Guess Who’s Back?

Cwmcarn Twrch Trail
Twrch – Very Open for Business

Its been closed for some time due to a disease spread among the Larch trees, a problem that has affected a number of trail centres across South Wales over the last few years and has changed the landscape, in some places beyond recognition.

But now the Twrch is open again!

More than 160,000 larch trees will be felled around the Cwmcarn Forest Drive area over the next 18 months to two years. The tricky terrain means that every tree has to be felled by hand and then winched up to the drive. The process is labour-intensive and expensive. About 2,000 lorry loads of larch timber will be removed from here to a saw mill in mid-Wales designated to process the diseased timber. It will be used to make furniture and fibreboard. – Guardian, May 2015

Continue reading “Guess Who’s Back?”

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A Boot Full Of Bike

A Boot Full of Bike

Following on from yesterday’s post about going on club rides here is a very quick summary of what happened today (and a picture of my muddy bike in the boot (trunk) of my car).

We got wet!

Today the rain in Spain rained mainly in Wales and I think on Cwmcarn in particular. 15 of us drove to Cwmcarn each probably travelling at least an hour each way to ride in the wettest conditions I have ridden in for ages. By the end of the ride we were all carrying a few extra litres of water drenched into our coats, jackets (there’s a difference in Wales), shorts, sock, pads and gloves…

Aside from the rain, the ride today with MB Swindon was a good one. The Twrch Trail at Cwmcarn is a pretty tough climb for a novice or some one who is out of shape – like me. The technical elements of the various climbs are no problem in isolation, but the climb especially a continuously technical one such as this, can suck the energy out of you making some obstacles harder than they actually are.

Assuming you have chosen the right line through an obstacle a simple rear wheel lift is the skill that you will find most useful on a technical climb like this; hopping over rocks and thick wet roots are straightforward when done correctly. Approach the obstacle with plenty of forward momentum, lift the front wheel and keep pedaling. As your front wheel finds some grip and the rear wheel approaches the root, step or rock flick the rear end of the bike up while continuing to move forward. Judge it right and your rear wheel will land in just the right place and your feet will be positioned such that you are ready to continue pedaling, hopefully before you have lost any speed. I theory all of the above happens in about a second and you will hardly notice yourself doing it after a while.

Cwmcarn drains really well in the rain so apart from the low sections near the river, there is actually very little mud even after and during a down pour like we had today. Though the rain can wash away dirt leaving more and more exposed rock and roots making the tricky climb even more fun!

I would recommend Cwmcarn to anyone of a moderate fitness level and the loop we did today can be achieved in about 90 mins – it took us a little longer as there were 15 of us and we opted to loop around the free ride section twice.

Twrch Trail
Twrch Trail

I need to do a proper write up of the ride for the club this week and will link back here as soon as I’ve done it.

If you want to learn some MTB skills try an MB Swindon trail skills course.

Club Rides

MB Swindon Club RidesClub Rides are a great way to get out and expand your mountain biking horizons. Not knowing where to ride or what it will be like when you get there can be a little ! Going with a club is a great way to soften the blow, so to speak. However it can be daunting the first time you go out on a club ride and meet a bunch of new riders. Am I going to be fit enough to keep up? Are they going to be fast? What if I can’t do it? What is “it”?

What’s more your first trail centre ride can be very scary. Some mountain bikers will be fitter than others, some will be looking to hit the jumps and ride off what look like cliffs to start with… But mostly mountain bikers will be supportive and chatty. There will be some banter and you may be the slowest and least skillful in the party but that doesn’t matter and it wont last long.

Join a club, find a local bunch of riders and ride regularly. A properly organised club will have a club ride etiquette and everyone’s skill level will be taken into consideration. Some clubs will even grade a ride so you know before hand what to expect.

I have mentioned previously I ride with MB Swindon as often as I can and as far as organising rides go they do an excellent job. Every ride has a dedicated web page and Facebook event detailing a meeting point, the type of terrain, how long you can expect to be out, an ability rating (Novice etc) and even what refreshments (tea and cake usually) you can expect to find!

All mountain bikers like cake – haven’t met one yet that doesn’t!

Usually there will be a review or report of a past ride to that spot or some comments from the recce that someone has done. Basically it’s rarely unknown territory and you can prepare yourself accordingly.

Tomorrow is one of those occasions I ride with MB Swindon and we heading to South Wales to Cwmcarn. Cwmcarn Forest is home of the Twrch Trail, and is around a 15km trail of the very highest quality that is not for the faint hearted. Virtually the entire route is on purpose-built single-track through woodlands and open ridge tops.

The riding varies from open and flowing hard pack to tight technical & rooty and is rideable in all-weather, with a steep climb at the start followed by a rollercoaster decline with dramatic views of the River Severn and surrounding hills on clear days. I am expecting some snow to be still lying on the hill top and a bit of rain and mist at the car park.

Cwmcarn is also destination for downhill enthusiasts and the in places “black” rated Y Mynydd course consists of one man-made downhill Trail with a choice of lines on the top and middle sections. The course demands a high level of skill (and some guts). According to the website “these are extreme downhill trails and are suitable for experienced riders only.” I have ridden there before and ridden it in snow and ice. It’s not too bad, you can ride it hard or roll most of it. A ride report and some photos tomorrow.

Mountain Bike Snow