Phase II Big Build Day

The next Big Build Day is scheduled for June 7th. At the last one there were ducklings and lizards! Oh my!

Clever girl...

Phase 2 Big Build Day – Sunday 7th June
Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre 10am
BBQ & Refreshments Provided
Prize Draw for all volunteers
Tools Supplied (Feel free to bring your favourite spade)
Bring Sturdy Footwear & Outdoor Clothes


If the good weather keeps up, I’d also add, ‘Bring suntan lotion and a hat’.  Lobster pink and sunstroke isn’t a good combination.  Note to self: turn up on time. -_-

The build days are a great way to get to know other bikers, and to also contribute to the local trails in a practical way.  Plus there’s sausages.



24/05/09: High Speed Dirt

Had a bit of a trail building fail today.  Fully intended to do our bit, but unfortunately set out a bit later than planned – for some reason, my mom was quite insistent that we check on the state of the spare fridge in the garage…

We turned up at Swinnertons at 10.15, quarter of an hour late.  The Chase Trail chaps had already set off, and the guy in Swinnertons said that they were planning on going up to the old section 8.  So, I speeded through section two, and then took the fireroads to the start of section 8.

Unfortunately they weren’t there, so I waited for a little while, and nommed some Fruit Pastilles.  Decided it was best to keep riding, and perhaps I’d catch up with them on another part of the trail.

I was riding section 8 quite well.  I’ve been making a conscious effort to lay off the breaks and relax more, but I was perhaps a bit too relaxed.  I took a corner a bit too quick (or rather turned a bit too slow), and went wide into some mud.  I’m not entirely sure what happened next – I’m assuming that I panicked and tapped my breaks.  I’m assuming this, as I can’t think of any other way my bike would come to an abrupt halt and end up in a tangled heap behind me as I went over the handlebars (I think!).

I got up, made sure that everything still worked and was intact (both for the bike and rider), and carried on riding.  I was a bit shaken, but I actually felt better riding the remainder of section 8 than I did yesterday.  Perhaps because I’d had a nice rest on the floor.

Rode the rest of the trail without incident, actually overtook some people that weren’t small children, rode 16 without clipping the bars again.  I rode the two sections I’d missed first thing (6&7), chickened out riding down the start of 6 to the bridge.  I also avoided the boardwalk and took the chicken run, as I was starting to get some interesting aches from my previous faceplant adventures.

After that, I’d got some time to kill before meeting Mr Toast at the café, so I generally pootled about, attempting to ride down section 3 (one of the old abandoned sections that I used to really enjoy), but failing rather spectacularly.  No, I stayed on the bike, I just couldn’t find the ruddy trail – there are so many branching paths now, and I inevitably picked the dullest, most straightforward one.

Met Mr Toast at the café, snaffled food, and set off on an afternoon ride.  Bumped into Rob at Swinnertons, who told us that the ramp leading off the bridge at the start of section 6 had been made a bit easier due to the number of people coming off on it.  Suddenly, my knew found grace and skill on that feature was explained.  Although it’s good that people’s safety is taken seriously, I would have liked to have gotten genuinely good at riding it (as opposed to riding it with the elegance of a three legged donkey) before it was nerfed.

Chased Mr Toast through section 2, as he tried to find a suitable pace.  Initially he was going a bit too slow, so I shouted ‘faster’.  He went a little faster, but still too slow, so I shouted faster.  He then rocketed ahead, but at least it gave me a target!

After section 2, I’d decided I wanted to do the green loop, as I decided that a) it was a nice day to see more of the Chase, and b) I’d acquired quite enough interesting bruises for one day.  But first – I couldn’t allow the entry to the bridge on 6 to become another NEMESIS.  So, I decided to give it a shot.  I rode down the slope…and onto the bridge.  And then rode along the bridge, and off the end, without incident.  Not terribly exciting, but at least I know I don’t have to be stupid about it now.

