I’VE visited Cannock Chase in Staffordshire four times now and thought it was high time I reviewed it.
There are several routes for mountain bikes at Cannock but I have only ridden the red and black trails so cannot comment on the others. As before, I ride a Marin Alpine trail with five inches suspension up front and 4-6inches at the rear. It is perfect for these trails, you do not need anything more, although you could certainly use more travel if you had it. I personally wouldn’t want to do the trails on a hard tail; I think it would hurt a lot.
OK, so starting at the trail centre, there is a good bike shop, café and facilities. You go off around ‘Follow the Dog’ that I make at roughly an 8-mile loop. It starts flat with a couple of fast berms and easy rock drops with switchbacks through the forest.
There are the odd black sections that I haven’t tried as they appear a little tricky – riding along logs etc. I’ve been too keen to get riding.
There are some nice little rock gardens and jumps before you come to a fairly short but steep climb that takes you to the top of a lovely descent with a memorable three jump set in the middle before taking you down some switchbacks to the main road. Beware of the trees, go to fast here and like me you will shoulder charge a tree and there is only one winner and it isn’t you.
I then follow the signs for the ‘Follow the Monkey’ trail – a 6mile loop. Be careful crossing the train tracks and road. The Monkey is a different proposition to the Dog by quite some way, it is harder in almost every way and beginners need to take care.
It starts very steep and then descends sweetly before climbing steeply again. It is lowest chain ring for sure. There follows another little flat then twisting descent with launches and big puddles and rocks. It’s good fun.
A fire-road ascent then takes you back into the trees and more single-track fun. After a while you are asked if you want to follow the red or the black alternative. The red is fast, fun and doesn’t lose much height. The black descends and goes over three significant rock gardens, the second of which is a challenge because you need to turn left in a confined space to set yourself up before tackling it. These will challenge your bike handling skills for sure. It then climbs back up and re-joins the red.
It’s a bit of slog uphill for a while before you can take a fire road descent or the trail. The fire road is the only option as work going on right now and it is a 32mph descent without trying, gets the blood flowing…
A long climb up another fire road that then joins the main trail is next and this is the hardest climb of the day. It’s switchbacks all the way up and steep. A breather at the top is recommended.
Then it is the Upper Cliff descent. This is well worth all the effort. There are wooden bridges, rocks and trees and then it expands into open swooping single-track.
There is another choice of red or black halfway down. The red is fast with a jump and berms. The black is steep, rocky and takes some skill to negotiate. It re-joins the red quickly via a rock garden or fast rut. The descent continues in the same vein to the bottom before you make a short ride and start climbing again. This is a deceptively tough little climb that takes you to the top of Lower Cliff.
The Lower Cliff descent is arguably a match for Upper Cliff but is one route only and there are some fast launches and jumps and one particularly deceptive right hander after a jump that catches me out almost every time and I always brake too much and lose speed. Great fun to perfect though.
It’s back across the road and train tracks to the Dog again and a drag of an ascent before joining some well thought out single-track with roots, rocks and small jumps. There is only one section that is a real challenge with a steep drop off between two trees. It’s actually quite easy but if you are inexperienced it may catch you out.
A fast fire road descent back to the car park can hit 30mph to finish the route. The Dog and Monkey together are a great mix of fun, technical, steep and fast, it is well worth a visit.
For more adventure just before you climb to Lower Cliff you can turn right and follow a fire road before turning left at the top and coming to the Stile Cop Downhill track.
The real big jumps there are beyond me but I enjoyed watching the kids there. The red downhill routes are great fun though with just the right mix of jumps and speed at the top. In fairness, I’d suggest going down halfway and then back up because the bottom is a little tame after the top areas.
In the wet it is challenging on man and machine with grit everywhere but in the dry it is a rider’s dream route. Thoroughly recommended but you will need good base skills and fitness to complete the lot. And if you need to get your MTB included in your home insurance then try The Property Insurer.
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