There aren't many better places to do this (within a relatively short drive) than one of the numerous trail centres in South Wales. We chose to go to Afan at the beginning of February for just that reason. I suppose it'd be considered a bit of a gamble going so early in the year, but I've been blessed (no such thing) with good weather in the past so I was quietly confident we'd be fine again this time around...... and so we were.
Up on top of the Skyline loop, which is the longest trail at about 44km, it was a proper winter wonderland, snow crunching under tyres, crisp cold air, blue skies & sunshine.
I hadn't ridden a full suspension bike since a having a couple of laps around a car park on a ProFlex 852 (I think) back in the 90's. But, as I'd sold my mountain bike last year I needed to hire one from the trail centre bike shop and full-sus was the only logical choice. The guys in the shop were very helpful and had the bike, an Orange 5 ready to go when I turned up all eager on Saturday morning. They have a range of clipless pedals to cater for most, or flats if you're a true beginner. The suspension was dialed for rider weight in about ten minutes, and we're ready to go.
Our crew were all experienced off road riders, albeit most of that experience in cyclocross. Thing is with trail centres, they're designed for riding in so its unlikely that dog walkers or ramblers are going to be encountered on the descents so riding as fast as my confidence allows me is pretty easy to do. Its also pretty exhausting work, the climbs are gut busting on a bike with shallow geometry designed for going down, and the rocky descents are bone jarring and tiring on the hands, which is probably too much braking on my part.
One of the newest trails at Afan is the Blade and is definitely one of the best. The views are spectacular too, although I guess I shouldn't have noticed them really.
We had a few punctures while we were there but that's to be expected when you're crashing around over rocks resembling bear caws, flat irons and houses.
Jeeeeez this is a boring blog post, we had a great time is about the strength of it, there's pictures, a video that I robbed off youchoobs, what more do you want?
Who went on the triiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip and what were they riding?
Me (Paul, Po, MuddySundays call me what you will) - Orange 5
James (drive) - some KTM thing with a dodgy dropper post
Ben - Kona Hei Hei full-susser (retro)
Claire - Specialized Fate hardtail
Delia - Specialized Fate hardtail
Rob Purcell (NVCT mug) - Trek Superfly hardtail & Orange 5
Mark Perry (All Terrain Cycles) - Giant hardtail
We drank beers, watched some surreal telly, went to the pub, ate MASSIVE portions in the Skyline cafe and laughed lots.
We'll go again some time. You should go too.
We stayed in a comfy self catering cottage with a secure lock up and washing facilities for our bikes.
Here are some divs in the long grass.