When it came to choosing a new steed for 2020 from Rutland’s MTB stock, I’ll be honest Cannondale wasn’t on my list, let alone at the top. Cannondale is just good at building lefty bikes right? My, wasn’t I naive…The brief from Rutland was to try this Habit 3, “they’re all the rage, with people like Josh Bryceland riding one. I know Cannondale is a little off the beaten track, but we’re confident you’ll like it, Archie”.
What caught my eye?
THAT PAINT JOB. From looking at pictures online, you don’t get a full grasp of how plush the paint job really is. A deep emerald green colour finished with a high gloss gives it a very expensive look and one that you keep finding yourself looking back at as you walk away.
Another key one for me is it’s a 29er, something I’ve missed after the Stumpy a year or so ago. The fast-rolling efficiency you get across all-terrain, especially the rough stuff, means you can carry more speed, and with more speed, have more fun. Together with Maxxis rubber all round, you’re in for a treat.
Finally, with 140mm travel upfront through a Fox 34 fork and 130mm at the rear, all brought together with a carbon frame, meant things were looking good; not just for my local trails which lacked any serious kind of gradient, but also for those long jaunts over to Wales, with steeper, rougher terrain. Could this be the all-rounder I’ve been looking for?
As soon as you jump on this bike you immediately notice the modern geometry, with its relaxed, big bike angles, which fills you with confidence. So it was no surprise that when I came to point it downhill, it was set up to allow you to push, feeling more capable than its 140/130mm numbers would suggest.
What surprised me and what I’ve been hearing, is the light playful character of the bike. So much so, I rechecked my suspension settings for over-pumped shocks, but there were no incorrect pressures. This bike generally is very playful, a rarity for such a relaxed geometry bike, where normally you’d find a sluggish and delayed character. This bike is poppy, agile and a good bloody laugh, be it on the flat or on the hills.
It wasn’t until I visited the Twirch Trail at Cwmcarn and its 5 miles super techy climb did I realise I had another surprise in store. It climbs. Like it climbs, really well… For a bike that up until this point felt super sure-footed on the descents, I was expecting a sluggish uphill pedaller but to be honest it pedals up hills better than some hardtails. How has Cannondale managed it, I don’t know. They’ve scored the hattrick. Playful, yet stable on the descents, while at the same time being as much fun and capable as a proper XC bike climbing back up the hills. This is a serious swiss army knife of a bike, and I mean it.
So I’ve only had the bike 3 months and with a newborn son and crap weather, I haven’t exactly had loads of opportunities to thoroughly test it. However, in the small number of rides I have done, I can tell you now, I think this might well be the best bike I’ve ever ridden. Big claim I know, but most bikes are capable and fast. The Habit is those too, but it’s fun, and it puts fun at the top of its priorities. Which means all my typical rides and new ones, have taken on a whole new lease of life. And surely that’s what mountain biking is all about? Fun?
I’ll come back to you later in the year with a full conclusion. But I can tell you now, Rutland might have to tear this Habit off me if they want it back!
Whyte are a UK bicycle brand creating some of the most capable and award winning mountain bikes on the market. One of these is the T130, a short-ish travel full suspension trail bike
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you live in the UK and unless you’re back door is Fort William, you probably don’t ‘need’ a big rig, but probably do want a bike with bang up-to-date geometry, capable of taking on anything that the UK can through at it but without losing the requirements to climb. That, was my request when Rutland Cycling asked me what I wanted. The answer then materialised as the T130, in theory the ultimate mix. But was it.
What model did I ride?
Luckily in its favour I received the top of the range T130 C-RS derivative, equipped with a full carbon frame, 650b wheels, 140mm travel up front, 130mm at the rear, running 2.6in Maxxis tyres and the humongous Scram Eagle drive train. Putting equipment to one side, I plumped for a size large, which felt low, long and slack, and together with the fatter tyres, created a solid foundation.
What you need to know?
