Sunday, 27 November 2011

Return to 'Le Singe Noir' (Trailbuilding - Sunday 27th November)

In an unexpected departure to our recent period of hole digging on the final part of Tackeroo, this week we needed to make a maintenance visit to the Black Monkey following a credible report that the exits of some of the armoured sections and steps were wearing down and making the landings tricky to the point of over the bar acrobatics.

After a very delayed start due to some geezer with a white beard, a red suit and two reindeer (we have this problem with him parking in the wrong place every year), we set off. Although we were down a Jez, we had an extra Bruce and acquired another Phil plus Frank as the day went on so combined with Matt and James and a guest appearance by Abby we were pretty well crewed up.

Studying the hillside of the Black Monkey, it was interesting to reflect that it was two years ago that we were engaged on the massive effort that went into building the armoured sections, and the difficulties of moving big, heavy rocks down steep hillside obstructed by trees. In comparison today's rocks were smaller and more manoeuvrable, but the hillside just as steep tricky to use a rock-barrow on.

So Petra, CT's own rock-chick, split rocks with Martin, while Dave, Abby and new Bruce set about revising the end of Oblivion. Matt and James walked the trail trimming the edges and clearing the drain channels ready for winter. Andrew, Bruce, Frank, Liam and I set about revising the worn landing zone of a major rock step, but the ground turned out to be more taxing than expected when we discovered impenetrable sandstone that resisted all posts. Eventually lateral thinking prevailed and a larch riser was planted to act as the face of a new rock landing area. This has done nothing to reduce the technical challenge of this feature, if anything it seemed to me trickier than ever - not that I expect to find it a problem as I shan't be riding it!

As the rest of us packed up, Dave finished the day off by armouring the drop out of Toboggan with a quick rock shifting and bedding-in session before we finally decided it was time for tea.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Black Monkey Closure - one day only

Just to let everyone know that the Black Monkey will be closed for essential safety related maintenance on Sunday 27th November. The exits of two of the rock features have worn and need armouring with a little more rock.

The Red Monkey will be open as normal but we’ll be asking riders to stop whilst we move rocks down across the Red Monkey so please be patient and follow all requests to wait – it will only be for a couple of minutes.

Thanks for your cooperation.


Sunday, 20 November 2011

It was flat at the bottom and the sides were steep... (Trailbuilding - Sunday 20th November)

What a grey day! Damp and misty and unrelieved by a glimpse of sunshine. But the show must go on, and we dragged ourselves away from the comfort of The Urn and our admiration of Jess's newly acquired FS, loaded the wagon and trailer and headed over to the Rollers. Dave was back after his touch of lurgi last week and we were joined by new man Tony, who having worn himself to shreds walking Snowdon and riding the Monkey thought he'd finish off the week with some trail building.

In our quarry, Dave, Petra and Frank set about reducing our rocks to manhandleable rubble in anticipation of getting some JCB assistance to carry a load of rock to the trail. Meanwhile high on the hill, Andrew, Tony, Bruce and Phil were barrowing hardcore and excavating a borrow pit to fill a new low berm just below the 2 rollover steps. It always takes much more than you realise to fill these features so it was not until midday that we moved onto the next stuff.

Frank and Steve joined Bruce to set about the two steps that have been getting deeper as they wear. They dug out the back face and rebuilt them in lovely bomb-proof rock. They remain rollable while being tougher, more durable and marginally more intimidating, although this may just be the presence of Frank and a plank to swat anyone who attempts to by pass this feature.

Down the trail and around the corner, Tony and Phil were enlarging and completing another deep sump hole and drain channel. A task made considerably more difficult by uncovering an enormous tree root that seemed impervious to mattock blows. The solution was to tunnel under it to make a path for the drain pipe. Tony dug like a “mole on Monster” and considerable sweat later, he'd made the channel. Sterling work - many thanks Tony.

Later we surveyed the climb from Hugh's Bridge and were relieved to find only minor repairs are needed that mainly consist of building up the surfacing. One view of the trail led to a learned discussion of the merits, style, and variations of a boardwalk that might be constructed. After all we haven't built a boardwalk for several months....


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Air Ambulance Tree Carry

As mountain bikers who occasionally have accident most of us have at one time or another seen first hand the fantastic work the midlands air ambulance do. And if you didn't realise they are a charity who receives no funding from the government and relies entirely on the support and generosity of local people and businesses.

This Saturday (19th November) the Midlands Air Ambulance is teaming up with members of 4th Battalion the Mercian Regiment, and the Forestry Commission to carry a 15ft Christmas tree the 7.5 miles from Birches Valley to Cannock hospital. The tree is being donated by the Forestry Commission to Cannock Hospital as they have done for many years.

The event will begin at Birches Valley at 9.30am so if you are around please come to the trail head area and give them your support for all the great work they do.

