Saturday, 17 April 2010

Monkey Trail Launch Day

[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.

Monkey Trail Launch Day (Ladies Ride)

Well as you should all know by now yesterday was the opening of Phase 2, we had glorious weather and the chase was buzzing with people all day long. There were lots of different things going on throughout the day and the ladies guided ride was one of them.

Now the last time I rode at the Chase was New Years Day, a bad back has kept me out of action pretty much since so this was the first ride in about 4 months! The ride was led by Veronica Swinnerton and would take in some blue, green and red sections, so approximately 15 ladies gathered outside Swinnerton’s Cycle Shop at 11.30am. After our official ‘before’ photograph was taken Veronica asked if she could have a volunteer to go at the back, I put my hand up straight away! After all I was going to end up at the back as I hadn’t ridden in such a while so I thought I may as well make it look more official!

We headed off and did a loop round the drums as a bit of a warm up and then crossed into Section 2. There were some ladies on the ride who had never ridden trails before but at a moderate pace we were through through. Headed out past the Stegosaurus we looped round the pools and then peeled off to start the climb up. Despite Abby’s attempts to de-rail me (minor wobble in my direction) I made it all the way up!! We paused at the entrance to Section 12 for a breather and who should shoot past us but Olli! Nice to see him enjoying the Chase! Onwards to Section 12 to face evil root no 2, there were varying degrees of success from our party and well done those who got over it.

Crossing the road we headed through the campsite and to pick up a the new ending to Follow the Dog'. We set off into the Tackeroo which has temporarily (until I ride Phase 2) become my favourite section. It flowed beautifully, little ups and downs twists and turns winding their way through the forest and best of all I fell off!!! Part of it drops down to a left hand bend and then rises up to a right hand bend, I think I hit the back brake a little too hard and simply washed out at the left hand bend and gently slid to the ground! I got up and headed to the end of the section laughing all the way! Our next section we were met by a series on switchbacks on the down, Veronica explained that within this sections there was one with a bit of a drop, otherwise known as the Wolf Drop. Petra advises the group you squeeze through two trees and then drop down but if you lean back correctly it is ok and apparently the second she did it that was the problem not leaning back enough which is why she came off. Success of the day goes to Jess who cruised through the Wolf Drop without a care. Well Done!

We continued up the other side through a series of switchbacks before coming down to the boardwalk at the bottom. Across a bit more and down the drop offs and home was in sight we just needed to negotiate the rollers first. Up and down, up and down, weeeeeeeeeeeee……….Yes! Made it! That was great!! We crossed the road and gathered beside the Chase Trails stand and had an official ‘after’ photograph taken, tired, in need of some lunch but thoroughly enjoyed it. A very big thank you to Veronica Swinnerton for leading the ride and showing us what fantastic trails The Chase has to offer us.


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Follow the arrows …

As Rob mentioned in an earlier post, I’d volunteered to nail the waymarker signs onto the posts so no one gets lost …. not everyone has modern technological gubbins (GPS, i-phones and the like). Well, I’ve done a quick tally up and the “Monkey Trail” has 70 waymarker posts which required 168 signs! Even I was surprised by the numbers as I’d done them over a period of 3 weeks.

The new end to “Follow the Dog” also needed signage but that was a easy task in comparison – 14 posts requiring 39 signs … I’d had that licked in a couple of hours.

All in all, that makes over 200 signs – no wonder I’d got through two 1 kilo bags of nails!

No excuse for folk getting lost whilst out riding the Monkey ….


Monday, 12 April 2010

A Lovely Daaaaaaaaaa....... Trail Building - Sunday 11th April

One week to go!

In a mere seven days time, it will be the official launch of Phase II!

Today we had the usual crew, plus two new Faces - Myles and Jodie .. or was it Miles and Jody? ...

We split into three teams today, Jez, Bruce Frank and Myself got to work on one corner on the link, Andrew and Martin headed off to do a few bits and bobs around the trail, and everyone else headed off to build a short link between two sections of trail.

On the link, we were faced with a stubborn corner ... two previous attempts struggled, so the four us us beat it into submission with the whacker ... third time lucky!

