The group turnout was really good with a total of 12 riders making the journey, the majority of whom had never ridden here before. After a quick briefing of the trails and likely conditions, a bike check and a chat we split up into 2 groups to take on ‘Follow the Dog’ and ‘Monkey Trail’. 'Follow the Dog' is the classic ‘Chase trail - a circular loop of 7 miles, graded Red by the Forestry Commission. 'Monkey Trail' is a year old 7 mile extension loop that is also a Red graded trail but with a few optional black sections as well (very narrow wooden beams and large rock gardens). Both can be ridden separately if you’re really short on time or linked together as we did. There is also a designated Down Hill area close by with tracks that are really well set out making the most of the gradient with some really good features (jumps, road gaps etc). Steve Peat has also raced there (Google it) but these were not ridden by us… this time…
The trails here have a really good mix of technical and really tight rooty sections, rock gardens, wooden bridge sections, smooth bermed trails and a few slow, grinding, climbs for good measure and some really fast flowing descents. With a somewhat man made vibe to the trails (a good thing I think) they manage to be great fun in all conditions. The sandy soil drains well and retains a lot of grip even when it’s sodden and the stony surfaced sections run really fast. The surfaced sections can seem a little slippery in one or two of the corners, and the wooden bridges added a nice challenge without being too hard as to put people off.
The first group lead by Mark hit the trails at lightning speed followed (at a more casual pace) by the other half of the group lead by myself.
In the second group the ride went really well with plenty of time to take in the trails and have a chin-wag and some jelly babies at the tops of the climbs before moving on. There were no serious incidents to speak of and we only had a couple of mechanicals – broken chain and a broken chain guide (separate bikes) through the second half of the 'Monkey Trail'. The weather was pretty chilly and wet so my camera only had 1 outing (sorry) but for a better idea of the trails there are loads of videos on YouTube!
The group decided to run the last descent on 'Monkey Trail' again so we rode back up, dropped our seats and set off hitting the jumps and drops and railing the berms despite the seemingly relentless headwind.
'Monkey Trail' flows into the rest of 'Follow the Dog' which was running really well for us with only 1 small section closed for trail repairs. With the end (and a cuppa) in sight we hit the last set of puddle filled berms, drops rollers and jumps before heading to the bike wash to get cleaned up.
Overall the only features we really needed to watch out for were the 3 rock gardens half way round 'Monkey Trail' and one at the end of 'Follow the Dog' because of the weather. These sections can safely be ridden in the wet if taken carefully but all 3 are really short so you’re back on grippy soil after half a second anyway. As it was so wet our shorts were all brown anyway so it was hard to tell who rode them comfortably and who had a temporary loss of, erm, composure…
Brown shorts aside, those who rode all remarked on what a good trail it was and were looking forward to riding it in the dry sometime soon. My only regret was not changing my brake pads before we set off; as the soil quite sandy it’s very good at wearing out parts. For the last mile at least I’d been using the metal on my brake pads to slow down instead of the pad itself… sorry bike but thanks for not complaining too much!
Many thanks to all who made the trip to Cannock Chase and I’m looking forward to seeing you soon (and receiving your completed membership forms!)
On behalf of The bucksmtb.co.uk Team