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A chance taken to shred some new trails

Oct 8, 2016 at 13:32
by mizzter-b  
So a late approval for a part sabbatical meant I could take some time away from everything, grab my bike, chuck some stuff in my bus and go on a mini tour to hit some trails I hadn't ridden before. While I have ridden downhill tracks in North Wales several times I have barely touched the regular trails there or in the North of England. Last year I did an Endurance event at Coed y Brenin which nailed my desire to do more...

I love views and scenery......this is the view from Catstye Cam towards Hellveyln (in the Lake District)
The view across to Hellvelyn

For planning I ran up a spread sheet listing some established trails I'd been thinking of riding and added some other more radical looking options that I had come across....this gave me a loose framework with options to accommodate changes in travel, weather and finding places to park my camper, eat and snooze.

I got delayed in leaving meaning just 9 days for the UK part of my solo tour before I needed to be home for the European trip I had bought eurotunnel tickets for. It ended up as 5 days in mid/North Wales, 3 in the Lake District (with a rest day) and the last one in the Pennines. I didn't set out to hit any particular number targets I just wanted some demanding and involving fun riding. For the record I totalled about 190km of technical gnarly trails with about 5000m of climbing and the same for descending. I didn't measure all of the uplift assisted downill riding at Hamsterly or in La Thuile but that probably totalled another 1500-2000m of descending.

Day 1 - Quick Climax
My opening day was at Machynlleth and I tried the compact "Enduro" Cli-machx trail to fit my limited afternoon ride time. There are several vanilla trails in the area as well but they did not receive an enticing description from someone I asked and I really wanted to keep the focus on the good stuff.
Cli-machx has a pretty steep initial fire road crawl, something we all love after a 4 hour odd drive! The opening sections were TBF dull apart from the narrowness and I did begin to wonder if this was not going to be a classic. The trails got a little faster and required some more effort and were a bit more fun. It wound up some more with some proper slabby awkward to climb pieces and then the trail suddenly opened up to this rock only slate-mine style gnarly slidey downhill style rampage trail.....It was brilliant (at least I thought so, 3 guys I passed looked like they were in shock)...It left me wanting more, but I only got the disappointment of a roll down to the car park after. I have to say its a great short trail to rip. Well done to the local guys who clearly work hard on it.....if they can use that last section of gravity to make some more it would be even better! I shall return to try some of the Enduro race sections!

A short one, but running the top loop again made it longer and more fun...
Climachx Aug 2016

Day 2 - Seeing the birds
I had had my eye on the 35km Syfyndrin trail at Nant Y Arian (mid-wales) for some time. It builds in the red trail centre lines and some mid-Wales backcountry. It did turn out to be a monster and I was pleased to get the invite from Graham and Cameron to join them for the back loop section (they split off to head to the coast). I hadn't been able to figure out why it was billed as a black when the trail centre trails were both red but once I found the rough fast bouldery downhill style sections in the backcountry loop I was wondering if I should have packed some bigger pads and that chin guard for my Super 2R lid. It was a genuine epic ride and it was great to be out in the wilds. I would recommend this route to anyone with an adventurous streak who likes a range of riding.

The scenery spoiled by riders
Syfydrin August 2016

Completing it felt good but there was a magical element just before the end. On the last section as I emerged from a small section of forest above the trail centre and its lake, I saw an amazing sight...there must have been over 50 Red kites flying right in front of me (there are around 400 near the centre). In the strange half foggy and rain affected light the kites looked like a mad flock of red phoenixes from a Harry Potter film. It had been a great day and I was stoked the riding was so good.

Some of the red kites at Nant y Arian

This is typical of the scenery that you experience on this amazing trail

Day 3 and Day 4 - Back to CYB for some unfinished business
I'd had a good taste of CYB at the Enduro but wanted to do the rest. I hit Tarw Du on a wet day. The rain polished up all the smooth roots and rocks nicely to make them super slippery. Quite frankly I went at it a bit too hard for a good chunk and eventually paid with a crash. How I didn't have more and end up broken I don't know. Maybe I was actually riding a bit better....that small change from a 50 to a 40mm stem improved steering far more than I had expected. It was another good day and I did grin for the next 24 hours until I went back to CYB for more.

Tarw was wet and very slippery...
Tarw August 2016

The next day I hit the well regarded MBR trail. It covers some of the stuff I'd missed with some replay of before. It was a riot but over a bit quick....

One of those signs which points you down something steep, fast and fun

Day 5 - More new stuff
I had to make a choice between Penmachno, the Marin trail and Llandegla for my final day in Wales. Not an easy one and I never felt like any of the views/reviews were consistent, but hey views on trails can be very subjective as I found. I headed to Penmachno, I knew there was some gravity and it had a second extension loop option to bump it up to 30k if I felt my legs had it in them on a fifth consecutive day.
By the time I got there it was late as a result of a lie in, cooking a good breakfast and packing coupled with a rather adventurous sat-nav driven route through snowdonia. I thought I would just do the first loop, but after a chat with a guy who had also rocked up late (and was sporting some chunky armour) it sounded like it was worth keeping my mind open. He had ridden it before a few times and we set off together. By the time we reached the second loop option it was clear that the trail was more than the dull XC it had been described by some as (protective locals me thinks). Despite some weary legs and steep climbs I got stuck in and was rewarded with some continually technical, gnarly and narrow hard riding. Many would have been put off but I loved it and if anything it lifted my riding rather than squished my tired body. It was incredibly wet despite no rain and some of the track design is potentially lethal so you have to have your wits about you. The final descents were crazy fast and slippy and I probably went way outside my talent quota even though I was feeling very dialled. I ended up grinning ear to ear with Andy slightly the worse for a high speed crash, but nothing serious. We didn't see any other riders on the second loop that day....they definitely missed out.

