A selection of the riding we do...
The Seven Stanes
Our second trip to the Scottish trails, and some would say the best trails in the UK, and not as far as you would think at seven hours in the car from the South East. With An accommodation upgrade this time to a B&B right in the center of Dumfries, and what was looking like good weather, it looked like we were in for a good four days.
So here's what we came for, the trails, 1st up, Dalbeattie, and after so long in the van, it took a wee while for us to get the muscles and confidence up to what we are used to, plus dealing with rocks, boulders, skinnies and the likes is not what we have round our stomping ground so it was a re-wire of the brain to get used to it, but after a couple of miles we were well into it, not that we had a choice as some of the terrain was there in front of you before you know about it. Dalbeattie is famous for the granite, and there was plenty of this in the form of the Slab with The Qualifier and The Terrible Twins amongst others, all which were attacked with a mixed response.
We decided (some were forced), to crack on with the next trail - Mabie as it was on the way back to Dumfries, we seemed to enjoy this so much more than last time, especially as they had improved some of the berms, and the descents were now being handled with full confidence and
ferocity, another great trail, all be it with a couple of mechanicals. And followed by a great curry and a few beers in Dumfries finished the day in perfect style.
A reasonably early start, but along with a fantastic full English (or Scottish) breakfast and good weather again we head for Glentress, it's nearly a 2 hour drive, so we de-buss and crack on with the Red trail, it's another great one, highlighted by Spooky Wood and what is a really fast excellent final descent, as good as the black run we did last time? Not sure to be honest.
A good lunch in the visitor center, a bit different from the Hub Cafe that was previously there, but that's supposedly progress for you, and it's on to Innerliethen. Up, Up and Up is the sting in the tail with this trail, but once you get to the top of the climb, you know that it's virtually all of it, and then it's one cracking downhill, literally all the way to the car park, and this downhill is a cracker, really fast to begin with, lots of drops and little obstacles, plenty to try and catch you out, then you've got the three drops at Caddon Bank, "mandatory air", is on the warning post as you start this section, and that's exactly what you get when you hit the 4 foot drop of the last one, that's not the end though and it's big whoops all the way to the car park, a definite favourite of ours in this part of the UK.
Heading back to Dumfries, we make an effort and hit the nightlife, but find it very strange that although there are a few decent pubs in the Town, it's almost completely deserted, and we certainly aren't going back to the World's End as, although it might have been recommended by some cute girl, we didn't quite fancy trying out a Glasgow Kiss that night. There was a bit of entertainment in the form of a couple of girls limbo dancing along the bar, so with that being as good as it got, we headed back to the B&B (best not mention the pavement pizza).
Day three, Full English, back in the van, Kirroughtree it is, and the weather just get's better, sun and blue skies, even better that we know it's raining at home. This black trail is one of, if not the best in the UK, it's a bit of a hidden Gem as it's a bit out of the way so a lot of people miss out on it, but it's definitely worth the extra mile, this trail has it all, sweet singletrack, techie rock drops, fast and furious all the way, and not forgetting the infamous McMoab, a scary, technical solid granite thing to try and complete without dabbing, then it's the 60 degree drop called the chute which spits you out in a good way, or in a seriously bad way if you get it wrong! After a bit of lunch, It's a quick race round the red (for one of us), and then back to Dumfries. Can't be bothered with the nightlife so we head to the cinema to see Prometheus, don't know which was more disappointing, the nightlife or the film!
Last morning before we head home and it's Ae, still dry but a bit cloudy and breezy, I don't think we were overly impressed with this one, thought it would be better for some reason. The final decent is however a corker which makes up for what seemed a bit of a drag round the rest (apart from the new bermy bit).
All in all a fantastic trip, our confidence and abilities seem to have hit a high, having done it twice though, we'll probably leave it for something that we haven't done next time.
The Peak District
Day 1 - 13 miles, 879 metres climb
Day 2 - 38 miles, 1509 meters climb
Day 3 - 9 miles, 334 meters climb
Well the time was upon us and the annual non Wales weekend was here. This year we'd chosen the Peak District and a campsite in Edale. Dave, Graeme, Paul G and Mike set off on the journey. Those of you around the M25 may have just caught Graemes toys when he threw them out of the pram in the car when Dave decided to go the 'wrong' way round the M25 but needless to say the choice was a 'good'n' and we made the rendevous with Paul L and McIain in good time at the motorway services for the traditional extortionately priced full English breakfast.
