Return of the Ladybower Lungbuster!

IMG_0131 (1)

Bank holiday! Been a bit of an action packed one. Had a trip up mac woods, a ramble round thors cave, a trip to yorkshire sculpture park. All good stuff, and mint weather to boot. To cap it off (some would say put the nail in the coffin as ive still got two sore fingers, a dodgy knee and a stiff calf from falling off the other day), theres been this ride up down and around ladybower reservoir. First did it years ago with some good mates (some of whom have given up riding now, some who have settled down with families, others who have fallen by the wayside for whatever other reason) so its been nice to revisit it after a good amount of time and see just how much slower those of us left standing (pedalling?) have got as middle age (and its inevitable spread) gets to us…

After being picked up by M in his new ‘beast’ van and having a picnic in the lounge with a maccy ds breakfast and a flask of coffee (you know how good your hospitality is when mates bring a flask with them), and then spending far too long stuck behind quarry wagons, we eventually made the trail head.

Simple enough route. Up win hill, down the (ledgendary) beast, up hag farm (still some bluebells out here!), down lockerbrook, up the ladybower lungbuster itself and then down past hurkling stones. It was great to retrace our steps from previous years, and holy rattlesnakes batman, those hills definitely havent got any smaller… To be fair, the beast did seem a lot shorter than before, but thats probably more to do with modern bike and brake technology, and you can betcha i like my brakes going down there… One place modern bike technology is actually a bit shit is on the climbs. My legs wont push a 30/42 gear up some of em, i swear it was easier on the hills ten years ago with a proper granny ring up front, but maybe thats ten years of beer and pizza taking its toll…


Another big revelation this trip was that they actually serve not too rough coffee at fairholmes visitor centre. Nice surpise, as last time i was there it tasted more like bisto than coffee. Other things ive learned include: I need a bigger rucksack since ive discovered an ace shop (bottle lab in leek) up the road that sells all sorts of nice ales in 330ml cans, so the perfect size for a mid-ride refresher. Im also seriously considering getting some knee pads after last weeks tumble. The penalties for bouncing into (rather than off) a rock up here are far greater than when nearer to civilisation, and even without that, im thinking my owd mon joints would thank me for a bit of extra padding when my bicycling aspirations outweigh my abilities.


Vital Stats for todays trundle: About fifteen miles. 2500 feet of up n down. Couple of stumbles, but no falls and no submissions. Two ham wraps, one coffee, one caramel shortbread, and half a packet of liqourice allsorts (the trail snack of the 21st century). And a big hop hit from one marstons EPA (free), and one black flag fang (rather expensive all things considered). Tune of the day was the mighty bob marley yet again. Im still not totally sure about riding round blasting tunes from a bluetooth speaker, but ive gotta admit, swooping down past hurkling stones as the sun broke through for us, chasing M and listening to these sounds, was a pretty cool moment.

Skids are for Kids yo!


Nipping round Ted Heaths for Mini-Cheddars!

FullSizeRender (1)

Summers evenings! Doncherjuslovem!?

Im not totally sure which trail is Ted Heath and which is Mini Cheddars, but theyre both ace. Kudos to the folks over cheddleton way for cramming so much stuff into such a small space, the jump farmers up there are busy and skilled folk. None of us is totally convinced that anyone actually rides the big jumps up there though, which is fair enough even if so cos they stand in their own right as works of earthy art. I really should try and get a piccy.

To be fair, most of this ride just kinda vanished beneath a haze of Red Rum… Im stepping up my hip flask game for wednesday night rides, so it was red rum (in a shiiiining hip flask) this week. Next week im bringing out the big guns and packing the absinthe. Should be interesting after a couple of snifters!

So, yeah. We pedalled some. We did some skids. Some drops off the sides of the locks along the canal. I was dead stoked (i believe thats whats the kids call it) after legitimately stringing together a series of jumps one after the other and getting both wheels off the ground at the same time. The jumps were only about a foot high but ive got a massive mental block with jumping ever since really hurting myself at cannock years ago so i reckon thats pretty good progression for an owd un!

