The idea came about to attempt this as a charity ride to help raise money for someone we know that is suffering with Lyme Disease. Her name is Bridey and any donations would be greatly received. To donate please go to http://www.kapipal.com/bridey.
What we wanted to do was get from the trail head of the Marin trail, pass through Penmachno and then on to finish at Coed Y Brenin visitors centre, all off road as much as possible. We had the full route plotted where we had 90-95% of it off road. Thanks to welsh weather and the constant pounding of wind and rain we had through December, some of it was looking unlikely to be rideable due to the terrible ground conditions. We would have had lots of peat bogs and the like to get through.
So the decision was made to cut one specific section out which we knew would probably be impassable. This unfortunately meant adding in a bit more road which brought our off road count down to around 80%, which is still not bad.
Myself, Pete, Chris and Dafydd started at the trail head of the Marin at 8.30am in as a good a mood as was possible on a cold wet morning. 10 minutes in and it started raining, which it did pretty much on and off all day. At least there was no wind to speak off so it didn’t really bother us.
Dafydd and Chris were obviously quicker that myself and Pete and a pattern emerged that continued pretty much all day, them having to wait at the top of every hill. There were certainly no Strava records being broken. We were still getting on with it, keeping the pace high enough to cope with and not stopping and chatting too much.
The Marin section went by quickly enough and we were soon on the climb up and over Llyn Elsi. The old track over to Pont Y Pant was as splish splashy as expected, with the well known puddles of doom. We took it it in turns to open the gates so we didn’t have to slow the pace down too much.
A short ish climb brought my favourite double track descent with fast sweeping bends, a good 30+ mph descent. Some of it covered with a thick layer of pine needles which made guessing how much grip there was quite entertaining. The downside to this was we had lost a lot of height, all of which and more we had to gain back. A good deal of climbing later and we meet the turning point where we join Penmachno. This is about the halfway mark for those doing loop 2.
Penmachno was reliably wet and puddly, even in the middle of summer it doesn’t dry up so it was no surprise to find a constant stream of water on the ground. Going in this direction we were covering the hardest part of the trail, very rough and technical which meant we were falling behind our already fraying schedule. Lots of trees down meant a diversion cut some of the slowest part out, which actually was a blessing. Because we had to get to the trail head we decided to cut the second to last single track out and roll down the double track to the start of the last descent. Dafydd started suffering with little or no back brake at this point, which was no big deal as he just lived without it and it turned out to be the only mechanical issue of the day.
A slight uphill road climb took us to Cwm Penmachno and the foot of a very steep quarry climb. Around a mile of what felt like near vertical hike a bike. I complained a lot about this as I hate pushing/carrying my bike and I am a bit partial to a good whinge if the mood takes me. Just when I thought we had reached the top we pop out of some trees and a greeted with the worse part of all. I suffered up this last bit and had to get Pete to get my bike of my back as my back was about to give out. Note to self, don’t come this way again…
We were now about an hour behind our original schedule and Dafydd’s partner Sian had been hanging around all morning waiting to meet us with food and a hot drink. We finally had some signal so we could phone her to meet us in Llan Ffestiniog instead of Trawsfynydd. All we had to do is roll down a massive descent to meet her. Typically it had to start raining, it was so cold that I got an ice cream headache on the way down. Thankfully Sian had already arrived at the bottom with hot tea and loads of grub. Pete and Dafydd cheated and changed into dry clothes leaving myself and Chris thinking that was probably a really good idea…
Fully fed and watered we were of again on the last stint of the ride. This was the part of the route that was changed thanks to the ground conditions. Dafydd had told us about the new cycle path up and around the far side of Trawsfynydd lake. So that was the new plan and after a bit of main road slog we reached the power station. The new track had only been open a couple of weeks so it made for some nice riding. Having expected it to be flat there was a sting in the tail when it ramped up quite a lot. A surprisingly hard little climb, but left with fantastic views down across the lake and mountains. Not to mention the descent was a good giggle.
Back on the road and we were climbing for the last time. Its quite a climb too, not steep, just long. Weirdly my legs decided to wake up and was able to keep up with Chris and Dafydd for the first time that day. Probably an element of them slowing down a bit but I felt great. How annoying it happened after 6 hours of riding. Maybe I have to do a 6 hour warm up before every event I do??
We swing of the road and before we know it we are descending into Coed Y Brenin. This last part of the ride was flying by, far quicker than the Marin/Penmachno slog. Fast spin down the double track before we turned sharp right onto the Beginning of the End down to the car park at the vistors centre. Just short of 50 miles with over 2000 metres of climbing in 7 hours. Not a bad little ride out.
A quick change into some warm cloths and we made it into the cafe before it closed for a nice cup of tea and some chips courtesy of Petes wallet. There were a couple of low points when the weather beat us down a bit but generally a great days riding with some good company.
I have to thank Sian for hanging around all day and supplying us with food and hot drinks. Along with my wife Iris for getting up way to early so she could ferry me to and from the start/finish. A bit of a shameless plug but if you are ever in need of somewhere to stay when you come and visit Coed Y Brenin/Snowdonia, Dafydd and Sian run a fantastic Bed and Breakfast called the Old Skool and is perfectly geared up to accommodate MTB’ers and all their kit. Check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OldSkoolmtbAccommodation. They are the perfect hosts.
If we were ever to do it again I think it should be done in the opposite direction and in the summer. It would mean it would be 100% ridable and it would include the better parts of both Penmachno and the Marin. Most of all though, I wouldn’t have to push/carry up that ridiculously steep climb.
A great ride to start the year, may they continue like this…..