April

(K)nee Problem Man

When I arrived at Asda’s car park at around 0820 there were cars, vans and one very curious vehicle scattered around our meeting point. The curious one is the new toy of Ian Mundy and he sure picked a good day to turn up with something bigger than his old Berlingo. After a bit of faffing we figured out who was taking who and in what, and loaded up accordingly. Leaving there around 0845 were Louis De Varnt in his car (alone), Ray Foster's van with himself and Colin Davison inside and a good collection of bags, Steve Bowden with a set of random passengers in his Evoque, Me in the coach with another set of bodies, wheels and bags and Ian in his Tonka Toy carrying loads of bikes and some wheels. (Ok, it’s a Nissan Aventura thingie).

Ian Browning was already on his way to Glentress after picking up a gaggle of Pauls and their bikes with the intention of us all meeting there, John Rivers also going direct with Chris Devenney and Tim Burdett his passengers (I think, or was Tim at Asda?).

Now we all know about “the best laid plans” going haywire and surely have all experienced it at some time. Today wasn’t a good day for transport problems to be an issue, however, and in the past we always travelled in full convoy to keep an eye on each other like I still believe we should. However this is the New Age and it seems like it’s every man for himself, so anything could happen, and did. Fortunately “New Age” would also include the now mandatory carriage of mobile phones and it was one of these most evil devices that raised the alarm around 0915 as we headed west.

The call came from the Giggler, travelling with the other two Pauls and Ian in his latest acquisition, a Renault Traffic van. It wasn’t good news. The Traffic had started to show warning lights and sound pretty rough just beyond Kirkwhelpington so the four of them were marooned, Ian not wishing to cause any damage to the motor. When International Rescue arrived we began the task of re-locating another four bikes and bodies into the available space, all four of our working vehicles swallowing a good share of the extra luggage (Louis had gone ahead or a different way). While Ian B had insisted on being left there to limp the van home we stoutly refused his request and bundled him and his gear into the space and resumed our journey.

We arrived a bit late due to sitting behind too much traffic on the way and not maintaining a decent speed overall as we normally do, but still got there around 1110 where we found John and his passengers and Louis already set up to ride. The bus was showing 8 degrees as we set about assembling the bikes, feeding the meter and getting dressed for action. As the bikes were being unloaded we suffered the first of a couple of misfortunes when Mark Ramsey’s Lapierre spat out its rear brake pads! That sent Mark scurrying down to the Peel bike shop to buy spares which were duly fitted, and off we all went.

It was Mark again in trouble as we climbed towards Go Ape and beyond it as his new pads were slugging the bike so much he could hardly pedal it, and yes this is Mark I’m talking about, not some novice or old bod! Worse was to come before he reached the main drag when the dragging brake cost him a slow motion tumble! He stopped and shoved in a used, emergency pair to enable him to continue.

And then there were nnnnineteen

The next episode could have been put down to sheer bad luck, but not when I was a witness to it! On the way up to the Buzzard’s Nest car park on the Cardie Hill climb the God of Glentress, yes the one and only/no-stone-left-unturned Ian B decided to ride all the skinny logs but came a real cropper on the one before the two-stage item and fell heavily. There was an immediate spurt of blood from somewhere and it turned out to be a really nasty, gaping gash just below his left knee cap and a good two inches wide. It didn’t take long for shock to show itself while his work colleague Paul piled on the bandages to try and stem the flow after a good old squirt of iodine spray. After a short breather Ian insisted on finishing the climb to the car park and did so. Up there he declared himself unfit to continue, so Stevie went back down to the van with him on the Blue trail.

That almost scuppered the whole deal for me as I love the place to bits but the rides are much better with the Big Fella leading the way, and I really look forward to our little races at the finish. However with so many people out for a good blast, and a few Glentress debutants making the trip we couldn’t have abandoned it, and certainly Ian was adamant that we should continue without him.

So how did it happen? Easy – stupid balloon tyres on his daft fat bike (I’ll never see the point of either) offer far less grip, direction change speed and turn-ability than good old “normal sized” MTB tyres. That’s my serious take and I won’t change it.

Anyway, that left us needing a diversion while we waited for Stevie to return to the Buzzard’s nest and re-join us. He’s another nutter, travelling up from his Newcastle home (that’s the one in Staffordshire, not ours!) for a rare appearance and yet still offering to remain downstairs with Ian until we all returned! I decided to tackle those lovely "Masticate on That" tree roots on the west side of Cardie so off we trekked up the slope past the Fun Park to drop into the trail. It turned out to be the perfect time-waster and a brilliant little warmup. Race Number One completed and although I already knew it, it’s very noticeable that John is getting really rapid on that bonny YT missile while Mundas’ new Fox forks have given him a massive boost in both speed and confidence on his own YT.

