The Professor

Realised I had some more pictures from the Peak District on my phone.

Ze Professor

Isn’t he lovely?

Less lovely is my bobbins car, which has burnt through yet another starter motor.  It’s a five year old car, and has burnt through three starter motors in two years – two over the last month.  So at the moment I’m driving a hire car, which means no biking over Cannock Chase this weekend. 🙁  I really want this stupidity with my car to end – all I want is a reliable car, but noooo, I had to get a Nissan Micra that gradually self-destructs after three years.

Slightly better news, the Chase Trails chaps have started a blog, so if you ever want a break from my whining about my shite closet-French car and Evil Roots, head on over here.  You can keep up to date with the trail building progress, find out how you can get involved, and learn when and why sections are closed.

Of sheep, moos, broken roads, burnt Toast and Top Gun

I’ve just spent the last week with my mother, the last five days of which were spent in the Peak District, with no net connect or reliable phone signal.  Despite this, we’re both still alive.  This is good.

My mom’s not hugely active, so my rides were mainly brief evening excursions whilst the soaps were on.  Now, I’d been given a few pointers by some people on Bike Radar as to good routes, but of course, I didn’t think to write these down.  Or print them out.  So, for the first couple of evenings, I just explored a bit.

Be running up that road, Be running up that hill, Be running up that building

On that first evening, I learnt a couple of things.  Firstly, I learnt that Winnats Pass is indeed a bloody hard slog on a bike – I gave up fairly early.  Made it past the first cattle grid though… Secondly, I learnt that trying to ride up an incredibly steep road when your local roads are flatter than Keira Knightley’s chest is a bad idea when you’ve just eaten a steak, followed by a treacle pudding the size of your head. The following evening was only marginally more successful.  I’d spent the day with mom at Chatsworth House, and was determined to find some bridleways.

Unfortunately, I’m the consumate trail centre numpty – if it’s not signposted in neon lights (or at least a little blue arrow on a yellow circle), I assume it’s either private land or a footpath, and give it a wide berth. I cycled to Hope to try and find18 Bikes.  It was past their closing time, but I’d been told they were a good source of local knowledge, so  I would have liked to have known for future reference.  Alas, I was as bad as finding the shop as I was at finding off-road routes.  I headed back to Winnats Pass to give it another bost.  Got a bit further, then gave up.  Found a bit of a trail, but realised it was an Open Access path – walkers only.  Ooops.  Rather shiftily beat a hasty exit to the road.  Not before pictures though…*cough*

I'll get me coat...

Third day was more successful.  I convinced my mom to join me on a specially adapted hire bike – it basically has a wheelchair attached to the front.  It’s a bloody good idea – I got to get some extra miles in whilst still spending time with t’mother, and she got to see a lot more of the countryside than normal.  Bizarrely, she kept on likening it to Top Gun, insisting that I was Maverick.  I pointed out that if I was Maverick, she was Goose, and should therefore avoid ejecting…

Eject Goose!  Eject!

We hired it from the Parsley Hay hire centre, and went for a pootle down the High Peak and Tissington trails.  It was only 11 miles in total, and it was actually fairly easy going, but I don’t think I would have wanted to tackle any real inclines with my mother strapped to the front… There were still some fantastic views to be had, and tea to be supped.  Might try the Derwent centre next time – it’s a little more hilly, but apparently the wheelchair bikes have special gearing to compensate.

Alive with the sound of music?


In the afternoon we went to the Chestnut Centre, which is a sanctuary for various animals…but mainly otters.  I like otters, even though Mr Toast says that they sound like disabled children.

This is my otter half

When we got back, I realised that my shoulders were quite badly burnt from wearing a sleevless top.  Nevertheless, I got on my biking gear and headed out.  First I went to the Castleton Visitor Centre, and picked up ‘Cycling in the Peak District’, written by the same guy who wrote ‘Dark Peak Mountain Biking: True Grit Trails’.  I decided to go for the more sedate option as I’d be riding on my own in an unfamiliar area, plus I only had a short amount of time. Fortunately the instructions and maps in the book are pretty up-to-date and very clear, even for me.  I soon found myself at the base of Mam Tor.


The book described the path up Mam Tor as ‘a broken tarmac road’.  It’s not kidding – it used to be the A625, until a massive landslide in the late seventies forced its eventually closure.  I rode up most of it, although I did walk over some of the bigger broken sections – being on my own with a mother to look after, I didn’t want to do owt too risky.  Cowardice is the better part of valour, or something…

Mother Nature 1, Road Engineering Nil

I'm really running out of hill related captions, Benny Hill?