Couple of dead tasty ales were consumed at the hollybush inn for post ride rehydration. No idea what they were now, thats all a Red Rum haze now too, but i do know its still one of my favourite pubs at the minute. Vital stats for the ride? About 18 miles, a thousand foot or so of up n down, one free beer, one very late night!

The Bluetooth Speaker made another appearance tonight and i think this was my musical moment of the ride. Summers evening in the trees, smell of bluebells in the air, three bikes razzing round, this blasting out of one of the bikes bottle cages, and the bemused looks of passers by. Good Times ūüôā

Happy Trails! Dusty bikes for happy bikers!

Three Shires Hoardes.


who says horizons always have to be level?

Just a route from the Cat n Fiddle pub, over the moor, then bouncing round the rocks on the various bridleways thereabouts. T’was an absolute SunStonker of a day, and i was already a bit sunburnt from a big ole ramble round Kinder Scout the day before, seems like it was the first PROPER hot weekend of the year. Shorts and t-shirt weather ahoy! Trouble is, when the sun comes out, so do the Hordes. I’d already been through three shires itself twice prior to the above pic,and this was the first time that there was space enough to have a sit down.

As befits my middle aged cantankerous persona, this leaves me in somewhat of a quandry. I think its ace that theres so many people out there wanting to enjoy the open spaces, but sometimes i cant help but think it would be better if a few folks just stayed at home…

Things that confounded on this trip were the still smouldering disposable BBQ placed on a peat moor up by the cat and fiddle. I melted a finger on my glove putting it on some less flammable rocks, but thats better than the moor burning isnt it i suppose? Even better would be to not have a bloody BBQ on a peat moor. I saw two dogs not on leads chasing sheep and lambs, despite loads of notices telling people what a bad idea that is. A bit further up the trail there was a freshly dead sheep right on the path. A product of another dog chase perhaps? Oh, and a big thank you to the couple that stood motionless in the middle of the trail as i rang my bell and called hello and politely asked if i could squeeze past. Shit people, how quickly would you have been writing a letter to the local paper or ringing up jeremy vine if you had been mown down by a push bike? A bit of consideration cuts both ways doncherknow.

Its never all bad though is it. Had a¬† nice chat with an old boy out for a ramble about how he never used to see any one round there years ago. Makes me wonder what it will be like in another twenty years or so. Hopefully i’ll still be out exploring round and about, hopefully others will be too, im sure theres enough space for us all. But the more pressure there is on our open spaces then the more ‘we’ (as a population) need to be showing a bit more respect and love for our surroundings and fellow beings. Is the countryside code still a thing these days?

Righty, vital stats. About 13 mile, couple of thousand foot of up and down. No free beers consumed (WHUT), and i had this running round my head. Dunt matter what the upset is, theres usually a J Mascis song to make it better.

Be cool to each other out there people.

Fox 34 Mini Review.

Ok, so i splashed out and bought a new bike last year. It came with Fox 34’s on it, not the ctd ones that everyone slated, but the 2016 ones. Thought id just do a quick real world use mini review, just to log my own experiences as much as anything.

Initial impressions were very “Oooo!”. Nice damping, easy to set up, worked a tonne better than my old 32’s on the hardtail. But in the back of my mind i still wasn’t sure if i should have spent the extra and had the Rockshox Pikes. Id test ridden them and loved em, but then all the mainstream reviews said the 34 was a contender so i plumped for them seeing as if they were a bit cheaper and also just as good (if not better), then what was there to lose?

And I was chuffed with my purchase. For a while. It was only as i started using them more and in different places that i began to have my doubts. Did they need more or less low speed compression? Rebound? Volume adjusters mebbe? I tinkered, pumped, clicked and tweaked. They felt great on woodsy singletrack type stuff, but if i took the bike they were fitted to (an Orange Five) somewhere more near its more intended arena of use (ie, steeper, rockier, faster, the sort of trails like in the peak district), they just felt a bit sort of vague and i just couldnt get em feeling how i wanted.

