Departure was meant to be 7.15 am, however I was running late and so Geoff picked me up at 7.30 and we headed off. Into 45 minutes worth of traffic so Geoff could collect his kung fu shoes from the post office depot the other side of town. Eventually having fought our way back across Maidstone we collected Paul and then off we went to pick up Nick.
I have no idea what time we hit the motorway but I think it was about 9 ish. Fortunately we did not seem to hit a lot of traffic but what traffic we did hit slowed us down for what seemed an age, it is always the same when you are excited to be at your destination isn’t it? We stopped twice for coffee and food and a very quick whip around for money for the Severn bridge into Wales (a ridiculous £6.80).
Finally we wound our way around and up into the Afan Valley and arrived at Afan Lodge, our home for the next 3 days. Only we were a little early (!?) which meant we could not sign in and get our rooms as they were not quite ready. However the owners (who are amazing) said we could use the facilities to get changed and head out for a ride and they would look after our stuff until we got back. Winning!
So all changed and ready to go we headed down to the lock up to collect our hire bikes (Nick and myself) and get bikes off the roof rack (Geoff and Paul).
Hire bikes are always a little bit of a lottery, sometimes they are perfect for you and very comfortable to ride and other times not so much. This time it would seem we have gotten lucky, although if I was to be horrendously critical I feel my pedals are too close to the ground.
Anyways the best thing about my hire bike is it is bright orange, so absolutely no complaints from me about that!
We set off to do the Wall route which I remembered from my last time in Afan. I don’t remember quite so much climbing on the fire roads though – seems a few parts along the way are closed over winter for repair and I can’t imagine the UK’s recent heavy rain has helped matters either. It’s also worth adding here that the first climb did not make me flake out this time! The difference was actually eating on the way to Wales and not relying on breakfast alone – lessons learned and all that.
So we climbed, climbed and climbed some more until we finally reached some downhill sections. I set the Gib-pro up for recording and off I went, my normal slow cautious self but much more confident and, I feel at least, much better in terms of form when riding along. The Gib-pro (Samsung Tocco in a pencil case) let me down a few times and I only managed to get two sections of footage.
The other downside is the heavens opened, a lot, it’s funny being on the mountains you can see the rain rolling in and then it hits you. Unfortunately this seems to happen in about 30 seconds. Which means that you get just enough time to say ‘look at the clouds I think it will rain’ and then you are drenched, all the way through which is obviously nice.
This meant that the footage from day one is both sporadic and very grim as the rain got everywhere. I also forgot to bring spare sellotape so am not sure how much of the second ride the Gib-pro will survive for but I am sure I will find a way around it, somehow.
I managed to climb a fair bit, but even with getting gearing right and staying in my saddle there were parts where I had to push, I am just not a very good climber on the bike. I am much better than I was in October but it is all still a work in progress. Maybe one day I will be better?
There were a few crashes, Geoff fell off just outside the grounds of the lodge trying to be clever and ride down wet steps. He then managed to crash incrementally and in slow motion which was both hilarious but also a bit of a warning that even the best rider in our group could get things very wrong. He was I think lucky he landed fairly softly as it might have ended his riding there and then.
Nick (human) managed to forge a new trail and go into a tree, or something, I am not too sure as I was not present but apparently it was funny.
The biggest bail of the day goes to Paul who from the sounds of it managed to overcook and turning ended up off track and went head first over his handlebars. All still with one foot clipped in. He has a nice bruise forming on his thigh and was quite shaken by it all. Absolute hats off to him as well as he then went on to complete the final section ‘Zig Zags’ which is the hardest section on the Wall. By his own admission at the time he had lost his nerve but he still rode it and there were sections on there that were quick even if you were pretty hard on the brakes – I know because I was!
Then it was back to the lodge to clean the bikes down. Once we were back the rain, naturally, stopped and we were left very wet and very muddy. Room keys handed out, signed for and paired off we set up to our rooms for hot showers and cups of tea. I am sharing with both Nicks the only downside to the room being that there is no Wi-Fi and the TV reception is a little dodgy.
That of course is a minor gripe.
So dinner time rolled around and a few beers were sunk, some mountain bike videos were watched and lots of food was consumed. Nick managed to devour ribs and chicken, Paul had lasagna, Geoff a steak and I chomped down on some surf and turf. Pudding, of course, followed!
Then it was a relatively early night, we were all very tired from the drive and first days adventures on the mountains in the Afan Valley.
Hopefully day two will bring some better weather and another safe day mountain biking.