What a day this turned out to be. What was supposed to be a mountaineering trip spent in nice winter conditions turned into flying round the forest getting caked in mud.
The met Office forecast rain and increasingly warm conditions, putting my mountaineering dreams to bed for the day. So, I opted to switch for a day mountain biking. I arrived at the trail centre early and was greeted by a guy in the booth fully embracing the festive spirit, wearing comedy novelty glasses and a Santa hat.
With the sun not quite up properly I took my bike off the car, got myself sorted and headed off into the forest. The early morning dim light gave a medieval feel as I progressed along the forest track, steadily climbing deeper into the woods. At each twist and turn the sun threatening to rise over the moorland far away poked a few stray beams of light through the trees, piercing the blackness of the forest. With a distinct chill in the air, I could see my breath with each stamp on the pedals.
As I came out of the forest and up onto the moorland the beauty of the day hit me, clear blue skies, rolling moors in front of me, picturesque woodland clinging to hills above manicured farmland. All with the sun rising to my left as I pedalled on, climbing higher and higher. The smell of fresh, clean air filled my lungs, burning a little with the harsh chill of the morning. This was beautiful.
As I reached the pinnacle of my climb I raced through some long switchbacks and whizzed into a great section of flow, with doubles and manuals beautifully twisting and turning along the side of the moor decreasing in height speeding all the way. At the first section of obstacles, I was going far too fast and missed the turning – but I was having great fun, no sweat I’ll get it on my next lap. I headed back up some muddy climbing and was treated to a fantastic cloud inversion over the valley below.
I headed back onto the single track towards the forest and soon entered again, mud splattering everywhere. I could taste the cold dirt between my teeth as it flicked up and sprayed me in the face. After the next section the trail spat me out of the forest and back out to a felled area which climbed up a small hill from where the mountains of Snowdonia could just about be seen. I’m not sure the met office had it right today. It was gorgeous.
I continued down a few jump sections and switchbacks and was soon heading back towards the forest. The smell of fresh pine was overwhelming. It filled my nose giving me the most authentic feeling racing among the logs watching the wisps of clouds linger around the tops of the trees in the forests across from me.
Back in, after belting along a section of downhill straight into some fun switchbacks that led out onto a forest track. As I peddled along by a beautiful green bank full of forest life the track followed the course of a gurgling little river. A welcome rest and a beautiful one. I breathed deeply as I followed the track taking in my surroundings.
I continued, craving more fast riding now. The trail led to a series of boards and berms with drops offs that began to test my bike skills. Superb fun and some great riding over the boggy terrain that threatened below me.
Towards the end of the course I met some disgusting climbing which left me determined. Not wanting to get off and be defeated I selected the lowest gear and stamped on up the uneven slopes praying for a reward at the top. The top only led to a switchback of more uphill. Pumping with sweat, through gritted teeth, I continued to pedal upwards. The rocky terrain making balance and traction very difficult. I could just see the crest of the climb and I lost balance along with subsequent traction from the back wheel. I stood to correct the balance and that was it, my hopes of reaching the top in one go were over! Next lap?
Some small flow sections and a couple more climbs that weren’t too technical and I was back at the trail centre. A quick bite to eat and a toilet stop and I was off again climbing through the familiar forest as I had done an hour or so before. This time brilliant sunshine pouring into the forest between the trees. What a fantastic day.
Oh and a few more riders for company this time!
I reached the top of the moors again and pelted it down through the mud until I got back to the familiar spot were the inversion lingered over the valley. I pulled my bike off the trail and took 10 mins here to really soak it in. And for my legs to recover from all the brutal climbing so far!
I headed off to complete the lap again, and again, missing some turn offs. On purpose this time, I knew they were there but I was familiar with the course from the first lap and sought as much speed as possible. Testing my bike on the drop offs and throwing it round the berms as fast as I could.
Towards the end of the lap I again met the ‘death climb!’ This time not to be defeated I nailed it. Legs on fire and panting hard I came out on top riding slowly, but still riding. Success!
“I’d ridden almost 50 km and climbed more than 1000 metres.”
Back at the centre. I had a lunch break and was beginning to get cold in the winter chill. My legs were knackered but I figured I may swell give it all another blast round. Back round the 24 km of twisting trails for the third time. I was coping okay I figured since I’d ridden almost 50 km and climbed more than 1000 metres.
It was all going okay until…
I came out to the place where the trees had been felled. The waft of pine resin hit me again. Beautiful. But as I started to climb up towards were the lovely view of the Snowdonia mountains was, my legs started to fail me. They had, had enough. Willing them to carry on I was rewarded for my work with that now familiar view in the clear light of the winter afternoon. Breath-taking.
After a short break I headed back on the familiar trail ignoring the ‘black’ obstacle turn offs this time. Not through lack of interest but through lack of energy. As I still enjoyed each section of single track the course offered I knew I still had the climbing at the end. Would I get through it this time? I was going to bloody try. As I approached the climb, I gathered as much speed as possible on the large downhill drops just prior to the hill section,
and then I gave it my all…
To my surprise I made it again, just! I didn’t think I had that in me, good effort! I arrived back at the centre absolutely knackered and definitely ready for a hot drink and a sit down (not on a saddle). I washed my bike, got changed and headed home. What a magnificent day. Beautiful weather, and three times round the red trail. Exhausted.
Check out my video of this awesome day out HERE.