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10-12 May '19 – SHABI trip to Wales

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

Dear Shabi’s


Blog for 10th - 12th May 2019 – The SHABI trip to Wales 2019


Prologue

For many many years the SHABI’s have been travelling up to Wales in search of the ultimate “mountain biking “experience. Over the years, and with sheer luck, we have come across a formula that seems to work. Training Friday, epic ride Saturday and play on Sunday.


Most years when the “official invite” goes out, only one or two brave souls have been stupid enough to come along. However, this year the change could not be more dramatic with twelve riders putting their names forward. A further two requests were turned down as the applicants were not “regular riders”.


Based on our last epic trip in 2017 (Machynlleth to Nant-y-Arian and back), we decided to use a guide, and Steve Beech was recommended for the onerous task of leading the SHABI’s for two days.



With so many riders who had not ridden under the SHABI banner in Wales, strict pre-qualification instructions were issued by Smashie, along with a plethora of technical advice. It is gratifying to note that this “advice” was well received and most complied admirably.


Tragedy strikes with Tonka getting 'the squiters' (his description of the symptoms is unrepeatable) so he has to stay home. Fracker breaks his bike at the last minute. Evans Cycles cannot get the spares, so Smashie’s “spare bike” is called into action. Note for next time – do not ask Evans Cycles to “service your bike” one week before a big ride.


Two days before this blog starts, Steve E-mails Smashie to set out he itinerary for Saturday and Sunday which includes climbing Cader Idris. A short description of Cader Idris follows:


Cadair Idris or Cader Idris is a mountain in Gwynedd, Wales, which lies at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park near the town of Dolgellau. The peak, at 893m, is composed largely of Ordovician igneous rocks, with many isolated bastard rocks with classic glacial erosion features such as cwms, moraines, striated rocks, and roches moutonnées.


Cader Idris - this is the pic that was meant to reassure the nervous SHABI's that they would be 'fine in Wales'

So the Blog starts with the prequel at the Forest of Dean training day on Friday with “Pedal a Bike Away”.



Day 1 – Training

Warm sunshine and soft gentle winds welcome the fleet of cars and vans arriving from all corners of Great Britain including; Spanner in the Vintage love bus, Big Ring with Slumpy as navigator, Smashie and Chauffer Chuffy in the new van, Genghis with Algy to keep him company along with Sir Fallalot, Fracker and C2C7 – yes 10 riders in total.


Disclaimer paperwork? It's not worth the paper it's written on...

The staff at “pedal a bike away” must have been expecting trouble/incompetence because they allocated two instructors and we can only imagine how poor Windy and Joe got to be chosen for the job. I suspect blackmail over a previous indiscretion.


Chuff takes over and divides the ten in to two teams – the A team and the A+ team (the plus standing for extra special). The A team riders were; Chuff, Genghis, C2C7, Spanner, Algy and Smashie led by Joe, and with the A+ team consisting of; Fracker, Slumpy, Big Ring and Sir Fallalot led by Windy.


Lets hear about how the A+ got on first. It would seem, and I hear this from very reliable sources, that initially there was considerable trepidation particularly from Slumpy who announced that he was going to need some more extra strength Anusol (Anusol is the UK's #1 piles treatment). Quite what the application of this cream was going to do his ability to tackle drop offs was not clear, but our Slumpers said he needed some, and that’s that.


Some of Slumpy's friends from the Mining Days back in the 80's still send him Christmas Cards

However, after a while the A+ team got in the groove and were tackling; manuals, cornering, drop offs and the like with aplomb. After lunch they continued to perform above and beyond with Big Ring taking a tumble over some roots and putting into practice the Instructors exhortation to:


“Stand up like a fairy and dump like a Gruffalo”

It was also noted that the Instructor was riding over £7,000 of bike and to rub it in … this is issued FOC as part of the job.


The A team was assigned Joe as instructor and the first task was to watch the group ride a section of trail “to see what we were not capable of”. Smashie gets over enthusiastic and runs the spikes on his flats down the back of his calf – there is blood and pain but our hero continues regardless.


Conclusion – none of us are very good and its back to basics with cornering technique around some cones. C2C7 trips over his own pedals putting the “I” into Idiot. The cones are badly damaged due to our incompetence. Joe must have really been wondering at this point “…they call themselves idiots and they really are idiots …”, but he continued with total optimism.



