Arm Pump, Chain Slap, Pedal Strikes and lots of bone shaking; all things that are missing from road cycling (some more ‘sorely’ missing than others, literally).
Having bought Podgy, my road bike earlier this year, I’ve been spending a lot of time with my ‘new toy’. And it’s been great, don’t get me wrong, but I have neglected my mountain biking a little I think. So yesterday on my way back from a trip to Cardiff I managed to squeeze in a visit to Cwmcarn, even with the shortening daylight hours.
Just a short detour off the M4, £1 for 2 hours of parking and 18 km of challenging mountain biking. That’s exactly what Cwmcarn has to offer. I think this is probably my 3rd visit now and each time I’ve ridden the Twrch trail, previously this was because the newer Cafall trail didn’t exist, this time it was just a case of sticking to what I know in these wintery months. It’s a good reminder though, that I need to come down to South Wales for a longer visit at some point and spread the riding net a little wider.
So with the bike prepped and ready I headed off up the hill. Cwmcarn packs almost all of the climbing into the first half of the ride and then sends you back down again whooping and hollering in the second half. This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy the first half; the climb is far from boring. It’s tough and the technicality of the climb gives you plenty to keep your concentration keen.
There’s also plenty of scenery to check out on the way too; I especially like the sections alongside the stream and the little bridge at the end before you turn back on yourself and head off up steeply. It’s pretty much singletrack all the way, towards the top there is a section of forest road but it doesn’t last that long and it’s probably welcome respite from all that climbing anyway, especially if you find yourself struggling.
Upon reaching the top take a few moments to appreciate the view and drop your saddle for the descent. There are a couple of options at the top here and I took the furthest right trail; not the one shown in the photo. Whichever you choose you’ll end up at the same place at the end anyway.
The descent down from the top is not entirely unbroken and there are still a couple of upward moments, although only one that’s significant. But for the most part it’s all ‘point and hang on’ as you plummet down the hillside on a surface of decent sized rocks. There were plenty of moments in my ride where I lost my feet on the pedals and plenty more where I’d wished that I’d let my tyres down a little back in the car park. Maybe it was my rear tyre pressure, maybe it was the fact that MuddyGoose is an aluminium hardtail but either way it was a struggle at times to keep the back end in check as it bounced and skipped over the rocky surface.
And if ‘utilised fork travel’ is a gauge of how much fun you’ve had on a ride, well then I certainly got my money’s worth. Fortunately I had my sprayer with me in the car, so I gave the bike a quick rinse down before packing away. Then it was back to the motorways and the traffic heading north east. South Wales; I will be back, I promise!