Dragging myself out of bed seemed hard at 5.30am, to make it worse though was the phone call outside James‘s house at 6.10: bring bring….. bring bring……”eeh, mumble mumble, what time is it? Where am I? What’s going on? Oh no, my alarm didn’t go off, shit shit, I’ll be out in 10 mins” . So there I sat, waiting in my van, scaring the early morning passers-by with my best I’m not a serial killer (get in the back of my van) look. James on board, with his far too short shorts,far too early bare legs, plastic flask, satchel and we’re off, MTB ROADTRIP! There is a strange buzz in the air, like were off on holiday, that only occurs at silly o’clock, we're excited. Next stop Helen’s château, I start to load her bike, squelch squelch flat tyre, Oh God, what about my military operation? Never fear, she has brought the Sunday papers with her and a selection of marmalade sandwiches: hard-core.
After driving at warp-factor we catch up the rest of the crew: Sarah (o35’s), John O (biketrax), Damo, Stan and Dan (Brentwood posse), now it’s time for…CONVOY!
Next stop Glyncorrwg trail centre,
It’s 10.45 the skies are grey and there’s a hint of blizzard in the air. 30 mins of anxious preparation/extreme faffing later and we’re off to ride Whites level.
This is the most technical of all the trails in Afan Forest Park and is 90% purpose-built singletrack.
A 6km sheep-track climb gives fantastic views of the Afan Valley, extreme exposure on tight singletrack means ultimate thrills and long, demanding descents with rocky steps to negotiate, all leading to one outrageous trail.
If you are up for it try out the optional super technical Black Run descent too!
Map Download: W2 Trail (PDF) Click to download.
All I can think about is the thick gloopy mud that I pray is coagulating around the mbro35 riders setting off from Chingford, our trail is rock hard. Life is sweet. 53 mins later we’ve climbed 823 feet of techy craggy brutal relentless singletrack , going up has never been so much fun, somehow by concentrating on the trail you forget you’re actually going up (just ask Helen, I’m sure she’d agree!)
Next stop the black descent, feeling responsible, I decided that former MOD, now DH Sarah and delirious climb guru Helen should be warned about the final rocky steppy gnarly air ambulance section. With Dan at the back on arse-cam, my plan was to stop and wave as I got to the dodgy part, funny isn’t it when what seems like a good idea at the time ends up as a distant memory? Stopping and waving? No way, I’m in the zone, here come the rocks…woo-hoo, bosh bosh, now I remember, oh yeah, “this is the bit” I shout over my shoulder. Sarah cleans it no problem (phew, lucky she has a santa cruz superlight available in a good bike shop near you) holding my breath Helen appears followed by a ghostly Dan “well saved” he manages to stutter “I just saw this big rock coming towards me” she mutters, I think they are both in shock, not sure who’s worse off though. Next, Dan takes off his arm pads and begs Helen wear them!
We carry on unscathed , Epping mud Epping mud I chant to gee myself on. The trail is out of this world, the next few sections are sooooo good, we ride, we whoop, we love the mountain. Wide eyed everyone makes it through the rocky rollers, the slamming berms and the please-don’t-let-this-end swooping singletrack that dreams are made of. At the bottom the smiles on faces tell the story.
Back at the trail centre someone has decided to shut down the pleasurable Drop in café until Feb
Cafe. Café at Afan Forest Park Visitors Centre – tel 01639 850564 Drop off café at Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre - http://www.dropoffcafe.com
, Marmalade sandwiches to the rescue Paddington! Poor traumatised Dan needed to lie down (not before making Helen wear his sweaty knee pads) while the rest of us head back up the climb ready to experience the cheating joy of skyline descent (this is the 6k reward at the end of this 46k route, lucky for us John O ’trail zen meister’ has a “best ever” short cut ) we’re not worthy!
Skyline is a giant of a ride. Ensure you and your equipment are fully
Map Download: Skyline Trail (PDF) Click to download.
2nd time round the climb seems easier, maybe we are more in tune with this place now? At the top, saddles dropped, it’s time to rock and roll, literally. Last time I was here John O taught me ‘death grip’. You don’t cover the brakes with any fingers, just go with the flow, maximum control: it works, try it. This is a 20 minute arm-pumper downhill, pure joy. At the bottom we look at each other like crack-heads with our minds blown, Sarah’s leaving her job to ride forever and Helen wants to ride the world........
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