Amazing views though, and I’m thoroughly envious of anyone who lives in that area. Hills? Bridleways that last more than 1/4 of a mile?  Mini-moos?


Bull arse


I definitely want to head back to the Peak District soon to get some lengthier rides in, although I’ll need to ease myself into it before hitting any of the tougher stuff.  I mean…hills.  No-one told me that this mountain biking malarky would involve hills.

Decisions, decisions

Not sure what to do this weekend.  Mountain Mayhem is on, so we’re quite tempted to pop down and have a look about.  I really want to get some riding in on Saturday though, because on Sunday I’m *deep breath* taking my mother shopping to Merry Hell.  Sorry, Merry Hill.  Might just stick to the good ol’ Chase – apparently massive traffic jams are predicted around Malvern this weekend, as there’s also another show going on in addition to Mountain Mayhem.  Shame. 🙁

Next week I’m off work, and taking my mother on holiday to the Peak District.  We’re staying in Castleton, and I’m hoping to get some rides done in the evening whilst she’s watching bobbins TV.  Fingers crossed!

14/06/09: Time marches on

It was my birthday over the weekend. 29 years old – bloody hell.

Didn’t go biking today – we went around Go Ape instead. My major achievement of the day was figuring out how to stop turning on the zip line.


Major cock-up was deciding to try the ‘extreme’ option on the one section – a series of hanging hoops that you’re supposed to put your feet into. I started off OK, but ended up doing the splits and accidentally slipping my entire foot through a ring and getting it stuck. As I hung there thrashing about, trying to free my leg, I was reminded of the starling that we rescued at Mr Toast’s parents, which had managed to get tangled up in some fly paper in the hen house.

So, now I’m 29, I haven’t got much time to complete my list of ‘Things to do before I’m 30’. From a mountain biking point of view, I think I’d like to aim for getting over Evil Roots 1 & 2. I have 12 months to figure out how to unweight the front of my bike whilst climbing, and actually getting the courage to attempt it.

13/06/09: Bye, Bye, Little Trekadee Pie

This weekend I bid a fond farewell to my Trekkadee.  Since getting the Professor, I’d been umming and aahing over what to do with it.  The Trek 4500 WSD was my first ever mountain bike, and the only bike I’d ever owned that I’d ever ridden to any great degree.  I’d pondered putting slicks on it, and using it as a commuting bike, but the Stumpjumper made me realise that the Trek really, really was too small for me – and if it was too small for me on the trails, it’d certainly be too small on road commutes.

I couldn’t quite bring myself to put it on eBay though.  Quite apart from the sheer ballache of extortionate PayPal fees and the logistics of posting a bike out to the winner, I didn’t want my bike going to a new home where he’d be left languishing in the shed, unridden.

A solution presented itself when trailbuilding last week.  One of the trailbuilders mentioned that his 10-year old had outgrown her bike, and he was now looking at buying her a small adults bike.  His daughter was also trailbuilding, and clearly enthusiastic about this mountain biking malarky.  It seemed like an obvious match.  One week later, I took the bike along to let her try it out, and it seemed to fit her really well – certainly a lot better than it fitted me!  Now the Trek has a new lease of life, and is probably being ridden a lot faster than under its previous ownership!

Mr Trekadee, I salute you!

After that, it was business as usual on FtD.  Despite the forecast predicting rain, the weather was hot and mostly sunny, and the trail mostly dry – just the odd puddle here and there.   FtD drains and dries out pretty quickly, and for those bits that don’t, the trail pixies were there draining the larger puddles.*

Again, I didn’t ride particularly well this week (although the Captains are a lot better in the dry than the wet), but I put in a decent (for me!) laptime, even with the breaks between sections to let groups past. I pondered Evil Roots 1 & 2, still can’t muster up the testicular fortitude to actually attempt to ride them.  Which obviously makes practicing them a bit difficult. “MTFU” indeed…

I really wasn’t pushing too hard though – my knees were still playing up from last week, although they’ve eased up with the weekend’s riding activities.  I was also severely regretting my choice of long-sleeve jersey, as I was boiling.  I ran out of water just before 14, which is pretty unusual for me.

After a sandwich and a cup of tea, I decided to have a pootle around the green.   I did sections 2, 6 and 7 on the way to the green though – I wanted to get another section 7 in so that I could do the boardwalk, as I’d skipped it first time around due to people being stopped on it.

