Saturday, September 29, 2007


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


Rob said...

Now I know pain, the climb really hurt, despite fairly willing legs and plenty of air intake my back reminded me what age does to you. On the long climb to the first descent the bugger locked and began to grind mercilessly.

Plenty of encouragement and a little sympathy helped a lot and I got through it though it was the end of the ride before my concentration stopped fading out periodically.

Did I enjoy it? Could I enjoy that? Damn right I did, Hidden valley and Genisis are spectacular, the rocks in the middle section blur the vision nicely on single pivot, just hoping that the occaisional touching of tyre to rock will offer some traction!! Speed is your friend.

I love the sudden changes in this trail, from wide open views and sand with now much chipped away tree stumps (must be some broken pedals out there) into peaty woods, rocky jumps and then viscous little climbs. This is the most varied track I've tried.

Today it was quick and spookily quiet, Farq's Specialized bait being the only people we saw.

R2 proved to be a man of steel to live through recurring cramp and keep up with the flying Farqui. I tried to slow him down by kidnapping his shock pump but it helped little :-).

Rob#2 said...

Tired as I was, painful as the final climbs were, this was the best ride of my weekend. Uphill sections manageable and varied. Down hill technical but fast, probably made more enjoyable by my improving skills....less clenching more relaxing!!

Good riding company, just managed to stay with you on the hills, hopefully not too far behind on the downhill.

Next year I'll be fitter and looking to improve my climb and mileage spreadsheet tally!