How to justify drawing a fairy monkey

Isn't he nice?

The Monkey Trail has been opened, but there’s still plenty of work to be done!  There’s still sections yet to be opened, not to mention the ongoing mainenance needed to keep it and Follow the Dog in tip-top shape – so remember that there’s weekly trailbuilding/fixing sessions every Sunday!  The trails are maintained by volunteers, so the more the merrier!  If you struggle to attend the trailbuilding sessions, you can still show your support by becoming a member of Chase Trails.  You get a car sticker and everything!

Speaking of car stickers, we’ll be picking up the Fantastic Mr Vaux this weekend.  Sadly there wasn’t time to get a towbar fitted (that’s next week), so there’ll be no Monkey for us for the next couple of weeks – we’re off to the Peak District the following weekend!

And lo, thus I did arrive at work on two wheels

I’m picking up the new Toastmobile on Saturday, but this still leaves the thorny question, “How do I get to work?”

I’m not a fan of buses.  Partly because they’re expensive, but mainly because I get horribly motion sick.  I get sick on buses, coaches, in cars (when I’m not driving) and on trains.  Strangely I’m fine on rollercoasters – never quite managed to figure that one out.

Anyhoo, today I did something new – I actually rode to work.  Truth be told, I was dreading it – I’m not a morning person, and having never really ridden a bike as a kid, I don’t really have any road riding experience.  Nevertheless, I got a ridiculous amount of stuff together in a huge heavy rucksack (Mr Toast enquired whether I needed to carry so much, I pointed out I needed a change of clothes, deoderant, body wipes, makeup, a hairbrush, and miscellaneous stuff) and took Cletus out for his maiden voyage.

And it was awesome.  My knees were grumbling – it was cold, early and I don’t normally move much during the week.  But otherwise I was fine – the route is fairly quiet, takes in a good chunk of baby bunny riddled bridleway, and even riding into town wasn’t too bad, as we start work before the main rush.  Riding back was a bit harder going as there’s a good chunk of hill* to ride up, but better it’s at the end of the day rather than first thing in the morning.

Few niggly things that needed to be sorted with Cletus, most of which Mr Toast sorted tonight – a few gearing issues and the rotor needed realigning slightly.  I’m also looking at new saddles, at the moment he has the original saddle off Mr Toast’s Avalanche.  I’ve ordered some new brake pads, as The Professor’s pads were looking a bit worse for wear…and oh my, don’t they get a lot of wear!

Riding in again tomorrow, going to try a smaller backpack though, as my huge one** sometimes throws me off-balance. Hopefully it’s something I’ll be able to do more regularly – it’ll save on mileage and fuel bills, and get me fitter and thinner for weekend riding!***

* By Leamington standards

** Not a euphemism

*** Also not a euphemism

17/04/10: Oh what a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you

An eventful weekend to say the least!  We managed to get ourselves and our bikes to the launch on Saturday, which was awesome.  It was also the maiden voyage of Mr Toast’s Mojo – as we exited Basset’s Pole island, Mr Toast pointed out that if we managed to get over the bridge, it’d be the furthest the Mojo had ever been.  There may possibly have been a Lord of the Rings movie reference uttered…

And here’s a picture of the aforementioned Mojo – Mr Toast requested that it be pimped across the interwebs!  As it was the first ride, he decided to go it alone, which was fortunate as there were a couple of minor niggly mechanicals that held up his ride.  All good now though!


Arrived at Birches Valley with an eager crowd huddled around the start of Follow the Dog.  There were speeches, champagne (ish) and peanuts aplenty, and Giant gift bags – modelled here by the lovely Jez.

Makes a change from splitting logs and dragging rocks, I suppose…

After a lot of photos, the ribbon was cut (I still maintain it should have been done by Chase Trails’ Martin, with a chainsaw…), and the hordes rode onto Follow the Dog, eagerly anticipating the new content.  These included posh new signage:

Are these trails for you?


I like the ribbon

First ride of the day was the guided ladies ride, headed up by Veronica from Swinnertons.  There were quite a few of us, with quite a range of experience and confidence levels.  The most confident being Jessica, who was also the youngest (eight, I think?).  She rode everything, including Evil Root Number Two and Werewolf Drop (oh dear, I see a new nemesis for me there – the drop, not Jessica!).