Whyte was one of the first bike brands to embrace the benefits of designing for 1x drivetrains, with its latest incarnation featuring SRAM’s huge Eagle GX 12 speed drivetrain, giving you a massive 500% range alongside a strong frame. Its geometry was also redesigned for this latest model around a shorter 37mm offset fork, giving you greater grip and confidence on the steeps. After all, it’s the geometry which made the T130 and its siblings so famed for their high performance. And on that note, this is far from the traditional cramped XC whippet. Instead you’ve got 467mm worth of reach on a size large. So definitely worth demoing this if you’ve got a comparably short back vs legs. This is bang up to date geometry right here.
How did it ride though?
Interesting – for a 130mm carbon trail bike, it’s not exactly what you think, or what I thought. Pre swinging a leg over, I was picturing fast rolling, nimble and playful. In reality its character was more akin to a short travel downhill rig. When climbing you could feel the weight, of the not so light bike as well as the higher rolling resistance of the 2.6in wide aggressive Maxxis rubber. To be honest, it felt anything but light and efficient, even with the suspension locked out. To my surprise however, the T130 C-RS impressed most when the going got tough.
My first proper ride on the T130 was at the Forrest of Dean, racing an Enduro. Here the trails were steep and so muddy, you could barely stand. However the T130 surprised me with the confidence inspiring low centre of gravity, comparably high levels of grip and general sure-footed character – it wants to be ridden hard, forget it’s got less than 150mm. This aggressive character was confirmed further after two laps round the rough trails at Coed Y Brenin. Here with the rock lined trails and big drops, I wasn’t sure the T130 could talk the talk. However again, to my surprise, no matter how rough it got, or how large the drops or jumps got, the T130 not only kept up, but raised its game. Is that all you’ve got?!
In fact it handled descents and technical terrain so well, I completely forgave it on the uphill’s. Now my T130 rides have turned into outright downhill blasts! And once you got used to its slightly sluggish behaviour up hill, there was very little to dislike about the bike. It certainly got plenty of attention at every trail head with its bright yellow colour scheme…
So would I buy one?
Well that is a tough question. It’s certainly opened my eyes up to the shocking capability a short travel trail bike could have, and will certainly make me think in getting anything over 130mm again. It’s also underlined my appreciation for the big rubber – you can lean this thing over harder than most bikes running on 2.4in or less, with the added grip levels not only adding to the fun, but catching you if you push that bit too hard. The Whyte geometry also is bang on and clearly demonstrate the know-how of the brand and supports a aggressive riding style.
Would I buy this actual bike though? I’m not sure I would. It’s not as playful as my previous long termer, the Specalized Stump Jumper; its more a bulldozer like, and though the paint job is great, with it being matt not gloss, means it attracts dirt quickly and looks older much quicker, if you’re not regularly cleaning and polishing.
Coed Y Brenin, the first official mountain bike trail centre in the UK and really where everything started. It’s time to make your pilgrimage!
I’ve been here a few times, but never ridden the same trail twice. There is a lot here, and a lot of it is very, very good. Ahead of my Tour Of Cambridgeshire race in June and well into my training, I felt pretty good and decided to tackle the Beast at Coed Y Brenin with my good friend Jack. The Beast, the only true black at Coed Y Brenin is circa 30km long with over a kilometre of climbing – read up on the trail here.
The trail head at Y Brenin is one of the best in the country. Lots of tarmac parking in and around the hillside, a big trail head with bike shop and all important café. It’s nestled in at the bottom of the valley with the trails heading up either side. You could almost say it was like a Welsh ski town…
The trails at Coed Y Brenin are rocky. I’ve ridden both a hardtail round here and a full susser. You’ll want the latter for comfort first, but to then avoid almost constant puncturing. They also take you right from the valley bottom to the mountain top and then pay you back handsomely. If you’ve ridden a Welsh trail centre, just imagine that just scaled up.
The Beast trail reminds me of my Mini Enduro I did at the Forest of Dean. There’s nowhere to hide here as you’ve got big long relentless climbs that’ll quickly show you up if you haven’t been on the bike regularly and then equally big descents, which again will show you up quickly if you can’t handle fast, rocky and exposed descents.
