12/02/12: So I actually went for a ride

I managed to get my first ride over the Chase this year two weeks ago.  After leaving Mr Toast at home with The Boy, the day started fairly eventfully, when I accidentally doused myself in petrol on the way to the Chase.  I had to decide – go back home and forget my bike ride, or go biking whilst covered in a flammable substance.  I decided on the later – unless I clipped my pedal on a rock and sparked, I was probably on the safe side.

Incidentally, if you want to get the smell of petrol out of your clothes, saturate the garment in question in coke.  As in Coca Cola, not the snortable stuff.

Surprisingly, the usual panic over whether I’d lost all of my skills over Christmas and New Year didn’t surface, and I rode everything that I normally ride without any real sense of fear.  Even though it was *gasp* muddy.  It was just after the thaw, and although most of Follow the Dog has survived the winter fairly well, thanks to the sterling work of the trailbuilders (draining the berms on Tackeroo, for example), there are a few parts that a trifle muddy – the deforested section before section 11 being a prime example.  I didn’t get overtaken much and did some overtaking of my own so I felt that this year’s riding was off to a good start.

I really enjoyed being out on the bike again, and felt suitably warm and toasty in my new thermal leggings and overtrousers.  Admittedly, I probably would have enjoyed them more if they weren’t covered in petrol, but never mind.

The queue for the bike wash was understandably huge, which meant I had an audience for my comedy moment of blasting the Professor across the cleaning area and onto his side, still stuck in the stand.  Poor Professor. 🙁

Last week was no biking for me at the weekend – it was Mr Toast’s turn, and Benny needed a haircut.  Before:




You know, at some point I’m actually going to start putting pictures of bikes on this blog.  You should see the Professor now, he’s got posh red grips.

In other news, it looks like I’m definitely signed up for Mountain Mayhem and Sleepless in the Saddle this year.   Hoping to put in a better performance this year, with more laps in a faster time, and less crying.  And certainly less overtakings by unicylists.

And on a depressing note, please keep an eye out for these stolen bikes.  They were nabbed in Croydon, but obviously with eBay and the like it’s possible that it could end up anywhere.

It’s Chriiiiiistmaaaas!

Well OK, it was a few days ago, but I’ve still got a few more days off, so it’s time for an update!

I actually went biking for the first time in two months a couple of weeks ago.  As Mr Toast had been biking the previous time, it was my turn to ride merrily around whilst he walked young master Benny.  Before setting off, I got The Fear – the raging paranoia that I’d lost what little skill I had and end up sliding around on my face.  I get this pretty much every time I’ve had more than a couple of weeks of biking.  And, as usual… I was fine.  Better than fine.  Although my fitness has taken a hit (with the fireroad hill up to section 8 being particualrly brutal), technique-wise I was pretty much as good as I’ve ever been.  It was a bit soggy and muddy, but although I found the boggier sections a bit of a slog, I seem to actually ride faster when it’s a bit wetter.  It seems to a bit gripper than when it’s very dry and dust, and I feel more comfortable going faster.

I did everything I normally do, and more!  Including *trumpet fanfare* the uphill steps on section 11.  Not the first steps, the tiny ones.  No, I minced over them because it looked a bit slidey.  But by the time I got to the proper steps (which I avoided last time), I just thought, “Ah, fuck it”, and ploughed into  them.  And I sailed over them with grace and style.  Well, I went over them, without stopping, and I never felt like I was about to come off or even slip slightly, so… yeah, grace and style.

Thoroughly enjoyed the ride, overtook quite a few people (admittedly it was just because I was taking less breaks between sections than them rather than going faster on the trail itself), and pulled into Birches Valley with a huge smile on my face.  Mr Toast looked slightly exasperated with Benny pulling at every passing dog, person and bird – after an afternoon of dog-sitting on the Chase, he looked more exhausted than I did!

So… Benny.  We’ve had him for over a month now, and he’s beyond adorable.  It’s not 100% smooth sailing – he’s very well behaved in the house (although a bit rude and pushy if people are eating), and we’ve started training him.  He will sit when told, generally will leave food if asked to, then eat it on command, and he’s on his way to learning ‘stay’ (it’s still a bit hit or miss at the moment).  But by Odin’s Raven, you should see him outside! Everything else is infinitely more interesting than his owners – crows, dogs, other people (especially if they have bags).  We’ve only been able to let him off his lead at Cayton Bay, as it’s completely enclosed, and he ran like a mentalist for miles and miles.  He certainly has the stamina and physique for being a trail pooch, but yeah… the training is still very much a work in progress!

So, now… good dog photos!

Benny, realising he can't drive and being concerned about that fact


Benny with Mr Giraffe, the one toy he hasn't savaged


Look at the dog, not at the cables!


