Sunday, September 30, 2007

Penhydd

Sunday morning arrived and after numerous suggestions from yours truly, only Uphilla graced me with a preference to ride the Penhydd loop before he left. I suppose I should get used to the blank expressions folk give me when I ask 'em what they'd like to do, but to be ignored x3-4 times during the course of wkend was starting to "grate" a little by now :(

Anyhow we zipped around into the next valley and unloaded our rigs before setting off on a blat around this most excellent trail. For me, it was made all the more special by having it fresh in my mind from yesterdays ride. "Careful, don't over do it" keep rolling through my head.

Over the course of the weekend we'd dutifully waiting for everyone to bunch up after each section which then meant riders were tailing others and bobbling around all over the place. As the posse didn't appear capable of falling into an approximate line of ability/speed, I suspect the slower riders and those with less confidence then feel pressured to keep crankin' and then end up making mistakes. I know usually I do in such situations. As my mutters were for the most part being ignored, I decided to try a slightly different tack this morning with a brisk pace and to only stop and regroup after x2-3 sections. Woe betide that I only mentioned this to a couple of riders and not to the deaf posse en-mass :blush Me bad.

Anyhow, a few twisty sections passed and by the long fire road winch I noticed that peeps were strung out nicely so halfway up I halted for a regroup and breather. This seemed to work as we carried on with the remainder of the initial fire road. Atop the climb we took another breather before Rob and I started the snake rolling again through the next set of 2-3 short sections. We were by no means hell for leather and calmly cranked the dull linking sections whilst keeping an eye out behind.

Atop the long climb after A Ridge Too Far we noticed Uphilla taking a breather behind us, so carried on. A few more section flew by with Rob comparing the ride on his Flux to yesterdays on his Jekyll and before we knew it we we'd zip'd through to Genesis, 3/4's of the way around - without any sign of the others. Ah well, we figured there's plenty of 'em to look after themselves so carried on back to the trail head.

Back at the car, I noticed a missed call from Uphilla (my mobile was still on silent from the nights kip) accompanied with a panting voice message (ooh-err misses) but unfortunately I didn't really get the gist of what was said. So I sms'd him and Dozer back saying we'd see 'em at the cabins.

Around an hour later the posse returned to "base camp" with Sicknote looking somewhat worse for wear :ohmy Apparently he'd taken a tumble not long after we'd finished the initial fire road slog :rolleyes Thankfully his injury's appeared to be superficial although they still looked raw and painful...

Unfortunately no-one had a map of the trail so poor ol'Sickers had to crank on with his injury's, deserving a 10/10 ol'chap. With a nasty 3rd injury in our last two visits (not to mention the bruises acquired in Scotland) I think we're long overdue a rethink on how we approach these weekends on such techi trails;
  • My feeling is that the long gaggle of riders tripping over one another has gotta stop. So next time I propose we separate into smaller and more manageable groups - preferably of similar ability. Perhaps we can then periodically re-group or just catch up over lunch/dinner ?
  • We need to ensure that most (if not all) have a suitable map to allow for a speedy retreat should anyone become injured. This has kinda fallen off our radar as the trails are littered with handy way markers.
  • I certainly hope everyone carries a 1st aid kit...
What say you ?

For me this brought to an end another excellent weekends worth of top notch Welsh riding. Although I'd initially planned riding in the afternoon and again on Monday I decided enough was enough -I'd already slotted in an xtra ride on Friday and I didn't want to push myself too far/ injure myself again as I did last year. Tiredness and loss of concentration is fatal in them there hills, as my shoulder will testify.

See you all there again next year ???

Route: Tracklog
Posse: Darren (Heckler), DDave (Chameleon h/tail), Dom (Cannondale h/tail), Dozer (FSR demo), Farqui (5Spot), Les (Rockhopper h/tail), Rob (Flux), Sicknote (Rockhopper), Uphilla (5Spot), Zena (Fuel EX)
Mechanicals: Dozer's rear shock blew on his hire bike
Weather: clearing sky's with sunshine at the finish !

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Penhydd

After a crackin' lunch at the Drop Off Cafe three of us headed back down the valley to hit the Penhydd trail at Afan forest park. Although this is still a substantial ride it doesn't come with a long, long initial climb which the "ponds" has and I just couldn't face a 2nd time in one day.

