Thursday, March 30, 2006

A Clunker Resurrected

A pal (who shall remain nameless) kindly donated their old "mountain bike" to a couple of non bikers who foster ankle biters. I understood that the "mountain bike" had been left outside, albeit undercover, for a number of years so I was expecting a lengthy time spannering a right ol'rust bucket.

However, when it arrived I was relieved to see that it wasn't as rusty as I'd anticipated and after a quick going over all it needed was a stripdown / regrease of the dry and notchy wheel bearings, tighten the headset, brake pad adjustment and nipping up the odd thing here and there. Mind you with the time spent looking for antiquated tools and fiddling with components, I reckon that I could have built a modern bike quicker...

Now this really must be a true "mountain bike" because it's written all over the pink heffer, even on the white wall tyres !

Its amazing to see just much modern components have improved in terms of design, ease of use and not to mention weight. Just checkout the stem with a cable running through :huh, the rear brake cable run down to the center pull brakes and the sloped dropouts needing fussy wheel alignment :x I was very surprise to find that the gears worked fine and although they aren't modern accurate clicky shifters, the adjusters worked well - on the stand at least...

I've no idea how heavy the ol'gal is but someone has already quipped that the front wheel is probably as heavy as Chipmunk's entire FuelEX - the worrying thing is, that I think they're right :o

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Canal Permit

Did you know that anyone cycling on the British Waterways canals is required to have a permit ? :huh

It's no big deal as it's free to sign up and you can download the permit as a PDF file. The literature then goes accepting this cycle permit, you are agreeing to follow the Waterways Code, and to cycle only on those stretches of towpath classified as open to cyclists - this doco makes interesting reading, especially around the MK area :blush

It's purpose ? The Waterways Code aims to protect your own and other people's safety, to safeguard the environment, and to avoid disturbing the enjoyment of other users of the waterway and towpath. There is no public right of way for cyclists on canal towpaths, and British Waterways reserves the right to withdraw permission from users who disregard the rules.

I can't recall who I was discussiing this with recently but I'd suggest that it's advisable to have a permit tucked away somewhere in your backpack.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Woburn Jumps

Over the wkend, we didn't manage any riding :x - what with Mothers Day and the badly timed rain that only fell once we had the opportunity to grab our knobbly's. However, we did manage a walk around some of my regular Woburn loop.

I thought the likes of Brumster, Darren, Dozer, Les, etc would appreciate a butchers at some of the stuff from the "jump arena" that they'd ridden in the murky winter blackness :p

I'm not sure that even Dangerous Dave would tackle some of these "saw tooth" jumps but the local DH peeps sure do make 'em look easy...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Gold & Silver medals for England

Well done to Liam Killeen and Oli Beckingsale who acquired gold and silver in the XC event at the Commonwealth Games last night, see the results and ride report.

Interestingly Geoff Kabush who's something of a star in the USA, didn't even finish in the top ten. I believe he rides a lightweight Turner Nitrous.

BBC SPORT Killeen secures gold with more over at Singletrack, at Melbourne's and BikeMagic websites.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

PSA: CRC Voucher

If anyone is looking to buy owt from ChainReactionCycles this wk then you can acquire a free £10 voucher from the Singletrack website. It expires on Friday and is valid for a total in excess of £100.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

CyB MBR March 19th

After a strenuous Karrimor ride the day before, the posse we still keen to get their knobblies turning around the mid Wales trails but on the slightly shorter MBR route. Farqui had ridden this many times before and found it just the right length, pleasant challenging with some fabulous flowing sections that he hoped would be appreciated after the difficult trail yesterday. Sure enough, after the short fireroad climb the riders were all whizzing through the first couple of downhill sections with grins from ear to ear :D The terrific weather was also helping which helped make some of the open, fireroad climbs much more pleasant with the sun warming your back.

Mid way around I had a score to settle with a long, steep and technical climb that had always defeated me on my ol'Marin. This time I was feeling much fitter and armed with a steed that should easily be able to complete the ascent, the pressure was on. With Rob for company we winched our way steadily upwards and were amazed to see three brave lady's talking the route on fully rigid steeds, the pressure was mounting ! This climb is a beast as it saps the energy from your pins and needs 100% concentration to stay on track, thankfully the trail is wide else that steep drop would be even more off putting. With my legs on fire and several near offs behind me the climb gradually levelled off and a score had finally been settled, hurrah.

