This took place last weekend.
I’ve been a little busy so this is the first chance I’ve had to write something.
On the Saturday of last week we’d had two straight days of no rain, so I thought the trails would be pretty dry, and I decided to take the wheel to Brechfa Forest, Wales’ best kept MTB secret.
I made the half hour drive to the forest full of nerves because I was afraid i wouldn’t be able to handle the extremities of the trail.
On a 24" I find control a lot easier.
On a 29" the uni tends to run away from underneath me, especially on steep slopes and before you know it, you’re going too fast and are out of control.
I pulled up to the car park and was surprised to see so many cars.
Normally there are only two or three tops.
Today there was around twenty.
Three of the cars were obviously together, and the passengers were unloading their very expensive mountain bikes and putting them together.
I pulled up next to them and started putting my leg armour, rucksack, gloves and helmet on.
The last thing I did was take my uni out of the back of the car and lean it against the boot.
I could hear the conversation going quiet as I locked the car and wheeled the uni past them.
I just live for moments like this.
I could see them all thinking “WTF?”
I’m pretty used to it by now, but I still always smile inwardly when this happens.
Although one guy was different today.
He gave me a look I wasn’t used to.
I gave him an imperceptible nod and carried on walking up the trail head.
I passed a few dog walkers and exchanged pleasantries until I reached the brow of the trail and mounted up.
I’m still not very good at freemounting so I used a handy tree branch the first time.
As soon as I was away I felt the difference between the old thing I used to ride and this new wheel.
God, it’s fast!
Within five minutes I passed a group of hardcore downhillers in full body armour pushing their steeds up the hill I was riding down.
“Did you f****** see that?”
The last guy just gives me a big grin and a thumbs up.
It’s so cool when that happens.
I carry on riding.
A lot of the singletrack is separated by fire roads which, because of the rain, are very muddy.
I struggle through these sections, the wheel slipping and sliding underneath me occasionally.
Sometimes I have to stop and walk a little.
It’s been a while and sections that I normally find ridable, I now have to walk.
I don’t see another soul until I get around halfway around.
There’s a little wooden shelter where I normally stop and have lunch.
I get there, and stop and decamp.
While I’m eating lunch, quite a few riders go past.
Some stop and chat, curious about the one wheeled thing they see propped against the shelter.
Eventually the group I saw in the car park ride past, and the guy who gave me the knowing look stops and chats.
“What size wheel is that?” he asks.
“It’s a 29, but normally I ride a 24.” I say.
“Oh, I ride a 24 too!” he says.
We spend the next ten minutes gassing about unicycles while his friends wait impatiently for him.
Eventually he takes the hints of their tuts and sighs, and we say goodbye and they ride off.
I finish lunch, play Pooh sticks for a few minutes at the bridge over the stream, and then carry on.
After about two miles I pass the party with the uni rider.
They’ve all settled down at a picnic table for a bite to eat and a rest.
Their dog (did I mention the dog?) is very curious and sniffy.
I stop again and we talk more about unis.
It was so refreshing to shoot the shit with someone who knows what they are on about.
Turns out the guy used to play uni-hockey (Yeah that’s right Dave, uni-hockey!) at Cardiff.
I wish I’d got his name now but like a klutz, I didn’t.
Again, I make my excuses and leave them to their break.
Around two miles later, when I’m puffing and panting up a steep, rocky path, they overtake me.
Or rather, their dog does and causes me to fall off.
I don’t mind.
I’m knackered and was about to dismount anyway.
But I don’t tell them that.
I wave as they pass.
All smiles and laughter.
They’re a good bunch of people.
After they pass, I figure I’m on the last leg of the track, which is all downhill.
I’m amazed at the time I’ve made.
I had no idea there would be such a difference because of the wheel size.
The last part of the trail is like a rollercoaster.
It makes it’s way down the side of the valley, with the most incredible whoops.
Every ten yards the paths rolls up, then down, then up, then down again.
It’s the most awesome ride.
And I surprise myself by making it all in one piece.
I only really had one bad fall where I came off while riding slightly faster than I could run, and ended up sprawled out on my front.
Apart from that, it was all good.
As I was packing my stuff away in the car, an elderly couple walked past and the woman said “We saw you riding earlier, and I think you are the best thing I have seen since I don’t know when!”
“Heh, thanks,” I replied, “would you like to have a go?”
I offered them the uni.
“Um, no thanks!” she laughed.
I pack the wheel away and drive home.
All in all, a damn good day.
Things I learned from this ride:
- Don’t touch the brake.
- Momentum is everything. Keep your speed up on the whoops because if you stall near the top you’re screwed.
- Trails that took half an hour on the 24 now take half the time on the 29.
- Don’t touch the brake.