Saturday, October 27, 2007

Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Gychwyn

After competing in the Helly Hansen adventure race the previous week, and still up for more challenges, John and Jon decided to head off to sunny Wales (well that’s what BBC weather site forecast) with Mrs John to tackle what has been called Mountain bikers Nirvana, Afan Forest Park. Concerned for the fearsome reputation of the Gaelic tribes (Twll dîn pob Sais! Ed.) we thought it best to go up in force, so teamed up with a posse that Ad and Ju had put together. With bikes prepared, Vince the camper van loaded with provisions and sufficient nutrition for the forthcoming assault (Al would have approved of the energy bars and drinks that J & J had prepared, but not the choice of music that accompanied the journey) the trio headed off on Friday night to Devizes to rendezvous with TCA veterans Ad and Ju.

Once ensconced in their house, having eaten and drunk Ad and Ju out of house and home, we went to bed at a reasonable time, as an early start was needed to get to Afan for a 10am start the following day.On arrival in Wales (just over the Severn Bridge) guess what..? It was raining! As we headed to Afan the rain got steadily worse. On arrival at the Glycorrwg campsite in Afan Park, we met up with the other intrepid adventurers: Scott the single speed king; Charlie Boy; Charlie Girl and Ed. After some debate the group split into 2, with Ju's heading off to the main park centre to meet with 3 more riders, where an assault on the “Wall” trial took place. The rest of us then decided to attack the infamous “Skyline” trail, or at least part of it as the weather was truly disgusting.

Croeso i Gymru

In for a penny and in for a pound, Mrs John decided that she too would come with us , on the basis that apparently after a fairly short but technical start the trail became easier. It should be pointed out at this stage that the only “serious” off road riding Mrs John had done up to this was some single-track riding in the relatively flat Thetford Forest, two weeks previous. The start was extremely technical due in part to its design, route, the presence of lots of boulders, tree roots, switchbacks and extent of the vertical ascent, but the extreme wet also added to the difficulty. After what seemed an age and with the majority of the group having to wait for the struggling but determined Mrs John (at this stage let’s introduce her real name - Emma) and her concerned (and feeling very guilty for getting her into this) husband, we arrived at the top. (it should also be added that although at times Em’s sense of humour failed, at no times were there any expletives or threat of divorce mentioned, unless that was they were under her breath).

Emma (centre) , still smiling!

The trail then switched on to mixture of forest fire break tracks, single track, with some spectacular downhill’s and allegedly some equally spectacular views over the Welsh hills (well that’s what Jon told John!), but being up so high and that we were in the rain cloud, this could not be validated. Due in part to the time it had taken and the fowl weather conditions the group decided to take one of the short cut routes back to the start. Up to this point the intrepid seven had suffered a number of falls, but Em was to suffer one which prevented her from riding further (it’s not so easy steering when one arm refuses to play). Fortunately a jeep appeared soon after Em’s fall with a very helpful couple of guys in who were doing a reckie for a forthcoming RAC rally in the park. Em and her bike were loaded into the Jeep for a trip back to the campsite (with mobile phone to let us know she had arrived safely). Joking aside the guys were very helpful and went out of their way to help so John owes them a debit of extreme gratitude. On the way back down to camp they gave Em lots of useful info about the area, think they were worried about her going into shock so just kept on talking to her (sometimes in Welsh). The infamous 6 continued onward - tackling an excellent, but technically and physically demanding downhill section - back to the site. The excitement for the day was not over; with several of the group suffering from falls, and one puncture, but all eventually made it back down in one piece. Back at the campsite the bikes were all jet washed down, the riders put themselves through cold showers (they were supposed to be hot, but the water tanks could not cope with the volume of people needing showers that day…still charged 50p for the privilege)!

In the Touchdown Café the group tucked into some excellent cakes and hot drinks, and collectively decided that we would call it a day and head back to their respective homes. The weather forecast for the following day was as bad, the campsite was looking like a water meadow, plus the promise of warm beds, the thought of a lie in (plus the extra hour in bed due to change to GMT), Sunday papers, Sunday roast, etc etc (you get the idea) all contributed to the decision. Vince was packed up with soggy clothing and tired, cold riders (John, Jon and Em). We set off home, arriving some 3.5 hours later, in time for Jon to get home to order his takeaway curry. Afan park offers an extremely diverse range of trails, all of which clearly have been thought through and are well maintained. The campsite at Glycorrwg offers a good site with, showers, an excellent café open to 10pm and a very good mountain bike shop. Despite the weather and difficulties encountered, John and Em were very happy to be asked along, as the group were all very friendly, helpful, and patient, and despite all there was still an excellent sense of humour present. Ad and Ju’s hospitality was much appreciated on the Friday night so we will hopefully be getting back to Afan at some stage next year, but better prepared next time (including first aid kit and strong painkillers)…and hoping for some good weather (Don't bank on it - it is Wales after all! Ed.)