The new sections that have replaced 13 onwards are amazing – incredibly fast and flowing.  With huge berms.  HUGE!  The last section caught me by surprise with some drops, which I rode in a slightly panicky fashion.  Then at the end a series of jumps which are awesome, and incredibly easy to get air on.  I think I’m actually going to have to learn how to land properly! It was actually awesome to ride in a group with no pressure and a lot of encouragement, and there was a great sense of camaraderie (and slight heckling of men-folk, after all the new entry posts to each section do have ‘No Men’ signs on…).

After that, there was a little Chase Trails get together.  I ate a delicious Bambi Burger:

Mmmm, deer…

…and acquired a rather attractive blue hoodie.  As in the garment, not a chav.  After declining the Forestry Commission’s kind offer of free bananas, I set off for a lap of Follow the Dog with Abby.   It was the first time I’d ridden 6 & 7 for a while – the Stegosaur has had its teeth pulled somewhat, with the last couple of rocks onto the bridge made considerably easier.  Still good fun though, and prior to the repair, the last rock was a bit mental after the erosion.  Besides, there’s lots of new rocks on the Monkey for people to smash themselves up on, so it’s all good!

I rode section 8 quite slowly whilst Abby went flying off ahead – I was quite annoyed with myself, because I was braking far more than I needed to.  I just tend to brick it on the pebbly sections, same as with bits of section 2.  I seemed to take the jumps a bit more comfortably this week, I’m not sure whether that’s because it was dry, or because of the slight adjustments to my rear shock and saddle position. Part way around there’s the crossroads – Monkey or Dog?



Monkey or Dog?


Given that I was on a bit of a time limit (meeting Mr Toast back at Swinnertons), we carried on down the Dog.  Fortunately 9-11 were re-opened, but felt strange in some places due to the tree felling.  Not bad strange, just different from how they used to be.  Sadly we ran out of time, and took the Heritage trail to see if Mr Toast and his Mojo had made it out of the Monkey alive.  Both were unscathed, and rather cheerful!

I’m really looking forward to riding more of the new stuff, and pushing my riding a bit more.  Good work to Chase Trails!  We managed to get a car this weekend as well, just need to get a towbar fitted and we’re off!

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Bit of green, bit of blue, all of FtD (just not in order!)

Highlights: General awesomeness, beautiful sunny weather and dry trails

Bad bits:  Getting shown how to ride by a small girl, yet still knowingI’m going to have a complex about that drop…

Post ride food snaffled: A midday Bambi Burger.  Had a mahoosive Chinese meal in the evening, omnomnom!

Good dogs seen: Leo of the Grimey Limeys, who’s possibly one of the best dogs in the universe.  He sings as well!


Right, so it’s been a mental week.  Cambelt on the Micra failed last weekend, possibly explodificating the engine.  I say ‘possibly’ – the Nissan dealership were quoting £500 just to find out what was wrong, and quoted “£5000 – £6000” as the possible full cost of repair – basically a new engine.  Given that the car was only seven grand when I bought it five years ago…no thank you.  I’ve had nothing but problems with that car, so it got flogged as a non-runner.  Au revoir, you honkering pile of French shite!

Alas, this does mean that we’re without a car – hiring temporarily, definitely wanted to get to the Chase this weekend, for obvious reasons!  And we’ll also be looking for a new, towbar friendly car.

Although in a way it’s a relief to be shot of the Micra, but it came at a bad time.  If we’d known that the car was going to die, we might have spent a bit less on biking products… but on the plus side, I now have my new niche ride!

Name?  Name?

That’s right!  STEEL IS REAL!  This, dear reader, is my commuting touring adventure steed – although predictably enough, once it was built up, I thought, “I’d quite like to take that over the Chase”.   Speaking of built up…

Many have tried to prove that they’re faster, but they never last, and they died as they triiiied

Fortunately it was actually quite cheap to get running – most of the parts are Mr Toast hand-me-downs, mostly from his Stumpjumper HT.  Just need to get a decent saddle on it, and we’ll be sorted!  The Inbred fits really well – I was a bit cautious about the size given it’s a 14″ frame, and obviously the last 14″ frame I had was tiny.  However, Inbreds are a good bit longer, and according to their site 14″is good for riders of a minimum height of 5ft 2!  But yeah – seems to be a perfect fit.