Met some trail pixies on the way, they spoke of large puddles and steak as they drained the end of section 13.  The green was pleasant as usual – I rode it anti-clockwise for a change, which makes for a faster ride.  I saw a huge group of at least 15 horses riding on the path on the opposite side of one area, and was deeply grateful that I didn’t have to ride around them – or their horsey deposits. Did 13 on the way back to Birches Valley, inspecting the trail pixies’ work.  The job’s a good’un!

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog, followed by more FtD, followed by the green, and some more FtD

Highlights:  Nice weather, dry trails

Bad bits:  None really, although I swear I’m getting steadily worse on the jumps/drops on 8

Post ride food snaffled: Had a ham salad sandwich mid-ride

Good dogs seen:  An adorable wire-haired Jack Russel/corgi type pup.  He had awesome stubular legs.

* About trail pixies: They’re not actually pixies, they’re people.  They’re passionate mountain bikers who give up valuable riding time to build and maintain the trails of Cannock Chase, and generally promoting mountain biking to the Forestry Commission.  You can help them – even if you can’t make it to a Big Build Day, they have regular building sessions every Sunday.  If you can’t build on Sunday, join as a member and help fund the trails.

If you see ’em about, give ’em a hand, even if it’s just for half an hour.  And don’t complain about breaking bumps, or ask when Phase II is going to be open if you don’t plan on helping build it! 😉

Raining Mud! From a lacerated sky!

So, the weather continued to absolutely chuck it down.  This unfortunately lead to slightly diminished attendance for the Big Build Day.  Yes, that’s the same Big Build Day I said that you might need suncream for…

Numbers were lower, but spirits were high, with people enjoying the traditional British pastime of complaining about the weather.  The trees offered a bit of shelter, and the rain made easy (well, easier) work of digging.

It also made everything slimy, slippy and cold, but you can’t have everything.  We managed to knock out a fair bit of trail, and it’s coming together nicely.

The Darwin Trail

Discaimer: I didn’t actually do that much work on this section, but it was the nicest bit of the trail built today, so you get a photo of it. 😛

Again, thanks go to Sharon and Dale for feeding the horde and providing hot drinks – Saints in waterproofs, I tell thee!

There are more Big Build Days scheduled for July and August, so hopefully the weather will be kinder then.  Even if it’s not though, you should still go along, or attend the regular build days on Sundays.  The trails won’t build (or maintain!) themselves!

06/06/09: Wet Wet Wet

It’s been a crap weekend weather-wise.  I rode the trail, but very slowly and cautiously – the Captains really don’t like mud.  I did make sure that I went through the centre of every puddle though – not only does it avoid unnecessary erosion and widening of the track, but it gets you properly covered in mud, and looking like a proper mountain biker!

The photo doesn’t do them justice

As I said, I rode very cautiously and slowly, and, to be honest, I was a bit rubbish.  Bizarrely though, I ended up with much shorter laptime than usual.  The weather did had its upside – the trail was very, very quiet, so I wasn’t stopping for prolonged periods in-between sections waiting for groups of people to go on ahead, or having to pull over.  In fact, I overtook a couple of groups on the trail itself. :/

It felt very slow going, but it was still a lot of fun.  When you spend an entire working week sat in front of a computer screen, you have to get outside to save your sanity (or what’s left of it).  I think it’s good to ride in different conditions, and let’s face it, if you were put off biking everytime there was a bit of rain, you’d never get any done in this country.  “Right, biking, I think there might be a two week window in June….”

Got back to the car, all ready to go back to our nice warm house.  Unfortunately, Mr Toast locked the keys in the car, so instead we stood in our sopping wet muddy clothes for over an hour waiting for the AA to rescue us.   He compounded his crime by looking at my white face, blue lips and red eyes (my circulation is really bad, I don’t cope well with cold…) and saying, “Your lips are going blue, with that buff on you look like a cancer patient”.

Not the best end to a ride!
Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog

Highlights: Er…shortest laptime?

Bad bits:  Mr Toast locking the keys in the car -_-

Post ride food snaffled: Nowt at the cafe, made a roast chicken dinner when we got back though.  Mr Toast had to peel the spuds and parsnips as punishment.

Good dogs seen: A very sweet and very wet cocker spaniel

Big Build Day this Sunday!

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

He's ready!

The next Chase Trails Big Build draws ever closer – this Sunday, June 7th. Thrills! Spills! Lizards!