Green loop was suitably lovely, if busy with families and dogs.  The Canadian Goose family I’d seen the other week were present, with the goslings being slightly larger and more goose-shaped than before.  All in a big pile!


We’d gotten about halfway around when there was a loud CRACK from Mr Toast’s bike.  His rear wheel had broken.  Again.

There was quite a lot of swearing, and the Zaskar (and its XT wheels) were dragged back to Birches Valley.  Once we got home, he took the hub apart, and found that the ball bearings in the hub were smashed – the coatings were broken.  There was more swearing, but he eventually realised that he had two broken XT rear wheels – both broken in different ways.  By cannibalises the old Meta wheel, he could fix the Zaskar one.  Weeeee!

He also decided to keep the rim off the cannibilised wheel, which involved him manically cackling as he took a hacksaw to the spokes.  From the remains of the destroyed hub, he created a beautiful sculpture!

Your Friendly Neighbourhood SpiderHub

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog, various green bits, section 3 (sort of), sections 2, start of 6, section 12, green loop, section 13.

Highlights: Getting a good long ride in the sun, doing the slope on the bridge at the start of 6

Bad bits:  Going over the bars on 8.

Post ride food snaffled: Had a ham and egg salad sandwich baguette and a cookie for lunch

Good dogs seen: A white malamute type dog, lots of Jack Russels.

23/05/09: Ha! In your face, puddles!

It was hard to believe that the NPS race was only a week ago.  Last weekend had torrential rain, harsh winds, and generally crap, miserable and grey weather.

This weekend was glorious, with blue skies and baking sunshine – if only it had been like this last week!  To give you an idea of how warm it was – I went out without legwarmers and left my thermal jersey in the house for the first time this year!

Before heading to the Chase, we had to go to the Specialized Concept Store in Brum to pick up my proper saddle, and also to spend some of our Spring Reward Voucher.  I got a couple of new jerseys, the Arona and Stella ones, and Mr Toast got some new SPD shoes, as the straps on his old ones are about to give up the ghost.  As an aside, here’s me modelling the Arona jersey.  I was quite mortified when I saw this picture, as I didn’t realise how Dame Edna Everage the glasses looked.  I’m sure they don’t look that stupid in the mirror…

Hello, Possums!

It was a bit of the pain in the arse getting to the Concept Store – there had been a bad accident, and a few of the routes to Fort Dunlop were closed.  The remaining ones were absolutely rammed with traffic, so it took us ages getting both in and out – we didn’t get to the Chase until nearly 3pm.

Got onto FtD, rode section 2 stupidly fast.  Walked down to the bridge at the start of section 6 like a big cowardly, cowardly custard.  Rode the bridge, and marvelled as I rolled down the end – I did it a lot smoother than two weeks ago, it seemed particularly easy.

Did the boardwalk, no excuse no to when it’s dry and sunny.  My cunning plan for today was to conquer Evil Root Number One (on section 7) and Evil Root Number Two (on section 12).   Alas, I failed on ER01, I couldn’t muster the courage to attempt it – I just kept riding up to it and stopping.

Things took a turn for the worse as I hit the fireroad hill.  It was now past three, and I had the startling revelation that perhaps going for a ride on nothing but a bowl of Special K and no lunch was probably a bit of a rubbish idea.  Did section 8 a bit sluggishly, but picked up on the rest of the ride – think it was the Fruit Pastilles and ginger nut biscuit kicking in…

On section 12 Mr Toast caught up with me (he’d been off exploring), and we rode the rest of the trail together.  Evil Root Number Two managed to thwart me, although I nearly got over it – I probably would have done if I’d kept pedalling and put my weight forward a little, but I instinctively put my feet down just before the back wheel hit the root.  To be fair, it was the first time I’d even attempted to ride it since the ‘Small Child Incident’, which was actually documented in this very blog.  Over a year ago.  Oh dear…

I assure you, his days are numbered!


