Bogs, Bruises and Bunk Houses, Big Nige’s infamous 2 day trail ride to Dolgellau, April 20th 2013.
A 5am start was needed for this weekend trail ride although Rob Strinati was so excited he’d hardly slept and arrived at Aberbeeg by 4.30am. Everyone else arrived by 6.00am and ready for the off, Andy Morgan set about taking on the hill climb before Big Nige pointed to the road and set off at breakneck speed to meet Barry Quibell at Llangynidr moor. A ride on the road to Bwlch, over to Talgarth and on to Glasbury garage left everyone with a numb face and hands – the sun was up but the temperature was positively not.
Coffee all round warmed everyone up although Andy opted for double chocolate and got more than he bargained for.
The first trail beckoned and the guys set off over the mountain to Hundred House and on to Llan’dod for breakfast at the garage by 10am. Some half price pasties and pastries provided the energy for the ride to Elan but not before a visit to the campsite that we plan to use for the annual pilgrimage that is the Welsh 2day.
Claerwen Dam was next up and a 9.5 mile blast around the res got the blood flowing and the backs aching.
By now it was a beautiful sunny day and the temperature had warmed up enough for the extra layers to come off although there was the odd patch of snow still visible on the highest peaks of the Cambrian Mountains.
The drop down in to Devils Bridge included some lovely green lanes although Andy Morgan, spending most of the day in his favoured ‘last man’ role pushed forward only to do his Superman impression after putting the front wheel in a bog and flying over the bars and walloping his left leg on the handlebar on his way past. He was rewarded with a nice little bruise as a souvenir of his flying visit.
By the time we reached the garage at Ponterwyd we were ready for icecream. It was still just 1pm and the guys were running exceptionally well without any major falls or mechanical problems. Someone must have spoken too soon as just before the off Ian Craig spotted a loose sprocket bolt on the KTM and then spotted another five. A bit of spannering ensued with various comments being thrown about including whether the previous owner of the bike (club treasurer) was responsible.
A run up the road past Nant Yr Arian and a loop on the mountain took us to Nant-y-Moch reservoir before a fast track towards Talybont took on some more bogs and saw some more Superman impressions. Rob Strinati managed a ‘Superman’ without actually letting go of the bars, although his KTM 200 squealed a bit as he opened the throttle wide while trying to stop his boots from passing his helmet. Paul Morgan chose a different line to Rob and a deeper bog. The Husky went in head first and Paul flew for Wales and needed last man Andy to drag the bike out. No harm done, just a few bruises to take home.
Some more lanes took us above the Dyfi estuary and down into Machynlleth and without stopping back onto the mountain towards the best view of the day.
The weather was so good that we had a view of the Snowdon peak at one point but even that couldn’t match the view of the seaside town of Barmouth. The tide was low and bathed in spring sunshine Barmouth, or Abermaw in Welsh, along with the Mawddach estuary and the peaks of southern Snowdonia in the background had to be seen to be believed. Picture postcard stuff, a quick photo wouldn’t do it justice. A quick ride along the track and off the mountain took us along the road to the railway bridge that spans the estuary. The bridge has a pedestrian footpath that takes a toll for motorbikes and is by far the best route into Barmouth. Next stop was for fuel at the garage on the side of the harbour but the owner had other ideas and had buggered off for his fish supper. With the two strokes on reserve and the Barmouth tourists giving us the ‘what the fuh’ look we blasted the six miles or so up the coast to the Smithy Garage at Tal-y-Bont for a fillup. Big Nige noticed that they sold ‘Restaurant quality Lumpwood Charcoal’ and a mental note was made. A quick check of the speedo showed 198.6 miles and exactly 12 hours of riding. We were all starting to show the strain.
The reason for the early start was about to be realised, the mountain loop above Barmouth is a typical stoney track with some big climbs, stepping stones and narrow stone bridges just to test the trials skills. The extra 30 mins sapped the stamina of some of boys who were by now crying for mercy. Big Nige, no doubt would have stayed till well after sundown but we managed to draw him into a race to the bunkhouse, and to our surprise we arrived while it was still light!
Dolgellau is a lovely Welsh town but they seem to have a distinct lack of pubs that want to sell you food. So we started with a pint which led to four before we realised the only place we could get some grub was the local Indian. 21 popadoms later we were surrounded by crumbs and empty plates before a taxi back to the Dolgun Uchaf Bunkhouse with the fastest taxi driver in North Wales and a delightfully peaceful sleep to the tune of Andy Morgans snoring – not even in the same league as our esteemed Chairman, Mark Evans.
A wonderful farmhouse breakfast helped us wake up and just as the rain came in we started the tinkering, I mean Bike Maintenance.
Sprocket bolts, exhaust brackets, engine casings, chains, wheel bearings, engine oil, chain lube, all were trumped by the Beta magic carpet which had decided to mix some water with the gearbox oil. Big Nige had a worried look on his face and even uttered the unmentionable ‘RAC’!
Some mountain bikers lent Nige there professional socket set and he did a make do and mend saying ‘we’ll see how it goes’. Luckily it did go. But the worry was written all over his face and day two was to become more of a road ride with some trails thrown in as we headed south nursing the Beta’s gearbox.
First though was the pilgrimage to an old club favourite named after our club president, ‘Lears Lane’. This short but sweet lane, just outside CrossFoxes, is the snottiest, most overgrown, root infested, boulder strewn, god forsaken green lane you will ever come across and is designed solely to ensure that your breakfast comes back into your mouth providing full value for money.
With steamy goggles and boiling bikes we had a blast down the road to Macynlleth with the rain stinging our faces. A few more flowing lanes to Rhayader via LLanidloes and a café stop for ‘Soup of the day’ kept us just ahead of the ‘Heavy rain’ that was forecast. We made good time and got outside Builth by 1pm and some of the typical Mid Wales lanes helped to build up a sweat.
Before we knew it the Black Mountains were in view and after a quick stop to enjoy the view and a top up of water for the Beta which was by now spewing a substance that can only be described as battleship grey Ski yogurt, we were off again.
The route over the mountain from Talgarth to Llangynidr tested the stamina and endurance with a 10 minute ride on the pegs whilst being chased by the rain. Into Bwlch and over the river bridge for one last lane through the farmyard and onto the mountain. Along the road past the future Heads of the Valley Motor park and the boys started to peel off to their various Valley’s heading South.
Home unusually early for a Big Nige trip, we were all more than happy to have had a quiet day two. Nigh on 400 miles, around 20 hours in the saddle, some great trails and good company.
Big thanks to Big Nige, great stuff once again, led all weekend, opened umpteen gates, even booked the bunkhouse, about the only thing he didn’t do was buy the beer! The Beta made it home, top marks. Richard Smith managed not to rub it in to brother Nigel too much so top marks to him. Paul Morgan finished a two dayer without a ride home on the road and without any broken bones, top marks. Barry Quibell didn’t crash into anyone, top marks. Andy Morgan, the club expert rider played last man all weekend without complaint (despite one or two riders slowing by the hour, ahem) top marks. Last but not least Rob Strinati on his first two dayer proved an able rider on the 200 KTM and extremely good competition for Jason Gurnett (Sun Holiday) racking up more toilet breaks than anyone could keep account of, top marks.
Overall bloody awesome! When’s the next one?
Ride report: (a completely knackered) Ian Craig.