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.

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.

What, no update?

You may have noticed a disturbing lack of posts recently, and this sadly is down to a disturbing lack of biking.  Had a terrible cold for three weeks, and didn’t really feel up to going out in the terrible weather.

Well, the weather’s picked up now (slightly), but, alas, I’ve just had my knees operated on.  I’ve got to take it easy, doing my physio exercises for the next couple of weeks, then I’m going to start going to the gym/swimming to build some strength up in them.  Then it’s back to the greens – not sure when I’ll be able to tackle the red routes again. Hopefully if I can build up enough fitness and strength in my knees, and get them functioning properly, next year will be better for biking – I’ve just got to be careful not to do too much too quickly!

Ze weekend

I’ll hopefully be going biking on Sunday – on Saturday I’m going for my wedding dress fitting, and the dress shop (in Rugeley) is conveniently close to Cannock Chase! The BBC says near freezing temperatures and snow, so I’m looking forward to a dry and sunny weekend!

Mr. Toast, rather predictably, has been eyeing up Orange 5s since the demo day, and has spotted one second hand on eBay. Watch this space!