Rode the rest of the trail pretty well, and even managed to ride all of 16 without catching my handlebars once. Miracles do happen!

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog

Highlights: Riding well at the start and the end of the trail

Bad bits: Running out of energy, only having a limited amount of water in the Camelbak

Post ride food snaffled: None at the cafe, but had a monster Chinese takeaway at my mother’s.

Good dogs seen: Best of the bunch was a husky and a minature black wire-coated daschund.

Naughty Precipitation Shenanigans

The NPS race was held at Cannock Chase over this weekend, and Mr Toast and I helped out marshalling yesterday’s events.  The NPS was founded by Pat “Mountain Mayhem” Adams, who’s known for throwing a good mountain biking party, and was held in association with Singletrack Magazine, aided and abetted by Chase Trails.  I like to point this out, just so that I can post these photos of pretty fluttering banners.

Some course boundary tape, yesterday

Singletrack, you say?

Follow the Flag

Friday’s weather had been suitably bleak, with heavy rain taking its toll on the course.  Saturday morning looked far more promising, however.  Look!

This was the little drop near my marshal point, with a chicken run  an officially sanctioned alternative route.

Armchair critic

And this was my base of operations, which was in between outbound and inbound sections of course.  As a marshal, it was my duty to make sure that the riders weren’t getting into trouble, or trying to cut corners.  There were one or two stumbles caused by skidding in the mud, but no-one looked like they were even contemplating cheating.  Perhaps they leave that to the roadies? 😉

See the sunshine?  Nice, isn’t it?  Unfortunately, the weather was suitably schizophrenic, with episodes of torrential rain versus gloriously warm sunny spells.  For the most part, the day was grey and overcast, but not too cold.  And I should bloody hope so – it’s May!  I want a proper summer, 24 – 28 degrees minimum, and I want it now! Or at least for more than two weeks this year…

Mmmm, mud

Despite the iffy weather, all the racers were determined to give it a shot, from the super fast guys leading the field, to the more casual entrants slogging through the mud.  The race leaders were stupidly fast, and seemed to fly across the mud and any obstacle they encountered effortlessly.  All the riders deserved a huge round of applause though – hopefully next time they return the weather will be a little kinder!

Also a big round of applause to the Chase Trails chappies for building the course and for organising and  looking after the marshals.  Sharon and Dale’s culinary efforts were particularly appreciated!

I took a few photos, some of which are gracing this here blog post, and the rest of the best can be viewed in the gallery. I struggled a bit getting decent shots – it’s been a while since I’ve used my camera, and I mainly used to do amateur gig photography.  I did come to the revelation this evening that my gallery is mainly comprised of sweaty men…

There are also some rather awesome photos of the event on Rocketdog’s (possibly not his real name) Flickr, and the official race photographer Rob Crayton is also likely to have a few good shots! 😉

By Merlin’s Beard!

Should have mentioned this earlier, but Merlin sent me the white MG1s as replacement for the incorrectly ordered black MG1s.  The whole process of getting the pedals, returning them and getting replacements actually took less time than it’s taken Wiggle to process my last few orders from scratch (even ones where I’d paid for priority dispatch).  The cost of the product was lower, and postage (even the replacement!) was free.

Merlin!  All is forgiven!

I’ll get some decent pics of my bike at the weekend, as I’ll be taking my SLR out.  Hopefully it’ll be a bit more capable of coping with the sheer gleaming glory of the Professor!

10/05/09: Small victories

Today I felt rubbish, for no real reason.  I just felt a bit tired and sluggish, and could have quite happily stayed in bed instead of riding over the woods.  With some gentle coaxing from Mr Toast, I managed to haul us to the Chase.  And I’m glad he did, because rather predictably I had a splendid time.

