Participants: Dan, Dan W & Russ
Summary: Firstly many thanks for Dan & Dan for arranging the trip & tolerating my slow pace for the trip, and most importantly for providing a comprehensive set of provisions for the camping. We had 2 days of trails of varied trails mostly in truly great conditions, fast and flowy, rocky of all kinds including rock pavements which I’d never seen before, a few boardwalks, plenty of steps and berms and lots of hills, and mostly importantly very little water or mud. Day one saw us doing the Coed-y-brenin blue trail more than twice but not as many as three times plus the beast black run with loads of delights along the way, including a spot of afternoon tea. Campsite in a fabulous location, An excess of meat eaten at the barbeque – both by us & the midges, more of the same for breakfast. Day two started with the Tarw Du classic trail, the last section of which was a joy – despite the drizzle – the only real rain on any of the rides we did. A lunch at the trail centre watching the rain and driving through rain & hill-fog to Penmacgnoe didn;t bode well – and in the end the decision was taken to skip Penmachno – at satpic & rainfall radar showed a conveyor belt of moist air condensing on Snowdonia. Luckily as we were passing Cannock on the largely dry way back there was only a fleeting shower, so we stopped off at Cannock & sampled the full red trail including Monkey trail in truly excellent conditions – a bit of a blast at the end to get back to the car park before the advertised closing time.
Despite the technicality & length of the trails we escaped with no prangs – well the two comedy offs from me and Dan W don’t really count. As for mechanical a few flat tyres on the rocky sections for those of us bothering with tubes was all.
The full account:
As a relative newbie to trail centre trails with only FOD & Ashton court/Leigh woods really under my belt – I was a little apprehensive going on the advertised long black rides. Dan’s re-assuring words on difficulty (black mainly due to the length) left me thinking I really had to have a go.
The original start time was Saturday evening but this was put back to Sunday lunchtime due to the forecast Saturday night rain. In the end we got there to find there had been only one short but heavy shower overnight – and we barely noticed that once out on the trail. Cracking campsite – fab views of some mountains not so far away, nice dry and flat ground and gnarly old dead tree for a bit of a landmark. We put the tents up and then got ready for action. A short cycle to the main trail centre and the plan was for a loop of the blue, a bit of lunch then onto the black. Almost went to plan apart from missing the blue sign along the way – it was hidden behind an event marshalling van. Once we did the full loop, a nice fast blue, some lovely flowy sections including a bermy bit.
Lunch took a little while due to the Sunday queues but then off on the Beast black run. A rocky start followed by a variety of pure delights. An early puncture at about 5k in for Dan W had him using plenty of levers to get the tyres off his shiny new rims. This particular section left me worrying I’d bitten off a little too much on the long black with rocky drops. I need not have worried – the rest of the ride was fabulous. It was clear very early however that the two Dans would be getting a nice rest at the end of each technicial section!! The climbs mainly fire road, plenty of narrow single track, a few very picturesque river gorges crossed by bridges. A nice tea & cakes stop. From the riding perspective the trickiest part was the twisty descending rock pavement in the last portion of the ride, sometimes with moist wheels after crossing a gully. On the whole ride this was the only section I got really out of shape, at one point sliding slowly down a slope sideways after letting the rear skid out on a tight turn – but all recovered neatly. The rocky/rooty bit near the end was very lumpy indeed but navigated ok.
And lastly one more loop on the blue to finish off the day – except for the annoying road climb back to the campsite. Now for the Barbeque. The charcoal tray Dan had inherited was very slow to light and we ended up using the gas burner to heat some briquettes to get it going. Steak , Chicken & buns. All was well apart from the plague of midges. Out with the Jungle formula & mozzie coils – with limited success.
A good night’s sleep!
Packed up camp in the morning and but the time we started the classic Tarw DU trail there was already some moisture in the air. This trail is very different – it’s the original black trail characterised by long fire road sections but some nice shorter single track sections which were very technical and rocky. Dan’s rear tyre puncture on “the rocky horror show” and Dan W’s on the last fabulous section (Strava “2012 UK Gravity Enduro RD 2 STage 1”) – this last section was the pick of the bunch on this ride and could easily be ridden after a short fire road climb from the Centre – probably a better use your legs than the whole Tarw Du loop.
We had lunch at the centre and watched the rain get heavier. After a second drink we headed off to Penmachno – but always in the rain. This was not good. At the Penmachno trailhead we waited almost an hour for things to improve – after getting a 3G connection at last we managed to get satpic & rain radar down load. It was fairly clear that there was a long line of cloud streaming towards Snowdonia – and a persistently static blob of rain over Snowdonia. So we gave up and headed for home via the A5/M54 with the option of a stop at Cannock which looked dry on the rainfall radar. And so it turned out
Very different trails here – plenty of fast flowy trails through the wood- truly excellent trail conditions except for quite a few sections which were very worn and rutted (not surprising, some of the segments have over 8000 strava entries!) Plenty of switch-back climbs, a few board walks – one way too narrow to cross after two hard days of riding in my legs. Two board walk sections were the only obstacles I ducked the whole weekend – this I was very surprised by! The two Dans were still on full attack leaving me behind, except towards the end where I was a little closer. I really have to do this place again with fresh legs!
So once again, huge thanks for the 2 Dans for organising this and putting up with my rather slow pace. From my perspective I find it’s really tough riding trails for the first time and getting the level of attack right, but 2 days of doing this certain had me improving this throughout, even when I was getting tired. Still plenty of work to do though. However the variety of trails and the truly excellent conditions & company meant I had a fabulous time – certainly the most fun I’ve had riding so far, and black trails now cracked. Now, what’s the next challenge?