I think when you imagine going on a riding trip in Wales you think of beautiful valleys, sheep and the occasional country estate. The route to the Glyncorrwg mountain bike centre (the start of the Whyte’s Level trail) was not like this. It included busy roads, boarded up council houses and modified Novas.
It wasn’t all bad however, after exiting the town we were quickly in a wide, steep valley, and soon after that were sampling the facilities of the visitor centre, in my case two slabs of toast with baked beans that were finished by Simon – who had already eaten a fair sized packed lunch.
After everyone was fed we returned to the vehicles to sort out our bikes and dress accordingly for the gloomy day and light drizzle, with Fin generously lending three of us Marin bikes (which were superb in my formerly anti-Marin opinion).
We then set off along the river to the first climb, which was 45 minutes on rooty, rocky singletrack, broken by short sections of sweeping descent. We stopped frequently which gave everyone an opportunity to recover and an opportunity to be demoralised by Chris still smiling after every climb – he seemed to be unaffected by the effort it took us.
Despite the climbing being as fun as is possible I think we (maybe not Chris!) were more excited to reach the top and to know that we would mainly be descending from then onwards, the most memorable descent being the black route which took you over boardwalk and jumps before some steep rock chutes, where Mark became entangled in his bike after crashing on a steep 180 degree corner.
From this point we were descending most of the way to the end, with Bob always easily pulling away from me despite her claims that I would be faster. Rob was also happier on the descents – his skate shoes and baggy clothing more suitable for a long downhill that featured berms and tabletops, than the climbs he had earlier mashed up.
Finally – after Fin had jet washed the bikes clean and Andrew and I had braved the ice cold showers – we were back eating again in the visitor centre. All that remained was the drive home: Mark carrying all the bikes in his van, Fin with his new flashing light on his bonnet and Andrew trying every radio station in South Wales in our quest to sing along to Take That.