Crankin' out of the car park the trail heads up into some greasy woodland switchbacks before hitting your lungs with a steep but thankfully short semi loose climb. Your reward is a dart into some tasty woodland single track before you hit a long fire road winch skywards. Ok it drags on and on but at least it's not too taxing, unlike the "ponds" 6km full on affair.

A few fast but short sections then lead you to a sandy and typically wet section that spits you out at the base of a fairly long and fairly steep fire road winch section. Steady and easy is the name of the game, saving your legs for the fun that follows.

Your reward is the Hidden Valley with some tasty technical single track, switchbacks, fast open turns, roots, drops and a trail that hugs the side of the the "valley". On previous visits the faster turns have you hanging on but this time the overnight rain made the entire section slippery enough to keep you fully focused.

A short fire road climb later and the Sidewinder, Dead Sheep Gully and Genesis are three of the finest sections you'll ever savour. It starts with lots of fast S turns woven with rapid banked u-turns that had my rig wrigglin' beneath me I wasn't sure if I was riding or dancin' :lol From deforested woodland you quickly dive into darker, more sinister loops that have some cunningly placed trees than my shoulder brushed past. I had the pleasure of chasing down a couple of riders on a Specialized rigs here and as they weren't hanging about they helped drag me along just a little bit quicker turn after turn. Genesis is a feast that ends with a loose, rocky and lumpy descent down that delivers you with ever increasing momentum to a 90 right and short river crossing. Whoever designed and built the delicious track is a genius, pure genius.

By now the days climbing were clearly starting to tell on my companions who were either cramping up or unusually quiet for the few remaining k's.

The remaining single track descents are once again interspersed by easy short fire road hacks and before too long you're thrown out back at the visitors centre. Where you've an opportunity to reflect on just how much fun you and a couple of knobblies have just had !

Route: Tracklog
Posse: Farqui (5Spot), Rob (Jekyll), R2 (Canyon XC)
Mechanicals: None
Weather: overcast, cool, dry albeit misty

Afan, July

Anyone who's ridden from Afan "ponds" will know about the lengthy climb that starts the trails. It's a near perfect technical ascent that has plenty of technical combinations to keep to focused and entertained during the 6km winch to the summit. I'd forgotten just how steep the first 1km or so is and was very grateful my pins could back off the gas a little as the trail eased off a little. As you haul yourself up the valley you'll encounter plenty of switchbacks which in themselves provide a moments rest of the next bunch of boulders you'll have to navigate. Although it's a tree lined slope you wouldn't know if when you're riding up as your eyes are continually focusing on the next rock or even rocky overhang. Thankfully our knobblies all seemed to have loads-a-grip on the slightly damp rocks from the overnight rain and I for one was amazed at just how well mine were able to bail me out of more than one "wrong gear" situation. Damn it's a fine climb.

At the misty summit we all regrouped and prep'd ourselves for the Dozer bustin' black run which starts with a series of cheeky banked turns hidden behind the trees. Picture the scene, we're all in the dark woods, Rob shoots off and all we can hear is a locked up knobbly...for ages, Farqui looks to DDave, DDave looks to Farqui;
  • Farqui: "is that Rob ?"
  • DDave: "hmmm, sounds like he's cutting us a new berm!"
Anyhow, we all fire thru the berms and blast along a fire road to the start of the black run proper where you're greeted with an undulating section of raise board walk. Both R2 and I got caught out on the slippery chicken wire covering when try to remount mid section but thankfully these "incidents" were at ground zero :p The trail then flows sweety around the hilltop and we all knew that the grand finale was getting closer. At a fair ol'lick I approached a rocky drop only to find Rob's brain bucket appear over a crest and him dismounted (but upright) in the middle of the trail, ohmy Rapid application of the brakes took me off-line and close to the point of no return but my German stoppers once again saved my sorry a$$. Last year we had a gaggle of queuing riders at this start of this "challenge" and so it was again this year. As Rob slithered around the obstacle on his pin's I hoofed back up the trail for attempt#2, at least this time I knew the line ;) "Tally ho" and whoosh down the drop, over the loose rocks, hook left on berm#1, right on berm#2 and start grinning ! As there's little/no vegetation here you can watch everyone make the run and I'm sure the antics of Rob & I gave the 1st bunch of riders a good chuckle. R2 made it around Dozers' shoulder breaking last turn although he did look like he was practising for next years gurnin' champs ! However, dopey Dozer dismounted at exactly the same point he fell at last year, which in turn ruined Les' line and both were then very nearly collected by another fast and thankfully more talented rider who managed to zip past the lumberin' moving targets without incurring any injuries.

