Roadtrip Roundup

What a weekend!

Visited Bikepark Wales with a group of brilliant bike folk this weekend. Took a leisurely drive from Glasgow to Merthyr Tydfil via Kendal for a brilliant carvery lunch at Romney’s, if you’re in the area go check them out, cracking grub!

We had a group of 11 and most stayed in the Butchers Arms Bunkhouse, Gael is posh and stayed in a Premier Inn and Stuart crashed in his car to keep his bike company whilst I had the luxury dwellings of Vangelina, my DIY stealth camper van. Vangelina has a bed, heater, lights, stove, bike storage, usb charger sockets, everything I need for nights out in the hills, and best of all I did all the work myself (proud moment)! Friday night went off with a bang with us all drinking the local beer ‘Double Dragon’ and planning our day on the hill, before retiring to rest up for a big day ahead.

Saturday began with us congregating in the carpark and driving to BPW for the amazing breakfast at 8.30, only the cafe did not open till 9 and someone had forgotten to update the website, so a bit of hanging about and we missed the first uplift, but got an amazing feast of a meal and then headed up. What makes Bikepark Wales unique is the brilliant, efficient uplift service, we were never queuing for more than a few minutes and we were swiftly ferried up the hill to the starting point for all the trails. From the top you can choose from two each of blue, red and black trails, each one is a bit different and they are all great fun (the ones I did anyway). Last time I was in Wales I rode the two blue trails in a mediocre fashion and walked some of the steeper bits on them, this time I smashed the blues to bits, getting faster and faster until I scared myself, it’s great to be able to see an improvement in my riding! I even managed to ride both the red trails to a decent standard and with a bit of practice on drops I am sure I will be able to ride them with a bit of flow and grace next time!

The blues were great fun. With memories from a year ago of “Melted Welly” being a bit pedally I was keen to hit “Sixtapod” for my first run, and second and third… It’s just so much fun! Fast, flowy, jumpy, bermy goodness! Later on I did venture down Melted Welly and I wished I had done so sooner, it was twisty, bermy, flowy fun, with some roots and other fun stuff thrown in! If you go for a visit I highly recommend both the blue trails, even if you’re a black level rider, as they are great fun trails, and you can get a LOT of speed on them, especially Sixtapod and Blue Belle. The reds were great fun, a little more intimidating but all rollable, it is easy to build confidence and go faster each run. There was one drop between two trees on “Wibbly Wobbly” that I walked each time, but I aim to ride that next time. “Vicious Valley” is more twisty and turny to Wibbly Wobbly’s drops and rock steps, it splits into two in the woods with “A470” being a motorway of drops that I looked at but did not attempt, but instead continued down Vicious Valley and “Rim Dinger” to the uplift truck. I went back to blues as I preferred to get faster and better on these than hurt myself on the reds until I can come back with better skills for the drops, I did get faster, much faster, it was like a rollercoaster, wheeeeee!!!! Fun times!!

After a day of shredding trails (I managed 8 uplifts and my legs were dying) we went back to the bunkhouse for more Double Dragon, much needed food and more Double Dragon (hic). By about 10pm I was tucked up in my van and asleep within seconds, happy with tired legs and a full belly.

9am saw us descend back on the park for more bacon based goodness before another full day of uplifts. The first two runs were tough on my feeble legs, and my brakes were squealing like a demented banshee, all I kept thinking was “lay off the brakes” but my hands seemed to think otherwise. After 4 pre-lunch descents I took the bike to the shop at the bottom of the hill and a wizard of a mechanic sorted me with new discs and sanded my pads, off I went to the top. What a difference… silent brakes is one bonus, but they were at least 300% better brakes, so much that on my first run I almost shot out of a berm (banked corner) as the force threw my body weight forward. Once I re-learned how to use my brakes and that I could now feather them instead of always grabbing a fistful, I had the best couple of runs ever! Fast, smooth, QUIET! Amazing!

Thanks Airshotz

The photographers from Airshotz even managed to make me look like I know what I am doing!

Despite the protests of my group I did not venture onto the black runs, I am not quite ready for that yet, but my riding improved so much that perhaps next time I will be ready to shred them! Key things I want to learn before our next trip (hopefully September) are drops (for some reason I can drop 2ft steps fine but not on a trail), Cold starts (the technical lines with no run in) and leaning the bike more than my body in berms, so I don’t wash out so much (3 ouchies).

The 400 mile drive home felt long and my leg is really sore from crashing on it repeatedly then driving, but I would do it all again tomorrow (or next week when I hurt less). The hill claimed a few casualties over the weekend, Saturday saw 4 ambulances called up the hill for 2 shattered pelvises and one punctured lung amongst other injuries. Thankfully our group ‘only’ suffered a disgustingly ripped calf muscle which required 6 staples, Neil I am not sharing a photo as it was yucky! Marianne did her best superman impression into a tree and has a wonderfully colourful leg to show for it alongside bruised hands, ribs and everything else, the girl is NAILS!

Here’s to practicing drops and berms, keeping it rubber side down and building up to shredding those black runs! Let us ride! x

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