The rest of the journey passed without incident and by 1 o'clock the two tents and gazebo were set up. The rather cheery campsite manager took delight in rushing us 100 notes and telling us had he have known how big our tents were he wouldn't have let us on the site. To be fair we had created a hotel but we were on holiday!
Ok, now the bit you've been waiting for, the riding and to be honest I don't have a clue! What I do know was that within the first 30 minutes Dave had discovered a new chain at the start of an epic weekend was a bad idea and that Mike must remember to put the pins back in his brakes after replacing the pads coz they work better that way and we don't have to walk up a hill looking for the bits! Needless to say the first day involved a lot of going up hill, with quite a lot of walking, but some absolutely awesome descents not least Jacobs ladder.
Day one and we're already 1,883 calories light, so what better post ride recovery drink is there than a can of Stella or two (five if you're Paul G) before which we blew 60p each for our showers and headed to the Naggs Head pub. Several beers and a burger later and Matt and Ricky (without Bianca) joined us.
That night the nice campsite manager not so politely told us to turn our lights out. It's a shame he still let people onto the site to set up complete with dogs running into the stream at 2am in the morning!
The next morning and it's epic day. Graeme made us all a quite excellent breakfast of scrambled egg and bacon butties and at 10 o'clock we're joined by Matt from Oxford and we headed... you guessed it... up hill and out of Edale. The great thing about an uphill is there's sure to be a down hill after it and we weren't let down. There were some awesome downhills not least the ride down to Ladybower reservoir where we broke for a little lunch of bagels and nuts. Northern Matt and a still Biancaless Ricky had some fun jumping off a little drop off before we headed back onto the ride. There was however just time for McIain to mutter a classic Greerism with the statement that we should shut the gate to keep the ducks in, moments later they flew over it!
At the start fo the classic Cut Gate route we came across a young man with a broken collar bone, Ricky administered first aid and mountain rescue were already on their way but Graeme had some wise words for us 'let that be a lesson to you' he preached, 'don't go mountain biking in lycra'. Don't think we could actually believe not only how good this trail was but how dry it had become over the last few weeks of dry weather, simply superb.
At the half way stage we stopped for coffee and cake and it was at this point Paul G found his rear brake had ceased to function, not ideal but he did a splendid job on the way back as the rest of us did in losing McIain and Mike. Amazingly though an hour later we met up with them for what was pretty much the final hurrah of the day the descent down into Edale.
Day 3 and it was more brilliant trails around laybower and Whinstone Lee Tor in Bright blue skies and a brilliant sun, all in all a fantastic weekend of fun with some riding thrown in!
Muc-off 8 Enduro
It’s been a long time coming, but this Sunday saw the Muc Off, 8 hour enduro finally arrive, excited, apprehensive, Sh*tting ourselves.. this was our first event of this type and realistically we just didn’t know what to expect. A few of us turned up for a practise lap on Saturday and quickly realised that it wasn’t going to be a super smooth dry lap, probably at least a third of the singletrack was either wet or boggy, in some places impossible to ride, and some of it was like riding through a river of chocolate, there was however a couple of downhill sections, one of which you could release the brakes and blast all out all the way down, but needless to say a practice lap was definitely worth it as it let us know where any sneaky little obstacles were. We met a nice guy as well riding around in wellington boots and jeans!
So, we meet briefly in a car park just before Pippingford to make sure we could park together at the event, we’ve all met before apart from Dudley who to be honest, I’ve no idea where he came from, but what a surprise to realise that he was only the guy who rode with us yesterday, Wellies and all.. anyway, we get up to Pippingford, park up, and get the bikes off ready to go.
Le Mans Style start, ready for about a 300 metre run to the bikes.. bang, release of smoke, we’re off, trying to keep a good pace, get past the slow “jogger style” starters, all while trying not to tire out too much before getting on the bike, it was a bit hard, and after picking up my bike I was a bit out of breath, still, so was everyone else so it was saddle up and start pedalling. Once we hit the single track, because of the mud, everyone was trying to take the same line so it was at places, hard to overtake, there’s always the fit guys who are good at running, road cycling, or light XC mountain biking but tend to lose it when it gets a bit technical, these were the guys who I found I was overtaking at this point.
