I never did get around to writing about Afan. So I will, right here.
Way back in early October, the 9th and 10th if I remember correctly, Will, Dom, Owen and myself headed down to Afan Argoed, in south Wales, for a weekend of mountain bikes and fun.
We stayed at the bike friendly Oakridge Guest House, run by Barrie and Jill – which we would all highly recommend. Give them a shout on 01639 645210 if you’re heading down there. We ate at their local pub – the Colliers, where the food isn’t half bad, and the identical twin waitresses are lovely. [Thanks to ickle Nicky A for passing on the info!]
Saturday AM: The Penhydd Trail
This trail is as ace as it ever was. It starts with a fair bit of climbing – singletrack to begin with and then a bit of a slog up a fire road. I really struggled here – but then thats not too surprising. I was on a downhill bike, running 2.5″ super-tacky mud tyres and chasing three mates on lightweight zippy cross-country rigs. We were amply rewarded at the top though, by Desolation and Brashy Track, which are ace bits of flowy singletrack.
After another climb, we reached what used to be the pinnacle of the trail: the Hidden Valley – its still a really cool singletrack descent through the forest, but its somehow lost some of the flow it once had. Maybe if I was on a lighter bike again…
These days though, the rest of the trail shines through. One more climb, and then its awesome singletrack almost all of the way to the end of the trail, with just a couple of short stretches of fire-road.
We reached the end buzzing and very much ready for lunch. So we went to the cafe and had just that. Mmmm, fried food.
Saturday PM: The Wall Trail
So named because thats what you’ll hit on the way around. Its horrible – climb after climb after climb after climb. Long soul destroying fire-road sections interspersed with bits of steep technical singletrack. Pure horrible nasty evil pain. For ages. We had to stop a number of times for chocolate and water and to get off and push. Its really not a fun experience.
And then you get to the section named “Last Decent Zig-Zags” and all is (almost) forgiven. Having been unable to keep up with the rest of the group on the ascent, here’s where me and my bike came into our own.
Running purely on adrenalin, I pedalled off down it. Owen kept up for little while, but the advantages of 205mm disc brakes, 2.5″ tyres, loads of suspension and plain old confidence saw me ride away from him as the trail got more and more flowy. I was riding no-brakes through sections where I shouldn’t have been able to, relying entirely on my tyres for grip and pinging off rocks on the outside of the trail to stay on track.
Its an ace downhill, but its not adequate payback for the slog up there in the first place. Especially as theres still a couple of miles of fire-road back to the visitors centre…
Sunday: The Whites Level Trail
This one is situated a few miles up the road from the main Afan visitors centre, at Glyncorrwg – where they’ve opened up a new visitors centre complete with bike shop and showers!
Its well worth the trek though. I thought that the Traquiar trail up at Innerleithen was one of the best trails in the UK, but this one kicks its bottom hard. There’s a long ascent to begin with, but its really well done. Its quite a technical singletrack climb up through the forest. You’re concentrating so hard and having so much fun clearing all of the obstacles in your path that you don’t really notice the gradient too much, and all of a sudden you emerge about a squillion feet up the mountain.
And we all know that what goes up generally deserves to come down again. So we did. The descents are awesome. Rocky, rooty, technical and really really flowy. Flowy to the point that Will tried a bit too hard and took a nice big gouge out of his arm. Ouch!
Its simply put, one of the best man made trails I’ve ridden. Just fantastic.
New Bike Time
Now Dom had spent the whole weekend whinging about his bike – a Carerra something-or-other. Towards the end of the weekend he knackered something on the rear hub. Now, he could have just gone out and had it repaired. But no, he’s used it as an excuse to go out and buy a Cannondale Jeckyl, complete with Lefty fork! Rock on dude!