30/08/10: The day I became an Elite Rider Asshole

Today’s ride was a good ride.  The sun was shining, the trail had actually dried out for the most part, I rode fast and I didn’t throw up.  That’s not to say that there wasn’t room for improvement – my fitness levels have definitely taken a turn for the worse, struggling more than usual up the fireroad hill and progressively more out of sorts after section 8.  My just under an hour laptime is now extended to just under an hour and quarter thanks the longer breaks I’m taking.  Still, nowt a couple of evenings a week on the exercise bike won’t help to fix – sadly biking into work is still a no-goer due to overtime.

I’ve recently developed a bit of a neurosis about the Stegosaur at the start of section 6.   I can’t quite explain it – I’ve always been a bit iffy about the last couple of rocks onto the bridge, but last week I completely bottled them.  Even though I’d been vaguely panicking about them on the way there, I forced myself to ride the entire thing and it was fine.  OK, sorry, that’s not exactly the most thrilling story, but it was… fine. In the past I’ve had a few shaky moments where I’ve nearly gone off the right hand side of the bridge, but today was no problem.  Took the rocks onto the boardwalk with my usual style and grace (plough into it full speed), also no problems. Bottled Evil Root Number One… and hell, might as well admit it now, Number Two as well.  It’s always easier taking the path of least resistance when you’re on your own – I was planning on riding with the Pearson Posse, but alas, we didn’t get to the Chase until 3-ish again.

On the plus side, from what people said it was a lot quieter than it had been in the morning.  Still managed to pass quite a few people though – in a minor miracle, I think I actually managed to overtake more people than overtook me for the first time.  I did feel very fast and confident on the trail, but unfortunately a bit wheezy between sections.  Still, no near fainting or passing out! \o/

Felt a bit guilty on the last section of FtD approaching Birches Valley.  As I approached the two drops I noticed a couple of riders edging around the start of them.  One guy had stopped right before them, and was off to the right hand of the trail.  I swear, I thought he’d pulled over for me, and I was thanking him as I’m rubbish as those drops unless I have a decent amount of momentum.  Unfortunately, I don’t think he knew I was there – literally, at the exact moment I started to pass and went over the first drop, he decided to start off himself. I startled him and he sort of fell sideways into the bracken. 🙁  I stopped and asked if he was OK, but he didn’t seem to answer.  I decided to leg it in case he decided to own me with some Bombers – I know I normally get a bit miffed if people aggressively overtake without giving me a chance to pull over.  Although in my defence, he was kind of pulled over and didn’t check to see if anyone was approaching before taking off again… still felt like an arse though.

I’m getting a bit itchy to explore more of the Chase – I know that there’s a lot more to it than FtD and The Monkey.  I’m a bit torn though –  I like riding a familiar trail, being able to see where my strengths and weakness are, and where I’m improving.  I also like not getting lost, or having to carry around and read a map, and knowing that I’m not going to plough through a breeding ground for adders surrounded by rare orchids that is off-limits due to a horrible world ending plant disease.  It’s also nice knowing that you’re allowed to ride what you’re riding, and that the chances of encountering ranty ramblers is at a minimum.  Still, I might invest in an OS map of the Chase and plot out a route on bridleways, just for a good long ride.  I’d love to visit the Milford Common area again – literally, the one and only time I’ve ever been there was on a school geography trip where we measured footpath erosion and the amount of litter around the area, to demonstrate the effect ‘honeypot’ tourist spots have on the environment.  There was a Wimpy there, and the woodland surrounding it was awesome.   It was also something like 17 years ago, so my memory might be better than the reality (even though I remember the Wimpy…).

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog

Highlights:  Zooming around, feeling pretty confident

Bad bits:  Lack of fitness

Post ride food snaffled: Cherry shortbread and a cup of tea

Good dogs seen: Fairly bog standard today, although there was a small jack russell and what looked like a minature golden lassie.

And now, some photos

Saw a few of these little fellows whilst on the blue route a couple of weeks back with Toast’s sister – apparently they’re Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.  They feed on ragwort, which makes both moth and caterpillar alike unpleasant to eat (not that I’ve tried…).  Their numbers are declining daaahn saaarf, and they’ve added to the BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) list as a result.  So even though there’s lots of them over the Chase, do try not to run over them.