The plan is to meet at Swinnertons at 10am, but the nearest parking to the build site will be Beaudesert Old Park carpark if you get there a bit later.

Remember, the trails don’t build themselves, and Chase Trails do a huge amount of work maintaining what’s already there, planning and building new stuff, and championing the cause of mountain biking on the Chase. So if you’ve ever complained about breaking bumps, or sections being closed, or generally moaned about the trail, it’s YOUR DUTY to attend and help out. The more people that contribute, the faster stuff gets done, and you get a sneak peak and what’s planned! And meat! DON’T FORGET THE MEAT!

Bike Radar Live

I am now sufficiently recovered from Bike Radar Live to do a blog update.  Huzzah!

The event was fun – a bit to improve on, but a good start.  The range of mountain bikes available to demo was a bit limited, particularly if you were very short (like me) or very tall (like Mr Toast).  The mountain bike demo loop was a bit flawed too – a lot of it was wide, with steep sandy berms and grassy climbs, but there was a woody section that was very tight singletrack with a couple of unavoidable technical features.  As there was no indication of difficulty, there were a lot of families with small children riding it and coming a cropper, and that section of the demo loop was very congested.  Ideally they could have done with a couple of different loops for riders of different abilities – maybe next year!


For those about to buy stuff, we salute you

As for the bikes…I’ll admit, I was a bit worried about demoing bikes, as I was scared that I’d ride something and prefer it to the Professor.  Fortunately, I needn’t have worried!

First up was a Giant Anthem.  I’d demoed the women’s specific last year, but this time I tried the standard model in extra small.  The fit was actually very nice, good reach and lots of standover.  I previously described the women’s anthem as handling “like an epileptic donkey”.  That was perhaps a touch harsh, but I still found the experience a bit overly brittle and twitchy.  I think it just doesn’t suit my style of riding – perhaps if I was a proper cross country racing whippet, as opposed to a lazy trail centre bum!  Still, massive props to Giant for actually having a good range of sizes available.

Then, there was the true test.  The Lapierre Zesty 514L.  This was the one I was most worried about – I’d loved it on my previous demo ride, but I hadn’t really had the chance to put it through its paces.  In a lot of respects, it was better suited to me than the Professor – there was a decent amount of standover, without sacrificing too much of the reach.  But it didn’t feel as nice as the Professor, certainly not as smooth.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic bike, and perhaps if the suspension was set up a little differently it would be right for me – but I’m glad I’ve got my Stumpy.   I prefer the feel of him, he’s prettier, he’s £600 cheaper and he’s not French.

The other demos were a bit sillier.  There was the quite frankly TERRIFYING tandem demo where Mr Toast and I sallied forth around Donington race track – him on the front steering, me on the back ‘stoking’.  It’s very eerie to be pedalling on a bike with no control over the steering.  I also had the unfortunate habit of inadvertently poking Mr Toast in the bottom whenever I shifted my grip on the handlebars, which he found slightly disconcerting.  I saw some other couples on tandems going stupidly fast though, and I can see why Mr Toast’s best man Jaggy referred to them as ‘Human Suicide Missiles’.

I’m still not quite sure what to make of tandems, but the people at JD Cycles were lovely, and clearly very enthusiastic about them.  If you’re interested in tandeming, their site is a great resource.


Look at the enthusiam!

On the Sunday I had the strange compulsion to demo a folding bike.  Part of it was born out of necessity – I wanted to ride a bike, but there weren’t many in my size.  But I also found them oddly compelling, and their practicality appeals to me – I could ride to work, and not worry about my bike being nicked.  Plus…riding around Donington on a folding bike?  How often am I going to get the chance to do that?



I rode a Brompton bike, and you know what?  It was bloody great!  I was expecting riding it, with its tiny wheels and three gears, to be a bit hard going – particularly going up hills .  But it really wasn’t –  it was a very nice little ride, and ideal for commuting.


It's awesome, trust me

I’d love to see some one doing Follow the Dog on a folding bike – it could join unicyclists and singlespeeders in the ‘wacky niche’ category.

Rest of the show was entertaining – Rachel Atherton having a cheeky dig at Tracy Mosely over skin suits again, Danny McAskill ‘off the computer’ wowing people with his trails skills, and impressive action on the dirt jumps and 4x courses.


Given that I crap myself if I get even a couple of inches of air, I can’t help but wonder what goes through their minds whenever they do a huge jump, or a risky move like a backflip.

So, generally a good laugh.  Crepes were rubbish though.