The Chase Trail chaps had been busy, with both section 2 and the new start of section 6 being open today.  Section 2 in particular is riding nicely, it’s great to have it open again,  The new bridge is a nice addition, taking the FtD traffic away from the shared track that’s normally fairly congested, and it avoids The Rock.  My exit off the bridge was a little lacking in grace, but I rode it without hesitation and I didn’t fall off.  Victory number one! I’m hoping next time will be easier, when there’s not a pair of blokes near the end of it having a picnic…

Section 7 went OKish, still a bit ropey on the boardwalk, but no comedy offs or injuries as of yet.  Got up the fireroad hill…wait for it...entirely in the middle ring!  Victory number two!  At the top I was Oatieless, but I had a break anyway.  I was passed by a chap and his kid – just as I noticed that dad was riding a Stumpjumper FSR Elite, the kid piped up, “Nice bike!”.  Kid was also riding a Stumpjumper FSR Elite.  ‘Twas a veritable Stumpjumper Elite convention!  I was going to crack a joke about how one of us was going to have to go home and change, but I didn’t because a) I don’t think blokes understand the cliché about not turning up somewhere wearing the same outfit, and b) they’d already ridden off, having superior stamina to myself.

Not wanting to let the Professor down as his brethren zipped off ahead, I jumped back on the bike and headed left through section 8.  As I was riding, I realised that I really, really love the Professor.  We make a good team.  I’m still a bit ropey on those jumps – I think I just need to take them faster and smoother, because at the moment the front-end is landing a bit heavily, particularly on the last one.

Got to the end of section 8 – I felt a bit more knackered on the climb at the end than I did last week – and was faced with the log slope of doom, which I’ve ridden down once.  Badly.

I admit, I was going to chicken out yet again.  I literally got off the bike, started to push it down…then pulled it back up.  It was one of those things I’d have to get over sooner or later, and it was very quiet – no-one behind, no-one in front.  Took the bike back a bit more to get a run up, rode to it…and down it.  It’s a bit like having an injection, it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be, and you’re left with a sense of ‘Is that it?’  Victory number three!

It’s harder than it looks, OK?!  Sort of…

I rode 9-12 fairly speedily, not breaking between sections.  Section 13 was great fun, again (iPod tune of the ride: Guns n Roses, Live and Let Die), although I did nearly lose it on a corner.  I take this as a good thing, it means I’m going faster! 😀

14 was tiring but rewarding, plus it had a friendly dog pacing up and down the hill that leads to it.  I think he lived in the nearby house, he didn’t seem to have any owners with him.  He was nice though.

I had to pull over to let someone pass on 14, which lead to an interesting moment when my saddle decided to spin.  Tightened up the seat clamp, and off I went again.  Rode 15 well, made me smile.  Unlike 16.

Ahhh, section 16.  Will we ever be friends, you and I?  Somehow, I can’t see it happening.  I know I should blame myself and my lack of spatial awareness and steering ability, but instead I’ll blame the trees.  I just can’t get any speed up on it at all, plus I always seem to smack my handlebars on a tree at some point, and come off the bike. Even the offs on 16 don’t have the common decency to be dramatic, they’re just a bit slow motion and rubbish, more like comedy dismounts.  Although this time I did manage to knock out my back brake, which made the concluding part of the ride…interesting.

Rode back to the café, some tosser was right behind me.  I moved over to let him past, but he seemed intent on staying behind me.  Pulled over near section 6 to let him past, turned out it was Mr Toast.  Git.

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog.  All of it, as it’s now all open! \o/

Highlights: Doing stuff I’ve never quite managed before

Bad bits: Section 16.  We hates it, my precious, we hates it!  Stupid people out for a stroll on section 6 and looking surprised every time a mountain biker went past.

Post ride food snaffled: Dotty cookie and tea

Good dogs seen: The Littlest Hobo near the start of section 14, various dirty dogs enjoying the ‘bath’ near Swinnerton’s bike wash, a border terrier.

