I took the train to Bristol to pick up a bike I bought on Ebay, a Kona Hoss, and a Bob Trailer and went onward to Port Talbot in Wales. From there I rode up to the Glyncorrwg mountain bike centre and got kitted out, with new tyres and SPD shoes, in Skyline Cycles, the resident bike shop.
I rode the 'Whites' Level' trail and 'The Wall' on the first day, Whites' Level and a bit of the Skyline on the second day and the Skyline on the last day. The Skyline was a 45m epic and reminded me why I love mountain biking with lots of single-track and custom-built sections hugging the side of the valleys with stunning views.
I am still strong and confident on my bike even though I haven't been mountain biking regularly due to being in London but it took a day of riding to get myself to push the bike forwards into the downhills and keep the momentum going. A first person, present-tense description of the experience:"
I swing my leg over the bike and clip in with a satisfying 'click'. I start the bike in a forward motion, grasp the handlebars with confidence and feel the vibrations from the earth through rubber and aluminium. The bike feels well balanced. I look ahead, super-conscious, widen my eyes and after a few seconds they begin to water.
The trail is rhythmic and I wrestle with it which is a strangely-satisfying, slightly frustrating, but continuous necessity. I clear a rock garden and let the bike flow, monitoring my speed and nerve. I feather the brakes, then hit some huge rocks like weighing scales gone crazy and they slow me right down.
I hit a puddle and crash into a section of loose rocks, which bounce the bike about. Briefly the experience feels pointless, wantonly pummelling body and machine and I'm in disbelief the wheels don't implode at any moment.
I wonder 'why?' and the answer is, in a nutshell: brilliant fun, combined with just the right amount of challenge."The mountain bike centre serves fried breakfast and Welsh rarebit. There is also cheap camping at £5 a night and shower and toilet facilities. Support mountain biking in Wales.