AstBUG Mountain Biking Ride Reports For 2011

Wednesday 26th October - by Neil

Sutton Park was the location for this weeks jaunt. Its quite surprising just how good the riding is there considering its "only" a park. I have personally ridden there a number of times but still get lost, so it was very handy that this time around we had a "local" to act as our expert guide. Sutton Park has a number of different types of terrain including fast single track through dense woods and lots of open more land type trails which makes for some interesting variation.

We got up to Four Oaks as soon as we could to make the best use of the light but only an hour in and it started to get dark. Luckily for us I think this kept most of the dog walkers either on the beaten track so we almost had the back country areas to ourselves. Less fortunately though the fading light was somewhat responsible (thats my story anyway) for a small "off" that I had involving a ditch and a grassy knoll. It was only a light crash though and after dusting myself off we got on with the show. No major mechanicals again this week which was great, but we did have one puncture to repair and subsequently a pump that failed halfway through getting the tire back to the required pressures.

I would highly recommend Sutton Park for a ride what ever your level. There are a number of nice lakes and the amount of wild life that roams the park always gives you something to look at. If you do venture off the main paths as we did then watch out for the boggy sections and the slippery roots. A lot of the back trails are surprisingly gnarly and tree roots tend to act like a magnet to collar bones when they get wet and slippery. The route map below starts and ends at Four Oaks train station, rather than Sutton as you might expect. 

Thursday 13th October - by Neil

This certainly wasn’t our most successful trip out but at least no one broke any part of their bike this time. We took a spin out to just the other side of Henley-In-Arden, which is about half way between Birmingham and Stratford-Upon-Avon. I had only ever done this route once before and this time around I was attempting to add in another couple of sections of bridal way that looked good on the map. It was probably not the best idea to try this ride in the evening at this time of year, due to having barely even an hour of light to find your way through unfamiliar surroundings. In doing so I actually broke one of my own personal rules about night riding;

“If you need to use a map, don’t do it in the dark. However this doesn't mean don’t take a map with you.”

We spent a lot of time lost if honest, including one spectacular “going in a big circle”. Many of the bridal ways around this area are poorly sign posted and I think in this case rarely used, as often there was seemingly no difference between the trail and the surrounding fields. We also decided that there was no way we were ever going to make it back to Henley for the last train to Birmingham (8:40pm!), so we bailed from the planned route and made our way back to on the Stratford-upon-Avon canal. Although this got us home 20km of tow path in the dark is about as dull as it gets, although it was spiced up a little by having to change an inner tube due to me getting a puncture...

On the whole we had a relatively entertaining evening if just not the one we were expecting. I’m not sure we’ll be trying this route again until I either ride it on Sunday afternoon and get it fixed into my internal navigation system or the long evenings return for an after work blast.

For the sake of completeness I have included the route we took below. I really would advise against following this though as it wouldn't be that much fun, plus we certainly lost the trail at points and ended up making our way around the edges of a couple of fields that we really shouldn't have been in.

Wednesday 28th September - by Neil

I don't think it would be over stating to call last night's ride a total disaster. Unfortunately Jim and Lee had to drop out which left it as just me. With this last minute change of plan I decided that I would go to Lichfield and attempt to finalise the route that we started working out last time.

Roughly 30mins into the ride I noticed that my drive train wasn't really working to well and upon inspection I could see that my rear de-railer was broken! How this happened is any bodies guess. I managed to get something rigged up but this was a running repair at best and basically the ride was over. I managed to limp back to the train station and get myself home, but almost 2 hours of trains for 30 mins riding is not exactly what I signed up for. Oh well I suppose I need to be thankful I didn't have to walk all the way back. Lets hope for better luck next time.

Wednesday 7th September 2011 - by Neil

I had been planning a Lichfield trip for a while now, but there is always a little trepidation when you have worked out a route by map alone. Add to that the extra work of getting the train somewhere and the pressure is on for it to be a good ride. Fortunately my radar for a good bridal way must have been firing on all cylinders as this turned out to be one of the best routes I have ridden around the Midlands. It was almost entirely off road (that's right!!) and very varied as well, taking in some open farm land, deep forest, single track and double track.

