Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Weekend report: South Wales 22-24 July Day 1 – Cwmdown at Cwmcarn

Posted by Matt | July 25, 2010 | 9 comments so far

Matt on CwmCarn's DH course
There are times I’m reminded of just how niche the sport of mountain biking is. Certainly, spending the weekend with a group of serial flatulants, getting stinky, muddy and scared half to death is not an activity that would appeal to most people. For my own part, I came away from this trip with mixed emotions.

Thursday started early for us, forced to get up pretty much half an hour before we’d gone to bed to get on the road. We had an appointment with fate, or at least, a group booking on the excellent CwmDown service at Cwmcarn and there were a number of us who were wondering if that was such a good idea.

You see, the Surrey Hills is not a downhill area. It’s cross country, a bit of technical stuff (enough for a workout) and plenty of mud, chalk and clay. It’s not what I would call a mountainous area so those of us who haven’t yet tried mountain biking to the full meaning of that description were in for a bit of a shock. The CwmCarn downhill course offers every opportunity for serious injury.

With the mentality of ‘I’ll try anything once’ I found myself agreeing to the idea of riding some downhill as part of the weekend’s ‘entertainment’. My fellow loons were DaveC, MarkJ, Colin, Jem, DaveW and D’Andy and there was much trepidation as we were carted up the hill using CwmDown’s loud and raucous uplift service shortly after 10:30 for the first run of the day.

With saddles dropped suitably low we set off after the rest of our uplift passengers had disappeared from sight, saving us the embarrassment of them seeing how inept we were. It has to be said that some were markedly less inept than others, in fact DaveW and D’Andy actually knew what they were doing but the rest of just relied on technique, generous amounts of suspension travel and luck to see us through. Well, it’s worked so far.

AndyC on CwmCarn's DH course

And it was great fun! Scary in a big way and at times rather technical with some tight switchbacks in the top third, lots of big kickers and tabletops (off which I managed to get a surprising amount of air at times) and some very steep sections but generally bermy and flowing.

At one point there’s a big road crossing which I never managed without walking (DaveW flew, while Colin, Jem and D’Andy hopped down the slabs) but aside from that the whole run is completely rideable for someone with half-decent technique. The lower third is very fast, with huge corners, a bridge jump and a lot of tabletops.

Inevitably there were crashes but fortunately no injuries. DaveW stacked heavily and hurt his shoulder although not enough to spoil his weekend, Mark had a stumble and I managed two, one a silly stumble that resulted from the gradient being too steep to stand on, one a lot heavier.

In fact, I was lucky not to injure myself badly as I entered a kicker of a tabletop far too quickly, nosed onto my front wheel for a distance and threw my weight back as far as possible to compensate, ending sitting on the rear wheel. The resulting chaffing and grinding was bad enough but the impact of the rear wheel landing was something else when my weight headed down as the wheel bounced up! Shortly after that I was broadsided onto the ground and thanked God I had knee and elbow protection and a Camelbak to save myself from more than just a few wide grazes and bruises!

By the end of the day we’d covered 11 miles (including a short section of the end of the XC trail), most of it out of the saddle. At no point were we able to stop concentrating without risking a big crash so mentally it was a very intense experience and I was knackered! We might have been tempted to a final run but were saved from ourselves by a torrential downpour that put the idea out of the question!

Overall I think we all improved through the day before mental exhaustion kicked in. In a way I was relieved to have got it over with but on the flipside it showed just what the bike and I were capable of and meant that the rest of the weekend held no fears!

Look out for part 2 to find out how we got on…

Filed under Rides in July 2010


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 9 comments on ‘Weekend report: South Wales 22-24 July Day 1 – Cwmdown at Cwmcarn’

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  1. Dave says:

    I think I’m still dazed from the whole experience!

    At least for Cwm Carn I was reasonably awake and was able to get to grips with the certain sections of the course as we “sessioned” the course multiple times.