The course where it was dry, was very good, and you could get some good speed up, but the sticky/wet stuff was energy sapping, or especially where the ground was soft but not wet, it was like pedalling over sand, there was some good overtaking opportunities where people were getting stuck in the mud. The first downhill section was very good with berms, jumps and steep descents, unfortunately some of it was a complete mud fest so beating Steve Peat’s time was never going to be an option. Up the long farm track until you hit the second downhill, which was just the highlight of the course, dry, fast, a few drop-off’s, taking some air on the bump, then a ditch at the end to catch out the unwary, it was worth racing on full suspension bikes just for that bit alone, some more single track, both dry and wet, saw us at the bottom of a road with about a 600 metre slog uphill back to the start, this part I thought was not in the spirit of an off road mountain bike race, you would pass people on the technical stuff, only for them to catch you up on the final road section, if I wanted to be a roadie, I’d get a road bike!! Anyway, first lap over, the lap timer passed over to the next team member and it’s back to the car to fuel up ready for the next lap.
I thought the day went really quickly, and before I knew it I was on my last lap, Super Noodles is definitely the way for quick and efficient re-fuelling, and passing the timer over for the last time was definitely a relief, but with a good sense of achievement, we’d all felt challenged which is what, at the end of the day it was all about.
Race Positions (287 teams entered)
Bikegoo Tyre Shredders:
Graeme and Paul: Position: 51, Number of laps - 8, Fastest lap - 56:02
Bikegoo Pedal Punishers:
Paul L, Guy, Dudley and Paul B Position: 69, Number of laps - 8, Fastest lap – 104:27
Bikegoo Chain Gang:
Dave and bro’ MikeC Position:87, Number of laps - 7, Fastest lap – 107:21
Bikegoo Pedal Punishers: Position: 40. Time of 2:43:8
Bikegoo Tyre Shredders: Position: 81. Time of 2:58:0
Bikegoo Chain Gang: Position:186. Time of 3:32:4
Afan Forest/Glyncorrwg trails
Riders: Ian, Dave, Iain, Mike, MattD, Matt, Jaimie, Will, Graeme, Dan, Tim and Martin
After our last trip to Wales in June, which was disappointingly wet, we decided that another run was in order to ride dry trails. And what a change it made, although the weather was overcast, the trails were perfect, and now the group is more experienced, we seemed to hit the trails a lot harder and faster.
Friday saw us conquering the Wall followed by the Penhyyd trail, both trails were fast, and doing the Wall first was a good choice as we were perfectly warmed up both physically and mentally to crack the flowing technical trails of the Penhyyd.
This time round we stayed in a B&B a couple of miles outside of Neath called The Green Lantern, and pretty much perfect it was, clean comfortable rooms with all the home comforts, and because it was in the middle of nowhere, it was perfectly quiet (apart from Iain's snoring that was!).
So day two, and we thought we would crack White's level first, get it out of the way and then we would roughly know how much time we had to crack some of the Skyline. So, White's Level has always been a fantastic trail, the black run making sure everyone was pushed to the limit, however, they've opened up the Energy Trail, it now means you miss out that first part from the top of the climb, but believe me, it's worth it, the new addition is fast, swoopy, with berms, a bit of boardwalk and a twisty section through a dark forested track, it's well built, and takes a bit of guts to push it hard through the rocky slate section. The next section is track/boardwalk combination and is a blast, but once you cross the fire road and hoof it down the final decent, this is where the speed and skill really kicks in, a fast swoopy section you can power through and rock steps you can bounce over or down, reaching the bottom in one piece, clearing it you just feel like you could do it all over again......
So that's what we did, we knew it was a punishing climb (from bottom to top in 50 minutes), and we could have cracked round some of the Skyline trail, but well that just seemed boring, so White's level we did, and second time around was even better now we knew the trail a bit better.. everyone, no matter what level of skill level they were at, hammered it down with that massive grin we all know and love.
So after a good day's riding, some fine tucker from the restaurant at the B&B, what better than an early night... nah, bugger that, let's hit Swansea, WOW, fantastic, a whole street of bars, pubs and clubs, about 2 degrees and pissing it down, but that doesn't stop the girls wearing, well nothing really, Will looked like a bunny rabbit hit with headlights, and boy, was there some nice headlights out!
