Crazy Dayz…

23 05 2008

Life for me has been a bit mad lately what with my new job and all and tbh I haven’t had any spare time to do as much riding as I would like or blogging on Muddy@rse so it’s meant the blog has been a bit thin on the ground lately but stuff has been going on so here’s a summary & photos of the past few months…

We had a brilliant ride at our Redhill Rumble where a massive 39 people turned out during the petrol strike.  So instead of my prediction of about 10 bikers making the journey we actually had a record breaker instead.  Really was amazing to see you all there and Rich’s ride management skills were very impressive.  Rich and Donna put together the loop on their local stomping ground and between them made sure everyone kept together and that the trail flowed nicely.  Only a few mechanicals; my rear brake pads disintegrated, Rick’s rear mech hanger got chewed by a killer twig, and Alice’s rear brake decided not to work whatsoever having just had a full service from her LBS !! (cheers to all the mechanics who helped out on the day).  The trails were lovely and dry though (my god it could almost be summer) and had lots of nice variety to them.  Everyone was buzzing after the nice off camber decent on the Neice of Chalky Climb (or was it Son, or Dad or Mother – Rich ?) that spat us out literally onto Reigate Hill.  Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day and couldn’t believe we were literally in spitting distance of the M25. Those North Downs views were gorgeous !  Those bombholes were fun too, especially the one with the big muddy puddle at the bottom that nearly spat a few into the blackhole beyond 🙂  It was tea and cake back at Rich and Donna’s then off home ready for the next event….

Muddy@rse Road Trip to Afan….14 Muddy@rsers got together for the early May Bank Holiday.  Cars packed to the gunnels with body armour (plenty of discussion on the forum about that one), bikes and smiles.  The sun was streaming down and the trails were dry and dusty.  How lucky were we.  We’d booked 3 log cabins literally 50mtrs from The Wall Trail at Afan (highly recommended), except no one told Neal who merrily went barging into the 4th cabin disturbing the man and wife in there… who were luckily only having their breakfast 🙂   Friday pm we rode The Wall, starting off with the Final Decent right from the door.  At the end of it smiles and silence mixed together onimously as we all soaked up what riding round here was all about…technical.  Food for thought for what was to come over the weekend…it only got bigger and better from here on in.  Talking of food, Friday night the food was kindly prepared and ferried to us by Warwick our resident trained chef (how lucky was that then), and we all tucked in to a delightful feast, followed by Jenga and a few glasses of vino.  A great evening but early to bed cos it’s early to rise for more great riding at Brechfa tomorrow.

Brechfa is a little known trail about an hr’s drive from Afan and if haven’t been before you might think…why bother ?  Well, it is worth bothering take it from us.  Brechfa starts off without giving much away about itself but as you ride each section of singletrack it just keeps on getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  Table tops, berms, drop ins you name it, its big by the end.  Unfortunately, our first incident happened here and Woodchip (aka Craig) has a big bad crash over the bars, skinned himself alive but also broke his elbow in 3 places.  Off to Hospital couresty of Donna with texts flying back and forth we found out poor Craig needed surgery and was in Hospital for the weekend.  Not good, we all felt awful for him, but hopefully he’ll win £100 on MBR’s ‘Old Blokes who should know better’ with the photo of his scar (check out the forum).

Night ride anyone ?  The mentalists (most of you) decided to go for a little night ride on The Wall so body armour and bright lights were fitted and a 2hr challenge was set before you.  The midnight return of wide eyed staring people was funny as I sat in bed with me cupa cocoa knackered.  Best night ever was the verdict and no one hurt…phew !

Next day, Afan proper Whytes Level or Skyline take your pick.  The group split and chose their own preference.  Both trails start with the same bitching climb though, man that was hard but Whyes splits into more of a tech fest with reams of boardwalk thrown in and very technical decents and Skyline is for the racing whippets, 2000mtrs of lung busting climbing thrown in for good measure.  3 of us girls chose to do a skills day instead to try and conquer our demons, mine is tight switchbacks otherwise known as Bitchwacks !  I hate em.  Lesson learned though.. slow down earlier and you might get round !  Another great day though with everyone enjoying their choices.  That evening off to Hospital to visit Craig, he’d had the op and was feeling groggy but 13 bikers round his bed seemed to cheer him up, not sure about the hospital staff though.  Safe in the knowledge he was ok we headed for the pub and grub. 

