Meet our latest guest blogger Catherine Cromey. Originally from Cornwall, here’s her story and experiences of mountain biking in South Wales.
”My first encounter with mountain biking had been for a mates birthday. Following a rather heavy night out we (rightly or wrongly!) decided to hire a load of bikes from Afan and explore the Penhydd trail. I HATED the ups (particularly the ones that seemed to go on forever) but LOVED the downs, with sweepy, windy, bumpy bits a-plenty! I can’t say I was instantly hooked but when, a year or so later, I moved toSwansea, I thought I’d give it a go again. It soon became a weekly outing and after several weeks of hiring a bike I decided to take the plunge and buy my own….£600 bought me a decent entry level “hard tail” (suspension on the front, none on the back with better disc brakes than my car!) which I’m still using 6 years later.
It’s the sorta sport that you can really get into (daily rides, races if you fancy it, buying expensive kit) or dip in and out of depending on what else is going on in your life. However you do it, it’s a great way to see the countryside, get some endorphins going, meet new people (mountain bikers are a notoriously friendly bunch) and eat fantastic cake served by most of the trail centres. All in all, a fantastic day out!
I met my other half at Afan and, two dates later, he tried to kill me, though he has since denied this. Picture the scene; 3 dates in and desperately trying to impress, we shall call him “Mark” (as that’s his name!) takes it upon himself to “sort” my brakes so that, as a lady with fairly small hands, I am better able to reach my brake levers. This would probably have been a brilliant idea had we not already been half way up Whites level in a group with several others and very little spare kit. Anyways, all went well until about 50 yards further up the trail when I attempted to apply what had previously been a very effective front brake. Imagine my surprise when my previously steadfast brake lever swung alarming off the handlebars and clattered between the spokes of my front wheel leaving me brakeless most of the way up this fairly steep trail with wondrous descents. Faced with the possibility of having to find a new girl friend (at least that’s what he thought) or life of shame unless able to solve the problem Mark set about searching the trail for the 5mm tiny but crucial pin that he had helpfully loosened and which had since fallen off the bike leaving me stranded. Moments later we heard shouts of delight as somehow, he’d managed to locate the tiny brake component at the edge of the trail online casino and we were on our way again. Suffice to say we are still together 3 years later and he now classifies this as a “hero” moment. I’ll let you decide!
Having recently “discovered” the wonders of mountain biking at Afan and purchased my very own bike I decided to share my delight with a good friend who’d done a shed load of road biking but had yet to experience the thrill of bumbling over rocks and around sweeping bends and berms. It was a fairly cold winters day and by the time we got our selves sorted was mid afternoon before we started. No problems, I thought, we can easily do this in 3 hours. After hiring a fancy bike from the Afan centre we set about the Penhydd climb and all was going well until we reached the first downhill (ie not downhill with full face helmet and jumps but downhill as in not uphill). Here we encountered our first, and as it turned out, recurrent problem. It turned out that my friend was petrified of any kind of bumpy down gradient and would get off and push over even the most shallow of slopes. This would not have been a major problem except for the fact that we were now 4 hours in, it was getting cold and dark and the bike shop was supposed to be closing 5 minutes ago. After much cajoling, coaching and general encouragement we eventually arrived back to find the fantastic bike-shop boys on their way up the trail to find us and check we were ok! Alas, no tea and cake on this occasion (shop had closed just after dark) but that same friend is now the proud owner of her very own mountain bike and can often be found scaling Brechfa, Afan and beyond, though usually in the daylight!”