Wednesday, 30 November 2016

please brake carefully

the Follow the Dog and Monkey trails at Cannock chase are some of the best way marked trails close to where i live. They are also very close to the massive conurbation that is Birmingham and the Black country which means they are very accessible by lots of people. this is great and it's brilliant to see so many people out riding their bikes on a well designed trail.
However, this close proximity and the fairly easy technicality of the routes together with the local strata the actual ground is made of does have it's drawbacks. it's been well documented that Cannock suffers from braking bumps. Braking bumps are holes in the trail where someone has panic braked, locked the back wheel and dragged it locked up into and around the corner. This action digs into the trail and hollows it out. everytime this happens the hole gets bigger, riders chose another line to avoid the hole, lock the brake and make another depression, eventually they join up and the whole entrance tot he corner or berm is wrecked. as i mentioned the relatively soft, sandy and stoney ground (think river bed) has a large part to play in this too but i think it has a lot to do with poor technique. i say this because it's not the big tight bermed corners that are affected it's also the easy slow open corners too which would suggest either inexperience of rider or poor skills. the area of cannock chase is a vast open playgound and away from the marked trails there are a lot of "off piste" trails that are used by riders who've got some experience and even though those routes are much more challenging technique wise they rarely if at all suffer from the braking bump curse and these trails surfaces are made up similar natural materials as the way marked stuff.you also don't see this at other trails such as those in scotland or the forest of dean.
this all sounds a bit moany and superior as if i'm an expert rider, I'm not. but also i'm not a beginner and i know that proper cornering technique is to brake before the corner then off the brakes to carry your speed out of the exit. obviously this is best case scenario and we all get it wrong sometimes and we were all beginners at some point.
what i dislike though is that riding fast into these deep holes at speed does my back no good at all. i'm used to riding a rigid forked bike on bumpy terrain, i pretty much do it all year round so i have good technique to absorb the impacts through my arms, shoulders and to some extent legs but Cannock goes beyond this unless i slow right down and frankly, where is the fun in that?
so as i writet this nursing at least one pulled muscle between my shoulder blades can i request cannock riders please brake carefully, I'll thank you and i'm sure the trail maintenance guys who have to repair these holes will thank you too.
ride 112
10 miles
total 2393

Friday, 25 November 2016

the 2 cakes and a lot of wind ride

no, not wind of indigestion but from the cold, strong gale blowing continually in my face. i needed that mince pie and lemon and raspberry swirl just to replace the calories i'd burnt working hard into the breeze. the sausage roll though was an indulgence
ride 111
22 miles
total 2383

one fail and one win


i suggested we meet late today (1400) to avoid the rain and allow for a beer stop as a treat for those hardy enough to venture out in the less than ideal conditions. it was flipping cold but thankfully the sky wasn't battering us with what had seemed like the contents of most of the nearby rivers and streams.
the sensible people had stayed indoors so we mostly had the trails to ourselves, only Russ attracting the attention of some dogs, they ignored the fat bikes and went for him on his skinny wheeled bike.
we did our first run down "bus stop" of the autumn. Out of bounds during the summer because of the vicious plantlife which has now died back a little allowing access, it's still too grippy under tyre to be fun though. bring on the slime!
after a bitter trudge up the canal we arrived at was supposed to be the jewel in the crown, the pinnacle of the ride, our goal. the real ale shop...which closed 15 minutes before we got there...ARSE!!
so plan be was put into action and we went to the pub instead, not ideal but with outside heaters and decent beer it was tolerable. those best laid plans eh
ride 110
22 miles
total 2361

Thursday, 17 November 2016

it's lonely at the top

with everyone either busy, ill or "can't be arsed" it was up to me to go out and ride my bicycle to represent the NWAlps this Sunday. i took the opportunity of the otheres laxness to have a leisurely start and not leave until 10am! this has the benefit of the temperature being a bit warmer, the sun a bit higher in the sky but the drawback of the woods being full of other people. not that there was any conflict, everyone was cheerful but obviously i had to rein in my speed on a few occasions to give way to walkers and horses. conditions could be dascribed as warm and wet, the roots still slick but out of the wind in the woods i was quite comfortable wearing just a jersey on top.
I didn't linger in the woods but took a big loop around the area, popping into the park for coffee and cake before climbing the canl toards home. finding a friendly guitatr shop and real ale bar was the bonus maybe i shouldn't tell the others about that last one and keep it secret for the select band who were out today.i.e. me!
ride 109
22 miles
total 2339

Friday, 11 November 2016

all change!

a few days rain, a few ground frosts and it's all change in the woods, the leaves are still beautiful colours but the crunch is gone, now the leaves are wet and slimey and the roots that were grippy last ride are now wet, slick bars of doom! the front and back tyres lost traction all over the place and i had to lower prssures just to stay upright. time to re-learn the winter riding technique
ride 108
20 miles
total 2317

all quiet in the woods

quiet on the mountain biker front at least, after a whopping 7 on the night ride only 2 of us took part in todays ride. to be honest i think the others might have had the right idea as it was flipping freezing with a bone chilling wind immediately blowing away any heat generated on a climb and making us not want to stop for long. i think it was the fastest visit to Lizzie's cafe ever. even she thought we were mad to sit outside, but if we'd sat in the warm eating area she'd have had trouble getting us back out the door and into the cold again.
i popped into watch the local CX racing on my way home but even i gave up when the heavy rain started!
ride 107
14 miles
total 2297

