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Send your letters on anything to do with Mountain-Biking to: The interesting ones (and some of the others...) will be included here.  Main Letters Page

CyB Questions

Hi Gareth,
Firstly, can I congratulate you on a brilliant site. I found your site when I was searching through Google for info about the red bull route and what greeted me upon entry has been very useful indeed. I rode the red bull route a couple of years ago in the rain (it was dry when I left from Bristol). I have to admit that I felt a little disappointed about the ride but that was probably due to the weather and the four hour drive to get there! Anyway, I am planning to go back to North Wales for a couple of days on 28/6. Most of my riding is done in Bristol where I live as we have some brilliant singletrack very near the centre of Bristol. However, a friend & I wanted to get away for a couple of days but with the F&M situation, we are struggling to find places to ride other than locally (we were planning a trip to the Lake District but there is no chance of that being open soon). So, a trip to north Wales it is for us! We would definitely like to take in the Red Bull, Pink Heifer & karrimor routes when we are there.
Please can you help me with a couple of questions?
a) Is there anywhere we can camp close to the Red Bull route?
b) are the Pink Heifer & karrimor routes open now?
c) Prints of the routes are hard to follow when hammering along at 20mph! Are the Pink Heifer & karrimor signposted along their respective trails?
d) are the Pink Heifer & karrimor built trails or are they trails that have occurred because of much riding on them?
I would be very very grateful if you could reply to me.
It is very refreshing to see a proper site with proper comments from proper mountain bikers. I will be recommending this site to everyone I know who has an interest in mountain biking.
Cheers for now,
Steve

Hi Steve,
Glad you like the site, positive feedback, plus riding readers special trails are the only reasons I do it.
There is a well recommended Chalet/Log cabin park at http://www.logcabinswales.co.uk/skivillage/
There is also a camping/caravan site On A470, 1' miles north of Dolgellau http://www.vanner.co.uk/ (Don't know what it's like, don't forget to tell us if you go!)
If there is a big group of you http://www.mtbbritain.co.uk/plas_isa.html is very good, owned by Sian Roberts (who you'll remember as one of our top XC racers if you've been around for a while like me :-)
Unfortunately the Pink Heifer is still closed and the MBR is open only in a shortened version. (Now all open - Ed.)
The good news is that the re-routed MBR has a descent from the Heifer on it and is very good (if a bit shorter than normal) see the review of this route on the F&M bulletin page.
The new MBR F&M route is well signed but the Pink Heifer is not.
This is part of the fun of the Heifer, it makes it a little more exclusive, and it is worth following the guide.
The Red Bull singletrack is all 'surfaced' as are the other trails.
Except for the Heifer that is, which has quite a lot of 'natural' trail on it.
The reason is basically the water, they do have a fantastic amount of it and it cuts the trails to pieces if they're frequently ridden.

Updates to this answer will be on the F&M Bulletin Page

Don't forget we have helmet-cam video of trails on all of these routes at http://www.mtbbritain.co.uk/helmet_camera_video.html which give an excellent idea of what the riding is like.
These are definitely worth the download, tell us what you think when you've seen them.

NEW Routes - with easy access from Midlands
Gareth. Two excellent colour leaflets for mountain bikers have been produced by Andrew Kelly covering the Ceiriog and Upper Ceiriog valley, near the village of Chirk in NE Wales. The first is a 23 mile circuit and the second a 14 mile round. The leaflets include highlighted OS map extracts and are even waymarked on the ground with circular badges. It is easy to make shorter loops and together would make an ideal weekend for any XC rider. They are available for 95p each from Wrexham Tourist Information Centre, Lambpit Street,Wrexham, LL11 1 WN. Tel 01978 292015. I will try to do an article on one of them later, but it really is quality riding in an unknown area.

Andrew, a Horse rider, also asks mountain bikers not to creep up silently behind horses and then flash past squealing brakes and heavy gear changes. A friendly shout from 20 yards or so and a momentary wait for acknowledgement by the rider, would improve safety for all concerned and do wonders for our relationships with horse riders.
Paul Davies

Hi Paul, sounds like a hot tip to me, this area is quick to access from the Midlands and seems well worth a look, independent reports from anyone who rides them please.
I second the horse advice, I always call out "Bike behind you" in as friendly and low voiced a manner as will be heard by the rider. Talking to the horse as you pass in a soothing tone is also appreciated, so the horse knows you're friendly and a human. Surely this applies to some of us?..

Howdy!
Jus' been surfin' on your site and happened upon your Nidderdale feature. Looks a cool route.
Do you know any other routes around Nidderdale? Here's a link to a review of the route that me and me friends choose to ride around Nidderdale which is posted on our website:-
You probably know this route already, but if you don't it is definitely worth a ride someday. I think it is less weather dependent than the ride on your site. To view a pdf. file of our route click below:-
    http://benjaminhaworth.tripod.com/nidderdale.pdf (it may take a while to load so be warned - 600kb-ish!)
 If you want more info on it feel free to email me anytime.
 Toodle-pip!
 Benjamin Haworth
License to crash?