(Posted by: John)

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At 4:23 pm, October 30, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

True TCA weather, well done chaps!


At 4:52 pm, October 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was proper Adverse Weather if you ask me! It was a great ride though, Sorry Em and John for putting you through that! And well done Scott for once again showing us that he is truly mad in completeing the route on his trusty Singlespeed! Well done everyone!


At 4:54 pm, October 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way what does the title mean, is it rude?


At 6:26 pm, October 30, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Mud and plenty of it ! fantastic! This looks like a great ride and good to see all the usual suspects out, Well done Em also. I look forward to having a crack at that one next year myself.
Scott stil using that single speed machine - show off.


At 6:48 pm, October 30, 2007, Blogger Tortoiseshell said...

"By the way what does the title mean, is it rude?"

Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Gychwyn ("The Red Dragon bestows momentum / impetus / a bit of welly") is the "official" motto of Wales - rather dubious as it was "bestowed" upon us by HM the Queen back in the 1950s.

Few self-respecting Welshmen would stagger home from the pub on a Saturday night shouting "Y Ddraig Goch Ddyry Gychwyn!".

"Twll Din Pob Sais", on the other hand, is another matter altogether. It can be heard rather more frequently ringing around the hills and vales...

There is some legitimate conjecture, however, (even among fluent Welsh speakers) as to whether "Twll Din Pob Sais" means "Every Englishman is an a*sehole", or, on the other hand, "a*seoles to the English". The problem is that there is no verb in the sentence. Both versions are valid translations.

At 9:14 pm, October 30, 2007, Blogger Ju's little sister said...

Another great write up, thanks TCA! And well done to Emma too, I'm definitely impressed. How did Ju and Ad's group go? Sounds like they made it back in one piece... maybe they were slacking off? Tee Hee, only kidding. How disapointing about the weather.

TS - cheers for the translations, that's interesting. Would you beso kind as to translate the captions too for us please?



At 10:25 pm, October 30, 2007, Blogger simon said...

Gawd! looks awful.. all that mud and slush.. Wish we had some here though!

Can I ask- How often do you have to replace chains and sprockets in conditions like that?

I have had my bike for 2 years now. 2 chains, and 2 front rings replaced as well as 2 tyres...

I am interested in comparing the conditions you ride in with that of the Blue mountains..

At 1:12 pm, November 01, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

'Croeso i Gymru' simply means 'Welcome to Wales'


At 1:14 pm, November 01, 2007, Blogger TCA said...


Personally I go through about one chain/sproket set on an annual basis - if one pays attention to cleaning the bike properly after use it and uses the appropriate lubricants the condition should have no significant bearing on the lifetime of these components.

Jon on the other hand seems to replace chains on an almost monthly basis (I exagerate) but I think that might be his gear-changing technique rather than the conditions of the terrain!


At 2:01 am, November 02, 2007, Blogger simon said...

Thanks Worzel. I replaced the small ring at the front because the terrain i am in is very steep.. I seem to grind up the hills and then go flat out ( without pedaling) down the other side...

At 5:34 am, November 02, 2007, Anonymous spm said...

It never ceases to amaze me how TCA members just get on with things in the face of adversity but this is a first - fowl weather! Was it raining hens and chickens?

At 10:11 am, November 02, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, at times is was indeed raining Hens and Chickens, it also rained foxes and pelicans at times and K9's and felines!!! A thouroughly foul weather day!

Good though all the same.....

To clarify the question from JLS; Ju went off with Gill, Ian and
'new comer Tim' and tackled 'The Wall' trail they got around a little quicker that the big group which I was in..... its obvious that the mini group were high on steroids, whilst the big group lapped up the rain and cold!


At 6:50 pm, November 02, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Ad - That sounds like an excuse to me? Sounds like a top venue with a number of knarly trails.


At 7:47 am, November 04, 2007, Blogger TCA said...


I couldn't agree more - these youngsters can't half moan...

Now, in our day times were really tough - I wonder how the new breed would have coped.


At 2:09 pm, November 05, 2007, Blogger Big Sis Ju said...

Well JLS

I was just too lazy to write up the Wall which was great, my favourite of all the routes and about 23K long with a killer up hill section and wicked down hill single track sections. We didn't take any pics as we were way to speedy (ha ha yeah right!) but had a blast. Will take pics and do a write up next time - promise.


At 2:35 pm, November 05, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

NEXT time?!

That is unless you are banished from the TCA for you shoddy display of recording keeping!



At 7:30 pm, November 09, 2007, Anonymous spm said...

Strictly speaking (apologies for rather bad pun)Gaelic is the Celtic language spoken by the Irish, Scots and Isle of Man. Welsh is the celtic language spoken by the welsh. In otherwords the TCA were not mixing with the Gaelic tribes but the celtic tribes.
Yes I know its boring but some one has to look after the geography and who better than a planner!

At 9:22 pm, November 14, 2007, Blogger Ad said...

I just wanted to let someone know that I have finnaly got around to getting a display name - hooray!!!

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