I’ve been wanting to try my hand at mountain bike racing for some time now. Like all experienced riders, after a while you feel comfortable riding pretty much everything at a pace you think is pretty quick. So it’s only natural I guess to start thinking it’s time to prove it in a race.
Its all well and good having a playful trail bike that encourages you to push it more and more. It lures you into this sense of invincibility to huck and hustle every trail centre you visit. So rather than head to a typical trail bike destination to see its true potential, I called the new Stumpy’s bluff, and took it straight to Antur Stiniog.
I headed to Davedale in the Peak District last weekend to give my new Hero 5 Black a running. Key benefits over my Hero 3 Silver?
The journey to jump
It's days to go to Christmas and after moving into our new house, the bikes have been left gathering dust for a few months now. So when an old mate from school mentioned he was coming back home for Christmas, we had to get a ride in, big or small.
My old mate Gareth, pictured above, was responsible for getting me into the mindset of taking your bike to the woods and finding lines. Prior to that, it was just who's the fastest and who go could jump further in the back garden with the little bro.
SO, we needed a ride that can't take us hours to get to, but packed a punch. Aston Hill is a Bike Park not far from Luton, off the M1 which fitted the bill. Not just a good Bike Park, but a trail specifically. Surface to Air. The name says it all and was the trail in question. Take a look at its launch video which sells it well. It's a good quality production, which makes up for my dark and blurry GoPro shots as I struggled to get enough light on the shortest day of the year.
Surface To Air starts relatively flat, over a series of berms and tables before quickly building speed as you start pointing the bike downhill. Running over a series of drops that only get bigger and bigger as you now head down the valley of the hill, you're soon to arrive at the best section.
There's one particular drop that though not massive, certainly requires you to take stock before heading over the edge. I reckon you must drop between 6 - 10ft, but what makes it so poignant is that after hurtling down you come to a point where you naturally slow, almost stop. At this point is where you meet the biggest drop on the course, with none of your momentum, your normal friend when it comes to drops. However, balance the bike right, keep your eyes up, and enjoy as you go from zero to 60 (HA more like 20/30) in 10 metres and finish with a nice jump on the other side of the small valley.
It's an adrenaline fuelled riot Surface To Air, which if you haven't ridden it yet you should, though I would recommend a full suspension bike, bigger the better. I've ridden a lot of the country both on DH and XC, and Surface To Air remains in my top ten.
So where exactly is this gem?
There's only one thing...
To get back up from your runs, you have to walk back up, which isn't normally an issue. However the walk back up takes about 20 - 25 minutes which unfortunately means you spend the majority of your energy walking back up. So there's no short cut here, you need to be fit to enjoy it.
Get more deets here and explore the seven other trails! They're also good, especially The Black Run if you enjoy techy descents.
Merry Christmas folks.
Headed back to Llandegal with Jamie Hewitt for the first time in 2 years. Last time I was there I was taken away in an Ambulance and spent the next 3 months trying to get my brain to work properly again - severe concussion, and yes I was wearing a helmet but rocks work in mysterious ways.
Anyway its been a while, and it was good to be back. Llandegla is a fair play kind of trail centre; it pays you back for the climbs handsomely. The first proper descent section follows a fairly dull but pretty climb up that lasts about 30 minutes. This time round following the recent rain, allowed amble time for Jamie and I to capture various puddle wheelies with the GoPro’s - take a look!
Following that you head down a number of sections, the best being the black graded off shoot, which heads into some very fast and very dark trails. Keep your eyes wide open and your senses sharp and you’ll have a cracking time heading down. If you don’t, say hello to trees.
Onwards to the second best bit, now 2/3rds round, you start it by riding a long north shore section which Jamie and I decided to pause and spend the next 30 minutes taking shots. It was well lit and pending where you put the GoPro’s made for some cool point of views. After the prolonged Instabanger session, we continue down, and then down a bit further, over drops, pumping jumps and railing berms. This part of the trail gives as good as it gets.
So 2 years later, Llandegla, still worth a visit? Absolutely, and if you like your trails fast, techy yet flowing you’ve come to the right place. Did I also mention it’s awesome bike park too? No? Maybe next time…
Check out Jamie's Instagram feed for more awesome shots! Image 1 & 3 are his in this piece.