I generally have a pretty monogamous relationship with Devastator, my Stumpjumper. He’s confidence inspiring, fun to ride, and lovely to look at. But sometimes, I get curious about other bikes, so it’s great when demo day season kicks in.

Sadly I missed the Specialized demo day this year, but I hit the Leisure Lakes one the following week. It was a glorious orgy of bikes!

I attended last year’s Leisure Lakes demo day as I was helping to man the Chase Trails tent. I was also five months pregnant, so restricted myself to a Haibike Sduro ebike. This year I started off the same, only a slightly smaller Sduro (35cm instead of 40cm). It made for a more comfortable ride, but the smaller Haibikes are only available with the Yamaha motors, due to the battery – the Yamaha’s slide out sideways, whereas the Bosch lift up – and there’s not enough room in the frame for that.

Not that the Yamaha motor is a problem – I avoided the demo loop that took in the last few sections of Follow the Dog, due to fear and cowardice, instead heading down the blue. I hoped to do the short blue, and hoped I didn’t run too much over the allocated 30 minutes. 20 minutes later I was returning the bike with a big grin on my face, having cackled merrily all the way up a hill.

Bizarrely, I probably get more out of breath uphill on an ebike than on a regular bike – on the latter, I have to go into an easy gear and spin up hills, due to my substandard knee cartilage and lack of ligaments. It’s a big strain on the legs, but not so much cardio wise. On an ebike, I’m pedalling like the clappers and guffawing as I fly uphill. Lovely stuff!

Second bike was a bit off an odd choice – a small Orange P7. There’s something lovely about a nice, simple hardtail (Mr Toast has a gorgeous SIngular Swift). As I rode out with Chase Trails’ trail builder and noted Apple fanboy Will, it became fairly obvious that ‘small’ in Orange wasn’t quite small enough.

Again avoiding the demo loop, we rode to the start of Section 12, which marked my first attempt at riding any of FtD for over a year. The P7 felt a bit skittish and unwieldy, but that was down to the too small, rubbish rider. I literally stopped on a descent that has no drops and is a straight line (and is in no way off piste, ahem) because I panicked over what might happen. Boooo!

Third bike was a Specialized Turbo Levo, Spesh’s full susser ebike. Despite my better judgement, I ended up on the women’s ride, which was going around Follow the Dog. So, after being off FtD for well over a year, there I was, on an unfamiliar bike, in a group ride (so putting myself under loads of pressure).

It wasn’t a complete disaster, but I was very, very nervy, and massively struggled with… corners. Downhill switchbacks, uphill ones – I’m normally pretty bad with them, but that day… yeesh. I did also nearly come a cropper just before the Rollers, when I took the ‘easy’ side of the rock feature, over cooked slightly, headed towards the drainage ditch, hit a stump, but miraculously managed to correct myself. My heart was in my throat, but I was quite pleased at my save.

I did Twist & Shout, hovering at the back. However, I was painfully conscious that I was a) on the only small Turbo Levo they had to demo, and b) holding everyone up. So I bid the ladies farewell, and headed back to Tackeroo. I was alternating between frustration and satisfaction – I felt that I’d embarrassed myself a bit, and recognised that I’ve got my work cut out to return to my previous level, but at the same time, I’d got back on the red route, ridden Tackeroo, etc.

My cunning plan was to next demo a Cube ebike. However, the small was out. Did I want to demo a standard bike? Sure, why not. So I demoed a 13.5″ Cube Stereo, and it was actually rather lovely.

Emboldened by my earlier efforts, I took the Cube to a different part of the Dog, and did the Bomb Hole. And you know what? I actually did it in a half decent time (for me). I’m guessing it was because the Cube was a good size for me, very nimble, and more like what I’m used to.

So, overall musings – Orange P7 was a bit useless for me as it was too big. The two ebikes were really good fun, and it was interesting to see the difference in the motorised assistance. The Specialized felt like it kicked on the first pedal stroke, giving you instant zoomy fun, whereas the Haibike felt like it took a few pedal strokes to kick in, a bit more subtle. On climbs, however, the Haibike felt like it gave quite a bit more assistance – however, that could have been because I’d been riding for a while and was possibly a bit knackered by the time I was taking the Levo uphill! Either way, I’d definitely love an ebike for exploring.

For trail centre riding though, I definitely felt more comfortable on a normal full susser – which is fortunate, as I have an excellent one in my Stumpy!



So, I mentioned my bike getting nicked. Here’s the comical story.

