Back when the nights were long, the weather warm and the trails dusty, we planned a workshop weekend away at a trail centre. More specifically, the trail centre at Afan forest Wales.
Everything was in place.The accomodation had been booked, Simon had loaded the bikes into the van, kit and people were loaded into the car and the weather… well, let’s just say that howling winds and heavy rain wasn’t really what we had hoped for! But we are a hardy bunch, so the prospect of some muddy trails didn’t bother us too much, as someone famous once said “there’s no such thing as the wrong weather – only the wrong clothes” and we’d packed for that…
We drove down from ATG Trainings Aylesbury base after work on Friday with myself Mat and Alex in my car and Simon and Gerrard in the van. Highlights were the Gingerbread Latte at Leigh Delamare services and Mat almost blowing chunks whilst map reading on a windy Welsh road.
Alex (Brown) was waiting for us with a freshly made spaghetti bolognaise and a few freshly cracked beers which cheered everyone up and despite a chiding from the lodges’ owner for having too many people, all was well with the word. A couple of MTB DVDs to get us ready for the next days riding and it was time for bed.
Saturday morning dawned grey and miserable, so after a couple of strong cups of Tea and rounds of Toast, helmets were donned, rain jackets zipped up and bikes given that last fettle before we headed out.
The first (and only given its 44km length) was the W2 trail, a combination of the legendary ‘Whites Level’ and ‘The Wall’ trails. To get to the trail head was a stretch of surfaced disused railway which was a nice warm up for the climb that followed. I really like the climb, it goes on for ages, but is technical enough to hold your interest so that you don’t realise how much elevation you have gained.
A nice break was had at the top of the climb and we took the chance to play on the first few berms of the black run descent which was our reward for the pain of that first climb. When everyone had re-grouped we hit the descent, which although it is graded as ‘Black‘ is more of a ‘Red‘ grade. It comprises some nice berms, board walks and a rock garden towards the end and there were some big smiles when we reached the bottom of the descent. These smiles became worried frowns as we waited for Gerrard to arrive. Just as we were thinking of calling the Welsh air ambulance service Gerrard arrived pushing his bike through the final rock garden having binned it off of one of the boardwalk sections and lost his confidence. Selfishly he had decided to crash where no one else had been able to witness it, but we let him off on this occassion as he had a comedy crash coming onto the fire road later on for all to see.
After a breif bit of blazing our own trail to detour round a fallen tree, we reached the half way trail centre and stopped to have copius ammounts of Tea, flapjack, chips and cheese sarnies. It was said Cheese sarnie and flapjack that were almost seen on the next part of the ride as Simon and I stormed away up the second longest climb of the day. SImon definately had the legs on me and spurred on by the Euro guys in lcra just up ahead (and going for it) he span away from me to bridge the gap. I lost him as I was trying to hold back the flapjack and as I turned of onto a singletrack part of the climb he was nowhere to be seen, so believing he had a big lead on me, I pressed on and completed the ride on my tod. As it turned out, Simon had missed the turning, ridden all the way up the fire road, realised he was lost and road all the way back to the main bunch and the turning! Gutted!
Much beer and wine was consumed that evening and Alex B got his MasterChef hat on and cooked up a lovely indian dish which satiated our grumbling stomachs.
Sunday morning was the same as Saturdays, Dull and wet, but we pressed on to conquer ‘Skyline’ the shortened loop. SImon and I had fresh(ish) legs and hammered away from the group up the first climb, stopping halfway up to remove the rain jackets, and again at the top to put them back on again. At the top of the ridge it was exposed and the rain was whipping in as we hit the first rocky descent.
A shortcut has to be made along a section called ‘the July trail’ to shorten the Skyline loop and we got a bit discombobulated taking a rather miserable slow and boggy section through to the top of the final descent of the ride ‘Jetlag’ for me the best descent of the ride, nice and fast with rock drops and rollers. Perfect!
With brake pads cooked and legs and arms fried, we coasted back to the lodge and cleaned up ready for the journey home. When everyone was ready and the vehicles loaded we said our farewells and headed back tired but very happy.
Can’t wait ’til Triscombe!!