I was initially hoping to get some sort of hideously garish pink monstrosity – I think I might be hitting my midlife crisis.  Sadly, although Scandals and 456s are available in pink, it was white or black with the Inbreds.  I settled for the white, so he matches the Professor – it’s a lovely pearlescent white as well!  Mr Toast said he was quite glad, but he can talk – he has a brown bike.  BROWN.  We do not speak of it…

Anyhoo, when it came to naming, I wasn’t sure what to call the Inbred.  I thought steel – British Steel – Judas Priest.  But I couldn’t call him Judas, that’s just asking for trouble, and I’ve had enough of that lately.  I did toy with ‘Peter’, in tribute to late Type O Negative frontman Peter Steele, but that might have sounded a bit odd – we know people called Peter…

So, I went with what was, in all honesty, my first thought.  He is an Inbred.  I shall call him Cletus.

In other news, my Chase Trails membership pack came through today, including parking pass and car sticker.  Now, if only I had a car! 😆


The coaster this time round is a good ol’ size, and in a rather attractive blue.  It now has pride of place representing Cannock Chase on…THE MAP OF JOY 2010!


Well, I’m off for the evening…MONKEY TOMORROW!

Five days until Monkey!

Well, I’m currently sitting in our house freezing (central heating is broken), waiting for Enterprise to call (car is broken), and maybe I’ll actually be able to go to work at some point today. :/  But none of that matters, because on Saturday…PHASE TWO IS UPON US!

I made a poster, alas it was a bit rushed so the layout of the text isn’t as quite thought out as I’d like it to be.  But it does have a monkey (OK, an ape again) on a bike, and that’s the important thing, right?



I’ll be there by hell or high water (YOU WON’T STOP ME, NISSAN!), and taking part in the Ladies Ride.  So if anyone wants to see me sliding around on my face and enjoying a range of low speed crashes, be at Birches Valley at 11.30am on Saturday.  And be female.  Or at least dress up like one.

I went for a local ride yesterday – it was quite nice, lots of lambs and bunnies about (and a toad), but I do wish there was more off-road riding local to us.  Apart from anything else, the Professor’s tyres a bit draggy on tarmac.  However, I do have a cunning plan for road riding, oh yes….

10/04/10: Merde

If you find obscene language to be distasteful, you may want to navigate away from this page now.  May I recommend Cute Overload?

For those of you that aren’t averse to a bit of profanity, may I warn you that Nissan Micras are a big pile of bollocky wanktoss.  I believe that I may have mentioned previously the chronic unreliability of my Micra, and today it once again reared it’s French head, gave a bit of a shrug and went on strike.

Perhaps I should have known today was going to turn out like this.  First thing this morning, we realised that the central heating had packed in, but things were looking up.  It was sunny!  Mr Toast’s new bike (a brown cyclocross bike, let’s not talk about it) was available for collection!  And it was dry enough for the precious Ibis Mojo to have it’s first outing on the trail.

We headed to the woods, and were just exiting Bassets Pole island onto the A38 north when BUMPF!  Something…went.  The engine lost power, the car had an aroma of burning, and we pulled over.  Bikes were taken off the car (safety first!) and we waited at the side, phoning the AA.  Fifty minutes later the AA Man arrived.  He was indeed a very nice man, and very knowledgable about my car (he used to work for Renault, apparently, and as we all now know, Micras are secretly French).  Initially the problem seemed to be that there was a huge chunk of metal sitting in the engine that had sheared off from somewhere, but it turned out this was merely a bracket for…something, and actually completely unrelated.

The actual problem was the cam belt, which had failed in spectacular fashion.  Unfortunately we won’t know the full damage until Monday – we couldn’t get it to a garage as the recovery truck took another hour and a half, by which time everywhere was shut.  But we were told that if we were lucky, it could just be that replacing the belt will fix it.  If we’re unlucky, it’ll have knacked all of the valves, and require a complete engine overhaul.

To add insult to injury, once we got home, the Micra’s central locking system utterly failed – the car stopped responding to the key, and we can’t lock it.

I hate you Nissan.  Because of your shoddy stealth French engineering,  instead of spending a beautiful sunny day zipping around the woods, we sat at the side of a dual carriageway for over three hours.  And this was the only air that the Professor and the Mojomalo got:

Bollocky bollocky asshat

Ride: The back of an AA truck, because Nissan Micras are rubbish

Trail: None, because Nissan Micras are rubbish

Highlights:  There were some interesting butterflies, and the AA men were nice blokes.  This does not ease the pain of the Nissan Micra being rubbish.