Assuming you can do all of this however, and you’ve got yourself a 30km Enduro stage. The trail in parts is well used, as the Red’s weave in and out, but overall the trails on the Beast still retain a sense of the natural. There are still rocks which are not well placed and will throw you off if you’re not careful. Quite a lot also isn’t bermed so you actual corner technique will also be pulled in to help. Saying all this though, once you get into the flow of things, the trails just flows superbly. Yes its rocky, but it’s always fast and challenging but never dangerous. You come down from every long descent questioning why not more people are on this and how do I get back to the top to ride that event harder!
There is an issue though. Sign posting. Coed Y Brenin is a BIG trail centre, part of why it feels more natural than man made, however the signposting of trails is terrible. We found we cut off half of the Beast without even realising. Not a problem as we simply did the first section again. It’s that good. However you’ll need to bring your Duke of Edenborough brain with you, to ensure you stay on track as sign posting is not a strong point of this trail centre.
So with all this in mind, Jack and I must head back again later this year, to see what the second half of the Beast is like. Join us, if you like.
Lady Bower in the Peak District is one riding location that needs to be on your to-ride list. About 20 minutes from Sheffield, it’s a great location where you can get a proper wilderness ride, but with it being only about 2 hours from home. Home being the Huntingdon area for me, so at least an hour short than anything in Wales.
Once home to the creation of the bouncing bomb and now to lots of tourists, you could be forgiven to assuming it was full of walkers with no proper mountain biking in sight. You’re somewhat right with that, as unless you know exactly where you’re going, you’re going to miss it.
There are plenty of GPS rides and guides out there, like this one from MBR, so I’m not going to give a turn by turn guide, though feel free to copy my Strava route. Instead why should you go? For me, getting there is simple as stated above, but it’s also a great natural ride. There’s nothing here which is man-made, instead you’re riding down the same paths walkers use (though you rarely bump into them) or the routes which water has carved out from the hill. This is natural riding as its best and you need to be switched on and focused to get down safely but also with a big grin on your face.
Mountain biking is as much about where it takes you as how technical that route up or down it is. And here at Lady Bower, you’ve got views for days. Half of you wants to focus on nailing that super rocky descent, or hauling yourself up yet another gruelling climb, while the other half will want to be head up, just taking in the views. From Valley Bottom to Hill Top, have fun balancing that act.
To get a proper feel for the riding, watch my descent from the top of the Valley down to about 1/3rd of the way down.
Bike of choice of this ride: Full Susser, with big tyres. Punctures are a real threat with the sharp granite.
In short, a country park within Leeds outskirts which has a pump tracks, BMX track and mountain bike trails. That may sound a bit second rate, but the reality is far from it. With its on trend café at the heart, you first see the impressive pump track, lined by the even more impressive BMX track, which is then lined by big impressive mountain bike trails. Welcome to the treasure trove that is Leeds Bike Park! Now let’s grab the bikes and here’s my three reasons why you need to get yourself across to Leeds Bike Park.
1. Get your basic rights
Leeds Bike Park is all about your technical ability on the bike and helping you get from step, to step. The trails simply aren’t long enough or steep enough to replace those wilderness trail centres we grew up on. No, instead this place is probably the best place in the country to improve the way you ride your bike. So let’s cut the pedalling and head to the pump track.
Better tackled on a hardtail (anyone who’s previously tried riding a long travel full susser will confirm), but even still, this is your first step to ‘feeling’ the bike. Getting acquainted with your centre of mass and building you movement over the bike will pay back big time when you hit the big stuff. Luckily then LPB has a rather larger pump track to get this nailed on. And if you’re still having trouble, Jordan the son of the Owner who works at LPB most days, is likely not far away to lend a hand. P.S he’s an ex Team UK BMX rider.
2. Practise makes perfect
So you think you’ve nailed your ability to move your weight over the bike and want to practise something a little bigger? No problem, the full sized BMX track is a stones throw away. Here you’ll find a 300m track carefully designed to take your new found skills and push them.
With two lines choices to choose from; the first on the right-handside of the track with rollerable features will help you add pedalling to your pumping. The second, a jump line filled with table tops, will help you add a little air to your pump and pedalling. In short, you’ve got yourself a solid day’s worth of riding to take your riding to the next level of flow. And boy does it look good once you’ve nailed it.
