Bad Ugly Super Hero Unicorn Princess
“Burn, burn, burn, Ring of fire, ring of fire…. you see Dockers, this is a classic…. No it is, it really is. It’s a zeitgeist thing….” Mr. Hulk doesn’t look convinced in the benefits of Johnny Cash as pre riding mind management but thats exactly what’s happening as we sit in traffic on our way to the Forest of Dean for an unplanned addition to the travel plans for a big weekend In the MRG calendar. Mr. Bears Stag weekend. It’s at this point Methlab (not explaining that one…) gives in and exits the vehicle in search of the beer. Not in itself a problem although it did raise an eyebrow from those also on the outside lane of the M4…..
So take 6 lads, of mixed ages, fitness and attitudes, a huge van full of bikes, rather a lot of beer, quite a lot of Haribo and more fancy dress than you’d expect and (frankly) the outlook for mature or sensible behaviour doesn’t look good. Add to this heady concoction the planned destinations of Revolution bike park and Antur Stiniog and (frankly) the outlook looks worse still….
I won’t dwell on the happenings at FOD, suffice to say the hour was fun, proved that basically of the group only my bike was in anyway able to peddle up hill and only my bike was not entirely suited to the type of airborn tomfoolery planned for the remaining days. Further more it set in stone a complete and near total disregard for common sense. “Just hit it harder” seeming to be the mantra for all trail features….
It’s amazing how things have a way of working out. Our plans being ‘fluid’ meant a route to Snowdonia through mid Wales suddenly became a reality. Turns out (To Mr. Hulks total dismay) there are no Burger King restaurants in the Welsh boonies so a public house was sought. We found ourselves on a terrace overlooking a stunning river view. It can’t be coincidental that one look at the dishevelled gang of muddy MTB’ers bought the waitress to the firm conclusion that she had no room inside the restaurant. We understood. Sadly no amount of plate glass was going to insulate the cleaner patrons from the view (and viewings of) the stag as he was transformed into Super Kenny on the patio. It was also not going to stop one of our brethren exercising his humour bone as he locked us on said terrace whilst off to relieve himself….
Time, it is said, is relative. In our case about 4 hours relative. More of a distant cousin than a close brother perhaps. However relative, arrival at the Plough Inn in Llanrhaeadr YM Mochnant (This is a place name not a sneeze…) and subsequent bunk room happened around midnight and with it all the hilarity of 6 lads, 7 bikes, 8 assorted bottles of spirits, more haribo moving into a space designed to sleep 4… That said the bunk room at the Plough is ideal for purpose, basic and clean with not much to break. As advice though beer and burger fuelled men do produce some fairly noxious by-products and under such circumstances the top bunk furthest from the window isn’t recommended…..
Finally after a whopping 5 hours of kip the day dawns. I don’t know about you but arrival at one of the biggest hitting bike parks in the UK wouldn’t be complete without a full English and a man dressed as a unicorn riding princess? We certainly thought so, although had to be impressed by the complete lack of surprise from the land lord at our soon-to-b-wed comrades attire. It seems nothing is a surprise in the mountains.
So, Revolution Bike Park? ‘Your not in Somerset any more Ginger’ runs through my head as I climb aboard a multi coloured Land Rover for the lift up the hill. It’s steep. Very, very steep. The Landy hitting low range immediately and staying there. Unlike our more local Bike Park Wales there is no ride up option at Rev. Mainly I suspect because pretty much anything that you could actually pedal up isn’t really suited for coming down.
I last essentially until the first section in the woods on the Main Line (rated black with near vertical sections) before appreciating this is not a park to be taken lightly. Huge ruts, root sections, drops, gullies and jumps await. This is DH for DH’ers not trail centre wannabes and it’s all the better for it.
I don’t own a big hitting DH bike, or even a big AM bike anymore and frankly my trusty Cannondale Trigger was out of its depth on the big stuff. Revolution owns the art of braking bumps like nowhere I’ve ever seen and the relentless terrain saw the Fox DYAD damper needing ever more rebound to keep up. Ultimately this set the limit on the pace for me, but not until a proper grin was installed upon my face. However Our Stag (now christened: Bad Ugly Super Hero Unicorn Princess’) was finding his feet on the massive Giant Glory and his grin couldn’t get bigger without his head falling in two…. The message is this isn’t a ‘trail for all bikes and abilities’ park. While you can get down on a short travel trail bike it’s more a question of wits than pace, knife to a gun fight if you will. A big AM or Enduro rig at least with the DH guys on the big rigs really getting the best from the place. But what a place….