And this was where I was attacked by a very small bear.


M.I.A (not the singer)

No, I’m not dead!  Apologies for the lack of updates – alas, due to a combination of work and weather I’ve not been biking much, and when I have I haven’t got around to updating this here blog!  I’ve had a few recent adventures though – none of which involved major offs (which is suprising, given my heroics lately!).  Hopefully things will calm down a bit and normal service will be resumed shortly!

Two weeks ago we brought Mr Toast’s sister over the Chase.  Not really being much of a biker meant that she ended up borrowing Cletus, and after a few cursory warnings about how disc brakes are a bit more powerful than v-brakes and instructions on gearing we set off.

As we went around I marvelled at the different responses to mountain biking I’ve seen from non-bikers when we’ve taken them over the Chase.  The Xye Without Fear absolutely loved it, and flew over obstacles with nary a glance.  She’s now planning on getting an Orange 5, incidentally – mission accomplished!  Chris was a bit wary on descents (especially braking bumps), yet was strangely competent on technical stuff (Evil Roots, etc).  Mr Toast’s sister is more of a girl after my own heart – seeing her cautiously edge around the few sections of the red reminded me strongly of when I first started (although I’d say she is probably better than I was when I first started, heh heh).   As she struggled a bit on the red we mainly stuck to the blue, and it again struck me as a crying shame that there isn’t a blue singletrack route (ala Glentress) or skills loop over Cannock Chase – I’ve mentioned before that although FtD is regarded as an ‘easy’ red, it’s still a massive jump up from fireroads for beginners.  Alas, there’s only so much money, manpower and space available… until I win the lottery.

In any case, it was an exceptionally good day for dogs – schnauzers (both miniature and standard), malamutes and huskies.

Yesterday we managed to get over the Chase for a much needed ride, and luckily, for one day only, summer made a brief return.  I always marvel at how quickly FtD dries out, although section 8 was a bit slippy.  I started off riding really smoothly and confidently, although I did chicken out on the last few steps of the Stegosaurus – everything looked a bit wet and slippy, and I had visions of my first ride in two weeks ending rather abruptly.  I was fine until the end of section 8, where I started to feel decidedly ropey.  I suspect that my recent lack of exercise gimped me – whereas earlier in the year I’d been mountain biking both days of the weekend and also biking into work twice a week, I’ve recently been lucky to get out once a weekend and haven’t been able to bike into work because of a) weather (no showers or drying facilities at work) and b) overtime (finish after 8pm, I don’t have any lights).  I think the exercise bike may have to make a return to the living room…


On section 10 (I think) I spotted the Chase Trails chaps building some sort of wooden structure – apparently nutters will jump off it, so the rumour goes.  I would have offered to help, but they were all being rather manly with their sawing, drilling and lump hammering, plus I was always rubbish at woodwork.  Plus I started to feel chronically dizzy mid-conversation, so had to have a bit of a sit down before I passed out.   I once again reflected that perhaps a bowl of cereal and a fairy cake isn’t the best fuel for a ride…

Set off again and carried on my merry way.  Up until section 8 I’d been planning to ride until Tackeroo, ride the entire blue and finish off FtD at the end.  By the time I got to the road crossing I felt pretty awful, so I decided just to stick to FtD.  It went well, until the start of the section with Werewolf Drop – that’s when I decided to throw up in a bush.  Classy.  Carried on, pleased myself by actually getting around the turns leading to Werewolf Drop, didn’t ride it as there was the usual congregation of people carrying their bikes down.  There was a family there with two lads who managed to get down – their technique was to teter precariously over the edge, get the front wheel over the top rock, then roll down.  I thought it was going to end in disaster, but they both made it and were eagerly scouting out a route back up so that they could try again.  Ah, youth!  I had more sympathy with the chap who carried his bike down muttering, “I’m too old for broken bones!”

In other news, The Monkey Trail got a nice write up in MBR this month, with frenzied acclamations about its awesomeness.  It’s nice to see the Chase Trails crew getting some well-deserved praise from further afield – although MBR did single out the climb after the rail crossing as a reason to return time and time again.  Barmy!