Last day Afan and Penhydd trail.  The original Afan trail but still a beaut with the exception of one section, Brashy Track, anyone know why that even existed ?  waste of a decent but hey the rest of the trail is brilliant.  Hidden Valley being my own nemesis because of the bitchwacks, made most of them but still need to practice (and slow down).  Gez decided to make friends with a REALLY big hole on one of the loose, rocky decents and went flying over the bars and getting up close and personal with a bit of nature.  Nothing broken this time thankfully and he managed to ride the rest of the trail, respect.  We all really enjoyed today, the flow was brilliant, really fast sections with lots to keep your mind focused.  The sun had shone all weekend and we had been blessed. 

Great weekend, great company, great laughs, great trails, I wanna go back  already …hmmm now where’s that diary !  Here’s what Muddy@rser Warwick had to say about it..”The area in Wales actually made me homesick as our favorite riding area in Zimbabwe was in the Eastern Highlands which is very much like Wales.  Loads of mountains, pine forests and sandstone trails , although not man-made but they are some of the best unexplored trails found by only a lucky few (me being one of them) the trails there rate IMHO are some of the best this side of the arctic cirlce or north of the equator .
For me they were not that technical as we were used to riding on loads of rocks and loose stones, so it was second nature for me.  I’m not exactly into the parts with man made jumps, bumps and humps, thats for the guys who cant pedal uphill (!!!) but they were good to keep up the techniques to get over them.  

My highlight was on the Sunday when we two loners split fom the group to ride Skyline, the trails just kept getting bettter and better even the fire road sections were fun to ride. It was an awsome, brilliant trail . I’m already organising to go back there.  If you put each day’s riding into a pot, add some titanium wire, a bit of plaster cast  a few minor mechanicals, some expensive bike parts, good wine and good company, a good healthy dollop of fun with a generous dose of addrenalin that adds up to a fun filled weekend..
and then you throw in a very big thank you to everyone who organised it (Sally & Olly) and to everyone coming along and riding…it was great, Warwick”

Goodwood in the Sun… after being snowed off only 4 weeks before, the rerun of Goodwood was set midst a heatwave.  Weather’s weird, don’t you think ?  So like mad dogs we set off for our midday race and it was blistering.  15 Muddy@rsers turned out to support the event all entering different races through the day but all got together before and after for race pre chats (how much you taking in your camelbak then?) and after race chat (got that was hot).  Kerry and Mike were lurking in the bushes taking photos of the motley crew as we flew by (well it felt fast).  One trophy winner today, 12 yr old Alec who’se tactic was slow and steady 1st lap, go like mad 2nd lap – congrats to Alec.  The rest of us were just glad to finish. It was so hot we were all blowing up not used to riding in this heat, the only race prep for that would have been a week in Spain.  It was good fun though and the burgers for 50p at the end went like..well, hot burgers !

Holiday chat … Guy has recently been to the Lake District and hooked up with a local bike club for a few rides, including a treacherous night ride over some proper hike-a-bike mountains that Rick and I scrambled up in hiking boots on our last trip there.  Guy you are a true mentalist…here’s his account of his ride …..”We’re constantly being told to get out of our comfort zone, try and expand our horizons and take the route less travelled. Well, with this in mind I decided to try and do just this on my recent holiday in the Lake District.…..Guy”

A few posts on the Singletrack forum asking for route ideas yielded an invite to join a regular Tuesday evening ride at 6:30pm from the centre of Keswick “big tyres and full suspension recommended” so last week, with some trepidation and fear of showing distinct southern softie tendencies, I went along for some proper mountain riding.

After the initial brief introductions and the mandatory admiring of new kit, in this case a seriously trick Pace Singlespeed with those pink Hope brakes (which apparently are not just for girls Lisa…) I was left wondering why about half the 13 other riders were equipped with arm and leg pads and long travel full-sus bikes… We set off out of the town centre in a sunny warm spring evening. The first stage took us along part of the coast to coast cycle route, then along some local lanes for a few miles before reaching the start of the off-road proper.

After a quick regroup we set off up a bone dry (slightly cheeky) trail leading up a valley above a mountain stream…and further on up…and up…I could see a trail snaking far ahead and far higher…They’re not serious are they? My normal riding disposition replaced with more of a grit your teeth and get on with the climb attitude. About a mile further up the valley I started to notice that at each gentle turn we were presented with…more trail…going on up…and still on up…A couple of sections that can only be described as Lunar surface with BIG slabs of rock too technical to ride on (a quick, near over-the-handlebars moment persuaded me of that) meant a few points of pushing and then on up until we came to the first Col. Well, I was feeling reasonably pleased with myself for having got this far. Snatching a quick glance at the old GPS showed that we were now at 510m…HOW HIGH? And we’re not even at the top yet! Slugging a load of energy drink I asked one of the riders what the downhill on the other side was like “Oh, we think its one of the best in the country…” was the reply.

