[Stu] The Monkey Trail has been almost 2 years in the construction but much longer in the planning for us and here we were, at long last it was time to open the trail to the public.
Arriving on site at just after 8am there was a buzz about the place, stands were being set up, Giant arrived with their demo bikes and the sun was shining. The Chase Trails crew steadily arrived and we set to work putting up the Chase Trails stand together with the sound system for the day. Despite having spent countless months on building the trail there's always one more job left on the list and we dispatched a couple of groups out to take care of a few last minute tasks to make sure everything was as good as it could be for the day ahead.
[Jay] After a quick briefing at CT HQ myself and Alex were allocated the job of decommissioning the "Chainslapper". So off we trundled with tools, tape and hi viz vests to set about our task. Luckily there was plenty of brashing materials to hand and the job was completed in no time at all. A few early birds were out on pre-opening rides and some of them even stopped to say "Hello". Well actually they didn't, most of them said "Why are you closing one of the best sections of Follow the Dog?!!". We simply pointed towards Tackeroo and said "go and play". Rumour has it the disgruntled few were later seen wondering around BV car park grinning from ear to ear.
[Rob] As half past ten approached we were called over to the trailhead for the official launch ceremony. Official speeches were made by Jason (Forestry Commission), Stu (Chase Trails) & Hugh Clixby (Clibxy's Enviromental Contractors, who have done a great job with all the machine built section of trail). The official photographer took pictures of everyone who had helped with the trail.
A monkey was produced from somewhere and Oli was required to pose with said Monkey with various different people and in numerous positions. Finally the ribbon was cut, champagne was drunk and 'The Monkey Trail' was unleashed on the world.
[Rob] Letting the hoards rush off to ride the trail the Chase Trails crew returned to the gazebo to relax, chat to people and sell memberships. Around midday Jason from the Forestry Commission and myself spent a couple of hours down near the level crossing at the end of the link. Someone had had the bright idea of buying 500 bananas to give away during the day so we took a box with us and gave them out as energy food to help people get back up Kitbag Hill. Loads of people stopped and chatted and everyone seemed to be loving the 'The Monkey'. We also took the opportunity to educate people about crossing the railway safely and the need to wear helmets. When the bananas ran out we returned to get ready to ride with Oli. Everyone else had already eaten and were fully prepared, I couldn't find my gloves (Ian came to the rescue [again]) and ended up eating my 'bambi burger' seconds before we set off! [if i recall correctly, Rob was still chewing as he rode away]
[Stu] Oli Beckinsale had been invited along to officially launch the trail and after the ribbon cutting and speeches he headed out for 'a quick' [1h 40min and only in 3rd gear] training lap of Follow the Dog and the Monkey Trail, with a world cup season ahead of him any chance to fit a ride in has to be taken I guess.
Once the day was in full swing Oli had offered to join Chase Trails for a press ride around the trails so at 2pm we gathered and after a bit of faffing headed out. Riding with the trail builders is a great but frustratingly rare chance so it's good to get the opportunity once in a while.
Luckily for us Oli had asked for a steady ride with him not at the front, he was happy to just drop in with the trail builders and head around the trail at a steady pace. The thing is a steady pace for a rider like him isn't quite the same as a steady pace for any of us. Before long I found myself riding as fast as I felt able to with him just happily sat on my wheel. My lungs were on the top tube but I could hardly hear a noise coming from him.
We were quite a big group to have out on the trail and in the end we spread out into a few smaller groups which helps everyone find their pace and make for a better way of riding the trail. Take note; big groups on long runs of singletrack aren't necessarily the best way to go. Overtaking other riders and being overtaken by faster riders becomes difficult with too many riders.
We had a couple of stops around the Monkey Trail planned where the event photographer was scheduled to meet us for some press shots. With surprisingly few "one more time" requests each stop was just enough to re-group and catch our breath.
Chatting to Oli as we rode he seemed genuinely impressed with the trail and it turns out he's a veteran of Follow the Dog, he's also a really pleasant guy.
We made it round to the final descent of the Monkey Trail, Lower Cliff, and whilst waiting for the photographer Oli decided he'd enjoyed that section so much he wanted to ride it again so off he went and rode all the way round to do it again, just a bit more training.
We had the chance to get some of our own press photos and with a short bike test planned back at the arena Oli had to head off in front of us to get back. Phew, at least it gave us the chance to have a slightly more relaxed run back onto Follow the Dog and of course the new finishing trails through Tackeroo.
We got back to the area in baking sunshine to be greeted by beer and cake, sorted.
[Andrew] Everyone knows that mountain bikers love their cake and both Alex and Rob did us proud by turning up on launch day armed with large quantities of cake – banana cake to be exact thus continuing with the Monkey theme. Showing no favouritism, I scoffed Alex’s pre-ride and tucked into Rob’s post-ride - both hit just the right spot.
I had barely got off my bike when Rob thrust a bottle of Well’s Banana Beer in my hand - more monkey related produce. Shall we say that it went to down very well – in fact, too well so I had a second.
There’s only so much cake that one can consume and when Alex suggested getting a takeaway curry delivered to Birches Valley, both Rob and myself jumped at the idea. Three chicken jalfrezis were duly ordered and after what seemed like hours, the curries arrived with all the trimmings. Doing it in style, we sat around the PA table munching our way through poppadoms, onion salad, curry, rice and nan bread all washed down with more beer. Driven by growing hunger pains, the three children gathered like vultures and helped themselves to the pickings – there was enough food for a small army.
Unfortunately the light was fading rapidly as we cleared up and the prospect of cycling home in the dark was a little daunting … luckily Dave came to my rescue and lent me a set of LED lights. Arriving home safely, I reminisced over what a cracking day it had been - thanks to everyone who came up and told us how much they liked the new trail. It makes all our endeavours worthwhile.
[Sally] A great day, spent with great people, riding a great trail and to top it all the sun shone the whole day through. I was still smiling when I woke up on Sunday morning.