Love Is…..

21 02 2009

Crispy trails and a trip to Afan ! (clicky link below for photos)

Crispy trails at Afan...

Crispy trails at Afan...

Don’t know about you but I’ve been lovin’ these crispy trails of late.  Riding like summer hardpack with shed loads of grip, they’ve been great and made a real treat to the usual slop of the south at this time of year.   

We’d booked a trip to Afan over the Valentine weekend but the recent snow storms looked like it might put paid to the trip.  The weekend before we’d heard the Demo Day at Glyncorwyg had been cancelled due to foot high drifts on the trails, would they be rideable a week later ?

Checking as many webpages as possible for an update we decided to go for it and ride in the valleys if the trails were closed. The trails were calling … we weren’t disappointed.

The mission of this trip was to nail 2 switchbacks that’d eluded me on the last trip in 2008.  With just the 2 of us going this time we planned to session these pesky corners; one in the Hidden Valley the other at the end of Sidewinder, until I nailed them.   And it worked !

The trails were empty on Valentines Day.  Wales and England were playing rugby in Cardiff and with big thumb prints on the foreheads of most other male riders, we had the trails almost to ourselves.  The Welsh weather was doing its best to cheer us up too with brilliant sunshine glistening off the remaining patches of snow. 

1/2 hr sessioning the first switchback with Rick helping me see the line and willing me round, it was nailed.  So good in fact we rode back up the top of Hidden Valley and rode it all again, what a fab section of trail. 

Sidewinder next.  Another fab section of trail fast and bermy with a killer tight off camber RH switchback just before it finishes.  In all my years of riding it I’ve never got round cleanly, I hate it.  Today I was going to nail it though, I was determined.  1/2 hr later with various lines being taken it was nailed.  What a buzz, you have no idea how happy I was feeling.  Even if I don’t clean every switchback from now I now know I CAN do them so my confidence has increased just from that knowledge, isn’t riding great when you get it right ?

Penhydd trail was excellent today, ticking all the boxes, our B&B unfortunately wasn’t so we weren’t looking forward to going back before 4pm because it was freezing with no heating.  So lunch and a bike shop trip instead to cheer us up.  On the way we passed a new place called Afan Lodge (www.afanlodge.co.uk) and called in to see if they had rooms, not opening until next weekend we couldn’t be accommodated but they did fit us in for a meal that night which was excellent, as was their service.  Run by bikers for bikers, I would HIGHLY recommend it for the future and it’s slap bang between both Afan trail centres backing onto the cycle path.  Restaurant and bar on site too, I’d say it’s pretty well perfect and just what this area has been screaming out for.

So after our lovely meal at Afan Lodge we were fuelled up for our ride the following day on Whytes Level.  I’ve never ridden this trail before (opting to do a skills day last year instead) so I was feeling a bit daunted about what was to follow, especially the Black Run because the snow had eroded the trail quite a bit since last year, would be Black Run be achievable ? 

First though the 6KM, yes that’s 6KM, of rock garden climb to achieve before any thoughts of downhill could enter my brain.  Singletrack all the way with technical little blips and switchbacks to keep things interesting, this climb is a killer.  A long way to push a downhill bike I thought as we passed 3 guys doing just that (!).  Some lads we were riding up with kept telling me ‘it ain’t over until you see the sign’.  That sign is a flipping long way from the valley bottom I can tell you but when we saw it, uncontrollable whoops of joy left my body because next was the Black Run.

Rick looked worried about me doing it but thankfully kept it to himself, and I was trying to ingore his fear as we entered the gate.  The girls rode it last year and the feedback they gave meant I could ride it too.  

OMG !  What a buzz, I have NEVER had an adrenaline rush like that before.  It was really flipping scarey but fantastic all at the same time.  Huge berms (I love berms) with massive rocks sticking out of them so line choice was essential, rocky singletrack trails, board walks galore and finishing off with a vertical plummet into a boulder strewn section, braking and sliding my way through the rockfest into another massive rocky berm, then another, OMG this is brilliant, take the high line on the last berm and then whoosh it was all over…hands trembling with excitment.  I just rode my first proper Black Run !!!!!

On a complete high – all of a sudden all energy left my body, I needed to eat.  Once back at the top we had a munch and contemplated doing it all over again.  You could spend all day up here sessioning  that Black Run but we decided to carry on.  The sun was still streaming down and the rest of the trail was beckoning us. 

Windy Ridge spits you out right at the foot of some huge wind turbines and gives you a really fun section to ride, dry and fast flowing, and funnily enough, windy.  Onto Energy and the tabletops (I love them too), where over the last one my foot flew off the pedal and I nearly came a cropper. Turned out I’d lost a cleat bolt, quick trailside repair nicking a  rotor bolt and we’re off again.  Once over the river Energy turns into an energy-sapping climb with 2 local guys telling us only 10% of riders get up there cleanly.  Rick cleaned it, say no more !

Some riders went past us as we headed into the final decent (The Darkside) one of them with only one leg and a huge grin on his face (complete respect due).  This decent will loosen yer fillings.  Big slabby rock steps all the way down and fast, fast, fast.  Overtaking a guy on a fully rigid bike (!!) we were all laughing like drains at the bottom.  At only 15km long this trail offers you so much for its mileage.  I was knackered.  Needed to eat but felt sick from the exertion and shaking.  Literally falling asleep in my jacket potato back at the cafe, it had been a good day but now it was time for home.

Day 3 we headed towards Cwm Carn, an hour up the road and right by the border.  This was apparently the first ever trail centre built and it now also boasts a red and black downhill run with uplift (www.cwmdown.co.uk).  The new freeride area at the top of the monumental singletrack climb has been closed because there’ve been so many accidents needing airlift.  Cwm Carn is another great technical climb meandering its way alongside a pretty valley riverside.  Great swathes of snow still clinging to the hillside and secluded valleys felt like you were riding into a fridge at times.  Today was another sunny day though, it looked pretty magical. 

Once at the top, which took a bit longer that usual as my legs were still killing off yesterday, and the fun began.  Old Skool singletrack in abundance, one section closed though for forest works, but repaid by the excellent new final decent they’d put in.  We both thought this is one (if not the) best final decent we’ve ever ridden.  It was excellent, really really fast and flowy.  Brilliant fun.

Trip over.  3 days of excellent biking on 3 sunny dry days in Wales.  Not often you can string those words together in a sentance.  We already want to go back and possibly will before May and stay at the Afan Lodge.  Brechfa black run anyone ?

Til next time….Lisa

Clicky link for photos:  http://photos-by-lisa.photosnaps.org.uk/c1660275.html

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