Look, sometimes I don't wear biking gear!




Bailey, the fat russell


In other news, there’s a Big Build Day over at Cannock Chase on January 8th.  As usual, there’s a raffle and food, drinks and tools provided, and it will involve resurfacing the end of Tackaroo, so you’re only a stone’s throw away from Birches Valley!  Lots of people have been interested in what’s going on over Tackaroo, so if you’re one of them, now’s your chance to find out!  If you’re not, then go and help out anyway.  You might see Benny, and be able to bask in his glory.  Not a euphemism.

The most wonderful time of the year

Regular readers will know that, for the past two years, I’ve spent most of the winter suffering from a recurring chest infection.  I was hoping that this winter I’d manage to avoid it, but last week I started to feel a bit iffy.  I actually had to have some time off work as I sweated, coughed and snuffled, hoping that I’d feel better by the weekend.  I didn’t.  Instead, I spent most of the weekend sleeping, with occasional breaks in my busy sleeping schedule to watch Fringe, Supernatural, and to make pathetic whimpering noises at Mr Toast.

Izzy from PR has an interesting theory.  We work in the games industry, where women make up a paltry 6% of the dev force.  This means we are surrounded by men.  The theory is this:  by such excessive exposure to men, we have become susceptible to man-flu.  And thinking about it, it’s the only possible explanation – when I was younger, I would have laughed in your face if you’d suggested I’d be taking time off work because of a cold.  A bit snuffly?  Sore throat?  Hacking cough?  Headache? Pah!  Deal with it!  Nowadays I get a cold and it feels like I’m one step away from shuffling off the mortal coil.

So, no biking this weekend.  Biked into work this morning and am currently ‘interestingly phlegmy’. Hard to believe it was only the weekend before we were biking in Wales in the glorious warmth. 🙁

In an effort to improve my health, I’m also trying to lose weight.  I’m hoping that public shame will help motivate me, so… I’m currently 11 stone 4, trying to get to sub-10 stone.  I’ve always struggled with my weight – being 5ft 2 means that I don’t have a huge margin for error, and I really, really like cake.  And cheese.  And I hate fruit.  To give you an idea of how much I hate fruit – if there’s a dessert, an ice-cream sundae, or a cheesecake, for example – and it has been soiled with fruit, I will shove the fruit off to the side, grimacing.  Rasperries?  Strawberries?  Blueberries?  Bleugh!  And why ruin a good crumble with apple?

Yes, I’m aware that my hatred of fruit and my chronic immune system may not be entirely unrelated…

And on another unrelated note, some trailbuilders in Sandwell are trying to secure funding to built some trails.  You should vote for them! The more legal trails that are about, the more people can get introduced to mountain biking, which is ace.


I thought I’d already posted this, but evidently not!

Chase Trails are through to the final of the National Lottery Awards, and need YOUR vote!  These brave, noble, not to mention attractive volunteers give their time to build and maintain the official trails over the Chase that we know and love, that are enjoyed by the young and the old, the gnar and the… er, not so gnar.  Your vote will help them get the resources to make the trails EVEN BETTER!


Other ways of helping with the trails include joining Chase Trails, helping with the Sunday trail building which meets at Swinnertons 10am every Sunday (or even stopping for a bit to help out if you pass them on your ride), and obeying any diversions and signage that may be up on the trail.  Cake also helps.

02/04/11: Follow the Dads

So this fine Saturday was the day I finally decided to bite the bullet and hit Follow the Dog in its entirety.  If you’ve been reading previous entires you’ll know that my red route riding since the end of November has been limited to the start and end sections of FtD whilst I get back into the swing of things.  And oh my, how I did swing!  Took it fairly steady, and it was very, very busy – there were a few breaks between sections which were longer than I needed as I was waiting on groups of people to pass, or giving families a headstart, but even still I clocked in at a not entirely terrible 1 hour 15.

I’d been putting off the Steg for a while because I am still a glorious mincer in matters of the rocky steps on corners going onto a bridge variety.  But I did it no problems – oddly it’s no longer the turn on the rocks that bothers me, but the fear I’ll go Benny Hilling off the right hand side of the bridge after clearing the rocks.  Hasn’t happened yet, so fingers crossed!  I marvelled at the end of section 6, which was previously almost completely flat, but now resembles a pump track for tiny, tiny people.  Remember kids, go through the puddles, not around them!

Had no problems with section 7 other than Evil Root Number One, although I automatically hopped off before I even looked at it.  Having looked at it, I could swear that it’s not actually as bad as I remembered it being, as if the front had been filled in a little.  The climb up to 8 felt a little more tiring than the week before on the Fuel, but I think that’s more down to having done more sections beforehand.  8 was good fun, although by the climb out of it I felt like I’d been kicked by a particularly ill-tempered donkey.

