CUCC Goes to Wales

Words by Myra VanInwegen and Kate Reeves, pictures and captions by Chris Jones

us on parking lot
(Most of) The CUCC MTB regiment: Cory, Jez, Simon, Tim, Kate, Myra and Bart

This weekend we (the Cambridge University Cycling Club) went to Wales, which has hills. Lots of them, and steep ones too. Fantastic scenery as well. And challenging tracks (plenty of rocks and roots and stuff). So it has everything that Cambridge doesn't...

picture of barn
Our bunkhouse nestles cosily in a hollow,
sheltering from the Welsh weather

We went up in four vehicles. Darren and Celia, who'd been there many times before, went up on Thursday evening. The rest of us (Kate, Jez, Andrea, Cory, Steve, Tim, Myra, Simon, Chris and Bart) went up in two Land Rovers and a rental car on Friday evening. Kate, who piloted the rental car, drove like a maniac and got us there in 4 hours, while the Land Rovers, which can't go very fast even if you want them to, got in a couple of hours later.

We stayed at a farm. The owner (whose name is Chris King!) is quite a character. His main hobby is playing the organ, this amazing Yamaha monstrosity with two keyboards. He has two barns done up to rent out to people. The "upper barn", where Darren and Celia stayed, was one big room with a double bed, two bunk beds, a kitchen area, table, and some couches. The "lower barn", where the rest of us stayed, had two rooms: a big one with 6 bunk beds (sleeping space for 12 people!), and a smaller one with kitchen area and table.

Start of Karrimor & Red Bull trails A rare sight
bikes only sign
At the top of the trail's swoopiest descent

The first day we rode around the Betws-Y-Coed forest and did the Karrimor trail. Basically, the trail is a fair bit of specially-built singletrack with lots of technical bits connecting together long stretches of fire road. It was 16 miles and very hilly. It was quite challenging for my gradient-starved legs. The trail was in surprisingly good shape considering how much rain Wales has had recently. (There have been reports of lots of floods in south Wales). The only mechanical was a puncture by Simon, and the only crash was Jez, who'd tried to ride up a very steep bank (and after a couple of tries, he did it too!).

us on pier
The crew huddled damply at the end of Barmouth pier,
their toes lapped by the incoming tide

As we drove back to the farm from the forest, one of the Land Rovers broke down. The rest of us made it back to the farm and had showers and dinner. Many packages of pasta and jars of sauce went down the gullets of the hungry bikers. Saturday night saw us hitting the genteel (until a bunch of 'foreigners' arrived) town of Barmouth where we manged to find a pub containing a disco in a cupboard. Plus a midnight stroll (in gale force winds) along the beach prepared us for the next day...

The second day Jez and Andrea returned to Cambridge with the help of the RAC. Myra volunteered to go back with Darren & Celia in order to help relieve the space crunch caused by one fewer vehicle. Myra reports: We parked in Barmouth and went for a ride along the estuary, both on the smooth flat path along the edge and some quite technical tracks up in the surrounding hills. It was mostly sunny, and we went without jacket for most of the ride. We got done with our ride at about 4, having gone about 26 miles, but with much less up and down than the previous day. We packed it up and got back to Cambridge at 10pm.

in forest
Ah yes, more food. This time in Beddgelert forest,
rather like Thetford but on a slope. A big slope.

Kate reports: The rest of the group (now reduced to 7!) headed up to Beddgelert where we developed a 'give & take' relationship with our bikes. We probably carried our bikes as much as they carried us. But we were never lost due to Mr Gadget's (Chris) GPS! Once actually riding our bikes we climbed up into the forest for ages and then bascially downhilled manically, some of us under the influence of Power snot (PowerBar Gel stuff). It was ace.

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