Amazing views with snowdon hidden in the clouds
Penmachno facing snowdon

Another waterfall...

Andy was wearing a lot of protection for good reason...
Andy penmachno

I stayed at a great little farm in Snowdonia national park and I had a view of the highest peaks in Wales...not bad for 14 quid!
View of snowdonia

Day 6 - Day-off
The day was used up travelling north to the Lake District and to have some dinner with friends. While I didn't ride I did get that stunning sudden view that you get of the Lake District rising from sea level to well over 3000 feet from the motorway as you drive up.

Day 7 - Time for something different
I wanted to try and ride Hellvelyn and Sticks Pass. It's about 800m up to the top from the bottom at Ullswater lake. I went and got some advice from the tourist information office as I knew the route up could be difficult and weather affected. Sure enough they said my preferred route was pretty much unhikable let alone rideable due to some recent weather that had wrecked it. The second was said to not be much better. Anyway I thought I may as well try. As it was only the route up that was a problem I figured I could always back out if I couldn't get through.

View down to Glenridding...from the old mine...no luck getting on to the ridge here
Glen ridding view

Trying the next section up...no joy here
Past the mine

The dam was of no use whatever the map said...and the path was limited to what you can see
Broken dam

The first option route on the way up was as bad as described and I moved on to the second, that wasn't great either and as nobody else was trying (even hikers) I gave up and tried to cross to another hiking route. The tourist information map was woefully out of date. The dam I wanted to cross was closed as part of it had collapsed, so I had to hike through a river and across moorland to get to the footpath marked on the map....shame the footpath didn't exist! I could see the hike route I was trying to get too and simply and to trek across marshy land for about a kilometre with all the sodding around. Dragging a 30 pound Enduro with a pack and helmet didn't make it easy. Anyway I got to the hike route and pushed up and rode what I could. There were a lot of surprised faces on the way up. Partly because I had a bike but I think mostly because I was going up faster than most despite having a bike etc.

Unfortunately it's not possible to get on to Hellvelyn via Striding Edge or Swirral Edge with a bike so I got to the top of Catstye Cam (about 890m vs Hellvelyn at 950m). The views were stunning from what is a peak with a classic shape mountain.

Amazing views from Catstye Cam
Castye cam

The view of the ridge I needed to be on to get to Hellvelyn
Castye cam

Ullswater lake in the background.....it's pretty lumpy up here...sorry my face is in the way...

The descent back down was good until I chose a steeper faster line. The steepness would have been ok but the boulder fields weren't and this meant a mix of riding and hiking down. It didn't take long though to get back down to Glenridding and a beer and food sitting on a hotel terrace with a great view of Ullswater lake. I will go back and have a go at getting on to Hellvelyn with a bike!

More great views....this time on the way down...
View over Ullswater


Day 8 - Whinlatter - back to the trails
The next day I headed to the North West side of the Lake District. Whinlatter has 2 red loops, northern and southern. I didn't need a pack as I could pit stop at the car park at the end of each trail. That was great and after doing the Northern loop I did the southern twice. It was dry and hot and the new E13 tyres on wide rims were hooking up well even on the loose and ferocious sharp rocks. It was another brilliant day. If your riding the lakes I reckon Whinlatter is worth considering if you have the time and aren't looking for the big adventure style rides.

Northern loop - views from the climb
Northern loop Whinlatter

Northern loop whinlatter

You can make out the short exposed section of the northern loop from just over half way up the southern loop climb
Whinlatter - View from southern loop...you can see the end of the northern section the little bit that isn t in the forest

Southern loop pics....

View from the top.....
Whinlatter views from southern loop

...Naomi ready to go..
Naomi ready to drop into the southern loop descent

.....before the descent starts
Top of Whinlatter southern loop looking down the descent start

Day 9 - Hamsterly - last but not least
I travelled straight over to the eastern side of the Pennines after Whinlatter despite it being late. Finally I got to ride Hamsterly. I have fancied it for a while after seeing some videos. I hit the black trail, which was quite varied and near the end passed the DH uplift base. A quick chat and I was being roped into having a go. I finished up the black, drove my bus up and got kitted up. So will a 150mm 29er bike work on a DH track?.....after 3 lively runs the answer was yes. While the way it handled the fast drops and rough stuff wasn't much of a surprise the fast twisty steep descents were...so long as it had some speed the long slack XL size didn't feel big or awkward! After this I was now well over 3 hours behind plan on heading to my brothers to see my new niece before returning to Kent to pack for France and Italy. I had to call it a day at Hamsterly and effectively the end of my UK tour...it had been great and I felt like I wanted to carry on. At least I had La Thuile to look forward too!!!

It wasn't hard to find gnar at Hamsterly....
Hamsterly gnar

....and good gnar at that!
More Hamsterly gnar

Thanks to Fred.....who saw me through the nice camping.....

I am writing up my European leg blog and another on equipment used.....maybe I will finish them before the end of the year!

Author Info:
mizzter-b avatar

Member since May 18, 2012
1 articles

  • 2 0
 Brilliant write up buddy!
Glad you did Penmuncher as we call it. Its definitely more fun than Marin Trail (the best bit of that, the last downhill can be sessioned from the carpark). Degla's black is amazing for a rollercoaster type trail centre - definitely worth visiting next time.
  • 1 0
 I finally got Degla in my tour this Summer...I was really impressed with how much good trail they have squeezed out of it. Definitely worth the stopover!
  • 2 0
 Wow, UK is becoming a very interesting MTB place in my eyes, nice writeup! Smile
  • 1 0
 cool mate Smile

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