Wednesday, 30 September 2009

All The Fun Of The Circus (Chase Trails Needs You - Sunday 4th October)

It's Big Build Day time again this coming Sunday (October 4th) and with the official launch of 'Phase 2' less than six months away we need all the help we can get to finish our hand built sections and make sure everything is ready to ride. So if you can please come along and lend a hand, it's a great day out (and there is free food!)

Check out our news story on singletrackworld

Missus Toast has once again designed a great poster...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Industrial Espionage - Erm ... of sorts!

Sunday is Trail Building day. I loaded the car and headed off to Birches Valley to meet up with everyone to go make trails. As i approached the motorway roundabout, some EeeJit cut me up, pushing me onto the motorway... yeah cheers mate - where did you buy your licence? EBay Mongolia?

Now heading the wrong way on the wrong road and in a wrong frame of mind, i was overtaken by a tatty looking camper van. On the back were several mountain bikes flapping around. 'Where are they going?' i thought. I then realised that i hadn't been any where else on my own other than The Chase recently and maybe i should go somewhere different, somewhere i hadn't been before. I had a full tank of fuel, a bag full of chocolate, my bike and all my riding kit - what was stopping me going where i wanted? Feeling very guilty for not going trail building, i carried on. It's illegal to use a mobile phone while driving - no, it really is illegal - so i couldn't phone the guys to let them know. By the time i did stop they would know i wasn't coming along anyway - sorry guys for not letting you know.

So where did i go? I went to the original British Trail Centre at Coed y Brenin.

I've never ridden there before and heard so much about it. When i got there, i was spoilt for choice! How lovely to be able to choose from 5 different Black or Red trails! ... on closer inspection most were variations of a theme but that didn't matter. Maybe thats the beauty of Coed y Brenin, variations to suit you, i like it. Judging the time i had to ride and the journey back, i opted for the mbr trail. I was guessing that it would be proper black, not Llandegla Black (sorry Llandegla), and i wasn't disappointed! I was very tempted by the Beast and Tarw, but i didn't know how much time i would have as i didn't really know what to expect ... other than rocks.

Rocks. More rocks, and then more rocks... I'd left my pads at home (i was supposed to be at the chase remember and you don't need them there) so started a little cautiously on some of the rocky sections, wondering if my hardtail and i could cope. After a while, i started to gain my confidence and then noticed that if i thought about the rocks i had a really hard time, so started blatting them.

Wearing the Chase Trails riding shirt keeps me connected to the Chase and trail building wherever i am, and is regularly a conversation starter. Talking to other riders about the Chase and the trails is a great way to spread the word and get them intrigued to come and visit and help trail building! Nearing the end, someone on a (heavily) spec'd Orange 5 stopped me and asked if i was from the Chase. I'd discovered the three guys were from Stoke and regulars to the Chase but hadn't yet been trail building. It didn't take much convincing that Phase II was going to be awesome.

Still caning the rocks, I hooked up the back wheel a couple of times and nearly came a cropper but didn't. By the last section, i was getting air off of and over the rocks and really enjoying what i would not have attempted at the speed i was now. I'd even started cornering harder without thinking about it, one of my riding weak points.

By the time i was back at the car, i felt that my riding had just jumped up a level. I reckon i might be able to tackle the new rocks on The Monkey now! I'd had an awesome ride and wanted to ride more, but time was pressing and i had a long drive back on the numpty infested A5. Feeling very pleased with myself, i closed the door on the car and set off. The thought in my head was about that ****** idiot in the Silver 58 plated BMW 130 ... 'Cheers Mate'. No really, cheers!

Coed y Brenin on


Sunday, 27 September 2009

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss (Trail Building Sunday 27th September)

A good turnout today boosted by new volunteers Dominic, Paul & Andy. Ian was absent but I'm sure he would have a good excuses? As the majority were clean fit and sober the plan was to return to Rainbow Valley and continue working on building rock features on the Monkey Trail.

