Dating a canook

04 Mar

The Midlands isn’t exactly known for its altitude, but it does offer good VFM (that’s value for metres).By cramming as many corners onto the hill as possible, the trail builders have made the most of the meagre height, creating some fierce little climbs and some surprisingly long descents.The black option on Original Monkey follows that historic trail, starting with a step-down qualifier and steep corners.Despite the (slightly awkward) rock sections, there’s a natural feel to this bit of trail, as if it’s been made presentable to pass as officially sanctioned, without robbing it of the character that made it fun to ride in the first place.But with a hugely popular trail centre, and whispers of some fantastic off-piste riding on offer, I thought it was time to brave the M6 and see if Cannock’s quality matches up to its convenience.Those in the know recommended that, despite it being a trail centre with the standard issue markers and signs, I’d be better off getting a guide to help me make the most of the place, and maybe even show me some of the off-the-map stuff.Rugeley, 2.5 miles away, is a good bet if you’re looking to stay right next to the trails.The Horns Inn, Rugeley, 01889 586000, Chase, Rugeley, 01889 582504, uk For more options take a look at uk Swinnerton Cycles has a large on-site shop with hire bikes, demo bikes and a workshop.

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Follow The Dog into Monkey Trail with a side order of Stile Cop will satisfy all urges.

Trail centres like Cannock Chase, that are convenient to reach and easy to navigate, arguably do more for growing mountain biking than anything else.

While convenience is often taken to mean lower quality, or compromised, what places like this are really about is accessibility and possibility.

Five minutes into the ride and we’re already nursing bruised fingers, reassessing our ability to judge gaps and wondering if there’s something in not running full-fat bar widths.

Look up, stay sharp — if you don’t the forest will have you.