Tuesday, 29 October 2013

NWAlps Welsh road trip: Penmachno

Penmachno impact zone by rOcKeTdOgUk
Penmachno impact zone, a photo by rOcKeTdOgUk on Flickr.

Dan, Paul and I travelled to north Wales for two days of mountain biking. The weather forecast wasn't good, high winds and heavy showers but it was still very warm.
We met Tom in a cafe car park and drove to the start of the Penmachno trail.
This trail is very natural, there's no cafe, no toilets and no ticket machine for parking, there is an honesty box for donations for the up keep of the trail, if you ride here please deposit a few coins, it's worth it i assure you.
It was hard to know what to wear, there was a 95% chance of rain, it was very blustery but i knew from previous visits that there was a long climb to start so wearing a waterproof jacket would become very uncomfortable very quickly, I opted for a base layer, jersey, some goretex shorts and a very light waterproof stuffed in my back pocket just incase things turned really wet. we assembled the bikes and began the climb. It's a good warm up and breaking no speed records we wound our way up the fire road to the first singletrack.
I commented after the ride that Penmachno has all the typical welsh conditions in one trail, there are lots of rocky drops, wooded areas, open moorland areas, steep uphill switchbacks, steep switch back down hills, very fast loose singletrack, water splashes, blind summit drop offs and lots of technical climbing and descending. What is unique though is the narrowness of the singletrack, this is combined with areas that are narrow and deep like gulleys, water usually finds the easiest path and most of the time these channels are it, so many had streams running down them and lots of huge muddy puddles that you weren’t quite sure what they contained, could be 1ft deep, could be 1”, could be a wheel trapping rock ready to grab you and throw you over the bars, certainly kept everyone on their toes.
By the time we reached the moorland (or tree felled sction) Paul had already had a trip over the bars, thankfully injuries were superficial, I was next to go down, stuck in narrow, deep singletrack I was buffeted by the very strong wind, hit one bank, over corrected my steering, hit the other bank and exited the bike to the left, neatly rolling into some blackberry bushes. I was uninjured apart from picking blackberry thorns out of my knee. It was good to get back into the trees for some respite from the wind (The two guys who emerged from the tree at the start of the last section insisted they were “sheltering” but it looked quite suspicious, we suspected some man hugs had taken place)
The final crash of the day came on the final descent where Tom over cooked a section and ended up trying to use his face and elbow as a brake. Thank fully his elbow came off worse with some deep cuts and his looks were probably saved by his beard. He did manage to bend his from brake rotor that much that the wheel would hardly turn though!.
I really enjoyed this trail, it’s about 9 years since I last came here and rode it solo, I think I performed a lot better this time. Dan had warned the guys who hadn’t ridden here before that it was a proper cross country (XC) trail and they had been expecting something tame with lots of fire road climbing but it’s far from that, it’s great fun, testing at times but very exhilarating
ride 131
13 miles
total 2741
commute 1166

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