Thursday, 30 July 2009

Billy No Mates

Me thinks I need to shower more often or buy stronger deodorant or maybe not organise a mid week planning session when everyone else is off enjoying themselves elsewhere. That said, trails won’t plan themselves but at least there was no one to disagree with my choice of line …. and for once, it wasn’t raining!.

To keep myself amused, I spent a couple of hours mooching around looking for “control points”. Control points are any features, be they good or bad, that we may want to steer the trail to or around. A good control point could be a steep slope for a jump, a natural step for a drop-off, particularly evil roots or a “bomb hole”. Bad ones include archaeological features, busy bridle paths, badger sets and boggy areas (but these may become good ones for woodwork). The control point are marked on our map and then it becomes a game of “join the dots”.

Gary, out for a ride, had heard me hacking through the undergrowth so he stopped for a quick chat about what we were aiming to achieve and where we were planning to go. After making a few suggestions, he headed off home to feed the dogs. I, too, had a home to go to so left the bunnies to do what bunnies do in peace.

So, If you’re ever out and see folk wandering around aimlessly in the murky depths of the forest, it’s probably us trail builders. We’re not really lost …. we’re searching for those illusive control points!


Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Become a Member of Chase Trails

There are many ways that you can help put something into the trails you ride, one of the ways is to become a member of Chase Trails. ALL the money goes straight into the trails by buying the tools and materials needed to build and maintain the trails. But, more importantly, there are some really good benefits from becoming a member.

What it means to Chase trails:
Each membership will build about 1 metre of trail - Though it doesn't sound much, every metre counts!
The more members we have, the more influence we have, and the more influence we have, the more trails we can build and the better the trails can be!

What it means to you;
For those with limited time to come and help build the trails, this is a fab way of putting something back into the trails you ride
A bi-montly newsletter of our activities and future events
Exclusive Chase Trails Stickers
A set of Miniature Trail Sign Coasters based on those on Follow the Dog
Discounts on Chase Trails Merchandise and Clothing
Complimentary Tea and Coffee from Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre
10% discount on Clothing and Accessories from Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre

You get all this for only £12 a year...
Thats £1 a month...
Thats about 3p a day!

You can't afford not to become a member!

Visit for more information and an application form.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

A Tail of Two Dogs (Trail Building Sunday 26th July)

Today started out very wet. This did gave me the chance to check out the level of grip on the new rocks and bridge on the ride over to trail building, the grip was surprisingly good even with heavily worn tyres. Andrew had had the same idea and arrived at Birches Valley just before me. We were soon joined by Dave, Petra, Jess & Charlotte, Bruce, Jez, Ian, and finally Dale and Josh. We headed over to work on the new climbing end to the monkey and rebuilt a short section of trail that hadn't turned out exactly as we had planned. We transformed a straight gully into a nice piece of curvy benchcut singletrack. Only a minor alteration but the result is 100% better.

The rain didn't last for long and as soon as it stopped, as if by magic Alex appeared from the undergrowth (fortunately the rain didn't return). Soon after Gary arrived with Jack Russell Zak and new pup 'Phase 2' (Max). For anyone that doesn't know the story, way back in the early day of Chase Trails, whilst planning the trails Gary and Stu would sometimes just follow Zak and hence the name 'Follow the Dog'. Unfortunately Max doesn't seem to have quite the same nose for trail design yet and spends most of his time running round in circles! I tried for ages to get this picture of Zak and Max, I missed the one time they gave me the perfect pose. Never work with children, animals or trail builders!

Seeing Gary gave us the chance to catch up and generally discuss current progress and plans for the next few months. Fortunately while we were chatting the majority of the crew kept working and we were soon finished and heading back to Birches. As I left Andrew and Ian were contemplating whether to head out for a ride...


Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Giant's Causeway

Over the last week contractor Hugh Clixby has been busy working on the causeway area between section 2 & 6 (sections 3, 4 & 5 are now officially classed as ‘lost’). The main impetus for this work was to help control the speed and flow of mtb’ers through the causeway and to make it generally safer for everyone.

Near the entry to the bridge a line of tall pointy stones has been built to divide the mtb trail from the heritage trail (replacing the temporary fence). These large flat lumps of gritstone have also been used to create the trail surface and have created a really good rocky stepped entry onto the bridge. The end of section 2 has also been altered and the old log humps have been replace by a low speed rock step exit onto the heritage trail. From here you make a tight turn (watch your rear mechs) onto the start of the new trail.

