All that's good about this spectacular mountain!
At the start of summer we headed over to Snowdon. So iconic it's got a national park named after it. Here's all that's epic about this monster and why it should be at the top of many mountain bikers must ride list!
1. THE TRAILS
The Rangers Track is up there with the most varied descent in the UK. The top starts with a series of huge stone steps, cross the train tracks and you're into warp speed, dodging rocks and flying down shaily shoots. Then your into the fast open grassland where you can weave and pop through the natural rollers of the mountain top. With no time to recover and just about time to slow down you fly into a steep rocky descent where speed is your friend...but the wrong line choice could see a nasty end to your days ride. After a few tight and technical switchbacks the mountain mellows out. You've thamed Snowdon and you're rewarded with some beautiful flowing singletrack with steep banks that you can hop and rip round. The Rangers Track is truly awesome. You can also ride Rhyd Ddu which is very gnarly and quite dangerous. The Telegraph valley that veers off Rangers is another great descent that's fast and flat out. Finally Ilandberis Path which is the easiest way up, however its wide and quite strait so unless you just want to brake your speed PB I'd stick with the other tracks for the descent. Each are different and super fun.
2. Its a true adventure you can do in an afternoon
The climb of Snowdon is hard enough without a bike. Throw in some gale force winds and a bit of sideways rain and you're in for a real mission. To me this just adds to the adventure, some parts you're going to need to hike a bike, especially if you go up Rangers Path. Be prepared, capable map reading, plenty of warm clothes, first aid and snacks. People are caught out on Snowdon each year and you don't want to be amongst those! On a good day you can go up in about 2-3hrs and down in about 30 minutes. But my advice would leave plenty of time though as the weather can change quickly. Plus you'll want time to absorb those beautiful views at the top!
3. The Epic views that are just so bloody epic
I've been up Snowdon when you can hardly see your feet let alone the views. It's a luck of the draw.. when the weather is bad you'll have less traffic on the trails..but you might get frozen to death. Luckily these pictures were taken on the worlds most perfect of days, thank you once again riding gods. You can see Ireland, Scotland, 24 counties of England, 29 lakes, 17 islands and the Isle of Man.................. Not bad eyy!
4. The SCale
It's rare in the UK to feel like your in the middle of no where. With mountains surrounding you.. unless you head over to Scotland. You sure feel humbled by Snowdon. At 1085m she's a beast! Going up Snowdon will get your adventure buds tingling and be sure to make you want to head out and ride some natural epics rather than a day at the bike park.
5. The Story
This is mountain biking in its rawest form. You'll meet some interesting people at the top of Snowdon, the varying terrain, the beautiful views and some seriously fun trails. Legend has it the giant Rhitta Gawr once ruled the land but killed by King Arthur he now lies under Snowdon. This place is truly special and the fact you can only ride it at certain time periods of the year makes it extra special each time you go! I can guaranty plenty of high fives and near miss stories to share over a well earned pint at the Cwellyn Arms.
Thanks to Veloccino, Will Priest and Will King for the pictures
We took a trip to the Shropshire hills and what a place with such a diverse and unique riding scene! A mix of tight, technical riding in Ludlow. Paired with the steep, loose and fast tracks in the Stiperstones. Here's what we found and why you should take the time to explore this area on two wheels!
Ludlow lies at the foot of the Shropshire Hills, a quaint and quiet market town. Its been said on a silent day you can hear the woops and yeeows of the rowdy forest that overlooks the town. The forest to the west of the town is home to a maze of technical, loamy and tight tracks that will keep you entertained all day long.
Parking at Vinnalls car park we took a right up Wigmore Rd, entering the forest on the left. The first track we rode was like a pumptrack that weaved through a network of tightly packed trees. Trees came up on me fast as I pumped and flew round loose and loamy corners. The recent weather had blown down a thick layer of needles that hid loads of slippery routes looking to wash out your front wheel at any moment!
Catch Ludlow on a good day and you'll be in loam paradise. This trip the recent rain had made some of the tracks as loose as a goose...but so fun! We scoured the local woodland, riding tonnes of steep and technical tracks. The tracks aren't the longest but the local builders use the elevation so well and the peddle up is really quick so you get so much riding time in. We cruised back into Ludlow for a famous hot sandwich at Vaughan's sandwich bar, followed by a coffee and potentially the worlds largest scone from The Olive Branch cafe. Onto the Stiperstones!
Refuelled we headed North into the Shropshire hills to the Stiperstones. Home to some scary ridge lines, epic views and geographical features. The Stiperstones were formed around 480 million years ago. Shattered local quartzite rock has created heaps of jaggered rocks that peak out of the hill tops. They look epic and have crazy names like The Devil's Chair.
Parking at The Stiperstones Inn we peddled up the road and onto apparently the second highest hill in England! The views were epic and we we're so happy to be up there on a clear day!
We flowed down single track that hugged the surrounding hills. It was super fun and flowy. The trails were all natural and had plenty of rollers and grass banks to sink and pump into. One false move though and you would be tumbling down the steep hillside so we had to keep on our toes!
On our final descent we rang The Stiperstones Inn and put in our food order '....we're just dropping in, see you in 10minutes'. The track to the pub was called 'In too Steep' on Trail Forks and it sure was steep! It felt like controlled falling more than riding your bike but boy was it good! Loose rocks would fly past me as I let loose down the track, snaking between banks and heather as I picked up speed and just held on for dear life! Just as I thought I had survived the trail finishes with a steep rocky shoot which chucks you out at the pub. We finished with a well deserved bangers and mash washed down with local ale.