We ended up with a rather well sculpted corner ... lets hope it holds up as it was very dry surface we put down!

Over on 'B', the gang were hard at work cutting into the hill side for the new trail.

Myles found out how stubborn roots can be ... and how many there are!

But, persistence pays off!

The sun shone most of the day, the air was cool, but not too cold and the mood in the air was great. Something that draws me to trail building week after week is the atmosphere around the trail builders - It's always fun, even when it's raining, or snowing or grey and dull - there is always humour and a great deal of satisfaction at the end of the day.
A big thank you to Myles and Jodie for their assistance today, we hope to see you both again soon. And a big thank you to everyone else for making trailbuilding so much fun...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Warning Steep Cliff (Trail Building Sunday 4th April)

With only two weeks to go to the grand opening, we tooled up and headed over to Lower Cliff - the last section of “The Monkey Trail” before you head back across the road and railway to rejoin “Follow the Dog”.

The section has received an inordinate amount of “testing” by local riders which had showed up a few areas that needed a little tlc. Starting at the bottom, we worked our way up the trail, tweaking and fettling as we went.

Jez and Martin went straight up to the rest area to plant a waymarker post and have a look at the climb up to the rest area. I later joined them to tidy the start of the descent and collect the blue fencing. It certainly takes a lot longer to walk down the trail than it does to ride it!


Saturday, 3 April 2010

Visiting Great Uncle Owen (CyB Grand Day Out Saturday 3rd April)

Every now and then, Chase Trails plan a group ride to somewhere. This time we decided to give Coed y Brenin a blast ... well, blast of sorts!

This also gave us an opportunity to show off our new riding gear! We are now the Blue People. Why blue? It Looks Nice? yes, but thats not the reason. It stands out from the Crowd? They do, but no... ... it's because our container at the Chase is blue ... ok! Still, they do look good!

Just after 10am, the full riding compliment had arrived. We all prepared ourselves to tackle the trails. And there was a lot of us! ;
Dave, Petra, Charlotte, Jess, Andrew, Jez, Rob, Alex, Simon, Bruce and myself.

The plan was for a non-trailblazing cruise around the forest, with The ladies turning off after Dreamtime to hack Poison Apple, while us little boys tried to tame the Dragons Back.

Most of us turned up on our usual Steeds ... except Alex, who wanted to tough it out on his Single Speed ... yes single Speed! He'd even grown the little beard that is obligatory to single speed riders! A brave decision considering the nature of the trail with lots of up (about 700m of climbing!)

Those of you who haven't been to Coedy may not be familiar with the 'rugged nature' of the trail, particulary the first and last sections. Rocks is the theme here - even the normal trail surface is rocks. Rocks can be intimidating, but the sheer abundance of Rocks here is enough to cure maost irrational fears. For example, a few weeks ago, our Jez had a slight spill while testing the Red Monkey on the Chase ... after today he certainly 'manned up' and hopes he is now cured!

Most of us had a few sketchy moments - i nearly punted Andrews face with my rear tyre when i nearly went over the bars legs flailing all over the place as i unclipped, Andrew himself had a particularly worrying dismount when Dave stalled on a short rocky rise, leaving Andrew on his back in a little stream (the camera was ok!)

But, huge praise and applause need to go to Charlotte and Jess - The fist section of the trail is pretty rough for more experienced grown men, let alone delicate young ladies! Both Jess and Charlotte did exceedingly well tackling the someties ferocious technical rocks! Well done Girls!

The boys stopped off at the cafe before the monster fire road climb. A few cakes later we headed off up the hill. By now my knees were hurting and i was contemplating a short cut to 'Gomez' but by the time we found out if anyone had a map, i was half way up, so i decided it was better to carry on! (Note to all: Take a map even if you are on a way marked trail!).

After a few hours, trail tamed with a few aches and pains, some great memories and awesome views ... it was off to Barmouth for Fish and Chips... The sun was out, and the food was great! The perfect way to end a group ride!

Being on the beach and with a few children in our midst (Rob included!), a Sand Castle competition ensued. Rob utilised some of his trail building techniques to win, but the official sand castle judge (Andrew) declared a draw!

Such a great day!