3. Go big or small, but don’t go home!
However if you’ve only got a day, it’s time to move onto to the MTB trails, of which there are quite a few, of decent length. Bet you weren’t expecting that. With two blues and two reds, plus a big Whip off style jump line, you’re a little spoilt for choice.
My recommendation would be to start with the Blue and Red on the right hand side of the park, if facing towards the city off in the distance. These though aren’t the best trails you’ll ride here, are a very good starting point. With flowing, mellow berms and tables, you’ll be hard pressed not to arrive at the end without a smile. The end being at the start of the long 200m+ jump line; now remember you’re likely not Brendan Fairclough so proceed with caution. The jump line has been expertly crafted, but crafted to help you progress. The jumps kick you up high and if you haven’t done a dumby run may find yourself heading skywards faster than you thought. Given time and crucially confidence, this jump line would be epic. With about 15 jumps all beautifully made, you may find yourself stuck here for the rest of the day as you get better and better.
I would though, encourage you to go a bit further. This time head to the trails starting up off from an rocky outcrop, not far from the Café. These will likely be your favourite. Let’s start with the blue. Smoother, faster and more poppy than the first blue, you’ll be wanting to session this at least a couple times. But you will be pulled away, and that’s due to the rather imposing Red run, complete with a huge bridge jump. Starting from the same rocky outcrop, you head straight down to the bridge for which you can ride over or send yourself skywards, your choice. Quickly following this is 4 more rocket propelled jumps which will encourage you to big and harder everytime. But that’s not the end, no no no. You haven’t entered the woods, my favourite part of Leeds Bike Park.
Imagine that famous jump line from Whistler of never ending berms and jumpers. Well scaled that down by about 50% and this is what you’ve got to play with for the next couple KM. Fast, twisty and awesome fun, this will test all your new found bike handling skills to the test. Even including a bonus quarry section with multiple drop lines.
So what do you have here at Leeds Bike Park then? It’s your ultimate mountain bike training venue with enough rooms to stretch your legs and more than advance terrain to test even the most advanced rider. Oh and with a hot Latte never more than 5 minutes away.
Leeds Bike Park is very good, so much so that I completely forgot to take any descent pictures of it, so you’ll have to take my word for it. But I can promise you, you won’t be disappointed.
*Unlike most Bike Parks, entry and parking are completely free as LBP is run as a charity, making all its revenue off the café, which is hardly pricey!
I’ve been wanting to try my hand at mountain bike racing for some time now. Like all experienced riders, after a while you feel comfortable riding pretty much everything at a pace you think is pretty quick. So it’s only natural I guess to start thinking it’s time to prove it in a race. I chose the 1st round of the Haibike Mini Enduro series hosted at the Forest Of Dean, on hand built off piste trails as my first race.
I primarily chose this event format because it was comparatively short compared to the full UK series. We’re talking about 4 stages taking in a total distance of 10 miles, including the connections between them, so nothing hugely long and comparable to a trail centre.
What is Enduro?
Pausing briefly, lets recap on what Enduro is? Its essentially a number of downhill courses, best ridden on a trail bike as they’re not quite as aggressive or steep as a full on downhill track. However once you’ve finished a stage, you then need to cycle to the next, before commencing that stage. Normally you’re timed on the descents as well as the connections, with you being hit with time penalties if you don’t make your transit between trails in the allotted time. Luckily the benefit of the Haibike Mini Enduro is though you have set departure times on each stage, the organisers give you more than enough time to make your way between the stages, meaning you can reduce the heart rate, eat some food and somewhat relax between stages. Few!
So what did I learn from my first Enduro?
I can get round the Monkey at Cannock Chase or the Black at Llandegla without too much of an issue. However, racing is another beast entirely. The biggest difference between the two is not the distance, but the intensity. When places are split by seconds, every pedal stroke could make or break your run. This time you’re riding the trail flat out everywhere, not coasting between sections, but flat out hard pedalling. This was the undoing for me. I haven’t ridden at this intensity before and by the end of the second stage I was done. Gone. Knackered. The now 30 minute climb up to the start of stage 3 was looking more ominous than ever! As luck would have it, stage 3 & 4 turned out to be some of the most technically challenging stages of the day and with my now depleted energy levels ended up with me just aiming to get down. I was no longer pushing, instead just trying to maintain positive momentum. Fitness, fitness, fitness. There’s no short cuts.
