About a month ago I treated myself to a nice new, amazing mountain bike. I’ve always pottered about on the same old mountain bike I was bought when I was about 14, with spring suspension and a tiny frame. It did me well enough for want I wanted to do, but after riding down Mt. Wellington in Tasmania, and then borrowing my friends Specialized bike quite a few times while she was pregnant, I’ve been craving a decent one.
I finally took the plunge and Ash joined me as his old bike had broken, and we invested! After getting them we said we’d go to Cannock Chase for a day and have a go on the trails. After all, these bikes could handle them and Ash had done quite a bit of mountain biking at uni so he was keen to get back to it.
Finally we found the time and I booked a day off work so it was less likely to be busy and we went on Halloween!
Until now the extent of my “mountain biking” experience has been cycling along disused railways and canal towpaths, so although I can pedal along I certainly don’t claim to be very good, or very fit.
We arrived and hit the blue route first. Once I had walked up the massive, steadily climbing hill, we were off. It was so much fun! A big wide path that was shared with walkers. The only “mountain biking” bit about it was that it was deep stone/pebbles in places which was quite slippery and very bumpy going over at speed. But we had a lot of fun. The end was especially fast and smooth. The blue route passes some sections of red route and as there was no one around we had a quick go on the ‘stegosaurus’, a series of rock stones leading on to a boardwalk. I made it down the stones okay until it got to a tight corner which I didn’t feel brave enough to get round, and then the boardwalk was okay until a steep drop off at the end, which again I didn’t do. I wasn’t feeling so good about trying the red route anymore.
But after a short lunch and recover we set off for the Follow The Dog red route, the easier of the reds at Cannock Chase and described as a very tame red route by some people. Everyone told me I would be okay. I took it steady, winding through the trees and gradually grew in confidence, getting more accurate with my tire placements and allowing a bit more speed in to the corners. I was going slow but I was enjoying myself and I was learning and growing as I went.
As we went on the trail got harder and I grew more and more tired. A few times I slipped and had to put my foot down or walked up a few of the hills and tricky parts, but mostly I had a go and did okay. I chose to avoid the narrow boardwalk section and some of the big rock drops but I did some of them and the rocky rollovers at the end were good fun. Eventually we were done!
Thankfully it was really quiet and I only needed to move over for about 5 people who were all very pleasant about it. At the end I wasn’t sure if I had really enjoyed it or if red routes were for me but as I talked to Ash on the way home I realised I’d done really well as I’d never really ridden that far nor done any kind of technical riding before.
The trouble it seems is that there is no mid-way between the blue and the red, you are either on a wide, stoney path on the blue or you’re dropping down big rock steps on the red.
I’m certainly going to start practising some of the skills at home and work on my overall fitness, plus keep riding and have another go. I’ve read about some lovely fast blue routes at difference bike parks and I know I’d love to have a go, I think they’re going to be more my thing that the technical reds, but as I’m so new to it I think you have to experience it to find out. I’m just really glad we got out on our new bikes, doing what they are designed for and having fun.
If you have any tips for a novice like me I’d love to hear them! I must give a quick mention to The Fit Bits blog, which really inspired me and gave me a good insight into riding trails.
I filmed a short vlog of the day which you can watch down below.
I loved watching your vlog and reading the blog – well done. A massive achievement!
I took up mtb about 2 years ago and loved it! I’m only on blue routes as I’ve tried a red route (by accident) and had an awful experience! I’ve yet to try Chase – heard it’s good though, it certainly looks it. If you’re ever in North Wales – I can’t recommend Coed Y Brenin enough – their blue routes are mega.
I completely agree with you about no in between. Blue is all hills and red seems to be rock garden (lots of stones and pebbles on the trail). I love Coed Y Brenin because it’s got an orange route which is an in between route – it’s the only one I’ve ever seen.
I’m determined to get on a red soon…
Ah thank you! It’s so nice to hear someone else is in my shoes. Oo we love travelling to North Wales so I’ll definitely put that on my to do list. From what I’ve heard Follow the Dog is definitely a soft red so maybe you should have a go one day! Xx
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Trust me MTB is a journey, especially if you’re not overly keen on sharp twist and turns and things in the way! It really is a skill and it takes years to get to a good standard. I’ll definitely put that on my list. Can’t be as bad as the Reds in Llandegla – by god, they’re scary!!! :0
Haha yeah Ash said he wouldn’t take me on a red in Llandegla so I reckon they are tougher!
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Both of those trails look really nice! I haven’t been to Cannock (yet?!), but I’ve been giving my local blue (in the Forest of Dean) a good hammering recently. It does get easier eventually!
Grading seems to vary so much across different trail centres though. Think the ‘easiest’ red I’ve done is the one at Swinley Forest, which seemed to be the same as the blue but with a few more tree roots thrown in…
Its so frustrating not knowing what you might come across on each route. For Cannock Chase I found quite a few trail guides and videos so I had an idea of what I might meet, however the descriptions make a lot more sense after you’ve done it.
Great post and loved the video. I am such a wimp when it comes to bikes, I rode as a kid but now I can’t do it. it appears that you can forget how to ride a bike! It always amazes me when we’re climbing steep and rocky hills in the Lakes and you can see tyre tracks. I think you did well for a first attempt, I’m sure you’ll get better very quickly.
Aw thank you what a kind comment. For me I’m not so much forgetting how to do things but getting more aware of how much something will hurt if I mess it up as I get older.
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Well done it takes serious courage to hurtle down a hill of any kind!
Thank you 🙂
Thank you, that’s so kind of you 🙂 I do feel a little less of a wet lettuce now hehe.
[…] How could I not start with this bike! My God I love it. You may have seen from a recent post I treated myself to a new bike at the end of September, and October has been the month for me to get out and play on it. It’s a Cube Limited Pro hardtail with 27.5″ wheels. It feels massive to me but it’s definitely the right size and I’m growing in confidence to trust it and let it do the work and keep me upright (although I’ve had a few wobbles). You can see my recent post and vlog about my first time on mountain bike trails here. […]