First thing on Saturday morning, Andrew, Alex and myself met Jason from the FC to check, de-brash and open the trail. There were soon lots of bikes circling around like vultures or bees round a honey pot. We told everyone that it would be open in about an hour to buy ourselves some time to perform a few final tweaks and carry out the all important ‘test rides’. Ian magically appeared on his bike [Tadaa!] just as we were ready for testing and Alex quickly disappeared back to the yard to fetch his bike (Andrew was too busy getting the trail ready and I had already changed out of my riding gear but we would get to have our fun later on [meaning you didn't want to be the Crash Test Dummy! Ed]). Alex and Ian rode each bit while posing for photos, Alex had to ride deliberately slowly so my photos didn't blur! Once we were ready Jason drove round to open the start of section 2 and let the first riders onto the trail.

After a couple of hours of doing other bits and piece (this included eating ice cream) Andrew and myself were ready to give the new trail our seals of approval. Just as we were about to leave we met two stray children (Charlotte and Jessica) riding round the carpark and they offered to ‘show us how it is done’. Mum and Dad were more than happy for us to kidnap their children (Andrew and myself being the responsible adults that we are!) Charlotte and Jessica rode really well and were putting lots of adults to shame, I think by their own count they had ridden the rocks ‘a million’ times by the end of the day. We then bumped into Jez, Al and Lynsey (you can read Missus Toast’s thoughts in her blog). After telling Lynsey that she was more than capable of riding the rockery it was great to see the ease with which she conquered it. Dale and Josh also appeared and I think Josh nearly did as many laps as the girls. At one point I suddenly remembered that I was meant to be looking after Charlotte and Jess but had no idea where they were, fortunately Andrew was keeping them in check and I guess we learnt who the ‘responsible one’ was after all. Soon most people continued their rides or headed off home, children were returned to parents and the rocks were given a rest, until tomorrow at least...


Thursday, 23 July 2009

Knock, Knock, Who’s There

A slight change from the normal midweek planning session this week as we started knocking in the foundations for some of the woodwork on Phase 2. Andrew and myself had made a good start on Tuesday evening and tonight with Alex’s help we made really good progress.

The ‘science’ behind post knocking is pretty simple, take a post, cover it with a post knocker and then lift said knocker up and down until you have bashed the post to required depth. Despite this simplicity, it is amazing the variety of approaches and techniques that can be applied, for example do you go solo or in pairs, frequent small knocks or less regular large ones? Andrew and myself went for the paired approach, a good rhythm is essential here, (from previous experience some people just don’t seem to work together and end up wasting a lot of effort), we went slow and steady and worked thought the posts in fairly efficiently. Alex on the other hand went solo and employed a fast and furious approach. This seemed quite effective at first but he soon wore himself out and started complaining about sore wrists, but at least it didn’t rain on him!

We also founded a new unit of measurement, ‘the rake’, this was scientifically calibrated to Chase Trails standards and will no doubt be adopted world wide in the fullness of time. Sub units ‘the short rake’ and ‘the long rake’ were also pioneered. We also measured everything in ‘conventional’ units, Andrew using his own special method for noting all the dimensions (was than the diagonal distance between post 7 & 13 we just measured???). All got a bit confusing for me and much head scratching ensued but maybe this was because we had all just been bitten alive?


Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Lakes and Snakes - Trail Building - Sunday 19th July

Those of you who know section 7 will recall that in the wet, this is where you get the most mucky! Section 7 is where the original boardwalk is and the singletrack up to the start of the fire road climb. Today was something i've been looking foreward to doing for a few weeks now ... altering the end of the section to solve the endless maintenance issues!

In the previous weeks, Clixby's had been playing with their digger on the trail edge along the road to solve the drainage issues there, but this left the series of ugly and messy 'lakes' from evil root number 1 to the end of the section. We opted to re-route the trail onto the fire road a little earlier than the current end, removing the (huge) puddles and ugly illegal exit points some riders had created.

The usual gang turned up at 10am and we began sorting out tools and who was going where. Rob and Martin loaded up a trailer to take the heavy stuff to the site, before going to tweak some other things noted from the previous days trail inspection. Dave, Petra, Jess, Charlotte, Jez, Bruce, Steph and Andrew (and me!) set on to Section 7.

Summer on the Chase sees massive bracken plants, brambles and nettles but they don't take long to clear. As soon as they were cleared, we could see exactly where the trail should go and got down to cutting the trail.

