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.

- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Steven Carpenter

    As usual – you're being very kind! I hit a complete energy wall at about 20KM and couldn't muster any energy whatsoever to pedal the final 2KM of seemingly relentless uphill. After a hot bath and a decent night's sleep though, I'm feeling quite pleased that I even attempted 35KM and got as far as I did, and I really think that was one of the best all-round routes we've done. The scenery was fantastic, particularly the lakes and that wonderful view of the coast. The riding was so varied – rutted tracks, big puddles, squishy mud, grass, scree, singletrack, rollers, tarmac – you name it, we rode over it, or through it without falling off.

    My rear pads are indeed knackered – closer inspection revealed one pad to be through to the metal and the other was almost through. Although they were low before we started, I'd expected them to last this ride at least, but I guess I was a bit heavy on them. The front system appears to have some air in, so a complete brake overhaul will be needed before heading out again. Having the back of the bike intermittently dragging you back, while the front lever goes all the way to the handlebar does little for your confidence over slippery rock step-downs.

    Despite nearly requiring an air-lift out of there, the main thing that I'm thinking about now is that poor MTB-er we saw coming the other way at about 18KM in. Wonder if he ever found his car-keys?

    02 Apr 2006, 23:02

  2. James

    Well…that sounds awsome…will have to do that ride soon…

    myself…after my trip to Cwmcarn last week i was feeling like a true all round mountain biker…so, when I had a headache and couldn't face tescos Meg sent me off on the bike (as it lives in the car currently) to ride back to the boat….

    within two minutes i'd decended some steps and promptly stacked at the bottom…

    such is life…

    bring on the sun!

    03 Apr 2006, 09:55

  3. Greg Barton

    Sounds good – I was just wondering if you're interested in (if you're not already a member of) the university mountain biking club? Our website is www.warwickbike.co.uk if you are interested. We have several trips a term, and are currently planning to go to Scotland and ride the 7 Stanes trails at the end of this term (week 10, that's round about the 20th June). We've had weekend trips to Coed-y-Brenin and Nant-yr-Arian over the past two terms, and day trips to various places including Cannock Chase and Cwmcarn.

    Cheers, Greg

    17 Apr 2006, 18:23

  4. Jonathan Banks

    I am soooo jealous… Yes I know it's all nice and sunny here in Oz (apart from the last couple of days of course, it's been raining far too much ha ha!!!), there's not many MTB'ers on the farm, quad bikes and V8 ute's seem to rule… and it's sandy!!!! Argh!!!.... definately sucking wind and flys more that hitting the tracks.
    Winter's now on the way in so have gone for the training bike in the house option….
    Hope those technical issues get resumed soon… I can definately recommend slime innertubes to combat those pesky thorn's….


    18 Apr 2006, 05:32

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