Part Two: Downhill all the way
With all bolts tightened and tyre pressure calibrated with a prod of the thumb, it was time to consult the caution notices and commit to the gravity assisted singletrack.
The first whoops made it difficult to keep both wheels on the ground. Tremendous fun in a sanitised and somewhat unnatural way. The undulating trail continued down the hillside punctuated by bermed switchback turns and small rolling crests.
Again great fun, especially on a fully rigid bike and especially when catching and passing riders an modern bouncy bikes.
Woody storms his Blizzard down the hillside.
All smiles from Kiran.
Fluorescent pink and blue sky colour clash alert!
Sidewinder going through his blue period.
Sarah steers some sinuous singletrack.
The hills are alive with the sound of creaking.
As the trail levelled and widened, we again re-grouped before heading back into the trees for more smooth, groomed and fast single-track.
On the edge of the forest the trail took in another hairpin and a view across towards Moel Famua, scene of a great retro ride earlier in the year.
The purpose built trails at Llandegla seem a million miles away from the sensational natural routes in the near distance.
The viewpoint and hairpin was also the point at which a choice had to be made. There were several other riders also pondering this decision too it seemed.
The choice was to continue on the red route, or take in the more tricky and daunting black graded sections. The cautionary sign boards predicted certain death for all but the most skilful and experienced riders.
This was clearly 'gnar to the power of rad'. Apparently that level of 'gnarlitude' requires a full face helmet, body armour and a personal escort, not to mention 8 inches of highly tuned suspension, front and rear.
However, with a couple of centuries of riding experience between us, we laughed in the face of danger, and stuck it to the man.
Launching our old bikes into the void turned out to be not nearly as scary as the 'black run' hype would have you believe. It was just more of the same smooth flowing singletrack, only narrower and with bigger berms and more opportunities to get airborne.
Grin inducing; yes. Death defying; hardly. Although the loud clunk from Woody's forks reportedly may have slowed him down just a little.
elPedro666 rails another radical-sick-to-the-max-core berm dude!.
There was talk of avoiding the raised woodwork sections, purely on the principal that they are just a bit of nonsense. Admittedly it was me who started the rumours of 20ft high platforms and the refusal to go anywhere near them. We all rode them of course without even flinching and railed around more left-right-left combination berms. All the trail centre variations on the theme park were present, only much smoother and faster at this Llandegla version.
It's easy to see why these trails are so popular; they flatter any riders skills and make you feel like you're riding on rails with the precision of a laser guided missile.
After the long descents of course came the climbs, punctuated by the usual crowned switchbacks and made slightly tricky by slow speed queuing sections behind big fat men pushing big phat bikes.
Emerging back onto the fire roads we paused to work out whereabouts we were due to meet up with Sidewinder and his fellow red run riders.
Marker post 117 was mentioned by elPedro as the likely rendevous.
We were all set to find our absent ride leader, when we got into a conversation with a trio of riders drawn in by our collection of retro metal.
A nostalgic chat ensued for the next ten minutes, with tales of mint Bontragers stowed away in the loft and the warm feeling brought on by a set of thumbshifters.
By the time we eventually moved on, Sidewinder and a few of the group were clearly losing faith in us ever returning. They were waiting in the sunshine at marker post 98 or twelvty or something or other.
It was time for Mr K and Sidewinder to decide the 'NWA Bike of the Ride' award. After serious deliberation, HarryCrumb was summoned forward with his beautiful XTR and Pace equipped Orange Clockwork to receive the coveted sticker.
A well deserved award.
Everyone loves stickers.
The final sections saw more passing new bikes on the ups and downs and a fun fast race back to the cafe around some of the biggest berms imaginable.
Plenty of food was then consumed along with the the usual serious and not so serious discussions. The manufacturing process behind the burgers involving a pair of old tights, centrifugal force and a shed in the woods was a real departure into the surreal.
After food and a full bike wash and service for elPedro's bikes, most of the 15 riders said their farewells and set off on their journeys home.
Woody, Sinnett, mr_ship and I decided that a quick lap of the blue route would be in order before our long return trips.
We set off a quite a pace up the first climb and then rolled quickly into the blue sections. These much less groomed trails were arguably trickier than much of the red route and some of the black. The rougher stony surface and flat turns instead of berms made for some more challenging cornering and plenty of arm pump from pulling on canti brakes and being pummelled by the surface. With all four of us riding bikes of a similar early 90's vintage there was none of the comfort offered by suspension, disc brakes and modern tyres. Or even flex-stems, V-brakes and Z-maxs.
As the sun was lowering in the sky it was time to leave. The car was loaded up with a couple of bikes for our return home. Somehow an extra pair of rims, more pedals, a BB, a chainset and yet another frameset found there ways into the vehicle too...
It never ends.
See you all next time.