I wandered down the trail to the plateau... It's been a feature of Follow the Dog for as long at i can remember. It's a place where people stop to catch their breath, have a chat and a laugh about the boardwalk while watching others struggle with evil root number one. Another feature of the plateau is the lake that regularly forms there! As much as i like it, it has to go!

There must be some invisible attraction to mud and water, because not too long after i started digging a gulley, Jessica and Charlotte arrived! We dug the gulley out and then breached the dam holding the lake back! It was so much fun watching the water drain away! What was left was a stinky, slimy, muddy mess .. which needed clearing! We found the original trail under neath and suprisingly it was solid and sound - excellent news! There was still lots of mud and water to clear away though...

Meanwhile, back at the new bit of trail, the gang had made great progress, and the new section of trail had emerged. Three Log steps were placed into position, and surfacing began. This in itself was a problem as we hadn't got any surfacing material ... Easy to resolve - there was a large amount of now redundant trail we could use! So, the mining programme began!

Soon barrow loads of material were emerging from the mine which went into the trail surface and down to the plateau to build up the high side of the trail to make the water run away and not puddle.

By now it was 1pm, but we were so close to finishing, we stayed on a bit longer. Eventually, it all come together and what remained was a superb looking snake from the original trail onto the fire road ... should be sweet to ride!

Once brashed, we headed back ... and i wet for a ride in the now heavy rain ... but it was great - muddy, slippery and great biking ... why did we remove those puddles?

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Above and beyond the call of duty - or sheer stupidity?

Sitting at my computer on Monday afternoon, an email drops into my inbox – it’s Rob asking if anyone was up for a spot of trail planning that Thursday evening. The plan was to have another look at the link between FtD and Phase 2 ready for the next Big Build Day (16th August in case you didn’t know). A couple of hours soaking up the last few rays of evening sunshine whilst wondering around the hillside above Marquis Drive - yes, I thought, I’m up for that.

Thursday evening comes around and it’s a tad moist to say the least. Martin rings me to see if I’m still coming out to play – yes, I foolishly said. He suggested wellingtons, along with the full waterproofs I’d already dug out of the cupboard.

There we were, sitting in Martin’s Landrover waiting for any other foolhardy souls to turn up. Guess what? No one did. Rob had got lost and ended up in the pub (I’m led to believe) and Alex is very rarely seen out in the rain (and if he is, he’s usually moaning like hell).

So after summoning up the courage, we squelched our way up and had a look at Hugh Clixby’s handiwork on Lower Cliff. (Hugh for those who don’t know is the contractor who is building a good portion of Phase 2). This should be a wicked end to the Phase 2 loop – fast and flowing with a few rollers to add airtime …. mint!

We then turned our attention to the job in hand and spent an hour or so ripping our hands to shreds clearing bracken from the planned route and tweaking the odd corner. We finally gave up as the light faded …. a memorable summer’s evening on the Chase!

Now, how’s that for dedication ….. no, come to think of it, I reckon we both need our bumps feeling! [Easy! Ed]


Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Monkey has put his hat on… (Big Build Day, Sunday 12th July)

Don’t you just love it when the weather forecast is wrong. Heavy rain showers were predicted but the majority of the day we had clear blue skies and the sun was out to play.

Our Big Build Day started with counting tools and loading up the trailer. Charlotte and Jessica seem to love counting everything that left the container and writing everything on the white board. Unfortunately at the end of the day our young helpers weren’t around and we discovered that Alex’s counting skills were a little lacking!

The trail (when we managed to find it!) was marked out with yellow flag and everyone was soon happily bench cutting new trail into the monkey hillside. The Grimey Lymies were again out in force and managed to find loads of stumps and roots to get their teeth into. Big Build Day regulars will have found out that working near the Grimey Lymies has the added incentive of delicious home made cake, on this occasion squashed ginger was the speciality. Just before lunch Paul test rode the newly built trail but seemed to miscalculate the location of a couple of trees and ended up also checking the trail falls zones. Tough work but someone had to do it!

Dale and Sharon were away on Holiday this month so the rest of the Chase Trails regulars pitched in to provide the food. Everything tasted great especially when eaten outside after a mornings hard work although perhaps best if we don’t let Bruce use his food processor next month! Food was followed by the raffle featuring exclusive Chase Trails lock-on grips and some brand new Chase Trails / Follow the Dog chain stay protectors. If you weren’t lucky enough to win, the chain stay protectors can be bought from Swinnertons with a cut of the profits going to Chase Trails.

