As many of our friends know, since moving into our new gaff we have been spending pretty much all of our free time bringing it right up to date. This has meant we are now recognised at our local B&Q and our fingers are lacking any sort of recognisable skin ( thanks to copious amounts of paint, thinners, grout, filler, no-more-nails and sandpaper ). But the end is in sight ( or should it be 'nigh'? ), new carpet for the stairs, landing and big bedroom comes tomorrow and that is the last major job.
What is left is all the details...and that is still going to take time, but at least we can walk around in socks without worrying about paint or nails!
I'll leave you with some words from Indira Ghandi " There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there."
Solid biking sessions have been at a premium in 2007. Combine the rubbish summer weather with getting married and buying a new gaff and I just haven’t had the time to really develop my riding that step further. To cut a long story short I had for some time been looking at getting a little bit of pro help to get me riding faster and basically more comfortable when it gets hairy ( and of course I wanted to be able to do more tricks, but doesn’t everyone? ).
First muddy corners of the day
Fast forward to the end of October and I get a call from my mate Bob over at One Planet Adventure. He had given me the inside line that the Athertons would be running their Training Day courses on a new bit of track at Llandegla and wanted to know if I wanted a place. I think the stump is healing now after I practically bit his hand off for the opportunity to ride with some of the biggest names in the Mountain Biking World and with the new Meta 666 set up I was itching for the day to come.
It's all about focus ( 0.5 seconds later I was on my ass )
As with all good things on this merry isle of ours, it promptly chucked it down for the 12 hours before the course and the rain continued to darken the skies as we all met for the morning briefing and coffee in the meeting room ( next to the award winning café ).
Over a warming cuppa Dan and Gee greeted us all in their Animal Commencal race kit and gave us an overview of the day. Bob and Jim from One Planet were on hand to assist and with everyone wanting to get going, we kitted up and headed to the special area they had been working on for their courses. At this point my memory goes a little blank and I can’t remember the direction, distance or track we followed to this new area ( I already got in trouble once for telling the world about some new tracks! ), but once we got there it was clear that the day would definitely be a muddy one.
Launching into the Aabyss
Dan and Gee were keen from the beginning to point out that the course wasn’t about throwing yourself around the track at 110mph, it was about building technique which would then allow you ride smoother and ultimately ride faster than you had done before. We started with what seemed like a simple set of muddy corners. The sort of thing you would find on any wooded single track. Then we saw the speed that both Dan and Gee could hit them and we all realised that we had a lot to learn from these boys. With Dan and Gee providing feedback on each run we worked on braking points, focus areas and weight distribution on the bike. Without a doubt we all got faster listening and acting on their feedback each time.
Dan Atherton railing a muddy berm
Moving swiftly on we checked out the wooded drops that had been built into the track. Nothing too crazy, but the longer you look at something the harder it gets, so we all quickly headed up the track and set off into the realms of airtime. The muddy conditions added to the technical nature of the jump, but then Dan and Gee threw in a curveball with having to make a sharp left hander straight after landing. They naturally made it look easy, but after the first few bails we all knew we had to start thinking a lot more about our jumping. This wasn’t a case of just point and shoot. It was the opening up of more intelligent riding.
Gee Atherton showing us how to Manual like a pro
Next up was a very cheeky off-camber rooted section of track. (Made almost impossible by the weather ) However with the demonstrations and walk-throughs, we all soon learnt the best places to break and the best weight distribution on a bike, though it was really a matter of survival rather than looking good on this occasion.
Gee Atherton and Jim from One Planet talk lines
With the sun breaking through the clouds we enjoyed a kick ass lunch down at the centre. This also gave Dan and Gee a chance to talk us through the videos which had been filmed in the morning. There is nothing like watching yourself go arse over tit on a big screen to help your lunch go down!
After lunch and with the weather on our side we headed out to the new jump section of track which they had spent a lot of time building the week before. The afternoon was all about doubles, whoops, hips, step-ups, manuals and generally trying to ride smoother, faster and with more style. Targeted feedback helped a great deal, but when it comes trying to emulate what they can do it was another matter. Yep by the end of the session we were all getting slowly to grips with manualing the rhythm section and getting up the step-up with more air time, but when you see either Dan or Gee launch 10ft and then bust a big move with relative ease, you realise that there is still a lot to learn.
