Here's a few of my recollections from the ride yesterday. (No photos; I forgot my camera)
Please bear in mind that there are some gaps in my memory due to the extreme energy depletion caused by the lack of promised food. I seem to recall Mr K assuring everyone of the 'suitably rewarding food stop' at the mid-point of the ride. (See page one of this thread...) Sadly this never happened and we had to make do with foraging for battered and out of date confectionery products on a windswept hillside. And beer.
Anyway, after overestimating the journey time to Loggerheads, I arrived over half an hour early at the non-specific meeting point. Of course, it helped that my Sat-Nav didn't recognise Loggerheads, and I instead found my way by simply following road-signs for North Wales, then Mold and then Ruthin. It was a triumph of not relying on new technology.
So after hanging around in a lay-by for a while, trying to catch up on some much needed sleep, the familiar sight of Mr K's people carrier arrived, carrying Neil and a selection of Rapha hats.
I stepped into his office for a chinwag about the polo scene while we waited for the North Wales Retrobike Massive to arrive.
40 minutes later elPedro Pete turned up, fresh outta Manchester, with his trusty Ibis Alibi hanging off the back of his 'banger of near certain doom'.
During the waiting we hadn't quite got round to sorting out our bikes before the Old World Champ; Easy Rider rolled into view along with his better half Sarah and her sister Helen.
Of course the Champ's lucrative endorsements and sponsorship deals, not to mention his celebrity status, mean that Gav now rides exclusively with glamorous out-riders.
If I'd known, I would have neatly trimmed my wilderness beard and not talked about pooing so much.
Using his rainbow stripe credentials, Gav arranged some private car parking for his understudies and we got changed and prepared our chosen bikes with maximum faff and minimal efficiency.
Eventually we were underway, climbing a up some tarmac and towards the Moel Famau country park. Pete set a blistering pace to the first public toilets for a poo. Meanwhile Mr K and the girls patiently waited a hundred yards back down the road at a turning we'd missed.
Upon our ashen faced return we picked up our first section of off-road. The climb was steep and slippery in places and Pete scampered ahead and out of view to adjust his seatpost. Halfway up, Neil broke out the big spanners to tighten his own mischievous saddle too.
The view as the track eventually levelled out was great and the first proper descent was fast and fun. With the smell of burning brakes we joined the A494 for another long descent on the road down towards Ruthin.
Turning off part way down allowed a few bad jokes about Mold in the valley (you had to be there) and a few more saddle adjustments to Mr K's Bob Jackson.
By now it was surely time for some food, and we cross referenced the battered old map with Neil's handlebar mounted compass to find a secret lane down through a private estate towards a distant pub.
Arriving after some spinning along quiet lanes our suspicions about the lack of pub meals served in the area were confirmed at our first refreshment stop.
We had to make do with ales and crisps for our sustenance, making the journey back to our bikes around the back of the pub somewhat arduous.
Back on two wheels again, we continued towards Llangwyfan (pronounced Jake Gyllenhaal) and turned upwards towards the summit of Moel Arthur. We started up a nice woodland bridleway and continued along a long climb up and up.
Pete and I got into a good climbing rhythm and glanced down at the descent we would return on, oblivious to the fact that Neil had another plan.
We reached the top of the climb, savouring the thought of the descent we'd seen, and waited.
Eventually Gav came into view to advise us of our unforeseen error. Apparently we hadn't heard the shouts and whistles as we had disappeared into the distance. Rolling back down what we'd just climbed was good fun though, but not as much fun as what Neil had spotted as our next challenge.
A faint trail contoured it's way through the trees, bracken and gorse. This was certainly off-piste riding and we decided to give it a go.
I bravely offered to sacrifice the first section just to check out the line on a tricky looking log and drop off. It was treacherous on foot but I was able to give the following riders the go ahead once I'd cleared away the deadly vipers and wrestled a vicious bear off the line.
Pete set off, clearing the log (and the snakes) and continued down to stop at the next blind crest. The Champ deftly used his skills to ride the section as smoothly as butter, while Mr K proved the bike polo really does improve balance and coordination by nearly falling off before he'd even got moving.
Sarah and Helen, unimpressed by machismo and testosterone, sensibly took the racing line down.
The rest of the off-piste adventure was a real mixture of pain and pleasure, with fun but buttock clenchingly steep, scree slope drops and plenty of gorse to gently exfoliate the shins.
I arrived first near to the bottom where the trail disappeared into a gorse barricade. Tackling it involved a combination of bike throwing, stamping and swearing to make it through to the other side.
For such an indistinct trail it did prove to be about 95% rideable and was really good fun.
It was all smiles and blood injuries when we finally hacked our way to the bottom though, at exactly the same point we'd been nearly an hour earlier.
With a sense of deja-vu and another map consultation we set off again. The next trail steadily ascended through a wooded corridor on softening ground. Each turn of the pedals reminded me that man cannot live on beer alone. Not quite anyway.
The climb was harder than the gradient suggested with a good thick mulch and huge piles of dead leaves to crunch through.
Clearing the tree cover we regrouped and, after some coercion, Neil revealed the contents of his knap-sack. Laying out a selection of cereal bars, pork pies and squashed chocolate things on the ground, Neil invited me to take my pick. I'd already split the pork pie with Pete, and was well underway on an oaty treat when Neil started giving me his paypal details.
With the hunger unleashed I also managed to blag a bite of sausage roll too. Thanks Sarah.
With my blood sugar returning to normal, I stopped jibbering nonsense and remembered were I was. I'm not sure that the out of date Jaffa Cake bar will help in the long term though...
Hypoglycemia averted, riding could resume and the trail conditions firmed up to allow a fast pace around to rejoin the road near to the top of the infamous 'Horsefly Hill'. Another session of climbing on tarmac took us to the hill fort at Moel Arthur. Short of the summit we picked up another track taking us downhill and in the direction of Cilcain. Surely the pub there would be serving food?
The descent was a fast one and it didn't take long to find out.
No food of course but the beer tasted good though. We had a chance to reflect on the ride so far, and to decide whether or not to tackle one more big climb up to the summit of Moel Famau. The lack of food and the bottom of another pint glass gave us another answer.
With Loggerheads just twenty minutes away and the time now ticking past 5pm, we decided upon the only realistic option. We chose the path of least resistance and made our way back towards our private car park, and thankfully a pub which was serving food!
With the day's riding completed, Pete performed his usual bike valet service, while Neil and I retired to sample the menu with Gav and Sarah.
After a thoroughly enjoyable adventure in great company and with darkness falling it was time to leave.
On the drive home I pulled a spike of gorse from my forearm and the Sat-Nav lied to me all the way back.