Saturday, 18 October 2014

old school Sunday

Over the last few weeks we've been riding Nu school, all Free ride, trail centre, Enduro style, getting our Rampage and crankworx emulators on. Well, in our minds some of us have, mostly I've been envisioning it the night before, mentally getting huge air with countless style points* and always landing safely with seemingly no effort at all and mostly reality has been quite different. No air, little style and a audible "thank you" when, if the wheels do ever leave terra firma i land and stay upright.
 Today was old school, we just went for a ride up the woods, taking advantage of the still fairly dry and puddle free conditions before the autumn really kicks in and returns everything to it's base elements mixed with copious amounts of  water.
Today we pedalled, attempted to wheelie, mostly stayed upright, ate cake (or raw tea cakes) drank tea and struggled to keep up with Dan who "was having a good day", we thought he'd left the oven on and was rushing to get back. Great workout though and the perfect excuse to have a sleep on the sofa in the afternoon, which I'm sure all the Freeride/Enduro heroes also do.
*lets not mention those shorts Ant ;-)
Ride 147
26 miles
Total 2996
commute 794

Saturday, 11 October 2014

time to light up

First ride this season I've needed to take proper off road capable lights with me. It's now really Autumn as the leaves are now wet and turning a deep red, the dry crispy leaves are a distant memory, there's still a decent amount of grip but i can't see that lasting with more heavy rain forecast. Tonight in the woods the air was still and there was a distinct aroma of decay as all that orgamic matter begins to break down in the warm damp conditions. The creature really loving it tough are the midges, there were clouds and clouds of them, most of the ride all i could hear was their little bodies hitting my sunglasses and I was constantly brushing them off my chest and arms, I'm feeling itchy just typing this. amazingly though i got home bite free!
Ride 146
13 miles
Total 2970
commute 722

Open all hours? not at Lord Morton Tea Rooms Cutnall Green

a sunday free and a lone ride so i thought I'd do a bit of a tour and stop for lunch at the cafe in Cutnall Green, So a bit of road work with as much off road as i could fit in with the idea of getting to the cafe for lunch time, perfect. Or so you'd think.
The off road sections had deteriorated a little due to the wet weather but everything was passable, even the above trail that gets more than it's fair share of abuse by our hoofed friends. A challenging track at the best of times with it's hidden roots but now just about to succumb to the churned up nightmare of winter it was actually fun to pick lines around the trampled bits, the going as they say was good to soft.
So as usual when having fun, time passes quickly and i didn't get to the cafe until 12:30 but then what self respecting eating establishment would be shut at probably it's peak time when most peoples mind/stomach turns to food, well this one does. All in darkness and with the outside chairs stacked up it looked closed and very unwelcoming. i checked the internet to try and find details, maybe this was a one off, but no, they close every Sunday at 12 noon. they must be making a lot of money in the week to be able to ignore the potential takings from a Sunday lunch time.
So, disappointed and a little hungry I carried on, it probably did my waistline good and definitely benefited my wallet but I'll think twice before visiting that cafe again...it'd probably be closed anyway
Ride 145
26 miles
Total 2957
commute 722

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

when bad weather is good

sometimes, despite the damage and cost to property bad weather can be good. Take high winds for instance. it blows down trees, usually trees that have begun to deteriorate  and die and become vulnerable to gales. these trees sometime fall and block established trails but sometimes they create others, opening what were impassible routes that were blocked by foliage and branches. todays ride took me on one of these. I hadn't visited this trail for a while, ironically because of a large tree that blew down last year and made for an awkward exit. Now another has fallen but this time exposed a new trail close to a fence i didn't even know was there, it even comes with ancient graffiti that has been hidden away for years and makes the old trai' much more interesting and has added a new s bend section around the old tree that is slow and technical and keeps you on your toes. so for once the bad weather has had a silver lining
Ride 144
8 miles
Total 2931
commute 722

Cycling is not a crime

"cycling is not a crime" is a sticker that adorns the down tube of my bike and I agree whole heartedly but what is a crime for the off road cyclist is sanitisation of interesting trails. The bottom of the canal towpath near Hanbury has always been technical with roots, large holes, flooding, off camber slippery slopes interspersed with rocky sections. In the winter its usually flooded and careful line choice is needed to avoid hub deep incidents. In spring it's swan avoidance time as they usually build a nest slap bang in the middle of the right of way and defend it to the extreme. In summer it's a fast, dust laden challenge as the bike pings from root to rock and from drop to launch lip. Usually now in autumn it can be a mixed bag, right now it's still dusty, one day of heavy rain and the dust turns to thick black soup but this year non of the above will occur. The holes have been filled, the roots gravelled over, drainage has been built it so puddles are a thing of the past as the towpath has been repaired. I can see why, for walkers it was a definite hazard, for horses, the original users it would have been difficult and potentially dangerous if they had fallen, for us riders a great bit of trail has now become boring with no risk involved, A selfish view i know and hardly a crime, more of a misdemeanour
Ride 143
24 miles
Total 2923
commute 722

if ever there was a incentive not to use a route..