Now had Dom mentioned that mrsDom was waiting back at the top of the climb, then we wouldn't have been waiting for her at the end of the black run, sorry for your chilly wait lass.

A couple of k's later Granada whisks you through the trees to the short cut option. Left and you take on the long fire road sections of the Skyline or right and you drop rapidly down a rocky trail that is best tackled with your common sense disengaged :)

Fast Forward, Joy Rider and Deadwood all follow in quick succession with more fast'n'furious knobbly action. During which Darren's increasing excitement of the long switchback descent was reaching feverish level's, which hadn't really subsided much since his 1st taste of it last year :thumbu

On with the final descent and I chased Rob thru the gate and followed him for a good long way. His increased speed DH was good to see and he was clearly enjoying his ol'Jekyll and the additional stability it offers over his Flux. Once the rocks started to increase he backed off a little and with me just feet behind him we charged down the rocky steps/drops (call 'em what you will). I was perhaps a little too close 'cos all I got to see was his rear tyre lofted airborne as he apparently pogo'd down on his front wheel :ohmy Perhaps a little shaken he then clipped a rock ran along the edge of a substantial drop for a good way before he managed to bring his antics under control. At which point he allowed me to pass as the switchbacks, boulders, tree stumps and drop and drop flashed by in a blur of Farqui. My new front bouncer performed so well and sucked up everything in it's path with such control that I hardly needed my stoppers. Instead I wrestled my monster bars and flicked my rig up over and around everything that lay before us. Some of the rocks were placed very nicely for some airtime although you have to take care as there's always another "test" a feet further along. Damn it's a fine descent.

OMG, how I love the ride. Each section offers a tantalising array of obstacles both up and down that make me wish I lived nearer...

Route: Tracklog
Posse: Darren (Heckler), DDave (Chameleon h/tail), Dom (Cannondale h/tail), Dozer (FSR demo), Farqui (5Spot), Les (Rockhopper h/tail), Rob (Flux), R2 (Canyon XC), Sicknote (Rockhopper), Uphilla (5Spot), Zena (Fuel EX)
Mechanicals: Dozer's demo rig developed play in the rear wheel and cassette plus skipping gears towards the end due to a twisted chain link - I guess he was struggling with SRAMy's :p
Weather: overcast, low clouds, remained dry albeit a misty

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Wall

After a quick explore and warm up at Brechfa, I met the Rob's back at the cabins who were both chomping at the bit to get their knobblies dirty. As the cabins back onto The Wall trail we didn't have far to crank before hitting the single track.

This was R2's first dose of technical riding and he also had to contend with the experience on a relatively new rig. Unfortunately our newbie was plunged in at the deep end with as he follow us down "the wall". Both Rob and I stopped halfway down to reset our suspension as we were both struggling with the lumpy terrain. With our bikes adjusted R2 still hadn't caught up and a passing riders commented that he was riding "up" the trail - impressive for a DH section ! Eventually R2 caught up with us, looked a little pale and was as confused as us to were he'd gone wrong. Anyhow we twiddled his rig into "all mountain" mode and continued downwards.

Completing his first section R2 was surprised at how technical the riding was but was starting to feel a little more confident now his rig was more stable underneath him. We cranked steadily along the valley bottom bridleway back to the trail head proper and took in an short'n'twisty first section where our newb got his first taste of switchbacks. Fortunately he managed to calm down as we began the long, long crank back along the valley bridleway. Thankfully the height gain is gradual and your reward is plenty of single track high atop the valley.

The next sections had a little of everything with the odd switchback, plenty of rocks, twistin thru' threes, roots, climbing, descending, fast, slow, etc - BIG FUN. To end our ride we had to survive the Graveyard and I'm yet to tackle this on legs that can cope with monster roots (that caught R2 out) and navigating the boulders. So I'll have to "clean" this another day.