Then i had a go on a mates Rockshox Yari. Holy Moly. The damping and springing was way off, but it was like a light went on in my suspension brain. In a quick experiment, we grabbed the front wheel of each bike and tried to waggle the bars. The fox were wangy like a plastic drain pipe (about an inch of wang at the ends of 780mm bars!), yet the Rockshox were solid like a scaffold tube. The suspicion was it wasn’t my numpty set up after all, it was just the nature of the fork, and the ‘vagueness’ might have been coming from the wanginess rather than the way the fork was set up.

So i mortgaged yet another kidney and splashed out on some Pikes (from ubyk, good price and ace service). Im over the moon and havent looked back. You hit a rock garden with these and all they do is go up and down. No wanderiness, no vagueness. Im still not convinced the pikes ‘feel’ as nice as the 34’s, but its still early days yet and they definitely have a massive advantage when it comes to steering precision. And when your as crap a rider as me, you need all the help you can get! Its not really a case of ones good and ones bad, cos they’re each better than the other in different ways. So heres my conclusions.

Fox 34 win on weight. A couple of hundred grams lighter if i remember rightly? They have longer service intervals. I think the damping feels ‘nicer’ or ‘plusher’ on these than the pike too. But the Rockshox absolutely totally and utterly clean up in regards to steering precision. You get volume adjusters in the box, and a service kit too, which is a nice touch. But what makes it a better fork to my mind is that it has so much more steering precision. It doesnt get knocked off line, it never wanders through rock gardens. “Yay, though i may ride through the shadow of the downhill of the valley of death, i shall fear no evil, for i have pikes bolted to my bike”. They kinda remind me of a Fox 36 i used to have (before it got nicked after about three rides) back in the days of inch-eighth steerers and 26″ wheels. I’ve not traditionally been a massive fan of SRAM and Rockshox but these are a brilliant piece of kit, i now understand why everyone goes nuts for the pike!

So to sum up my experiences. For a good all round fork, try the 34. It makes for a great hard riding xc fork, and i reckon it would be well suited on a nice 27.5 trail hardtail type thingy. Its civilised. If it was a car it would probably be something like a four wheel drive audi. But for more composure on bigger rocks and as a confidence booster when at the edge of your skill set, the pike is more like a V8 bowler. Not as civilised, but great for a confidence boost when the going really gets rough.

Now quit yer yappin and get out brappin!



Deep Hazed and Confused.

Like a muddy buckled wheel scraping a rim brake, wednesday evening rolled round again. Quite a gang out this evening, six of us slip and sliding round in the slop, so unfortunately the hipflask didn’t really go very far… Maybe we should step it up and splash some funds on either a bigger hipflask or some pokier booze. Absinthe maybes? Hmmm…

Route wise, it was a re-hash of our exploration on monday. Personally, i’m loving the fact that we’ve discovered trails on the doorstep that are currently verging on unrideable. Its one of the ace things about the mountain bike. Its not all about fitness, and even the most skilled can fail on certain trails. Its a great leveller. The focus needed to get along the slimy slidey steep steppy stuff (and the comedy value of crashing into barbed wire fences) and the challenge presented by the trails (what challenge? Didn’t some people just push their bikes eh? Eh??) are something thats got me proper jazzed on the MTB at the min. Should probably bear in mind that its a group ride though, and that kind of stuff isn’t for everyone… British Stiff Upper Lips were called into play by a couple of us i’m sure. Sorry folks!


Keep off the wrong side of the tracks.

Heading back to the pub via the railway was spooky indeed. Maybe it’s the old mental hospital at the top of the hill, but this place has always had a weird vibe to me. Not helped by the eerie mist drifting across the tracks… Plus even though it was the official first evening ride of the year after the clocks going forward, it was colder than cold. Admittedly, not too cold to sit outside the pub for a couple of light ales and a bag of crisps while chatting nonsense, but my memory did kind of started blanking out at this point… Presumably because of the cold rather than the Irish Peated Ale. All i can really remember after that point was singing Duran Duran, wearing a scarf over my head, and wondering if it was possible to actually get any colder as i hosed the mud off me and my stuff once back home.


lessons learned: I need to get some stickers made. None of us can speak French. Tubeless is ace. Sweet Protection Mudrides are ace shorts. And the things teenage boys can apparently do with an elastoplast while on holiday are truly eye opening…

Vital stats: About 15 miles of pedalling/hiking, depending on skillset. Approximately one third of a pint of free beer (depending on crisp consumption). All in all, what a blimmin great evening!