Friday, 4 November 2016

ride it all before the gloop comes back

the weather forecast is wet, damp, more wet and showers from Friday onwards. I usually have Friday off but this week i've stuck two fingers up to the weather as i have a Thursday off and i made the most of it.
the local riding is extraordinarily dry, drier now than it was in the summer, the leaves are down but they've fallen on hard baked, even dusty in places ground. they give a satisfying crunch as the fat tyres roll over them. so as there was this one last chance to ride in these conditions until probably spring next year i tried to do all the fun bits now. here's what i rode
from the door
rooty challenge
the long short cut
the big drop to the stream
double drop
the kids trail
Bono
the tankslapper
Waseley's moist backside
the short cut to Waseley (backwards)
the esses off the ridge (i think i got whiplash from the final drop)
the bog climb
the wooden beast (and a new trail i found to link back to from the door)
certain death
cofton church land bridleway
over the shortwood tunnel (the best way)
and quite a few as yet unnamed bits
it was a little chilly and a warm cheese and ham croissant was just the job but it was great fun and as an added bonus my newly tubelessed wheels seem to have sealed ok.
now to find the waterproof socks, shorts and jacket out
ride 106
24 miles
total 2283

a night out with the boys

this is the Urban dictionary meaning of "a night out with the boys"
 "boys night out also can mean a bunch of boys going out having a night on the town. Sometimes boys night out is a bunch of drunk guys with no girlfriend/Wife present. Then for the older men is just a game of poker or whatever they do!"
and probably this is along the lines of what most people thought when any of the 7 of us out tonight spoke to our non cycling friends or colleagues and where asked "what did you get up to last night?" when you reply, "night out with the boys" they think, well, doing that on a week night and he looks quite fresh too, respect!....although he is walking a bit funny.
yes, it happens and the walking funny part is from all that pedalling or in the case of Howard, riding into trees. see, our idea of a good night out is riding bikes in the woods, in the dark, in near freezing temperatures with only the sound of owls, mystery beasts in the undergrowth and the rasp of laboured breathing as we get to the summit of the latest climb.
trails seem so much faster and more technical at night in the dark, there seems less margin for error and the chance of injury greater, if you are going to go big take a friend, gnarly solo night riding is a risk. so it was good to see so many people out and going for it.
inevitably we did return to the stereotype at the end as the ride did involve a pub stop but it definitely didn't involve poker
ride 105
12 miles
total 2259

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

and just like that it was Autumn

it seems like only yesterday the sun was shining, the flowers were in bloom and the trees where sheltering us from the UV rays with their thick canopies of leaves. now all those leaves and on the ground and the reds and browns of Autumn are now all around. maybe it's because it's been so mild, 15 degrees in November?? the cold air will come as more of a shock i think. the clocks have gone back and I'm leaving work in the dark, Halloween has come and gone, with Bonfire night soon upon us. still, it'll soon be the shortest day, Christmas and then spring, time to plan some witner rides and keep the fitness topped up for all the plans i have for next year.
ride104
12 miles
total 2247

GET LOST!


No, not a confrontation between trail users but a way of riding. We can all follow the usual path, the routes that are well trodden and loved. loved for a reason of course because they give the best bang for your buck if your time is limited, it's why trail centres are so popular. you can disengage your brain and concentrate on going as fast as possible without fear of getting to somewhere miles away from your start point with no hope of finding your way back before the emergency services are called by a concerned loved one.
But, where's the fun in that?, where is the risk? us big rufty tufty mountainbikers are self sufficient, able to pinpoint the exact spot we are standing on at all times by using our inate sense of direction.....ok then a map!....hmm maybe not,well by looking at the Garmin screen and knowing you are within 30 metres of the flashing blue icon then.
so with this in mind Dan and i took the less well travelled path at the Wyre forest, riding up interesting routes to see where they started and how near trails we already knew they were so we could link them up. yes there was a lot of climbing trails that would have been far more fun to ride down but as they saying goes, no pain no gain. and it paid off, clocked at almost 2 miles we found a sinuewy undulating singletrack ride that had us grinning and pinning with a stereotypical high five at the finish. one of the best in the forest, quite off camber in places but very flowing.
an early tea stop followed while we planned our return to the car route and keeping to the spirit of the ride so far we planned to have no plan and follow our front wheel going in the opposite direction to the norm. yes, we did pass the same tree a few times in an everlasting circle of deja-vu but its quite hard to get lost in a forest that sits as an island in a sea of pasture land and urbanity and we eventually got back on track.
following well loved trails is easy but that popularity has it's negative side and as the picture shows sometimes leads to conflict. i'm unsure if there was an accident on this particular trail, it does after all end in a big drop, i hope that's not the case and also that someone dropping in from it didn't hit another forest user. over use of trails is never good and people used to flying round trail centres thinking that a public area used by walkers and horses is exactly the same and not being respectful to other people in the forest is a recipe for disaster and limited access for all users in the future.
as it turned out, we saw maybe 3 other mtbers and met very friendly walkers and horse riders and we gave way at the appropriate times and we given right of way by others too, just as it should be.
so the lesson is, get lost, smile and be respectful.
ride103
16 miles
total 2235