Andrew, Petra, Charlotte (now aged 11!), Jess (still 9) and myself had a few bits of planning left over from increasingly dark Thursday nights to finish so headed off armed with marker tape, inclinometer and saws. After finishing our first section it seemed a convenient point to stop for lunch so we sat and enjoyed a picnic whilst we thought about the rest of the crew toiling away with all those heavy rocks!

After lunch we moved on to tape a section of trail that is due to be thinned. Here we marked the trail to make it more visible to contractor and also marked key trees that are 'pinning' or 'anchoring' the trail so that they won't get felled. Once we were done (and out of tape) we walked along the top of Rainbow Hill to see what progress the rock shifters had made.

Work today had been on a new feature on the 'red' and by the time we arrived they were nearly done. It looked really good and perfect as a red grade feature. Charlotte and Jess swept the rocks to make them look nice before Frank recovered them in gravel to allow the rain to wash it into all the gaps. Building the rock features is time consuming but is really enjoyable and I'm sure will be worth all the effort.

Don't forget it's a Big build day next week, Sunday 4th October, Swinnerton Cycles Forest Centre 10am.


Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Morning After The Night Before (Trail Building Sunday 20th September)

Saturday night was our belated 2008 Chase Trails Christmas meal & party. This is the one time each year we get to thank all our regular volunteers and their partners for all the time and effort they put in. I'll spare you the details (mainly because I can't actually remember most of the night) but I think it is safe to say we all had a good time.

Numbers for Sunday morning trail building were unsurprisingly a little low but full credit to everyone who made it, new volunteer Tom also joined us. As an added bonus there was lots of party food left over so any one who could stomach it was able to feast on sausage rolls and cake.

As the ground was relatively flat there was no easy bench cutting for us today. The technique employed was 'cut and fill', cutting a trench to reach good ground and then filling it with good quality surfacing material. Compared with bench cutting this is much harder and time consuming with lots of wheel barrowing being needed. The vast majority of 'Follow the Dog' was built this way but we have become spoilt by the easy bench cutting on most of 'Phase 2'.

While most of the crew were digging Martin was clearing and prepping for a new section of woodwork. The plan is to lay two fallen trees side by side and deck between them (similar to the new bridge on FtD but not as wide). When not circulating distributing food I was supervising Martin (sitting on a log) as my head didn't seem to like movement or noise!

Apart form me everyone else seemed really keen to keep building today and so we kept working well into the afternoon (probably all the food they eat) and got loads done, maybe we should have a party every week..


Thursday, 17 September 2009

Points Of View

After a brief chat and cup of coffee in the FC office Martin and myself set about the important business of creating a bench and bike rack for the viewpoint on the (as yet un-opened) Lower Cliff section of Phase 2. Seeing as there was only two of us we seemed to take a lot of tools but at least we wouldn't suddenly realise we were missing something, would we?

The first job was creating the bike rack by simply cutting wheel sized slots in a big log. One slight problem, no bike to check the spacing! After a quick phone call to Swinnertons and a conversation about tyre widths and the current fashion for wide bars we can to the conclusion that five slots would be 'about right'. Martin cut the slots and I pryed them out with an iron bar. Lets hope they are the right size!

Next up was a bench. We could have simply skinned the top off a log and left it at that but with Martin's woodworking skills and more importantly chainsaw this was going to be a 'proper job'. Logs were dug into the ground to support the base and back, a log was spilt to create two flat surfaces, scolopes were scooped to create nice joints and then the whole thing was bolted together.

We weren't quite finished by lunchtime so we had to have lunch on a skinned log but at the end of the day we sat back on our new bench and enjoyed the view. It's amazing how satisfying creating something like this using just a few basis tools (and a chainsaw) can be.


Sunday, 13 September 2009

Rocking & Rolling (Trail Building Sunday 13th September)

Another great turnout for some rocking & rolling on the Monkey with the regular crew being supplemented by Phil (obviously not put off by last week) and new volunteers Nick, Tom & Andy. Despite the large number of people it was surprisingly quiet for some unknown reason? Ah, we were missing Charlotte and Jess!