I want to start downhill racing and I got an entry form for a local race,
when it told me to write down my license number. Of course I don't have a
licence and didn't know you needed one! Can you please assist me in how I can
get a license.
Thank you very much
Conor Hadlington

Hi Conor,
you don't really have to have a license for most UK races.
If you don't have a license, you have to pay extra to provide insurance for the day. (this will be the higher priced entry fee and is usually called 'entry fees and day license')
The advantage of getting a license for the year is that it's cheaper than one day entry at several events.
Also you cannot collect points towards the NPS national rankings without one.
This doesn't stop you walking away with one of the top prizes on the day (if you're that good!) on a day license though.
To check out the advantages of a yearly license/BCF membership go to http://www.bcf.uk.com/
If you're pretty sure that downhill racing is for you, sign up.
If not you can test the water by coughing up the higher individual rate to the organisers.
If the race is very soon, there may not be time to get a full license, so a day license it is then.
Hope this helps

 

Flossing is Important

The more I see this site the better it gets. Thanks. 
Today I visited the how to repair a ripped tyre feature.
One thing you might like to incorporate is dental floss (yes that's right), instead of linen thread. It's very strong, saves a trip to the haberdashers & keeps in with the dental theme. But the bestest thing of all is that it's slippery & goes through anything you're sewing like it's been buttered. 
I've used it over the years for running repairs on climbing & mountaineering kit & know of at least one instance when it was used "Rambo" style on a leg wound. Have a go if you don't believe me (on a tyre, not your leg).

Also: Some time ago I stuck a chain suck solution in a bike chat type forum but i can't
remember which.
It involves zip ties round the chainstay, with the locking mechanism & the free end pointing toward & resting on (respectively) the inner face of the chain rings.
The big ones (filchable from any Telecom engineer) work bestest.
If you consider the tip worthwhile fire it on to the page if you like.
It worked for me & I ride a Giant XTC, which in common with most full sus rigs is not really easy to fit one of the wee plate gizmos.

Kenny Wilson

Excellent, more dental related tips always appreciated!

Real Ale Wobble

Hi Gareth
Rode the "real ale wobble" at LLanwrtyd Wells (try saying that when you're drunk) in November. This is the 4th year I've done it in the company of young Dom and this time we took Andy from Afan bike hire and another reprobate, Kev. The event is excellent with 3 way marked routes on both days, going in opposite directions each day. Although the recent heavy rain meant that the route was cut up pretty badly in places, considering there were about 500 MTBers on the Saturday, it did OK And there lies the really cool bit about this event. 500 nutters in one small town with an itinerary that goes something like:
Arrive Friday night,
Drink beer,
Sleep,
Ride bike all day,
drink more beer,
Sleep,
Ride bike all day again.
Go home knackered, but stoked.
This years course was by far the most interesting in the history of the event and had a few sections that I know would have got you going or laughing.
Otherwise, we did the MTB Marathon at Builth Wells in July. 100KM of fairly excellent riding and ultimately, a lot of physical pain. Again, a top event and with nearly 900 riders taking part imagine the feeling as part of the "peleton" going through the town to the start of the off-road bit. Made the tour de France look like a Sunday club run. We all managed just under 6 hours and that was stopping at all the feed stations and generally having a good time. The event was sponsored by "Power bar" and as such, the feed stations were packed. There was a pasta party on the Saturday night and loads of riders camped in the showground area which gave it a good feel. So much so that our race preparation consisted of several bottles of red wine and pints of Guinness. That time of under 6 hrs is beginning to sound quite good in view of the above. Anyway, I thoroughly recommend the 2 above events, if only for the crack.

Alan.
P.S. Afan is getting better all the time.

Get me out on a 100K event with a start like Le Tour? I'd need a couple of Guinness before I agreed to that... Still, that's how I usually get roped in (note: if Alan was in a lot of physical pain I'd have been helicoptered to intensive care). These are the kind of events I like really, as little like a real race as possible and lots of fun. We're hoping to tempt Alan in to showing us his legendary Gower ride, watch the route guide section, coming soon I hope.