Time to wind this up, i need to listen to some different music to get Duran Duran out of my head…

Happy Trails!







Ok, so everybody knows a pirates favourite letter is ‘R’. Even though his first love is the ‘C’…

Today has been spent out and about pirating yet more cheeky trails for our future night rides. Summer is coming and since between us we’ve been riding the local trails for a bit more than the last twenty years it sometimes gets a bit tricky to think of new routes to ride from our doorsteps, so a bit of exploration for new ideas never goes unwelcome.

Steveo had a couple of ideas to make last Wednesdays route a bit more’ride-a-bike’ than ‘hike-a-bike’, but to be fair after the amount of rain we’ve had last night we still both ended up doing our fair share of hiking… It unfortunately seems like the trails have gone from almost rideable back to being a pile of wintery slop almost overnight. Maybe it’s because Momma Nature heard i was going to be getting back on two wheels so she’s doing it to test my motivation? After getting all the kinds of weather there are (from sun to rain to hail to horizontal rain to back again), and yet still coming out of it with a smile, i don’t think my motivation can have been found lacking so we’ll see who relents first, Me or The Momma… And given i’ve just spent a vast amount of money on some new waterproof shorts and¬† am determined to get my moneys worth, good ole Momma Nature is deffo going to have a battle on her hands this year!

Lessons learnt: Five Tens are ace shoes for flat pedals, but are utterley rubbish for walking in mud. The 2016 Orange Five is an absolute RipStonker of a bike. After far too many years, i’ve finally got it sussed how to ride those off camber catch berm thingys (Personal Milestone Ahoy! The trick, like with most trail skills, is to stop thinking, just get on and do it, and let it flow). Sweet Protection Mudrides are great shorts. Maps are useful things, but a sense of direction is also priceless. A hipflask of Southern Comfort can go a long way to improving morale when the mud is as high as an elephants eye and the hail is stinging your cheeks. And finally, salad is a strange accompaniment to sausage egg and chips at the pub. Seriously pub people? Surely it can’t be just me that would prefer baked beans to salad?!

Soooo, vital statistics: 17 miles, 1000 feet of climbing, one free beer consumed, and one big fat belly pub dinner. The Hollybush at Denford had a cracking peated Irish ale on and is still as awesome a pub as there is. I’ve been rubbish with the photos yet again, but today i’m blaming busting a lung having to keep up with steveo and his massive legs. That simply doesn’t leave enough time for snapshots!


A dry oasis along a flooded canal.

I dunno if its just me, but i often get songs stuck in my head whilst riding. So i’m gonna start putting links to those in here too. Hopefully that might make up a bit for my lack of pictures… Had this crazy number buzzing round my head today, enjoy!

Happy Trails!

Deep Haze, Off-Piste.

Midweek ride or midweek booze up…?

I had a vague plan of where to go… All of us have lived round here for years, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not anything new under the sun (or the moon, for a night ride). My vague plan was essentially plaited out of snot after doing a bit of Strava stalking of other peoples local rides, and it entailed going a little out of our comfort zone for the evening. It entailed hills. And it would probably entail taking the bikes for a ramble. And it would almost definitely entail getting moaned at and shouted at by my fellow FBBC’ers. The trails viability would lie somewhere in the grey area of being whats know as ‘cheeky’, but at the same time, we’re all responsible grown ups and we aren’t about to mow down any parties of orphans out on a day trip or to do any wanton damage to the surroundings…¬† And anyways, even after all these years, im still seeking the ‘golden trail’ and when that means bits of trail that are super techy, steep and steppy, and not really designed to ride bikes on, you sometimes do have to push the boundarys a little… Is that really such a bad thing?

