Saturday, 31 October 2009

Halloween Challenge (Evans Cycles Ride It, Cannock Chase – 31st October 2009)

Although not on official Chase Trials business Dave, Petra, Jessica, Charlotte, Jez, Andrew, Jay and me took part in the Evans Cycles Ride It yesterday and wanted to share our escapade with you all.

The day started off with thick dark sky lashing down copious amounts of rain. At 6am most of us were up and getting our gear together for the day our love of mountain biking meant we somehow overlooked the inclement conditions outside, besides as Jez said “just means more mud!”

We arrived at the Tackeroo campsite at about 8.30am to improved weather conditions meaning it was now just a little damp under foot. We headed over to registration and paid our fee to receive a map and gel bar in return. Charlotte and Jessica located us although they were not looking too well, we could see Charlotte’s bones and Jessica’s heart. It was marginally concerning to see that Jessica’s heart was not beating but she seemed chatty as normal so it didn’t seem to be bothering her. Dave, Petra, Andrew and Jay soon appeared and we all headed down to the start.

There were three different ride options for the day Short = 14 miles, Medium = 24 miles and Long = 28 miles. Dave, Andrew and Jay were feeling particularly energetic and had signed up for the long route, Jez more sensibly had signed up for the medium route whilst Petra, Jessica, Charlotte and I had opted for the short route.

At approximately 9.20am we were off, the route we had been told would stay within the confines of the Chase keeping to numerous bridleways that criss-cross the area taking in the beautiful forest scenery. The website promised it would be a great day out in the saddle. Jay, Andrew and myself had not been out riding for a while so were looking forward to getting on our bikes while Jez and Jessica were looking forward to searching for mud and puddles.

The route started reasonably sedately as we picked our way through the forest crossed over roads before heading back to the forest. The boys had decided to ride with us girls on the short route before heading off to their medium/long ride afterwards. With varying fitness and technical levels they were able to hone their bike control skills by riding at a more sedate pace than they may usually do. The route presented us with various surfaces to ride on from mud, leaves, tarmac, sand and pebbles which made for an interesting ride however, feeling this was not enough of a challenge the organisers had supplied up with climbs. At one stage Charlotte and Jessica’s enthusiaum was waning exclaiming “I thought it would be more down!” before assuming a strong pout. We were rewarded with some long and flowing descents but unfortunately they tended to follow some rather tough lung bursting climbs.

Still the day was not without its entertainment, at the half way point Andrew demonstrated a particularly flamboyant way to dismount a bike. Jay and I both experienced one of those ‘way hey’ moments when on a particularly rocky decent not far from The Ford, whilst Jessica chose to ride through a rather large muddy puddle before exclaiming “I’m soaked!”

At the drinks station where the routes split Petra, Charlotte, Jessica and I headed back to Tackeroo wondering why it was we had paid for the privilege of such a tough ride whilst debating that the published mileage must be wrong as we were sure our 14 miles felt more like 41! The boys headed off for more torture knowing they were set to climb up Abrahams Way, come down and then climb back up the fire road next to it before descending once more. After what felt like a short time later they too arrived back at Tackeroo.

Results for the day are to be published on the Evans website and although no certificates or medals were given I would like to express thanks on behalf of Petra and myself to the boys for riding with us and supporting us. Charlotte and Jessica would like to say a BIG thank you to Jez, Jay and Dave for taking pity on them and pushing their bikes up the numerous hills. Personally I would like to thank Andrew for the riding tips and to everyone for making what was a challenging day enjoyable and for reminding me why I like coming out riding at Cannock.

Lei xx

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Skulduggery on 'Deerskull' (Trail Building Sunday 25th October)

Whilst the others were building sand castles, Ian and myself headed off to fettle 'Deerskull'. For those that can remember the lovely warm Spring, it was the trail we built on the Big Build Day back in April (you can read about on Missus Toast's blog). Test riding the trail had shown a number of problems. The main one was the first corner into the dense trees did not work – the two trees on the inside of the bend were throwing riders out wide and heading straight towards another tree. Being well prepared, we only had one short folding saw between us – while I hacked at the trunks, Ian lent against them so with our combined efforts the two trees didn’t stand a chance. Now the corner looks like it will flow smoothly into the rest of the trail.

Next we tweaked the short climb after an evil root - being a red grade trail, it seems a shame to remove the root so for the moment it stays. A rotten root was removed and the slope of the climb reduced.

Another problem was a step part way down the compression with its landing at the bottom of the slope – not ideal. As the entrance to the compression was on a slight climb, we decided to lose the step totally – don’t worry there’s a tricky diagonal one further down the trail to maintain a technical element.

Recent rain had hi-lighted the areas of trail where water was collecting thus requiring improved drainage, so to finish our morning’s work we tidied up some sections of the trail out slope. For the technically minded, have a look at Ian’s Trail Tech guide to bench cutting.

To allow these reworked sections time to settle, we wrapped up by rebrashing the whole trail – so please steer clear and leave it to slumber in peace.


