Just got back from a 21st birthday party after yesterday's ride. Here's what I remember from the day:
After another late night, it was a painfully early start by the time I met Stally wandering around our local supermarket.
We quickly fueled up and hit the road in convoy across the border and into Wales.
The crisp winter sunshine and blue sky promised a fine day on the trails.
finding our rendevous point ominously deserted, we checked in with team Mr K in the bacon-butty people carrier to find out that they were running a bit late.
So much for the threats of holly sprigs on the saddle for late-comers...
Eventually everyone arrived and we were rewarded with foil wrapped bacon butties heated on a warm engine cylinder head. I washed mine down with a flask of strong coffee while everyone assembled a fine selection of bikes.
A quick photoshoot ensued and then as we began pedalling out of the car park Sidewinder realised his tyres needed pumping up. Back to the van for a few strokes from my track pump.
And then we were off up the first climb.
It felt great to be out riding with such fine weather, where the distant hills weren't obsured by sheets of fine drizzle and cloud. Rare in Wales.
Reaching the first section of singletrack, I lead the descent on my seven speed Marin, closely followed by Stally on his bright red Spesh and Woody riding his beautiful DeKerf.
Stopping at the bottom to take in another fantastic view and regroup we waited. And then we waited some more.
Realising something was amiss, I left my bike and walked back up to see what was occuring.
Eventually after walking all the way back up the hill I found the other six riders consoling a rather embarrassed looking Sidewinder over the remains of his newly installed bottom bracket.
It looked as though his nice blue e-stay Saracen would have to fight another day, as he rolled back down to the cars to borrow a spare bike I had in my van.
Unfortunately, having left my bike at the bottom of the descent, I took a head start to practice my trail running technique. I was quickly caught and passed by 'Pinball Sinnett' on his fully rigid Alpinestars.
I stepped aside to cheer on an assortment of lovely old metal sweeping by, before resuming my own imaginary world cup winning downhill run.
Regrouping we continued with the knowledge that we'd meet up with Sidewinder further along the ride.
Mr K recalled memories of racing in Gwydyr forest in the early 90's as we rode on. His 89 Ritchey with it's much earlier geometry looked great with it's coating of trail debris and custom 'Reindeer' bars.
After several more climbs and twisting, rocky descents to test the skills and punish the hands of the fully rigid canti riders, we rolled down to meet up with Sidewinder.
While we wondered where he'd got to, Sam and Sarah conjured up a tin of corned beef and some picallili and proceeded to make themselves some trailside sandwiches. They'd even packed a knife.
It was at this point I noticed that Sam was riding in slippers, and he added that he had borrowed his Dad's bike. All he needed to complete the ensemble was a pipe and newspaper.
Sidewinder Dave eventually turned up on my modern P7 and we continued the ride.
A couple of miles later, Mr K assembled us all on a bridge in the middle of the woods to formally welcome and thank us for accepting his kind invitation to ride on this fine day. Christmas crackers and Ferrero Rocher were passed around and much banter ensued. Particularly RetroKing Max's notions of setting up his own one man area group.
Remounting we carried on to a cross-roads and a short-cut back to the carpark. Waving farewell to Sidewinder, RetroKing and Sam, six riders continued downhill all the way to the bottom of the valley. Great fun, especially with cantis, and surprise action camera shoots from Mr K. He even picked the rockiest sections for added fear factor faces.
The only thing remaining now was the long fire road climb back up to the vehicles to be greeted by the three short-cutters and a flask of mulled wine.
Great day, great riding and great company. Thanks to Neil and Dave for organising it and thanks to everyone for coming along and making it all so much fun.
I'll see you at the Turkey Twizzler.