And the Sun came out..

And the Sun came out..

It was supposed to be muddy and wet and probably a bit miserable on Saturday with  MB Swindon – but the sun came out and 15 of us had a great time in Collingbourne Woods.

My video is above obviously, my tongue in cheek words for the MB Swindon website can be read by visiting the MB Swindon website HERE.

 

 

Planning Ahead

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Sunday morning rides have been great over the last few months but its time to start going further afield. So I’m feeling pretty excited cos I have some proper biking plans on the calendar now.

1st March – This coming Saturday a few of us are off to Cwmcarn. A ride of the Twrch and the Cafall are in order I think. Should be fun and hard work all at the same time. Might even try the new DH run – PedalHounds I think its called.

21st March – This is going to be a proper bit of mountain biking. 4 of us have opted for a guided ride around some of the excellent singletrack at the Forest Of Dean. Singletrack descents, drops and maybe some adrenalin fueled nonsense!  GoPro will have to be charged with spare batteries for 3 hours of frolics in the forest.

16th April – North Wales Weekender with MB Swindon – This is my bike holiday for the year, unless I can squeeze in another weekend or two at some point.  We stay in Dolgellau and will be riding Coed-y-Brenin, maybe Llandegla, will be doing some classic local routes around Cadair Idris and the famous Pont Scethin trail as well as maybe hitting Cannock Chase on the way home.

1st May – May Day! May Day! Finally after a year of it being open I have myself an uplift booked for Bike Park Wales.  Nuff Said!

Stay tuned!

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Local trails and leading rides

Wow! Has it really been 2 months since I posted to my blog?  I need to pull my finger out!

MTB Saddles

Last weekend I lead another ride for MB Swindon. The recent ride to Blaenavon has been one of my favourite trips in a while but this one was kinda cool as it incorporated some new sections of local trail. I wrote up a “ride report” but with a bit of a difference as I wanted to explain a little of what it feels like to plan and lead a ride.

I called the ride Calne-Tiki

It was about 9.30am, and I was early as usual waiting at the Divine Cafe for the rest to arrive. I only live a 5 minute pedal away but I get a little anxious the morning of ride that I have “designed” for the club and today was no exception. I wasn’t feeling particularly fit having not properly ridden the bike for about 3 weeks and was shaking off a little cold.

Calne-Tiki was going to introduce the visitors to new bits of trail, bridleways and a new descent that even I hadn’t ridden (it was part of the plan for the last few weeks, but I had only walked it).  30km of riding with around 450m of climbing was going to push my slightly out of sorts body today, and the added pressure of leading a dozen or so eager riders was going to make it an interesting ride.

The area around Calne doesn’t have a lot of elevation but it does have some interesting bits, and the challenge as with any ride is creating an interesting way to link them together. I have lead half a dozen or so rides around Cherhill for MB Swindon and my routine for planning is typically the same each time.

Calne-Tiki

It starts with one or two sections of single track or a descent I want to incorporate and then choosing a suitable start point or a mid ride stop.  Over the next few days or weeks I will spend a few hours on www.bikehike.co.uk working out how to link them together, adding some more familiar bits in and riding a recce or two to make sure that any new linking sections are permissible and the familiar ones passable. After changing the route half a dozen times, I will eventually make a
final decision and create a map for myself but keep some diversions and alternatives up my sleeve for closer to the time.

Rain or any other sudden change in seasonal weather can see a firm bridleway turn into a bog or nice piece single track overgrown with 5 foot high nettles. Timing is everything, and the lapsed time between volunteering for and actually leading the ride can force changes, even at the last minute. Some changes in the weather can improve conditions and therefore create new opportunities for the ride.

The week before sees me spending a little more time on BikeHike and Garmin Connect finalising the route and checking timing and distance. With riders travelling perhaps an hour or so and getting up early on a Sunday morning to ride somewhere new and hopefully exciting, I feel a certain amount of responsibility to make sure everyone has a good time
and is catered for.

