When the idea of going to Afan this year was first mentioned, I thought “OK, that sounds like a laugh”. It was when Dave C emailed us a copy of the trail map that I realised I had probably just agreed to some of the most strenuous cycling I was ever likely to do.
Rather than diary each ride, I thought I would pick out some of my lows and highlights of the weekend.
The first low was undoubtedly about 10 minutes into our first ride. As Colin has already mentioned the Wall trail is a bit full on, especially if like me you are not good with heights. By the time we reached the big open Zig Zags, I had already managed to fall off my bike, and encountered the thrill of trying to grab a passing tree to keep me from sliding half way down the hill on my arse. With a fall already behind me, the seemingly sheer drops of the Zig Zags scared the crap out of me. Oddly enough it was probably a good intro to the trails at Afan, as switchbacks and big drops feature in many of the trails.
The next low was next morning, with the prospect of a 6km uphill slog to reach the top of White’s Level. Again the inevitable switchbacks, and the inevitable pointy grey rocks that made up a fair percentage of the trails. I struggled to get into a rhythm on the first sweep of the switchback, my mood not helped by watching Dave P take a tumble, and being close enough to hear the wind being knocked out of him as he hit the ground. Once I got onto the second sweep things “clicked” and while it was a long old slog to the top things went OK. The reward was the short section of berms and jumps at the top, and then the rest of the White’s Level trail.
The final low was on Sunday, which was the sheer length of Skyline. There were too many long slog fire track climbs for my liking, added to the fact I was absolutely knackered. This was brought home to me early on, when I fell off again. On one of the rock tables on the way up I wobbled and needed to dab. Easy enough, if I had remembered to unclip my foot and put it on the ground! When we venture to Afan again, I would opt for the “short shortcut” version, or ideally find a cut through that would take us to the top of Handy Andy, without having the climb all the way to the top up the long long track past the quarry.
As for the highs, most of White’s Level would make it in for me. The Energy trail was fantastic. While in reality I looked like my gran wobbling her way over the obstacles pushing her zimmer frame, in my mind I looked more like Steve McQueen jumping the fences on a motor bike toward the end of the Great Escape.
I rode the last part of White’s Level on Matt’s Orange 5. It put a totally different complexion on the downhill sections, and I enjoyed giving Matt’s bike a good tonking. (But please get your bottom bracket sorted out Matt, noisy or what?!)
Much of the Penhydd trail is a blur. I made a right cock of Hidden Valley, and then had a puncture while riding Sidewinder. Dead Sheep Gully stands out however. It was probably my favourite downhill section of the whole weekend.
Finally I would pick the rock garden on Grand Canyon. Riding across was one of the strangest bits of cycling I have ever done. Pick a line, stick to it and just keep peddling. With the rest of the lads cheering me on, I cleared it at my second attempt. As Matt remarked afterwards “No one can ever take that away from you.”
All in all it was a fantastic weekend. Big thanks go to everyone who went, Dave C, Dave P, Jem, Jez, Colin, Simon, Matt and Rob, for making it into a real event. Special big thanks to Colin for getting it all organised, Jem for driving all the bikes up in the van, to Dave P and Jem for cooking a great barby on Saturday evening, and to my wife Emily for not ripping my bollocks off when I got home roughly 3 hours later than I had imagined we would.
Having ridden all 4 trails I would love to go back again, and cherry pick the best bits. But first I would like my legs to recover (my walk to the station on Monday morning was a somewhat slower and more bandy legged affair than usual), give my bike a bit of TLC (if only to stop Matt going on about what needs fixing on my bike), and for my memory to remember all the good bits, and let all the not so good bits fade away.