Up next morning, ready to crack on, breakfast done, packed, Cym Carn today.. well, we were hoping, but to be honest, the weather was fowl, a light rain would be fine! But near on freezing, with heavy sleety rain lashing down, the majority thought that two great day's riding was best not spoilt by riding round in the pissing wet, endangering life and bike for an hour and a half's ride.
So, a fantastic weekend had by all, thanks to all that could make it, and a real MTB camararderie spirit was felt. Also thanks to our sponsors (you know who you are), for making sure the weekend went even better.
Riders: Mark, Paul B, Paul G and Graeme
Half six on a Sunday, groggy from a bottle of wine and looking out of the window it was grey and miserable. That's the best thing about organising a ride with others, it forces you out when you might just have stayed in bed. So, after an early morning bail out from Guy, Paul G, Graeme, Mark and Paul B parked up at the Lookout in Swinley Forest just after half eight, the sun had decided to come out as well.
We saddled up and set off, however, we didn't have a clue to where to start.
At first it was a bit of a stab in the dark, finding a few trails here and there, but really nothing to have made the journey worth it, then, we see a couple of MTBers in the distance and decide to seek a bit of local information, we took their advice and this is where it started to change and we could see the potential of this forest.
The trails were starting to get pretty good, although in some places it was a bit mushy from all the recent rain, it was surprising how much was actually dry. The terrain was undulating, no major climbs, just short sharp climbs and then back down the other side, a blend of natural trails with the odd berm built up here and there. It seemed a lot of emphasis had been placed on keeping the trails as flowing as possible and they certainly kept us fully entertained.
The trail seemed to just keep going. You probably have to be relatively fit as there can be a bit of frantic pedalling at times then release the brakes for the downhill sections.
After a while we bump into Ryan, a guy who we'd organised from a forum to meet.. The hunt for the elusive labyrinth trail was now on in ernest. Apparently this is one of the best trails in the area (not to say that we weren't already impressed with the trails we'd been on).
A few more trails, directions and a bit of steep fire-road and we finally find the start of the Labyrinth.
We set off, and instantly hit a trail that is blowing us away, steep downhill rutted and rooty sections followed by berms that flow into each other and throw you out into the next one, freakily fast even in the damp conditions. There's a few table tops before you get to the bottom of the steep section and head into the close wooded single track section, still good, but more XC style. A little bit ofup, then blast down it again, a really well built trail and definitely the highlight of the day. So good in fact that we did it three times before finding our way back to the car park via some more great single track and downhill action.
Overall we were really impressed with Swinley, and genuinely say that it is the best riding in the South East, a mix between the Surrey Hills and Bedgbury. We can't wait for the summer to take the rest of the guys, because when these trails dry out, they are going to be immense.
As an afterthought, just make sure you are not in the same car park as Paul Blackstone when he comes back from a ride, your kids might get a sight of something that will damage them for a few years...
The Lakes and Peak district
Riders: Dave, Mike, Iain, Mark and Graeme Friday: Plus Matt and Alex.
Half past four we find ourselves outside of Dave's house putting the bikes on the back of his car, surely we must be mad, but at least it's not raining! We're in good spirits, the journey was good, and even the extortionate breakfast in the motorway services didn't dampen our excitement as we drew into the car park at Grisedale forest visitor centre.
After a walk up to the visitor Centre, a cup of tea and a look in the bike shop, we set off on the North Face Trail. We've heard mixed reports of this trail so it's good to find out for ourselves what it's like. It's a bit surprising that the actual initial climb is nothing like what we thought it would be like, and is quite a nice steady climb on single track to get your legs and mind working to what could be ahead. Once at the top, we take a diversion to extend the ride that takes you over towards Coniston water, not sure if this was a mistake as it was a bit boggy and wet feet were unavoidable, however, as the weather was good, the views and the run down back onto the way marked trail were pretty good it seemed worth it. After another short Firebreak ride we head off on another diversion, this time down through a very rutted root riddled bridleway, good stuff that keeps you on your toes, and then once out of the woods it's a fast track decent to the road, the payback however is a sharp climb back up to the trail which is a push/carry job.