It’s been a while since I last raced. The last time was in Karts as a kid and the biggest lesson I learnt then had seemed to of escaped me this time; planning. I only had 12 minutes in total of timed stages to make the most of my first Enduro, yet my planning consisted of getting a decent sleep and breakfast in before I left. What I missed however was A. practising the runs. Yes, I managed to rush stage 1 & 2 in before the start, but I didn’t take the time to watch, choose my line and allow my head to get into an attacking mindset – something which was more than possibly the day before at the Saturday practise sessions, if I had planned it in. B. I also didn’t set up the bike. I turned up, clipped in and off I went. What laid ahead of me was deep, wet mud, where clipped in pedals led to constant falls, my normal tyre pressures now massively too high for the swamp like conditions and my rear suspension, too soft for the aggressive stages. Overall, combined with my now clear lack of fitness, I was losing time left right and centre. As they say, failing to plan, is planning to fail.
With any post-race strategy, reviewing and analysing what you achieved, to then improve for next time is paramount. After spending the 3-hour journey back replaying my four runs and approach to my first Enduro, I’ve now got two very obvious lessons noted above, but also more minor things. My mental approach was too relaxed, I wasn’t amped enough, and so my overall level of attack on the stages was missing which likely lost me time. There was also my technical ability on the bike. I was riding on instinct due to tiredness, not thought. I could have been so much quicker, if I engaged my brain more and thought through every corner and jump. There was more, but these were the key points. The learning though, is analysis is key. Analysis is what’s going to make for my biggest improvement in my next Enduro.
So with this all in mind, where did I finish? The answer was mid field, 39th out of 53 competitors in the senior men category. Probably slightly better than what I felt after my less than optimal performance, but does give me enough encouragement to try again and to see if I can break into the top 30s!
Over the last 10 years, Coed Llandegla has become well known as one of the best places to visit in the UK for a guaranteed high quality mountain bike ride. With a range of trails, from the picturesque Green Trail around the reservoir to the airtime-tastic B-Line trail, it makes for a great trail centre to work on your progression and fitness. The carefully designed network of trails means that every corner and jump has had some thought in its creation too. I’ve found the better I’ve got, the more flowing the trails have become. As someone who’s been coming here for 4 – 5 years, riding the same route and not getting bored, proves the fact this this place is one of the best places to ride a mountain bike. There are a series of black sections (6km) which are accessible only from the Intermediate red route, which then make up a 21km loop. These are well worth the extra km’s but be warned, you’re fitness will be tested on the many steep climbs – to tell you the truth, this is the only trail centre that leaves me dreaming of an E-bike!
Out in front of you is the Welsh hills with a trail now heading down. This is where it starts to get interesting. Over the next 30 minutes, you’ll be spending the majority of your ride going downhill, with it getting faster and faster the lower you get. The trail starts out open and bright, with a wide single track popping down the hill over rocks and small bumps. You then take a left. Here is where the trail splits between Red and Black. Can I thoroughly recommend the black?! It doesn’t drastically get harder, you’ll just now be riding on narrower trails, over some medium sized drops and then berms switch backs and will rejoin the Red again. Consider this your Starter, to easy you into your Llandegla meal.
After a little climbing back up, you’ll now find yourself at the edge of the tree line. Again here you can choose Red or Black, but for the second time I strongly suggest the Black, as this will be your Llandegla main meal as such; a solid 10-minute flat out decent. Are you ready? The trail follows the tree line for the first section, with jumps and berms allowing you to thoroughly get into it before turning back on itself and plunging into the forest darkness; it’s time to engage warp drive, or what feels like wrap drive. You now find yourself dropping quickly into the forest, the light dropping and the trail difficulty is ramping up. This is the true Llandegla in my mind. Now moving at pace, this is where my new ride for the year, the Whyte T-130 C-RS, makes this loop all the more enjoyable. With 2.6in rubber front and back, you have the confidence to let off the brakes and boy will you want to. You hit a light rock garden quite soon into the darkness, but its best to just point yourself straight and fly over it, as you’re then quickly met with a tight left berm between tress which you can absolutely rail, before popping the next jump, again between trees.