We popped out onto the firebreak road at the end of the section and paused to get our (OK, my) breath back. A little discussion with Paul Webster about the Enduro trail I haven’t sampled yet and we were off on the rolling, winding Green to get back to meet Steve. Even following Chris on here seemed pretty rapid on the twisty bits, great fun. As the group leader paused half way I borrowed an Allen key from Mark Sweeting to reposition my wayward saddle as I’d left my backpack in the van. While we were stopped there Louis announced that he couldn’t be bothered to ride anymore and was going home! I reckon Chris is to blame for setting such a slow pace (NOT!!!). A steady upward pull got us back to the Buzzard’s nest and sure enough Stevie was waiting for us after bringing his bike back up on the car, so now it was time to start the ride and unbelievably that’s six miles gone already!

Less 1 equals 18

With the first Red section Pennels Vennel closed, and incidentally now being moved a tad, we climbed the firebreak all the way to the start of Spooky Wood climb and stopped there for a snack. This was Simon Joicey’s first visit and the climbs weren’t very friendly towards him so we gave him an extra 30 seconds to recover before pushing him onto the climb for a gentle ascent, Chris, Tim and Matt having left early to do as I suspected, a sneaky extra lap of Spooky! The main party had a long wait up top as Deryck had snapped his chain on the lower slopes, it was mighty cold hanging around up there on the exposed top road!

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We regrouped and reached the final upshift just as the race-ahead trio popped out of the trees after their Spooky run with perfect timing. Next stop the Roadio mast at Dunslair Heights. We halted there for a moment or three until I’d consulted with Paul W who indicated where the Black run Enduro trail started, then ushered in Chris who volunteered to find out if that light snow covering was in fact hiding ice underneath. It only took him about 50 metres to decide there was enough grip, so taking my life (and terrible memories of my double shoulder dislocation here on ice way back when) into my hands I took up the pursuit as we hurtled down the skinny, shiny ribbon of trail. Great fun, plenty of tree proximity and some very close encounters as the stout evergreens literally caressed our shoulders as we zoomed through them. We flew straight across the firebreak we’d just ridden up following new trail marker boards and the speed kept increasing until both Chris and I overshot the next junction. A quick correction as we altered course with riders pouring in behind us as I took the front for the section that lead us perfectly into the top of Spooky Wood at the wall,  just ahead of the picnic tables. So far, so fantastic, I hope I’m getting the message across!

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20 minus 5: Diminishing Returns

Half way in, 9.7 miles at the tables and another breather taken. Someone suddenly realised that we’d lost Matt, Grant and Simon! We wouldn’t find out until the end of the ride but poor Simon was having his first taste of meaty Red and tricky Black territory and it had slowed him dramatically. Thankfully he had the other two wonderful MAC people with him and they made sure he stayed safe. Fortunately they did get their run down Spooky otherwise there may have been daggers drawn at the finish! It seems that they’d taken a left where we switched to the right on the way down from the Mast, or something like that.

Sniper out there in the trees
Snaps our chains and wounds our knees
Watches as we pull and heave
Makes us tired enough to leave
Ian’s first, out with a gash
Back to the car park in a flash
Louis is next to disappear
Got no stomach for chasing deer
Next is Si with Matt and Grant
Doesn’t fancy a Black face plant
Sniper’s lurking in a bush
I think maybe we should rush
Will he claim another soul
Before we reach our final goal
Hardly, not with Chris out front
But he’s made his mark, the ******g ***t
Keep a lookout for the shooter
He must be on an ebike scooter!

We decided to crack on after the Ride Leader (yes, ‘twas I, the Gollum) decided that the three missing persons would now certainly be together and hence able to get a decent ride in and find the cars afterwards. Crossed fingers at that point.

I pushed Chris to the front again coz I’m not daft. Off he shot like a scalded cat on his heavy metal OnOne hardtail, ragging it like a Red Bull veteran. He sure is fast but I almost kept him in view all the way down thanks to some heartless git, the remaining Ian this time, giving me a good old push down the hill with those forks speeding him up everywhere. For once I managed to keep going at half distance where I have been known to pull off to the side for a wee breather, must have been the absence of back pack that made the difference, although here I usually like to wear it as a back protector, silly me. As always, there were nowt but smiles and satisfaction down at the Meteorite, what a breath-taking run this is. Pretty good on your own but much better with some bodies to chase.