Bad bits: The Nissan Micra being rubbish

Post ride food snaffled: A Chinese takeaway, seasoned by my tears caused by the Nissan Micra being rubbish

Good Dogs Seen: None, because the Nissan Micra is rubbish.


04/04/10: One is good, two is better

Had a pleasant ride on Sunday.  Despite arriving to a hail shower, the weather actually picked up and you could see that funny glowing orb thing in the sky.  Feeling a little off-colour, Mr Toast decided to take it easy and ride Follow the Dog with me.  So, off we went.  Initially, things didn’t seem too promising – as I was coming down the turns at the end of two, I became aware of a much faster chap (on an Orange P7, fact fans) closing behind me.  Rather annoyingly (for both myself and the unfortunate following biker), having people behind me makes me feel under pressure, and I tend to slow down more than if I was on my own.  Bottled the exit, and shuffled down, cursing.

Crawled up the fire road hill to 8, my knees feebly protesting.  Not really in a mood to argue with them, I switched to granny gear far earlier than I normally would, fondly reminiscing about the days when I made it up the entire hill in middle ring.  Admittedly, it was only three days at most, but that’s not the point.

Section 8 was a bit annoying and slippy, it’s probably the second I like the least when it’s not bone-dry.  Rode everything fine, stopped for a swift break at the end and marvelled at people shuffling down the exit or catching their pedals/chain ring because they’re going too slow.  It’s a bit odd, as it really is one of those things that looks worse than it actually is.

Bypassing the closed sections, it was onwards to 12 and beyond.  Managed to keep up a good speed, and on section 13 I was having to slow down quite a bit so that Mr Toast could keep a decent distance in front.  Although a) he said he was going a lot slower than usual, and b) I probably wouldn’t have been going that fast if I wasn’t chasing him!  The climb up Ill Phil’s Hill on 14 was fairly brutal but we finished the remainder of the trail without any issue (apart from walkers on the trail!).

Had a café stop and gorged on the rather pleasing blackcurrant slices they’ve starting selling, along with a cup of tea.  Feeling re-energised, I asked if we could do section 2 again, as I didn’t want to leave a day that I hadn’t ridden the not-actually-very-difficult-but-I-have-a-complex-about-it exit.  As I was riding around, I thought, “Yeah, I can do another lap”.  As I rode out of the exit, Mr Toast evidently thought similar, and said, “Go round again?”

So off we went.  Strangely, I found the climbs less brutal on the second lap – maybe I just need to warm up better, I don’t know.  The knee pain had receded for the most part, and I rode the remainder of the trail a lot faster than on the first lap.  I did have a bizarre moment after stopping just before 15 – somehow I couldn’t manage to dismount, so ended up capsizing to the right instead, with my bike landing on top of me.  Very strange. :/ Contemplating adjusting the saddle as currently it’s quite forward on it’s rails, hopefully some tweaking will make stopping and starting a bit easier – currently I can’t really hop on and off as smoothly as I’d like.

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog

Highlights: Doing two laps (well, two laps of the open sections)

Bad bits: Rubbish knees on hills (again)

Post ride food snaffled: Blackcurrent slice and tea mid-way!

Good Dogs Seen: Spaniels (all flavours) and Jack Russells seemed to have a monoply of the Chase…

29/03/10: Mud sticks

On our second day of riding, we took Jag and THE XYE WITHOUT FEAR (TM) onto Follow the Dog.  Being a Monday it was obviously a lot quieter, and for me that makes it a lot easier going –  I can actually look at the trail ahead, instead of over my shoulder all of the time.  The weather was utter bobbins – Sunday’s heavy rain materialised overnight, and there was a lot of standing water on the trail (News just in: Puddles form after heavy rainfall shocker!).

Xye had hired a Giant Talon the day before, but was on an Orange Five for Follow the Dog, and after riding the first section, she remarked how much more comfy it felt.  I gentley pootled up the fireroad hill to section 8, grumbling about my knees, whilst the other three raced up the hill.  We hit section 8 at full pelt, with Xye quite merrily going over the jumps and the steep exit, again without hesitation.  We took a break for some drinks, and gestured towards two chaps who we’d overtaken on the way round who were crabwalking down the exit, carrying their bikes.

“See,” Mr Toast said, “That’s what new people are supposed to do!”