this sign appeared on the entrance to a footpath that branches off a bridlepath on my route through the woods tonight and it sparked quite a debate on a cycling forum over on singletrackworld I see it as "be aware" of the bull rather than "don't enter" but i agree the wording could have been better
Ride 142
16 miles
Total 2899
commute 722

why walking is wrong

The trails are stunningly dry and I took advantage of an early work finish to hit the trails. It almost seems like spring with the floor littered with leaves but instead of the damp slippery mulch you get usually at this time of year its the crispy crunch that  is heard underneath the tyres.
The steep chute I discovered last autumn was due a visit and despite some fallen trees it was still accessible. The exit though is very steep and I hopped off the bike to walk up the slope. Which is when my theory that walking is much more dangerous was proved as i stood on a hidden log, my foot slipped from under me and i felt a searing pain in my lower back, probably a pulled muscle. If it's been riding I'd have been fine. Humans eally aren't designed for walking ;-)
 Ride 141
16 miles
Total 2883
commute 722

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Ant's birthday ride

You are only 40 once and i guess a lot of blokes at that age feel a bit depressed about it, probably spending the occasion getting drunk,maudlin and reflective but Ant is a bit different to your average chap, you see he's a cyclist and we have a bit of a different outlook to non cyclists. ask a cyclist what he wants to do to commemorate a special event and 99 times out of 100 he or she will say "lets go for a ride!" (the other time they'll say "lets buy a new bike!") Guess what Ant decided he wanted to do?
We met on a saturday morning at Cannock chase, home of the Monkey and follow the dog trails. Now the big issue with Cannock is it's proximity to Birmingham and this means it gets very very busy and because of this it isn't my favourite place to ride at all. However Ant had enlisted the help of Nick who knows the area like the back of his hand and I knew we were in for a great route using hardly any of the way marked trails and lots of off piste singletrack.
And so it proved, with minimal fuss we we ready and after a very short section on the monkey trail which was already busy we turned onto natural trails and were on our own, this set the pattern for the day, super singletrack, technical and fast downhills, cannock's trademark narrowness and trees that seem to reach out and grab you and not another rider to be seen. It was a very chilled ride with no ego's, everyone just out for fun. The area has a huge amount of trails and we only scratched the surface of what's there.
Seemingly only just after we started (always the sign of a great ride) we were back to the final descent on the official trail and it was a shock to the system to see so many riders, even queues of them at one point!
We were spoilt by Nick's local knowledge and also by Ant and his O.H. who had prepared goody bags for everyone I'm sure there were a few jealous looks in the car park as we cracked open the beers (you can see the thirsty onlookers in the back round)
Happy birthday Ant, here's to many more birthdays and even more rides!
Ride 140
19 miles
Total 2867
commute 722

the fix ride

Commuting to work on Monday the annoying click that had plagued me for ages continued, I'd checked pedals, chain, chainrings, headset, stem, handlebars and bottom bracket and nothing seemed wrong or needed lubing adding to the frustration.
As i wheeled my bike into work i noticed the rear wheel had a pronounced wobble and on further inspection noticed on of the spokes had sheared off at the nipple. It had broken rather than becoming unscrewed so was unfixable without replacement, not something i could do at work. The only thing i could do was tape the spoke to another to stop it flapping around and at the end of the day ride very carefully home hoping the wobble didn't get worse, more to stop further damage than danger to myself as it was unlikely to collapse but could get increasingly harder to re-true back to shape .
when home I had to strip the cassette off, remove the old spoke, replace it with another and spend a good 30 minutes truing and tensioning the wheel back into shape. I then refitted the cassette and put the wheel back on the bike, only one thing to do now and thats to test it before relying on it to get me to work.
The repair was fine, now dramas, no pinging and no rear wheel steering  any more! i even did a bit of "gravel grinding" and came out unscathed
Ride 139
20 miles
Total 2848
commute 686

Avoiding Paula Radcliffe's gifts

Big Andy was competing in the Worcester Run/Bike/Run-10k/35k/2k so i intended to be at the transition to apply some light hearted heckling/support. However someone had decided to run the 10k over the pedestrian/cycle bridge over the river so I had to divert to the long route, which again was partly closed due to race and traffic diversions. By the time i got to the race course Andy was long gone and Paula Radcliffe was handing out prizes to those who had only managed the 10k. Ah well, I took the longer canal and sustrans route home. I was a bit disappointed that the one "interesting" section of towpath, the one with the deep holes, roots and off camber slopes had been repaired and is now a flat gravel yawn-fest. Fine for walkers i guess but a bit of a shame for those of us a bit more adventurous
Ride 138
25 miles
Total 2828
commute 686