I have been coordinating the rides for the club for the past two and a half years. This involves a lot of asking the ride leaders team for new rides and negotiating dates for the rides. As part of this I feel it is only fair to lead a few myself.
I decided that it was my turn to lead a ride, but didn’t have a lot of time to recce a route. At the time of planning the local trails that I know well were a bit of a mudbath. What to do? A trial centre seemed like the logical all weather anwer. In a fit of optimism about my fitness levels I decided on Cwmcarn.
For those that do not know, Cwmcarn has two marked red graded XC trails and some downhill runs. We rode the Twrch trail as part of Andy’s “Next Steps Rides” earlier in the year. This left Cafall as the logical choice for this ride. Which happily is my favourite of the two XC trails.
I put the ride in the calendar and on a quiet Sunday rode it with Graham Burgess (who was slightly frustrated at my lack of pace). The good news from the recce was that my riding of the more technical sections of the trail had improved allowing me to ride all of it without getting off and walking bits. The bad news, my lack of fitness combined with 800 metres of climbing. Too late now the ride was advertised and folks had said that they were attending.
The day of the ride itself dawned and I headed down a foggy M4 to Cwmcarn. When I got there the car park was fairly busy with bikers unpacking bikes. I spotted and parked next to Pete and Hilda. A few minutes later Nik found us. After a bit more chatting Phil and Gary turned up to complete our group.
Giving a warning about my lack of fitness and speed I headed off at the front for the initial climb. This is the part of Cwmcarn that the two red trails share and the part I least enjoy. You are climbing immediately from the car park. I was quite buoyed by the fact that I was catching two riders ahead. As we got to where the trail crosses a footpath I stopped to allow the group to regroup. Unfortunately there was really no need. They were all on my tail along with another five riders. Any way I was faster than two riders up there 😉 I allowed the other group to pass and explained that the next section contains a section of trail that I struggle with (a short rocky uphill section). Everyone took me up on my offer of going ahead of me. I followed and found that some of our number struggle just as badly as me on that section.
All safely at the gatehouse on the fire road we reached the point where the red trails split. We headed left up the steady Cafall climb. The climb took us up through a wooded section, into the open again and then back into the woods where the trail presents its first surprise. You’ve just got used to steady climbs interspersed with short steeper sections when you are presented with the first techy downhill bit. I found Pete and Hilda very sensibly looking at the section. Having been down it a few times I rode it to show them a route through. I was quickly followed by Hilda and Pete. The trail then headed up again and we slotted into a pattern of Gary and Phil at the front followed by Nik and I, with Pete and Hilda at the back. Gary introduced me to the concept of a section being “rollercoastery”. My description was up.
Finally all of this climbing was rewarded with a down. Rocky Valley is a cracking little section you head off on a steep rocky section before heading back into the woods. Here the trail undulates allowing loads of free speed by pumping the bike. At the end you leave the trail via a short rocky descent. I got there behind Gary, Phil and Nik. From our vantage point on the fire road we watched Pete and Hilda approach. They stopped to look at the descent. Hilda started and stopped an initial attempt. Not to be beaten she pushed back up the trail and cleared the section. No small achievement on a hardtail.
We then headed up again. This time the climb would take us to the top of the hill. Where I called a stop to take some pics, gets some snacks on board and generally try to get my breath back. Happy in the knowledge that 80% of the rest of the route was down we headed on. I let the faster boys go ahead. The next section, Dragon Run, is one of my favourites. I loved the winding through the trees followed by the switch backy descent. From the smiles on faces at the bottom of this bit. I think the others did too. Our next stop was Heartbreak Ridge. This section has some obstacles that look way worse than they actually are. I explained this to the group before we headed off. Everyone took this in their stride and we headed for my nemesis on this trail. After the ridge you again dive into the woods. The trail really starts to flow and then you are presented with a sharp right turn into a short steep descent. Everytime (bar one) that I have got here my inner coward has overruled me and I have stopped. I put him safely in his box and rode through that bit. As did everyone else.
We were on the homeward leg now and we dived into the next section. Confidence high as we enjoyed the flowy sections through the woods. That’s where I literally put my foot in it. Clearing a rise at speed I managed to hook my foot in a root at the side of the trail. The next thing I knew I was flying through the air rapidly heading for a tree. I rolled as best I could and was rewarded by my bike landing on me. I waited for the inevitable pain to cut in and was surprised only to hear Nik asking if I was ok. I definitely got away with that one. A little bit shaken I continued on to find the others looking slightly concerned at the end of the section.
Still in a little bit of shock I let the others head on ahead while I trundled down the next section. A bit of a shame really as the switchbacks through the woods are great fun. More importantly the rest of the group seemed to be having a good time ahead. This only left the final descent to the car park. This is a cracking little section and helped me get a bit of confidence back. I think this was some of our number’s favourite part of the trail. All safely down we went our separate ways. Gary and Phil to do a lap of Twrch. While Nik and I opted for “tea and medals” at the cafe.
I really enjoyed the day and hope the others did to. Getting out and having fun on bike. What the club is all about 🙂