Lunchtime Feedback:


"You see how you're doing 'this'? - Well, don't"

Then after lunch we had some practice in the bomb crater of death with C2C7 and Chuffy taking significant falls. At one point your blogger observed Chuffy heading straight for a tree and the whites of his eyes were clearly visible. Luckily, he managed to stop in time. Here's a vid of our instructor making it look like child's play:


We finish right on time for tea and after saying our thankyou’s and good bye’s to Genghis and C2C7, we headed for mid-Wales. For those of you who have not visited the Forest of Dean training area, I recommend a visit as there are huge number of trails and other features. In addition, the instructors are excellent if you fancy topping up your skills. Without exception, everyone learned something new



The Journey to Mid-Wales

Mrs Google sent us all the scenic route but nevertheless we all arrive in Welshpool in good time for a slap-up meal at The Corn Store where we all exchange war stories on the training and speculate as to the ride on Saturday – most are in mortal fear. The more optimistic predict in true SHABI style “that it will be alright somehow”.


Penrhos Arms, with it's famous £5.95 all day breakfast

We arrive in Cwm Cewydd and Sir Fallalot, Algy, Big Ring, Slumpy, and travel to the Penhros Arms to join Dodgy Fat B*stard DFB in the bar. Fracker, Chuffy and Ben go to Smashie’s place called Hafod. Ben is to sleep in his Love bus …alone!


Tywyn - vowels are optional

Big Sleeps everyone - tomorrow is the big day

Day 2 - The BIG day up Cader Idris.

We meet at 8:00am to eat breakfast at the Penhros Arms (Famous for it's all day breakfast), and delicious is was too, at a bargain price of £4.50 each (SHABI discount applied). There is not much banter as all are in fear of what is to come. Spanner tells us its all about fluids and starts drinking Ribena from a five-litre plastic can. Slumpy is freaked out and requests more Anusol.


We then set off in convoy to Machynlleth to replenish our supplies for the day. The SHABI’s wander around the CO-OP store looking for an eclectic mix of foods such as; jelly babies, mini pork pies, mars bars, bananas, Anusol plus, and so on and this will make the stock prediction software at the CO-OP HQ go a bit haywire.


Algy makes the first error of judgement buying a “slab” of water rather than a “slab” of bear – Slumpy is not impressed.


So we press on to Abergynolwyn where we meet our guide, Steve Beech. Steve immediately inspires confidence by refusing to get anyone to sign a disclaimer and describing how to activate his phone in case he should die. We spend many minutes flucking around but eventually we are all ready, and we set off cheerily waved on our way by the local kids.


We are immediately stunned by the beautiful scenery looking like a picture postcard in the warm sunshine with bluebells nodding their heads as the SHABI’s pootle past. This is what mountain bike heaven looks like.




Early days, so far so beautiful

We go to Castell Bere which is the remains of an old Welsh Caste ruined by Edward I when he was in a bad mood and wanted a conservatory extension and planning permission was refused by the National Park Authority. Then we pass onto the cottage of “Mary Jones” who is famed for walking 26 miles barefoot over the Mountains to a place called Bala to buy a Welsh bible.


The wisest among us pointed out that she had already done it 25 times before with her shoes on, and no-one had taken any notice until she did it barefoot. …and another thing… why didn’t she just order it with Amazon like the rest of us would. There was also concern that the pile of stones, that was her cottage, don’t comply with the current Building Regulations. Probably moved to a social housing complex in Leeds. You can trust the SHABI’s to really get to the heart of local cultural issues.


The SHABI's only had kind words and respect for Mary Jones...

Then the climbing started and it went on, and it was steep, and it went on, and it was steep. Sir Fallalot had an immediate crisis of confidence but, being the brave knight of the realm that he is, stopped his bottom lip wobbling and pressed on.

Then the climbing started and it went on, and it was steep, and it went on, and it was steep. Sir Fallalot had an immediate crisis of confidence but, being the brave knight of the realm that he is, stopped his bottom lip wobbling and pressed on.




It was granny gear all the way



Everyone settled into their own rhythm of breathless panting, huffing and puffing. Spanner and Chuff taking up the lead, Algy and Smashie in the middle somewhere and everyone else spread over the hillside. Our guide Steve, meanwhile flitted between the riders encouraging and chatting away as if he was on a pedalo in Barmouth Lido.