I could go into more detail about what we did and how we did it, but that would be missing the point. A course like this is all about the individual and having not only Dan and Gee on hand but also Bob and Jim meant that we all felt that it was being tailored to our personal needs. The final couple of runs at the end of the day down the corners we had done in the morning showed clearly what we had gleamed. We were all without a doubt much smoother and because of that much faster.
Gee and Dan Atherton talk about stepping it up
In some way of conclusion I’ll never be as fast or as smooth as an Atherton, I also can’t give up my day job and work on my bike skills 7 days a week, so this day out with Dan, Gee and the One Planet crew was perfect for my needs. I pushed the envelope of my skills, learnt a great deal and I’m gagging to get out on my bike again to work on it all as soon as possible.
In talking with them after the session this is only the beginning on what will ultimately be on offer from the combined effort of the Atherton clan and One Planet Adventure. So if you a newbie wanting to get the most out of your new bike right through to a racer wanting to shave those seconds of your run, there will be a course on offer to help you out.
Not quite an Atherton yet...
Thanks for Dan and Gee Atherton along with Dan Brown along with Bob and Jim from One Planet Adventure.
For more information on the Atherton Training Days click here
For more information on Team Animal Commencal click here
For more information on One Planet Adventure and Llandegla click here
If you are a Commencal bike owner click here
P.S. Sorry about the poor image quality, they are all screen grabs!
P.P.S. No comments about the helmet, I’ve got a new one already!
Commencal 08 Medium Meta 666 Frameset ( with Fox RP23 )
Full XT 08 Groupset
• XT cranks 175mm
• XT Front Mech
• XT Reach Mech (Shadow short cage)
• XTR Chain
• XT Cassette 11-32
• XT Shifters
• XT Brake Levers
• XT Callipers (post mount)
• XT 180mm Rotors
DT 540 Enduro Wheelset
Manitou Nixon Instrinsic 160mm
Chris King Headset
Thomson X4 Stem
Un-branded Carbon Bar
ODI Ruffian Lock-ons
e13 DRS Chain guide ( with Supercharger )
WTB Timberwolf 2.35
Good for a 1st build, but will swap out the forks and hubs early next year for something a bit more heavy duty. Also the DRS needs some modification for tyre clearance ( but dont all chain guides! )
Don't ask about the weight, I don't have any scales...but it is light.
And no comments on the brown seat, I think it looks awesome!!
First ride tomorrow morning at Delamere or Cannock Chase..report to follow!
Just back from deepest darkest Wales ( well Ruithin and Llangollen to be honest and they are not really deep or dark ) full of happy happy joy joy after the awesome wedding of the young Mr Robert Campbell to the beautiful Miss Alison Collett. Bob and Ally chose a perfect little Welsh church just outside Ruithin for the ceremony and the reception at Trevor Villa ( near Llangollen ) matched in perfectness(?).
My Top five of the wedding:
1. Great hotel overlooking the Dee- The White Waters in Llangollen.
2. Tasty food - Proper BBQ by the famous PJ.
3. Thumping base - The Cheese dropped a the phat ones on the decks all night long.
4. The Guard of honour - Ben and I were chuffed at being the chosen.
5. The Perfect couple - Smiles all round and you can't beat that.
They are off to Sardinia for a few days now and then off to Thailand later in the year ( taking some of the Wormfood surf wax they had as favours ). There is something about having 2 honeymoons which makes sense!
Click the image above for some pics or click here
Oh and it is our 6 month anniversary today too...wahey!!
Anyway, back to the tale, Wrennie, Darren and I pulled a bit of an early start out of the bag yesterday so we could leave early and get over to Llandegla with plenty of daylight. All was going reasonably well on the climb up out of the car park, Darren was fettling a bit with his new bike ( a rather nice Identiti Mr Hyde ) and I managed to loose a pin from the brake lever on my bike ( Oooops might have been that off-trail incident at the Gasnach ), but it was still all good.
Rode the black sections with gusto ( though it was pretty hard without a front brake ), styled the jumps and enjoyed the empty forest. For the first time ever I cleaned all the jumps on the Old Black section ( JJ's ) and decided to sit out the next run whilst Wrennie and Darren walked up for another go. 10 or so minutes later Darren rocked up with a big grin and just said "Oh Wrennie has a puncture.".
