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3rd February 2013
Riders: Richard,
Steve, Adam and Terry
Afan Argoed trail centre riding W2 trail
Weather: 4.5°C

So what do you do when the local trails are still waterlogged from a rain-filled 2012 and the rain and snow have continued into 2013? The answer is to head for a trail centre instead.

After a frantic Saturday afternoon making last minute adjustments to the Prince Albert (new Superstar HD Hollowtech II bottom bracket and Superstar 'red' pads) I went to bed early having packed and prepared all my kit for the following morning.

After rising at 5 a.m. and a quick breakfast followed by my daily constitutional Stevo rolled up to the front door at 5-45 a.m. in the Father TED replacement. He loaded the PA onto the tow-bar mounted frame back whilst I dumped my kit in the boot and then it’s round to Adam’s to collect him and Terry (no, they aren't a couple) and four still warm sausage baguettes (no, that’s not a euphemism) which Adam has prepared to keep us going.

From Adam's crib it's a short hop onto the M25 and then the M4 and that big Volvo of Steve's is eating up the miles. It’s a cold, bright morning but most importantly dry on the outskirts of London but this changes as we journey out West.

A quick pee-break just before Wales and we cross the Severn bridge (how much?) in the rain and are rolling up to the original Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre in a light drizzle shortly after 9 a.m. A quick change and we are ready to go; all except Terry that is, who has a case of the trots. But with the tanks emptied we start the W2 Trail at 9-45 a.m.

It’s the first time I’ve ridden this trail and the start is a fast, swooping, fun descent to the tunnel under the road bridge and then a gentle climb to warm up your legs. The main reason for driving 180 miles this morning is to experience the hard-packed all-weather trails and they certainly deliver what they promise. There's plenty of puddles but there's terra firma beneath and it's great to grind out the miles without having to fight your way through six inches of mud the whole way round. Where the surface isn’t hard-packed it’s covered in large slabs of loose sandstone which make a curious clacking sound as you roll over them.

This is the re-modelled 'Wall' trail which I haven't ridden for years and the trail builders have made the climb much more fun with plenty of technical climbs built to the left of the old fire-road climb.

We head ever upwards via a series of singletrack trails until we hit the wider open moorland trails and fire-roads that take you across the top of the mountain. We move from just being rained on to being fully inside a raincloud up here and visibility is reduced to 20 metres as we make our way across the top.

More singletrack and then we suddenly hit a lovely long section of North Shore which includes small steps, corners and berms which hare much more fun than the normal dead flat North Shore usually encountered at trail centres. Thankfully the shore has been covered in chicken-wire to improve the grip on this damp day.

We are all thoroughly soaked by now and covered head to toe in a gritty paste that's been flung up from the rocky trails. But the rock is very grippy even in the wet and that allows us to hammer down the descents as we drop in to the newer Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre and the Drop Off cafe.

After stripping off my outer layers the first thing I do is to wash my face as we are all being stared at by a group of walkers who clearly think we are insane. Then it’s a massive lunch of a bacon roll and sausage sandwich for me and a chance to try and air out some of our wetter clothes as we relax for forty minutes.

But all too soon Steve is forcing us out into the rain again as he is desperate to tackle the 4.7 km White's Level climb that he had raced up on a previous visit. But as Terry and Adam set the pace with me not too far behind it all goes wrong for Steve as he has endless trouble with his rear brake pistons sticking in the ‘on’ position and he limps up the climb with frequent stops required to remove his rear wheel and prise apart the brake pads. He finally arrives about 15 minutes after the lead pair.

Terry, Adam and I have started to cool down having waited at the top of the climb and my shoes and socks are soaked. Whilst the Woolie Boolie socks are doing a good job of at least keeping my feet warm they are squelching with every pedal stroke and I’m longing to get back and get my feet dry.