The next few sections were steep afairs, both up and down with many of us now very tired after the accumulation of miles but I think all were still enjoying the sweet bits. The views both on top of the hills and down in the valley bottom around the water course were fabulous today. Rob and I had a good tussle all wkend with his taught 4" XC steed reaching summits first and my 5" AM beastie spanking back down the descents which suits each of us perfectly.

This time the trail managed to keep the posse together right through to the finish for some well deserved tucka. IMO the MBR simply flows much better than the Karrimor but still has enough interest to keep everyone keen and riding rather than hobbling through any really difficult bits.

Sicknote takes the award for the most courage as he hadn't tackled anything near as technical before but soldiered on throughout and really started to get the hang of things on day#2.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable wkend and although I was sad to leave my lickle legs would have found it difficult to crank out anymore miles on such arduous terrain. The lads were all good fun with a good mix of experience to spice things up. Even the 170mile journey to get there (and back) wasn't too stressful for a driver who cycles more than he drives these days.

Ride pic's can be found here.

Injuries: A few minor slips and slides by all and Graham managed a face plant on the exit of a section.

Mechanicals: DangerousDave had some initial drama with his Marz not holding air but it was easily overcome and held up throughout the ride. He also had another flat, on the rear this time. Roger experienced a chain snap on just the third section and a loose stem towards the end. My rear mech began to get sluggish and reluctant to shift in the low and high use gears - a cable lube required me thinks.

Weather: Much warmer day than yesterday with more sunshine and less wind which saw most of the crew removing garments after a couple of climbs.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

CyB Karrimor March 18th

The first big ride of 2006 saw the web unite seven friends in mid Wales who were all pumped up for some great riding that was sure to challenge everyone. Over beer on Friday night we unanimously agreed that the first ride of the wkend would be the long Karrimor trail which would be attacked with fresh legs and also takes in sections of the shorter RebBull and MBR routes, thus giving us a taste for Sunday's ride. Only DangerousDave had ridden the route before although Farqui had previously tasted small chunks and even then both of us rode portions that were new to us due to the building work associated with the new center, not yet complete.

The ride itself started off at a pace which gradually calmed down after a few of the initial fireroad climbs - which seem to be a feature of this long route :-( The posse dived into the fun downhill RedBull sections of Snap, Crackle and Pop which got most smiling and a few alarmed at what the rest of the ride would be like ! Onwards we cranked and as we completed more and more sections we began to realise that most were very technical with little flow to them which was unfortunate but boy were they challenging. The rocks were often awkward to clear without dabbing and the roots were always keen to cause havoc, even though they were mostly dry. Actually, for the time of year and the amount of rain the area had recently experience I was surprised at just how dry the trails were.

At the halfway point we were all pleased to find a small cafe that helped rest our weary legs, refuel our empty belly's and warm us through with some hot coffee and soup. Whilst suppin', a fellow rider handed us a fab tip to cut out a long fireroad drag just around the corner and instead hit a steep tarmac section over a shorter distance, which still brought us out at the next fun downhill descent.

Three quarters of the way around, back at the valley floor the Notts posse decided to call it a day and head back to the car park while the rest of us hammered on up the next climb. Unfortunately they missed a few of the most fun sections of the whole trail, with some brilliant stone bridges over streams interconnected with some fast flowing and sweeping descents that finished the day off nicely for the rest of us. I can't blame the guys from opting out early as I felt that overall the Karrimor didn't ride sweetly in the fun bits and was just plain tough. They all deserve a pat on the back tho 'cos the trail was fierce out there today with some serious height gains and even the flat bits were tricky.

We also rode the MBR the following day and ll the wkends pic's can be found here.

Posse: Ben, DangerousDave, Farqui, Rob, Roger, Sicknote, Uphilla.

Injuries: We all had offs of some kinda but only Roger drew blood as he slithered off the trail - to his credit he carried on like nothing had happened.

Mechanicals: DangerousDave suffered a front puncture and Farqui gradually adapted to his low performance rear brake. All the bouncing gave Rob a squeaky headset which was stripped, cleaned and re-assembled later that evening whilst the beer flowed back at the cabin.