The plan for today was building the second rock feature on the Black Monkey. The aim was create armouring on the approach to a moderately steep section leading into a berm. The trail already featured a nice little rooty step so this was left in place and supplemented by a bigger rock drop. In a similar vein to the root the rocks were positioned to give a bigger drop on the fast line into the berm and a smaller drop on the slower line. Once the suitable rocks were selected they were lowered down the hillside and then expertly positioned on the trail. Bob couldn't make it this week but Dale, Dave, Alex, Frank and Steve did a fine job with 'the jigsaw'

While the majority were working on the black feature new volunteers Nick, Tom & Andy were given the task of digging out the ground for a step on the red line. The plan for this started out as a simple one rock step but evolved into a really nice multi rock mini-feature. Good work guys, hope to see you again soon.

The day finished with Andrew and myself 'testing' the newly constructed features (this is an essential part of the trail building process!). Both features rode really well although Andrew was definitely thankful for his bash ring whilst riding the bigger side of the black drop.

We're planning on continuing rock shifting for the next couple of weeks so if you want to come along and help make sure you bring your steelies.


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Rock Around the Clock (Trail Building 6th September)

A full day had been planned for making a start moving the rocks on the ‘Monkey’. Even with an earlier than usual start, we had an excellent turnout …Alex, Bob, Bruce, Dale and Josh, Dave and family, Frank, Jay, Jez and Lei, Martin, Peter and Ben, Phil and myself making 18 in total. Nearly a Big Build Day but without the BBQ. Rob was off enjoying jelly and ice cream at his nephew’s birthday party – I don’t remember him getting the time off authorised in triplicate though! A warm welcome to new man Phil, I hope all of the hard graft hasn’t put you off coming back.

The plan was to move rocks from a pile on the fire break down the hill and into place on the “toboggan run”. Due to the potential dangers of moving large rocks, Bruce gave everyone a safety briefing then Lei and Petra rounded up the children and took out of harm’s way, entertaining themselves improving their own double black diamond toboggan run.

Thanks to Bob for coming over from the 'Dark Side' to lead the design work – both Alex and Bob have plenty of experience building the rock features on the downhill courses at Stile Cop. Knowing where to place the rocks is a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box – crazy paving goes large!

While Alex, Bob, Dale, Frank and Jez were prising rocks into their final resting place, the rest of the team were man handling them from the pile and onto the sledge ready for sliding down the hill. Careful use of ropes and pulleys allowed us to control the descent under Bruce’s watchful eyes. If the ancient Brits could build Stonehenge, I’m sure we can shift far smaller rocks using similar techniques.

By 4 pm we were all starting to flag so the tools were loaded into the trailer and we returned back to base. It had been a long but very productive day. If you fancy coming and lending a hand next time, please bring a pair of safety boots if you have them.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

The Howls of Wonky Donkey

Last night at 6:30pm Rob (The Mad Hammer), Andrew (Inclinometer Guy), Dave (Stake Man) and I (Tape girl) met at Birches Valley to flag out the control points of a new section of trail we’re planning.

When we were trekking through fir trees, bracken, heathers and brambles we noticed that we weren’t going to need our torches because it was a full moon. And guess what Rob did… he started howling witch started me off (so sorry if you were walking through the forest and heard howls last night) and I started creeping in the bracken and fir trees pretending I was a ware wolf. Soon it got dark and we headed off back across the fire road and back into Birches when we got to the compound we saw that the lights were on and I said “It would be funny if it was a rabbit” and it was. I helped Rob open the container and helped him close it again and then we set off home.

Charlotte (aged 10)

The Spaceship Has Landed

The new Giant sculpture has arrived at Birches Valley. Created by I believe by Tim Tolkien (great-nephew of JRR Tolkien) out of mild steel which will weather and change over time. The inside of the sculpture is made up of recycled bike frames and components.

It is situated on the bank near Swinnertons so you won't miss it. The weathered metal makes it look like it has been there for years.