Back onto the marked trail, most of which is kept at the same gradient so no climbs, it's not the most exciting and apart from the occasional boardwalk sections is a case of pedal as hard as you can to keep the momentum going. The final decent, which is not as long as some other trails we have been on is quick, and technical enough to keep most riders entertained, there are no nasty surprises and you can pedal pretty much as hard as you can without any issues. Overall, on a warm sunny day, it's a no hassle ride, and a good introduction to the Lake district, realistically you can't go wrong.
It's been noted that a Curry with copious amounts of Alcohol is not the best evening meal to consume before a MBR magazine killer loop! However, With a good night's rest, a perfect English breakfast (debatable killer loop food again), we were up for the challenge!
The High street is not where you'll find McDonalds, Woolworths or WHSmith, but an old Roman Road that runs down the North East side of the Lake District, and to get up there we had a climb of about 600 metres in a distance of two and a half kilometres, this was at the start of the ride so we didn't mind shoving our bikes over our shoulders and starting the long yomp up the Hill. Although there was a bit of mist and low cloud, by the time we reached the summit this was starting to dissipate so things were just getting better and better.
The portion of the High Street that we did is best described as rolling, it would be a steady climb up then a few hundred metres of downhill the other side, it had been dry so the ground was firm, there were some nice testing downhill's with ruts and drop-offs so it was exciting enough, but this was going to change after reaching Loadpot Hill, this was going to be the best descent of the day, about 3km of point and shoot downhill with little rutted sections and the odd little jump and drop off to raise the game, lots of smiles and a few shaking legs from the effort of having to stand and throw the bike around all the way down, great fun.
According to MBR the bridleway that winds its way down the side of Ullswater is one of the most technical in the UK, and it's reasonably long at what must be 5km, it's what I would call a Marmite trail, you're either going to love it or hate it! There is no real elevation gain or loss, but what you do get is rocks, lots of them, short steep rocky descents followed by very short technical climbs and rock beds to hammer over and around, this will test every bit of your skill, fitness and confidence, but at the end, if you've got it spot on, you're going to want to do it again.
Ambling down towards Patterdale and what seems to be the end of the ride, if you follow the actual route in MBR, you get to a point where you have to swing left through a gate. This is where you are faced with a decision, are you going to climb the formidable path that a goat would have trouble traversing, never mind men with mountain bikes on their backs, or take the road back to the car park.. 3 of us decided that up was the only way, and we have to admit that it's the most physically demanding part of the route. The payback is the steepest track back down we've ever ridden, but slopes out towards the end to give you a fast descent back to ground level.
The plan for Sunday was for another killer loop, the infamous Helvellyn. But after all the carrying and climbing we did the day before, we were offered an alternative to drive down to Macclesfield and Meet up with Matt, another MTB addict and crack a Macc forest/Peak District ride. Optimistically, this was the best choice, especially as the route was a known one so no map reading was necessary.
This was totally different riding to what we had experienced in the Lakes, and actually a lot scarier, most of the uphill sections were done on road, but there were four downhill's that definitely got the adrenaline flowing, two were of a loose rock formation, you had to make sure that your front wheel didn't drift out or you would be off. One was a full on blast down a grassy track that kept you on your toes and the other being a very technical descent down a steep ravine that tested your skill and nerve to the limit.
And what better way to finish the ride with a pub lunch in the sun and a proper pint on Bitter.
And yes, we will be going back!
Local Joint Ride with Brighton MTB
Riders: Dave, Mike, Grant and Will
So while the rest of them were galavanting in Swinley the rest of us stayed local to meet up with some new friends from Brighton. Those Brighton guys are fond of their beds so the locals did a quick Woodcutters loop first before meeting up with the Brighton guys at Waitrose.
There was a good turnout so it was lucky Mike was on hand to give them a guided tour of the local riding on offer in Hornshurst Wood. It seems that despite them living on the doorstep of the South Downs they're as envious of our riding as we are of theirs.
When you add it on to Graemes comments that Swinley is the best riding in the South East, I think what shines out here is two things: Familiarity breeds contempt, and one mans goose is another gander. In other words, the South East is littered with great, if not awesome, riding but it pays to spread the happiness and just get out and ride!