The route started from Lichfield City train station and headed out of the city south east towards Tamworth. Pulling off the A51 and heading south on bridal way towards Packington, doing a loop out the west and then back towards Tamworth again. We then did a lap of the woods at Hopwas, which is also a live firing range, fortunately not in use at the time. It began to rain around this time so out came the water proofs by as it wasn't at all cold we weren't put off and pressed on regardless. We then did a loop south of the A5 which I think needs to be rethought a little due to the bridle way here being fairly over grown. If the knee high grass had been any thicker it would have been a real task to get through it. Some of this section was very good though, so hopefully only a subtle change is needed. As winter approaches I think its reasonable to suggest that the vegetation here could die back considerably so if we did this ride again in the next few months then it might not require any route changes. We'll have to see. It started to get dark at this point, and this time we had the trail lights, so into the night it was. I really enjoy some off road in the dark, there is nothing that focuses the mind more than weaving through single track only being able to see a 10 meters in front of you. The last stretch I had planned was also one of the best sections and so a fitting end to a great ride.
It is inevitable now that Wednesday evening rides will have at least some riding in the dark. If you are interested in getting involved then get some trail lights and get in touch. When talking of trail lights what I'm referring to are lights that are powerful enough to actually light your way. Most commuter lights are not designed to do this, they really just tell cars you are on the road. Clearly there is no street lighting where we ride so this really is a must, and something that I would insist upon for safety. If you would like some information about affordable trail lights then please drop me an email.

Wednesday 17th August 2011 - by Neil

We decided to go a bit of a longer spin today and took a ride into the bridal ways of South Birmingham. The route we took started in Kings Heath and moved out through the country side of Wythall eventually looping back at Alvechurch, through Hopwood and then touching the edge of Kings Norton on the way back to Kings Heath. The distance was about 25miles with a couple of moderate hills.
It was a great evening for riding with it being warm and dry but not so hot we were dehydrating. Most of the off road sections were dry and dusty too, so conditions were running fast, although there was the odd boggy bit.

It was only the second time that I had ridden this route and we made a couple of wrong turns but hey that's part of the fun and its not like we had any where to get to on time. We did however take a little bit longer to complete this route than I think you normally would, as I was doing a bit of filming to create a video of the ride. Unfortunately this meant that it started to get dark and we only just made it back to civilisation in time, considering we didn't have any lights. I'm planning to now take my lights out with me on evening rides as the evenings are starting to draw in again already. I'm planning to have the video edited and posted up on this page some time next week.

**EDIT - Here's the video.

For as bit more detail on the typography and the exact route see the map below.

Wednesday 20th July 2011 - by Neil

The group met today for the inaugural ride, up in the Licky Hills. This is a great location being fairly close to Birmingham and very easily accessible from Aston's campus via the cross city train link. The weather was good being dry but with enough clouds to give us a little shade and keep the sun from beating down. We met at Barnt Green station and took a spin up the bridal way to the Licky visitors centre and across the top of the hills past the look out point. We cut through the edge of Rubery and into the Wesley Country park climbing Chapman's hill before retracing our steps back to Barnt Green.

This route is roughly 12 miles, is "out and back" in terms of style and about 75% off road. It was fairly easy going with the worst of the hills being right at the start, a great warm up in my book, and just after we start the return leg back up Chapmans Hill. This is a ride that I did a number of times last winter, including in the snow, but this was the first time I had done it during a dry spell. It was good see this route had indeed dried out a lot which made for much easier riding as some sections can get quite muddy and are slow going. There was also a decent amount of growth that had occurred which altered the look and feel of the route quite considerably.

I would guess that this would be one of the easier routes that we will be riding so if you would be comfortable with being able to ride at least 12 miles, with a few hills thrown in, get in touch and find out some more about what we have planned.

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