09/05/09: Tiny mini-pootle

Today I was on a mission.  As this blog is a testament to, I’ve become a bit of a biking evangelist.  Today’s target for conversion:

Junior Danny MacAskill in the making, soon she’ll be doing it on a bike…

My friend’s six year old daughter. Given that I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 11, and had never ridden on the road or owned a bike with gears until I was 28, it’s too late for Olympic XC glory for me. But I can live out my thwarted dreams via the medium of my friend’s children. HUZZAH! RIDE CHILD! RIDE!

I got mad skills, yo

The little ‘un did well – rode for 2 hours, even though she’s only very recently learnt to ride a bike (and only on the road).  And her bike is heavier than the Professor.   And the Trekadee.  Possibly both combined, seriously…

To encourage the small child, ducks were promised.  Oh yes.  Initially the waterfowl were keeping to the other end of the lake…pool…thing.  But soon we were surrounded by ducks.  And canadian geese.  One of which flew into my friend’s head.  But they redeemed themselves by having a nest with goslings.  How can anyone be angry at baby animals? EVEN IF THEY GROW INTO GREEDY HONKING FEATHERED BEASTS!


Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Various greens

Highlights: Goslings.  The happy smile of a small child

Bad bits: None really

Post ride food snaffled: Chocolate fudge cookie and tea

Good dogs seen: There was some sort of pooch event on, so there was an abundance of good dogs.  Long haired sausage dogs, huskies, malamutes, jack russells, alsation and labrador puppies…

03/05/09: Hubba hubba hub…oh

Today we went to Llandegla.  Before I avail you with tales of my awesomeness, spare a moment for Mr Toast.

Remember last week’s tale, of Mr Toast’s rear wheel woes?  How he had to sit around aimlessly as he couldn’t ride his Zaskar?  Remember his comment, “XT hubs are rubbish, I’ve got 2 bikes worth of evidence on the subject!”

Well, he’s not feeling anymore charitable towards XT hubs today.  We arrived at Llandegla today, got our bikes off the rack – and his rear wheel had completely seized.  Bear in mind that today he was riding the Meta, not the Zaskar, and that it’s a completely different XT rear hub, and that it was fine going around the Chase yesterday.  Not only that, but it’s died in a different way to the rear hub of the Zaskar.

So I, rather uncharitably, left Mr Toast at the Llandegla cafe whilst I sallied forth around the red route.  Poor Mr Toast. 🙁

I’d forgotten quite how much climbing there was, particularly at the start.  I can tell my fitness has come on leaps and bounds though, as I only stopped once on the initial climb to the start of the red.  This was to take the obligatory “Professor on Location” shot, and to do up my shoe laces.  They’d come undone, and were threatening to kill me.  True story.

We need to form a barrier between us and the grouses

I did Llandegla pretty speedily, certainly miles faster than last year.  The huge downhill berms put a massive grin on my face, although there were times when I thought they flew by all too quickly compared to the amount of uphill slog. It’s bizarre, because I still find it a lot easier than FtD – it just seems to be easier to pick up speed. I think the fact that it’s a longer trail helped a lot as well – although the car park was utterly rammed, it was very rare I saw anyone else riding, so there was no leaping into the bracken every three minutes to let faster people by.

The trail was fairly damp and muddy in places, but never really churned up.  I was chuffed with how comfortably I could float over the rocky sections that really slowed me down last time.  I did the first bit of northshore (the smooth timber one), but walked over the second nobbly one.  It had somehow achieved the rare feat of being worse than I remembered it being!  I think I can honestly say I would have attempted it if I could have had my saddle a bit lower, although I can honestly say that I have no idea how successful I would have been…

The final steep hill of the trail which caused me to freeze up last year I rode without a second thought.  Woot!

Pulled into the visitor centre area, where Mr Toast was sitting glumly.  Not even cherry cake and a cup of tea could ease his rear hub woes.


The two and a half hour journey home was frequently punctuated with expletive-laden diatribes against XT hubs…and quite frankly, who can blame him? Two different sets spontaneously self-destructing over the space of two weeks.

