, so I attempted it. I nearly made it…but then my bike skidded backwards, and I capsized at the bottom, scraping my elbow and banging my shin. The small child (he was no older than 8 ) then proceeded to defeat what had just conquered me. Oh dear…

The third injury was today – I was going down Ill Phil’s Hill (or section 14, to give it its official name), and I was going down the last big descent. I picked my line a bit iffily, and, unused to dry sand, skidded. I didn’t come off completely, but my bike skidded slightly underneath me and I caught the back of my calf on the chain ring.

Despite all that, I feel that I did well over the weekend – two entire laps faster than I’ve ever done them before (including two lots of the fire road hill!). Woot!

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog, bits of green

Highlights: Just the overall sense of getting better – taking the jumps without hesitation on the new section, cycling up the fire road instead of pushing up it, taking the berms a bit better.  Overtaking people!  And of course, section 13.

Bad bits: Falling off, although its never as bad as you think it’s going to be.  Getting pwn3d by a small child who’s biking skills far surpass your own. That is as bad as you think it is.

Post ride food snaffled: Ham and cheese sandwich and honeycomb ice-cream.

Good dogs seen: Lots, including plenty running with their biker owners – spaniels, jack russels, and something that looked like a cross between a schnauzer and a spaniel.  Oh my!

04/05/08: Yorkshire smells of garlic

On the Bank Holiday weekend, we sallied forth to Mr Toast’s homeland of North Yorkshire. Whilst in the region, we decided to visit Dalby. Well, it would be rude not to.

I should point out that Dalby and I don’t have a very happy history. We went there last year, and I hired a bike from Purple Mountain. The bike, a Kona Fire Mountain (I think), was pretty poorly maintained with a fork that just would not move, and the blue trail was fairly dull – pretty similar to the green trails around Cannock Chase, except for the tricky zig zagging ascent at the start.

Well, I was determined that I’d approach it with an open mind. Being realistic, I knew that there was no way I could do the full red, which clocks in at about 24 miles. Mr Toast however, was itching to give it a go and put his Commencal Meta 5.5 (henceforth known as ‘The Grasshopper’) through its paces. The cunning plan was that I’d do the most of the blue route, and a small part of the red route at the end. So, as we reached the top of the zig zagging hill, we went our separate ways – Mr Toast down the scary steps of the red, and me up the gentle uphill of the blue.

The first niggle that I had was that as I came to a junction, there were no signs as to which way the blue route went. There was a downhill fire road to the left, and two uphill paths – a fire road and something a little rockier – to the right. I took the rockier one, thinking it would be more interesting. It wasn’t really, it wasn’t particularly interesting – just a long, steep uphill, leading to more fire road.


I stuck at it, eventually picking up some blue arrows at various points. Most of the ride was pleasant enough, but fire roads…meh. The long, straight uphill sections were a pain in the arse (well, the knees), and so dull. But there were some very bizarre sections, where I’d find a blue arrow pointing down a very steep hill – far steeper than anything I’ve tried at Cannock Chase, even on Follow the Dog. Fortunately, they were fairly suitable for noobs – there were no roots or rocks to contend with, it was just a matter of getting the weight back and steering!


These were by far the most fun parts of the ride…but sadly there was only two of them, lasting 3 minutes in total, tops. 🙁

I’m still not sure if I actually did the blue route – the markers I were following were a white circle with a squat blue arrow on, but at one point I came to a sign next to one of the markers saying ‘If you are following the blue route, you have taken a wrong turn’! Makes me wonder if the signs I followed were just generic bridleway markers. At one point I followed them up a steep hill…then up another steep hill…then up a steep uphill road…and then there was a t-junction with no signs at all. On the plus side, doing the 20 minutes uphill journey in reverse in less than 5 minutes was fun!

I should probably learn to read a map, or something.

I never actually went on the red, as I was worried about getting lost, and also about the capability of the bike I had hired, again from Purple Mountain. It was an upgrade from last year (this one was a Kona Blast Deluxe), but the fork was still very, very stiff. The perils of riding a standard ‘man’s’ bike with a cheap not-really-very-adjustable fork, I suppose. It’s a shame, because otherwise the bike was a good fit.

The Kona Blast

I did ask about hiring a full suspension (a Kona King Kikapu), but alas, the smallest they did was a 16″, which was a bit too long for me. 🙁 I think it was a good job I didn’t attempt the Dalby red though, as Mr Toast said that parts of it were very tough – even on the Grasshopper! Given that I still pootle around Follow the Dog at a rather sedate pace, I should probably get my skills (and fitness) up before I try Dalby.

Ride: Dalby

Trail: Dalby….blue. I think…

Highlights: Some awesome views and the sense of exploring, some exciting steep downhill bits of trail

Bad bits: Dreary, dreary fire roads, and a general lack of signage for the Blue route. Oh, and the café running out of milk.

Post ride food snaffled: Chocolate chip cookie

Good dogs seen: Some charmingly elegant spaniels, and a trio of Cairne terriers (each one a different colour).