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UK Trail Centre

Seeing Double (Well, I think Phil did)

The bike fairy has struck again, a pair of 2019 Stumpy’s was hastily set up to demo around the Surrey Hill’s, and as it turned out a little further afield too. Certini Cycles had once agin supplied Andy T and myself with a 29er in Large and a 27.5 in medium to give our feedback on. A quick attachment of our relevant pedals and some shock and Fork fettling soon saw us on our way. These were the basic carbon comp versions so the Fox 34 Rythmn fork and simple Fox Float DPS evol can didn’t fill us with huge expectations, in fact the entire list of parts was quite underwhelming, but to be honest they do do the job, even the single pot SLX brakes, quickly brought down any excessive speed when required.

Almost immediately it felt comfortable, I was able to get plenty of pop, lean it over, get some air and all on a very efficient pedalling platform. In short it wants to go fast – but doesn’t dumb the trail down. The wide 2.6 in tyres initially felt odd, but they do seem to work. Also quite forgiving in my poor body positioning during some over eagerness through a little rocky section near Hascombe – I’m sure I’d of been off on some other bikes. So this bike fits very nicely into the trail side of things, the next day we were off to Wind Hill for some park action.

The plan for today was for us to ride both bikes and see quite how much difference they offered. Andy started on the 27.5 again, we both slowed the rebound down a tad (nobody wants to get bucked on some of the bigger jumps here). We gave the Bluetopia line a right good workout, and Phil who had also joined us got things a little pear shaped on an early run, but did the very blokey type thing of ‘nah I’ll be ok’ and as we couldn’t see any bones sticking out, we took him at his word. After a cup of tea and a sandwich we swapped the bikes over.

Now Andy has not normally been very complimentary about our ‘wagon wheelers’ but after his very first run down, he stated the bigger bike was simply ‘better’, so nuff said, although I have to add, the smaller bike was fun and possibly a smidge more agile when airborne. The bigger bike though is super stable, manoeuvrable and with a level of stiffness that even Stormy Daniels might appreciate.

With the better bits on of the ‘expert’ build, you know what, this could be the one.

Lots of footage below, including Phil’s OTB (courtesy of Phil).

Steve.

 

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BPW, The Return

It is not uncommon that something you did for the first time, is often a slightly lesser when revisited. For example take The Matrix Reloaded, sequel to The Matrix – crap. Or the Sinclair C5 the follow up to Clive’s ZX80 – utterly shit. You get the picture.

C5
What went wrong?

So, when it was suggested the TFIT crew visited BPW with most of the team (based on Bob, Chris and I’s gushing recommendations) I was both eager and concerned that perhaps we had over egged it. Chris G got very hot under the collar when he learned a certain Tahnee Seagrave was due at the park this day. And he nearly exploded when Simon (who was an estranged Cornwall TFIT guest for the day) announced he had her mobile number and had been texting her earlier that morning.

A dry, sunny, but cold day greeted us in Merthyr Tydfil on a midweek trip in November, and happy with that we faffed for a bit, a few nervous conversations abounded about just how big are the jumps, do I need all my armour on? etc before climbing into the uplift van (which didn’t smell any more pleasant than last time).

That was it, everyone was grinning like a loon, as we took on the flowing blue runs, arriving back at the pickup point I noticed something odd, no queue, something that persisted throughout the day (definitely ride on a schoolday if possible). We truly smashed the back doors in this day, with seven or eight runs squeezed in before the sun started to set. Couple of beers and a warm up before climbing into the frozen cars and vans for an unexciting run home. It was even rumoured that a few Dai Hard’s (see what I’ve done there) met up for a beer later!

Talk is of at least one other trip before the Alps call to us in July – can’t wait.

Video evidence below…

Bike Park Wales

BPW_logo

Now, according to my Dad (so it must be true), the nearby town of Merthyr Tydfil once boasted 365 pubs in its mining heyday (note: never go there for a pub crawl). Not so today, but it does now contain about the biggest bike park on our island. As a last minute stand in with a group of Chris G’s Farnham associates I had a coveted uplift pass for a Saturday in September.

An early start, but a very uneventful drive had me pulling into the car park just after 9am, the blue skies that accompanied me all the way up the M4 abruptly stopped at the Severn Bridge like some kind of force field running up the river, still, it was dry and warm enough, and a whole lot better than had been forecast the previous few days.

Chris (nursing sore ribs from an impressive OTB at Afan the day before), Bob, Leigh, Buzz and the others all arrived shortly after and we were quickly ensconced in the rather unpleasant smelling uplift van, think damp, mouldering underwear that you forgot in your school kit bag for a term and you’d be getting close.