Weather: Dry, overcast with a cool 3c-ish and a biting wind on the more exposed sections.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cannock trip on Sat April 8th

After a recent spate of blogs about good times in Cannock Chase, a number of the Westoning crowd are feeling left out and are keen to give it a try themselves. Saturday 8th April seems to be the date that the following posse have passes for;
  • Brumster
  • DangerousDave
  • Darren
  • Dozer
  • Farqui
  • Les
  • Rob
  • Mick (guide)
Unfortunately, both Uphilla and Sicknote have indicated that they wouldn't be able to make this trip. If anyone else is interested in tag'g along then please chime in - perhaps the Notts posse are available ?

Rather than just whiz around the sort but sweet Follow the Dog trail (sw-ish corner of the map), we might try something like this WhatMTB inspired route that takes in some of the northern trails. Though Uphilla tells me that much of this particular route is on bridleway and not much tasty singletrack. Perhaps DDave can help us explore a little ? I expect he'll also be keen to get us XC boys over to the DH section for a play.

I'm hopeful that April will see the trails a little drier than they have been of late. Although a few wks ago I did manage to get around on a set of pads and still have some life in 'em. This notorious gloopy section that helps make the FtD trail eat brake pads in wet weather - has now been replaced with a nice swoopy, singletrack wrestle through the trees, which is much more fun and much less abrasive.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Cannock DH Day 11/03/06

After a certain useless b******, who shall remain nameless, called me up late Friday morning to let me know he couldn’t be arsed to take me with him to Bringewood, I decided to salvage a free weekend and go meet my riding buddy, Alex, at Cannock, and go have some good pure bouncy fun ;) And the promise of snow made it even more inviting, who could resist a bit of flat out fast DH and maybe a bit of bike skiing? Oh yeah baby! Jumping was made very interesting as my blown Manitou Swinger 6 way randomly kicked back off big jumps, even with full rebound damping wound on! Bounce this just sitting on the bike, and it would rebound nice and slow, then hit something at speed and there’d be a 300lbs spring and 100psi pushing the bugger right back up your arse. I guess that’s what ragging Cwmcarn to hell a few weeks previous does to a shock. Bit miffed as I had only just had the blighter TF’ed :(

After a mad dash to the station for the 8:08 train from Long Buckby, I was on my way, with the trains running dead on time for once (shock horror!). I spent about 10 minutes putting the wheels back on (I got a lift from my mum… aint they great??), fiddling with a particularly stubborn floating brake-arm that would not line up with another machined bit, and a hole….. you get the picture! :p

A 15minute gap between the connection to Penkridge from Brum allowed me a bit of time to take a bit of a “tart” shot of the beast.

After meeting up with Alex, and having the all-important pre-ride cuppa + bike tartage discussion, we set off for the Chase, getting there at 11 O’clock.

Heading up to the start of the DH course, we discovered that we were the only ones there! :D

Bonus! Gave us a chance to take a few quick snaps of our weapons of choice for the day, before we were caught taking pictures of our bikes and not riding! ;)

Conditions at the DH course were perfect, no wind, no rain, and the course wasn’t too slippery, though the start ramp/first berm proved a bit of a test for our super tacky rubber. Still, this made laying the bike sideways and railing it on it all the more fun!!! :)

Pedalling like a complete nutcase off the start ramp, drifting and pedalling round the berm, somehow how not coming off, and hitting the pedal on the deck, shift up about 5 gears, pedal some more, and JUMP!!! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention…. There’s a new jump on the Cannock Chase DH red run! Hehe, can’t wait for the XC ride in April!!! This one can’t be ridden around, so you best be getting your jumping shoes on, uphilla!!! :o

It’s a bit of a a)Hit it full pelt with full conviction, b)go the old lazy speed off, short it, and end up in a heap… this was the option favoured by many of the riders up today, which provided me and Alex endless amusement, as we saw rider after rider tumble arse over tit :-p c) roll off the 2foot take off, catch your big 44toother on the logs, roll the middle, and pedal up the upslope. We both proved with much pedalling and balls it is easily doable though (every time)!