After a hard day slaving in front of a hot computer (very hot, it was our old offices and there was no air con), I meandered outside to my bike, which lived out of sight behind a wall, chained to a fence. Only my bike wasn’t there, and my heavy duty, insurance improved cable lock was in bits. Well, shit.

With a growing sense of rage and shock, I bimbled to the police station, the remains of my lock curled up in my bike helmet like an injured animal. I recounted my tale of woe, described my bike, and went on my way with my crime number.

Each day I checked eBay and Gumtree for my bike, and each day – nada.

That was until five days later,

I’d registered my details on www.stolen-bikes.co.uk, and used their excellent ‘Find that Bike!’ feature, which collects bike sale ads from numerous sources. And there it was, some 80 miles away. At first, I nearly overlooked it – it didn’t have my distinctive purple flats on. But then I spotted the Superstar logo on the grips, took a closer look – yes, it was my bike, but with shitty old pedals on. The guy who was selling it had a history of selling a wide variety of bikes on Gumtree, and indeed had put up another fairly decent hardtails shortly after my bike.

I immediately called the police, whose response was… underwhelming. It’d probably take a few days for them to get the info from Gumtree, there was nothing they could do.

So, in the absence of actual policing, I turned internet detective. In the space of an hour, I’d learned the name, address, occupation, education history and family details of my bike’s seller. Although he lived miles away, he had a brother who lived fairly local to me. Hmmmm.

Armed with that knowledge, I contacted the force local to the seller.  They were originally reluctant to get involved without a referral from my local force, but I… well, I nagged them, pointing out that my bike was likely to sell quickly at such an artificially low price. After describing the unique quirks of my bike, they said they’d pay a visit.

And they did! The following day my bike was recovered, and the selling scrote  admitted that he’d got the bike off his brother, but that he obviously had no idea that it was stolen. Amusingly, when the police recovered my bike, the purple Wellgos were back on, which would suggest that the seller removed them and replaced with shitty old pedals (which were used on another bike in another advert) for the sole purpose of the Gumtree photos for some reason. If one had a suspicious mind, one might think that this was because they were an identifying feature.

As local brother scrote was local, it was now a matter of the local force interviewing him, as selling scrote’s police force needed more evidence that he knew it was stolen. Once that was done, I could get my bike back.

The local police interviewed him promptly, his story quickly unraveled, and he was charged with handling stolen goods.

Oh wait, no – what actually happened was my case was assigned to a guy on sick leave who eventually returned six weeks later, wasn’t allowed out of the office so had to reassign the case, and a few weeks after that an officer finally got around to talking to local scrote. Local scrote said that he bought it off Gumtree (despite there being no other Gumtree ads for my make and model of bike in that time period), from a fellow ‘at the side of the road’, but ‘couldn’t remember who’.

And that was that. Besides, he ‘didn’t look like a bike thief’.

I was… a tad miffed. Surely he could be done for handling stolen goods, as obtaining expensive goods for a fraction of the price and not keeping records is an indicator, but the police felt that sub-£200 for a £900 bike was fine. Indifferent shrugs all around.

I raged. I seethed. And, being British, I put in an official complaint, I eventually got an apology and a reinvestigation of the case, with the Sergeant admitting that it was pretty obvious that local scrote was stealing/obtaining bikes and giving them to his brother to sell.  Unfortunately, too much time had passed, and nowt happened except the promise that they were now ‘on the radar’.  It still rankles that it was handled with such indifference, but it could have been worse – in all seriousness, the same local force ignored a woman who phoned them and said she’d been beaten, who was murdered shortly afterwards. Perspective, and all that.

And Tessa, the bike in question? Three months later I had to drive a 180 mile round trip to get it back. It had some new scratches in the paintwork, and the lights and bell were long gone, but I had it back.

A few months after that, I discovered that I was pregnant. I swiftly knocked commuting on the head as many local drivers are psychopaths, and decided that we needed a bit more room, so decided to give Tess a new home. She’s now gone to a new owner in the Peak District, so will hopefully be having more exciting adventures than canal towpaths and dodging cars.

I’d hoped to replace her with an ebike, but that’s not happened yet, so it’s just me and Devastator, my Stumpy, for my post pregnancy adventures…


Blimey, has it really been nearly three years since my last update? I admit, I was finding it hard to find different ways of writing, “I rode Cannock Chase and I still sucked”, but still… tsk.