There's tonnes of great riding around the Shropshire hills area, with a unique riding scene and quality trail builders. We just scraped the surface of the trail network here and I can't wait to head back. If you get the chance, head into The Trailhead Bike shop in Shrewsbury, an awesome shop who organise plenty of local rides!
United by a love for nature and inspired by the spirit of adventure, we collaborated with Carly Slade Yoga to put on a bike and yoga retreat in Exmoor National Park with the purpose of creating an adventure of both the physical world and the mind. The weekend was filled with outdoor yoga, guided meditations, mountain bike coaching, cycle rides through ancient oak forests, camp fires, nature immersed glamping, vegan food prepared for the guests all weekend long, dark sky walks, wild swimming and happy people.
Our adventurers arrived on Friday evening to get to know each other with the friendly assistance of vegan burritos and a camp fire. We filled one of the bell tents with colourful rugs and pillows to act as a socialising area and for candle lit dining. There was also homemade vegan flapjack, cheeky.
Saturday morning began at sunrise with Carly leading an outdoor yoga class, which I was ready for with my unicorn rainbow godzilla leggings. As the whole weekend was themed around releasing our mind and bodies from the chains of regulated society and freeing our inner wild animals, during our yoga class Carly asked us to pretend to be wild mustangs and dance as we wish which brought a lot of joy to the circle. Another highlight of the class was when Carly asked us to sit, eyes closed and picture what we would look like with no restraints from society, personally I was picturing Tarzan looking back at me. By the end of the class both my body and my mind were full of warm energy and I was ready for breakfast and to get out on the bikes.
We started with a coaching session around the camp site teaching essential bike skills to make sure everyone was feeling confident enough to have fun while feeling safe on the bike, playing games that encouraged bike balance and safe braking. We set off across the moors and enjoyed views down to the sea and across to Wales. We then took one of my favourite tracks called Granny's Ride descending down to Horner through ancient woodlands. One of the best things about the natural tracks in Exmoor are that they can be enjoyed by beginners and experts alike. Half way down Carly taught us about the health benefits of forest bathing so we stopped off in a bed of ferns and bathed in a perfect patch of glorious sunshine, and climbed a tree!
After an impressively colourful lunch spread from Hugo, everyone set off down to explore some of the hidden wild swimming spots around Exmoor. I say hidden but it was about 2km up the river from Horner towards pool bridge, go and find it! You can slide down the smooth rock into the water but I warn you, she ain't heated!
So we warmed up with a very safe LED version of fire skipping while we waited for our candle lit dinner - a sweet potato, cashew, spinach and cocunut curry, complete with naan breads off the fire! It was such a nice vibe all weekend, everybody was so relaxed and open with each other that it felt like we'd all been friends for years, I almost forgot these were 'guests' and this was meant to be 'working'.
That evening Carly had a special treat planned for us called Yoga Nidra, which was my highlight of the weekend. Yoga Nidra is a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping and is among the deepest possible states of relaxation while still maintaining full consciousness. Carly also made a chocolatey raw cacao drink, a recipe used by ancient native American cultures such as the Maya in ceremonies which made me feel pretty relaxed. We lay in a circle, eyes closed around our candle lit bell tent with the smell of sage filling the air. While in this state of consciousness, Carly asked us very personal and meaningful questions and we were to write the answers into our journals. I was transformed to an instinctive mindset where I felt I could answer questions with no double thought needed. I identified what made me happy and what was holding me back from being the person I wanted to be and through all my different answers to this question, the answer was always that I was holding myself back. The session was completed with a fire ceremony where we chanted mantras and burnt the paper we'd written our personal obstacles on. It felt very liberating and from the emotional energy in the group I could see everybody had been really moved by the evenings experience. Thank you Carly. The evening finished with a dark sky walk to star gaze.
The next morning kicked off with an early start and some early morning yoga. Thankfully Carly had anticipated all the right muscles that would need stretching out after our first days ride, such as the hip flexors and lower backs. After breakfast Hugo led the morning's coaching session, this time focusing on cornering and body positions.
Hugo led a ride that flowed down along the river to the beautiful Horner and then out to the sea front where the group would end up at Porlock Weir where I had prepared lunch for them. They also got these fantastic pictures with TRAIL UNKNOWN written in the rocks, unfortunately they didn't spell 'unknown' right but i'll still give them a 10/10 for the love of it.
After lunch the hire bikes were collected and the group were driven back to the campsite, all except for one. A brave and determined young lady called Claire decided she was going to cycling back up the camp site and of course I would go with her. I think it was a little more uphill than she anticipated from sea level but she handled it like a trooper. Nearing the top, Claire shared with me some of her inner world difficulties. I shared with her some fitting words I'd learned from The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Desmund Tutu. I defined the difference between feelings and emotions and that by acting and sharing our feelings as we feel them with those around us, we stop ourselves bottling them where they build and store as deeper emotions. For the rest of the weekend I kept catching Claire openly sharing her feelings and it would make me smile. As if reflecting the shape of life itself, the ups and downs of the hills always bring out a person's true nature. Claire then descended the hardest track of the weekend and the amount of pride I had was overwhelming when we got to the bottom, followed by lots of hugs and whoops. Congrats Claire!
A huge thank you to Carly Slade for making the weekend so unique and meaningful, we will look forward to planning future bike and yoga weekends in 2018. If you can't wait till then, you can book us for a private rewilding retreat or mountain bike trip if you have a minimum of five people by contacting us.
Hugo and Tom are trail hunting fanatics, travelling around the UK to find the best and most beautiful wild riding locations for their mountain bikes. We write about our findings and provide professionally guided mountain bike trips to our favourite spots. We're also big believers in outdoor education for children.