Christmas has been and gone, it's now (somehow) the middle of January and 2015 seems all but a distant memory. That said, I had some truly great rides, The Etape, Peaks rides, Mountain Mayhem, The RAS and of course a few reps of Swains Lane. But, for me, one ride stood out as my ROTY...
I have always wanted to ride all the trails at Coed y Brenin in 1 day. I'd never really thought about how far it would be, how much climbing would be involved, or even if it was possible, but I knew I wanted to do it. For those that don't know, Coed y Brenin is, some say, the home of mountain biking in Britain. Located in mid Wales a few miles South of Trawsfyned, lies miles of man made singletrack and forest trails. I have been riding here since 2006, and often make the trip up a few times a year. The vast array of trails and terrain makes it a brilliant place to ride, whether you're a beginner, or, well, fancy smashing yourself around The Beast, there is something for everybody. Great facilities on site, cafe, bike shop, running shop, showers, everything you could need really.
I sat down to plan this one lunch, picked a weekend in August and that was that. To be honest, as all the trails are waymarked it didn't really take much planning, rather the only thing I really needed to decide on was which order to do the 8 trails. These range for the 33km Beast with over 3,000ft of climbing to Yr Afon at 10km and around 400ft of climbing. After a quick think, I thought it best to start off with the harder trails, and then finish on the easier stuff, made perfect sense really. Whilst The Beast at 33k doesn't sound very hard, i'd often just ride this trail in a day, and nothing else (albeit fairly slowly) and the recommended time is between 3 and 6 hours... Around 80% of the trails are man made singletrack, huge amounts of fun, fairly techy in places and pretty fast. One thing CYB is famous, is the bone shaking nature of the trails. No soft mud to rest on, and all the descents are real body shakers. Your typical bike at CYB will be a trail bike with maybe 140mm travel front & rear, so doing this challenge (i'll call it that) on a 29er hardtail with 100mm forks (at best, they were abit broken) will be tough... So, the total distance was 87 miles and 12,000ft of climbing, or there abouts. Lets see how this goes...
The plan was to set off at 7am on Saturday. That meant driving up there the night before, finding a place to camp close to CYB and trying to get some rest. Well, I found somewhere, the side of the road in the car to be exact, but I woke up rested (and cold). Quick drive to the carpark, unload, get kit on, make sure bike is ok and we're off.
6:54am. Good, i'm early. I hadn't really worked out timings, but wanted to get The Beast done first and before 9:40am, then The Dragons Back, which was 31k and just under 3,000ft of climbing, that would be the two hardest out the way, and, if my calculations were correct, just under halfway done, i think.
The trails were beautiful, quite, no other riders, the sun coming up through the trees, it was a pretty awesome moment, even if I still had 85 miles to go... The Beast is probably one of my favorite trails, you really seem to get away from the forest, and some of the trails towards the top of the large climb (if you've ridden it, you'll know what I mean) feel quite natural. I was feeling great, loving the ride and enjoying being back in Wales, I almost forgot what I was doing, almost. I finished The Beast in 2:22, so about 20 mins ahead of my schedule, which meant enough time to fill my bottles up, take some layers off and grab some food from the car. Quite handy really that all the trails start and finish at the same location, the visitor centre. Quite odd really, leaving with the car park empty, to return, full of riders all ready to ride and i'm just getting back. 5 minutes later and I was off onto The Dragons Back, a fairly similar trail to that of The Beast, but taking in some sections of the classic MBR trail. Another trail with some big climbs, so I was pleased to get them out of the way, know that I wont need to do these again. I'd kind of planned to get these two trails done all before 12, and I arrived back at 11:45. So far, so good. No issues, bike was holding up, legs were fine, hands and fingers hurt, all the constant bumps and braking, but hey, not much I can really do about that. Slightly longer rest now, get some proper food (Egg Sandwich) and electrolytes in me and i'd be ready for the next stage.
Now at 42 miles, just under half way in terms of distance and climbing. The next tail was the old Red Bull route, now the Tarw trail. Only 20k, but nearly 2,000ft of climbing, and because the trail is on the other side of the valley the they don't really get ridden much, and as a result are pretty rough and sketchy in places. Essentially one big climb, a tasty descent, another big climb and another descent. I could tell I was getting tried, messing up my lines, not being smooth, and not having much feeling in my fingers or hands, less than ideal really. The final descent was fast though, and put you on a section of slab made singletrack called "Pins & Needles" Never has a trail name been so apt. It was agony to be honest, I could hardly hold the bars, but, obviously you can't let go or you'll come off. I dropped the pace a little and slowly, carefully, edged my way down back onto the fireroad. The next and final section (which I had forgotten about) was called the "Flightpath" Now I remember this for years ago as being a fast, all out and flowing bit of singletrack, well, it wasn't this day. Slowly, but surly I made my way along, hands still hurting, but i knew I was nearly back at the car, where I could rest a bit... More food, abit of air out the forks, bottles refilled and now, off onto Yr Afon, a nice, flat, easy 10k spin.
Give my hands, legs and body a bit of a rest. 59 miles now and 6 hours 28 minutes in total. Starting to get a bit tired, but the next trail was the MBR, along with the Red Bull a really trail centre classic, and almost exclusively singletrack trails. 18k and around 1,700ft of climbing made it pretty tough (obviously) but after the rest and more food I had some renewed energy. The final climb, shared with many of the other trails is always an energy sapper, you know you're nearly back at the visitor centre, but you also know you've got this climb, simply known (on Strava) as the A470 Climb, 1.1 miles and 400ft climbed, doesn't sound that hard, but after 70 miles in my legs this was hard.
Back at the car now for a final stock up of food and water and I was now onto the final push, a selection of very short blue and green routes with 2 short red ones. But only 17 miles... I tell you what, I felt everyone of those bloody 17 miles, the pace was slower now, thankfully the trails were easier, I didn't need to concentrate as hard, and most importantly it would seem, my hands could have a bit of rest.
Before setting off i'd said to myself, anything under 10 hours and i'll be pleased (that's total time) Well, I finished with a total time of 9 hours 42 minutes (9 hours 2 minutes riding time) I'll be honest, I was pretty pleased with that really. So that's 87 miles and 11,982ft of climbing. I was pretty tired and ready for a bath and bed. Ow wait, I was camping that night in a small 2 man tent, nice.
So that's it really, my personal favorite ride of the year. Mountain Biking will always be my number 1 discipline, the one I started off doing, so doing challenges like this throughout the years will always be an idea. Just wonder what my next one in 2016 will be.
Thanks as always for reading, and for those interested here is the Strava link: https://www.strava.com/activities/369577094