Well, a lot has happened in those years. For example:

  • I’m massively chuffed with my career, now working at an ace studio, on ace stuff, with ace people
  • I had my Contessa stolen, but got it recovered in Sheffield using my legendary stubbornness and Internet Detective skills
  • I learnt to ride a 125cc scooter, which was stolen a week after my Contessa. I didn’t recover that. 🙁
  • I lodged a complaint (which was upheld) about the police being a bit shit
  • I’ve accepted that I’m just too damn hobbity for 29ers
  • I’ve replaced the Professor with a new Stumpjumper FSR, this time a 650b
  • I discovered that there were two medical reasons for my increasing chunkiness – polycystic ovary syndrome and an underactive thyroid
  • Mr Toast and I have successfully procreated a Mini Toast. He’s currently six months old, and adorable. He’d be more adorable if he slept more at night though… I’ve not really ridden much for a year, due to pregnancy/breastfeeding!
  • Despite not having ridden much and becoming large(r) with child, I’ve signed up for Pivot 24/12 this year

So yeah, quite a few posts’ worth of material there.  I’ll get around to it…
















Since the demo day, I’ve been ramping up my riding. Sadly my winter hibernation and weight gain has had quite an impact on my riding – I feel slow, fat and waddling. Fortunately, given my prodigious consumption of all that is sugary and fat filled, it’s not as bad as I feared. Yes, I’m slow, and I’m taking longer stops than I used to, and ascents are downright unpleasant, but I’m still able to ride 15+ miles comfortably and I can still ride up hills without stopping. I’ve retained some stamina, so that’s good.

My confidence is also quickly returning – on my first couple of rides, I avoided various things. The Steg on one ride, the boardwalk on another, the exit to section 8 (Zig Zak), the bridge on section 9 (Aunt Flow). In my defence, the weather had been fairly terrible, and there was a surprising amount of mud around, especially on the diversions. A chap was standing in Swinnertons, covered in stinking mud – apparently the mud on the Steg diversion had made the boardwalk slippy. Ew. Didn’t fancy that. A few rides later, I was back to riding everything that I could ride before – a somewhat ridiculous achievement, when you think about it. “Hey, I rode that rock garden I’ve been riding for nearly four years, hear me roar!” Still, I’m always pleasantly surprised.

I’ve been trying to top up my riding with some local riding too, commuting to work when the weather isn’t too bad, and doing the odd loop around Ryton Pools. I’ve not done my usual bridleway loop, as I’m still waiting for it to dry out, but soon…



Like Bananarama, I heard a Rumour

Spring is here (FINALLY), and that means a fresh batch of demo days.  I gave the Leisure Lakes one a miss due to the demos being group guided rides, and instead waited for the Specialized demo day.  Aaah, Specialized – manufacturers of my beloved Professor, not to mention three of Mr Toast’s bikes. A solid, reliable brand who’ve gone from being good value, to being overpriced, and back to being good value.  There is one slight issue with the current crop of Speshes, however, and that’s the thorny issue of wheel size.

Specialized, with a few exceptions, only make 29ers now.  Being of shorter stature, this has proven to be a bit problematic for me. Previously, back in ye olde 26 days, I struggled as women-specific bikes were far too short in the top tube for me, and bloke’s bikes often had no stand over.  My Professor, a 2009 Stumpjumper FSR, was the exception. It was still a little tight on stand over, but the reach was perfect and together, we’re a good fit.  So really, I don’t need a new bike, but I’m always trying to ensure that I have a back-up plan in case the Professor perishes.

The push towards 29ers has cut down my already limited options, however.  I kind of got on OK with a Giant Anthem, but I didn’t really get to ride it as much as I’d like to make a definite judgement. The small Specialized Camber had less than zero stand over, but the reach was fine.  The Stumpjumper was even worse, due to even longer forks.

But hark! A Rumor! A women’s specific 29er.  Would this fit me, or would it still have a crazy short cockpit for t-rex women? Looking at the geometry it seemed promising – very similar wheel base and top tube length to my Stumpy, and lower stand over. Well, I never.

So, I patiently waited to demo the Rumor.  When I arrived there, the small Rumor had been out for 50 minutes already.  Great! It should be back any time now!

It wasn’t.

The previous demo-ee finally returned the Rumor after having it out for well over two hours. By this point, there were two other women waiting for it. Despite being next in the queue, I surrendered my spot to another lady who was there with a chap – he’d already got his demo bike, and was waiting for her before going out. If I went out first, it’d mean that either that they wouldn’t be able to ride together, or that he’d wait, meaning that whoever wanted to demo the bike he was on would also be delayed.