We return along the same fire-road trails over the moorland at the top before hitting up a couple of sections of trail that haven’t been quite so well armoured and we slip and slide our way down these gaining an extra coating of mud. As usual when riding my nose is running (why does it always do that?) but there isn’t a single square centimetre of clean cloth left on my gloves, jacket or buff meaning that each time I wipe my nose I deposit more mud on my face whilst abrading the skin from under my nose due to all the grit in the soil.

Despite this I’m still enjoying the riding even if my camera has given up. The shutter cover won’t shut, the lens is covered in crap and even when I clean it there’s so much moisture in the air that the pictures look like they were taken in a steam room. The GoPro was dumped into my back pack halfway up the White’s Level climb due to similar issues and it’s with a sense of relief that we get closer to home. But there’s still one more hurdle to overcome and I’m laying the blame firmly at Steve’s door for this.

On a day of unbounded moisture it’s strangely a dry one for Steve as he forgot to pack the bladder insert for his camelback last night. On top of that he hasn’t had his usual intake of any fizzy drinks for at least 30 minutes so insists that we stop at the burger van next to the Bryn Bettws Lodge for a tinny of Monster Energy drink. He slowly knocks this back (c'mon Steve, we're feckin freezing here) and we look to continue the ride but where is the signage? After hunting around I spot one of the black signs clearly indicating the W2 trail and I persuade the others to follow it. We pass three more signs as we climb up a long drag for a kilometre or so. But it doesn’t feel right and we realise this is the cut through from the lodge heading back towards Glyncorrwg and there’s nothing for it but to turn around and roll back down the same climb we have just laboured up.

And sure enough there is the correct signage which was clearly visible if we had carried on riding rather than stop for Steve’s drink. Somehow the boys feel this is my fault for spotting the signs and even create and name a Strava segment for the occasion.

There’s no more ‘play’ left in us and so we ignore the play area and finish the final few sections before packing the bikes up onto the car and taking a long hot shower in the Afan car park facilities and changing into fresh, dry clothes. This is really where a trail centre comes into its own. I couldn’t have driven 180 miles back home sitting in a pool of my own sweat and rain that had seeped into the various layers.

The traffic flows freely on the way home although Emile Sande and the other guys MOR musical tastes do nothing for me so I lighten my mood by telling a bad-taste joke referring to Jimmy Shovel and Gary Gritter.

Check out the Afan video Dirty Water for a closer idea of the riding on offer.

 

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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

 


 

17th February 2013
Riders: Richard,
Steve, Adam, Rich Lonegroover, Rob, Dandy and Terry
Darkside trails
Weather: 8°C

With the Winter seeming like it started last July and there being so much rain since then it's a surprise to have the first dry weekend since the previous pope resigned (possibly) and I'm keen to get out on the mountain bike.

Even though Rob texted me last night and tried to tempt me out on the road bike I'm making an effort to get back into the MTB especially as I'm booked on a trip with MTB Spain in just four short weeks.

I had spent yesterday afternoon regreasing my new SuperHD HT2 Roller Bearing Bottom Bracket which was looking worryingly worn after just one trip to Afan. But with this regreased and having bled my Hope M4's which were very spongy with the fluid having gone all milky looking which is never a good sign I was ready to roll this morning. I'm not sure I bled the brakes quite right as they left a lot to be desired today but that's something to worry about next week.

I had left home to ride to Adam's in bright sunshine so it was a bit disappointing as we drove into the pea-souper surrounding the Surrey Hills. We spent a good couple of hours riding around in the mist before we hit Leith Hill tower and finally found the sun.

Stevo was leading us on a Darkside route which included a couple of new trails including the charmingly named Slaag's Dirty Little Sister as well as plenty of opportunities for Stevo to get air. The ground wasn't as muddy as expected and I really enjoyed myself (don't worry, there was still plenty of mud; just not as much as I expected) even though I struggled on the final descent with my front wheel lacking traction and leading to a severe crisis of confidence.

