As some of you who read my blog may be aware the last two years I’ve ventured to Wales for what is now a proper event MTBmeetup. For me this entailed getting up ridiculously early to travel from Somerset to Llandegla in North Wales.
Fuelled by Coffee I headed across the bridge into Wales
One delicious coffee later and a chat with Badger (owner of Llandegla forest park) and we were set to go and arrange our camp.
Once at Llyn Rhys campsite you are greeted by the cheery Christine. We stayed here last year for MTBmeetup so were familiar with the layout and facilities available, plus the handy pub/restaurants within easy walking distance of the site.
We set up our camp ready for other to arrive… Ok I unfolded my bed in the back of the van then set about giving Chris a hand with his base tent that we’d all make use of over the course of the weekend. As we did so a few others began to arrive and things became slightly more rushed knowing we had a good if not rather long ride ahead in the afternoon.
We set off under the guidance of Si, Transalpuk. We were set for a reasonable distance and being Wales a substantial amount of climbing. The aim of the ride was merely social enjoyment, no chasing times or egos required here, enjoy the ride, enjoy the company of your fellow riders. Much like the main MTBmeetup day.
After a short road section we began winding our way up the hillside, stopping at each fire road gap ensuring no man was left behind and everyone was happy with plenty of time for chatter.
Then the real adventure began on trails I’d never seen before having only ever ridden the way marked trails that Llandegla forest park has to offer.
A gradual grassy climb led us to a ridge which we followed offering incredible views.
What followed next was some of the best natural riding I think I’ve ever come across, trails that seem untouched by anyone yet challenging in places to keep you on your toes, fun in spades and scenery that meant there was always something to try and distract from the job in hand.
We ended up on a hill top with a steep descent ahead, an ideal spot for a few photos. Every time I ride in Wales I always end up finding somewhere that makes you feel really small, that wow feeling that takes your breath away for a split second.
I didn’t take many more pictures on the ride due to a mix of exhilaration followed by fatigue began setting in. Once we arrived back at camp a quick check of the numbers revealed why, 23.9 miles but with 3,200ft of elevation gain. Time for some well earned dinner!
Saturday – Official MTBmeetup day
I woke reasonably early realising that overnight there had been a bit of a frost, fortunately my insulated van had kept me nice and warm. A few people who had stands at the meetup left by car to get things sorted out while the rest of us decided to make up a mtb convoy up to the meetup using a predominantly off road route.
We got to the forest centre at around 9:20am, official start was 10:00am but we all wanted coffee etc before the main event. It was already getting busy, the man Badger busy making people drinks and generally doing anything and everything. One boss you could never say sits back for others to do the work!
There were stands from Broken riders, Vee tire, Alpkit, Hope technology, Sixth element wheels, Fox suspension, Orange bikes, Santa Cruz, Silverfish with Yeti and a couple of Evil bikes, Ibis, Ghost, Sealskins, Od designs, it really was an amazing sight, almost too much to take in!
I don’t think I ever saw another point in the day where there wasn’t somebody at the pump sampling a beverage! For those not wishing for an Alcoholic beverage there was a huge Skratch labs chiller filled to the brim. Both a tasty option.
I had a quiet and refrained morning with the AllianceMTB team, as they carried out one of the free coaching sessions for a group of 18 riders. Watching these guys work is inspiring. The passion displayed in their coaching is clear to see and I think must encourage the riders/pupils/trainees (is there a proper term I should be using here). Seeing them all achieve things that they thought would be difficult, or even just improving their technique really gives you a buzz, and more than once I ended up cheering them on as they got it right.. Whoops.
Post the training we all wound our way around the trails ready for a spot of lunch and the raffle draw. Every year at MTBmeetup there’s a charity raffle with all prizes donated from so many generous companies across the country. This year was no different, prizes from socks to tyres, mudguards, bike bags and even a stunning bike frame. The chosen charity was St. Gemma’s Hospice in honour of Jenn Hill who was a long time supporter of MTBmeetup.
From the raffle I was very fortunate to win two prizes! I seem to of done well recently from bike related competitions having recently won a t-shirt and also some gels. At the MTBmeetup I gained a sticky pod, a pouch designed to keep your essentials together in a very handy pouch from Gone Biking Mad and also a pair of tyres from the chaps at Vee Tire. I went and had a chat with the representatives from Vee tire and they suggested I try their new flow rumba tyres, aimed at descending and plentiful grip, some beefy sidewall protection and anaggressive tread pattern, they only had one with them on the day but hopefully the other will be here shortly so I can put them to the test.. My first non maxis tyres for a good couple of years, I’ll report back my thoughts.
The sticky pod:
The Vee tire Flow Rumba 27.5 X 2.35 tackee compound.
Now it was time to have a bit of a play, we set out to ride the red/black loop. It was great fun as it always is, I seemed to be able to carry a lot more speed then last year despite deliberately holding back due to my still healing injury. I’ve put this down to the coaching and help I’ve had from the AllianceMTB team, my cornering has improved greatly and in general I feel far more controlled out on the trail.. Something we all like to feel, so a huge thanks to them is in order!
We got back to the centre to be collared by Chris Davies photographer extrordinaire saying he’s not seen me much today and along with a few others he wants to visit a few sections of the blue trail to grab some pics, who was I to refuse! I quickly popped into the cafe and bought a piece of millionaires shortbread as I was starting to flag a little bit and knew a sugar fix would help… Also if you ever visit the Llandegla forest park the cakes and coffee are amazing! I’m very glad I did as post MTBmeetup Chris has wowed us all with the great photos he took.
A great day and now time to head back to camp for to prepare for the ‘AllianceMTB afterparty’ the willows bar/restaurant closed to everyone bar us from MTBmeetup, pizza and salad in abundance and beer at a sensible price. Perfect way to end a great day!
Sunday came around all too soon, a gentle day planned. We played on the pump track, session end some jumps (I’m finally starting to feel at home on the flat pedals), then had a play on the red/black trails. It was a slow and steady day but still a lot of fun. After the hectic and busy Saturday it was really nice just to relax and spend time with the guys left at the campsite. I took no proper riding photos apart from a couple as we rode towards the forest park.
I had an amazing weekend and one I’m sure I’ll be referring back to for weeks.. No actually months to come. If you’ve never been to a MTBmeetup I would really suggest keeping your eyes peeled on social media for when the next one will be, riding with no prejudice or judgement is what it’s all about. If you have a functioning mtb it’s eligible! Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to ride a hugely expensive bike or ride a huge distance, there are trails available for all to ride wether it’s a short green loop, a challenging red/black or if you’re really brave a freeride line!