Absinthe Is The Root Of All Evil (Trail Building Sunday 25th October)

This morning started very early for Charlotte, Jessica, David and myself. The girls and I were booked to go on a rutting walk to see the fallow deer and had to meet at Birches Valley at 6.00 a.m. David, unfortunately, had drawn the short straw and was ‘on call’ so he had the tedious task of waiting at the car for us. As it started to get light we were walking into the woods and saw lots of fallow deer, they were making very loud grunting noises and we did see two deer fighting with their antlers. The girls found this walk fascinating.

We arrived back at Birches Valley around 8.00 a.m. and found Jez all kitted up for a ride before trail building. As we ate our toast and had a drink Ian also turned up ready for a quick blast on his bike before building.

Later Martin arrived in his Landrover closely followed by Andrew, Bruce, Frank, Steph, Alan, Sally and Lei, tools were loaded and a discussion took place as to where we were going to work.

Andrew and Ian went to do some work on 'Deerskull' and the rest of us went back to work on the sandy trail that precedes the 'Absinthe trail' which we had started last week. As we were digging the trail we unearthed quite a few evil routes so the ‘muscle’ Bruce, Jez and Lei (in training) used mattocks to remove some of the roots.

Frank and Steph dug holes for posts to be used for holding the trail surface on entry to the bridge. After this Jez was made to ‘walk the plank’ across the bridge with the wheel barrow full of tools and then everyone else had to follow.

We went to the end of the 'Absinthe trail' to put in a log step for the exit out onto the fire road.

This done everyone packed away and headed for Birches Valley except for Jez, Lei and Sally who had headed up the next part of the trail to take a look.


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Loki the Labradoodle (Trail Building Sunday 18th October)

The day started earlier than usual this week. For some bizarre and masochistic reason, I thought it would be a good idea to go for a ride round before building. For me, this meant a 6am alarm call - it's a 115 mile round trip - to load up the car with bike and gear and head on up to Cannock. So, at 8.09am I was off for my ride. 15 or so miles later and it was time for large amounts of caffeine and chocolate from Swinno's and to meet the rest of the gang to find out where we were working.

There was a choice today to split into two groups to get as much as possible done with precious volunteer time - rocks or digging, both on the Monkey. Transport was assigned and our motley convoy set off. And promptly got stuck unable to get through the barrier off the main road as the FC have put a new padlock on it and not given a copy of the new key to anyone. Much arm waving and head scratching ensued and eventually the decision was made to go to the next barrier along and drive round to get to our destination.

There was plenty of testosterone flowing for the rock moving, so Dave, Petra, Charlotte, Jessica, Josh, New Andy, Jay, Alex and his dog, Loki, set off down the hill to smite the earth with tools. It would appear that silly people who don't understand what no entry signs mean or pay attention to trail closure signs had in fact been riding the section after where we were working backwards (down, instead of up - not some kind of stunt riding). So, once we'd finished building the amendment to the trail, we returned the old exit of the trail back to Mother Nature's sweet embrace, with a large amount of earth and several tons of fallen trees. Greets to the 2 riders who showed up to say Hi. Next time we'll make sure we stop off at Swinno's again just before we go to see if there are any stragglers who want to help us out.

There was still a large amount of muscle flexing going on at rock central [Frank mainly - the rest of us struggle in that area - Ed] so we decided to head back to the log bridge we'd built last week and make a start on bench cutting the trail to the bridge - also known as 'Absinthe'. Bad news is that the entire hill on the other side of the bridge appears to be made of sand. This means that we'll have to bench cut the whole section, which is about 300 yards, and then barrow some imported decent surface in to stop the trail disappearing into a scene from Lawrence of Arabia.

In other news, the young'uns were using the log bridge for some kind of gladiatorial combat, presumably over rights to who got to hold Loki's lead. In the carnage, Josh tried to stop a wheel barrow with his jaw and managed to cut his lip. This was duly administered to from a handy first aid kit. Luckily, the wheel barrow sustained no damage. Late in the afternoon, Martin turned up and walked around with a shovel for a while. He alleged that he'd spent a good part of the day finishing off the construction of the log bridge although we were fairly sure the extra supports and the bolts that had been fitted were just coincidence and could have been put there by anyone.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Days Like Diamonds

I know this may sound like a badly written Singletrack column but some days I just think to myself how much I love riding my bike and that there really is nothing else I'd rather have been doing.

I spent this morning at my desk looking out at the sun shining and the clear blue sky. By lunch I could resist any longer, I wouldn't go far, just a quick spin and I had a couple of things I needed to look at so I could kill two birds with one stone. But it didn't take long for urge to ride to kick in. Maybe if I just did that one section, and if I linked that bit in, and then I could ride that trail...

Eventually I was heading for home until I bumped into a stranger (John who races for Mammoth), got talking and decided to go and ride a few trails together. Unplanned adventures are always the best and the next hour or so was spent happily chatting & riding as the sun slowly fell from the sky.

By the time I got home from my quick lunchtime spin it was nearly dark. There are some days that catch the light, days like diamonds.


