Night-time mountain biking at Coed Llandegla

I got away to Wales this weekend to spend the night mountain biking at One Planet Adventure in the Coed Llandegla (Llandegla Forest, in Welsh). The guys there very kindly offered to take me around their red and black trails in the dark to help me write a feature for the Observer.

It was a tough couple of hours for my legs and lungs, but was also some of the most mentally challenging riding I’ve ever done. Reacting to terrain like that with just a second or two’s notice (even high-end Hope lights will only cast that far) takes its toll, but does make you feel like you’re going a million miles per hour.

Often, the light won’t point where you’re going, so you have to trust that you’ll manage to take whatever springs into view at the speed you’re going. One big advantage is that when you’re on northshore sections, you have no idea how long the drop is. What you can’t see can’t hurt you. Unless you fall off.

Many thanks to Ian and the rest of their group for their time and patience. It was a night to remember, and if you’re ever in the area I suggest you check them out. They have miles of great trails, but also offer tuition, bike rentals/sales and a damn fine cup of tea.

I would say more, but I must away and write this feature. I’ll post a link when it’s up.

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Sheringham, shingle and Black Shuck

Fuji at SheringhamI rode out to Sheringham today, taking the most circuitous route possible without either leaving Norfolk or doubling back on yourself. A large, county-sized game of Snake, if you will.

Dan and I must learn to plan routes.

Still, a hard ride, some great food at the end, and a little dip in the sea to boot. It was marred only by an encounter with the legendary dog-beast of East Anglia, immortalised in song by the Darkness, Black Shuck.
Continue reading

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, day eight

2839742090_a44e36b050_bBy the morning we’d accepted that there was no way to get to Barcelona by bike from where we were. We were within an easy morning’s ride on almost completely flat ground, after traveling hundreds of miles over a mountain range, but there was a motorway in the way.

It turns out that our map was out of date – by several decades – which is how it had managed to sneak up on us. Continue reading

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, day seven

2838905585_b0e99a165b_bBeing out in the open, we woke up early, ludicrously early. We were both very sore, tired and grouchy at this point, which could explain how we ended up cycling for 11km on a motorway instead of the road we aimed for. Later we found out that the police are pretty strict about this heinous crime, and tend to hand out 500 Euro fines. Continue reading

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, day six

2838902641_8d77219e25_bWe woke up in Spain, and I had a quick wash in what we later found out was called the “River of Death”. It was actually very refreshing, and not at all poisonous/doomed.

Dave speaks wonderful Spanish, so we set off to find some people to speak Spanish at, and hopefully buy breakfast from, having wolfed down the last of our supplies the night before. We stopped at the first place we saw and ate rabbit for breakfast. Wild rabbit has virtually no meat on it, and we discuss the fact that I once heard (from Stephen Fry, so it must be true) that you die of malnutrition if you only eat rabbit meat. We decide to eat several chocolate bars each, just in case. Continue reading

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, day five

2839737498_49b5e02186_bI woke up in a comfortable bed and promptly forgot to continue the previous night’s whinging where I sleepily left off, so we had breakfast and set off for the Col d’Aspin – nothing compared to the previous two day’s hurdles, but a mountain nonetheless.

It was an uneventful climb, and the harsh, exposed landscape of the previous day was replaced with a sheltered route through forest. At the summit were a smattering of tourists and cows, the latter of which tried to knock Dave over. We ate, took in the scenery and looked over The Map for what seemed like the thousandth time that week. Continue reading

Biarritz to Barcelona by Bike, day four

2839732962_6a45d83821_bBy day four we were starting to ache, but the largest mountain between us and Barcelona was still on the agenda.

The Col du Tourmalet stands at 2,115 metres (however they work these things out), which is more than two kilometres, straight up. If there had been a nice, flat cycle path all the way back to London town, I would have taken it at this point. Continue reading