With a long weekend booked off work and accommodation in South Wales organised by Tim for the usual suspects, I headed off on Friday and drove down to Coed-y-Brenin. It started to rain just as I started the climb up from the trail head and it became progressively wetter as I rode the best bits of the Karrimor and MBR trails. It was a nice quiet ride and I felt that I was setting a good pace.
The MBR trail is looking fairly eroded these days and it’s turned several sectiosn into quite badly gullied and rutted techno sections. It was good to getaround the woods again, but it has changed a lot since the last time I was there, which must have been a couple of years ago now. There’s some new trails being built by the looks of things and a new visitors centre too.
So after that it was an epic cross country drive through Wales, including a fly through of Llangurig where we’d stayed during the Trans Cambrian route and onwards down towards the M4. It was wet and grey, but the roads were pretty clear and it was a good opportunity to bed the new brakes in on the car. The valley roads made for a long drive and by the time I arrived in the Afan valley it had gone half ten, but that still left plenty of time to catch up with friends and become failiar with the winning effects of fine beers.
The following day the usual degree of faffing ensured that there was no early start, but Phil, Dean, Seb and I rode out and sample the highlights of the Wall before taking on the Penhydd Trail. From there we then headed up the valley to the new Visitors centre. This is a great place with a cafe/restaurant that serves big portions of fantastic food, has a well stocked bike shop and a useful campsite. After lunch and some time chilling out (and drying out) watching some DVDs on the big screen, we headed up White’s Level.
The popularity of Scotland as an mtb destination is bringing with it a noticeable increase in injuries. Typically, Borders General Hospital treats around ten mtb casualties every weekend out of the 250,000 mountain bikers riding at Glentress last year. Injuries range from serious lacerations to major fractures and head and spinal injuries, with a similar pattern noted at Fort William’s Belford Hospital. According to IMBA the Forestry Commission have already accepted the need to reduce the potential for injuries and are conducting a two year review with the aim of developing best practice for adoption thoughout the UK.
I suspect that a lot of the injuries come from people riding elevated wooden sections. These are also known under the generic term of ‘North Shore’, but in think that many UK sections are quite different to the Canadian examples that have popularised this unique style of riding. The various bits I have ridden in Wales and Scotland have all been very different, but the recent riding at White’s Level was devoid of chicken wire. Instead all the wood was painted with some green paint. When we rode it, the section was dry (fairly amazing really given how wet the rest of the weekend was), but I’m not convinced that it would be that grippy. The Grizedale trails were opened before the trails were painted and I am reliably informed had the added benefit of sending riders off the trail when it was wet like it was riding on ice… In my mind the fact that you can actually feel the rubber of the tyres biting into the wire is kind of reassuring.
After White’s Level we then rode the rest of the The Wall and ended up back at the cabins. there’s more details about Afan on the dedicated website for Afan Forest Park. In all I think we were looking at about 72km riding for the day and just over 1200m climbing. I’m glad I took some Fruit Pastilles that’s for sure, because they’re about the only thing that managed to get me around the rest of the Wall.
The weather was crap on the whole and there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to get the camera out for some shots, but there are a handful here. I had also completely forgotten that last year when I rode here I had really bad handpump and fatigue from braking and this year with a different bike was no different. The singlespeed was absolutely flying on the singletrack and I’m sure it’s the better bike for riding here. The Enduro last year just felt so slow and awkward in comparison to the whippy, goes where you point it hardtail.