    Interesting to go all that way and find one guy from Reading and 3 more from Woking. Not quite the locals from Dorking we found at Afan last time I went but even so, near neighbours.

  2. DaveW says:

    This was a really great day – thanks to Dandy for organising. I’ve wanted to do an uplift day at Cwm Carn since doing a single run when I went there a couple of years ago.

    I remembered the drop off from the road as being unfeasible, but thought that with the coaching and additional experience I’d be fine with it now. However, on my initial run I stopped to look at it and still couldn’t visualise what would happen on launching it, so in the morning I stuck to small drop onto the rocky slope on the right hand side.

    After talking to one of the other riders I started to get my head around the bigger drop to the left. The thing is the landing is so steep that if you are going fastish (which I think helps on drops), you are landing a long way down the slope and have little opportunity to brake on the steep, loose surface before hitting the corner. But the corner has a little gulley worn into it, so you can rail that at quite some speed.

    The biggest worry for me on a drop is landing nose heavy, which if you are landing on a steep down slope, is very unlikely to happen and so takes that concern away.

    So, on approaching the drop after lunch I was thinking ‘shall I, shan’t I’ and then though, what the hell and went for it, seemed to fly for miles, but it went fine and then I did it again on the next run and it went fine again, so I was really chuffed with that.

    The other bit I was pleased with my progress on was the top 3 Circle / Black section, which it took me a few attempts to clean. I really felt I was learning something there.

    I was also really pleased that although some of the riders were quite sceptical about their ability to ride the track at all, everyone did really well and seemed to get a lot out of it and enjoy it.

    Certainly I think a few of the previously foreboding obstacles on the Surrey Hills will now seem much easier!

  3. Orange Roo says:

    Sounds awesome – well done for giving it a go!

    Instead I managed to fall off the shed roof I was re-felting! With a slipping, scrapping, rustling sort of sound I found myself at the bottom of next doors bamboo!

    Definitely need that new armour for next time……

  4. paul901 says:

    If DaveW had to think about some of it after the various coaching sessions then I suspect the experience would have seen several changes of shorts in my case :-0

    I managed to have my worst accident yet on Thursday night in nothing more than flat woods where I misjudged the gap between two trees. My left shoulder hit a tree trunk, my body twisted, the bars twisted, my right leg condensed fully such that the back of my calf hit the back of my thigh and I screamed in pain as it did so. All in a split second of course as these things do and I lay on the gorund for a couple of minutes wondering if I had just ripped out last year’s knee operation. I pulled myself up onto my other leg using the trees and was lucky/relieved that not only could I stand but I could still also ride and was not stranded out in the hills. Phew.

    Obviously I had to do the sensible thing and rest, yeah right, so I rode 2 hours on the road the following day (!) and knocked 35 seconds off my PB up the zig-zag then a mammoth ride yesterday. Knee and various other bruises all fine thankfully.

    However, I still don’t want to think about the Welsh descents but will do the rubbernecking bit if on-board video from Dave makes its way onto the site.

  5. JamesPro says:

    Looks the mutz nutz, I am guessing a full susser is required:(

  6. Dave says:

    No video I’m afraid, opted for full conentration on the trail instead!

    JamesPro, Mark was keeping it real with a steel hardtail. I think you’d need to knock 20 years off your age if you wanted to do the big drop on it though!

  7. DandyC says:

    Not at all. Mark was riding his On-One, and made it down in one piece. Also, I see one of the DOMTB crew in Les Arcs was on a hardtail .

    However, the reality is it’s a damn sight less punishing on the aged bones on a full susser. Despite the cushioning of a rear shock, I am one of the casualties in that my landings were hard enough that I now have several dodgy looking dents in my pimpy white DT Swiss rims.

    Stan’s ZTR Flows for me next, I think.

  8. JamesPro says:

    Well next time I will come.

  9. Erick says:

    WOW, amazing!

    I’m quite jealous, hopefully I’ll be able to join you guys next time.

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