This is the first proper decent I’ve had on the 140mm travel T130 C-RS and with the upcoming barrage of the next 10 minutes of berms, jumps, berms, jumps and drops the T130 eggs you on all the way. In fact, the 2.6 in rubber and its relaxed confidence inspiring geometry caught me out. I felt slow, until I realised I was riding at my normal pace, however the bike had so much more to give. So less brakes and more commitment then, as I continue my journey down threading the needle between the trees!
As with all mountain bike trails, going down eventually means you go up and boy does Llandegla have some steep climbs. So let me fast forward this story until the next personal highlights. What you’ll miss while I skip is flowing climbs, in glorious Welsh forests and my first proper user of the Whyte T130 C-RS’s Scram Eagle’s cassette at the rear, with the lowest gear being the size of a dinner plate; the climb wasn’t that easy though. After some huffing and puffing later, (I thought I was fit) I find myself at the new B-Line. B surly standing for Brilliant, and here’s why!
You know Llandegla has been built by riders, because the next 5-6km gives you more chances to get air than most! The B-Line being your best bet to beat your personal best. Starting out on a bridge, you ride down and to the left, now with the Welsh hills in the distance and in the foreground, table top after table top. It’s at this point, when I realised why the T130 C-RS is held up as one of the best mountain bikes on the market. From jump to jump, its balance front to back feel allows you to concentrate on getting air, letting off the brakes, pumping the run ups and letting it all hang out. It hanged out so well in fact, I went again (you can loop this section, and a lot of people do) and ride even harder. However, don’t get too drunk on the B-Line goodness. There is more, natural trails that lead you back into the forest but delivering the same bang for your buck.
It starts with a north shore section over rich heathland, lasting around about 500 meters, it winds itself left and right, with nice little humps you can pop and then drops you down back onto the stoney trail where you’re met with more tables. Unlike the B-Line, you’re now on a faster, older section of Llandegla, a section best experienced flat out. Jumping off slabs of slate you fly a good 10 feet before landing and hitting the next jump, all at the sametime getting fast and deeper into the forest. With a little more climbing, you hit possibly the best descent before the relatively long slog back to the trail centre.
This time, the man made jumps is replaced by narrow single track, most enjoyed by being neat and tidy with your lines. Look ahead as the speed increased and choose the most appropriate line to make sure you’re getting faster and faster. Now I’m fully up to speed with the T130 C-RS, it’s time to really take it by the scruff of the neck, use those big tires and super compliant suspension to try and gain as much time over my mate as possible. I turn around a right 180 hairpin point the bike down, hammer home a few hard pedals and stay off the brakes. You’re quickly met with a stone staircase but at this speed you simply fly over it, over a road and then quickly back into the forest.
Grins to last a weekend, we arrive back at Llandegla trail head. However, it’s on over yet, unlike most trail centers, Llandgela has a proper café, with PROPER food. There’s nothing better than after a long ride, than filling back up again, with proper hearty grub. Now you’re finished.
So Llandegla. If you haven’t, please go. And if you have, then get back there! There are not many places where you can properly ride a modern trail bike at full tilt and and that be guaranteed pretty much year round. There is also the skills area I was going to tell you about, but that needs its own article, as it’s THAT good. Maybe later! Oh and the Whyte T130 C-RS! Put it this way, it was so good, I may have just entered my first Mountain Bike race next month. Talk about a confidence boost. LETS RACE!!
View my Strava and route at Llandegla here. Want to know more about the bike, then check out the deets here!
Where you ride your bike is as important or really more important that what you ride it on. I remember hurtling down a French Alp on a beaten up shoddy hardtail with Euro spec brakes and loved it! It’s easy to drink the coolaid and start dreaming of riding the latest carbon enduro with kashima coated suspension, and yes they’re awesome to ride, but where you ride and the feeling you get riding should be your focus, if you’re a true MTBer that is.