So, after three hours of waiting, I finally got out on the Rumor. Was the wait worth it?  I sat on the bike, pleased with the geometry. Standover! Sweet, precious stand over!  Internal cable routing, niiiiice. And the Comp is white with purple grips and decals – OMG IT MATCHES MY EXISTING BIKES AND GEAR!!111

Unfortunately, my initial reaction was “HELL NO”.  It felt completely alien and just plain wrong. My body position felt weird. The handling felt weird. The brakes felt weird.  I pondered though – was it the bike that was wrong, or just me? After all, I hadn’t been out on a bike since October… unless you count my new 110cc scooter. Toot toot!

As it felt distinctly odd, I elected to skip the Steg – squiffy handling, squiffy brakes and general uneasiness on the bike does not go well with rocks.  I raised the saddle a little, and the bike immediately felt better.  Off I toddled, skipping the boardwalk section and heading up the fire road hill.

This was slightly terrifying – would I be able to get up the hill without having a cake-induced heart attack?  It was also at this point that I realised that the Rumor had different gearing to my Stumpy, having two chainrings instead of three. WHAT MADNESS IS THIS?  Yes, I paid more attention to the paint job than the gearing. Deal with it.

The more I rode it, the more it made sense. No gears that you’re not supposed to use for fear of knackering the chain, no utterly redundant big ring. By the top of the hill (which I managed to get up without stopping, much to my surprise) I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike.  A quick sip of water, and I was finally riding FtD for the first time in ages.

The Rumor did well – given that I find High Voltage particularly bountiful on the slippy pebble front, grip was excellent and it ate up braking bumps and jolts.  Again, it climbed and turned well up Zig Zak, but I decided to err on the side of caution and toddle down the ramp. A few more sections and I was really rather taken with the Rumor – I still found the handling a bit quirky, but that’s probably to be expected after a) a long time off the bike, and b) on an unfamiliar bike.  I was left with the impression that it would be awesome over somewhere like Llandegla or Glentress, but less ideal for the tighter areas of the Chase – although again that might be me, rather than the bike.  The only other gripe was that the brakes were a bit spongey and the levers pulled right back to the handlebars – I do one finger braking, and the lever kept on hitting my middle finger knuckle whenever I wanted to even feather the brakes.  But that’s something that could be fixed with a good setup (possibly involving throwing the Elixirs into the fire and replacing them with brakes that don’t need bleeding every five minutes).

I returned the bike with a big smile on my face, and the Rumor has certainly made me a bit more open minded about getting a 29er to replace the Professor, should he fall in battle.

Of the demo day itself, the Specialized guys were great – they were making sure that everyone was completely happy with the bike setup before they went out, adjusting not only forks and shocks but handlebar angles too.  They were frequently apologising for my wait, and chatting to make sure that I wasn’t forgotten. They were also handing out free t-shirts and Phenom saddles, which was a nice gift for Mr Toast. YAY! PRESENTS!

I might take another test ride of a Rumor later in the year, when I’ve shifted some of my winter bulk and gotten used to biking again.  That said, I quite fancy trying an Ibis Mojo too…

Sad fact of the day

It’s been so long since I’ve updated my blog, I actually forgot my username and password combination!

Well, what’s been going on?  Other than commuting to work on a daily basis come rain or shine (mostly rain…), not a lot of biking, sadly – we did spend a week in a fantastic cottage in Llandegla in mid-October though.  I’ll post an update about that over the next couple of days, because it was brilliant.  But sadly we’ve not been able to get over the Chase much – I’ve had a bit of a cold and the weather’s been rubbish.  I’m sure I’d enjoy once I got there, but at the moment I’ve been focusing in indoor pursuits such as playing bass and learning Unity3d.

I’m also preparing for the arrival of nephew Noah in December, and nephew Dillon in February. By ‘prepare’ I mean ‘Buying lots of dinosaur related baby toys and clothes’.

Coming soon…

The Glentress update is on its way – it’s been mostly written for a few weeks, but for some reason I’m having a few problems uploading photos.  Bah!  There’s a Sleepless update to come after that, too!

Hot preview: We didn’t win SITS.

Three Years!

Yes, a horribly late update again, I know!

Last month for our anniversary we went, as always, to Scotland.  Every year is good fun, but this year was particularly entertaining as my fitness is the highest it’s ever been.  It really does make a huge difference, and this time around we ended up riding every day.  I was quite chuffed because I rode a lot of stuff at Glentress I’ve normally chickened out of on previous years – mainly the rocky obstacles and some of the skinnies on the climb up and… er, the red route.  I’m pleased to report that this year I didn’t fall off once – although I was very cautious on Pennel’s Vennel this time around!