In the afternoon we moved on along the trail and continued building until home time. Once out of the trees you really felt how warm the sun had been and we finished the day sitting on the fireroad in the sun drinking the ‘ice packs’. Hip-hip-hip-hooray.

Date for your diaries, next big build day, Sunday 16th August.


Thursday, 9 July 2009

Red Monkey, Yellow flags

You may have heard about the Monkey Trail by now, a few of you may have even ridden it, well someone has because it’s been getting a fair bit of use. Anyway it is going to be upgraded, become official and incorporated into ‘Phase 2’. Upgrading will mainly involve rock armouring the steeps and connecting the current trail to the newly built start and end and will take place over the next couple of months. Once incorporated into Phase 2 the Monkey will be officially graded as black, you can argue whether you think it is black and how this compares to other black trails around the uk but black it will be.

As a consequence to complete our red graded Phase 2 loop we’re going to need a Red Monkey. This isn’t going to be some lame chicken run that no one wants to ride, it’s going to be swoopy, flowy, monkeyish trail built into the same steep sideslope as it’s slightly more aggressive older brother.

So why am I telling you this? Well firstly for the building and upgrading work to take place we’ll need to close the Monkey for a period of time. We’ll try and keep everyone informed on exactly when but if you see closed signs please respect our work and don’t ride the trail. The trail will definitely be closed this Sunday which brings me round to my main reason for writing, trails don’t build themselves and at our Big Build Day this Sunday we'll be building the Red Monkey. So if you want to be able to say ‘I helped build the Monkey’ make sure you turn up on Sunday and help create what will be one of the best pieces of singletrack on the Chase.

Red Monkey Big Build Day, Sunday 12th July, 10am, Swinnertons Cycle Forest Centre.


Monday, 6 July 2009

Finding the source of the Severn

I arrived at base on time today ... amazing! ... then we waited as only Rob had keys ... he was apparently about somewhere in the car park handing out raffle tickets or something ... and no i didn't get an email!

Bruce is back on wheels which is great news. He's less hobbly now and seems to have far more control on his general direction of travel!

While sections are closed it is a great opportunity to do some re-surfacing and tweaking to get the trail into condition. As we were working on Section 6 today, we only needed to load up the wheelbarrows with what we needed and walk round.

The main aim today was to sort out the strangely bouncy trail surface a few metres after the new bridge ... simply a case of digging out the soil to find better substrate and then surface it using the handy pile of material Uncle Bob had kindly left for us ... except it turned into a hunt for the source of the River Severn! Digging through the mass of roots and soft wet black soil left a huge hole - so deep we hit the water table ... and now it needed filling! Despite offers from Dave and Petra to use their kids to fill the hole left and general objections from Rob's direction, Jay and Peter went mining for big stones and rocks and came back with two barrow loads!

Once filled, the resurfacing began in earnest and before long we had a nice bit of trail, ready to be whackered in a few weeks after the trail has bedded in. The material we used is a little different than normal, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes to go off. The rain will help bind it all together but then we need the sun to bake it hard... here's hoping the next few weeks will be kind.

After completing this part of section 6, we moved further down the trail to sort out some very uneven corners and water catching holes. The odd rolling reverse gradient and a slightly banked corner was built. It turned into a gorgeous day on the chase, and by 1pm we were finished which meant everyone could go and enjoy the rest of the day.

See you all next Sunday at the Big Build Day! (10am, Swinnertons Cycle Forest Centre).


Sunday, 5 July 2009

Loitering With Intent

Sunday morning started early this week (I have a long way to travel to get to the Chase! - [All 3 inches! - Ed]) The plan for this morning was to put an 'out of order notice' on the parking machines and collect everyone's parking money in the Chase Trails donations tin. No, I'm only joking... but that actually sounds like quite a good plan.

The real plan was to spend some time in the Birches Valley car park handing out flyer's for next weeks Big Build Day and generally chatting to mtb'ers about Trail building, Chase Trails and Phase 2. Everyone seemed really interested and hopefully at least a few will come trail building in the future. Also bumped into a large number of Grimey Lymies looking well turned out as always in their great club kit.

As 10am approached the rest of the crew started to appear (maybe they didn't read the email inviting them to keep me company in the car park, or maybe they did!) and we got ready to go and do some maintenance on section 6. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth I jumped at the chance to put some Big Build Day posters up around 'Follow the Dog' (ride a bike and play with a staple gun, what could be better!) before eventually arriving at section 6 to do some real work...