The challenge you’ll find once focusing on riding is where to go? Unless you live in Wales (if so, you can stop reading this now) you’ll likely be straining to see any nice singletrack too close to home, especially if you’re living in the middle of the country. Luckily there is however one venue that’s a firm favourite of mine – its only 1.5 hours from Cambridge with a heavy right foot and serves up some create descents as well as climbs. I’m talking about Cannock Chase, the home of MTB’ing in the midlands.
Just north of Birmingham its well connected via the M6 and has two very good trails. The Dog and the Monkey. The Dog being slightly easier than the Monkey, with less climbing and technical features, but both are great fun for the experienced and the novice. I have however been to “The Chase” many, many times and to be honest it was getting boring.
The feeling of riding unknown trails never gets old; “Shall I lay off the brakes and risk it round this blind corner?” Luckily for me, one of my best mates lives on the edge of The Chase so we opted for the route less travelled. Cycling in from Brocton, you climb fast on steep, sandy single track in between the bracken, keeping that steady power delivery front of mind to make sure you don’t lose traction on a climb even walking would be tricky on. Once up top you’re greeted by mounds of heather with what looks to be as many singletrack lines as you can shake a stick at! Granted they’re all deer trails, but they do a great job of doubling up as a MTB routes and lead you to some great off-piste trails. (see my route here)
From this point onwards we took whatever turn looked most interesting. From recently dug secret trails, to well-worn favourite descents you’re literally spoilt for choice. An hour in, were we still riding trails my friend Jack hadn’t ever touched, with us now questioning why we stuck to riding the official trails for so long, this was awesome!
As if we planned it on purpose, as we finished our flat whites and shortbread at Birches Valley, now the opposite side of the chase to where we started, the return journey was about to tick every remaining box. Two sections stuck out as favourites.
After making a left into deep thick forest we’re greeted by a forest opening, and to our left is a deep steep gully making its way down through the forest. After a few snaps at the start, we hike back up and take a full run down, first rolling down the steep entrance of the gully, followed by threading the niddle down the gully in between the birch trees. We went as fast as we dared with us having to think fast and read the trail to keep us on two wheels.
Half an hour later as we leave the thick forest and return to the open heather covered moorlands, we stumble upon descent after descent. Unfortunately physics is never wrong and it was only a matter of time until after hurtling down numerous singletrack we were faced with the long climb back up. However we got to this point after riding flat out down, on what can only be described as ‘ridge lines’ yet due to the landscape we didn’t quite get the Red Bull Rampage vertical height sense. Nonetheless, we were faced with trails only 6 inches wide with heather and bracken spilling over into the way and the now pebbles under tyre leading to long slow drifts down through the heather moorlands. It probably didn’t look that good, but it was, awesome.
So 26km later we arrived back, put the kettle on and reflect on a rather surprising ride. We knew it was going to be interesting, but we didn’t expect we’d have anywhere near the levels of quality riding that we did. Cannock Chase, whether you’ve been there before or not at all. It’s worth a look, or two, or maybe three.
I’ll back there later in the year, yet this time I’ll be taking a right, rather than a left. I can’t wait to find out what’s in store!
Details, info & insights on The Chase, do comment below or hit me up on Insta.
If you’re looking for another new place to ride, i’d highly recommend review of Bwlch-Nant-Yr-Arian.
I didn’t have any specific goals going into 2018 bar ride more. The older you get somehow the busier life gets and you find yourself doing less of the activities you enjoy; mine being getting out on the bike, improving my fitness and my technical riding ability.
As I look back over my Strava though, it looks like I’ve achieved it! More rides, more miles and more fun! After picking up my then New YT Jeffsy at the back end of 2017 I spent the first 3 or 4 months getting used to my new full suspension bike, now progressing onwards from my trusty XC hardtail. And though I’ve ridden plenty of full sussers in my time, my usual rides now took on a brand new character. Whether that character was better or worse is insignificant, the fact is riding felt new again and it was awesome.
To continue that trend further, I went for my first proper E-Bike spin round Cannock Chase, and again the experienced evolved again. My ride is based on the smiles per mile ratio, and this is where the E-Bike excelled massively. So at this point I was well and truly bought into not just full suspension bikes, but full suspension E-bikes!