A good route in my opinion is one that provides a rider with the chance to test as much of their mountain bike skills as they can and if possible I will make sure there is a bit of everything on the ride. Singletrack, a leg burning climb and some fun descents make for a good ride and providing there are some stories to tell and most people are smiling I am happy.

Throughout the ride I am both trying to enjoy myself and keep an eye on the rest of the group. Keeping everyone together and briefing them on upcoming hazards is a critical role for the ride leader and can become stressful if you let it.

Calne-Tiki was a success. All the ingredients were there: some climbs, a number of fun and challenging descents, a little bit of singletrack and just the right amount of mud and puddles – we even had some mild October weather and sunshine, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions.

I have to thank the 11 that turned up and made the ride enjoyable and the success that it was. The thanks and positive feedback at the end of a ride makes it worthwhile and instantly gets me thinking about new routes and checking the calendar for available slots.

I may add some photos later…

Sunday the 16th August – MB Swindon Club Ride

It was a last minute addition to the calendar and I will admit to being a little concerned that I would be riding on my own, so when 10 people showed I was very pleased indeed.  We met at the Small Grain Picnic site between Devizes and Calne for a spin around my local trails on a day that presented us with some perfect riding conditions.
 
There was only one new comer so the pre-ride briefing was swift and once we appointed a rear marker we headed off up Morgan’s Hill. By the time we got to the top we had to bid farewell to one rider with a bottom bracket issue. This was actually convenient as we were now down to 10 – a number I can keep count of on my hands!
 
We rode up to the bomb hole at Furze Knoll and most had a blast down the steep bowl and one of us bunny-hopped the fallen tree blocking the exit. To be fair I may have bottled it on my own, but as I talked up my bunny hopping skills I had to commit. It was a twitchy moment but it felt pretty good. No amount of encouragement could convince anyone else to have a go, but there would be an opportunity for some revenge before the ride was over.
 
After a blast down to the road and some farm tracks we had a little (perhaps slightly cheeky) visit to the Roundway Covert. This local bit of singletrack is too good to miss out on a ride in the area and I think everyone enjoyed it. The final section is a fast loose descent through the trees. We had a minor pile up as speed got the better of one rider and another took his eyes off the trail to watch the crash in front of him!  No real damage done and unfortunately the requests for another go had to be denied as we had a long way to go.
 
More fun and fireroads followed as we headed back to the car park before starting the second leg. 
 
This was where I mistakenly informed the group about my failed attempts at riding up some worn steps in the car park. Matt Dobson showed me how easy it was by hammering straight at them and getting up first time. I then succeeded using the same technique, followed by Graham Burgess and Mark Pulleyn.
 
Off we went to do a new section for rides in the area and had a sweet ride down into to Calstone through some fields – where the farmer had conveniently left some gates open for us so we didn’t need to stop.  Down and then out of the beautifully named Ranscombe Bottom was fun as many struggled up the rutted muddy bridleway before we rode across to the Divine Cafe for a much needed break for some.
 
After tea/coffee and cake we hit the rode and headed off up through Cherhill and Yatesbury, across the A4 to the Wessex Ridgeway and the climb up to the Lansdowne Monument. At this point we noticed one of the group had developed an interesting mechanical and had lost a bolt from his swing arm near the back wheel.  Some cable ties managed to hold it together for the rest of the ride back as the Wessex Ridgeway turned into the White Horse Trail and led us back to the start.
 
It was a great ride that totaled around 30k with approx 500m of climbing.
 
 

 

A Ride Less Ordinary

It was supposed to be a Novice Friendly ride. Richard (Ford) was leading his first for the club and was concerned that he wasn’t going to deliver something that people would enjoy. The ride went via West Woods; this was going to be a ride people would remember!

The mysterious location somewhere along the Wansdyke known as Knap Hill had been the cause of some discussion on the run up to the ride, one person seemed to think it was a two and a half hour drive from Swindon! The stigma of being the last one, getting lost, keeping everyone waiting meant that a few were cautiously early. None more so than myself though – I had polled Facebook earlier in the week for estimates as to how long it would take me to ride the 12 miles to the start point, and got answers from 45 mins to 2 hours! I arrived with 40 mins to faff about and 20 mins ahead of the next people, Nigel and Rafe.