After that, it’s up a few more gears and pedal like crazy to the next jump a kind of hip/drop, that actually kicks you skywards if you hoon it off it, spitting you onto a landing some 10feet away, as long as you don’t brake before it! This is a damned dodgy landing, keep to the middle and short, there’s a rut; head left and not get it right and you’re whack bang into a stump!

Then it’s some more pedalling, just cos you feel like it, and think that you need some more speed. Theres a little lump as it bears left, this is fun to lay the bike sideways over and hip it as you go around, then it’s flat out pedalling and launch off the ski drop, sucking up the take off so you don’t land somewhere in the next county!

Then it’s pedal some more, over the lovely braking bumps and hip that new table top (this is shortable, even on the front wheel), suck it up low like a true racer, and pump the front down onto the downslope, for maximum speed…

Then over some more breaking bumps (WHY OH WHY ARE YOU BRAKING ON A FIREROAD!!!) round a right hand corner, whang the bike over to the right and up high on that banked bit, then pedal like **** to the causeway jump (the thing that sends you down inbetween the two walls of sand and gravel before you hit the BIG berm).

Pedal some more, pull it hard right to avoid being swallowed by a little gap, and lay that bike right over and let the berm do it’s work! We were pulling it hard left to pull up onto the patch on the inside of the berm because a) the rest of it is, frankly, shite! And a little pointless b) we couldn’t be arsed to walk all the way from the bottom of the hill!!!!

So that’s the Red Course, it’s had a few mods to make it into a fun DH course, rather than (no offence guys) an extension to the XC red route, a few jumps, and lovely drifty corners if hit them fast enough, and great if only for the fact you can take an 8inch travel DH bike and pedal the whole way down, and not touch the brakes once!

We had a brief bash at the end of the black course, (rude not to as we'd stopped at this point anyway!) slippery roots and jumps galore, with a sweetener of some sweet little turns. Was great fun, and nice leap of faith step-down that has a nice gap to short if you don’t have the commitment!

Only one thing I would say though… about this red course... I remember when Alex first took me up there, ooo, must have been 3 years ago, It was a perfect Hardtail DH course, (obviously having the new jumps then would have been better) but now it’s just no fun, it’s just breaking bumps all the way down, in the most illogical of places… Ah well, I guess that’s what the popularity of the place has done!

We stopped for a quick photo shoot, intending to work our way down, sectioning the various jumps/corners, but bad light and snow called this to a halt! At least we got our snow!

We headed back up, decided two more runs, and that was it, but DH is like the proverbial “one” pint, it never works out that way… and as the weather improved, we ended up finding ourselves doing a few more, and even gave the top of the black/bog run a go, more technical, and feels more like a proper DH course, and of course, has some bigger jumps on it!!! (Thats the one that starts to the right of the red run, boys)

A few comic highlights of the day! :p

Alex doing a full run with his goggles wrapped around his chin guard.

Alex flipping a coin into the biggest, and only puddle around!!! He went and fetched grub and wings/redbull then! Hehe! (He didn’t find it, even after fishing for it, urk!)

Me doing an involuntary no footer off the second jump, as my rear shock, devoid of any rebound damping, buckarooed me off the bike!Managed to land it perfect though! Some how my feet landed in exactly the same position as they left, bonus!!! Doubt I’ll achieve that again in a long while, though!

Overall, it was a brilliant, chilled out day, plenty of runs, lots of speed, no crashes, lots of front wheel slidage, and damned good weather. Was good to go up and see Alex again and have a good ride where it all started! Bringemud? Race? Bah! Who's laughing now!!!!!!! :)

Need to get that shock sorted before I race again or ride something bigger than Cannock, before I kill myself!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Norman Wisdom in Woburn !

Little did I know that on todays ride in Woburn I'd be accompanied by a star, the one and only Sir Norman Wisdom ! Well almost, Chipmunk seems to have naturally mastered his funny falls technique and demonstrated it perfectly today. On two separate occassions none the less.

