Huzzah and boo, part two

Much like when you google medical symptoms, googling issues around ebikes can be a fairly depressing read. I’d always been a bit baffled by the bad reputation ebikes had for reliability – after all, dear Voltron, my faithful Lapierre Overvolt HT, has served me without complaint for nearly 2000 miles over four years (most of which have been done in the last year). Never had the motor or battery serviced, it just goes. That might be jinxing it, but to be fair, old Volty’s done good.

So when my new Liv started having issues, I started googling. I found that quite a few people with Giant Reigns, Trances and Liv Intrigues had experienced problems very similar to mine. Disconcertingly, several reported that the issues were actually quite hard to resolve, requiring replacement or refunds. But as my bike went in I though, “I’m sure it’ll be fine!”.

It was not fine.

As my Intrigue was returned to my care, I planned a visit to the Forest of Dean. I wanted to see if I could tackle the Verderers any better after my skills course. I wanted to try the newly re-opened Countdown and Launchpad on my mighty beast.

Obviously it’d be silly just to take the Intrigue out without checking first, so I took it for a sub 6-mile loop one lunchtime around the local roads. It was unseasonably pleasant for September, and the bike didn’t experience any issues. Huzzah! I booked a night at the Ross-on-Wye Premier Inn, and started looking forward to my little weekend jaunt.

The day came, and my bike was popped on to charge. When it came time to load up the car, I put my bags in, and rolled the Intrigue out. I switched it on to check the battery, to see if I needed to take the charger in case it hadn’t had time to fully charge, the lights came on… and immediately went off again.

“Have you tried switching it on and off again?”

You have got to be shitting me.

I confess, I actually had a bit of a cry. My plans of merrily shredding were in ruins. RUINS. Perhaps I should just let Mr Toast go in my place, rather than wasting the hotel room. I could spend the next few days sulking.

Instead, I remembered that I’m in the incredibly fortunate position of having two ebikes and hell, I still have the Professor – but I confess that I’m not entirely sure how my knees would cope now on a non-ebike, and my last memory of riding the Professor at FoD involved me vomiting halfway up the climb…

Voltron had tackled the Forest of Dean before, and could do so again. Sure, I’d probably Countdown and Launchpad a miss, but I could still have a good time. To the west!

Soon, Voltron and I were relaxing in a Premier Inn, which was much like every other Premier Inn (which is why we like them – clean, comfortable, and bike-friendly).

Something something Lenny Henry

The next day I chatted with the local Giant dealer about my dead Intrigue. To be honest, I feel pretty sorry for them – I don’t think that a huge number of their bikes have these issues, but enough to be a pain in the arse, and without an easy solution as I don’t think the error codes always give a true impression of what’s going wrong. I’m going for a refund – as I told them, I can’t trust the bike, and as a woman who rides alone (not to mention with shit knees), it’s a bit of a dealbreaker – so now it’s got to be couriered back to Rutland. Gutting.

ANYWAY, back to the Forest of Dean. Breakfast was scoffed, the room was emptied and the bike loaded, and off I went.

It was a beautiful, warm sunny day (in September!), and Cannop was packed. Usually when I visit FoD it’s mid-week, so this was the first time I had to go into the overflow carpark. After the trek to the parking machines that actually accept card (because despite the optimistic Ring-o signs, no-one has signal, and who carries coins in a pandemic?), it was time to set off.

And… it was great. I pretty much felt like a riding goddess. I took every uphill switchback easily. I took nearly every downhill easily (there’s one left-hander I still can’t clean fully early on). The final descent made me wonder how the hell I’d ever had problems with them on my visit back in the early summer. I blasted down the Dragon’s Back to the sound of the Beastie Boy’s Sabotage. It was ace.

Feeling smug and confident, I decided to tackle Countdown and Launchpad after all. Now, you’d probably be expecting from my previous writings to be going, “Aha! So this is where she’s going to come a cropper!”

Do you wear glasses? You may be entitled to condensation.

But no, I made it to the bottom without stopping, falling, or comedy injuries. Which is just as well, because those trails are FAST. I imagine that I had a similar demeanour to the shitting terrified deer in Castle Crashers. There were signs saying, “Check your speed”. Yeah, not a problem there.

Have you played Castle Crashers? You should play Castle Crashers.