To be honest I didn't really think anything of it. After all I carry a rucksack with repair kits, spare inner tubes, tools, first aid kit, spare top etc etc ( yes I know a bit overkill, but you never know.. ). Wrennie ' Man of the Woods' on the other hand didn't even have a rucksack on him ( though Darren did and he also had the same kit as me ).
Darren used to be really silly on a BMX so is a puncture repair king. Took 30 seconds to whip out the inner tube and slap a couple of patches on the snakebite double puncture. Pump up tyre....hmmm that looks weird....and where is the third tyre lever......Ah!
Tyre deflated to find the 3rd tyre lever inside!
Pump up tyre again.....phisssshhhhhhhhhhhh.....hmmmm I don't think that patch has held. Whip out inner tube again to realise that the valve is coming away from the tube. This could be a little harder to fix.
Hey why don't we just run a 26" tube in the tyre? Oh this is a special bike for special people and it has a BMX rear bolted hub ( i.e. you need spanners to get the wheel off )...knocked that one on the head then.
So we walk a bit to give the original glue time to set and then out with the inner tube again ( it is dark now ) and Darren starts creating a Blue Peter special repair....which in true childrens television style doesn't work.
And so began the long dark walk out of the forest ( I could have left Wrennie to walk out on his own, but I am just too nice ). We met scary horned cows at one point, I almost fell into a ditch at another point and what seemed like an age later ( and after a concerned call from Ben who realised we must still be out there in the dark ) we found the van and could relax and smile about it all.
So what can be learned from such an epic...?
1) Always carry stuff to fix your own kit.
2) 24" bikes are for special people only
3) Wrennie may be able to whittle a bowl out of spruce, but doesn't know how a bike works
4) Biking with mates is still fun even when you are walking...
Remember folks... BE PREPARED!
Check out the pics here or click the image above.
With Vicky away I arranged for a long weekend of mountain biking up in bonnie Scotland. Ben had been keeping me up to date on his bike build in the week running up to the trip, but even with maticulous planning we still ended up building a complete bike in my garage on Friday morning.
This late start meant that Kirroughtree would have to be a left for another time and the weekend would be spent at Glentress Mountain Bike park near Peebles.
I had been fortunate enough to have been lent a very impressive Commençal MiniDH bike by Madison ( the UK importers ) as my current XC bike is really not up to being ragged around boulder fields and hucked off anything with a slight lip.
With the two very expensive bikes loaded into the back of the Vic-Tim wagon, we rocked up to Glentress Freeride park for an evening of remembering how to huck the meat properly. The Mini DH has a bit of weight behind it, but it just takes everything you can throw at it. I was cleaning lines I would have run away from and cried about a couple of weeks ago. The low bottom bracket height was a bit cheeky, but it did mean that the bike was really well balanced ( which came in very useful on the skinnies! )
Saturday came with a heavy head ( got to love that Single Malt ) and a lot of rain. We rode from the campsite in Peebles up to the trails and up the hill on the red route. After flying on the classic Spooky Wood section from the top we met some locals who showed us the shortcuts to link up the red and black sections on the way down. It was wet, it was messy, but it was also fast, flowing and lots of fun. The day ended with more silly park action trying to nail jump after jump. Sunday morning was wetter still and drinking "Jaeger Bombs" on Saturday night ( Red bull and Vodka with a depth charge of Jaegermeister ) didnt help with the focus, but egg on toast and a cup of tea from the Hub in the Forest sorted us out. With the wet weather we bailed on going down the road to Innerlieithen ( the locals said it would be pish ), so with a new addition of our mate Cam, we followed the same route again but mixed it up with different parts of the trails. Now back at work with sore legs and not looking forward to unpacking lots of wet, stinky kit when I get home.
More shots in my Flickr album here
Vicky has been silly busy painting with Capuccino Candy 4 and Maplewood 6 in the conservatory and kitchen. I've ripped out the fitted wardrobes and stripped the wallpaper back and we have the pros in fitting a new bathroom as a type this.
Also thanks to Flickr, English Heritage asked us to submit our photos of Whitby Abbey to their group. Click here to see them.
Just recently I've been hitting the Delamere jumps with some geezers from work. This is something my bike was never built for and I can hear it crying as I launch my unskilled frame off each bump.
Watch this space for details of a new build over the summer and check below for pictures from last nights Delamere session.
Add us as a friend, but keep the communication to e-mail as the messaging and comments section on MySpace is just plain useless.