Much needed rest

Regular stops were required and we continue to ride relentlessly upwards with the terrain becoming wilder and more rugged. We pass from a gravel road onto a grass track and it gets steeper. Some are reduced to walking – special mention to Spanner and Fracker for staying on the pedals longer than anyone else.


Food is now being consumed along with much water. Everyone (except our guide Steve) was absolutely on the limit. It was demonstrated by Big Ring that if you pressed down on your helmet, perspiration would flood over your face … no not that sort of helmet.


As you are all aware, SHABI rule 43a part N subsection 2 part ii states that performance enhancing drugs are permitted at all times. OMG did we all wish we had taken a lot more of very much stronger drugs at this point. Jelly babies were not cutting the mustard so to speak. It was then that Algy decided to get gelled up with a sachet of … er um …. gel. The results were instantaneous and he shot off up the trail before once again running out of power. Lesson is that we should all be on intravenous gel drips.


We then reach a slight incline down. Steve the Guide says go down a little way …but with Chuff on the front he goes waaay too far. Thus we now start the stage known as the Hell of the Heather. It was sheer murder climbing with our bikes through the heather/long grass/bog to reach the ridge above. Those lovely light alloy bikes became like heavy iron bedsteads and about as manoeuvrable. Some carried the bike, some pushed, and some stopped and wept silently. And we had to go double the distance thanks to Chuff – we will never forget …. ever.


At the top DFB makes an urgent work call and in disgust throws his phone away. There are sheep out there right now making calls …


Yes Minister I think the 5G enhanced digital encrypted network capability when linked to the latest heated deep fill sheep dip facility WILL definitely be a firewall against further terrorist attacks baa baaa baa”.


We are all safe in their hands!

Then onwards along the “saddle” to the bottom the path of boulders. The collective noun for boulders is “bastard” - yes a “bastard of boulders” is exactly what we got, with boulders the size of a babies head (or larger) combined with rocks steps and scree making riding the bike near impossible. This next stage went on for about two miles and was so steep it was sometimes difficult to stand. A terrible dilemma faced your heroes – push the bike or carry it? Fracker and had a little “lie down” on Chuff’s rear wheel when tackling a particularly tough step up, and DFB and SFAL also had a synchronised fall (some 25m apart).





The peleton got very spread out at this point but just when the reader might be thinking the SHABI’s are a lost cause, we all pulled together. Everyone put their heads down and pressed steadily upwards. Walkers coming the other way (downwards) spoke encouraging with respect and awe at a group of riders so doggedly doing what no other sane person would do.



Final Push to the Top!


We reach the final base camp before the summit where we regroup, and as the last riders scramble over the rocky scree, we all applaud – we are together again and ready to complete the final push to just below the summit. We all ditch our bikes for the final climb except Spanner and we all help get his bike the final 25m to the summit.


We have made it, and we sit there for a while in silence taking in the view of the whole of Wales – over a 1,124m of climbing (according the Smashie’s GPS stats) and we are ALL still in one piece – just about.


Now we have to get down again!

So the instruction went from brain to muscles “its time to go down” but the muscles had only been going up for hours and hours so went on strike. Result – penguins are more graceful on land than the SHABI’s climbing down 25m from the summit of Cader Idris.

Our guide gathers us together and asks what is the most important thing we learnt on Friday’s training – the answers from the SHABI’s – “unweighting the front wheel, squeeze the brakes, drop the heals, lean into the corners, eat Jelly babies etc. etc etc” none of which are correct – the correct answer is:


“look ahead down the trail”

– the SHABI’s really are idiots and we know it.



Now reunited with the bikes, the SHABIs once again turn into a creature of wonderous capability. Although there was a little walking to do over the worst of the bastard boulders, the rest was a festival of drop off’s, rocky paths, shale pathways. Your blogger had to stop occasionally to gather his thoughts such was the sheer excitement of this part of the descent. Full physical and mental commitment required at all times. This was real mountain biking with an “R”.