So i sort of thought i might have maybe known where we might find some new trails… A couple of us had been exploring the other week (and reliving many hours of our very happily misspent youth), so after a bit of map surfing i reckoned there might be a way of linking some bits of trail together in some new ways. Well, i was partially right. Yes, stuff did link up, but also it entailed a LOT of stumbling round the edges of fields (made worse as i forgot the hip flask), until we found the right path (kudos to steveo and his sense of direction). But once we were on it… In the words of Flavour Flav, ‘YEEEEEEEAAAAH BOI!!’.¬† Steps for days! Trail so tech you couldnt be sure if you could make it for the next few metres, let alone clear the lot… I know one of our riders succumbed to a broken ballsack, but others were lucky to either make it through, up, over and along without so much injury, either by utilising the modern medium of the dropper post, or the more oldschool method of getting off and walking. It was the highlight of my ride tbh, had to fight for every inch of that trail to make it down with minimal dabbing or sustaining personal injury, a real challenge! Hopefully i’ll be able to persuade the FBBC’ers to return, despite the massive hills and severe risk of personal injury… I think the tamer stuff over Cheddleton way that we got to later may suffice to tempt them. Some nice trails up there too, despite only being short. Sort of reminds us of how Hanchurch Woods used to be before they cut it all down.

So that was the riding, what about the beer? Well, we called in at The Hollybush at Denford on the way back (variously known as ‘the smelly dog pub’ or ‘the ship’, dont ask me how or why). Unfortunately, no chips this week as we arrived too late, but still some excellent ales, among them ‘Four Leaf’ a tasty, almost chocolatey brew, and ‘Flummery’ which was an IPA in the style of Titanics plum porter (sorry, but i can’t remember the brewerys for some reason…Ahem!). A proper good end to a proper good ride out. As for the vital statistics of the ride, well. Theres no pictures as it was dark and not even worth getting the phone out to try and take any snaps, and¬† i’ve no idea how far we went due to not taking my garmin. But one free beverage was consumed, and a massive amount of trail smiles were had. Makes it a mid-week winner in my book!



Wincle Brewery Ride.

It’s spring, it’s Monday, and I’m not in work. It’s a 30 mile round trip to Wincle Brewery, and I’m wearing sunglasses. Hit it!

photo 2

Like an oasis up in the hills…

I’ve been neglecting the road bike a bit lately so the plan was to dust it off for an afternoon pedal to pay Wincle Brewery their first visit of the year. A little trip out up’n’over Lask Edge, around the back of the World Famous Gun Hill, a couple of swift beverages from the folks at Wincle, then back round the lanes (maybe nip in the cafe at Rudyard Lake for a brew), followed by dragging my unfeasibly fat arse back over Lask Edge before collapsing in a heap at home with a pint of tea and some poached eggs on toast…

I love living in Stoke. It gets such a bad rep from all sides, but when you’ve got quiet lanes and hills and scenery like this on your doorstep, I really can’t understand why people are so down on it. After the big slog up Lask Edge the views over the Cheshire plain on one side and over to the Peak District on the other are truly spectacular. When your rolling along, with the smells of spring in yer nostrils as the birds chatter overhead, it’s a truly fine place to be.

The rhythm of riding the road seemed to come back pretty quickly too. Almost meditative. I remember doing a similar ride last summer on a bike with a creaky bottom bracket and I could have easily chucked it off the edge of the hill if it wasn’t such a long walk back. A creak or a rattle doesn’t really matter on the MTB, but it can totally ruin a road ride after having to listen to something creak away for hours on end.

Once the rhythm was going it seemed I was at Wincle before I even really realised it. Cant recommend stopping at Wincle Brewery enough if your ever over that way. A proper nice selection of ales on tap, all brewed on the premises, and accompanied by the finest pork scratchings available anywhere. Coffee and flapjack are also available for the less alcoholically inclined, plus they do beer for take out too so grab a box of Life of Riley or Burke’s Special to go, you you wont regret it! The brewery dog, Molly, is ace too. But be warned, you’ll have no peace once you open that bag of scratchings or once start throwing the ball for her…


Proper cycling energy food.

