Glasses half empty version : Get up at stoopid o'clock, load up Robin, drive for 80+ miles on winding roads, battle headwind, eventually reach Dalbeattie 7 Stane Trail Centre, slog around trail in pissing rain, crash 3 times last one very nasty, load up Robin, drive 80+ miles on winding roads, collapse at home.
Read the above and you think that was not enjoyable but that is just one version, here's the glasses half full version.
Wake up before my alarm clock at least three times because I'm looking forward to todays meet. Load up the plastic three wheeled joy machine, does not take long because I'm prepared. Set off for Dalbeattie down the A701 through some of the most fabulous scenery Borders and Dumfries & Galloway regions have to offer plus I get to pass through the lovely towns of Moffat and Dumfries. Find Dalbeattie ,admittedly not an attractive town, and park up at the trail centre.
With impecable timing Klaus and Mark arrive within minutes of me and we engage in banter as we assemble our steeds, all single speeded. Dave then arrives fashionably late with his (whisper it !) modern FS steed with those dreadful new fangled selectable gear thingies
We set off on some nice single track with interesting technical diversions to either side that Dave shows off on. We meet some of the first sections of rock that emerge from the ground and are such a feature of this trail, very grippy even when wet with rounded edges, nice
We then set off across loads of boggy ground on a rather nicely assembled, seemingly endless boardwalk, that twists and turns to keep the interest up.
After another period of blether we start the climb to the high point of Dalbeattie via landrover track. At the high point we see the Dalbeattie Stane, a large rounded rock on a promitory, what it represented we did not bother to find out as single track beckoned. Dave led and we all chased, a point to watch is do not follow a good rider on a full sus bike too closely, they may take lines you cannot do
I pedal dinged many rocks, one of which caused me to disapear into the undergrowth, crash number one
Eventually after a particularly rocky and rooty section we met a steep hard rock descent. Take the line to the left shouts Dave as he passes over this scary drop as if it was not there. I cannot do it and walk scramble down. Klaus has a look at it, retreats up the trail and rolls back for a go but stops on the lip, he listens to some advice from Dave, retreats up the trail again and has another go and nails it. Mark also completes it successfully but both admit its not easy especially near the bottom.
Onward we go and stop for a rest in a sheltered spot in the trees, it has started to rain
However a positive, another group rolls up behind us and the lead rider is on a Klein Mantra, my most favourite mtb of all time
We set off again through more challenging single track, loads of step ups and downs on hard rock, I cannot get my line right on a single peice of it, much cursing and pedal strikes as I try sometimes desperately to keep up with everyone else who seem to be having more luck
Really starting to rain now, waterproofs are donned.
Eventually we reach (drum roll please) THE SLAB or more precisely the Qualifier which is a viciously steep stone pitched descent that then leads onto the Slab proper. Dave are most skillful and best equipped rider states quite definitely that he is not doing it and we should head for the much easier bypass to the bottom of the slab. We unsurpisingly agree and follow him.
this is some version of easier I am not aware of. The trail is effectively a river by now passing over steps of rock with difficult entries and exits from each obstacle. Much pedal bashing, cursing and even polite apologies as we suddenly stop causing the following rider to loose there rythm. Again Dave, Klaus and Mark are better than me and disapear ahead. I however shudder to a halt, lose my balance and topple over into the undergrowth, crash number two
. Eventually I untangle myself and catch up with the rest. We look up at the slab from its base and its still scary though Klaus and Mark with typical bravado after the fact claim that it does look quite doable
Off we go again through by now torrential rain, no longer avoiding puddles, whats the point
I cannot see where I'm going anymore, my spectacles are permanently coated in large rain drops making my vision prismatic at best. How I have not hit a tree yet I cannot fathom, looks like we'll drown before hypothermia sets in. Finally sheltering under yet another tree we decide to head back to the carpark by the most direct route we can. We decide though that we'll ride any sections of blue or red route that present themselves on route.
So we head off again and are going nicely until, my crash number three
This is a nasty one, we're all piling along through a twist section of red with me bringing up the rear. Emerging from the trees near the road I find myself flying through the air in what seems like slow motion, what nice grass that looks I think, shame really as i'm aimed at the rocky path, bang reality slams back in as I hit the ground stretched out like superman. I come to a rest with a shout of AAAARRRRRGGGG which alerts the rest of the group. Everyone rushes up with all the useful comments like are you alright, I'm too stunned for sarcastic replies. I do appear to be alive and intact but somewhat sore. I had hit a tree stump I could not see through my prismatic glasses.
I then limp back to the carpark but encourage the rest of the guys to try another section of trail without me. I'm soaked through, sore and very knackered but alive. The rest then show up and Klaus admits that he to crashed, he will have to tell that tale as I was not a witness.
All in all a good days riding with much interest and misshap. I eventually get home to discover I'm covered in bruises and limping quite a bit but nothing serious.
Practical upshot, we now no what the slab looks like and that Dalbeattie has most definitely been designed with modern trail bikes in mind. Ride here only if your skilled, armoured and suspensioned. Also do not forget anything vital as your miles from anywhere, a guy next to us in the car park discovered he had forgotten his saddle and seatpost
I do not think I'll return anytime soon but all in all I enjoyed myself