I’d been looking forward to this trip for a long time – when I first ordered my new bike, this was the trip to test it out properly. There was a bit of sweating on delivery times and for a while I thought the bike wasn’t going to make it, but, come the morning, I found myself on the M4, with my new bike on the back, Jim sitting next to me, all confused that he wasn’t in a big Volvo. He’d even bought clean clothes and a towel…
A seamless journey later, we gathered in a warm but overcast car park and faffed for a while, before Lee explained that for the morning we would do the XC loop, then spend the afternoon on the downhill tracks; riding up until there was no energy left, then making use of the uplift facilities.
So off we set, riding upwards from the off, and then a small descent with some tabletops to warm us up. All good so far. Some more up, then more up (which became a theme for the morning) then a good rooty, rough descent. First Jim ran out of skill/grip (delete as appropriate) and went down, followed by Nick, and at the bottom I had a puncture, which was a good chance to regroup and cool off a bit – it was seriously sweaty…
Then it was up again and after a while we came across a few boardwalk sections to session and fall off. The trail continued meandering around for about 12km before delivering us back to the café/car park in time for lunch, where we were left to ponder how we had ended up at the same altitude as we had started when it felt like the climbing and far outweighed the descending!
Just before lunch we had a play on the skills area – loads of berms, jumps and drops to practice on, and practice we did!
Some proper good tucker and a break later, we upped the gnarr and headed for the downhilling trails. But first we had to climb. And it was steep. It got familiar too – a few of us did this climb 6 times by the end of the afternoon. But boy was it worth it for the way down!
There are many differently graded descents that each have different line choices, but all end up in the same place. They were rooty, steep in places, fast and great fun, with drops, and jumps. Lee lead us down the trails at pace, with us all clinging on. Plenty of big grins as we re-grouped at the bottom and headed straight back up again. The amount of blustering increased each time we went up the climb, replaced by woops and hollers as we raced back down. There was also a short jump line at the top, and we sessioned this for a while too, just for giggles.
3 goes at this and it was time for a refuelling break, and a few called it a day. The rest of us went back for 3 more runs. The biggest drama of the day occurred when we lost Stuart for a while, fearing he had expired in a hole somewhere on the hill, but we found him eventually and all was well. This was one of the best afternoon’s riding I have had in a long time, regaining confidence that I had long ago lost in being able to ride in this style. And, I didn’t crash all day!