Sunday, September 30, 2007


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 !


dozer said...

I am sure someone has changed the order of the trail sections from last year? Makes sense to split into smaller groups, we would need to agree before hand if we are all going to meet up at any point. Annoyed with myself for not having some sort of map, so wont be making that mistake again. Hard to say what was in the worst condition, Sicknote or my LL Stumpy :-)

uphilla said...

Getting a sense of Deja Vu here....
For me, one of the great things about this group of riders is the tolerance of all levels and the sociability.

The weekends are primarily about riding, but I guess there is also a social element for most.
Not sure I agree about splitting into small groups, we are grown ups and can talk to each other. In the past we have always ridden together, waited for the slower/less able riders. Those wanting to blast generally go first and wait or hang back. This is normally the way it is with any group and seemed to work well on this ride.

No problem to me if Farqui and Rob feel restricted by the group and want to go at their own pace, I just wished they had shared this more widely as it would have saved my vain attempt to catch them up. I know there were a few that were surprised and disappointed about this, but maybe reflects the general frustration expressed by Farqui in this post. Having had experience of organising similar weekends in the past I know that they can be hard work, but the reward is that people turn up and generally have a great time. I have offered on several occasions to take on the task and will happily organise something in the Spring.

It is easy to over react when someone gets hurt. I am pleased that Sicknote's injuries are mostly superficial, but his 'off' happened on a non-technical section and, with a lapse of concentration, could easily have happened to any of us. Mountain Biking is a dangerous sport, even for the experienced rider.

One suggestion would be to book a 'coaching' weekend/day in the Spring, though I know some people struggle to find the time. Happy to look into this.

Really enjoyed the riding at Afan despite my fitness being a bit off, these are still top class trails. BIG fun chasing Daren and DDave at Penhydd. Delighted that the 5-spot seems completely sorted at the moment. Thanks to Farqui for putting it all together.

Farqui said...

It's not that I feel restricted by the group, I just think that tripping over one another is hazardous.

I'm glad that you enjoy these trips and that the riding had turned out so well. Although the apathy that prevailed this wkend suggests to me that not everyone is so happy to roll their knobblies all wkend. Which is fine, I just wish folk would say so.

Perhaps we also ought to ensure that we all have everyone's mobile#, as Rob's phone was on full chime during the ride. Oh and I'll try and hit the loud button at sun up :p

If someone else would actually take up the organising (or at least share it) then perhaps I could just get on with railin' my knobbly's...

A skills wkend is defo a good idea, we just need "teach" to recover from his mystery illness.

Rob said...

Nothing to do with feeling restricted, I certainly didn't feel that way, we were just ambling along chatting.

We waited at the top and bottom of every section for at least the first half, not until we spoke to some riders passing through who said they had seen the group not far behind riding apparently normally did we decide to carry on.

My phone was on, set to Uber loud and it didn't ring or beep so we assumed all was ok, I already knew most had much more time than I had.

There were no amateurs in the group and we had no reason to believe anyone was in trouble. All in the group are fully capable of taking care of a faller or broken bike.

As for splitting into groups, I don't mind either way. We're all there to enjoy ourselves and if others want to ride faster or slower than me that's fine. Such a large group is always going to spread out and it's the last man that matters not the first.

As for organising it, I think we've been spoilt by Lee's excellent skills and effort and somewhat taken advantage albeit unwittingly. I will do my bit from now on.

I will be organising a trip shortly, I will let you know what I book and where, all are welcome to book and join in as you please.

dozer said...

I think you should all try and make an FNC sometime. We could then discuss all the riding options after several pints, and everything would then appear fixed (until the following morning :-)
I dont mind waiting for you slow folks on the ups and the downs!?

How about another Chilterns ride in a months time or so, the MBR route with the extension or R2s trails? I would also like to do the Ladybower route when Chris is better.

uphilla said...

FNC Idea sounds good!
Got the Chilterns, long, loop on GPS/Tracklogs - it also features in latest MBR, around 31 miles IIRC.
Mobile phone list would be helpful, can our spreadsheet expert get to work on this?

dahnhilla said...

I didn't have a problem with the group I was in on Sunday, I hung back with Sicknote when he crashed because I couldn't just blast past - and I have good experience of clearing a crash site and making sure riders coming down are aware of a hazard (DH racing experience). Now some of the guys in the group might have been less technically able, but I never found it to be a problem, if anyone heard me ripping up the trail behind them, they moved out the way, as any good MTB'er would... I just wish I could have kept my speed up on the more pedally bits.