Scene#1 : after a particularly boggy section I stopped to check that the good lady had made it thru ok only to see her ride wide and faulter. She dab'd, lost her footing and fought the inevitable for a split second before finally giving in, rolling her head back and falling flat on her back. It was almost like someone had yanked hard on her backpack sending her to the ground. Now I had a dilemma :( Should I ? a) laugh uncontrollably b) race over to check see was ok or c) all of the above. Option c) won and on further inspection I was relieved to find that she wasn't hurt and thought it was as funny as I. :lol

Scene#2 : after cranking for a number of miles through muddy and strength sapping terrain, lady Norman came to an easy bridleway turn. As I was already around the corner, I checked over my shoulder to see that Chippy was still following only to see bike, rider and a solitary 6" length of branch, meet and rapidly all part company. The lickle log shot one way, the bike the other and our stunt gal pirouette to the ground. Quite how see managed to ride over the only foreign body on an otherwise sterile and flat sandy trail is a complete mystery. But the slow motion replay will stay with me for some time :D

But surely we had a damaged and mightly unhappy Chipmunk at the end of the ride ? Fear not readers as our conscientious stunt gal had been wearing body armour :o Which performed faultlessly and I'm very happy she had the forethought to wear this eccentric Xmas gift - a chuckle at the time :p

It's the first time we've tried these knee and shin guards and after todays antics, I doubt it'll be the last :) Apparently they're comfortable to wear, don't impair your riding too much and also help to keep you warm at this time of year ;) They're Thor Quadrant Knee and Elbow Guards, acquired from Wiggle, with the elbow protection being the less cumbersome "youth" variety.

Friday, March 10, 2006

2006 Marzocchi Z.1 Freeride SL RC2

After having more problems than I could shake a stick at with my Manitou Shermans, I decided it was time to ditch the crappy things and get a fork I can depend on and not have to service after every ride to keep them from seizing up. Having thoroughly lost confidence in Manitou since I’ve managed to blow the Swinger 6way on my Gemini as well, I felt it was time for a visit back to the good old big “M” that have served me so well in the past.

The 2006 Z.1 Freeride Sl is the top end “light” version of the infamous Z.1 range. Only one sits above this in the price range, and that is the Z.1 Light (coil sprung version). Unfortunately this only comes in a 150mm flavour, and I don’t think I’m good enough yet to be giving my fork written notice of an upcoming corner while trying to stay on the bike, so I opted for these as they have a 130mm option.

: Doppio Air, Rebound, Compression, Progressiveness, Travel
Preload : 2x Positive low pressure air chambers (one each side)

Travel Adjust : 130mm-150mm via different pressure in the negative chamber
Rebound : Indexed dial on top of fork
Compression : Lovely revolver style indexed dial at the bottom of the fork
PAR : Progressive Air Resistance for bottom of stroke ramp up adjustment

External Business :
32mm Alloy slick coated, tapered stanchions, Forged “FR” crown, Mg “Monolite”, 20mm lowers, all Alloy adjusters.

I’ve always felt that Marzocchi have been quite quiet on what their forks can actually do, but when you look into them, they’ve been doing travel adjusters, and many other useful features long before other manufacturers. Things like ETA and the new TST, all designed to be easy and require the least amount of faffing about twiddling dials possible, and this is a philosophy carried through all of the Marzocchi forks. No winding of Uturns, or any other such business, just flip on and off. Sadly, this fork doesn’t have these, but it’s a small price to pay.

The fork is quite light for the fact that it is a 150mm travel fork, especially for a Marzocchi. I weighed mine in at 4.6lbs before I cut the steerer down.

It certainly looks the part, with big black 32mm tapered stanchions, burly crown, and beefy lowers attached to 20mm dedicated dropouts.

Preload and travel are set by air pressure. Since the fork uses the “DOPPIO” system, the pressures for preload have always been quite low. An adapter to use with all of the marzocchi valves is provided, but no pump. Which is a shame, because you really need 2 pumps to set these forks up; the travel adjuster uses high pressures, and trying to set the preload with a high pressure is an exercise in futility. About 2psi can make a big difference, and trying to add just 2psi with a high-pressure pump, is er, interesting!

Setting the travel is also difficult to get used to, basically there is a negative chamber that the more air you put in, the more it pulls the forks down. Pumping them up can be confusing at first, but if you put a couple of strokes in, then compress the fork, you can see what travel you’ve got.

Rebound and compression adjustments work really well, with a noticable difference between each click on the adjuster. Watch out for the bolt on the compression adjuster though, mine fell off; it seems Marz don’t do them up very tight when they leave the factory. I’ve since nipped it up and it’s stayed on through a muddy, bumpy ride at Cannock, so it seems to be ok now. Something I will be checking every now and then.

