Wednesday, 22 February 2017 09:56

Things to do on a Bike This Year: Mountain Biking Featured

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I'll be honest I don't do anywhere near enough mountain biking. Before I succumbed to the lure of Lycra and shaved legs I liked nothing better than tearing around Afan. Well that might be stretching the truth a little. I smoked so I pushed up the climbs and I'm a bit of a wimp so I used a lot of back brake on the descents, but even the worst day I ever had on the Knobblies was still a beautiful day in part. Mountain Biking always leaves me smiling.

 First of all I'll get the story of that day out of the way. Think back to the Royal Wedding weekend. What a great weekend. Most of the country was watching Pippa's bum but I took advantage of quiet roads, trails and sunny weather by going up to North Wales. I decided to do the Penmachno trail near Betws Y Coed. Now I wasn't a bike mechanic at the time so I'd recently had my chain replaced and the bike serviced at a store. I won't say which one here. The first few kilometres were a dream. Dry dusty single track that wasn't too technical and flowed. As anybody that has been to the area knows the views ain't half bad either and my new smoke free lungs were enjoying the climbs. Then the gears started slipping at the rear.

This was problem number one, number two was when the chain dropped off the big ring, number three was when the chained dropped off the little ring and jammed between the bottom bracket shell and the chainset throwing me over the bars. Luckily I somehow managed to get my feet to hit the floor first but not without trapping my lower leg between my new tyres and the frame. Ouch! Seems the mechanic hadn't set the limit screws on the front mech or when changing a well worn chain changed a well worn cassette. To free the cranks I had to snap the chain and not having a spare link I had a 15km walk/push. On the plus side I learnt to maintain speed to avoid walking and it inspired me to become a mechanic.

mtn bike 1

So that is probably my worst day on a mountain bike. My best? Well I really don't know. It could be the day I did the long route at Nant Yr Arian and at times the puddles were axle deep. No must be the day I did Walna Scar and inched down the track terrified. No can't be that, It has to be the night time ride testing lights at Coed Y Brenin. I'm just being silly now, it was the time I did Skyline. That was the first big route I ever did but what about the time I crashed in a huge pile of leaves in Brechfa or the natural single track and slickrock of Gothenburg or when I cleaned Graveyard or the first time I ever rode a full suss in Chatel or....... and the list goes on and on. My girlfriend would say it wasn't the day I took her on the Marin and she grumbled all day. In her words "I took my bike for a walk in the woods" 

 I often say the simplicity of road cycling is what I like the most and sometimes mountain biking has too much faff. Certainly there is a lot more technology and kit involved in mountain biking with suspension setting, dropper posts blah blah blah and baggy shorts are annoying and noisy whilst hairy legs???? No way how do you show off calf definition with hair on them.

What muddy cycling does have is a lack of pretension. Roadies can be a miserable bunch that take themselves far too seriously which is one thing you can never accuse mountain bikers of even the best like Danny Hart, Steve Peat or Rachel Atherton. If you're ever in Morzine pop into the bars and just see how many mountain bikers are in there. Happy and enjoying themselves. You never see a miserable person in an Afan carpark after riding, everybody is smiling and laughing at they're mates crashing. Even when I ride alone afterwards you'll find me driving home with hair metal blasting out and the windows down and I challenge anyone to not sing the Star Wars theme on a flowing piece of single track through the trees. I'd recommend the red trail at the Forest of Dean centre for one of the best experiences of that. Even the organised events are fun. How many road races or sportives have you seen with a micro brewery serving free beer at the side of the route? Mountain Mayhem did.

mtn bike 2

The best bikes are very expensive but for around £300 you can pick up a decent enough hardtail that'll take you to the same places as a £3000 full suss. You can use your road kit as well if you mind being laughed at by the hairy ones. Most trail centres you'll even be able to hire a bike and kit. Beware of this though. A mate and I did this and stopped and bought a new bike on the way home.

As I write this I'm looking at the mist and rain in the Swansea Valley trying to work out if I'm going for a ride today. My roadie head says no but I should because I need to get those training miles in before the season starts. My MTB head is saying Oh yes wet, muddy it'll be fun to go and play on the pump track the kids built in the park, it'll be a laugh. 

Mountain Biking. It makes you happy.

mtn bike 3


Last modified on Wednesday, 22 February 2017 11:07
Stu Thomas

A former bank worker now working for a major national outdoor company Stu is an avid mountain and road cyclist and tests kit for MyOutdoors around the BreconBeacons and South Wales. As a member of South Wales Mountaineering Club stu, along with partner Julie (who also tests for us) also both climbs and walks. When not tearing up mountain bike trails Stu can be found on the road either commuting by bike or taking part in muscle draining sportives in the Peak District.

With his retail experience and insight Stu is able to help us with real time buying trends and reviews based on a wide range of kit for comparisons. Stu has also started writing for MyOutdoors Blog, first documenting his "conversion" to a road cyclist and soon to be reliving some of his recent cycle tours that have taken in both the Balkans and Estonia/Latvia. You may even be able to pick him out in photos of wild camping in Magillicuddy's Reeks on the site - Stu gets around!

Preferred activities: Hillwalking ,mountain biking, road cyclingg, climbing, skiing

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