Everyone was in the same boat as me i.e. "not been out on the big bike for ages". Stu has bought Parsley's old Norco A-Line and customised it to suit himself. This was his shakedown ride. Shakey was testing his first ever wheel build on his Orange 224 and I had been busy fixing Sam's Yeti ASX before we set off: a new rear disc and changing the shock spring back to the original one that came with the bike. He's grown since he got the bike and was bottoming out the light spring I initially put on it. Tom was on his Santa Cruz V10 Mark 1.

It was spotting with rain as we drove through Rugeley but stopped when we parked up; this was after few phone calls to guide Shakey and Stu to the right place! Both had only ever passed through Stile Cop on XC rides and had never ridden it properly before. We pedalled and pushed our way into the woods under thick grey cloud and with gusty strong winds blowing at us. By the time we got to the top of the runs I was sweating in my coat and had to remove it.

The tracks were all damp but not too bad considering the rain we've had this week. Some (all the tracks on the ridge and a couple of other short sections) were still closed after forestry work. We started with a few runs of the top half of the red run; down to the berm. Nice and easy but fun with good drops and jumps to practice on. Stu was finding riding a down hill bike a bit weird as this was his first time. He was also experimenting with flats after years of SPDs. I told him to stick with it and he'd get used to it. After just two or three runs the first crash came! Sam (who weighs next to nothing) was caught by the wind whilst sailing high over the table top and was tipped over by the wind in the air! The only damage was a sore hand. It was obviously not broken and he sat out a couple of runs to get it moving again.

Shakey had a brand new tubeless Maxxis on the rear of his bike and this suddenly went down. Our investigation found it was split along the bead for a couple of inches at one section. This was under the rim so not damage caused by hitting anything. That's one that will be going back for exchange then. We bunged a tube in then moved over the other side of the ridge for a few runs of Wonderland. Shakey, Tom and myself also had a play on the north shore drop on Balboa. Tom hit it far too slow and I thought he was gonna crash but he got away with it by virtually wheelie dropping!

Tom on the Balboa drop

We then had a walk up "New Line" as it was the only track the others hadn't seen. It was pretty boggy so we didn't ride it apart from a quick session of the rock garden near the top for the camera.

Shakey exits the rock garden

After that we went back and did a full run of the red run before a lunch break. We got a few more runs in during the afternoon before retiring after about five hours total riding. I managed to stretch my portable pressure washer to rinse down three bikes before shoe horning them into the car and heading for the post ride diagnosis in the pub on the way home. The rain had held off all day and we had all really enjoyed a different day on bikes compared to recently. Shakey's wheels were still true and Stu had started to get the idea of big bouncy bikes with flat pedals.