The rest of the ride went by without incident (apart from Xye’s run in with the voles on section 13, but we do not speak of it!), and we emerged from 16 with big grins all around.  Xye announced that she would quite like an Orange Five, and seemed even more keen when I pointed out they were available in pink…

There was a quick cake and bacon sarnie stop at the café, and we went out for one last pootle.  We did sections 1&2 again, and also visited section 3, where I had a bit of a comedy moment involving mud and a loss of traction.  I stayed on though!

I rarely ride with people, and I have to admit, if I did perhaps I’d be a better rider – it does kind of push me on, and gives me a bit more courage.  It was slightly disconcerting to ride with someone who was as good at FtD as me after only 2 days, when I’ve been riding for over two years, yet also inspirational.  There’s a lot to be said for having MASSIVE (metaphorical) balls!

Speaking of massive balls, we saw a minature daschund at Swinnertons –  he was proportionally gifted.  We also saw…

Incidentally, you should all buy Dead to Rights: Retribution, available on 360 and PS3 April 23rd

Malamutes!  Huge ruddy soft things!  Again, looking at both the malamutes and the minature daschund, I had to marvel at man’s intervention with doggie genetics.

Despite the crap weather, everyone had an awesome time and ended up looking like proper mountain bikers:


Xye also learnt the fine art of accessorising whilst at Swinnertons.  Mwha hah hahaha!

We cleaned our bikes and set off home.  Overall an awesome couple of days of biking

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog, extra sections

Highlights: General awesomeness

Bad bits:  Good fun, but it’s still better when it’s drier!  Knees still grumbling…

Post ride food snaffled: Tea, a jam flapjack slice thing and a bacon sarnie.  Stroopwafels!

Good dogs seen: Malamutes!  Not just bigs ones, ooooh no, but a malamute pup as well.  OH MY!  And the aforementioned minature daschund with massive balls (literal)

28/03/10: Het is niet groen, is het blauw

We had a couple of friends over for the weekend – Jaggy and The Lovely Xye (TM).  As good house guests from The Netherlands, they came bearing Dutch goodies, including an Edam the size of a human head and Stroopwafels!

Cheese, Gromit!


Both of which are delicious, and can be enjoyed as part of a calorie controlled,  balanced diet.  Or you can just gorge on them.

Given that The Lovely Xye(TM) had never been mountain biking, we decided to break her into this off-road malarky by taking the green-route-that’s-now-blue route.  Despite having never gone mountain biking before, or ridden a bike with more than three gears, and living in a country that’s flat, she pretty much kicked ass… although everyone had to pause after the first hill to start removing layers.  It was actually surprisingly sunny, given the weather report had predicted heavy rain.

My knees were grumbling slightly on the hills, hopefully they won’t play up too much this year!  It was a nice ride, although the trail was very busy – in addition to numerous dog walkers, there also seemed to be some sort of running event taking place, and a mass of young walkers in several different groups carrying huge backpacks.

After a stop at the café, we pootled around the green routes that run through the Fairy Village and other FC sculptures and features.  Mr Toast had been nursing a desire for a couple of weeks to have a play on the audio garden thing, so he and Jaggy took great delight in hitting plastic things with bits of wood.  This is probably how prehistoric man discovered music.

Man hit drum!


Man hit pipe!

We finished the ride by introducing Xye to Follow the Dog – it seemed quiet enough to take a newbie around without too much risk.  But, as it turned out, we needed not to worry about the newbie, as The Lovely Xye (TM) is also THE XYE WITHOUT FEAR (TM).  After a couple of questions about what gears she should use, she set off and rode it well and at a decent clip.  Seemingly oblivious to the notion that someone on a hire bike who’s never mountain biked before should have any problems on a red route, she sailed around, taking the switchbacks without issue and quite happily riding down the rocks at the end.  “Wow,” Mr Toast said, “You rode that with no hesitation!”.  “Oh, I didn’t know I was supposed to,” replied THE XYE WITHOUT FEAR (TM).

Monday’s ride would certainly be interesting!

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: The green-route-that-is-now-blue, sections 1&2 of FtD

Highlights: Getting out riding with friends

Bad bits:  Rubbish knees on hills

Post ride food snaffled: Tea, ham & salad sandwich, chocolate slice

Good Dogs Seen: Quite a few – lots of spaniels, collies and jack russells, but also plenty of huskies.