The great north / south divide Wales odyssey carefully stitched together MTB styleee takes us to trail pastures new and old with amazing trail memories through the spine of Wales down and out the other side! A little short on numbers goats n chicks wise was filled by bags of ‘OMG!’, ‘f’me!’ and ‘how good was that!’
Day 1 – Antur Stiniog – wasn’t sure what to expect but having hit the DH runs the 6-inch travel bike just coped with the blue sprinkled with a little red. That’s not to say you can’t have bags of fun on the blue and push the limits, Anita can testify to that! Venture outside the realms of the blue and you most certainly need a big rig and need to be on your game, and if you want to do other things like wood work, the use of tools as a drum sander is perfect for this kind of work.
We found the ideal Guest House (Isallt Guest House, Festiniog) if not one of the best we have stayed at over the years, ticked all the right boxes. What a great place to come back to after an all seasons in one day DH adventure; awesome host, breakfast, juices, coffee, cake right in the town of Bleanau Ffestiniog.
Day 2 – Driving south down the spine of Wales past Coedy, to Machynlleth to hit the Cli-machx or should we say “ANTI-climax” ?! After and 11K ascent we were all excited and ready for the 4K technical whaaahoo descent and it was closed – no mention of it at the start! Kinda narked you off a bit then to top it off the bike shop had gone out of business and lunch was in the soap dodgers, pot smoking, Greenpeace activist, basil brush eaters paradise! Anita was in Veggie heaven.
Onwards and southwards past, Rhayader, Caersws scene of some past DH memories, Builth Wells and what was then Merida events and bugger me were in the Forest of Dean!
This was pitched in as an alternative to our normal Sunday club ride that we could reach drive wise without doing an over nighter. It’s not a trail center per-say but does feature in lots of magazines and ride books, plus its Peaty’s back yard and of late has held Steel City’s mini downhill event and boasts an urban trail right in the city’s back garden. A healthy crew alas only me representing the chicks and a collection of the Goats; Mr Spesh, Matrix, Whistler, Goat n Spliff.
We set off early one Sunday and headed north up the M1 armed only with footprint directions. Alas all the sat navs, phones, Google maps couldn’t help so a local garage came to the rescue and 5 minutes later we were in the car park on another chilly February morning. As chance would have it the mountain bikers un-written rule book helped us out as a local guy gave up his shred to show us what all the noise was about. We rode Greno side first, a few short climbs followed by a nice descent flowing in the trees before spitting us out at a big bomb hole and Peaty’s drop; you-tube it and you’ll see how mad this is?
The Wharncliffe side was supposed to hold some hidden gems and a red grade trail. A sweet drop into the course was soon dampened by the mud and gloop fest that ensued for the majority of the ride. The goats were on a mission to find the technical gems we’d heard of but my legs were shot, so I decided to pedal back to the van and warm up. The guys did a hike a bike to run a trail or two but was it worth the drive and vague exploration? Guess you never know until you try it and I’m sure if we venture back and hook up with the Sheffield posse in the dry we’d have more of a hoot.
As a part of the ladies mountain biking club we, like our male counterparts, like to push our limits and try something new. Ladybower as ride location concept was thrown in as an alternative to our normal Sunday club ride. We as a collective looked at what trails we could reach drive wise without doing an overnighter!
We wanted a challenge; something natural and un-manicured like trail centres and Ladybower looked like it could tick all the boxes a great place, just an hour drive away with some real testing features.
The loop didn’t disappoint, gently rising upwards from the lakeside starting point through narrow country lanes before a rest bite outside a cottage, just before the off road section started. A technical climb in mud, strewn with various size boulders took us high into the fields to mate with a known walker’s path. The effort was rewarded with some stunning views, a break before the hill sides plateaued out as far as the eye could see, lines, ruts and grass to take your pick, leading into two meter wide rock garden of a bridle way leading to our highest point. A pause for thought as the “Beast” was next. An infamous rock garden descent that seemed to go on forever testing every bit of our skill set.
We broke for lunch at Derwent water famous for its exploits in WW2, and the testing of the dam buster bouncing bomb, as well as its natural beauty. The climb out was just as testing as we hit the rock steps before a long haul cross country to the summit again ready for the last but one hurrah down. The next section was fun, random rocks peat bogs and lines a plenty ‘pick one at your peril!’ spitting us out into another rocky descent. A traverse across the middle of the hillside before another rock fest of a descent down to the pub for well-earned drinks and hot food, before a road spin back to the cars. A must for those who want to hone their skills riding rocks and natural trails, made all the better having the chicks on board.
For some a second bite at the cherry for others a new experience, the Reservoir Chicks hit the French Alps just prior to season opening. The break had a double edge as newly located friends Mr Photo, Steffi and not forgetting baby Monty had left the drain of Blighty to open a business, Alpine-Highs, in Morzine and Avoriaz so this was the first time the Chicks and Goats had got to pop out to see them and offer some moral support and give Dave an excuse to get out on the bike.
For me it was my second experience so I knew what to expect; the vastness, the silence, the chair lifts, the descents – a snap shot of life less ordinary. For Miss Shifty on the other hand this was going to be all new on a very BIG scale. The plus side was none of the lifts where open; “you say plus?” This opened the door to seeing the Alps in a whole new eau natural way with Mr Photo securing a van to do some lift assists up to places you would not go on the bike without local knowledge. The one day we got when the Le Gets lift was open we made our day of bedding in and getting the eye in. It was as expected but with a few bonus sections that only locals knew adding to the days downhill, alas one of the Goats had a big off and really damaged his arm and shoulder. The off piste trails tested me let alone Miss Shifty who must have thought what the hell did I let myself in for, if mountains were a lettuce it was a big slap in the face with one. It’s something you have to experience as being told about this place just doesn’t do it justice or allow you to appreciate the vast scale of things. But we endeavoured and as much as some sections scared the hell out of us we dug deep and gave them a go as best we could. Tested, most defiantly, exhilarated oh yes, the week was just an unbelievable experience, great trails, awesome scenery, great friends, so much so some of us are going back to tackle the 2013 Pass Portes du Soleil … go Shifty !!!
The long awaited Goats n Chicks mates race series was on the cards, with the TAG Timing system tried and tested the date was mutually agreed over a many a mail, text and Sunday post ride coffees. August bank holiday was going to feel like an extra special stolen day more so when your out on your bike.
Mr Bikes & Miss Kipling looking after all things Hi-tech including pencil & pad, plus keeping the troops in order as the excitement built Morpheus was on BBQ duties and Mr Goat providing the race plates, Mr photo inevitably taking snaps of the day.
The crew Mr Spesh, Mr Builder, Mr Goat, Mr shorts, Mr Whistler, Mr Wheezie, Mr Morph, Mr Photo, wild card Weedon Steve & Miss Smiles the only female presence.
First section up the Time Triangle just to burn those legs in, followed by section 2- Ginger & Big Dipper sections linked in with a lung busting, leg burning, sweat inducing, lip-smackin’ climb more so when the clocks ticking, it was here that Mr Builder blasted an unassailable lead, that would last out the day. Section 3 – the longest of the day – Roots & Transition swiftly followed by the section 4 the Jamster DH run & finally the Empire Strikes back DH run to blast the day away.
Back to base for much awaited Morpheus burgers, with more French sticks than a French mans bread bin, and a selection of fine much awaited beers to crown off a glorious day, the weather was good the racing was good the company was fantastic as was the food n drink you just can’t ask for more, “Or Can you ?”