Friday, 30 December 2016

Pride comes before a fall...Cannock Chase with Fireman Pat

Okay when I suggested that some people were foolish the other day I really should have made sure everyone understood who I believe is the biggest fool of them all. It's me! Today the power of my mind literally chucked me off a raised platform and has left with ribs bruised marginally less than my ego! Let's make sure the message is fully understood, I feel sore and silly! However I need to clarify something else, Cannock is still the most magnificent place for an off road ride.

My ride companion for the day was my good friend and neighbour Gareth who I've nicknamed Fireman Pat due to him being both our Postie and part of the local retained Fire Service. We started out early with the first stop being McDonald's for breakfast and coffee (yes that will be a surprise to some!) It was a bit of a frosty foggy drive but we made it to Cannock Chase bang on 8. The car park ticket machine stole Gareth's money but no matter the ranger sorted us a ticket without quibble. We met up with Gareth;s mates but as most of their group was still a long way away decided to set off on our own. I was grateful for that on two counts; firstly they looked a bit too pro for a Roady like me who was at Cannock for the second time after a good few years break and secondly I was about to embarrass myself in splendid style!

My abiding memories from the last visit involve a positive experience at the shop and a spike of fear as I rode the boards for the first time. Let's do the positive first. I parked my Orange P7 outside the shop last time and then a member of staff scurried in to get the manager. He came out and looked like all his Christmases had come true. "Is that your P7 he said? Oh wow look at the geometry..." I hadn't got a clue, I'd bought if a friend of my wife for £270 and that was possibly the first time I'd used it properly. I've sold that lovely bike now because it was too small and didn't have suspension of any sort, I do miss it though.

Onto the negative. Quite soon into the 'Chase the Dog Trail,' you are thrown onto the boardwalk above a boggy area. I hated it last time and that memory had lingered. Today it was also frosty so I doubly psyched myself out. I'm always telling SuperSam that when you're scared you'll get hurt and this really did prove the point. I nervously tried to trickle over the boards and rather predictably lost balance and toppled off. I landed ribs first on my handlebars and pain shot through my body. My first feeling was stupidity my second was embarrassment and my third was worry. I wasn't worried about me, I was horrified that I may just have ruined Gareth's day if I couldn't continue. I gathered myself and Gareth suggested walking to the boards. I put the bike back on, got up with it and was once again paralysed by fear. I wobbled there for a moment and then began to slide. I jumped off the other side and one of my shoes disappeared into the bog. Thank goodness for seal skin socks! Gareth did exactly what I would have done and exactly what I needed. He laughed! I pushed myself out, gathered myself again and just cracked on with it. I won't lie, my confidence was shot and the next twenty minutes was tentative to say the least!

I've stolen the picture of the boardwalk from another blogger who also admits to the demons this completely rideable feature conjures. The truth is I could have avoided all the pain if I'd just treated it like rollers looked forward and gone for it. I've added the link to this persons blog, I hope that makes it okay with them!

On the boardwalk, we'll be having some fun

I think I started to recover a bit by the time we went down Devil's Staircase. It's a beautifully technical descent and I started to remember stuff like getting my weight over the back wheel. We hit the bottom and got through the V barriers.

From there it was over the road to the Monkey Trail. Lots of hard climbing to come but also massive rewards.

As we progressed around Cannock I found my proper off road feet. I started to really enjoy myself and the technical bits became less threatening. I still didn't like the rock section with Tom, Dick and Harry. I need to go back and beat that because I'm sure I can. Bit by bit though I was getting more into it.

The day was getting better too. We started in frost and fog and then everything began to clear. 

This is the view out over Lower Cliff. The best bit of downhill and well worth the tough climb to get to it. I thought I'd set possibly the slowest ever time down it but then saw on my Strava that it was a PR so I guess at worst it was the second slowest ever descent!

This pic is to show off the stunning bike that is Gareth's Santa Cruz full suspension. My hardtail 29er did okay around the trails but this really is the sort of kit you need!

One last pic as Gareth descends away. I have some videos to show off the rest of his superb day out. I'm home now and the dogs have been walked even though I'm super sore. I got home to discover I' forgotten what day it was and the recycling didn't go out! That's a trip to the tip for me then. But what of our companions back up the trail? Well they finally made it to the car park by 9.10, late even by my standards, then they struggled round the trails arriving back at he car park at 3:30pm! We stopped for a coffee and ate lunch before setting off home and got back by 2pm! I'm glad we didn't wait!!!

I want to thank Gareth for today, You were superb company mate and I truly hope not to fall off on the easy bit next time! I hope the videos do the day justice.

Happy Pedaling

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