Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Betws Y Coed, Marin

After an early start Farqui and Uphilla cruised effortlessly along quiet roads to the trail head of the Marin trail in north Wales. Thankfully the forecasters got it wrong (again) and with blue skies and warming sunlight, two "sneaky" riders began their assault on yet another welsh trail.

Immediately we were confronted with an entertaining techy climb which quickly raised our heart rates. My pin's weren't quite ready and the resulting "dabs" caused Uphilla to pull out of view :x As with all decent trails there's always a big chunk of climbing to open your lungs and get you fully warmed up and from what little recollection we now have, much of this was on steady fire road.

It's been a few years since I tackled this route and I noted a few subtle alterations that have improved the experience. One section was a particularly nasty rough, steep muddy cross camber drop that had no run-out, which has now been armour'd and is now much more rideable but none the less challenging. Shortly after being built, the Dragon's Back's section was a picture and clearly visible but now the wilderness has taken over and hidden the slumbering giant.

Uphilla was pleasantly surprised to see the glorious, massive views on offer after exiting numerous sections and whilst cranking along most of the fire roads. He quite rightly tagged this as the "most scenic" of the Welsh trails he's ridden and I'd tend to place it alongside Cwm Carm for dramatic views. The numerous little Llyn's looked idyllic in the sunshine.

The Marin trail wouldn't look out of place down at Coed Y Brenin as it too has lots of rocks to negotiate. A few downed trees provided the occasional short diversion and I'm glad to report that all the sections were open and rideable. I'm glad I wasn't riding alone on this one as without Uphilla's help I might still be wedged under a fallen tree :o I mistakenly thought I could slither under a felled tree that was propped up at one side. However, as I ducked under my backpack/shoulders hooked onto the downed trunk and to my horror the chunky vertical support toppled slowly to the ground. Now I was firmly pressed into the saddle and perfectly balanced by a substantial mrDouglasFir. Thankfully Uphilla was close behind and swiftly upended the surprisingly effective log that was previously supporting my new friend. Boy was I glad to get the weight off, I even think my 5Spot groaned a sight of relief too :p

As the trails progress they gradually become a little more flowing and slightly less technical. Encouraging you to keep attacking and hammering along. Well I would have but towards the end I'd finally realised that my fork was far from happy. Initially I figured I just need to adapt from my usual flat-lands technique to cope with these more challenging trails. I then thought that I still needed to adjust to the monster powerful new brakes but moving the levers helped ease the pitching. A few miles later, my aching hands/wrists/shoulders and a sore head from the constant pounding had me looking towards my bouncer. It was clear to see that mrNixon was not happy and was only using a 1/3rd of his travel. Some careful analysis over the new few miles confirmed how randomly he was performing being reluctant to move, notchy and very slow to return - thereby often packing down on repeated hits. Drops become quite a gamble and slow speeds made keeping control extremely challenging. Semi smooth and flowing trails were ok but if the speed or rock size increased I felt like a pinball and line choice became something of a lottery.

The last two sections are an absolute blast with plenty of altitude lost to keep the momentum up. On an earlier visit I didn't get an opportunity to complete this renowned finale and although they don't flow like Afan, they're some of the most rewarding and memorable sections I've ridden.

Back at the car park we both knew that we'd cranked out a decent ride with my legs just starting to go a little wobbly on an empty stomach. However, I was confident that a substantial lunch should take care of them before we continue today's road trip...

Route; way-marked Forestry Commission trail starting a few miles out of Betws Y Coed, Tracklog.
Weather; Dry, mild and mostly sunny
Posse; Farqui(5Spot), Uphilla(5Spot)
Mechanicals; Farqui's lower jockey wheel locked solid after a couple of miles - easily freed up after stripping down and lubing.


uphilla said...

It is great to have done something new. Memories of this one are the hard climbs and disappointing LX brakes. The LX's had worked fine with 160mm rotors, but upgrade to 180mm brought noise and lack of power - maybe need bedding in.
Final descent favour those who like to spend time airbourne, all good fun and nice views as a bonus!

dahnhilla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

dahnhilla said...

NOt good about the brakes, give them time to bed in. WHat pads did you use???

uphilla said...

LX Brakes, Started with the standard, resin, pads which had seemed fine previously. Fitted Metal pads for C-Y-B not really that much better even after the ride. The rear brake was consistently more powerful than previous XT brakes and made hairpin corners much easier.

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