So after a bit of reading up it turns out that the trail formerly known as the Marin, is now renamed the Gwydir Mawr with its smaller sibling, Gwydir Bach. Mawr is Welsh for big or large, bach means small. Marin bikes donated the cash to waymark the trail in 2002. No new funding meant a new name.
Today’s ride was from the carpark at the Gwydir Mawr trailhead and then climbed up and along the side of the valley to the top of Trefriw and picked up the climb from the ride last Thursday in the rain. The forecast today was much better and there was even a chance of seeing the sun.
The same close to 5 miles of climbing before the first descent and this time much more rideable trails with lots of fireroad double track before the first sections of singletrack.
Fundamentally the Marin trail seems to be so changed that the original trail can be hard to detect. This might be because every time I rode it I parked in Betws and did the bastard steep tarmac climb up to the trail crossing which I think equates to the bit located in the photo below.
That different entry point to starting the old trail and a hazy memory means it just feels strange. Close to 20 years of tree growth and felling means the landscape views are different too.
The final descent is a proper blast and a lot of fun with lots of drop offs and a decent jump line. There were a few trees still down across the trails since Storm Arwen, but the section that was closed in October for felling was opened again. Looking forwards to joining the Gwydir to Penmachno trails in the summer.
This route is detailed and pictured in better weather over at the excellent Flat Tyres MTB site. I discovered this after the ride and chose to park and start the ride in Trefriw rather than Capel Curig.
Crossing the bridge from Llanrwst there is rain water running across the road and it’s getting on for 6″ deep. I’m not confident I’ll be heading home the way I started. One of those rides where it’s going to be wet, but I have new Goretex trousers to the waterproof arsenal so we should be okay.
The ride started with a 4 mile climb out of Trefriw on tarmac past Llyn Crafnant then onto trails heading over the pass between Crimpiau and Clogwyn Manned.
From the top, just before going over. Relatively sheltered at this point.
Going down the other side along the Slate Trail with sleet in the face and water being blown up hill by the wind.
Sliding into Capel Curig across a very slippery field.
Taking the steady climb from the car park behind Joe Browns along the double track running parallel to the A5.
Crossing over bog on the way up Tal-y-Braich wet and would have been hard to follow without GPS in the conditions.
Techfest descent down and ahead along the shoreline of Llyn Cowlyd. When you get to the end of this there’s some horrendous climbing out from the foot of the dam and then having crossed the plateau, a depressing tarmac descent back to the car.
And yes, the road was closed due to flood water so it was back via the bridge at Betws-y-Coed. Waterproofs failed – everything was soaked at the end, but at least they kept the wind out. On reflection had it not been unseasonably warm (13 deg) then this ride could have been pretty serious had things gone wrong.
Storm Arwen happened over 26th and 27th November 2021 and hit the local forest pretty badly. A lot of roads were closed for days and trails have been blocked by fallen timber for even longer and still remain blocked weeks later.
Trail blockages have ranged from light (like a single fallen tree trunk across the trail as in the photo above) to complete blockages (with full canopy blocking and no way around) where no amount of bike limbo or parkour is going to get you through.
Since the storm, the rangers and forestry crews have been busy working things out and getting the trails open.
Unfortunately it’s also been used to clear fell some areas which has destroyed some of the trails such as “Escape from LA” which was one of my favourites – time will tell if the logging machines have left anything that can be salvaged.
Back to Wales for a late October sortie in the Mountains, but this time it was trying out one of the trail centres that I have driven past put not ridden before – Gwydir Mawr. Edit: Well, that is a fib, I’ve ridden it many times in the past when it was known as the Marin Trail.
Just to maintain a theme the rain started as I entered Llanwyst and stopped as I drove home (sun coming out on the way back just to add salt to the wound). Still most of the riding was in the woods so there was some shelter from the elements.
Loads of mushrooms out in the woods
Trails were really interesting – some quite technical bits without much warning that they were approaching and a slight reluctance to commit on some of them whilst riding solo.
The review of the trails I read said that it included amazing views of Snowdonia. Well not today, but what you could see through breaks in the cloud was looking stunning.
There was one section of man-made singletrack that was closed due to forestry work. The diversion was really badly signed and I almost went in totally the wrong direction, until spotting the sign at the last minute.
The Cambrian Rally stages were taking place the weekend after my trip and the trails were marked out for the event. Could be a good one to check out in future.
So after 150km on the Canyon Dude I’ve come to the conclusion it is under geared for local riding. Changing that is not as simple as it sounds because of the chainring offset. The Truvativ cranks are fitted with a -4mm offset 30T SRAM ring, nice bit of X0 quality kit, but it’s the only size they seem to do in that offset.
I couldn’t find anyone else making a ring with that offset and it seems to be that it is part of a special for fat bike use. The solution comes in the form of some designed in the UK (machined in Poland) kit from Absolute Black: 32T 0mm offset SuperBoost chainring.
