AstBUG Mountain Biking

AstBUG-MTB is an Mountain Biking sub group of the main Aston Bike users group. The group aims to organise rides once a fortnight, on a Wednesday evening, we would however try to be as flexible as possible. The rides would take place in the Midlands and would contain as much off road as practical but would almost certainly include some country lanes as there just isn’t that much continuous bridal way close to Birmingham. We may also try to get a little further afield with Cannock Chase and Wyre Forest as options.

I would suggest that you need to have a medium quality mountain bike and be comfortable riding 20-25miles (minimum) of mixed terrain. In the winter you will also need trail lights and, although you might think this goes without saying, a helmet is an absolute must. 

For more information or to join this sub group please get in touch with Neil Cocklin. You can also see the ride reports from 2011.


Ride Reports For 2012

Friday 17th February 2012 by Neil

In a break from our normal mid week night ride we decided to take a day off work this week and get some riding done in the day light hours. At the last moment this trip almost didn't happen. I had installed a new chain Thursday evening which at the time all seemed fine. Come Friday morning however, I attempted to ride into New St and the bike was un-ridable due to the crazy amount of slippage I was getting from the new chain. I quickly returned home and got the old chain on and hot peddled it back into town to meet Jim and get the next train. As we pasted through the Shropshire country side and the hill raised up on either side of us we got excited at the prospect of some decent hill climbing and descending. I say decent anything over 1000ft is rare pleasure in the Midlands. the highest peak in the Long Mynd is about 1500ft and that's starting at about 500ft above sea level.     

We got off the train at Church Stretton and headed into The Mynd... or so we thought. Turns out we came out the wrong side of the train station and were on the opposite side of the village to where we thought we were. We followed some signs for bridle way and had at it for a while.  After an hour or so of looking at the map and scratching our heads we finally asked a local and were pointed in the right direction. We headed back into Church Stretton and decided to go towards Little Stretton and get up into the hills in the middle of the range and then turn south and head towards the gliding club.

The first climb, route 9, was pretty tough to say the least. The weather had closed in by this point, with rain in the air and stiff head wind. The going was fairly slippery too so traction on large sections was pretty minimal. We fought our way to the top eventually and stopped for lunch. The wind continued to howl and the rain came down. Nothing to extreme to be fair but it truly wasn't picnic weather. We didn't hang about long eating our soggy sandwiches and got back on The Shropshire Way towards the gliding club. As we peeled off the road skirting around the back of the club the weather cleared, and we headed towards route 2. A fast rocky switch back section that descends approximately 1000ft in 700m which I would recommend taking a run at. Be warned however; the climb back up to top is fairly significant. It is on a narrow road which makes it slightly easier but it gets very steep and you will have to watch for the on coming vehicles that may or may not give you the right of way. As time was pressing on and the light fading we decided to make route 7, through Minton Batch, the final descent before heading back to Church Stretton. This again is a great section of fast but very narrow and flowing single track, that follows the stream through the gully next to Callow Hill. It was very picturesque and fitting end to a great day's riding.

Below is the route with stats that we rode and a video we shot on the day.

You can find out more about Mountain biking in Shropshire and what the above route numbers mean at mtb-shropshire.

Thursday 2nd February 2012 by Neil

I consider myself a pretty hardly soul most of the time. I can often be found out on the hill peddling through conditions that would have the more sensible among us tucked up at home in front of the fire. I tend to actually really enjoy being out there when most wouldn't and find the "Man vs Elements" aspect of mountain biking very satisfying. However, I'm fairly sure that this was the coldest pleasure cruise I have ridden for a long while. I'm not sure what was the best indicator; the water so cold it hurt to drink or the slush puppies (I kid you not) that were barely flowing from Jim's hydration pack or maybe it was the number of ice baths we were crashing through between the ruts and gullies on the farm tracks. What ever your yard stick, I think you understand the point; IT WAS COLD.

We headed up the Lichfield as we had in mind just how muddy it was last time out at the Licky's. This area appears to drain much better than South Birmingham so seemed like a safer bet. Probably not quite necessary this time around however, as one of the main advantages of weather like this is that the trails tend to ride more like dusty Nevada, than the Midlands in February. They were frozen solid, so rock hard and flowing nicely with no bogs or puddles to really worry about.

I had a small crash that was actually fairly high speed but most of the sting was taken out in the distance I slid rather than the landing so only a lump of the knee and a small graze to worry about. It did however remind me that I should really get back into riding padded up, when riding in the dark. I have become a little blasé while riding local bridal way so its in my mind to heed this little warning and go out properly dressed next time. On the whole it was a really good ride and although I complain about the cold, I love it really.

ps. I suppose I should mention that Jim got a puncture, but to be fair you knew that already.

Thursday 5th January 2012 by Neil

November and December had been a total wash out in terms of getting together to go riding. Mostly due to illness than anything else so it was great to finally get out on the trails and remind ourselves what this cycling business is all about. We decided to go back to the source as it was the new year and visit the location of the inaugural ride of 2011; the Licky Hills. It was some what different this time around as not only was it considerably muddier but also much darker. This ride was in complete darkness and was actually the first time I have done the route as a night ride.

As previously mentioned the weather has dramatically changed the severity of trail with the roots all being twice as slippery and the boggy bits being very deep it made it quite a tiring ride. The section up Chapman's Hill in the Wesley Country Park was once again more like a stream masquerading as a bridal way than a place you would choose to ride your bike. It did provide for some extra challenge and after clearing this section on the ascent we vowed to do the same on the descent. A few high fives later and we had completed this goal, with no small sense of achievement considering the conditions. Fortunately there were no falls, although we were muddy enough to look like we had been rolling it. No real mechanicals this time round but Jim did end up with a bit of Man vs Slow Puncture on his way home.

It was great to get back out in the dark, as night riding holds a special place in the hearts of the Ast-Bug MTB crew as its what we are used to now, only riding in the evenings and then mostly in the winter. Hopefully we shouldn't have such a long brake now before the blast and with the evening light now going in the right direction, I foresee another great year of riding ahead of us. 

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