If you want a ride that'll give you a bit of everything and leave you satisfied with your efforts then this has gotta be near the top of your "to do" list. We were a bit naughty starting R2 on such a technical trail but he's a fit'n'strong rider who deserved putting back in his place after trouncing us both around his local patch :p Only kiddin, he's a top bloke who was more than capable of of taking up the challenge and at the end his smiles said it all...now that may have just been because he knew it was the end of the ride :lol

Route: Tracklog
Posse: Farqui (5Spot), Rob (Flux), R2 (Canyon XC)
Mechanicals: Rob - puncture early on
Weather: overcast but dry and a comfortable temp

Brechfa

Around an hours drive west of Afan, you'll come to the small village of Brechfa which has a couple of relatively new trails. Approximately half of the drive is via the M4/A48 with the rest of a terrific twisty country lane amongst some fab countryside - an ideal end to a long motorway slog.

At the moment there's a gentle green graded loop that takes you out to a slightly more taxing blue loop before returning back the trail head on the last of the green. There are no trail head facilities and I didn't see any potential site for any, although the car park is substantially larger than say Penmachmo's.

My start didn't go well as the first section isn't complete yet and I'd read you have to drop back to the road and ride around to the start. A sharp road climb gave way to a steep "boat" before popping out on some fire road where I soon picked up the trail markers. I later learned however, that I could have simply ridden over the crest from the car park ! So don't believe everything that you read :p

A short section of fire road the trail ducked into the tree's and the compacted trail was lovely and smooth, approx 3-4ft wide, undulated and twisted it's way up and down. Although my legs were fresh I was glad I wasn't greeted with a long vertical slog, instead I was soon building momentum using these clever rollers and berms. It's like no other trail I've ever ridden and whilst it isn't technically difficult it's an absolute hoot blasting around the cleverly placed berms and boosting off the roller and roller with such little effort :D

Before long the blue section arrived with trail following a slightly steeper gradient upwards and the newly cut surface definitely needs a few hundred knobblies on it to compact it and take away the "stickiness". Before too long I was pointing down and hammering between the trees when I found the undulations where now more frequent and needed some long range piloting to get a good line. The smooth flat surface might be easy to ride but it's awkward to find any last braking traction so I opted for a more relaxed yet none the less rapid technique. Instead of the rocky, flat perilous switchback at Afan, these are smooth, big bermed beauties to rail and help keep all that sweet momentum going. The blue DH also has a couple of more technical lines that the DDave's amongst us could opt for so don't overlook the challenge this trail offers, it's just different to the others.

After the relatively short blue you head back along the fire road before taking a long, long and faster, faster descent back to the trail head. Again using the unique roller system to keep you out of the saddle and pumping each drop to effortlessly fire you around the next curve or over the next crest. There's no tight turns to contend with as it all "flows" on and on. It was so fast that my eye's were watering even though I had sunnies on. Should you choose, it's a full on g-in/g-out whoop and a holler that'll see you out of the saddle flicking left'n'right, lofting or sucking up the crests.

This is a great trail packed into a short package that should appeal to novices and single track gods alike. It'd be great for the young'uns to start developing their skills and even the teacher should be able to have a good ride too. For me, it was a great opener to a weekend of Welsh riding and I'll definitely be back...

Route: Tracklog
Posse: Farqui (5Spot)
Mechanicals: None
Weather: clear blue sky's and sunshine

Friday, September 21, 2007

Canyon Nerve XC 3.0

With the help of DHL and exactly one week after ordering, my new German steed arrived today - a Canyon Nerve XC 3.0. Inspired by R2's most excellent rig and an absolutely unmissable end of season "Sparbuch" aka "sale" I dropped my wad on this cross country fully.

It was well packaged in a burly box and I for the lack of dosh it's a beaut. Not only does the frame have some lovely detailing but it also comes with Jagwire cables, rub patches and covers plus a fair old array of kit.


I was quite surprised to find LX shifters in place of the Deore items spec'd on online. I'm also keen to see what how the Avid's perform, these oem 3's are identical to the after market 5's. An initial squeeze of a lever revealed that they were "moto" style (front brake on left lever) :o but they were quickly swapped over without too much fuss - a nice feature of the Juicy's.

