Mountain Biking In Wales
A while ago when I was into mountain biking I used to spend most of my time riding very flat areas of Suffolk. I used to go out into the forests near to where I lived with a group of friends and we would have a great time finding new trails to conquer.
One day a member of our group, my next door neighbour, let’s call him Steve, because that’s his name suggested that we should all go on a long weekend trip to Wales where he told us that the mountain biking culture was really taking off and the trails were amazing and not to be missed. We all agreed that this would be a great thing to do, a real men in the wilderness adventure.
Steve said that he would take care of everything, the booking of a holiday cottage in Port Talbot, look for the best trails in the area and generally organise everything. Now whenever we did something organised by Steve, chaos was surely never far away. We should have seen it coming really but we were all very excited about the big trip and after all what could possibly go wrong.
I had for some time been thinking about buying a new bike and this would be the perfect opportunity for me to get one.
I scoured the internet and found just what I was looking for. An almost new Specialized Enduro Expert. I took a trip down to Surrey and the deal was done. I made a few little changes to it in readiness for our trip and locked it away in the shed.
The next morning I was awoken by the sound of raised voices coming through the wall from Steve’s house. I got up and went to find out what the commotion was. I should also say at this point that I could also hear a strange and very loud rumbling sound coming from the direction of the back garden. I looked out of my window and was greeted by a wall of flames around 15 feet high.
Where my shed used to be there now seemed to be a huge inferno. Next I heard several fire engines coming down the road. It was chaos. Steve had accidently set fire to the back of my shed at 5.30am. I still to this day don’t know how, but he had done a very good job of it. Inside there were at least 3 large gas cylinders which were now venting and turning my shed and all the contents of it into a makeshift crematorium.
That was the end of my new bike, as well as several others that were in there, totalling around £6000. All I found was a large blob of aluminium and a rear hub. This was not the start to the cycling trip I was expecting. After a few days of clearing everything up I now had to find another bike. This time I went for a brand new Specialized Stumpjumper. It arrived just in time for our trip. What an amazing bike it was, just what I needed to be hacking round the Welsh countryside.
The day arrived and we packed up Steve’s van and the five of us set off down the M4 towards Wales. It was around 5.30pm when we left so we knew we wouldn’t arrive till late. We got to Port Talbot around 11.30pm after stops and found our way up a very steep track in the middle of nowhere to an old cottage high above the town. It was dark, very dark but Steve said it was fine because he knew where the keys were. He routed around in a drain for a while, then behind a wall before coming back to the van keyless. He said he couldn’t find it anywhere. We all got out and were trying our best in the middle of the night to find the keys but to no avail. We were wondering why we couldn’t find it when after about 10 minutes Steve told us that he hadn’t actually confirmed the booking with the lady that owned the cottage. Tensions were running very high and I did think at this point that a fight was about to break out. Me and another friend went back to the van and cracked open a few tins of Guinness to pass the time and stop ourselves from killing him.
We sat in the van till 1.30am when the owner, bless her, came out to let us in so we could finally get some sleep. I say sleep because the mattress on my bed was more like someone had got a giant sack and filled it with old rope. I spent most of the night awake before retreating to the sofa down stairs. The next day everyone had calmed down and we got ready before heading off to Afan forest. Now this part of the trip was a great success.
If you haven’t been to Afan or that area, I would highly recommend it. The trails are amazing, purpose built for the job. We had the time of our lives and were fortunate enough to meet a local guy by the name of Wayne who showed us all the great trails in the area. At lunchtime we would go back to the cycle centre where you could sit out on the very large balcony and enjoy the amazing food that was provided by the staff at the centre restaurant. In the afternoon we headed off into the forest again before returning completely worn out.
When we got back Steve said he would cook us all a meal. He was going to make us all pasta. Unfortunately he hadn’t made it before and decided that to cook it all you needed to do was put dry pasta into a saucepan with a bit of sauce and heat it up. After a while we could smell a sort of burning coming from the kitchen. The pan was red hot, the pasta was smouldering away nicely and the room was now full of smoke. The fire alarms went off and no matter what we tried we couldn’t switch them off. We eventually killed the electrics in the whole place and after a while everything settled down. Oh well I thought at least I can have a good shower after getting filthy all day. Only I couldn’t, as there was no shower, only a dubious looking bath. The water pressure was non-existent as well, being a house at the top of a mountain on its own. We ended up having to stand in the bath using a small jug that we found in the kitchen to pour water on ourselves in an attempt to get cleaned up.
The next day was an improvement. We had breakfast down at Tesco’s in the town before heading off for the day. In the evening someone else cooked and we actually got to eat it. We also managed to buy a much bigger jug to use when washing. All in all it was a trip I will never forget, not just for the stunning views and fantastic trails but also for our own version of Frank Spencer, Steve who tried his best to provide us with a memorable weekend away. He certainly managed it. I haven’t been away with him since but I did hear that he had organised a couple of trips to France with similar goings on.