I carried on riding the Verderers, and did have an off on the aforementioned left turn. What can I say? I am not an ambi-turner. I think I took it a bit too quick and didn’t make the turn enough – I probably could have salvaged it if I’d just turned hard and held off the brakes. Instead, I held onto the brakes hard, and fell off… slowly. Splat. Still, every other bit nailed, so still good.

After that, I did my customary green loop, with a diversion off to Mallard’s Pike cafe for rainbow cake (unless my Slimming World consultant is reading this, in which case I had a salad).

As I still had a decent chunk of battery left, I decided to do a third lap of the Verderers. I was feeling fairly mashed by this point, but still had a great ride. My left thigh was screaming, my arms were aching, but I still tried to push myself (and this time, I didn’t fall off).

I rolled back to the car thoroughly pleased with myself and Voltron and, when I returned home, was even more smug when I saw my Strava times. I’d achieved 18 personal bests, and knocked 7 minutes off my previous best time.

That’ll do pig. That’ll do.

Holiday! Celebrate! (2021 edition)

Long term readers will know that Mr Toast and myself usually venture north of the border once a year. It’s a tradition that began with our honeymoon in 2008, and continued almost yearly for our anniversary.

We had a couple of years out when Mini-Toast was born, but we carried on once he was a toddler. Obviously last year was a plague-ridden washout, but this year, we were determined to get back up there.

Unfortunately, our anniversary holidays are a no-goer for the next 13 years, as our anniversary falls during term time. So, summer holidays it is!

Now, the term “summer holiday” often comes with certain expectations. Blue skies, warm sunshine, happy frolicks in the woods. To be fair, we’ve often had changeable weather in Scotland, but this year it pretty much pissed it down every single day.

As we arrived late Saturday evening, my first ride was on Sunday. The cunning plan was that I’d ride to Glentress in the morning, then I’d meet my loving husband and child for lunch at the Peel Cafe, and it’d be all lovely and charming.

I rode along the old railway trail alongside the river, and arrived at Glentress during steady drizzle. I made my way up the blue, which is pretty much unchanged, chuffed at clearing all the corners easily. My plan was to do the climb to Buzzard’s Nest carpark, the blue descent to the cafe, then the full blue and greens after lunch.

What actually happened was that I reached Buzzard’s Nest, and it promptly started absolutely hammering it down. Literal streams flowed down the track, and I could barely see. It was impressive, because the initial descent out of the carpark has pretty heavy tree cover, yet somehow provided no shelter.

As I began my descent, I was decidedly shakey. My vision was clouded from excessive rain and foggy glasses with rain-coated lenses, and I was on a fast downhill that I’d not ridden in over two years. Marvellous.

I freely admit that I walked on some of the berms, because I couldn’t see shit, and felt it would be somewhat poor form if I managed to mash myself on my first ride – especially with my family waiting for lunch.

I made it to the bottom, feeling slightly grumpy and downhearted. I associate Glentress with flowing speed, not soggy terror. Fortunately the trail builders and Glentress’ terrain ensure a solid ride, even in the worst conditions, so I didn’t need to worry as much as I did.

Still, I was relieved as I pulled up at the cafe, looking much like a gender swapped Swamp Thing. Mini-Toast looked equal parts repulsed and amused, and I sat awkwardly at a table with my family, feeling decidedly sorry for the poor sod that has to clean the seats after filthy bikers have finished their snack stops.

Pure filth.

After lunch the weather had calmed down considerably, and the male Toasts went on a gentle walk. I decided to do the blue up to Buzzard’s Nest again, as well as a few laps of the skills course and the greens. I felt a lot more comfortable this time around, because it turns out that actually being able to see is quite confidence inspiring.

Wanting to see more of the area by bike, my next ride was a gravel ride. After a recommendation on STW, I purchased the Glentress to Bowbeat route from Yes, I could have plotted a route myself, but it’s nice to have one that’s been confirmed to be rideable – especially when it comes with a written description to confirm the route if the map gets ambiguous for any reason.

The route had more climbing than I expected, mainly due to me misreading “1200m” as “1200ft”. WHOOPS. It was definitely worth it though – there were some incredible views, and in some parts I felt a bit unsettled at how small and insignificant I was compared to the environment I found myself in, and how isolated and alone I was. I found myself suddenly a lot more sympathetic to Lovecraft protagonists…

I gradually made my way closer to the Bowbeat wind farm, creeping ever closer to the turbines. Literally creeping – I’d set off with sub 80% battery, and was paranoid I’d kill the battery too early with all of the climbing.

