15/05/10: When Primates Attack

Saturday marked our first trip over the Chase since the opening of Phase II – understandable, given the car woes and holiday, but slightly depressing that it’s been so long.

Saturday was a day of firsts.  The first time I’d ridden the Monkey.  The first time I’d ridden in a large (more than 3 or 4 people) group.  And… well, we’ll come to that.

Turned up late due to the Vectra being a thirsty, thirsty car.  I’d looked at the fuel gauge before setting out, thought “Ah, we’ll have to get some fuel on the way back”.  As we journeyed forth, the needle moved towards the red zone with alarming speed.  Then through the red zone.  An emergency turn off to Sutton Coldfield got us to a petrol station before the Fantastic Mr Vaux passed out from dehydration, and we eventually bowled up at Cannock Chase over half an hour late.  Er, sorry about that…


We set off down the Dog.  The Professor’s brake pads have recently been replaced, but hadn’t been ridden on.   Interesting timing – I would have liked to have bedded in the pads a bit more (or at all…) before hitting the Monkey, but we can’t have everything!  The Dog felt nice and fast now it’s dry, although I still managed to fluff the exit of 2 again.  Avoided Evil Root Number One, even though Jessica and Charlotte were having repeated goes at defeating it.  Shambled halfway around 8 quite slowly, and then… to the Monkey!

To say that the new trail is a step up in difficulty would be a mild understatement.  The link section made me a sad, sad panda.  A sad, sad panda not blessed with the ability or confidence to ride narrow, steep downhill bits with steps.  Or tight corners.  Or tight corners with steps on.  I pretty much minced the entire way down, pushing the Professor and making quiet whimpering noises.

There was a small congregation by the railway crossing as Rob in his Ranger guise offered handy advice on how not to be run over by a train.  You’d hope that most people would be able to manage this using their own innate common sense, but I guess when you’re talking about a sport involving people throwing themselves over rocks and hills on two wheels, common sense can be in dangerously short supply.

We managed to cross the railway… and then the road… without leaving a bloodied smear and mince behind.  Then it was onto the joy of the climbs.  I didn’t actually do too horribly for a first effort, actually managed a couple of switchbacks in a row.  Unfortunately it was thirsty work, and I quickly ran out of water in my Camelbak – a rarity for me.  The next few sections were a blur.  A thirsty, thirsty blur, and I soon felt like this:


Being in a group had its distinct advantages.  In addition to being able to steal some of Sally’s water, there was also a lot of encouragement – I rode the rocks down to Klondike Bridge, all of the bridges and their associated rockery.  Even the one that slightly alarmingly had Dave dancing on it (‘checking for play’, allegedly).   Chances are I probably would have wussed out on my own.  I can definitely identify my major weakness though – tight corners.  I can barely do them at the best of times, but when they have additional obstacles my brain freezes – hence why I can do the rocks down to Klondike, but still struggle on the exit of two.  Bugger.  The actual Monkey section is a bit beyond me – far too narrow… with rocks on turns.  One day though, one day!

I managed to come off on M8 – not sure what happened, I went around the corner then lost traction on the sand, and somehow ended up coming of the back of the bike and getting entangled in it.  Incidentally, if you see someone who’s come off, it’s generally considered polite to ask if they’re OK… not to edge around them complaining.   It shook me a bit, and I ended up going down quite slowly after that.

Eventually, after the climb back up Kitbag Hill, it was back onto the Dog.  We had a swift visit to Marquis Drive to get some sweet, sweet water (and cake, *cough*) and then resumed riding.   We were congregated around Evil Root Number Two, with Jessica and Charlotte again sessioning it.  Emboldened by Dime cake, I decided to give it a go myself – my second attempt in three years.

My plan was a simple one – I have 120mm of suspension, so I was going to barrel up to Evil Root Number Two as fast as possible, keep pedalling, and hope for the best.   OK, so that’s not much of a plan… but it worked!   After defeating Evil Root Number Two, I had a little celebratory dance – apologies to anybody who was left with permanent mental scarring as a result.


I really enjoy the new ending to FtD, so much opportunity to get some speed up!  Werewolf Drop still fills me with abject horror though (even more than the link section!), and seems to be getting more terrifying each week.  There was a bit of a queue at the top, with many people electing not to ride.  Props to the chap who did decide to ride though – after a few minutes of mustering his courage he actually jumped off it (landing safely, I hasten to add).  I didn’t have too much trouble from that point onwards, and even managed to ride the rollers without exploding into a mass of blood and bone.

So, overall a great ride – could barely walk the next day (switchback climbs play havoc with my thighs!), and there’s a lot I struggle with.  But there’s a lot of stuff I did ride that Mr Toast wasn’t expecting me to, and I finally defeated Evil Root Number Two.  Haw haw!

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog & The Monkey Trail

Highlights: Defeating Evil Root Number Two, doing the entire Monkey Trail, doing the straight rocks

Bad bits: The link section, rocks/drops on corners.  Or rather, my inability to ride them.

Post ride food snaffled: Dime cake after section 12, copious amounts of water

Good Dogs Seen: Airdale terriers at Marquis Drive

01 – 08/05/10: The Peak District

As briefly mentioned in the previous post, Mr Toast and myself spent last week in the Peak District.  Alas, I didn’t get as much riding in as I hoped as my mother was also with us, but I still managed to get out a bit!