Pump it up

Gareth, In your recommendations for winter kit, you say you can get a track pump from 15 quid.  Did you know argos do them for a tenner? Don't know if they are any good or not.
Mickey

We had a chance to look at it recently, it's good value for the money, but it has no built in pressure gauge. This makes it good for reducing physical effort (many pumps are incapable of high pressures) but you still need a separate gauge for setting accurate tyre pressures. If you do it this way, pump the tyre over pressure, then let it down with the gauge to avoid multiple gauge/hose swaps. An alloy barrelled pump with a built in gauge can be had for 15 and we think it's worth the extra. Set both tyres to 45 psi for hard riding to avoid pinch punctures (best for 2.125 inch tyres, light riders can get away with less, heavy riders may need more). This saves a lot in the long run, reducing tube and rim damage. To test a gauge for accuracy (some are way out) try cross checking with a car type gauge. If you have Presta type tubes, use your track pump to put some air in a car tyre then check again with one of the electronic or traditional telescoping gauges. The latter are very accurate when applied properly and the pressure in the larger car tyre varies little with swapping gauges.

Headset Wrenching...

Hi Gareth, thanks for replying to my recent e:mail, I would like to trouble you for one more piece of advice.
I have tightened the allen-key on top of my headset stem as tight as I can, but it still seems to slip a bit if I put the front wheel between my knees and twist the bars. Is there anything I can do to firm it up, or should I not be concerned ?
Thanks again in anticipation of your expert assistance.

Hi Mark,
oops this is a big mistake!!! The type of headset you have is called the threadless steerer or 'Aheadset' design. The bolt in the top of the top cap is only there to tension the bearings i.e. to 'pull the fork up through the steerer tube just long enough for you to tighten the stem bolts which lock the stem in place' To adjust the headset bearings follow this procedure:
1. lift the front wheel off the ground and turn the bars from side to side.
Do they move smoothly? if so the bearings are not too tight.
2. Put the wheel back on the ground, turn the bars all the way to one side, lock the front brake and rock the bars / stem front to back to see if the headset is loose, put your hand on the lower bearing race (between fork and frame) and see if you can feel movement between them.
3. If there is you must tighten the headset. Do this by:
    a. Completely loosen the stem clamp bolts. (If you don't do this the stem cap top bolt will not be able to pull up on the fork while you make your adjustments. This is it's job!)
    b. gently tighten the stem cap top bolt a bit at a time until the looseness/ wobble from step 2 is gone.
    c. Fully tighten the stem clamp bolts.
Do not overtighten the stem cap bolt as this will overload the bearings and cause premature aheadset wear.
    d. re-try step 1. to make sure you haven't overtightened the bearing (if so then undo the clamp bolts again and back off the top cap bolt a little at a time until the bars move freely, then lock up the clamp bolts.)

Remember that the top cap is really just an adjustment tool and once the adjustment is finished you can safely remove it and ride without it! Trust me on this one! Most people leave it in so that they can use it if the aheadset works loose during a ride (and because it looks neat). This shouldn't happen if you have properly tightened your stem clamp bolts. What does happen is that mud and water gather in your lower headset bearing. After a couple of months the rusty bearing begins to collapse and you feel looseness on the test. However at this point you would be able to feel and hear the grating inside the bearing on test 1. Then go out and buy the excellent WTB momentum headset which you can re-grease with a gun after every wet ride, see
http://www.mtbbritain.co.uk/best_components_awards.html probably one of the best components for the UK cack ever.
Any questions I'm happy to answer if I can.

Scots Links

Hallo Gareth,
Well done on the website.  My thought for the day, for what it's worth, is
that I find the biggest problem about tracking down good singletrack on the
www. is that it's all over the place and the sites don't often link.  I
can't be bothered contributing the same route to three different places, so
links to the best of the rest of the site trails is my idea.  Here's some
for Central/Southern Scotland...
http://www.mtbreview.com/trails/Europe-UnitedKingdom/NorthThirdandCambusbarron.html
(this one is mental - you can keep your Red Bull, et al!)
http://www.gmbc.supanet.com/racecourse.JPG (good singletrack links between
forestroads)
http://www.mtbreview.com/trails/Europe-UnitedKingdom/MabieForest.html (lots
of good trails and trail advice nearby)
http://www.dalescycles.com/discus/DCForumID17/1.html#5 (discussion site with
a few top tips (well, I thought they were!) for routes within easy access of
Glasgow
http://www.descent-world.co.uk/html/news/avalanchecup.html (details of DH
course and gondola lifts which might soon be available to MTB'ers)
http://www.mtbreview.com/trails/Europe-UnitedKingdom/Glentressandsurroundingarea.html
(sorry, me again)
http://www.barton.connectfree.co.uk/smbc (Stirling club website - guy who
posted knows some good trails.  Not me this time!)

Hope this is helpful.  If you find your way up here sometime, drop me a
note and I'll see if I can build you a top MTB trip.
Duncan

Thanks Duncan, I'm thinking of having a seperate category for links to top routes on the web, as part of the links page.

