It was with great anticipation that Ian and I put the bikes and gear in the back of his car and headed onto the road on Friday afternoon, we're both finish early on Friday slackers - though Ian has to take leave ;0), a quick bash across the M6 toll road and various other roads too dull to mention got us to Wales to the tunes of Jurassic 5 and then it was wiggly A-road funfest getting stuck behind slow moving 4x4s and other vehicles, but the CD of random Punk Covers kept us entertained. You really haven't lived until you have heard "Leaving on a Jet Plane" being covered by the Me First and Gimme Gimme's!
About 40 miles out from Machynlleth (from now on to be known as Mach) that it started to snow heavily, there was quite a bit of nervous laughter in the car at this point, at one point the surrounding mountain sides were white over and we were driving through what felt like a blizzard. More nervous laughter ensued.
The snow cleared after a while thankfully and we passed through Mach on the way to Corris where our Bunkhouse awaited. By this point the collective bladder in the car was full to bursting and we were looking for somewhere, anywhere, to pee thankfully an oppurtunity arose in forestry centre and we unleashed Austin Powers pee's of the highest order. Turns out the forest centre was 300yds away from the bunkhouse.
On arrival at the bunkhouse we were shown around quite the possibly the plushest bunkhouse ever. Its only rivalled by the Squamish Hostel Claire and I stayed in last September, i say rivalled, this Bunkhouse had a bar! A bar in a bunkhouse! How good is that?
Anyway, Ian and got our gear up to our room and stowed the bikes in the secure bike shed and started to think about dinner.
We were told in advance by the bunkhouse that the pub in the village centre did food so off we strolled into the village with directions to the pub, well we nearly walked past the pub as there was only a very small sign saying "Slaters Arms" on the front of the pub, in we went, it was a touch quiet in there. On 7pm on a Friday evening it was us, the Landlord and a regular. Anyway the beer flowed and food was ordered included the legendary Lasagne Magnifico. At that point it all went a bit surreal unbeknown to us there was a fancy dress party in the village that night and into pub came 2 girls dressed as "nurses" to use the fag machine. After a couple more pints we headed back to the hostel to make use of the bar there, during the rest of the night, a "cowgirl" and a "policewoman" were sighted.
After a nights beer sleep, we were up earlyish with one thing on our minds riding, well sorta, the only thing on my mind was coffee, but after a coffee and malt loaf breakfast, gear and bike were in the car and we were heading for Nant-Y-Arian to meet the latecomers, Mike, Lex and Dave.
We were early and after donning extra layers of clothing and sorting the bikes out, Ian and I decided a quick loop taking in two of the best descents on the trail. With legs warmed up and grins on faces despite a couple of sketchy moments due to still half asleep reflexes, we retired to the Cafe for Coffee, Tea and OJ. This is where we met this little fella.
After a wee while the latecomers turned up and they started to get themsleves sorted in direct contravention of the Rules of Faff! (More on the Rules of Faff in an upcoming post.) Not to mind we all got going soon enough and started on on the 30km Syfydrin trail, half of which is purpose singletrack and the other half is loop that takes you out into the Mid Wales backcountry. The first quarter was on the purpose built stuff and was a grin fest. After a while we could tell we were heading out into the backcountry and more long climbs and techy, rocky doubletrack descents with rocky dropoffs and rutts. On one descent Lex had a comedy spill when his pedal clipped a bank in a rutt (taking the bank with him) and bounced 15 feet down the trail, thankfully he was OK and it was decided that now would be a good time to stop for food.
The rest of the Backcountry loop went off without incident and we really enjoyed being out in the wilds doing some "proper" mountain biking.
For the last quarter of the ride we were back on the purpose build singletrack, which rocked with lots of little drops to launch off, whoops to be either jumped or compressed, berms that begged to be railed and switchbacks to keep you honest.
Then came the last climb out of the valley, it seemed to go on for an age, we all climbed it our own paces, I was having a good day climbing that day (must have been the socks or something) and led with Ian next and the rest of the guys following on behind.
It was then the final descent back to the Cafe and Mike took a cheeky jump on everyone else as he was getting cold apparently and we were determined to catch him despite his sizeable ill-gotten lead, Ian and I screamed down the singletrack flying around the trees and flying off the whoops but we didn't quite catch the cheeky Mikey, another 50yard of singletrack and we would have had him! we'll get you next time Mikey.
Another visit to the Cafe ended our time at NyA and Ian and I pointed the car in the direction of the bunkhouse. We stopped in a Mac for some beer money and a look round the 2 bikeshops in the town and on the way out, the other guys turned up, we looked over at their car and there was Lex sat in the passenger seat with his fullface helmet and bike gloves on. Another act of randomness from the not-so-young italian.
Back at the Bunkhouse, the latecomers were put in their room, showers were taken, the drying room populated with stinky clothes and body armour and jeans were dried.
We congricated in the Hostel bar a couple of pints before moving down to the Slaters Arms, this time less surreal despite welly throwing antics.
More Lasagne Magnifico was ordered not surprisingly. More beer was drunk but with some slowing from certain parties. We staggered (limped in Lex's case) back to the Bunkhouse bar for another couple of drinks before bed.
New Bike Roadtrip rule, no wearing of lycra shorts as an outer layer before 10am (it really puts me off my breakfast), actually scratch that no Lycra shorts as outer layers full stop!*
*Unless racing, but why you would want to do that I have no idea.
A variety of breakfasts were consumed including Bacon sarnies (Ta, mike) and Espresso (Ta , Lex) and Tuna and Pasta (No Ta, Dave).
Ian managed to negociate showers and a place to get changed for after our ride.
We rolled out of the Bunkhouse for a quick spin before getting to the Forestry Carpark and then the climbing started again. Today we were riding the Cli-Mach-X trail. The climbing order from the previous day was re-established with myself leading the lads up the fire road for what seemed like and was most likely was miles. We proceeded to enjoy the little tasters of singletrack on the trail between fireroad climbing sessions, one puncture from Lex delayed a progress a little, but it happens to the best of us.
At the top of the last singletrack section seats were lowered and we set off down the muddy singletrack and we contoured around a bit to our surprise which was hard work with a dropped seat, after a while the final DH loomed and the fun began...
The final descent (apparently the longest purpose built Descent in Wales was a fun fest of rocky drop offs, whoops, rock steps and other super technical obstacles including 2 North Shore skinny sections (better luck next time eh, Mike).
I had my front wheel wash out on one of the rock sections which sent myself and my bike down a bank and we ended up 10 feet below the trail, Ian was startled a touch when heard a cheery "hello" coming from a muddy face down the bank. I gave the bike a quick once over and it seemed that both of use were largely unscathed (a few bruises, a sore jaw and shoulder the morning after though), so were off again to finish the descent with some super fun berms and a very big red arrow (you'll know it when you see it, trust me.;0).)
We all got to the bottom with smiles/mud on our faces and with tales of sketchy moments and near crashes.
A quick tarmac roll back to the Bunkhouse finished the riding for the day and the weekend.
We all got sorted out reasonably quickly as it was lunchtime and we headed to Mach in search of an open Cafe. Luckily we found one and put this away in record time.
With full stomachs were reluctantly headed home helped along the way by Balckjacks and tunes by The Killers, The Dandy Warhols and The Smashing Pumpkins.
In summary the weekend was:
We stayed at Braich Goch - its flipping great! The owners Ann and Andy are top people too.
We drank this and that.
More pics of the weekend can be found here and here.