Monday: Derwent Reservoir – as mentioned last year, the Derwent Cycle centre, like its Parsely Hay counterpart, hires out Duet Wheelchair tandem bikes.  Being hillier than the Tissington trail, the Derwent Duet has mountain gears, and it was actually quite an easy ride.  Only about 10.5 miles in total, but not bad.  As I said, hillier than Parsley Hay, but smoother going due to the tarmac route (closed to most traffic) and the increased gear range.

Weather was…well, mental.  It was raining when we arrived, then started hailing as I sorted the hire.  Once we actually got out though, the weather picked up and it was reasonably sunny for the most part, and fairly warm whenever the wind dropped.  My mother was a bit nervy – it was Bank Holiday Monday, and there were a lot of people around, including less than considerate riders flying onto the route from the sides.  I suppose I can understand it, after all she is strapped to the front of the bike and has no control whatsoever… still, she enjoyed it, and that’s the important thing – it’s a beautiful area, and it would have been a shame for her to miss it.

Wednesday:  As the weather was a bit iffy and my mother didn’t fancy Poole’s Cavern, we ended up spending the bulk of the day shopping at Meadowhall in Sheffield.  I learned that I loathe Sheffield’s roads with a passion.

The day was redeemed by a ride up Mam Tor.  It was the same route as the one I took last year, only slightly longer due to starting out from Hope rather than Castleton.  This year it was Cletus’ turn to shine – as much as I love the Professor, I decided to take Cletus on holiday for the extensive hill climbs.

As we climbed up the broken road, a few things occured to me.  Either I had gotten fitter, Cletus made climbing easier, or Mam Tor has shrunk.  I’m sure it was a lot bigger last year…

There was only one bit on the broken road that gave me trouble, and I ended up just walking down it – it was stupid, and it made me angry, but  I was tired and run down after spending hours in Sheffield and couldn’t get my head around it.   To add insult to injury, there was a hidden pheasant, seemingly chuckling at my inepitude.

Still, I was considerably speedier than last year, to it was all good!

The remainder of the route was fairly gentle, and we encountered a lot of other riders doing a Trail Quest thingie.  There was a disappointing lack of Mini Moos, but a pleasing amount of lambs.

Thursday: After Wednesday’s shopping-not-biking-wtf-we’re-in-the-Peaks, I asked my mother for a pass, which was granted.  Yay!  We headed up to Ladybower, taking in whatever off-road routes we could.  Some of these were easy, such as the bridleway from Bamford to Ladybower:

Others, less so…

We did 22 miles in total. Truth be told, parts of it left me properly grouchy – there were sections that were just plain beyond my ability, forcing me to carry or push my bike.  It’s that kind of stuff that leaves me disillusioned about ‘natural’ riding – when you’re lacking in confidence and experience, it’s a royal pain in the ass planning a route.  Bridleways don’t come with gradings, it’s just a case of suck it and see.  You might end up with an exhilirating ride through amazing countryside.  Or you might end up fucked off and frustrated, too concerned with how the hell you’re going to get from one end to the other  to enjoy the scenery, to actually have any fun.  It was a shame we had such limited time, perhaps if we’d had more time to explore we could have found better routes – maybe next year!

Overall it was still an enjoyable ride though (when we actually got to ride the bikes, rather than carrying them…), and there were many wonderous sights to behold… such as a 6ft 7 husband riding Cletus.  Poor, poor, 14″ Cletus…

We also stopped off again at the Derwent Visitor centre.  The ducks there were shockingly bold, pecking at sleeves, pulling at shorts, and menancing Mr Toast for pasty.



 Alas, our ride meant we were too late for treacle tart at the Woodbine Cafe. 🙁

Friday: Parsely Hay  – it was back on the Duet with my mother.  It was a longer ride this time – 20 miles!  Starting at Parsely, to Tissington, then back again.


 Alas, my mother was a bit grouchy about the ride length – the weather was a bit variable.  Always dry, but occasionally a bit cold and windy.  It was actually a bit harder going – the Parsley Hay Duet has a smaller gear range, and neither the brakes, nor the gears seemed to be as smooth as the Derwent Duet.  I knew I was setting myself for a bit of a challenge when I freewheeled for 10 minutes from Alsop to Tissington, having to constantly apply the brakes (despite her Top Gun references, my mother doesn’t feel the need for speed!)  Let me tell you now: the Tissington trail is easy, but having an extra 10 and a half stone on the front of your bike certainly adds an element of challenge!

So, that was it for this year so far, hoping we can get back later in the summer for a weekend.  Mr Toast found a route that he loved, even though he managed to break another carbon bike on it.  Long story.  Well, not really – apparently the 07 XL Mojos had a manufacturing issue, since fixed.  Despite it being out of warranty, and Toast being the second owner, Ibis volunteered to warranty it without issue, with lightning fast responses to emails.  That’s customer service!  Hopefully Mr Toast will get on well with his replacement, he’s raved about the Mojo so far… if not, I think it’s a sign that Mr Toast and carbon definitely don’t mix!

Dam Busters

I’m currently in the Peak District, so I’ll post a bigger update at the weekend.  So far I’ve been up Mam Tor (smaller than I remembered…), around the Dams and along the Snake Road.  MANY LAMBS!  Plus our neighbouring cottage has numerous cats, chickens, and a blind Jack Russell called Jim.  He’s ace.