9 and 10 were nice and fast, although I nearly came a cropper on the bowl berm.  I noticed overall that I was still feeling a little unbalanced on corners compared to the Fuel, which was slightly disconcerting.  I still went at a decent clip though.  Went into 12 fully intending to conquer the Evil Slab (nee Evil Root Number Two), but it looked far bigger than it had in the photos.  With Evil Root Number Two, I could plough into it with no ability or finesse whatsoever – the replacement actually requires a modicum of skill.  Curses!

The Tackaroo section was good fun as always, although I still can’t ride the bloody switchbacks into Werewolf Drop, never mind Werewolf Drop.  Werewolf Drop is a proper collection of my nemesiseseses…nemesi…nemesises… er, riding issues.

A 90 DEGREE TURN INTO THE FEATURE!  I still struggle on tight berms and switchbacks (see The Monkey for details), so having a sharp zig zag leading into a right hand turn doesn’t come naturally to me.

NARROW TREES!  OK, I can cope with narrow trees – I’m quite small and don’t have the Harley Davidson handlebars that are all the rage.  I can go through the trees through the bridge onto the rocks on that one section of The Monkey. But that’s approaching from pretty much straight on!  That’s different!

A DROP…SLOPE… THING!  The drop itself doesn’t actually bother me that much.  OK, it took me two years to ride the exit to 8, but I don’t think Werewolf is actually that much steeper, and looks perfectly doable if you just keep your weight back and speed down a little.  But then….

A 90 DEGREE TURN AT THE BOTTOM!  Turning!  Bloody steering!  The humanity of it all!

For a lot of people, this agonising will be completely baffling.  They don’t even register Werewolf Drop as a hazard, dismiss it as a slope, etc.  And looking at it rationally, I know I can ride it.  I’ve seen people on Halfords specials wobbling down it with their brakes fully on and clearing it.  But this is my problem – what if?   Here, allow me to illustrate my thought process as I ride towards Werewolf Drop:

No, really

A lot of the time I’ll assume that at some point I’ll royally balls up and either damage the Professor, myself, or even worse, make a complete tit of myself in front of an audience.  So… I get off the bike and walk down. 🙁

Rest of Tackaroo is riding nicely, although I swear those two drops before the rollers are getting bigger, especially the first one!  I’ve also taken to riding the stumps right before the rollers – not managed to get air yet, but I’ve also not fallen off.  Woot!

Sunday was Mothers Day, and also the day of Mr Toast’s 1-2-1 skills course with Chase Skills that I sorted for him for Valentine’s Day.  In the morning I went trailbuilding before having a meal with my mother – we worked on section 11, resurfacing the most damaged areas of the trail.  I put my feeble upper body strength to as good use as I could and helped prepare the trail for the new material – for more information on trailbuilding, remember to take a peek at Chase Trails’ blog!

After trailbuilding and the Mothers Day meal, I went back to pick up Mr Toast.  It’s quite alarming going through the carpark at the end of the day – blokes seem to completely drop their inhibitions, and next thing you know, you’re surrounded by naked buttocks and swinging genitalia. Gentlemen, is there any reason why you need to get changed in public, out of doors?  Sweet Merciful Zeus, I had to get changed after trailbuilding, but I didn’t bloody do it in the carpark.  I didn’t know where to look!  WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN?

Ride: Cannock Chase

Trail: Follow the Dog

Highlights:  Doing Follow the Dog and not being utterly terrible.  The beautiful sunshine. Trailbuilding.

Bad bits:  Still cowardly and avoiding stuff instead of riding it

Post ride food snaffled: Bacon sarnie

Good dogs seen: A most excellent minature daschund and minature schauzer.


Monkey Tree Hugging Orgy

I never thought I’d get to use that as a blog headline.



So, March 6th! Fine food! Fine company! And the opportunity to become skilled in the equisite art of trail building! How can you refuse?

Oh, and speaking of Trail Pixieism – section 11 is closed for repairs to the surface. Do be good and stay off while it beds in, won’t you? You know all the rain we’ve been having? Well that’s because for every closed trail ridden, every piece of litter dropped, and every corner deliberately skidded around, a trail pixie sheds a tear.

Don’t make the pixies cry!

Delicious Covonia


Yes, my interminable cough still sits happily on my lungs with tediously joyful abandon.  Today, I coughed up a blob of phlegm roughly the size of a ping pong ball.  Exciting times!  Sadly my hopes of the doctor giving me the Fix All Ills Pills were cruelly dashed as my doctor informed me that it was viral, not bacterial, so there’s nothing that can be done.  On the plus side, my eyes and incredibly bloodshot from all the coughing so I can possibly make a career as an extra for the next 28 Days Later sequel.