Lunch happened as fresh burgers from the trailer on site. I mention this because the guy flipping the burgers is the parks owner and the burgers were both great and sold at half the cost of your usual trail head cafe. As were the t-shirts. Revolution is a park for mountain bikers not high ticket rollers with more bling than zing. Even the land rovers exude the feeling of labours of love and add to the vibe. If you want to go big, go to Rev. If you can’t hack it don’t go. A simple acceptance of its positioning in our world which is really refreshing and a something to be cherished and copied. I’d love to say safety prevailed and we rolled away injury free but I can’t. A difference in pace leading our Glory piloting stag to apply the mountain brake and using a single foot as the emergency anchor for himself and the big bike. Ice was required….
In a lucky twist the British Downhill Series was kicking off just up the road, so at the conclusion of madness at Rev’ we wondered over to watch and were privileged to catch up with the the Legend that is Steve Peat and his supremely talented Syndicate riders. Catching up with the future star Jay Williams who has been subjected to the tortures of our tame PT, Dockers. Both Peaty and Jay looking dialled in practice and squaring away 2nd and 12th respectively on race day. None of which is important after being able to say ‘did you see the picture of me and Steve Peat?’
“I want to wear that!” “Erm, you sure?” When the guy in the inflatable fat ninja suit declares a desire to switch into a full Lycra morph suit complete with fingers and lacking eye, nose or mouth apertures you kinda go with it. Sadly this results in two all but naked mountain bikers battling fancy dress installations in the middle of a busy public bar. Kudos to the Plough inn, once more neither the staff or patrons were in anyway fazed and normality is restored without incident. Or at least as normal as an inflatable Ninja and a zipped in purple gimp can be. It’s a true testament to the social benefits of mountain biking. I can’t imagine for one minute the entire fancy dress, naked carnage happening in a busy city pub without incident. Get to rural Wales to where the bikers/climbers/hikers/locals are and the easy going dial is all the way up and harmless hilarity actively encouraged. We can’t recommend the plough enough. Go, you’ll have fun and eat. A lot….
I’d love to tell you that the following day dawned early and sparkling. But I just explained the kind of night that included Morph suits so you can guess at the mildly jaded state of our motley crew. Despite this more bacon was consumed, the truck loaded and off to another mountain we went. Antur Stiniog our destination and another up lift to big drops. Straight away Antur is different. Glowing in unusual sunshine the mountain is open and exposed with more of a man made feel in places and almost entirely open rock as a surface. The uplifts are bigger and just as efficient, taking the road up the mountain rather than the more usual fire track.
It quickly transpires that Antur is much more accessible to the average trail rider with a range of graded trails available and it’s fun. Huge, big shiny grin fun. Jumps, berms, drops, rock gardens and speed being the currency, everyone was smiling. The Cannondale was more suited here but the bigger trail bikes owned the day. The big DH rigs seeming a bit over kill apart from the really big features but our now only mildly injured stag still grinned the Glory to victory in the go large stakes.
It’s impossible to compare the two parks head to head as they are simply too different. Revolution puts you in your box. Unashamedly setting its stall as home to big features for riders that want to ride on them. For all that it has a great vibe of a place where slow or not if you make it down you deserve to be there. Everyone should see the place to put their gravity riding in perspective if only because I believe most bikers are over biked. If you go and look at a track designed to really test your Enduro bike it may change your view of the usual rides you put it through. Antur is fun, it just is. You can hit some really big features but you have to go looking. But in the sunshine with a group of big trail bikes it’s a proper giggle and like Rev, the people are fun too. Essentially if your looking to ride downhill a weekend in and around Snowdonia is a world class proposition and you’d do a lot worse than a bunk room and a great local pub. Morph suits and Unicorns are, sadly, optional.