I tried to pull aside whenever I could feel myself flagging and potentially holding people up, rather than plodding along in a section where somebody could spin the pedals....

For me, mountain biking is as much about the riding as it is about the socialising; I love flying at death speed over stupid stuff, but I also love the chance it gives to have a good chat and a laugh about the riding and anything!
For example when me and Alex go riding, it's just a complete laugh! We do some of the best riding because we are the at the same level and push each other but are always whooping, encouraging and generally laughing about stuff to each other. And of course discussing how we nailed or nearly lost it big time on the last section.

Every DH race I've been to has been one giant party of bike riding and drinking! Even on race day it's chilled and social, you focus for your run but the rest of the time you are just having a damn good laugh chatting to people who you've never met and having something in common - a passion for bikes.

I raced D2D last year, again, a serious event but so much socialising and fun going on, I was going to go along again this weekend and spanner but unfortunatly I did not mark it in the diary and have double booked.

On reflection I'm not sure splitting is a great idea... I think this may lead to a sense of division, and this is never good.

I'm happy to provide teachings on how to ride better, I may not be an amazing rider but I know the theory, and I've seen enough pro Dh'ers live, talked to enough pro's, ridden with far superior riders to know it.

Dan Howell said...

Blimey, first Afan trip I miss and look at the havoc it's caused ;) ! Clearly my stupendous skills (at holding everyone up) were not missed!

For me half of it is about the riding and half of it is about the friends you're doing it with. A familiar trail makes such an incredible amount of difference (witness Dalbeattie earlier in the year, when Mark and I went back and re-did a trail the following day and enjoyed it 300% more than the previous day) so when you've got a mix of people with various experience and ability levels, it's going to be awkward.

I split into groups doesn't sound too bad an idea, as long as the groups are still a useful, sociable size (5 groups of 2 would be pretty fucking pointless, but 2 groups of 5 would be fine). If people want to rail off the whole trail in one fell swoop, that's not going to sit well with those who have lesser fitness levels or a more 'social' angle to their riding. Each to their own, I say, but remember that people ride for different reasons so trying to group up similar riders is the best way forward, or else everyone needs to compromise and then no-one will fully enjoy it!

Dan Howell said...

Oh, P.S. I had a great time on the Sunday thanks. Flat out in fifth at 110mph and blind flat bends over crests gives just as much of an adrenaline rush at The Wall ;) (well, probably more actually, and I feel safer/more confident doing it!)

Rob said...

I don't think the groups point is about picking teams before you go out and meeting in the pub later. I think the idea is that the when the whole group spreads out and falls into natural 'clumps' of people riding at similar level on the day they then operate as a group, looking out for the last man and so on.

Let's be realistic about this, how can 12 people ride together on a trail 10 inches wide? if someone at the back falls or breaks their bike how does the bloke at the front know that?

If some want to take their time, ride safely and enjoy the scenery why should they constantly be under pressure to keep up?

The only rules are those of common sense.

Always have a pump/ patch/ tool
Always carry a First Aid Kit
Never lose sight of the man at the back
Always carry a phone.
Always carry a map and or GPS
Always carry food and drink
Enjoy riding with who you want to, at your level and in your time.
Always wear a helmet.
Never ride alone.

When I'm out horse riding, I sometimes go with bikers, horses are very fast uphill but slow down. Clearly the bikers are the opposite so we often lose touch. Horses will not stand around and wait for the bikers. We stay in touch using radios. £40 (max) buys a pair of these, they work up to 2 miles in the country and cost nothing to use. All radios can hear everyone, it also enables us to hear each other when we're together.

If you want to stay in close touch as a whole team or as smaller groups these are a great solution to the problem especially considering the fact that most of these mountain areas have no mobile phone coverage.

I have 4 radios, if you would like to try them I'll bring them on the next ride.

dahnhilla said...

110? Is that all? 140 is where it's at.

dozer said...

How do you keep sight of the bloke behind you on those trails? I suppose you could do it by wheelying on your front wheel and looking between your legs :-)

Dan Howell said...

I wish I could get it to 140 - 110 is rev limiter in top gear at the moment :( if you want to spot me the £6k for a sequential 6-speed box I'll happily try harder next time ;)

Farqui said...

Pic's - at last !