The RP23 rear bouncer has proved a worthy component on Chipmunk's ML, so now I get to try one too :p The rear mech caused me some head scratchin' early on (not least 'cos it's Shimano) but the cage came a full rotation out, see the bent "pin" :thumbd

I'm a big fan of Schwalbe's Racing Ralph's and the Nobby Nic's being a fave of Toons, although not necessarily on the terrain north of the border, I'm hopin' they'll do just fine down here. The durable yet basic Shimano hub'd and Alex rim'd wheelset aren't as heavy as anticipated and the cup/cone design means they just want to spin and spin - seemingly with little/no resistance.

The tube set uses typical large bore alloy tubing but the down tube is a whopper and the hard 7005 alloy makes for what sounds like a very thin walled tube. No doubt this contributes to all up low weight (approx 28lbs) even without exotic components. The gusseting looks chunky and well placed so it should be up to the odd punding ;)


Roll on a pukka test ride...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Afan - Last Minute

Posse, Afan is now less than two weeks away and I hope you and your rigs are all well maintained and rare-in' to go :p As some were unsure when we've scheduled our 2nd grand trip of the year (you know who you are), I figured I'd better give ya's a nudge.

When ? Friday September 29th - Monday 1st October.

Trails, how's about;
  • Friday, pm; Brechfa, Gorlech
  • Saturday, am; July or Skyline
  • Saturday, pm; Whites Level
  • Sunday; Wall 2nd half, Penhydd, Wall 1st half
  • Monday, am; CwmCarn XC
This way we'll once again be riding the Glyncorrwg Ponds with fresh legs on the Saturday.

On Sunday we'll ride directly from the cabins and hit the two trails at the other center. Then peeps can decide if they want to race off back home whilst those of a more relaxed constitution can devour lunch at the cafe and plan out the afternoons activities.

What'd'ya fink ?

Where ? A few links to help you find what's available...
Sleeps, will be decided as and when peeps arrive. Unless anyone has specific requirements...

Refreshments, if the weather is dry then we'll have the choice of a bbq - here's hopin' they've put lights down by in the "pit". Otherwise, you all know the score - if you don't bring it then you can't consume it ;)

Payment, for those of you that still haven't settled your bill, can you check your entry within the online spreadsheet and either pay up now or bring along the cash over the wkend. Cheque's and IOU's are no good on the weekend as the cabin owners want payment in hard earned fold-able's.

Last Year, forgotten what we planned in 2006.

AOB ?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cannock Sunday 23rd Sept

Since Rogers visited Cannock for the first time earlier this year he's often mentioned a return visit. This Sunday he has a pass available and we'd like to ask y'all to join us at the Rugeley trails.

Thus far we have DDave, Farqui, Rob, Roger, Uphilla with Chris/Jenni trying to line themselves up for to join in.

How's about a 10.30am start at the start of FtD...

Ectoplasm

Whilst replacing my rear boot and squeezing the tyre off the rim I noticed a lump (not the bulges seen earlier). After wrestlin' the Bonty off the wheel some congealed slime slid out :O

I've changed a few tubeless boots now and never seen this before. Perhaps I need a new UST strip ?

Seating the new boot proved tricky this evening but a little gloop managed to assist my frantic track pump action and get the tyre to hold air.

Ah well, at least the sweat and achin' pinkies are worth the effort of tubeless booties :p

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Three Hills Ride

Last night Rob and I hammered out a quick loop over on his local patch.

I finally got to clock Rob's rebuilt Jekyll and he seems pleased with it, even though it rides very differently to his beloved. Naturally he had brake trouble although he managed to slow himself to walking pace (and me for a while) down both the springs and the "steep down" :p

I still haven't replaced my dodgy rear tyre and you can easily feel it's lumpiness, especially whilst crankin' on the black top. I'd best get around to replacing it before it goes pop - at the least convenient moment.

The trails were dry and mighty fast with the cool autumn like evening rounding off a beltin' ride, thanx Rob.