By the time Richard arrived the riders had gathered in their masses! MB Swindon Novice Friendly rides unsurprisingly attract new riders and this was no exception with 4 first timers by my recollection out of a total of 26 for the ride. Eventually we all set off east toward Golden Ball Hill.

The pace was pretty good and the first bit of fun started as we descended towards Gopher Wood. The sudden braking as we all got a bit carried away and nearly missed the turning was the source of some amusement and the singletrack through Gopher Wood itself, was so good some of us used the misfortune of someone’s puncture to ride back and have another go!

The scenery along the Mid Wilts Way can be breathtaking and we had perfect weather that gave us some blue sky but not too much sun. However, within a few minutes of the ride some riders were removing layers as the short climbs and grassy tracks helped to warm us up. My rule of thumb is if I’m a warm in the car park then I have too many layers on, better to feel the breeze and be a little cooler in my experience. Once you start pedalling the body generates its own heat.

The ride continued on through some more singletrack past Oare Hill and onto Martinsell. We stopped for a breather, trail snacks and to take in the 270 degree view from the edge of the hill fort.

A grassy descent down to the road from the fort dropped us around 60 metres and we all enjoyed racing down the hill. The race continued for some along the road to Clench Common and then we got into single file and hit the short stretch of road before heading into West Woods.

It didn’t take long for the laughter to start. No sooner were we in the woods did we come upon an obstacle that caused a bit of a hold up. It was nothing serious, just a branch across a narrow bit of the track. Just the other side were some ruts and low hanging branches. It really wasn’t anything that required a mass of skill but it caught a few out and even “the housewives favourite” and king of the Novice Rides had a little sit down in the bushes! Proof that inconspicuous trail obstacles can unbalance a rider with years of experience.

Anyway, we were now in the West Woods and it was play time. The short down hill runs here are great fun, and there was something for everyone. A bunch of us rode down a few, some slower than others and a few decided to watch from a safe distance as this little diversion was a little more than they bargained for on this ride. Unfortunately, and I will take some blame, the little party lasted longer than it should have and at one point we were being hunted down by some of the more sensible members of the group and told it was time to leave. This wasn’t before Phil Allum went over “the big wooden jump” – check the video evidence (though it was a lot more scary than the GoPro recorded.

See previous post here with video recorded on the day.

One final bit of fun in the woods resulted in a puncture or two as we rode fast and straight down a particularly loose bridle path – pinch flats on the large loose rocks was the only explanation we came up with.

This brought about the end of the fun and it was truly undone by the nettles. We rode a long the edge of the forest back to Gopher Wood through and endless trail of nettles and brambles. Those that had removed long sleeves and coats earlier on the ride wished they had still worn them as we battled stinging undergrowth that was right up to the arms and even the shoulders of most of the riders. A frantic hunt for doc leaves and thorough rubbing session followed for those that had been stung worst or had particular reactions to the toxins.

Still tingling and many tiring from what had been quite an adventurous and eventful Novice ride, we made our way back to the start point and car park at Knap Hill. A few of us made the short steep climb up Knap Hill itself to provide us with a blast down to the car park and one unfortunate rider got another puncture at the gate at near Knap Hill and had to push the last few hundred meters to the cars.

It was a long ride, considering the distance was only 12 miles or so. But a group of 26, including a few big kids, can be tough to manage and keep on track. Richard did a great job and with the help of Tom Scott’s whistle we all stayed together and arrived safely back at the car park. Richard Ford will lead another ride one day, as this was a resounding success – he did a good job as we found some new singletrack, many were introduced to the wonders of the West Woods, but most of all, above all else he will do it again because “No one died…”

(Photo Credit: Kristian “housewives favourite” Price”)

This post is a ride report for the following MB Swindon Ride, that took place on 1st Sept – http://www.mbswindon.co.uk/goldenballmartinsell-ride/