Monday, 12 October 2009

I Promise That This Won't Hurt (FtD Trail Inspection Monday 12th October)

If you ever ride 'Follow the Dog' on a weekday you may have come across some strange looking people wearing hi viz jackets walking along the trail. We're actually not just out for a walk but carrying out one of our regular safety and maintenance inspections.

We carry out inspections in partnership with the Forestry Commission. Ian, Martin and myself do the majority of inspections (we have even been on a training course). It normally takes most of the day so we always take a picnic lunch, usually eaten at the start or end of section 8 (maybe we need to build another bench!)

We also take the opportunity to collect litter (3 bags this month). It is amazing the number of water bottles and broken bikes parts that we find. Ian has an unhealthy obsession with collecting reflectors.

The weather was beautiful today and the trail really quiet. We saw a few rider in the morning but hardly any after lunch. Thanks to the guy from Kent who stopped for a chat at the top of the fireroad climb and took our 'picnic' photo. The highlight of my day was seeing a group of fallow deer enjoying the late afternoon sun.

If you ever see us out on the trail we'll make sure we move out of the way but please slow down as you pass, shout hello or even pull over and stop for a chat.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

A Bridge To Beaudesert (Trail Building Sunday 11th October)

Despite a rather grey and marginally damp start we had a good turn out and would like to welcome Sally and Alex to their first building session. Bit confusing with two Alex’s and Alex No2 may have wondered why so many people he had not met before were talking about him wearing lycra, but he soon realised he didn’t need to worry as it wasn’t him we were discussing! The grey day didn’t dampen our spirits and everyone was in a good mood, some were even humming and all of us were looking forward to working on the end of section H Phase II.

Realising that he would be building a log bridge today Martin set about recruiting some muscle and made a bee line for Jez! After his successful show of strength whilst relieving Alex of rock duty a few weeks prior, Jez seemed a natural choice and Martin sold it to him by saying he could use the big lump hammer to hit things! Next Dave was recruited, although unfortunately due to injuries from a crash he was unable to hammer he did a sterling job digging and moving logs. He was also the brave man holding the posts in place for Jez to hammer – rather you than me mate!!

Meanwhile slightly further back barrow loads of good earth were being conveyored in and our thanks goes to Tony, Steve, Bruce, Alex and Frank for supplying a steady stream for us to whack. We progressed well down the trail and were all chatty talking about riding and trails, Alex and Sally were asking where else we had been building and we discussed the problem of keeping the numpties off the new trails until they had settled and between us came up with some rather interesting suggestions…..
firstly we discussed burying Charlotte and Jessica in the trails up to their necks to scare off any potential riders, although Petra didn’t seem to mind we decided that it would take quite a while to dig a suitable hole. Petra suggesting pinning Charlotte to a cross at the entrance but for some reason Charlotte didn’t seem too keen? I suggested burying a skull in the ground and having two cats’ eyes in it, might freak people on a night ride, Petra suggested this could be accompanied by paper skeletons hanging from the trees which could of course be laminated to enable them to withstand the weather. Alex then came up with the piece de resistance of burying a few cats in the trails up to their neck and the high pitched meow and hissing should ward off even the most hardy rider?!

Thanks to everyone’s hard work we managed to complete the trail up to the log bridge and as if signalling the end of building it began to rain! As we packed up Alex and Alex headed off to check the other trails and photo name and shame any numpties they found. Jez and Dave kitted up to head out for a ride, whilst the rest of us headed back to Swinnerton’s to celebrate a successful day with a well earned cup of coffee.

See you all again next week.
Lei x

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Send in the Clowns (Big Build Day, Sunday 4th October)

Plans of making it early to help load up tools didn't quite go to plan and I arrived with Junior trailbuider Abi after 9 to find most of the tools loaded with just a bit of faffing left until we were ready. Being ready early doesn't always mean an early start to work and faffing continued until we swept up the volunteers at 10. Off up to the trail site in convoy and we were just about ready to make a start.

We only started running big build days this year and they've turned out to be a massive success for us with a load of new faces most of them becoming regulars. What's been great to see is the number of children coming along and having fun helping with the building or just messing around in the forest. Along with the older kids who can cut trail on their own (as long as they get a chance to go climb trees too) we're getting the younger ones interested too, this time our youngest were Immy (3) and Abi (4). Both of them had a blast digging in the dirt, playing with the dogs who came along with Grimey Lymies and generally getting into a real mess.

It means that those of us who have to balance family time with bikes get to mix the two together and spark a bit of enthusiasm from the younger ones. It's got to be better than staying a home in front of the TV.

Other highlights of the day included decent weather (the last session on this trail couldn't have been any wetter), too much food (we needed Scruff and Snakebite to help finish it off) and giving away the last of some of our limited run kit (meaning we'll be able to roll out the new prizes next month).

We ended up digging around 250 metres of new trail and surfaced some pre dug trail too. There's still over 500 metres left to dig on this section so we need your help, next BBD is Sunday 15th November and we're out every Sunday too.