At the bottom of the bastard boulders we gather and applaud the SHABI riders coming in with that “ …WTF” expression on their faces. DFB and Chuff go off in search of the sheep now making calls at ministerial level regarding the level of security offered to “ewes and their lambs” in the up and coming 5G bandwidth auctions. None of the offending sheep are found and DFB is going to have a chat with his boss when he returns to work on Monday.

We then set off down the middle slopes of Cader Idris and a wonderous blast down green bridle paths it is too. We spread out to make best use of our “looking ahead” skills and we pass numerous walkers who, considering the speed we are going, are very good natured and friendly. Goes to show how a quick “hello good afternoon” can help everyone get along.


We gather at substantial ford with a rock pool along with an audience of walkers. Your blogger and Sir Fallalot were last of the Peleton who had sped off down the hill. Sir Fallalot enters the rocky pool and gets his front wheel up the other side whence he stalls, bounces the wheel to another rock and then back again and finally, with a slow, graceful, but agonising inevitability, falls into the rock pool. Applause all round from the walkers. However, our hero gets up pretty damn quick as the water is a temperature described as refreshing. What a top chap our Sir Fallalot is.



We press on and then divert off down through the fields and some really steep trails but with Fridays training behind us – everything passes off without incident.

Spanner then gets a puncture and our guide shows us some handy hints on mending tubeless with “worms” – very useful – duly noted.

Then we head back the way we came past Castell Bere and Marys cottage. We arrive in car park a bit spread out (Steve has a puncture) and the kids are there to welcome us asking “why some riders are missing?” We assure them that the missing have been left where they fell.


We made it!

Into the pub and much excellent chat – Steve gives an impromptu lesson on how to repair a bike with a missing rear gear mechanism and tells us about his adventures in the Himalayas.



It all over and we have all survived – 26.30 Km – 16.36 miles, 1,124 meters ascended 7 hrs and 6 mins in the saddle – max height above sea level 860.07 m starting at 15.05 above sea level.


The night after the day before

The Drive to Fairbourne offered stunning views, maybe that's why it's known as the 'Welsh Riviera'



Off to the curry house and your blogger is in a daze and can only recall the following:


  1. Slumpy is an Indian Curry virgin – food far to spicy for his taste, until he added yoghurt. He still wishes he'd ordered the beans on toast

  2. Overall rating of the curry 0 out of 10 – we’ll try the Taj Mahal in Machynlleth next time – good luck with that!

  3. New Zealanders and ultra-competitive at pool and when loosing, will use their consumption of vegetarian curry, Guinness and port, cheese and Anusol to emit “foul and noxious” gases to distract other players…. some of whom fainted or got their head stuck leaning out of a window to get fresh air

  4. Anusol should never be taken orally




Day 3 - Sunday is fun day

DFB has suffered during the previous evenings pool competition and is “unwell” – he goes home. We are all sad – DFB is a true SHABI’s and his complete idiocy will be missed – plus there is the small issue with phone which has fallen into the hands of the “sheep liberation front”. Its not going well at ministerial level.


All present and correct (minus DFB) and we follow Steve after our usual slap up breakfast at the Penhros to an innocent looking layby in the Dyfi forest.


Again superb weather and we set off slowly and before you know it we are in deja vue land grinding up an interminable series of forest tracks. However, everyone sticks to it and we get there in the end. Special credit to SFAL – over the limit but still smiling. We start with a section previously used for an Enduro race. Its way too technical for the SHABI’s but serves as a useful reference point as to our skill level.


The SHABI's are feeling it today!

A bit more climbing and then down a rock-strewn chute – oh my goodness what fun. We meet some motor bikers illegally riding in the woods – apparently, they are a complete nightmare, ripping up our MTB trails, but they are courteous enough.


More fantastic descents and the alternating sunshine and dark forest makes spotting the hazards even ore challenging.



More climbing and more descents and suddenly its time to go home with:



One final almighty descent.



Epic.


Epilogue

Thank-you to everyone who made this possible and in particular:


1. Steve Beech of Wheelism for his guiding on Saturday and Sunday – Fantastic!

2. Algy for organising the logistics

3. SFAL – organising the breakfasts at the Penhros arms

4. Chuffy for organising the training day

5. Everyone else for being great – not a single whinge or a complaint – thank-you


Rider of the weekend – Sir Fallalot – its not about who came first, but who had the most fun.


I love you all


Smashie x





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