Ride: Coed Llandegla

Trail: Llandegla – full red

Highlights: Bermy bermy descents

Bad bits: Mr Toast’s rear hub.  Groups of riders blocking the entire trail midway through a section to have a chat.

Post ride food snaffled: Cherry cake and a cup of tea.

Good dogs seen: Bit short on the dog front today, there was a chocolate coloured labrador and a spaniel.  That’s about it really…

02/05/09: I screamed a scream

On this fine Saturday, I finally got around to doing all of Follow the Dog.  Well, all of it that’s open, anyhoo – section 2 is still closed.  Admittedly, it took me a fair while – I was feeling fairly battered for no discernible reason.  The ride didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts – the back end of the Professor slipped off the two little planks.  Whoops!

I felt a bit ropey after that – after all, it’s so rare I slip up there.  If I slipped up there, doing the boardwalk would be stupid, wouldn’t it?

Well, I went ahead and did it anyway.  I was practically crapping myself all of the way down it – I’d tried to lower my seat before hand, before realising my seat couldn’t actually go any longer due to a combination of the length of the seatpost and the shape of the frame.  But I figured that I get to get it out of my system sooner or later, so off I pootled.

There was the odd ‘Ooooooh’ moment, partly through the knowledge that I couldn’t actually get my feet down easily if I needed too (I have to lean the bike quite a lot at the moment to get a sturdy footing, not ideal on the boardwalk), and also partly due to the fact I’d wound myself up beforehand.  “Oh noes, northshore”, that sort of thing.  But like Gloria Gaynor, I survived, and have clawed back a little more confidence because of it.

Got up to the top of the fire road hill, and had the obligatory Oatie break.  Tried to take a photo of The Professor – alas, he’s just too gleaming for a mere Nokia phone camera.


I did manage to get a fairly decent picture of the Professor’s headset.  See, we’re made for each other, he even has my initial stamped on him! *sniff*


I went through section 8, again still feeling a little skitty. However, I must have been doing something right – although I rode it utterly lacking in grace and skill, I actually did it a lot faster than usual, and emerged from the end of the section with a vague feeling of surprise – I’m sure the climb at the end went on longer than that…

Went through 10 – 12 fairly speedily, but it wasn’t until section 13 that I felt completely comfortable. Any worries about the previous sections was blown away as I threw myself down section 13 faster than I’d ever done. I love full suspension! Section 14 was…interesting. I rode up to it for the first time this year (as opposed to pushing my bike up), and was shocked at how much traction the Professor had. I felt a bit queasy and there were people behind me, so I decided to have a break. I wondered if Mr Toast would pass me on his second lap.

I waited around for a while until I felt human again, and eventually Mr Toast did catch up with me. I pootled on ahead and took the lead.

It was the first time I’d done 14 on my Stumpy, and it wasn’t without problems. At one point the back end of the Professor skidded nearly out of control in some sand, but I managed to hold it…not without some squealing though! Might get some grippier tyres than the Captains on at some point.

15 was fine and dandy, section 16…made me cross. Even though it had tranquil deer nomming grass near the entrance, I’m becoming fairly certain that I had that section. It’s just so fenickity, and I lack the control at the moment to ride it when any amount of speed.

So all in all, it was a bit of an ambivalent ride. Awesome, because I finally rode the entire track without missing any sections, including the boardwalk, but a bit…well, sucky, on the grounds I didn’t ride too well. Although it was probably still faster than my best on the little Trekadee, I know that I rode better last week. I’m pondering taking a closer look at my diet, making sure I’m not just relying on a mid-ride Oatie for energy. Delicious, delicious Oatie…

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: All of FtD that was open. Haw haw!

Highlights: Finally hauling my fat arse around the entire trail. Doing the boardwalk.

Bad bits: Just feeling a bit off. Doing the boardwalk!

Post ride food snaffled:Had a mid-ride Oatie

Good dogs seen: Labrador puppy, a husky