It’s Sunday evening…
- I have a new bike.
- I have a week off of work.
- I have to appear in court as a witness.
In the words of one of the world’s great philosophers… “Two out of three ‘aint bad”!
(Thank you Mr Meatloaf).
And so, in a weird sense of deja vu I’m back in the same Welsh mountains to conclude events that began unfolding only 6 weeks ago amongst the bike trails and campsites (see Midges and Maniacs parts 1 and 2).
Less than a fortnight after returning home in June an official looking envelope plopped onto the doormat requisitioning my presence in court regarding the campground attack.
Whilst shaken and disturbed by the incident, I’ll confess to being surprised the police actually thought it worth prosecuting being as no persons or property was damaged. However, the powers-that-be obviously thought so and frankly who was I to argue – seeing as travel expenses and some accommodation would be subsidised, it almost seemed rude not to make the most of those mountain bike trails one more time!
The cost effectiveness of the trip however begun to be called into question when I started entertaining the idea of a new bike, my first full suspension (or full-sus).
For the uninitiated/un-interested, this means a bike with springy bits at both ends. Much kinder when thumping down large drops or over trails strewn with head sized, rocky debris and potholes that could feasibly hide a small elephant.
After having briefly flirted with paying a near 4 figure sum, practicality and sanity kicked in in equal measure, and I’m really chuffed with the result. True to my usual bike acquiring form, my new toy is by no means brand new, it is however (big, pleased-with-self grin) a bit of a bargain. Its basic but light, functional Giant Yukon frame having been upgraded with Rockshox Reba front forks, Specialised bars, SRAM chainset, VM flat pedals and other lovelinesses.
The plan – to head back to Afan Argoed forest, with my friend and fellow witness – to spend the 3 glorious bike-filled, trail riding days before the court case, tearing round the dedicated MTB trails and single track.
Whilst my assimilation of the incident necessitating this return has progressed, it had not as it turned out progressed to the point of camping in the same area.
Prior to arrival a small internal battle had waged between my self-image of ‘independent, fearless woman who can camp anywhere’ vs irrational feelings of helpless panic at pitching a tent on the same remote camp grounds.
Much soul searching ensued (and friendly counselling from friends – a la “don’t be an idiot, stay somewhere comfortable”) before reluctantly opting to stay in a bed and breakfast for the duration.
Arriving near midnight in the small village of Glyncorrwg on a wet, blustery Sunday, the soul-searching receded. Backed-up a thousand-fold as it transpired by the 3 days of torrential rain that followed.
At this point, the joy of arriving back to a warm shower and soft bed (instead of a drafty tent) after a hard day on the trails was blissful beyond belief. My new favourite phrase for the trip…. “I’m so glad I’m not camping”!
Heading up to the trails the next day it was actually my first experience of the new bike. As a few bits and pieces of work needed doing prior to departure I’d not been able to ride it further than a brief potter to the local shops.
It wasn’t an instant bond. The gear set up (double front, 8 tooth back) meant a lower range of options than I would have liked. I tend to push bigger, heavier gears for more control and the current set up took some adjusting to. Add in a lower riding position from the rear suspension, by afternoon my legs were screaming at me, compounded by a stubbornly bent disc creating a braking effect up the hills.
Driving rain and a snotty cold completed the joy that first day.
Day 2 dawned ominously with black rain clouds spread across the day’s electronic forecast and sadly, also, outside the window. My cold having abated though it was time for another go at the trails.
Setting out I’d discovered my lovely new suspension had been somewhat hindered the previous day by the fact I’d locked out the front forks (user error). Rectifying this, the world became infinitely more springy and I began to hit my stride. Raising the saddle made a marked difference, my legs worked again and suddenly I’d got my mojo back.
Despite the relentless, driving rain, my riding started to sizzle. Possibly a combination of practice (in the ensuing weeks) and familiarity with the singletrack and trails, but it actually made sense. Rather than the kamikaze hang-on-and-pray approach I’d adopted last trip, I was now spending a much bigger proportion of my time actually steering and controlling the bike round corners, down drops and berms. I’d even estimate a heady 20-30% of the ride was under some semblance of control. Result.
The full-suspension also came into its own too. Previous trails, painfully, skull-rattlingly completed on the hard tail were skipped over effortlessly on the new bike. I could finally see what my companion meant by them being enjoyable. Without my brain rolling around in my head like a marble and my arms vibrated in to oblivion, it was nearly fun!
By day 3, the bike and I were definitely starting to build a relationship – in dating terms it would certainly be worth getting to know ech other more, maybe dinner and a film…..
As it was, we did do some filming. My friend, also a GoPro enthusiast, was obsessive about strapping these nifty little cameras in various positions on the bike and body. We then spent an enjoyable few hours on the deserted singletrack sections, repeatedly filming each other covering jumps, berms and drops, ad nauseam until we both had a snippet of film each which made us look considerably better than we actually were!
No more putting it off, the nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach, ever present for the last few weeks and growing throughout the trip now cranked up a notch. As the owner of the B&B wished us good luck (no doubt relived to get rid of the mud encrusted guests trailing filth through her home) it was time to face not just the court but also the person who precipitated that terrifying night-time ordeal a few weeks ago.
This is it……..To be continued