Posse; Farqui (5Spot), Rob (Jekyll+)
Weather; fabulous cool autumn evening, no breeze
Mechanicals; none

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Woburn Wootyness

Last wkend Chekov visited Westoning with a plan to ride the FNC (Friday Night Club) and then take in the delights on Woburn the next day. Although I wasn't able to sample the Friday night action the crew were full of tales of adventure. Amazingly Chekov had never ridden off road at night and I trust his "experience" will inspire him to explore his own local trails under cover of darkness. Night riding rocks !

Saturday morning arrived and the Westoning posse pulled up at CMK looking only slightly worse for their evening consumption. Once Darren pointed out my missing brain bucket :blush we headed off for a gentle warm up over to Woburn to the south of MK. With the posse splitting into two groups I then noticed that DD was only running a single chain ring, so we eased back off the gas.

Whilst Uphilla fixed a puncture we casually inspected our own rubber, checkout the carcass of my rear boot looking decidedly *ahem* "tyred" :p Thankfully it stayed in one piece throughout the ride, although I was careful not too abuse it too much.

The "lights out" climb was Chekhov's first turn of a knobbly within his lordships back yard and the dry sand kept more than just the noobie alert :p A fast descent of the rooty climb was greeted with plenty of grins but not from our "Sickers" who's freewheel died, he resigned himself with a walk into Woburn where he arranged for his misses to collect him. Now a man down, Twister was dispatched in a flurry of twists and turns before heading over to the jump arena.

The cross camber drop has an awkward jump at it's exit so I opted to guide the posse down a bermy chute and rapidly through the two bomb holes before crossing the road to fullers earth. The trail down to the sheep dip was doubly fast and furious and with a gaggle of riders on my heels I cranked the big ring down and rested up at the bottom.

After a steady crank up the "singing wheel" we had our first faller (me) with a face full of foliage on a techi descent. I managed to deftly disappear into the undergrowth so as not to get run over - not that I had much say in the matter :)

Cranking our way back up the long rooty climb, Chekov commented how much better the trail was in reverse (t'was the opening descent) which is fast becoming a familiar comment. At the top of "stumpy" I thought Darren was yelpin' with joy as he recalled what was ahead so I dropped my head and snaked as fast as I could thru the roots'n'stumps only to later find that I was alone. Apparently his clever new fork failed to notice the remains of a post, immediately stopping his rig and causing a dramatic "superman" face plant....which I sadly missed ;)

Finding a large group of stationary riders at the top of the swoopy DH we didn't waste anytime heading finding the big ring. I believe Darren incurred another "nap" whilst trying to hang on thru the turns and the track was so good that we quickly looped back for another try. The other MTB'ers were still at the top and frankly looked like they were there to stay so we hooked around all the abandoned rigs and dashed down again. This time DDave was in pursuit and staying upright we both had big grins. The last crank along the roots had us ducking and diving in between ever narrowing gaps with the odd baby bomb hole thrown into the mix.

Although I'd originally intended to exit the woods from the west and pick up the Grand Union back to CMK, other commitments intervened so we headed directly back to Ye Olde Swan for a quick bite and a pint. After which we only had a short blat alongside the canal and we were back at the trail head where Darren and Dozer were happy to find they hadn't needed to negotiate any low canal bridges.

An urgency to finish meant our legs knew we'd been crankin' but the route seemed to flow all the better for it. Thanks for the company guys, until next time.

Posse; Darren (Heckler), DDave (Chameleon), Chris (OnOne), Dozer (Rockhopper), Sicknote (Rockhopper), Uphilla (5Spot)
Weather; overcast, a little humid but a good riding temperature
Mechanicals; Uphilla punctured less than 2miles in and Sicknote's freewheel broke after the initial climb into the woods - the long walk might teach him a lesson here (it'd been dodgy month ago).

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is it Frayday

Over the past few months the front dérailleur on my clunky ol'commuter has been rubbing in the odd gear and this annoyance finally got the better of me last night. Not least 'cos Brumster recently spotted the dodgy looking cable;

How much longer do ya reckon it would have lasted ?

I expected it to go weeks ago but it's hung in there surprisingly well. The FD has a surprising amount of "play" but still works fine for roadie type duties.

Now it's not that I don't like my heavy and uncomfortable hard tail, it's just that I'd rather spend time and hard earned on our off road rigs. Provided Claud gets me to/from work then it's job is done. The bottom bracket is on it's way out too but that'll have to wait ;)

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