Sometimes it’s good to try hard things. Taming “The Beast” at Coed-y-Brenin on a hardtail is an excellent example. Making it harder still though speeds past good on it’s journey to bad, pausing only to transit through stupid. Take a tough trail, remove a sprung end, add a head splitting hangover, then drench the whole endeavour in all the Winter weather a North Wales March can throw at you.
Yeah, now that’s properly hard. Still at least we were riding which was no way guaranteed after the snow fell long enough to close many roads, and one of the trail centres we’d intended to tick off as part of Em’s birthday weekend. Ten of us took the brief thaw that followed as a sign to rendezvous at this fantastic and massive farm house.
Where most ripped into the copious supplies of brought alcohol with inevitable consequences. My party trick was drinking wine from half pint glasses apparently. Not that I remember, but from the splitting headache and inability to make any noise other than a groan for coffee, sounds about right.
Ten friends riding together is fun. It’s also a faff so it was nearly 11 o’clock before we unpacked a slew of steel-y hardtails from the van. Cez’s was suffering from a split tyre which ensured a bit more of that stomping feet in the cold, feeling quite poorly, while it was rebooted with fresh rubber.
My only two aspirations for the first trail were not to either crash or be sick. I only just clambered over that low bar mostly due to the distraction of being battered by rock, and evicerated by a wind failing to carry any kind of Spring breeze. The other riders all looked in a lot better shape, especially those who’d made more sensible bike choices, and especially the one with a motor!
Things improved but only because they couldn’t get any worse. My brain/optics pairing were separated from the rest of my body by about two corners. This led to the odd moment of great hilarity and many more of abject terror. The only approach that didn’t end with a crash and a whimper was to recruit Haydn as my harbour pilot and follow his lines all day.
Without the good ship H, I’d probably still be out there. As it was fun started to creep in around the edges of my hangover. And while the wind didn’t abate, the forecasted sleet and snow stayed away. But only because icy rain had snuck in and nicked their midday slot. Em then attempted to impale herself with the end of the bar, before wisely calling it a day and taking the road back to the trail centre.
The ‘remains’ of the goup – which seems as an appropriate noun as any – winched up the 3km fireroad climb suffering multiple precipitation types with increasing snow and decreasing temperatures. While it wasn’t the greatest riding experience of my life, it did have the welcome effect of finally pushing the hangover into 2nd on the misery podium.
Only podium in my purview for sure. The Beast tho is such a great trail, properly old school, lots of different challenges, not always flowy but always rewarding and rocky enough to make even modern hardtails feel close to their limit. My legs and arms certainly were and regardless of really enjoying the latter sections, when they were over I was done.
The really heavy rain held off until we’d returned to the van, but sadly not before we were inside it. Despite my protestations* we decanted our damp selves back out a few minutes later into the warm environs of the local pub. I ordered a lime and soda… for Matt while declaring my early morning proclamation of “I’m never drinking again” as fake news and hair’d the dog for a well earned celebratory beverage.
That night tho, I stuck to beer and not too much of it while watching various bottles of tomorrows-bastard-hangover being quaffed by those significantly more hardcore than me. At least one of the quaffers had the decency to look a bit rough the following morning, which in no way kept him or us away from a fried breakfast slow cooked in the aga**
Pouring him into the van under sunnier skies, we all headed off to Nant-yt-Arian where a much curtailed – the ongoing larch disease issue – route had us climbing the first pitch twice to ride both the red and blue descent. I was feeling a whole lot better and just a big smug.
Sadly watching the video suggests I wasn’t riding any faster 😉 Where is the video from the first day I hear almost no one ask? Could barely operate myself, no way was I risking the GoPro. Also didn’t want to be sick all over it.
All in all a fab weekend. Great bunch of friends, decent chunk of riding, loads of amazing home cooked food, quite a lot more booze, even more piss taking, but accidents or injuries other than the continued abuse of my liver.
Think we’ll do that again. Maybe nearer my birthday in August. When at least the rain will be a bit warmer. Oh, and no more wine in pint glasses. Honestly, I’ve learned my lesson.
*Oh do we have to? Go on then.
** because there is no other way. They look great but it’d be quicker to set fire to the mature grounds and flash cook the bacon before the fire brigade turned up.