Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Mid Wales for the Weekend Anyone??

I was invited to a weekend staying in Rhayader with the Luddon Vale TRF group. The plan, slot into one of their groups and get out on a load of trails for the weekend. Ace!

Lucy was on a course in Shrewsbury Friday night to Monday night, so we drove down and I dropped her off en route, then down to the Lion Royal Hotel in Rhayader to meet up with the guys for a weekend of trails, mud, rivers and laughs in the beautiful Welsh countryside! the lady owner of the hotel was a lass who used to race bikes in her youth, so she's got some stories!!

Day 1.
Saturday morning dawned bright & pretty sunny which was an unexpected bonus, Simon T, our run leader for the day, got us all organised. The day was set up to be a long one, 152 miles in a south easterly loop back towards the English border and Hay on Wye. It soon turned out there were some great riders in the group, fast and slick. Simon had us on the system of leader leads, tail ender sweeps, rest do the gates, of which there are a fair few. This both used the time best and maintained the rhythm.


There was a good mix of lanes for the day, long high lanes with some great views, hillsides and villages peeking through the clouds down below. We saw plenty of Black and Red Kites often circling on thermals around us and a few Buzzards were seen floating around serenely above everything. After these gems we always dropped back down into the valleys heading through woodland, fields and onto those often hidden byways that run around the quiet little villages.

As the day wore on and the miles disappeared under our tyres, we all settled into the day, we had more of a laugh with each other as we got to chat about our backgrounds and lives. The camaraderie of trail riding is one of the more precious things and for me personally I've developed some great friendships because of it.

Trail riding is much harder than road riding, by a long way, and the difficulties overcome help people to bond and get to know one another. People are measured by their riding skill and attitude first, the bling comes after this and all the rest of the gubbings of life in a first world country fall away as your mind focuses on the task at hand and trying not to fall over again! This is what draws people to the trails, coupled with the enjoyment of the countryside and just being out on the hills with your bike. People who only drive a car on tarmac and never get dirty will never understand that sense of freedom that riding a motorbike can give to you. it's either a passion or not I guess as with all things.

Lunch was sandwiches in a petrol garage, clean the goggles time and stock up on chocolate for the afternoon part. The sun was still shining and the day was great. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else when the UK weather is being good!

We managed 126 miles of the route, mainly as we had set off well after 9am and it was dark by 5.30pm, if we'd have set off at 8am it would have been finished, but hey ho, it's a reason to go back again now!!

That night was meant to be a night in the hotel having a classic roast dinner, but I fed and walked the dog who was with me for the weekend, then did that fatal thing of 'just having a ten minute nap' and woke up at 10.30pm! Thereby missing dinner and I then couldn't be bothered to go for a beer.. shocker!!

Day 2 was 'Head West' time so we set off over to the Strata Florida via a few lanes. This was mostly a route I've done before, so I was more relaxed about the riding for some reason. We followed the same process, leader, tail ender etc, with everybody now into the groove but feeling tired after the rigours of the previous day. We had a couple of silly off's at the start, tyres caught 'cross rutted' and a little lack of attention but nobody or their bike was hurt so we carried on.

The Strata proved to be the lowest I've seen it so far, despite the rain of the day. So pretty straight forward and we were through it in less than an hour. Unfortunately for me I picked up a puncture in the front tyre. I seem to be having a spate of these at the moment!

So as not to hold the group up, (all of whom were on Mousses and Tubliss setup's), I opted to drop out so they could carry on and not get cold whilst waiting for me. Once we got to the road head, I found a convenient log pile to make a stand and whipped out the front wheel.

As I was changing the tube, a couple of cars went by and a welsh lad on a beautiful old 750 version of the Honda Africa Twin stopped to have a chat and make sure I was OK which was much appreciated.

Once I was sorted I got back on the bike and headed out on tarmac to the Beulah, where there is a fuel stop, I picked up fuel and removed the branch from my back wheel that one of the locals pointed out to me as we chatted and laughed about the lanes and the rain in Wales. Once back on the road, I picked up the original route and as I knew the lanes were pretty benign I jumped back on to the lanes whilst heading back to Rhayader and the van/dog!

Another fabulous weekend of trail riding, lots of great folk, all of whom had loads of tales to tell about their exploits, the fun and games of their days and routes. Hopefully I'll be able to reciprocate the welcome at some point in the future and also get to ride with some of the team again...

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