When Chris Smith enquired about my availability to document a Welsh road-trip he had planned, I thought "This could be fun." What he initially failed to mention was that he scheduled to do it in March. I know Wales is renowned for its temperate, dry and sunny climate - but “March, seriously?” Pulling into his driveway I was greeted by his trusty 'Bongo' it's kind of like a cross between the Tardis and a Metallica tour bus(c.1984) never has there been a vehicle more adept to the task at hand, this beast swallowed up an incredible amount of kit, on occasion refusing to give stuff back at other times spitting it out at you. The weather threw everything imaginable at us on our journey, rain, hail, snow, gales and a little taste of sunshine. Passing through some incredible landscapes we stopped on a number of occasions to capture some establishing shots only to be nearly blown into the abyss, I quickly realized that cranes, drones and cable-cams were completely out of the question.
Our first destination was Llanberris Slate mine, a location Chris had been keen to ride for sometime. On arrival I was totally blown away by the views (no pun intended) an apocalyptic landscape littered with epic mounds of slate, dilapidated shacks, caves and the most incredible vistas. But capturing 'anything' in the adverse conditions would prove to be a challenge. We established some sequences we intended to shoot, and I could see Chris struggling just to push up to a point to drop in from, I struggled simply to keep upright! even in perfect conditions the terrain would have been treacherous, Chris getting two flats in as many runs. Soon enough the sky opened and littered us with the most intense hail, luckily we found an old slate hut to shelter in, unfortunately little was captured on day one but none the less the experience was memorable.
Next on the agenda was Parys mountain, another visually stunning location consisting of an epic deep quarry colored with every hue of red imaginable. Within minutes we found a great natural free-ride line, Chris promptly got his game on and sent some sweet drifts and tables, we manages to capture some neat stills relatively quickly, but as we explored the quarry further our luck changed, although there seemed to be an endless amount of free-ride lines we soon discovered that they all verged onto the bowels of Hell. Every runout would have been fatal without some major JBC work, it was simply too sketchy. Once again the Heavens opened and we were expelled from site.
By the morning of day three having come so far with so little in the can I was starting to feel antsy, Chris suggested we try for Revolution Bike park, I had no hesitation in agreeing. Rolling into Llangynog it seemed our luck had changed, the village had an air of “Rad” about it and the sky turned blue. Our excitement was soon extinguished when we discovered an empty bike park. We moped into the 'New Inn' (super cool pub in the centre of town) I asked the Inn keeper whether he knew anything about the bike park? before I knew it he put me on the phone to one of the owners, James. I cant thank James enough for being so accommodating, sacrificing his day off to shuttle us all over the park and giving us exclusive access to some very special spots. With light fading fast there was little time to lose so the majority of rushes were shot on the free-ride line, first take, without a warm up. James also took us into the notorious Quarry line, Chris’ face lit up only to sink as did his feet when stepping onto the surface, the winter frost had turned the surface into an Oreo, a crusty layer which broke through to a gooey mess. Which in retrospect, may have been a blessing due to the high winds. Chris spent quite some time rolling and re-rolling a run into one of the hip jumps, eventually it was just compressed enough to get some momentum, we managed to capture a short sequence and a decent still, albeit not on the main quarry line. For those of you yet to ride Revolution bike park, I can't recommend it enough, there is nothing else like it in the UK, as soon as you roll into Llangynog you will know what I mean!
That evening Chris contacted Welsh rider, Leon Rosser after seeing him sending a large road gap posted on social media, Leon was kind enough to disclose the location and give us some local knowledge. Puling into a car park the following day we found numerous riders getting kitted-up, it didn’t take long to be pointed in the right direction. The gap was visible from quite some distance so you knew it was sizable! although it was wet and super slippery, Chris sent the gap first run without any warm up, nailing it perfectly, hitting it a few more times scoping out the possibility of tricking it, but by this stage we were both cold, wet and spent so decided to head home. Special thanks goes out to the wonderful Toby and Jen Bragg for the great company and giving us a place to crash, Toby is a mean baker who makes the best pizzas this side of Naples. Thanking Patrick and Rachel from the Menai bank Hotel, super friendly hosts who run a welcoming and comfortable establishment and do a great full english to boot! Without the help of James from Revolution Bike Park our experience would have been all the poorer, Thank you, James!
In retrospect, perhaps March wasn’t the ideal time to ride, film and photograph a series of unknown locations in Wales, needless to say Mother nature tried her best to defeat us but we endured, making the best of the situation. We hope you enjoy Roadtrippin' Wales with Chris Smith. With any luck you will be seeing some photography from the road trip in an reputable publication in the not too distant future. Chris would like to thank the following sponsors for their ongoing support:
Endura, Transition Bikes, Marzocchi Suspension, Morgan Blue, Halo Wheels, O.D.I, TSG, Renthal, M.R.P, Gusset, 100%, Schwalbe, Drift, Five Ten