Around the next corner I could see the top of the trail: another Col about half a km ahead and 100m above us…looking over the edge…blimey that drop down the scree slope looks a bit hairy…and the trail is close to the edge…and narrow…gulp! A welcome stop to take some photos of the amazing sunset over Grizedale Pike and then the bikes are shouldered/carried up the steepest and hairiest section to the very top…another quick check of the GPS: 620m…

A quick breather, windshells are dug out of backpacks to fend off some of the evening chill, jelly babies are handed round and the fun really starts:

The first section of downhill was a very narrow rutted trail with a steep slope dropping away on the left and thick, spikey gorse just on the right. Ride leader Gav offers me just one piece of advice: “Drop your Saddle” I watch most of the other riders go ahead before trying and frankly failing to clear this. Its terrifying: I spend my time trying to keep as far right from the side as possible, right pedal unclipped, foot out like a total novice getting beaten by every boulder, gorse bush and drop-off. I reach the end of this with my confidence in tatters. If the rest of the descent is like this I’m really not going to enjoy myself.

Ok, deep breath.

Next is a very steep grass and gorse covered bank down to another trail that leads into the next valley. I grit my teeth and decide to mix a bit of caution with some more commitment, weight as far back as possible, follow the vague tyre marks on the ground and get down to the waiting main group to a very welcome cheer of encouragement. The next section is one of those amazing bits of singletrack that you simply couldn’t build: a steep, rocky, technical and increasingly fast run down the valley. Sweeping technical trails then fast sliding turns where your rear wheel is spitting gravel and hard braking, turn, then sprint and the occasional stop for a drop-off too far. It just goes on and on down the valley until eventually ending in a small carpark. I was nearly last down but was grinning like a maniac by this point.

A short section of road riding along some quiet lanes (where one rider was oh so nearly taken out on a bend by a farmer on a quad bike travelling at high speed in the other direction) and we end up at the next trail. Er, it’s about 8:45pm now, sunset has been and gone. Aren’t we going back yet?


This is the bridleway over Catbells. It’s a legal trail to ride on but we are soon carrying the bikes far up a steep boulder-strewn slope to yet another Col high above. The rest of the group starts to stretch ahead in the twilight and when I finally get to the top I am frankly, knackered. Gulping more drink and scoffing energy bars and offered jelly babies I make sure the rest of the riders know how I’m feeling. The response is a firm but fair “well you aren’t staying here”. A few of the group have already sped off down the trail to start the descent and I can see their lights far below us down towards Derwent Water. More advice is given: drop your saddle and just don’t try and ride it all if you’re unsure…and I very soon see why: FLIPPIN ‘ECK THIS IS STEEP!!! The descent is a series of steep technical switchbacks that some kind soul has built rock steps into to help walkers. Some of the riders have evidently taken this as a challenge to be ridden. In the dark. Eek! I walk the worst (which is admittedly quite a lot) and then take a belting long, fast, straight descent riding and trying to jump several deep rock drain gullies to the final switchback then onto the lower series of (less insane) trails and forest tracks that take us back along the lakeside towards Keswick.

The final sections are taken at a fun sprint through a quiet, dark forest and after a quick stop to sort out my rapidly cramping legs we all regroup for the final couple of miles back to the town and….The pub! A few pints of Guinness later and we’re swapping tales of riding experiences around the country. The local riders’ hospitality extends to more beer and a welcome lift back up the hill to the hotel (thanks Gav)

Frankly, an amazing evenings’ riding and a wonderful experience that I can recommend to any real mountain biker. Keswick rocks and, as there is about to be some newly built singletrack opened in May/June in nearby Whinlatter forest, the area is going to get even better as a riding destination.

Many thanks to Gav, Clarey and the rest of the Keswick group for making me feel so welcome. If you’re ever down in the south-east we’ll have to show you the local trails J

Night rides are still taking place at various places around Sussex and with the lighter evenings you don’t necessarily need lights so why not give it a go and make the most of the summer trails.  I’m hoping to get out a bit more often over the summer because life’s too short not to be riding and I’m hoping to redress my work/life balance so happy trails everyone and hope to see you soon.  Lisa

Clicky links for photos: 

Helmetcam video: 




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