If you are not around this weekend Air Ambulance volunteers will be at the Christmas Tree Sales Centre at Birches Valley at weekends carrying Christmas Trees to cars in return for donations, so why not help support the trails by buying a tree from the Forestry Commission and support the Air Ambulance at the same time.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

"There was I, digging it deep... " (Trailbuilding - Sunday 13th November)

The pattern is now well developed: tea urn - trailer load - move across road - trailer unload - Rock Gang start drilling - trail makers set to work… but where's Dave? Has Britain's no 1 consumer of Monster finally self-destructed in an explosion of taurine powered energy? Has Petra taken her revenge for last week's cartoon? No, fortunately he'd just been taken ill, showing that even monster-man is not immune from all the hazards of normal life.

So this week our quarry team of Jez, Martin, Frank, Phil and Bruce carried on with splitting, moving and setting our steadily reducing pile of rocks. Preparing the ground for them were Pete and Aidan who were riding by, saw the Trolls at work and came over to lend a hand for a while. They softened up several rollers, ready for rock laying, with some muscular pick work then headed off to the Forest Centre for a well deserved cuppa. Thanks guys, as always we are glad for the help.

Joining us for the first time were Inga and James who along with young regulars Matt and James, returnee Bruce, and Phil (Thinks... 'what a lot of duplicate names') with Andrew finished off another berm, barrowed a ton or two of hardcore down the side of the Eiger to the trail, and continued the emerging Tackeroo tradition of digging deep (sump) holes. Inga immediately endeared herself by sharing cake, as did Martin whose birthday is imminent. Then to add to the fun, Tom and Phil (yes another one!) rode up and set to, sorting put another trail soft-spot.

The past few Sundays up on the trail have been an object lesson in autumnal colour ways, a kaleidoscopic palette of greens through yellow-gold to a spectrum of russets, tans, taupes and brown. It's easy to not notice on your bike when you're trying to avoid a tree that it's currently carrying an exceptionally pretty leaf load. The opportunity to appreciate the Chase in flux is a fortunate bonus of trail work.

Then it was back to the urn for critiquing or envying the range of bikes queuing for the jet wash.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

It's women that build all these trails ....

It's a hard life. They spend the week looking after the kids, doing the shopping, and the cleaning, etc. And then on their days off they slog away all day breaking rocks like a convict.

And what are the men doing? The lazy sods just stand around talking bike parts, eating, and supping large amounts of Monster (like they need the energy for that!) Idle swines!


Sunday, 6 November 2011

"... So big and sort of round it was ..." (Trail building - Sunday 6th November)

Last night was a slight disappointment. We didn't win the National Lottery Award for Best Sports Project. The worthy winners were the Bluebird Care Hampshire Disability Cricket Programme. We consoled ourselves with the thought that simply to be at the Final meant we were on the virtual podium of the event which is a huge success in itself; and that Rob probably looked hilarious in a suit. [If you watch a replay carefully, you can just see Rob looking very dapper in his suit ... he does scrub up well after all - Andrew]

Today, we were back to normality and the increasing familiarity of Tackeroo Rollers and thereabouts. We were joined at the mystic urn by Ross a passing UoW outdoor pursuits undergraduate with a terrifying handshake and a strong work ethic. Good to have his help. Otherwise it was the usual suspects - down in the dark cold forest, Dave, Petra, Frank, Bruce and Jez rock-splitting in our quarry and shifting blocks to the Rollers. Then in a great leap forward they started armouring the first roller. Originally it was just going to be the dip at the bottom, but having evaluated the situation with the fact that we don't want to do this again anytime soon, it emerged that the whole of the back face and bottom of each roller is going to armoured. Oh, those rollers will be different next time you ride them. You can't say we don't give value when we fix a trail.

Meanwhile in the sunlit uplands of the section, the Two Phils (sounds like a bad music hall act), Andrew, Ian, Ross and Liam were barrowing tons of grit stone and gravel to fill, shaping and wackering two bermed bends, with deep, deep sumps.

So, we're making progress, with a lot of rock still to split and shift, prepare and place, and we are at least a couple of months away from getting this section open. If you want it faster than that, please join us on a Sunday at 10 am outside Swinnertons (remember, there's free car parking for the day and a hot drink) or if you're passing at the end of your ride stop and join in for a while – even 10 minutes helps. You'll feel better for the experience.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Chase Trails on the BBC on Saturday night!

Just a quick note to thanks you for all your support and to let you know that Chase Trails will be on the BBC on Saturday night.

As you will know the Chase Trails Cycle Project on Cannock Chase is through to the final of the National Lottery Award in the best sports project category. Voting has now closed and the winners will be announced live on Saturday night. Although we have no great expectation of winning the overall title, the project video will be shown and we hope to at least get a glimpse of the Chase Trails team as they sit and sip champagne.

Thanks again for all your support over the last six months.