Riders: Graeme, Paul B, Paul G, Paul L, Martin, Mike P, Rob and Guy
It may be Mothering Sunday, but that sunshine just couldn’t stop eight of us turning up for a quick blast around our local haunts, three classic downhill runs also meant that we had to crack a fair bit of climbing, good training for the Muc-off 8 which is only just round the corner. Still a bit gloopy in places out there, but if this weather continues it’s not going to be long before the trails dry and we can be less mindful of the occasional deep puddle that caught a few of us out. A good 10 mile push for most of us, although of course there’s always one that wants to do more.. Paul!!
Riders: Paul G, Graeme, Mike P, Mike C, Mark, Dave
There are some days that are just made for mountain biking and this was one of them. We set off in beautiful sunshine on a cold crisp morning and that was the way it stayed.
Conditions were about as perfect as you can get in the middle of winter with the ground fairly firm under foot. Progress was a little slow as frequent stops were taken to chat and discuss the excellent weather. Mark had a puncture and took full advantage of Dave's CO2 cartridge with his new tube inflating in seconds, this really does seem to be the way forward as it saves so much time pumping up tyres.
A quick cup of coffee in the delightful Tesco and we headed back along the railway line and then the Mill Road for home.
Southern XC – Round 3 – Pippingford
An opportunity to ride on Ashdown forest, without being branded common criminals, that can’t be true, so when we saw that the Southern XC race series was doing exactly that, MikeP and Graeme jumped at the chance.
First of all we did a bit of training.. two rides should be enough, we are only doing the open category, nothing too serious for our first racing venture.. then we put our racing tyres on, the good weather lately had made the trails ultra dry and fast.. shall we do CamelBak or go with bottle and cage, choices, choices, one thing was sure, there was no blooming way I was getting into Lycra.
Sunday morning, 5.30am, absolutely torrential outside, bang goes those dry trails then, shall we just not bother, no, that’s out of the question, we’d agreed to do it (and we’d already paid the cash), at least it was a bit of a lay in from the usual early start, I thought about putting my knobbly trail tyres back on, but then Mike turned up so it was too late.
So, we arrive at the race location, the weather was actually starting to brighten up, no sign of rain so things were looking better. We were a bit wide eyed to the amount of carbon, Lycra clad men, and sh*t, had that bloke actually shaved his legs.. people were actually warming up on turbo trainers, we seemed to be in the minority here - baggy shorts and CamelBak’s are not the norm then?
You’re allowed to do a practice, or sighting lap before the event, so off we went, well, we tried our best anyway, in some places it was like ice, we were slipping and sliding all over the place, which was a shame, because the course looked like it would be fantastic in the dry with berms, jumps, and lovely tight twisty single track. I’m not saying we were knackered at the end (of the practice lap), but it was harder than we thought. Anyway, let’s get some air out of those tyres.
11.15 comes around and we gather behind the line, there’s 48 of us in all manner of shapes, sizes, bikes and kit.. the whistle blasts and we’re off.. and boy, did they go, I think I was getting cursed at as people had to dodge round me.. well I didn’t know it was a sprint start, did I! Mike was sensible and started from the back of the pack. Anyway, I realised that it’s harder to overtake than be overtaken so after a hundred metres or so I decide to get aggressive, getting past people with whatever line I could find, passing three people as they followed each other and got stuck in the mud, now knowing that my fitness wasn’t exactly up there, I knew that getting a head start on the downhill was what I needed.
Coming up to the line for the first lap I knew I’d pushed it hard but I’d also passed 10 – 15 people, If I could belt it down the first half of the course again that might give me a bit of time on the people behind me, I’d caught up with the guy who had parked next to us, I decided to keep at his pace as it seemed to suit me.
The third and final lap.. I was really starting to feel it, the downhill gave me a breather but not for long, I was getting passed now, but by people in the aforementioned lycra and Carbon setups in the other categories, at least the course had dried up (letting the air out of my tyres may not have been a good idea), Stuart who I was keeping pace with got cramp (tried not to feel to guilty as I gained a place), so I had to leave him, I kept looking behind me, I knew I’d slowed considerably.. I was expecting Mike to come into view at any second.
I’d like to say I pushed for the finish line, but I think rolling over at a gentle pace was as fast as it was going to get, I’d only just managed to get off the bike, walk (kind of) to the outside of the track before giving Mike an encouraging shout over the finish line, I’m sure had he also pushed it on the first lap, he would have beaten me!