So, how does these badboys perform? Amazing. They’ve done it again, put DH suspension technology into a tough little nut of a fork. What I mean by this is: with a lot of XC forks, you will find they are plenty happy rebounding fast over little quick bumps, but rebound as fast as a fast thing off a jump, or drop. This can obviously be an issue if the landing is sketchy! The last thing you want is to be wrestling a fork that has just sprung back at you at MACH3. Top end DH forks strive to get a balance of both: supple and fast at the start of the stroke to take out the roots and braking bumps, and then choke it when you go off a big jump/drop. These badboys manage this, I’ve found a rebound setting that makes supple as a soft nipple over small, stuttery bumps, but I didn’t have to change it when I went for a jump/DH session, handled flowing doubles, bombholes and rooty corners with ease. The black coating is one of the smoothest I’ve felt ever too, which really goes along way to making these very smooth strokers indeed.

I’ve found the PAR very useful as well, and one of the reasons I bought them. You can set this at 0psi and have the fork completely linear, or pump as much air up to around 100psi to make the fork ramp up real nice. So basically, you’ve got a fork that: zips nicely over all the roots, doesn’t dive away from you suddenly when you hit something big, and doesn’t rebound like a pogo when you go of said big thing.

I just love this fork to bits! I was trying to stick into silly places on my ride at Cannock (March 9th), and it didn’t faulter once, and the incredible steerering offered by it’s burly crown and 20mm dropouts really allowed me to put the wheel exactly where I wanted it. Having tried just about every fork out there, and found it a compromise for about 60% of the stuff I do, this is finally the one I’ve been looking for, also works better than others I’ve tried too!

Bottom Line : Ok, you get to the bit you really want to read after all of that stuff up there!

I just love this fork to bits! I was trying to stick into silly places on my ride at Cannock (March 9th), and it didn’t faulter once, amd the incredible steerering offered by it’s burly crown and 20mm dropouts really allowed me to put the wheel exactly where I wanted it. Having tried just about every fork out there, and found it a compromise for about 60% of the stuff I do, this is finally the one I’ve been looking for, also works better than others I’ve tried too!

This fork is perfect if you want something that really can do it all, whilst not being a tank of a fork. It's a bit of a faff to set up, and a shock pump would be nice, especially for the price, but most of you probably have one already anyway. It's equally at home on a long travel full bounce, or a mid travel hardcore hardtail, Marzocchi have come up trumps, again. The only thing I wouldn’t mind having on this fork is a lockout or lock down feature, as it can get a little bouncy when the compression adjuster is wound full off. I’ve found a couple of turns of this sorts it out though.

Go on! Be a DH’er today!!!!!!

Cannock (Again) 9th March

It must we wonderful to live close to an area so rich in trails as Cannock. I have been visiting fairly regularly for a few years now, but can still easily get lost. Last year Dangerous Dave and myself joined a ride led by locals which took in some of the extreme stuff in the area South of Milford, but they were so fast it was impossible to ever get your bearings while trying to keep up and GPS was not even a distant possibility in my mind.

When What MTB mag published a route covering most of the area I thought I must do it, but talking to locals suggested the one in the magazine might be 'sanitised' and perhaps not so accurate. I have done a bit of exploring in the past as has Dave, but it is a slow process. Recent acquisiton of a GPS unit opened up new possibilities and I asked St fom Chasetrails if he had a Tracklog route and he kindly obliged. So I loaded up the route and printed out some maps and off we went yesterday to explore new parts.

Must admit the torrential rain over the previous few days had made me wonder whether to abort, but Dave still seemed keen and the skies were looking a bit brighter.

