Thursday, 18 September 2008

Wales Trip

A last minute change of plan saw the OS Map guided adventure of the Brecon Beacons being swapped for a ‘blast’ along the way marked trails of Afan Valley.

Saturday 13th September 2008
The change enabled us to have a leisurely start to the day and arrived at Glyncorrwg and were ready to ride just before midday, but which route to ride? A process of elimination lead us to the obvious choice, The ‘Skyline’ Trail at 46km, 2000m climbing and ride time of 4 to 7 hours?, perhaps just a tad to long for a first try.
The White’s Level Trail starts with a climb comprising of rock and rot strewn switch back single track, granny ring for the next hour as we battled our way up the side of the valley, constantly having the shift the weigh back and forward to keep the grip on the rear and the weight on the front.
The climbing continued into the section known as Dastardly & Mutley as the track moved away from the edge of the valley, till eventually you come out onto the what appears to be the top, a wide fire road and an obvious place to catch a little respite. The trails continues with what appears to be yet another climb this time on fire road, but no sooner have you gone round the next bend that you leave the road on to single track, here the heart picks up a beat as you begin the descent. Five minutes into the descent with a smile so wide just as the track goes back into the trees I have my first unscheduled dismount and opt for the rock strewn track rather than the 10m drop to a stream on my left.
With the wind back in the sails we continued down the single track every twenty metres or so whipping back inside a tree stump like a gate on a giant slalom course, before being spat out onto another fire road.
The next section of the trail stood before us on the other side of the fire road and next to it a fellow biker changing a tube. "Sweet" was his reply when asked what this next section was like, "there’s a few table tops, but if you keep the speed up you can clear them". Thankfully the table tops didn’t need to be cleared and some were avoidable, but the downhill was no rest, sections of northshore type decking, a couple of drop-offs led to a technical downhill which just kept going, by the time we reached the ‘Darkside’ legs, arms and shoulders were all aching, but still the rocks, roots and buffeting continued.
Finally at the bottom the short tarmac stretch back to the visitor centre gave time to reflect upon despite being separated from my bike on about 5 occasions, both me and my trusted stead had survived in tact, which personally I consider to be no small feat!
Ride Distance: 15km
Climb: 525metres
Time: 3hrs
Fun: immeasurable

Sunday 14th September 2008
An early start despite the beer from the night before saw us in a car park in Rhyslyn and starting on The Wall by nine, advised that the initial climb was easier than the White’s Level and the down hill faster and smoother, we were raring to go. Indeed leisurely climb on fire road for approx 4 miles was a nice way to start the day, a quick switch back and the incline increased, another switch and the fire road was left behind to be replaced by single track climb. Some 50 metres or so into the single track and disaster struck, what at first appeared to be a snapped chain, on closer examination turned out to also be a bent derailleur and mech hanger, effectively end of trip! Very short consideration was given to converting the bike to single speed, but retreat appeared to be the better part of valour.
Whilst heading back to the camper Simon commented that less than an hour ago he didn’t think he would find himself in the sun in a forest in Wales with his hand on another mans bum (as he pushed me along the flat bits).
Whislt loading up the bikes for the return trip to Bristol the shout of the weekend occurred, "time for a fry up?" The Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre obliged very well indeed.
Annual trip? I think so hopefully more frequently.
Check out Youtube Afan videos for White’s Level for some idea of the thrill.

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