As a mountain biker, there is nothing I like more than bikes. I enjoy riding bikes, talking about bikes, not feeling too guilty about eating far too much cake because I'm riding my bike, meeting people who also love bikes and generally the whole community ethos that surrounds the sport. This is exactly what appealed to me so much about the MTBMeetup.
Having heard about it a few years ago via Twitter, I'd never had the opportunity to go before but always wanted to, and this year I finally went to take part - the best part, it was completely free.
The event was started back in 2013 by Si Bradley, since then it's grown into something bigger than he could have ever imagined and it all started on Twitter, "I didn’t come up with the idea, it just kind of happened. I was chatting to a friend called Greg Coley on Twitter who lives on the south coast, we have a lot in common not least our love for mountain bikes. I’d never met Greg but the subject of getting together for a ride kept coming up. Obviously, the distance was the problem, I rarely visit the south coast living in Cheshire but we both agreed we could get to Wales. With the conversation being on Twitter a few mutual friends started asking if they could join us so I started the hashtag #MTBMeetup
allowing people to catch up with arrangements. That was in late 2013 and 40 of us met up at Coed Y Brenin the following February," he said.The man himself, Si Bradley.
I travelled up to North Wales on the Friday with my partner, Chris and my friend, Jess. We had considered camping but a friend, Ellis who lives in Wrexham offered to put us up for the weekend and promised to show us an off-piste track on Sunday so we swiftly agreed. Following a long drive, a very late night and a game of Cards Against Humanity with the Flare Clothing crew, we crawled into bed at around 4am. Waking up on Saturday was not an easy feat, but the sun was shining and the day ahead promised lots of riding and plenty of cake so we all gathered our gear and headed to One Planet Adventure at Llandegla Forest
ready for the Meetup. Upon arrival, we couldn't get over how many cars there were. We kept driving and ended up parking right at the top of the fire road, thankfully we managed to find a spot.
This year the event was so much bigger than the Meetup Crew had expected, with numbers going from 40 in the first year, around 170 in the second year and over a thousand in 2016, it has been a year in the planning and taken three years to perfect, but there's still room to grow says organiser, Si, "The MTBMeetup has become a huge part of my life which I’m very proud of, it’s like a second job (if only I got paid for it!). I hoped it would become a nice little event that a few would come along to, never did I imagine that it would grow the way it has and also gain such a great reputation as a fun, must-attend event. I try to maintain the relaxed feel as it grows, keeping it true to its roots and sticking with the ‘get together for a ride with your mates’ ethos. It will always be a free event, I don’t believe in charging people to ride bikes and have fun, it just doesn’t seem right!."
The atmosphere at the cafe was electric with people bustling around getting food, checking out the hire bikes on offer and all the stalls (the free beer from Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery went down very well) the 2016 event attracted its fair share of big names with the likes of Orange Bikes, Santa Cruz, Fox Suspension, Hope, Silverfish and Ibis on hand to chat about their products and let riders test them out (money raised from bike hire went to Welsh Air Ambulance). Despite the fact there were scheduled events during the Saturday (with additional things planned for Sunday) riders were free to do as they wanted, with no pressure or anyone to take part in scheduled rides, everyone could do what they liked at their own pace. Si and the team also organised free coaching provided by a number of local companies. A few lucky riders were randomly selected beforehand and got the chance to brush up on their skills on Saturday from photography to a kids' ride, there was something for everyone.
|The best thing about MTBMeetup is that there are no rules, and that goes for me also. I don't set targets so I can't be disappointed. I have no way of forecasting how successful the event will be so I just let it happen. The first year we had 40 turn up, admittedly it was a bit of a shambles but everyone mucked in and had fun, I learnt a huge amount from that day that I put into the second MTBMeetup. The 2015 MTBMeetup saw 170 people attend and we also had Sealskinz, Vee Tire Co and OD Designs come along with EzUp's showing off products. I was amazed at the growth and never expected so many to show up. The feedback I got was so positive I wanted to make 2016 bigger and better which is where I came up with the 'MTB Festival' idea. I wanted to offer people a reason to come along, something more than just a ride with mates, while maintaining the relaxed vibe. I spoke with Badger at One Planet Adventure Llandegla and we decided to combine the MTBMeetup with a demo day, this would bring big name companies with lots of shiny products for people to have a look at. I also had companies asking if they could be involved so I invited a select few to create a mini festival village. On the day, the 2016 MTBMeetup saw 1,200 people attend, obviously we couldn't count everyone so this is a conservative estimate based on car park tickets sold and food orders placed, it may be higher than that number - I was absolutely blown away! - Si Bradley|
From a rather humble beginning the event has grown year on year, it's quite exciting to see where it will go next. It's also great to see it keep the community ethos. Getting people together to share something they love is truly what the MTBMeetup is about. There were families, friends, newbies and long-time riders, all together for one purpose - to ride and have a good time. Rumour has it the 2017 event is already in the planning stages according to Si and his trusted advisors and unofficial team, "Obviously there will be a MTBMeetup in 2017 (you heard it here first), but the big question is how do I go bigger and better?! I’ll be giving this a lot of thought, bouncing daft ideas off Si and Chris no doubt, but I am keen to develop the Mountain Bike Festival theme. Look out for further information on our website and follow @MTBMeetupUK on Twitter or ‘Like’ MTBMeetup on Facebook and if you’re a company that would like to get involved, please get in touch."
All photos courtesy of @cmjdavies
For me it was amazing to see so many people come together, the weather stayed good, the trails were fantastic, and I was really humbled to see the event raise money for St Gemma’s Hospice in memory of Jenn Hill by hosting a raffle with some fantastic prizes kindly donated by the mountain bike community. If you've never been I strongly urge you to keep an eye on the site and social media to find out about the 2017 event, there was so much to do and it's a great excuse to grab a bunch of friends and spend the weekend riding, what's better than that?www.mtbmeetup.ukwww.oneplanetadventure.com