Destination: Bowbeat

As I finally rode beneath the turbines, my sense of unease returned. By this point it was less Lovecraftian and more Final Destination, riding underneath giant whirring death blades with warning signs about stuff that can fall off them. In all seriousness though, wind turbines are cool af.


So here I was, at the top… no, wait, there was another climb. The last proper climb of the route, as it turned out, and not particularly long, but steep as hell. Paranoid about my battery, I walked up it, as there was no way I was getting up it on a bike without anything less than max assist – and I wasn’t sure if I had enough juice to complete the route as it was.

The plus side of all that climbing (other than the stunning views) was the long descent into Innerleithen. Again, thete were fantastic views as I worked my way down through the forest, accompanied by sproinging deer. Eventually, I reached the bottom.

If you wear glasses, you may be entitled to condensation

It was now simply a matter of riding alongside the river to our cottage, which lay between Innerleithen and Cardrona. Despite the encroaching darkness and my ever-depleting battery, I still kept on stopping for photos, because priorities, yeah?

I arrived back, quite pleased with my adventure. Next time though, 100% battery from the start!

My last day of riding was focused on the trail centre. I did the full blue, but to be honest, I don’t find the post Buzzard’s Nest climb that fun, nor the first couple of descents. Subsequent efforts saw me riding up past the free ride park and joining Blue Velvet instead.

The weather was actually pretty nice, and it felt awesome to be on the trails. I was feeling pretty confident, so I was going to go on some of the novice freeride runs… but I decided against it after seeing an ambulance stationed at Buzzard’s Nest. Best not to tempt fate.

I definitely felt that I’ve improved – I shaved 13 seconds off my previous best ebike run down Good Game, and 21 seconds off my previous non-ebike best. I also started jumping – only on the lower green trail (on which I have a Strava QOM!), because of knowing my limits, but it felt great getting both wheels off the ground (deliberately!).

I have to admit, it’s harder going on these sort of holidays with a family now – two of my three rides were in the evening whilst Mini-Toast was being put to bed. There’s no more carefree riding for hours in the day, or popping Benny into doggy daycare whilst Mr Toast and I ride together. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, and hopefully Mini-Toast will grow to share our love of riding…


If there’s one thing my medical mishaps and general state of physical shonkiness has taught me, it’s that e-bikes are fucking great.

I got Voltron (as my LaPierre Overvolt 700HT is known on Strava) shortly after my son had his first birthday. I was struggling with my knees, as not only had I got the usual issues that had been plaguing me since my teens, but pregnancy had also done a proper number on them.

Did you know that the body produces a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy? It’s supposed to prepare the body for pregnancy by softening the ligaments and cartilage in the pelvis. But, if you’re particularly lucky, it goes overboard on all of your joints, leaving you in pain and more susceptible to injury. SO BLESSED.

I hoped that an ebike would help me get back some fitness. I never planned for Voltron to become my primary bike – the idea was that I’d use it for longer bridleway rides, and my Stumpy would still be my go to for more technical stuff.

It took a couple of years, but eventually, I had to accept… I am an ebike wanker. I could ride further and faster, but also harder, if my heart rate monitor is to be believed. I started taking Voltron on the trails, which was fun, but not quite as confidence inspiring as I would have liked. It’s a little too big for me, which is fine when I’m bimbling around, but suboptimal on the more techy stuff.

So, I bought a new ebike – a Liv Intrigue E+1.

So far, it’s been amazing – the motor has all the power you could ever want, and the battery lasts for aaaages. I’ve comfortably done 30+ miles of trail centre riding, and still had nearly half the battery left. The geometry is taking some getting used to though, and I’m not sure if I could do with a longer stem and narrower bars, or if I just need to get used to riding a more modern, aggressive style bike.

I’ve had a couple of comedy offs, including a spectacular splat on the Bombhole at Cannock Chase. It’s infuriating, as I’ve chicken out of it on subsequent rides, despite never having an issue for 14 years. That, coupled with my longstanding cornering issues, has led me to book a skills course. Maybe, just maybe, I can be an ambiturner.