But its not just about the bikes and gear you wear that make the rides that little bit better. Its about the places you ride, and if anything this is really what its all about. So after my selling my big Downhill Mountain Bike last year to pay for YT Jeffsy, it had been a while since I hurled myself down a hill at speed. So off I set to the rather well known and highly rated Revolution Bike Park in North Wales. With its aggressively set trails and super fast & frequent uplift service, you focus in on riding faster, harder and jumping further. Second to that I then too my now second bike, the 2018 Specialized Stumpy to Antur Stiniog in the Snowdonia National Park for a wet and windy day, with a big dollop of adrenaline. And to finish off the year, Bike Park Wales. But this time with the Mrs! We arrive yes to sample the now completely evolved Bike Park but also for Em to use the same perfectly crafted and repeatable trails to build up confidence and speed on the downhills. Something which isn’t always easy on just the one loop round the Chase. The result from all of these is you remind yourself why you ride bikes in the first place. Because its awesome, why would you not. Whether it be mucking about in car park to spending 6 hours travelling to a Welsh mountain. Getting on any bike and riding the thing should be a repeatable act you and I need to do on a regular basis!
So, what does this mean for me and the blog next year? Well, its sort of an obvious answer. Ride even more. The UK if you weren’t aware, is Booming right now for all things mountain biking and there hasn’t been a better time that I’ve known of to get riding. Whether that be Bike Parks, Trail centres, or some off piste riding in the Peaks, next year is going to more riding, in more NEW places for me, and I’ll be bringing you along to tell you all about it!
However it’s not 2019 yet, so if you missed any of these, here are some of my highlights from 2018;
After ripping my shoe in half at a reasonable recent uplift day at Revolution Bike Park and after having the same pair of short for nearly 5 years with the accompany holes in the crotch that conveniently caught my saddle every time I rode, put simply it was time get a new pair of shoes and shorts.
So what did I go for?
My previous shorts were tad above the knee and though this has no effect on performance I wanted something a little longer and the Specialized Enduro Sport Shorts are bang on the money. Just covering the knee even when worn at waist height.
With deep pockets you can get a lot into these shorts, but it never gets in the way. The pockets are placed onto the side of the short, so with your leg pumping on the pedals you’re not finding the material stretching or impeding your leg strokes. Added to that the short is made out of VaporRize™ woven fabrics, which offer plenty of stretch making this by far the most comfortable short I’ve ever worn.
At a recent freezing day at Bike Park Wales, they also brought good wind proofing and insulation to the ride. Apparently they’re as good in the summer too, but lets see.
So for the first 3 or 4 rides on these, they’re proving to be a good replacement, so onto the next kit piece.
You can’t beat being clipped in. After destroying my recent pair of Mavic shoes at Revolution Bike Park, I wanted a more protection, solid shoes, after my mainly fabric Mavic summer riding shoe.
So the Specialized 2FO, was a very appropriate replacement. It’s got a relatively stiff protected outer (good for those high speed rock hits) and a firm sole that I immediately felt the benefit of on the climbs. Specialized claims its “Body Geometry sole construction and footbeds are ergonomically designed and scientifically tested to boost power, increase efficiency, and reduce chance of injury by optimizing hip, knee, and foot alignment.” Marketing guff to one side, what this felt to me was that my knees didn’t feel the distance anymore and either I’m getting fitter or the above efficiency remark is ringing true.
The shoe is also optimised for foot-out riding, with it having quite a bit of flat, grippy sole around the cleat to allow you to ride on with a fair bit of grip and control without being specifically clipped in. The by-product of this also being you’ve got plenty of walking grip as you trek back up to hit that jump one more time!
Other than that, the shoe doesn’t have the traditional lace up system, which for me, especially when riding in winter is a big deal. My laces never kept my shoes tight, and trying to lace them up again when they’re sodden, covering in grit and mud only made it more frustrating. So the 2FO shoes come with Two independent Boa® S2-Snap dials, which do a great job of effectively tightening the whole shoe around your foot, both around the bottom but also the top. And they don’t get loose throughout the ride. #Win
So it’s time to get back on the bike, happy in the knowledge my arse I no longer on show and I’ve got a proper set of shoes on!