As oval chainrings were a silly idea in the 1990s and no I did not get used to the weird feeling ‘after a bit’ of riding. So this is not one of the odd shaped ones, it is however another bit of lovely design and engineering though. Amazing service too. Ordered Friday night arrived by lunch time on Tuesday via DHL from Europe.
With the increase in gearing from 30T to 32T I am expecting to spend a bit more time in the middle of the cassette so the loss of offset should balance out and in theory running more midway through the gears should mean a bit more life out of the cassette.
I also received the XD Drive cassette I’d be waiting for and combined with a new chain the whole drivetrain is fresh and ready to go. As with the Chameleon, a similar mind bending weight saving experience was achieved.
The X0 XG-1295 cassette is half the weight of the NX PG-1230 (357g vs 712g) and the total saving from this gearing change was a bit more than that because the XD driver body is 20g lighter than the Hyperdrive one and the Absolute Black ring came in 4g lighter than quoted and 16g lighter than the smaller SRAM ring.
There’s also a big difference in the wheels the smaller 26″ wheels with bigger tyres are 300g lighter each than the 27.5″ ones. For transparency that is with a different make of tyre fitted and I am pretty sure (based on the experience from the Scott Genius Plus) that the Schwalbe tyres are some of the lightest you can get.
Bottom line is 391g saved from the drive train and 600g from the wheels. As I have always though about bikes in imperial measurements, that’s a 2lb 3oz weight saving over stock bringing the (large frame) bike in bang on 29lbs.
Weight saving immediately countered by fitting lights (it’s going to be dark out in the woods tomorrow morning). Still need to think about trying the 4.8″ tyres too…
Getting this bike was definitely the right thing. It has transformed local riding and goes more places with greater ease than anything else I have owned. First ride out I think I ran the tyres too soft and ended up cursing the drag on tarmac.
Second ride out I switched to the 26″ rims and lost a dinner plate gear dropping down to a 1×11 but the bike was transformed and felt hugely improved. After some analysis with the scales there are some massive weight differences between the wheel sets (details to follow) that explain that feeling, but tyre pressure (as everyone says) is critical.
So I decided I would get the 26″ wheels up to 1×12 gearing, but to my annoyance once the XD Driver for the DT Swiss Hubs arrived and I went to swap the cassette, it turned out Canyon had done exactly the same as Santa Cruz and fitted a Shimano Hyperdrive spline pattern cassette from SRAM.
I find the fact that SRAM make a Shimano pattern cassette perverse especially as they seem to have market dominance in mountain bike drive trains these days. The fact was that it has meant that I have had to order a new cassette and until that arrives I am running a short fat mullet wheel combo with the 27.5″ out back and the 26″ upfront.
It matters not, it is still crushing the trails and this morning allowed me to ride up the impossible climb (a 10m high sandhill which is normally a get off and push slog) and set a personal record for that segment on Strava. #FatBikeWin
Back in February 2017 I went Fatbiking with Ride the Alps and my mates Dave and Chris.
After that I bought the Scott Genius Plus bike. That wasn’t a fat bike. It was a chubby and much fun was had, particularly due to the insane traction it generated whilst climbing. I sold that bike in lockdown and ended up making money on it despite having ridden it for a few years.
Over the COVID lockdown period I did A LOT of local riding. The best trails are in the woods down by the beach. Everything is on a sand subsoil and with local folks and visitors there’s been a fair bit of erosion and the trails are blown out.
That means unless it’s frozen, it’s very hard work and you’re probably making things worse not better. So that, plus recognition that all that sand probably wasn’t doing much good to Fox suspension forks meant it was time to go full fat.
The problem of course is that supply of most things is a bit screwed at the moment due to a combination of COVID, lockdown and Brexit and a large boat getting stuck sideways in a small bit of the sea. That and a global shortage of shipping containers because they’re all stuck in the wrong places. And various other reasons and excuses suppliers come up with.
So it turns out Specialized (whose Fat Bike I rode back in 2017) like Scott don’t make one anymore. Trek who do make a nice one don’t have any and that meant it was time to check out the German option. The Canyon Dude is a full carbon setup with a retro fade paint job. Aside from the questionable move to 27.5″ rims it ticked all the boxes and arrived in less than a week. I’ve picked up a set of 26″ wheels with 4.0″ and optional 4.8″ rubber so we will given those a go too.
The Genius Plus was riding on 27.5 x 3.0″ rubber and I’m not sure the 27.5 x 3.8″ on the Dude will cut it. We’re going to find out.
The problem with all this warm wet weather is a tremendous growth of undergrowth in the woods. Ferns are generally not a problem, but nettles, white poplar saplings and brambles are encroaching on some of the best bits of singletrack and were making passage miserable and regularly drawing blood. Only one thing for it brave the mosquitos, horse flies and midges and get to clearing. The pay back to a couple of hours will be a return to flying again on the trails next time around.