Well that was equal parts exhilarating and exhausting!
It’s funny how the human mind has the capacity to ignore, and even forget, the suffering of the human body, when the suffering is in pursuit of a goal. For us, it was the summit of Snowdon. This was not the end goal, but actually the start of the reason we had travelled here; to descend on mountain bikes.
We started in Llanberis and immediately out of the gate, the road decided to inform us of what a terrible decision we had made. Confronted with a seemingly unending incline, the start was so steep I had to swerve from one side of the road to the other, just to reduce the gradient remotely enough to be able to cycle it. Land thing I was going to do, after just having left the car park, was get off and push. I was saving sacrificing my dignity for later, when I really needed it.
I’m sure this was a test (that I passed with much sweating and swearing) to sort the men from the boys. To prevent anyone of weak will or endurance from attempting this daft quest. Certainly, if I had been any less determined, this short sharp, seemingly vertical, incline would have sent me crying back to the car. But we got thru it and set about the long but relatively shallow track to the top.
I say “shallow” but these things are relative. Compared to the start, it was shallow, but there was no speed to be had. The next 2 hours was just slow plodding away, pumping the legs ruthlessly and rhythmically, gaining a little more altitude with each stroke. We stopped for water when we needed it, and walked the rocky bits that we just couldn’t ride, and then we had to carry the bikes…
About 80% of the way to the top was rideable. Then the path became laid in with large stones in a semblance of a staircase, and equally steep. Presumably these had been used to metal the track from the thousands of footsteps Snowdon gets each day, but they were not rideable. With some satisfaction, even ebikers couldn’t scale them and had to resort to pushing their obese bikes. Us, with non-electrically augmented machines, lifted them up onto our shoulders and trudged to the top. Pushing, was significantly harder than just walking with it on my back. I just took lots of little steps, got into a rythm, and plugged away. Steve is a much more fit rider than I am, and was happy holding a conversation as he and james rode up the path to this point, where i was barely able to breath. But a combination of his dickie back and my years of walking up hills, meant I found this easier than he did and for the first time today, extended myself a small lead.
We managed about 2 mins of riding before some more walking, pushing and then carrying was needed. This took us up to a very misty and crowded summit. After the requisit photos, we negotiated our way thru the crowd and down the rocks to prepare for the descent. Except, while looking at my feet, I had managed to lose Steve and James. Luckily Snowdon enjoys full phone signal, and after a quick call, I found them 15m to my left….. Thats how heavy the mist was, and gave cause for trepidation of the next bit.
What followed was a short slippery ride down the train tracks to the start of the Ranger path, and then without doubt, the longest and best downhill track I’ve ever done.
I’ve come to prefer the more natural trails in mountain biking, compared to the highly stylised and smooth bike park trails. Partially because I dont like to jump and that seems to be the only feature that ends up on lots of bike park trails. But also, because the bikes have been designed to tackle the most rugged, rutted and rocky terrain available, to ride them down a smooth track in some way, denies them of their mechanical purpose in life. It’s a waste.
Well I made full use of the bikes mechanics today in the end it was the spft squishy bit behind the bars that gave up and needed a rest. My braking fingers were just so pumped, I was a struggle to control the bike after a while and I had to stop for a short rest.
It was then I discovered that my rear hub was not engaging with the ratchet, meaning when I pedaled, nothing happened. This was particularly frustrating because I had only just bought (at great expense) a brand new hub because my previous 2 had exploded! I stopped and pulled it apart and found that the ratchet pawl springs had folded over and weren’t pushing on them properly. I then realised how this has happened. When setting up the bike at the bottom, I had taken the bike for a short spin around the car park to check everything was alright, and spotted the rear axle had become loose. I tightened it up and thought nothing more of it. But that loose axle must have allowed the ratchet to move slightly and allow the pawls to slip off the springs. When I tightened it back up, I must have inadvertently crushed the springs, causing the problem. Half way down a mountain, I wasn’t going to find any replacements, so I just had to sort them out the best I could and carry on.
Further down the path, it becomes quite steep and into some switch backs. Here the rocks are a lot bigger and pointy-er. I got down what I could, but there were sections where my fear of crashing overtook my confidence in riding ability and I bravely walked down till I could get going again.
Nearing the bottom of the path, we had to take a right and head uphill (… MORE?!!!!) a short way. This brought us over a saddle between Snowdon and some supporting hills and then it was a straight run down a farm track back to Llanberis. This was FAST and Strava clocked me at 65kph which felt very sketchy.
Back to the vans was easy, wash the bikes off and a bite to eat in Petes Eats to round off an excellent and exhausting morning.