Click the youtube one for low res flash copy, click the blip.tv one for a BIG download.
Rather than writing a trip report we decided to transcribe our journal entries instead. It may be a little hickle-dee-pickle-dee, but they give an insight into what the trip was really like ( note to self: find another word instead of awesome ).
Honeymoon Journal Write-up
Wednesday 4th April
O On Kloof –
What an amazing place! I feel like they’ve made a mistake, we are not worthy! Tim and I rocked up at about on the worst side of dishevelled to a very luxurious house. Looking like it could win awards from the ‘Ideal Homes’ Organisers. A glass of bubbly later and we were feeling more relaxed.
Our superior room is just that. I want to remember every detail of the bathroom for when we move house! Flower petals in the (huge) bath, a private sun deck with Jacuzzi are just how I imagine my honeymoon to be. Tim has to realise that we have started our married life in a way to which I feel the need to be constantly accustomed! I am so lucky! My wonderful husband (after an amazing wedding) and a wonderful location.
A chilly swim was soon warmed up this morning with a soak in the Jacuzzi which was so much fun!!
The last few days have been a bit of a blur. ‘Walking on cloud nine’ would be an appropriate cliché. After a 10 hour flight ( 3 movies, 4 meals and a episode of Red Dwarf ) the O On Kloof is outstanding. The setting, the décor and the service are simply the best I have ever encountered. Maybe married life has changed me and my years of roughing it are all behind me?? Either way it is the perfect start to the honemoon ( after a perfect wedding ). Booked in for a massage in 15 minutes and have a couple of days to look around
p.s. Vicky really like the hot tub!!
Had a lovely massage and a meal at the V&A Waterfront. A G&T back at the O On Kloof and a chat with a lovely lady who works here. Opened the door to our room and the lamps are on, the air conditioning is set to cool the place down, the bed has been turned down and our bath robes have been put out with a chocolate for each of us! The little touches are amazing.
Sherry and canapés were delivered this evening before we went out. Such an amazing place to stay.
I bought a top and a hat!
Good Friday ( For Thursday 5th )
Yesterday we went to the Clock Tower at the waterfront to try and get the ferry to
It was amazing and really moving. It made me feel humble and also a little guilty for what our ancestors caused. How dare people just do this.
The residents were forced out to the
The cable car for
Evening – we went to
No tickets to
Red Top Bus around Town – Good!
Castle – Good!
District 6 – Bad! Museum – Good!
Cable Car closed due to wind – Bad!
Huge Swordfish Steak – Good!
Another day in the sun with Vicky – Excellent!
We did the winelands and
We went to the winelands, an Ostrich farm, the
The scenery was stunning. Cliffs and sea with hard to grasp reality check every now and again – huge townships (city size) in the middle of nowhere, out of the way so that people are not reminded of it. There is still a long way to go to attain equality. Anyway, back to the O On Kloof for our last night – out on our sundeck with pink champagne.
Cape Point √
Tim & Vicky √
Saturday 7th April
Left O On Kloof this morning and picked up hire car. The NZ was one straight road – 4 ½ hours later we arrived at the Palms Wilderness Guest house in Wilderness. Stunning beach – the first time we have dipped our toes in the
Colder here than in
Had an amazing meal at the guest house restaurant – and the food is so cheep – always about £15 per person including wine. Very stylish food for less that half what we pay in the
We are just going to relax here.
Picked up 1.4i Toyota Corolla in
Sunday 8th April
We have been married for exactly one week! Weather was warm today and we spent the day on the beach after visiting the local craft market – I bought four African finger puppets and will put themwith my story beads to make a story box when I get home. No-one swam in the sea – The Indian Ocean due to the sharks! Consequently , we had to find a bush to wee behind.
Started the day a little later than normal ( ) and had a nice breakfast in the morning sun ( though they all seem to over-cook their poached eggs here? ). Checked out the craft market and headed down to the very misty beach and the
p.s. my book is good but strange reading about building log cabins in
Been for a meal at ‘Wilderness Grille’ – £12 approx for 2 large pizzas, bottle of wine and desserts, madness! How can it be so cheap!?
Monday 9th April
Had breakfast outside on the patio with all of the lovely trees and flowers. Saw a Sun Bird with a very red chest and green head – so beautiful, I know…I am getting old!
Anyway, another day of relaxation is calling – but first we must buy some sun block, I have a very red left hand from yesterday!