The first two days had fairly atrocious weather, and both bikes and riders got absolutely filthy.  I stuck to the blue route these first two days, which is still ridiculously fast and grippy in the wet.  I was chuffed to see the Trail Fairies have replaced the downhill fireroad to the Buzzard’s Nest car park with a new section – Berm Baby Berm.  Or ‘Berm Bermy Berm’, as I misheard Mr Toast call it, and thus it was renamed.  Berm Bermy Berm is very bermy.  You know that bit in Spaceballs, where they talk about going ‘ludicrous speed’, and the star field turns to tartan?  It was a bit like that.  We also spent a bit of time on the skills course, which unlike the rest of the trails at Glentress actually seems to be losing features – the bumpy northshore section is gone, along with the rock spanning skinnies.  Still, I actually rode down the rocks on the skills course that have freaked me out in previous years, so that was nice.  

After flying around the blue for the first two days I decided to have another crack at the red.  Long time readers (assuming I have any) will know that I last rode the full red two years ago.  Last year’s attempt, the first time I’d tried it in the wet, ended in disaster on the first section.  This time I was a lot more confident, managing to tackle stuff quite easily and never feeling like I was out of control.  I was also more cautious, however – if there was anything I didn’t fancy, I’d walk it.  For me it’s a much better approach than riding it and falling off – I’d prefer to be able to ride again.  Being over 300 miles from home and the only driver always weighs a bit on my mind, as does the fact that my offs last year left me a bit battered and struggling to ride comfortably for the rest of the holiday.

The red at Glentress is interesting, because again for the most part it’s all about speed.  There’s a few climbs, but for the most part the main thing you take away from it is the blazing descents.  Unfortunately I did still have a few knee problems on holiday, most of which could be ignored or cancelled out by copious amounts of ibuprofen.  More of a problem this time around was a recurring burning pain in my left thigh, I think in the Vastus lateralis muscle.  It was fine when I was in the saddle, but boy did it smart if I spent any time out of the saddle – needless to say, this made some of the downhill sections quite interesting, particularly Spooky Wood!  I don’t know whether it was just strain from doing so much biking compared to what I normally do, or whether my saddle was at a slightly iffy height, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem at the moment so… meh!

Despite the slight inability to ride with 100% correct positioning, Spooky Wood was bloody good fun, and I avoided the chicken runs for the most part and flew off the features… mainly because I was going too fast to actually think about it.  I admit I walked down what we dubbed ‘Handstand Hill’, due to the fact I’d… well, gone headfirst over the bars and ended up walking on my hands two years earlier.  Whilst most of Glentress red looked friendlier and less terrifying than I remembered, Handstand Hill actually looked worse.   I felt awesome on some of the later sections as I manoeuvred around roots and tighter turns, which reminded me a bit more of Cannock Chase.  I came out of the bottom of the red and said, “Oh, it that it?”, which made Toast chuckle – when I’d done the red two years previously I was pretty much dead halfway round. 

Due to the leg pain I’d been having around the red route, we decided to have a day off riding.  We went to Kailzie Gardens (go see the Chicken Village there, it’s great, especially the goth chickens), then I dragged Mr Toast to see X-Men First Class (which I’d been wanting to see for weeks but we’d not got around to it – great film which makes surprisingly good use of Azazel, given he was created for the universally loathed Chuck Austen Uncanny X-Men run).  We came out of the cinema and the sun was blazing again – our first sunny day of the holiday.  Well, it would have been rude not to have an evening ride, wouldn’t you agree?  We spent a few hours on the freeride park, appreciating the ability to be gnar in the dry.


The following day we decided to try one of the other Stanes.  The original plan was to go to Kirroughtree, but given the distance, the cost of petrol and our lack of money we elected to try Mabie instead. 

Mabie wasn’t too bad – the skills course and freeride is a bit sparse, and the trail is fairly bland and has a lot of climbing.  It does have some really good fun sections though, it’s just a shame they all seem to be in the first third of the trail.  It may have been because my legs were distinctly tender by this point in the week, but Mabie didn’t really make me want to return any time soon – it just seemed like a lot of long climbs with unsatisfying descents. It did have a nice Stane though:

I think Mabie has a lot of ‘off-piste’ stuff though, so it’d probably be worth an explore or getting someone with local knowledge to act as a guide.  It also has a field of cows that stare at you accusingly as you eat Shed Burgers. 

I’m hoping we get to go to Kirroughtree next year, hopefully it won’t be too far above my skill level.