There really is a plethora of runs here and the first runs down the Blues such as Sixtapod and Melted Welly to find your feet instantly got you in the flow. Poppity Ping, Willy Waver and Terry’s Belly also deserve special mention for fun and flow. In fact they are so well designed, riding them blind at nearly full chat didn’t cause any unnecessary grabbing of brakes or offline moments. This continues all the way down back to the uplift point. These runs aren’t over quickly either, you get a good uninterrupted 5 to 10 minute descents (if you don’t pull over for a rest). Even the red routes are fine to ride hard from the go, but do need to be given some respect, as drops, jumps, rocks, roots and tight steep turns all feature on this grade.

Another positive is the vibe, inevitably you get separated from some of your mates if you’re in a big group, but this just means you get into conversation with other bikers, share some stories, find out the best spots and any warnings of what to expect. I ended up tagging along with a couple of small different groups during the day and perhaps pushed myself more than I would of on my own.

Despite a heavy shower for an hour or so, the trails remained firm and offered good grip (rocks and roots excluded) and boy are these trails lovingly created, almost a form of art in certain places, this is despite what the best typical Welsh weather can throw at it. Don’t get me wrong I’d love to ride this place on a fully dry day, I suspect your rotors would get a bit warmer in those conditions. Don’t bother bringing any food either, the well stocked visitor centre clearly hasn’t heard of the term ‘calorie controlled diet’ and the adjoining bike shop, sells just about everything you might need.

To be honest I think I only ran down two or three of the same downhills all day, you can link several different options at intersecting points and build your confidence up and up to tackle what, at first, may of seemed daunting, into a run that would give the foresighted trail diggers a slightly fuzzy feeling inside of a job well done.

I’ve put up a number of videos on YouTube from the day (see below), please excuse any excited swearing at the end of trails, and I vow to go back soon and do the A470 line better. If you want an alpine fix on British soil, visit here!

Steve

Cannock Chase. Is it any good?

IMG_3153
Did I mention it is a little snug in places?
With a surprise 40th Birthday Party for my Brother-in-law to attend to way up north in the wilds of the East Midlands I was granted permission to pack my bike and go for a spin around Cannock Chase on the Friday which was about an hour away from where we were staying.

Arriving at a surprisingly deserted carpark in the woods I was greeted warmly by lady who was attending the parking meter. As I pumped the £4 into the guzzling machine she obviously quickly assessed my level of riding competence.
“Which Trails are you riding” she asked nicely.
“I heard that Follow the Dog and The Monkey are good” I responded.
“Ooh, they are quite long and steep” she retorted, eyeing me up and down.
“That’s good with me, I like to try new trails when I can”.
“We had a nasty accident yesterday on The Monkey” she warned earnestly, “I’d be careful if I were you”.
“Ok, I’ll take care, thanks”. I swear she was about to go and phone the ambulance to tell them that another Middle aged MTBer was going to have to be whisked off to the local hospital shortly.

So with a tiny level of trepidation I found the entrance to Follow the Dog, and dived in. Now who ever built the trails at Swinley Forest, obviously had plenty of material left over, the hardpack is exactly the same mix of sand and pebble, which on this occasion was dry and dusty, given the lovely weather we’d be getting over the last week. But straight away it was noticeable that there are many more technical features, with rock gardens, some northshore, small jumps and drops offs coming in fairly regular intervals. I was already enjoying myself and I was only twenty minutes in.

After crossing the road that takes you over to The Monkey, the ante was pushed up another notch, although some of the climbs were steep, with many tight hairpin corners (good luck on the Geomotron Mark) the downhill sections were great, even alpineesque in places, but by god some of the gaps between the trees are tight. You can see the scars of a thousand bar ends that have eaten away at the trunks of the pines in several spots.

On the way round I caught up with a handful of other riders who were were all extremely cheerful and chatty, and happy to promote their local track. Some of the stand out downhills were ‘Pot of Gold’, Upper Cliff’, ‘The Original Monkey’ and ‘Rollercoaster’, my standout favourite though was ‘Lower Cliff’ which had a mix of open flat out speed, big berms and jumps which plunged back into trees, and with the ever present timber either side of you to keep you focussed, it felt like you were going at warp factor 3.

Beware the braking bumps in some sections, which shouldn’t really be present in some of the areas, but given the amount of traffic this place gets, it’s probably not surprising. I returned to a packed carpark and I think I just heard the voice of the little lady I met earlier, talking into her mobile “No, don’t bother now, he’s actually made it!”

I had planned to do some GoPro footage, but some muppet cleverly left aforementioned gadget lying of the sofa at home. So instead heres a Strava Report and an couple of Pics (sorry).

The verdict, excellent, probably not worth travelling specifically to for a day, but if you’re in the area, enjoy.

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