Pink Heifer in Dangerous Mood

Hi Gareth, (sorry for not reporting on the ride sooner, but I've been working and studying hard to pay for that new full sus bike, which, I feel, I need to make my life complete.)

The Heifer is a killer ride, almost literally in Schlime's case, who managed to high side it to the LEFT on the "WAY steep path to the waterfall". Just at the point where your route guide tells us to "walk over Collapsed section" (which we didn't bother to read until after the event...Doh!). I was first down and made it over, only to bottle out at the 1st switchback. Schlime was next and wasn't so lucky. He fell the 15 feet down to where the path had collapsed to, landing on his head (Giro Switchblade helmets are worth every penny), his bike followed landing on him first, then lodging itself in a tree, which was lucky because that stopped it falling all the way down to the bottom of the valley. Luckily he had a decent helmet and a thick skull. Although he says he can't remember much about the "Ant Trail", which was definitely one of the best bits.

We'd ridden the Dragons tail before so almost knew what to expect, but that still didn't stop me from getting over confident and going arse over apex about half way down. This piece of trail is so good that we almost trekked back up (well we thought about it anyway and that must count for something!). You were right about those tarmac climbs being eye popping more like knee popping. But more importantly we didn't get lost which means it must be a damn fine route guide to overcome the enormous drag factor of our intellects.

An excellent trail and well worth the 200 mile round trip.

We'll be trying the Stretton trails as soon as possible.

See ya,   Mart, Schlime, Rich, Steve and yes Al did chicken out.

Yes, this ride separates the mad from the sensible. Obviously you guys are made of the right stuff. And yes you do need that full sus bike to make your life complete.

Blatant (but interesting) plug. 

Hi Gareth, excellent job on the site, most impressed!
In your Coed-y-Brenin section, you mentioned that you were interested in places to stay in the area. Well, my group always stay at Trawsfynydd Holiday Park at Bronaber on the A470, about 2 miles North of the forest entrance. It sounds a bit cheesy, but the park has comfortable log cabins, all with showers (no meters), TVs, fully equipped kitchens etc, and there is a general store and pub on the site. Best of all it's an easy ride down the hill to the forest. You can get details at -
http://www.logcabinswales.co.uk/skivillage/
Hope you find it useful.
Cheers, Nick

OOOh! cutesy little Chalet's or what? they look good to me.

Yes Yes Yes!
I spotted your site on Bike Magic,
nice work it's good to see the Minton Batch route highlighted, definitely
a fav route in Shropshire. Keep up the good work, if you're after some more routes to feature I know some excellent routes in the Brecon Beacons.
Rob

Darn right we want to check out the Brecon Beacons, watch this space for a review. Now we've been and it was spectacular. We're going again this weekend to try out a legal version of the route. It's set to be a long hard ride so wimpy types need not apply.

Blimey, that's good

you've captured what riding is all about for the vast majority of regular off-road riders that I've ever met. The trail guides seem well informed and the photos are excellent.
If you're not already aware of the area, get down to AFAN ARGOED near PortTalbot, South Wales and check out the singletrack already built and that which is under construction. Get in touch if you need a guide.

All the best with the site,
Alan and Rosetta Murphy

Steady on, it's not that good! hang about, what am I saying of course it is. A bunch of us have arranged to go and check out Afan Argoed for MTB Britain on the 9th of April (watch this site for a route guide), I hear it could be even better than Coed-y Brenin! can't wait.

Now we've been and I think it's going to be at least as good as Coed y Brenin (and that's saying something!) Everyone's going to have to wait till later in the summer though as a web-site has sponsored much of the new trail building and negotiated a temporary exclusive.

Why do we MTB? The evolution of a species.

I've been mulling this over for a long time and I think the answer lies in our instincts. Many of us believe humans left these behind when we left the trees, but they're still the driving force behind our behaviour. In order to avoid predators (and other humans!) our ancestors needed to be able to run fast and duck through gaps between trees at speed. Until a few hundred years ago much of Europe was forested, the terrain was rough and tracks were often narrow and winding. So some of us are left with a pleasure in perceived speed and risk, which drives us to the edge of our abilities (and beyond).

'The spirit of adventure and exploration' is what we call the main instinct I 'm talking about. To stand the best chance of passing genes on to the next generation, our ancestors would've had to hunt food from great distances (or starve) when food was scarce. The younger and faster hunters specialised in the sprinting kill, whilst the older (and slower) would have to travel further from the homestead to gather food. Hence the younger mountain-biker's instinct is for speed (both cross country and downhill). Whilst the older mountain biker prefers longer distance rides.

So how will we evolve in the future? a generation gap may be forming, with young riders preferring the downhill and jumping aspects of the sport, whilst older riders enter trail-quest and Polaris style events. Anyone want to buy an MTB spear, to take on their next hunting expedition?

Gareth Robinson, Leicester UK

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