22 – 25/08/08: Dirk & Myndy

Despite frequent visits to the Shropshire Hills whilst organising the wedding, we’ve never actually been biking there. So, as the deed is now done, Mr Toast and I decided it was high time we paid a visit with our bikes in tow.

Admittedly, on the Saturday we didn’t actually bike around the hills – we took a 30 mile journey to Coed Llandegla (or ‘Dirk Diggler’, as Mr Toast took to calling it). I’d asked about on the Bike Radar forums about the difficulty, and decided to give the red route a go. It was fantastic! There was a lot of climbing, but it wasn’t as steep as Glentress, and was more contoured. I actually found Llandegla easier than Follow the Dog – it wasn’t quite as tight and was a lot more flowing, and the berms were full of Bermy Delight™. The only parts that gave me trouble were the second north shore (did most of it, but it doesn’t half sap your momentum), and a short but very steep downhill just before the end. Annoyingly, I’ve ridden worse, but I just felt so knackered by that point my brain just said, ‘No’ as I looked down. It wasn’t so much the gradient but the rocks that freaked me out. Again, general lack of fitness and a slight cold hampered me (to the point where I threw up at the top of one hill), but it was still great fun (the route, not the throwing up).

Llandegla chappie

On the Monday we sallied forth to the Long Mynd for a short ride. It was beautiful, but ridiculously windy, and I nearly got buffeted into the heather a couple of times. As with most bridleways, there was a copious amount of crap (in the literal sense, of the sheep and horse variety) to avoid. I thought I’d dodged most of it, but when I finished the ride, there was a flattened wodge of horse crap on my saddle. -_-

Ride: Coed Llandegla/Long Mynd

Trail: Llandegla – full red/Long Mynd – short pootle across (about 5 miles or so)

Highlights: Llandegla – bermy goodness

Bad bits: Horse shit -_-

Post ride food snaffled: Minstrels

Good dogs seen: Miniature schnauzer (very dignified, probably called Professor McFluffersons or something), a staffie that grunted like a piglet, various elderly looking but spritely wire haired mutts of indeterminate breed.


17/08/08: My other ride is a zombie car

Eugh, cars.  Or more accurately, “Eugh, my car”.  It recently started to cough, splutter, and lose all energy – a bit like Mr Toast in the height of hay fever season.  Fortunately with Mr Toast, we can look at him and say, “He has hay fever!  Let’s give him antihistamines and have his asthma medication on standby!”

What happens with my car when anything goes wrong?  It stays in the garage for a couple of days, and then they say, “Well, we can’t find anything wrong with it, but there’s definitely something wrong”.

This has now happened twice, at two different garages.  It’s like Nissan used strange alien technology to build the Micra.  “Hey Hiro, put that…thing in there.  You know, next to the…other…thing.  I don’t know what it does, but it makes it go bruum!”

Anyhoo, bringing this post dangerously back on topic, it means that there was AN ENTIRE WEEKEND WITHOUT TRAIL RIDING.  Just after the aforementioned weekend, I got my car back with a new fuel filter and a tank full of Redex, which worked for approximately five days before returning to a spluttering unpredictable mess.  Deciding to risk it, we set off to Hammerwich in the zombie car, our carbon footprint visibly pooting out of the exhaust.

We stayed at my mother’s on the Saturday, and went for our ride on the Sunday.  At the unholy hour of 9.30am, might I add – Mr Toast was meeting up with some of the Chase Trails forumites for an explore of the Chase.

I settled for…Follow the Dog (yes, I’m horribly predictable).  Only this time, as we were parked at the other car park, I started on section 13 – an interesting start to the day for someone who’s not a morning person.

This ride was a mixed bag.  On one hand, I felt that I took a lot of stuff with a bit more technical prowess than usual.  On the other, it took me a lot longer than usual to complete a lap.  That said, I did have a Swinnerton’s stop after four sections (as I started from the other carpark), and got some water and hobnobs.

I also contemplated getting some clear glasses for eye protection – it was very muddy and I’ve now taken to wearing my contacts when biking, as I like having peripheral vision.  Unfortunately, all of the£14.99 glasses were too big for my peanut head, and I’m too much of a cheap ass for fork out any more cash than that for something that will essentially make me look like a twat.

Hmmm, I should probably time my accessory stops…

I also spent a lot of time between sections letting people pass – despite the ungodly hour and crap weather, it was actually busier than usual.  And, truth be told, I think my fitness might have dropped off a little – before the wedding I was going to the gym twice a week as well.  Still, nowt that can’t be remedied.

I had a top experience on section 8 (the longer route).  I was chased by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier – lovely, friendly dog, running with his biking owners.  However, as lovely as he was, it was also slightly disconcerting – in addition to worrying about him running into my wheels, I was riding as fast as I could, listening to the footfalls and heavy breathing of an unseen animal right behind me.  ACTIVATE PREY INSTINCT!!

I have never, ever ridden that section so fast.

In other news, I should be seeing a specialist on Tuesday about my knees.  Here’s to fully functioning limbs!

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: FtD – long route, including the reopened section 16.

Highlights: Being encouraged to new speeds by a friendly Staffie

Bad bits: Riding for my life whilst being pursued by a snarling hellbeast

Post ride food snaffled: Had a bacon sandwich.  The Marquis Drive Cafe is rubbish.  On the other hand, the Visitor Centre and its staff are awesome.

Good dogs seen: Snarling hellbeast/affectionate Staffie

Glentress – ze overview

Well, we’ve been back from our honeymoon for a couple of days now, and we’re already missing Glentress. OK, we have broadband and our own fridge, but Leamington is so…flat.

Anyhoo, needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed biking north of the border. I didn’t attempt the red route – I was content to stick to the skills loop and the fantastic blue route, in an effort to get my confidence and basic skills up. I think it actually worked too – I even successfully tackled a skinny with a rocky finish:


Yes, I’m aware that a) The skinny is lower than a kerb, b) I look like a terrified hamster, and that c) I’m glued to the saddle. But that’s not the point! I gave it a go and didn’t die! Huzzah!

The cafe at Glentress, The Hub, is fantastic – really good food. Observe!


There was also a really good atmosphere there, with everyone talking about their rides, whilst sneaking covert looks at other people’s bikes. It’s interesting: the more you get into mountain biking, the more you look at bikes. Eventually, you stop looking at people and just look at their bikes, and end up branding them thusly: “Heckler dude”, “Yeti Guy”, etc.

On the penultimate day, I took some photos at the freeride park whilst Mr Toast decided to give it a bash. “Be careful!” I said, in a wifely fashion, and he said, “I will be, it’ll be fine!”. Then an ambulance pulled up, part of the course was sectioned off. Paramedics went in, paramedic came out, paramedic went back in with a leg brace, paramedics came out with broken freerider. Ouch.

Fortunately neither Mr Toast or I injured ourselves – yes, I even did some of the freeride course…gave the downhill boardwalk a miss though! Mr Toast tackled it with his usual aplomb though:

Mr Toast on the northshore

Aaaand here’s a few pictures of peeps that were a bit nifty at freeriding:




I’d really recommend Glentress to anyone who’s interested in mountain biking – there’s trails for all levels of ability, and loads of opportunities to hone and improve your skills in a controlled and pressure-free environment. And if downhill is more your thing, there’s the DH course Innerleithen just down the road, along with a black graded XC. One day, maybe! 😉