The Boyz Weekend Away     

Coed y Brenin Forest, Snowdonia, Wales    

8th-9th September 2001  (little did we know but it was the start of a week that was to change the world...)

To celebrate the pending departure of one Kiwi, and because it was just a good excuse to do one, Steve and Nick organised a mountain biking weekend in North Wales.  Seven of the regular Wooburn Sunday-cyclists travelled up in three cars on the Friday evening. 

As Nick, Tony, Chris P and Chris G had arrived early, they decided to sample some of the local fare and were advised by the old chap running the Guest House that The Ponderosa was the place frequented by the cool dudes of Dolgellau.  Things took a turn for the worse, however, when Chris G decided to take the mickey out of the assorted cowboy paraphernalia on display and even implied that the patron's hero, John Wayne, had been more of a nancy boy than a cowboy!  Chris, not in any way put off by the owners reaction, insisted on bringing this topic up with every one of the Locals that we subsequently met in the hope that he would start a fight (or shoot-out) with one of the man's relatives.  This didn't happen but did give us some laughs.

We stayed at the Graig-Wen Guest House, a small B&B on the outskirts of Dolgellau (pronounced Dal-geth-lee).

It was cheap, cheerful, chintzy, and they did a great breakfast which proved to be essential for what lay ahead. 


We were up bright and early and found our way the few miles to the Coed y Brenin Centre ready for some serious cycling.  The bike shop there was both well stocked and reasonably priced, in fact some Karrimor jackets mysteriously went up by 20 overnight after we had commented on how cheap they seemed.  The bloke working in the shop was also very helpful and as we were new to the area advised us to do the Red Bull 8-mile ride first before embarking on the more serious Karrimor 20-miler.  We left the shop, thought about what he'd said, and immediately set off on the Karrimor ride....and what a ride it was.


From leaving the base, you climb a couple of miles through forest and then up wider forestry tracks until you reach the first descent; a rocky, raised, winding man-made path through trees and puddles.  It's all a bit disconcerting at first and your arms ache with the constant braking required as the bike kicks and bucks.   You soon realise that by keeping your weight low over the back of the bike, you can aim the front wheel between the obstacles and just let the rear wheel clatter over everything else.  Tony "Evel-Knievel" Lacey seemed particularly adept at this and was soon way ahead of everyone.  We continued down the mountain and stopped to look at a brilliant waterfall.  This was followed by probably the worst climb of the weekend - a relentless grind for another mile or so, made worse by the fact that Ian "I-know-a-shortcut" Ross had attached himself to the rear wheels of a couple of fit gits and wasn't stopping for anyone until we reached the top.  Shortly afterwards we stopped for lunch in the garden of a farmhouse serving hot cakes and rolls.  After a well earned rest we set off again, up yet another mother of a slope culminating on a peak which gave a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.  We then raced down forestry tracks and back through the next technical section.

Chris "I-Love-Rocky-Climbs" Povey with a good question for Nick.

It was here that the first real mishap occurred.  Steve "Not-too-bud" Levy decided to part company with his machine via the aerial handlebar route!  Apart from buckling his front wheel, he didn't injure himself in what was a fairly spectacular tumble.  There are some serious things you can hit in this terrain and the potential for creaming oneself against something nasty is high.  Steve made it back to the base by doing without a front brake and managed to buy another front wheel at the shop.  Chris "Marin-Hybrid-with-skinny-slick-tyres" Gates also got a puncture and did remarkably well on a bike that would have had its designers losing sleep had they seen the treatment it was getting.  The rest of the ride was uneventful and we were all pleased to have finished such a gruelling but exhilarating experience in one piece.  Being regular cyclists, we thought that we were reasonably fit but 20 miles off-road climbing to 3200 feet is no picnic.  Somehow I doubt that the "gilly goat" will ever be the same again!
In the evening we went to The Farmhouse restaurant in a minibus taxi.  Nick "Does-my-bum-look-big-in-this?" Armstrong can usually be relied upon to provide an evenings entertainment and he didn't disappoint.  A wedding reception was being held at the restaurant and on a trip to the toilet he pushed past the bride and managed to stomp on her dress which gave a tearing sound.

He saved his piece de resistance for the trip back on the minibus however.  I'll spare you the gory details but you can get the general idea by turning the volume up and hovering your mouse over the van picture on the right........


On Sunday morning we returned to Coed y Brenin to do the Red Bull run.  It started with the same leg-sapping climb as the Karrimor and in some ways seemed worse as we knew what to expect.  The downhill sections were lots of fun, especially the last section which ends on the BMX track back at the Centre.

Nick had the worst crash of the weekend on this run.  On a particularly dodgy downhill stretch his front wheel went into a hole catapulting him off the bike onto a large rock.  Nick survived but the rock is still in Intensive Care!  His front wheel was totally bananaed but after much percussive maintenance he managed to at least get it to go round without it hitting the forks.  How the tyre didn't go flat is a mystery.  Steve also attempted to better his "off" from the previous day by performing a front wheelie down a steep descent.  This time he stayed on however.



Prior to starting the trip home, we decided to walk back up to the waterfall that we'd seen on Saturday.  The scenery in this place is unreal.

All in all we had a fantastic weekend.  If you like off-road cycling, give this place a try.  The tracks are tough, uncrowded, but well sign-posted and it makes a nice change to go somewhere where mountain biking is actually welcomed.



Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre Info

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