Almost as soon as the last man arrived I once again nodded to Chris to lead down Super G and got in third this time behind Mundas. This is where, on the lumpier terrain, I started to wonder at just how Chris was keeping his bike on the trail, his rear wheel largely airborne and bouncing from side to side on the rougher pot-holed sections and roots. Hilariously he overdid it on one fast bend on the following Hit Squad Hill run allowing Ian, myself and John to squeeze past him giggling! It was about here that I couldn’t help but notice just how very fast John was, snapping at my back wheel, a different rider now on this bike although I’d already noticed it the way he was sailing down the rougher stuff some time back on a trip to Thrunton.

mark1

We were getting a bit of dampness down at the bottom and sensibly someone else decided to head up the firebreak rather than tackling the wet and potentially dangerous Pie Run with its tricky tree roots but it’s a good old slog and hurt me a lot. Please Lord let me recover in time for the Finale! I dropped to the back for The Matrix but still enjoyed it immensely. Mind you it’s very noticeable now how little maintenance is being done here on the older established trails with some huge potholes and deep dips where all sorts of random emergency braking seems to have taken place. Yes you make adjustments and obviously cope but having ridden these trails in their prime, before all sorts of novice riders started venturing out onto the stronger colours and being taken by surprise, it’s a bit disappointing.

I stayed at the rear for Lombard Street and the fireroad below where I went to the assistance of a delightful young lady who’d lost her chain before re-joining the group for the Magic Mushroom. Chris led half the band up a bit further to the junction for the little second loop of the Pie Run before returning to the start, and I wasn’t going to miss this one so jumped straight on his tail as we scampered down the trail and over the bridges and roots at a fairly decent rate. He may as well have had only a front wheel coming down here, so active was the back end!

Another one bites the dust

My request for a vote when we reached the main drive again resulted in a unanimous (I think!) “the harder way” with Chris the ring leader (no surprise there) so up the hill we went again with me up front ensuring a very leisurely pace back to the Nest. Stevie stuck his bike back atop the Range Rover and returned to the café to see how Ian was doing and the rest of us trekked back up the hill again for the THIRD time. I managed to catch up with the mad Irishman just as he was about to launch down Berm Baby Berm and “suggest” we may as well do the whole Blue run from the top to include Blue Velvet, as it’s a nice lead-in to the even swoopier lower section. All agreed so we climbed a bit more and just managed to beat a family of under 8’s onto the trail.

This time I had that mad bu@@er, Paul “The Giggler” Dodds on my bum but kept him in check on the upslope to save my energy for the descent, just managing to hold him off to the finish while trying not to bust a gut as he whooped and giggled every time I made a slight mistake like brushing a few trees and overshooting a few berms. As always, BBB was raced pretty hard and I was completely knackered down at the Buzzard’s so had to take a bit of a rest there. Tim took advantage of the lull to steal away down the track followed by most of the others while us previous front runners jumped in mid-pack. At the head of the jumpy stage Tim had stopped to wait for Chris and I to arrive and he waved us in first to enjoy the take-offs on the way down, very satisfying as always although there were one or two of those almost vertical slabs I didn’t have the energy to run at.

That wasn’t quite the end though, as I then led back towards Go Ape as far as the final Blue return which is another swoopy but slightly narrower downhill run through the trees, a pleasant end to a great ride – with the unfortunate exceptions as previously noted, of course.

Down below Ian Browning was putting a brave face on things and joined us in the café for a cuppa, but when we got back to where we’d left his stricken van at Knowesgate Crossing he was in no shape for riding a bike or doing anything else for that matter. We transferred all his kit again and got him settled uncomfortably in the back but delayed shock was really taking over now. Fortunately Paul managed to get the Renault to Rake Lane Hospital in record time and even caught the rest of us unloading back at Asda! We later discovered that Ian had to have seven stitches in the wound and was in hospital for a good few hours. Maybe next time.

 I could really do with some input for these sorry tales from some of my fellow riders as it’s impossible to see everything and be able to comment on it afterwards, or mention everyone worthy of such so please – if you fancy making a few notes any time on any ride I promise to shove it on the site for you. And of course feel free to correct any errors my terrible memory cell might make.

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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.

The Best Bike in the World arrives at ASDA!

Well, not actually in the store, but outside in the car park on Thursday night, and it was John Rivers who turned up with it, lucky s**! And as if to prove it's pedigree it resisted all of Matt Holmes' attempts to wreck it on a sharp-edged, very high kerb!

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