All entries for Sunday 02 April 2006

April 02, 2006

Nant yr Arian trip report

Spring is finally upon is, so Steve and I decided to start the mountain-biking season with a trip to somewhere new.

Nant yr Arian is another one of the Welsh MTB centres, about 10 miles inshore from Aberystwyth. It shares its start point with a Red Kite feeding centre, so whilst I faffed around trying to re-assemble my bike, we watched a pair of kites circling only a few metres overhead.

We chose (or rather, I chose, and didn't tell Steve :-) ) to do the longer of the three available trails; the 35 KM Syfydrin trail. It started with the traditional fireroad climb, followed by a twisty singletrack section on loose slate – interesting on the corners. After another short fire-road, though, the route changed from the usual hand-built singletrack, and instead started following landrover tracks over the surrounding mountains. The views were spectacular, which made a pleasant change from the usual fayre at Afan or Coedy, where generally all you get to see is trees. Here we had wide sweeping expanses of moorland, dotted with lakes, with Kite and Buzzards overhead, and not a building as far as the eye could see.

After about an hour and a half we stopped for lunch, then attacked a technically rocky descent, on which I managed to pinch-flat. I swapped the tube, then imediately managed to rip the valve seal whilst inflating the new one. Tube number 2 went in OK, and we pedalled off, only to skid to a halt 100 yards further on when the outer tube came unseated from the rim. Fortunately it didn't puncture again, and I was able to sort it out – although in the process I realised I'd left both dust-caps and lockrings behind when I fixed the last puncture. Sigh…

Finally I got everything working again, and we set off once more. A long rocky descent bought us down from the mountains, and we rode through a couple of little villages before a long, long climb, on tarmac, then double-track, then fire-road back up and over the hills towards the start point. The scenery here was equally fantastic, as we climbed gently up the sides of an incredibly steep U-shaped valley straight out of a geography textbook. Steve was starting to tire at this point, but we kept pushing on. Finally, we topped out, and were rewarded with a fun section of singletrack which featured dozens of little hip jumps, each with a well-thought-out landing and runout (except a couple of 'surprises'). The Coiler's suspension got a good workout here as I dared myself to get more air with each kicker.

Now we reached a decision point. With 25K done, we could either take a 5K route directly back to the carpark, or a 10K one that would allow us to pick up some more singletrack descent. Of course, the 10K route was the one to choose… A short climb bought us to the start of the descent; first a fast rocky doubletrack, then a long, winding singletrack through the trees, festooned with hairpins, rollers, and cheeky little off-camber sections. As we decended, the squeak which Steve's back brake had been giving out earlier in the day developed itself into a much more significant-sounding metal-on-metal scrape. On finally reaching the bottom, inspection revealed that one of his pads was worn down to the metal – oops. He also had what appeared to be an air bubble in the front brake's hydraulics, resulting in slightly random stopability.

After the fun of that descent, of course, there was a price to be paid. 2KM of relentless fire-road climbing. Steve, it's fair to say, had had enough by now – or at least his legs had, and he was reduced to pushing for some of the climb. As we climbed I watched a pair of buzzards being mobbed by a few crows. They eventually got rid of them, and resumed circling above us, presumably so that they'd be first in line when the hill finally finished us off :-)

Eventually it came to an end, and we found ourselves at the top of the final singletrack section. The weather, which had held off until now, dumped a brief hailstorm on us, and I was forced to break out the emergency jelly babies. Thus fortified, we set off; me caning it as fast as I could, Steve following at a more circumspect pace since he now had little or no braking power. We finally made it into the car park 4.5 hours after setting off, scraped off the worst of the mud that had covered us, and set off for the long drive home.


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