Sunday 24 August 2008

Trail centre fatigue

The Wales trip took in three trail centres in the end - Afan, Brechfa and Coed y Brenin. And I'm not really sure I like them, or the concept. I've done mostly natural riding in the past so this was a bit of a change for me.

What I liked:
  • The lack of having to think about where I was going. It was just ride, ride, ride.
  • The facilities (at Afan and Coedy)
  • Something else (which I'll cover at the end...)

What I disliked:

  • The lack of having to think about where I was going. I enjoy the navigation, the getting lost, the feeling of being "out there" in the country. Following handy sign posts took all this away.
  • The facilities closing early, so when I wanted cake there was no cake to be had.
  • Riding a route that felt "built", rather than evolved. You know, that big rock is there because the trail builders thought it would be a good place to put it - not because that's where it's always been. Coedy was particularly annoying for this reason - "hey, lets put in 100 yards of medium slabby rocks contouring down the hill, not too steep, not too varied". Yes, but very very dull after the first 10 yards. I can ride the 10 yards fine, it wasn't fun or exciting, why continue for another 90?
  • Big gangs of people being out, who all disappeared when it started raining. Thinking about it, the cafe was packed at about 1pm. We did a shortish trail 1.30 - 2.30 (where there were loads of people about), then a longer one 2.30 - 4. We didn't see anyone on the second trail, apart from one bloke taking a short cut back because his leg was leaking. Where did everyone go? Did they, and their bikes disolve? Were they really made of sugar?

Now, the "something else" that I liked is sort of against what I said about not liking the "built" feel of the trails. I liked Brechfa Blue - and this was the most obviously man-made trail we did. It was to mountain biking what a velodrome is to road cycling. Surfaced, swoopy, jumpy and not trying to be "natural" or "blend in". Jon called it a big BMX track, and that's a great description. It was all the better for not pretending to be something it wasn't.

Plus the little shop in Brechfa sold brilliant cheese.

So, if you are going to Wales, go to Brechfa - buy a picnic from the little shop and ride the big BMX track.

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