For most of this year I’ve been picking and choosing my riding. A combination of time pressures, poor organisation and preference has meant a lot of commuting and road-based activity, less so when it comes to mountain biking.
However, one target I did have on my list of planned activities was some Welsh riding. People have been down on a few occasions this year (most recently hitting up Bike Park Wales) but I’ve always been at work or too busy at the weekend. Or, more shamefully my YT has been laid up with a puncture for ages on the basis that at some point I’d get round to setting the wheels up tubeless.
Well, I finally managed to get round to this simple task a few weeks ago, which meant all I needed to head to Wales was a suitable window in my schedule. As luck would have it, Jem was planning to be down there to collect his caravan for the winter, and a quick round up of likely riders found JohnR and Elliot available at relatively short notice for a days riding in Cwmcarn. With a close eye on the weather, we postponed our original Saturday idea and decided on Sunday instead.
Heading down the M4 early on a Sunday morning proved to be an excellent choice, with virtually no traffic. We were delayed only by ourselves, talking longer than necessary over a breakfast stop which meant by the time we reached Cwmcarn, rendezvous’d with Jem and undertaken the usual bike faffaging we didn’t get riding until about 10:30.
The morning was crisp and sunny and it didn’t taken long to work up some heat in cold limbs. I had completely overdressed and within a couple of miles I needed to remove a layer as the sharp climbs had me puffing and blowing on the red line, my lack of MTB miles not helped by the remains of a mild head cold the week before.
First up was the Cafall Trail which I think I prefer over the older Twrch, planned for after lunch at the busy visitor cafe. In truth there’s not a lot to choose in terms of effort between the two trails but Cafall edges things on that score, the early climbs are quite hard. With each you have to earn the descents which are mainly found on the second half of each trail.
It’s worth saying that much of Cwmcarn is in the middle of a tree-felling exercise to limit the effects of a fungus attacking Larch trees across the UK. As a result, there’s large areas of deforestation, particularly affecting the early part of the Twrch trail with part of it re-routed temporarily to the Cafall, but the riding remains pretty much as we’ve enjoyed in the past, just with different views.
I felt the last few kilometers of the Twrch is showing it’s age, being narrow and pretty rough, but that’s just taste. My favourite bits of Cwmcarn remain the rollercoaster-y bits in the second half of Cafall.
It was great to ride with Elliot, Jem and JR again, their expertise meant that Jem and Elliot in particular disappeared at warp speed on any downhill, but all three seemed to have the edge both up and downhill compared to me.
For me, it proved a long day. Up early, driving there and back on the same day and not being used to the effort required from all that winch and plunge action meant I was still recovering when faced with an off-road mud-slog to work and back on Thursday! I also found my right hip was uncomfortable on the last few climbs of the Twrch, I just can’t get to the bottom of what the problem is and therefore how to fix it.
But I’m still riding and still enjoying myself. I’m looking forward to the Kona’s return and want to get more MTB miles in on the YT which sounds odd given the way the weather settings have been dialled to ‘winter’ but you just need to go with the flow…