Sunday 5th April

At last the Founder gets to surround himself with cracking riders again and make a long overdue visit to one of his favourite stamping grounds - this time the 7 Stanes trail at the Forest of Ae. And what a great turnout with 15 of us taking on the rocks and overbearing sunshine. Sure didn't expect to come back with a tan, particularly on an Easter weekend in the UK.

So it was just like old times, and that doesn't happen very often these days. And as the web site says, the bigger the group, the louder the laughs although with Paul W in tow there'd still be plenty of those. We chose the day when Ae was hosting the first round of the 2015 British Downhill Championship and the place was absolutely brim full, mainly of caravettes and vans in several tent cities, so we had to park well away from the action although not much further than usual from the Trailhead. After picking our way through the campsite so as to avoid crossing the DH finish line we made the start of the Red Trail around 11:15 with a very old rabbit scampering away up the climb to get the blood pumping.

There'd been fog and grey skies on the way over the Border but at the top of the first climb the sun was burning through it all and there was a very early stop to get rid of excess clothing. Did I mention that Ian M's van is sh:te at slipstreaming a Range Rover Evoque?

It must have been a good while since Terry's last visit here because the initial climb seemed to outdo even that of Innerleithen, not in gradient but definitely in length, with hardly a down-turn in the first few miles. Must have been a lot fitter back then. Anyway, thanks to these great lads who waited patiently without complaint for my occasional footslogging moments. At least the latest Trek was getting me down the fast bits with the others still in sight. Speaking of bikes, the new Merida Francis was riding looked pretty tasty with some natty blue and red paintwork, and at the finish he wasn't mourning the passing of his trusty but shorter travel Saracen.

For a bunch of Cross Country folk we made fairly decent progress on the gnarly bits and thankfully there were no mishaps, unless you count... I'll tell you later. Trying to keep pace with Justin and Francis got the old ticker nicely wound up for the plunge down to the wooden bridge where for some reason the latter thought he'd been under threat! Must have been my long shadow which was well ahead of the actual bod. We took our lunch break at the foot of Morins Hill at the bridge over Capel Water. It was red hot sitting down there on the rocks, but what a fantastic place to take a breather. It was here that Ian B suffered a puncture in the fat bike, soon fettled with Colin's help, almost always first on the scene to offer assistance.

The new section leading into The Edge is brilliant, loads of big rollers, berms, doubles and tables to negotiate before the familiar skinny cliff edge presents itself and forces a bit more care in line choice. It also cuts off a real drag along fireroad that lost loads of height for no good reason and was probably the worst feature of the whole trail, as well as that daft section of flat boardwalk. Paul W had gone ahead from the start to get some video of us followers mashing the downhill stuff but by the time we spotted him he'd already finished the good bits and was on his way up the next fireroad, so I'm not sure what happened there unless he'd left his roll of Kodak black & white film at home! Six or seven of us did this descent almost nose-to-tail, very exciting.

The final climb has also been taken well away from the old fireroad route and makes the actual climb a lot easier, but its winding route does take a very long time to cover on foot. Once again there were no complaints at the top as I struggled to rejoin the group up above. Only the Ae Line to go now, and after the bunch had set off on the first section, Paul B and I stayed on the fireroad, preferring to save what little energy we had left for the proper drop down the last part, all the way back down to the valley floor with just a few hundred metres of fireroad splitting it in two. Unfortunately for TK, he only got a short way into the final run when the EX-8's back wheel slammed hard into a sharp stone and immediately lost all pressure. A moment later and the first take-off would have had him down. It took a while to coast to a gentle stop but the rest of the tyre was undamaged. With Steve's help, and an empty crisp bag, the hole in the sidewall was covered and a tube instered which got the bike down to the finish almost safely, if a bit more twitchy than usual with extra pressure needed over the normal tubeless setup.

Down below there was no sign of the others, obviously confident that the pair would manage OK on their own, so the duo headed back to the cars to find the rest already changing and half the bikes loaded up. We got everything packed up, changed into our spectator wear and were about to head back to watch some racing when the unmentioned mishap above raised it's head. It was a tearful Ian B requesting a pair of scissors. He'd split a nail earlier changing his fat tube, poor lamb. We could only find an axe and he refused to try that, so ended up wrapping it in Elastoplast for the time being. We dried his eyes and returned to the Finish at the foot of the hill, getting a nice vantage point at the side of that massive log jump just before the final plunge off the hillside. These lads have absolutely no fear, or their dad's have threatened them. Plenty of crashes as they hurtled down trying to beat each others' times but only one where we were stood.

We moved to the lip of the field drop and watched as they took off and literally flew half way down the forty foot almost sheer drop, and then the Junior class did exactly the same, and then the Junior Women did exactly the same! Some of these were wee slips of things but their bike skills were simply awesome, unbelievable. So that was worth coming to witness even without turning a wheel ourselves.

The next hour was spent scouring Scotland for a coffee shop, and we failed. Finally in desperation we cruised into a Brewer's Fayre pub and sat outside quoffing a variety of coloured liquids and a couple of soup bowls of heavy caffeine, resulting as predicted in an immediate, graunching headache for Yours Truly.

Brilliant day lads, thank you all so much. Special thanks to Ray and Steve for free transport and Ian M and Paul W for the normal variety, and to Steve again for the drinks. Looking forward eagerly to the next one, Cheers. 





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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.







The bigger the group, the louder the laughs!


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