Welsh Summer Holiday – Laura Griffiths

Lately its been a lot of work and squeezing in play time on the bike on the occasional day off so a short break was a welcomed relief, with only a few days to make a long weekend we headed to south Wales to make the most of our time away, we returned to the Afan valley as our base and set up camp. Afan and myself have a love hate relationship based on previous history, I had one of the best days out on my bike ever many years ago riding Whytes Level on my first ever bike with friends followed by the next trip full of diversions on the Skyline Trail, getting lost, getting rained on, horrifically bramble scratched and hangry ending up having to be rescued by a lovely welsh lady who let my husband and I stay in her house for the night.
It all started off a bit like it was happening again as our original planned campsite was a massive let down with no usable facilities and horrendous service. After leaving disappointed we headed into Port Talbot for some food, we stumbled across an amazing Jerk chicken shop “Vanmos’s” owned by the most welcoming Londoner with a real passion for Jamaican food and welsh beaches. With full tummies we started our search for a new campsite, worryingly they were all fully booked for a bmx competition but luckily we got a cancellation at Willow Springs, this turned around as we saved by the most welcoming owner who came out in the rain at 8.30 PM to give us the full tour and really put a smile on our faces.
After a good rest it was time to think about trails, excitedly we had grand plans of riding W2 which is Afans black 27 mile trail, once the heavy downpour in the carpark passed we reigned in our plans and decided on a more suitable Whytes Level. I have to say I forgot just how technical and arduous the climb was but once in the beautiful, green, moss-laden forest all that was forgotten about. The first massive smile was in the black option, it has the most fantastic and challenging boulder garden in huge rocky berms. It really it a test of nerve and from there things mellow out and but become no less interesting, energy is so much fun with its table top line and flowing berms and the final decent darkside is flowing rock drops for the full mountain side return to the bottom of the valley, certainly a tiring descent to finish but lives up to the memory of that first time I rode it.
The next day we were joined by our best friends, having been recommended the Blade trail by everyone we had to give it ago, second day the climb felt much better, one of the first descents the ghost train goes from the open wind turbine top into the forest, its like entering another world, it gets started with open gullied corners but then really gets flowing into deep tight corners with helter skelter rocks carrying you round across streams, its full concentration but so magical with the dark wet woods. The climb out heartburn although sounding horrific but was stunning, an enjoyable semi technical climb that flowed nicely through a beautiful part of forest with fascinating mushrooms. Following the bikepark style berm descent after was my favourite descent of them all, it was fast flowing single track with rock steps and hips and natural corners, I had that feeling when it all comes together in a moment of pure mountain bike bliss. The trail then traversed the side of the valley and for the first time all day the sun broke through the clouds and as we rode the rocky single track looking at those incredible views I really had that sense that you could be anywhere in the world and in that moment you are the richest person alive. Obviously the final descent of blade is worth a mention, beginning after 14 miles of riding and a length of 1.7 miles I think even the fittest person would still appreciate having more energy, the descent is pure rock garden to rock drop flowing the entire return down the exposed valley side, its what you dream of, and as the heavens opened into a horrendous downpour it was nothing short of epic.
To finish off our holiday we spent the last day at bike park Wales on the uplift, a great day as always railing berms and jumping as high as you can and riding as fast as you can it was fab, but for me Afan has won me over again, bowled over by its beauty and the effort required to earn those descents is really what for me mountain biking is all about so we’ll be back for more jerk chicken and stories of owls pooping on taps at our new favourite campsite.
Products featured in this blog: Roost Downhill Jersey in purple/green, Stage Enduro Shorts in black, Stage Enduro Jersey in purple/green

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