Not a cloud in the sky today, headed via a slightly different route to the beach but still ended up in the same spot as yesterday. Managed to make it through lunchtime sun but then it just got hotter. Ended up ‘doning’ t-shirts and headed for a walk up the beach ( the air was cooler next to the water ). Empty beach surrounded us aas we checked out the amazing beach front properties set back on a hill. We marvelled at the super fast snail things that were messing about in the break line and then spent the rest of the day by the pool reading and relaxing. Hooked up the iPod to the speakers and chilling out in the room before dinner of grilled cape salmon mmmm mmmm
Tuesday 10th April – Lily Pond Country Lodge
We are now staying at the Lily Pond in Nature’s Valley. It is amazing! A Beautiful suite with rose petals on the bed and an open plan bathroom with Jacuzzi bath and outdoor shower. The bedroom faces a lily pond with big windows – so chic! We have a honeymoon suite – and it has 2 terraces, sound system – everything.
There are baboons in the forest around us!
Wednesday 11th April
Wow, what an amazing day. We decided last night to spend the day at the Monkey, Bird and Elephant sanctuaries and what a great decision that was. We got up real close with spider monkeys, lemur and capucins (sp?) whilst trying to get a good photo of a solitary gibbon ( nicknamed Claude Schiffer ). Then we chilled in the forest canopy with hundreds of birds just before walking with some rescued elephants ( snotting on hands included ). Three amazing and inspiring centres provided some excellent photos and special memories. Stuck in a bit of a rainstorm at the moment but couldn’t have been stuck in a nicer place ( and of course with Vicky ). Off to P.E. tomorrow hopefully via J-Bay for some surf pressies.
I second what my husband (!) said – the monkeys, birds and elephants were amazing. I had an elephant hold onto my hand with it’s trunk whilst we walked along – very snotty and stinky, but awesome.
Torrential rain tonight, but got another lovely meal at Lily Pond to look forward too – ‘Kingklip’ fish is lovely.
Friday 13th April
We stayed last night in
After lunch, spent an hour at the pool and then at 4pm we were picked up for our game drive in a land cruiser with our guide Natasha, a family of four and a German couple. Wow, we saw a herd of elephants; 2 male lions ( separately ); 2 female lions together; impala; wildebeast; black backed jackal; eland; blesbuck; genet. It was amazing – seeing them all made me want to cry. We continued on until it got dark and stopped for a drink in the pitch blackness, scaring ourselves as the wildebeast went by. We could see the stars so brilliantly in the sky – the Milky Way is so clear.
Up at tomorrow for our morning game drive, how will we cope?!!
After an average night in
Saturday 14th April
Well we got up at 5:30am, I had that awful sinking feeling of having to go to work until I remembered that I was about to go and watch the sun rise over a South African landscape. It was freezing, but the sight of zebra, rhino and various antelope warmed our spirits. Seriously – where can I buy one of those fleece blanket ponchos?
I am armed and ready for the cold tonight – bought a Kariega fleece hat; got t-shirt, jumper; jacket; down gilet with fur hood and found some ski socks which I’d forgotten about.
Weird how cold in the morning and boiling in the day ( sat in shorts and vest as a write this ). Went to pool earlier and I came back to the chalet to go to the loo and at the bottom of the steps to our room stood an impala doe very quietly. When I froze; we stared at each other for a few seconds and she ran off when I moved. Tim thinks I’m making her up “was she a unicorn?”.
Slowly ticking off the list of amazing animals we have seen on this trip. This morning as the sun rose over the hills we watched Impala, wildebeast and zebra grazing. Then we caught up with some White Rhino chomping away before seeing some giraffe and their weird eating habits ( swallowing an regurgitating constantly ). Out again tonight, but have more clothes this time. Still no rock dassies though! ( maybe tomorrow on the river cruise? )
Evening game drive saw elephants again – all around us – pretty amazing. We also saw rock dassie from far off, zebras and various antelope.
Tomorrow – we have got a morning drive, then out bags collected at and us collected at to begin our 24hr journey home.
So that is it, our journal entries from our Honeymoon. Needless to say the 24hour journey home went without any hitches, though we wouldn’t recommend flying in a 747, they may be big, but they are not comfortable!
Thank You to everyone who contributed to our Honeymoon fund via Trailfinders. We will forever be grateful.