12/09/09: Oh sweet Cannock Chase, how I’ve missed thee

We hit the Chase yesterday in glorious, warm sunshine.  I guess we had to have summer at some point!

Due to a combination of weddings, family visits, and illness we hadn’t ridden the Chase in over a month.  You may recall the last time I rode there, I had a really, really bad day.  It knocked my confidence quite badly, and left me worried I was going to have another bad day.

I didn’t get off to a promising start.  There were lots of walkers gathered around the start of section 2, so I cautiously weaved through them and entered the trail.  I was doing my best to look graceful and effortless, but was sadly distracted by a small child pushing his bike the wrong way – possibly the progeny of aforementioned walkers.  Clipped the handlebars on a tree (AGAIN), and came to a stop.  Didn’t fall off though, so that was a distinct improvement from last time.  I swear, the more I ride section 2, the more I think the trees are out to get me.

Let’s not be hasty

Bottled the end of section 2, but, after 15 minutes of contemplation and a bit of encouragement from another couple of riders, I rode the start of section 6 with no problems.  Well, I fluffed the last couple of rocks that lead onto the bridge, but otherwise pretty smooth, especially when compared to last time.  It made me ponder how, by and large, mountain bikers are a pretty nice bunch.  Sure, you get the odd elitist arsehats who moan about anybody who’s not as good as them clogging up the trail, but more often than not you also get the people that always say thanks when you let them past, who keep their distance, who offer encouragement and advice.

Section 7 was partially open, allowing me to ride the boardwalk.  Huzzah! It’s funny – whereas in my mind I make some things a lot worse than they actually are, the boardwalk took me by surprise.  I swear it used to be wider – maybe it’s just because I haven’t ridden it much since Glentress and Llandegla, whose red boardwalks are actually pretty wide.  Didn’t have any problems though.  The post-boardwalk stretch has been nicely repaired by the Chase Trails trail pixies, with the erosion and drainage issues fixed.  Hurrah!  The section was diverted just before Evil Root Number One, so I managed to evade it’s Evil Rootiness for another week.

The fireroad hill up to 8 was brutal – a month off had taken its toll on my fitness.  Got to the top and collapsed with a Nutrigrain Oatie and enjoyed the sun.  Took section 8 at a steady pace, it felt a bit slippier than I was used to – possibly because I was going a little slower than usual (but faster than last time, I hasten to add!).  Did all the jumps, but chickened out at the end – my reasoning being that I was actually really enjoying my ride, and didn’t want to fluff the rest of it by coming off.  The fact that every time I’ve ridden the end of 8 I’ve never fallen off didn’t matter!  Again, this got me thinking: all of the stuff I struggle to ride -the exit of 2, the exit of 8, Evil Roots One and Two – I’ve never actually fallen off on any of them.  The exit of 8 I’ve ridden a few times no trouble, but I’ve never really properly thrown myself at the rest.  I always stop just before. One day, one day…

By the time I’d got to 9, 10, 11 and 12, my confidence (and speed!) had picked up quite a bit, and I felt a bit more back to normal.  Raced along, had a bash at Evil Root Number Two, rather predictably bottled it just before the front wheel made contact…carried on to section 13.  I rode section 13 at a fairly moderate pace, there were two people in front so I kept my distance.  Section 14 was nice and sandy, section 15 now has what I call ‘The Stump of Indecision’ – do you go left around it, or right?  Section 16 is still growing on me, I still have to take the start very slowly (trees!), but the later part is good fun.

So, all in all, a great day.  I was slow, and had quite long breaks at the start of section 6 and section 8, but I didn’t fall off and rode a lot better than last time.

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog

Highlights: Massive improvement on last time, and the weather!

Bad bits:  None really, was just grateful for a good ride

Post ride food snaffled: Tea

Good dogs seen:  A truly epic West Highland Terrier puppy.  You should have seen his ears.  Magnificent!

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