But enough about my ailing health (afterall, got to leave something to talk about on the next blog update…) there is some splendid news!  There will be free food at Cannock Chase on January 2nd!  All you have to do is meet at Swinnertons Cycles at 10am and do some digging!

Big Build Day 2011!


Yes, it’s time for another Big Build Day! This time it’s to replace one of the fireroad climbs with a new singletrack ascent – the new section is currently monikered ‘Section D’. I’m not sure why I thought a deer wearing a monocle was a good idea, but still, can’t argue with t’muse.

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!

OK Winter Whippet…

…you’ve had your fun, now bugger off!

Finding it a bit hard to get out at the moment – it’s not so much the biking in the cold that bothers me, it’s the two and a half hour round trip to get anywhere with decent riding.  We actually went out for a ride last weekend, just around the local lanes and the one ridable bridleway.  It was nice to get out, but the wind left me with a stabbing pain in my ears (even buffed up!), and road riding is just grey and depressing in winter, even in the countryside.  I’d bloody kill for some decent offroad riding near us! 🙁

Still, we’ve got to get ourselves out next weekend for the final big push to get Phase II finished – it’ll mainly be focusing on surfacing, so everyone’s been asked to bring along a wheelbarrow if they can.  We don’t own a wheelbarrow, but we’ll still be going along, I’m sure there’s something we can do!

In celebration, I made the MOST HIDEOUS poster ever.  Initially it was going to be quite classy and arty, but I was a bit pressed for time, so settled for MBUK early 90s garishness.   Eww…



Simon Says…SIMON LIES.

So, our trail building adventures got off to a less than punctual start this decade.  We were supposed to be meeting at Swinnertons at 10am, and I woke up…10.15am.  Oh dear.

Checked the Chase Trails forum for details where the digging would be taking place, and somebody had handily provided a postcode for the nearest parking.  So, off we went, GPS at the ready.

Our GPS is occasionally set to ‘Lucien’, normally when Mr Toast likes to torment me.  Lucien delivers directions in the style of an over-enthusiastic American gameshow host, and insists on calling roundabouts and ring roads ‘traffic circles’. In fact, watch that episode of Red Dwarf, where Holly restores her IQ at the expense of her lifespan. The Talkie Toaster and Lucien went to the same finishing school.

So generally, the GPS is set to Simon.  Simon sounds like a slightly snide butler, but at least he doesn’t sound obnoxiously cheery.  Unfortunately, on Sunday, the ever reliable Simon failed us.

The GPS directed us through Upper Longdon, then up through Stile Cop.  He said we had two miles to go…then, rather unexpectedly, demanded “In nine hundred yards, make a U-Turn”.  Er, excuse me?  “In two hundred yards, make a U-Turn.  Make a U-Turn”.

Slightly bemused, we found somewhere to turn, and headed back up.  Simon, bless him, was then quite insistent that we should take the bridleway through the Special Events Area.  Ignoring his increasingly demented demands – honestly, I swear he was starting to get a bit Skynet – we looked at the GPS map, and figured out how to make it there ourselves.  As we got onto the A460, Simon suddenly realised his mistake, and calculated a route that didn’t involve off-roading a Nissan Micra through the forest.  BIT LATE NOW, MATEY.

So, we arrived late, missing lunch (D’OH), and started on our Big Build…afternoon.  I was thoroughly impressed with the turnout – given that it was a) below freezing, and b) just after New Year, I expected the turnout to be a bit sparse.  But no, over 60 people were there, braving the cold, and had already dug a sizeable length of trail.




After a quick venture up and down the track to find some tools, we starting digging near the trail exit.  Here, Martin had found the best tool – the chainsaw.

The events of that day were to lead to the discovery of one of the most bizarre crimes in the annals of American history, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Conditions weren’t actually too bad – the ground wasn’t as hard as we were expecting, despite the freezing cold, and it didn’t take too much digging to get to the good stuff.

I became distracted by an exceptionally good dog – Leo, a black collie cross…wearing a coat. He looked very dapper.  He was trotting around with a disc in his mouth, looking for someone to play with him.  How could I not.  I threw the disc and VOOM!  Off he went!  And came back, dropping the disc in front of me and looking at me.  This was repeated over and over again, making it rapidly clear that I do indeed throw like a girl, and that border collies never, ever, ever get tired.

Despite his energy, he was exceptionally well trained.  His Grimey Lymie Level 80 Resto Shammy (don’t ask, you’ll get an answer!) owner proudly demonstrated Leo’s repertoire of tricks, and also explained how his was the perfect trail dog…apart from the time he left his riders behind and joined two other riders instead.  Sounds a bit like Mr Toast! 😛

More pictures and information about Sunday’s Big Build Day can be seen on Chase Trail’s blog.