Not only did we socialize and drink alcoholic substances, but we rode our bikes lots too (and fell off occasionally).
As we gathered in the Hotel bar in Betws-y-coed, Snowdonia on Friday night I announced to all the guys and gals that there were a couple of awards up for grabs. Firstly, there was ‘Dyna Bike’, an exciting wheelieing toy motorbike with friction power. This would go to the dare devil of the weekend who would need to demonstrate outstanding technical expertise. The second award was for the most spectacular crash – how dammed irresponsible of me. I did make it extremely clear that no one should ‘try’ to win this prize, rather that it should be circumstantial. I think they understood this, although you’d never have guessed it judging by the number of serious contenders that had accumulated by the end of the weekend. The winner of the ‘best crash’ contest would be awarded a lego quad bike (4 wheels for future stability) and the TORQ wooden spoon, which the person would be required to bequeath to the next worthy winner in 2003. For authenticities sake (well, a complete accident actually) I slammed the boot of my car onto the spoon on the Saturday night, neatly splitting it down the middle. I assumed this was meant to happen and that fate dealt this significant blow. So the TORQ broken wooden spoon award for ‘best crash’ it would be…
‘The Spoon’ – etched with the words “2002 – Jeremy Olsen – Snowdon – 3 stitches”
“If the weather’s OK, we’ll do Snowdon” we all decided. The weather was OK, so we did. In fact, the weather was pretty special. Clouds were forming over the summit, but apart from that it was clear blue sky. Just as we were about to set off, James (Ducker) announced that he’d left a tub (yes a tub!) with all his clothes and shoes in back at the Hotel. Although the thought of James riding Snowdon barefoot and naked would’ve been rather hilarious, it would have meant that I’d have to buy another award for ‘most hypothermic’ and I had neither the imagination or inclination.
We leant James some trainers and clothes and off we went. Riding up Snowdon in trainers and flats is no mean feat and James did remarkably well – and so he won the ‘Dyna Bike’ award for most technically outstanding. We all got to the top eventually, apart from Nick (Frendo) who decided that his full-sus jalopy was ‘creaking like a tart’s bed’ (his words, not mine), so frustrated and rather noisily he returned to the van to have a sleep. If there were an award for least calories burnt going up Snowdon, Nick would’ve slam-dunked it.
Alex (Amey) having a push (he rode the rest honest guv)
At the top of Snowdon there’s a huge café. There’s also a train that goes right to the summit, so when you’ve worked your arse off to get to the top, there are loads of unhealthy-looking people sitting on rocks having a fag, which kind of ruins the romance of conquering the largest mountain in England and Wales. That said, it was flippin cold on the top and the café was spot on. The first riders to the top must have sat there drinking tea for a good hour and a half. Dan (Watson), who was unfortunately lumbered with a borrowed bike made of radiator metal (and who’d thought that fasting the day before a big ride would somehow catapult him to the top) was only allowed one cup of tea before he was forced back out into the cold for the downhill.
Jeremy (Olsen) chose the route down, so we all followed him. When I mentioned to someone in the café which way we were going, he replied kinda shocked “You’re riding a bicycle down the Ranger’s Path?” “Hmmm” I thought, “perhaps the chap’s a bit soft – doesn’t realise what us TORQ-tuned are capable of?”
The crashes began. Rob (Embury) was the first. He crashed majestically as if he was falling onto leaf-litter, but he wasn’t! As he went down at 20mph or so, small rocks scattered around him as his body bounced over some pretty large boulders. How he walked away with a couple of little bruises I don’t know. Then it was Mark (Allen) – the longest crash I’d ever seen. I went on for ages – a kind of perpetual tumbling as he left the trail and rolled off down the mountainside. He broke a gear cable, but no bones fortunately.
Rob pushing. With a lovely bike like that?
We’d done the difficult bit and it was on a fast piece of singletrack that the TORQ broken wooden spoon was won. Jeremy came off at speed (obviously trying to follow my furious pace), which resulted in a trip to casualty for three stitches to the knee by some Llandudno psycho doctor who gave him a couple of smarties to help take the pain away. The irony of Jeremy’s crash was that he’d ridden all of the really tough stuff with such technical competence, almost winning Dyna Bike from ‘pump-master’ James, yet he crashed on a real easy bit. Well that’s Mountain Biking for you?
Well, nobody took any pictures and there were far too many amusing events to mention. After dinner, we retired to the pool room where a sensible ‘winner stays on’ arrangement soon degraded into a facile display of debauchery, cheating and child-like banter. It was fantastic!
Dinner was splendid, especially desert. In fact, I’m not sure what I enjoyed most, the desert itself or the New Zealand waitress trying to pronounce it. ‘Chocky-toffee-rumpypumpy’ I believe it was. Made me giggle anyway…
Ear to ear grinning it was as we sped round the ‘Marin Trail’ in Betws woods, right next to the hotel. This is a newly manufactured ‘theme park for Mountain Bikers’. A whole lot of thought has gone into designing this trail (all 27km of it) and it’s super-fast, but not super-technical, especially when you compare it to what we endured the day before. There are miles and miles of singletrack, most of it probably less than a meter wide, so there’s no room for error. This makes the whole thing feel so rapid and riding smoothly is essential if you want to stay out of the trees.
I highly recommend the Marin trail to Mountain Bikers of all abilities. There are lots of trails like this popping up all over Wales and there’s a huge amount of financial investment being put down to draw Mountain Bikers into the region. This can only be good news for us lot.
A top weekend had by all and I can’t wait until next year. Our next weekend in Snowdonia will be taking place towards the end of March as the TORQ riders prepare for the 2003 season. There’ll be a bit more in the way of serious riding and a tad less alcohol than on that occasion though.
TORQ will be arranging some more fitness weekends next year, so please e-mail me with your address at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to receive some details as soon as the dates are available.
Photos: © Jeremy Olsen. 2002