Start point was from Birches Valley Car park and takes in 'Follow the Dog' - very soggy in parts, like riding through a river in others. Bad news was that my gears started playing up immediately. After the boarded section we left this route and headed off towards the south west in the direction we normally take for the downhill course. This area is, like most here, riddled with Trails that only years of riding or a local guide will help you find. It has steep climbs, reminds me a little of Wales. Despite the GPS we got a little lost and by chance found some nice singletrack up and over a hill that got us back on the fireroad grind. We realised later that we skirted one of the highest points which appears to have a downhill course previously unknown to us. The GPS route promised us a "Roller Coaster" and "Sandstone chute" and thats what we got - great fun and we did not fall off, just had to walk when we did not get the right gear for the 'ups'. From here we crossed a road into yet another area different in character again and straight onto a very muddy bridleway. Again there were plenty of signs of trails going off the 'legal' route, but we stuck to the route which at one point became a swamp, so we just gave up and walked this bit. I got off route again on the return leg where there is a crossover and realised we were running parallel to 'proper' course, but as this would have involved another climb, we carried on, (it had started raining at this point).

All this had taken much longer than it should in good weather and it was getting well past 'nosebag' time - a steep climb after the road and rail crossing called 'Kitbag Hill' seemed easy now and we rejoined FTD including the new section to get us to the Marquis Drive Café which has never looked so good and they served up hot food, home made cake and coffee almost instantaneously which is just what we needed. We finished off FTD, (my favourite bits!), most was much wetter than I have known it before, and decided to call it a day. I will be back to explore the rest, but in better weather.

The GPS? Still getting used to it, but I found it invaluable. Next time I go i will put it on record, mark some points and edit when I get home so it will be easier to find for others. The route I had loaded had been done some time ago and in places it just did not add up, though mostly it was spot on. Would not have found our way so easily without it.

Gears?? Dave reckons the crankset is worn out, so urgent rebuilding before Wales, I think.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Cannock 5th March

On Sunday, the Brumster decided it was time to give his new steed a good spankin around Cannock Chase and I tag'd along to checkout his new toy and ensure he didn't damage himself after 6 months out of the saddle. On the journey up the sun was shinning and although it was cool it looked like a fabulous day to be outside. But as we unloaded the gear the heavens opened and gave us a short dusting of snow, with a few more light flurry's during the ride.

The trails were wet but not excessively so, although a few sections of the damper sections were roped off. We got a taste of a fab new twisty bit that replaces the notorious bridleway of slime. The raised board walk section was new to us and great fun, although we'll leave the skinnies until next time ;-)

Brumster got on well with his new ride and it certainly filled him with confidence as the miles increased. He was like a kid in a candy shop during the first section and I simply couldn't catch him. But he paid for his over enthusiasm a few sections later when his lungs cut into him. However, does this look like a nervous MTBer who's unhappy with his new ride...

We both had a thoroughly good ride and somehow managed to time our return with the gals who were walking the pooch, gorgeous Gracey. A good day all round.

You find more pics over at the Cannock Chase gallery.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

It's March

It's March already and I've not ridden my MTB nearly enough yet this year - which doesn't appear to be an uncommon theme within the posse at the moment. I have however been keeping my ear the MTB mill and found a couple of stunning pic's for the month, one which will make a fab calendar wallpaper. You've simply gotta checkout the Hottie pic, the Inspiration is just scary and don't forget the Archive.

March'06 Ride

Latest...we've now settled on Coed-y-Brenin (Forest of Kings) as a venue, the weekend of March 17/18/19th, and Cadair View Lodge for accommodation.

Posse, after 2005's most excellent visit to Afan we've had a couple of requests for a return trip over the Welsh border to explore some of the other FC riding venues. Somewhere central this time, perhaps closer to the former Welsh capital at Machynlleth ? Don't fret too much about the weather as I'm assured that the FC commission trails are rideable all year...but can the posse stand the possibility of a wet and frosty wkend ?

Footnote; Braydrude & I hit Nant yr Arian & Mach in Oct'04 and I'd categorise both these venues as mostly open moorland riding with relatively little man made madness. Another consideration (if partners / kiddies are in tow) is the lack of novice trails to entertain the entourage. I've ridden a little further north at Coed y Brenin many times and still haven't covered all the trails in the area. There are new facilities being built that should come close to those available down at Afan and there are a wide choice of a novice tracks thru to expert available. We normally stay just up the road at the novel, bike friendly b&b - Old Mill Farmhouse. In the far north we have Betws y Coed and the most excellent Gwydyr trail which was so taxing that an earlier posse visit in '04 didn't manage to complete it. Two hardcore cycle couriers and a few stragglers tried but eventually ran out of time. No gentle trails off up here folks.