Dandy also caught me 'scooting' along numerous trails where I had my left left dangling out to the side. I prefer to call it speedway stylie but I certainly need to work on my technique.

And finally, we bumped into Jem from the Moles at Leith Hill Tower who is back on the Orange 5 after being seriously ill last year: great to see you fella.

 

Untitled Document

all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

 


24th February 2013
Riders: Richard,
Steve, Adam, Rich Lonegroover, Rob, Felix, Wobbem, Leeroy, Nick, Andy and Terry
Holmbury & Pitch Hill
Weather: 1.5°C

It's a tale of two seat posts today as the boys with the dropper seat posts come a cropper (yet again). Yet me with my twenty quid standard seatpost was just getting on with it as usual. I'm still to be convinced that they are anything other than expensive pieces of crap.

It's a strange old day too with the frozen hard trails riding like it's Summer but a light snow falling on and off throughout the morning. But this is far better than the UK Slop 'n Grime™ we've had over the last six months and I'm finally riding well and feeling as though I've got my mojo back as I get a chance to really attack the trails rather than just slithering around them.

But we'd only been riding for five minutes with a large group with a few old faces in tow (Leeroy, Flix & Andy) when the first seatpost had it's moment with Rob having trouble when his flange bracket didn't engage with his dongle or something like that. A ten minute break and a ubiquitous zip tie seemed to sort it for the time being.

Terry is struggling due to a mid-week chest cold and so after a descent of BKB he opts to sit out most of the ride at the Peaslake bus shelter whilst we head over to Pitch Hill. The trails are a bit more battered here but still very rideable and we enjoy ourselves on the recently re-worked Evian, many thanks to those who put in the spade-time; you know who you are.

Onto Pitch and we tackle some of the steep stuff that is around there and have fun as Wob gets us lost at the bottom of Secret Santa (it's not that difficult; it's left or right and we always go left). The bridleway here is covered in three inches of running water but it's firm beneath the water and that's the most mositure we see on the whole ride.

Back to Peaslake to collect Terry and then the climb up Holmbury Hill where we discover that the remote dropper cable on Wob's bike has snapped. Okay, that's a simple fix for him later this week but it'sone more issue that I didn't have with my post.

And now I finally get to ride the remodelled Yoghurt Pots. Hmm...it's nice to have a firm surface but I'll wait to see if this one grows on me. Down Telegraph Road to the car park and I manage to case the large root at the bottom with my rear wheel and and it's an instant pinch flat for me. But it's only twenty yards to walk to the car park to finish a great ride.

 

Untitled Document

all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

 


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all photos and content copyright of Richard Sear 1999 to 2015

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click to view click to view click to view Steve Neill Big Trev Orange Dave dialled bikes pewter headtube badge Dave and Dave outside LOMAC Dave on Summer Lightning A grinning Trevor Steve (again) Davebus and Neill on Stane Street Jason next to Denbie's vineyard Trevor struggles up the climb Dave followed by Jason on Stane Street Banstead Downs singletrack It was getting dark by the time I got back Richard (that's me!) Surrey Hills logo at the top of Coombe hill Gary dicing with the cars through New Malden Stag party Gary's Giant SCR 2008 model  A cheerful looking Gary part way round Richmond Park speed limits for cyclists! Kingston Gate, Richmond Park view off the side of Headley Heath Bianchi K-Vid carbon forks self-portrait whilst climbing between second and third hairpin on the Zig Zag Road, Box Hill Dave and Mat, the folly, Reigate Hill urban riding, Richard in Ashtead High Street a bit underexposed but a nice shot of the view from the North Downs Way Richard dropping in on Colley Hill No, not the Mediterranean, this is outside LOMAC, Ashtead High Street Richard showing off for the camera Mat and Richard, Stane Street Richard, Headley Heath Mat on Headley Heath Gary with our 'rabbit' in the distance Gary in the dusk Richard Gary chasing the yellow 'rabbit' in the distance Cas Cas Richard 'self-portrait'