But it’s still only early spring so sitting there chilling out soon became more like getting chilled to the bone. Time to move on. It turns out the cafe at Rudyard Lake was shut, but I did do my good turn for the day and went to the rescue of a man in a boat who had sailed straight into the side of the lake and got his mast and rigging caught in a tree. He’d literally bought the boat that morning, and never sailed before…

We struggled trying to push it back out with various branches (the wind and the tree refusing to let the boat go), until the chap jumped overboard to push while I was up the tree pushing with another great big branch, both using up all the curse words we knew to get the damned thing to shift… Pure Comedy Gold. Eventually we succeeded (imagine the joy and relief!) only for the poor chap to drift straight into another tree, just a couple of meters further down the lake… I may or may not have been laughing uncontrollably by this point… No other options left, the unfortunate mariner was forced to swallow his pride and phone a friend with a little more sailing expertise to come and help out. I hope they came and succeeded, the poor guy could still be stuck there otherwise…

After that, the rest of the journey home was just as pleasant. Felt good to be alive and rolling round on two wheels. So all in all, a smashing trip to pop the road bikes 2016 cherry. Twenty-nine miles ridden, 2900 feet of climbing, two beers (neither of them free), one bag of scratchings (shared with one canine companion), and plenty of laughs with the stricken mariner. Good Times!


Keith Bontrager used to have a marketing line that said ‘Strong, light, cheap. Pick two.’ Ive always had a soft spot for Bontragers, so I ripped off his mantra and monkeyed with it to make it my own. Rather than offer a maxim for bike design, my personal riding mantra¬† is designed to enable me to maximise my enjoyment from any given ride, before I even pull my shorts on.

It applies to night rides, and states: ‘Below five degrees, raining, dark. Pick two.’ That is to say, if all three are going on then I’m staying in by the fire. I don’t care if the Titanic Plum Porter is tasting particularly great that day, this pedalling lark is supposed to be fun when all’s said and done, and if theres more than two of the three going on at that point in time then I’m simply not game for a trundle on the bikecycle. Even if there is a promise of some kind of beverage (or cake) at some point on route. In an ideal world, all three are present and correct, but that doesn’t really happen all that often, especially through the dark end of the year.

Maybe I’m getting old. I’m sure there was a time when I wasn’t such a wuss and could sit outside a pub in the snow after a ride, sipping a GnT like it were a summer day, full of that satisfied feeling only a quality ride can provide. If I really cast my mind back, I think I can even vaguely remember a time when I would enthusiastically claim “if it ain’t raining then it ain’t training!” but despite all those rain sodden, frozen toes rides, I never seemed to get much faster… I had a brief flirtation with the idea of ‘if the weathers forbidding, then lets get skidding’ which worked for a while but the cost of tyres soon put me off that one. Maybe I’m turning all Enduroist nowadays, cos recently all I keep hearing myself say is ‘quit your yapping and lets get braaaapping!’ The irony in that is all too obvious as I wobble down the trail like a pig on stilts, but it does makes me smile. And yeah, I do kinda enjoying making motorbike noises to myself whilst tootling down the canal or jumping speed humps…

But hey! Its spring equinox, the light nights are coming back and it’s time to come out of hibernation again. As surely as the wheels keep rolling round, the seasons keep turning too, and rides wont have to be constrained to grabbing quick pootles here and there as and when the conditions fit my mantra. I might be another year older, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing… After all, the woods are a year older too and they’re still doing fine… Lets face it, nothing is getting younger and after a smashing ramble yesterday I’m kinda feeling a bit like the countryside and woods around here as the bulbs sprout up and buds start to come out… Full of promise and potential for the year to come. Already the mud is drying out and I’m spotting new bits of trail from off-piste crazy steep-narrow deer tracks at Cannock, to cheeky footpaths in the Peaks, to planning long lanes rides to distant breweries and cafes. Gotta admit, I’m looking forward to the good company, the trails and lanes and fine refreshments that 2016 is going to provide. Just so long as its light, warm, and dry. Or at the very least two of the three… Roll on 2016!