It's Easter weekend coming up. Three days off (well, for most people). If you haven't yet made plans about how you're going to spend it, and you're lucky enough not to be having an enforced visit from various relatives, then we're here to help.
The key thing about the Easter break is the weather. Sometimes it's amazing. Blue skies, sunburn and dehydration. Spring is the new summer after all. Sometimes it can absolutely hoof it down with rain. With that in mind we've come up with a 'mixed weather' combo of ride suggestions.
They're both in North Wales, which is a sensible choice for the Easter break as it's not overly stuffed with tourists (like the Lake District can be for example) but it's still far enough away from most folk to feel worthwhile for an overnight weekender yet not overly far away to feel like you've wasted too many hours driving to get there...
Sunshine option: Put the mountain back into mountain biking
Where: Llanberis, Snowdonia
Description: Head out of Llanberis and then along road that passes up beside the mountain railway station. Continue straight ahead up steep singletrack road, passing by Pencuenant Uchaf cafe and then a couple of farm gates, until you meet the obvious wooden gate on the left that marks the start of the Llanberis Path proper.
Then you basically head up all the way to (near) the summit on this track! The first half is rideable in parts. The latter half is almost all a push. It's worth it though for the subsequent descent. On the ascent, approx 600m from the summit you'll reach a trail junction. A big standing stone on the left marks the point where the Pyg Track joins, up ahead continues the Llanberis Path to the summit. At this point you want to turn 90° right and head down the Ranger Path.
This excellently demanding descent starts on open rocky stuff (once you've crossed over the railway tracks). Then it gets very, very rocky. Then it gets steep, tight and seriously technical. It's one of the best descents in the UK. Enjoy!
After the madness calms down, you pass through a black metal gate and head along flattish track across farmy fields (watch out for the occasional boggy bit). As this track firms up (with a gravel surface) and begins to descend - STOP!
Keep an eye out for an all-too-easily-missed marker post on the right hand side of the trail. Yep, you then have to haul yourself over the steep grass banking for 10-15mins to reach the start of the descent back to Llanberis. The track becomes more distinct as you haul up the banking. The start of the descent is in the saddle point up ahead.
You pass through a couple of gates and all of a sudden a really clear, surfaced track appears. Follow this fast, jumpy, lovely track back towards Llanberis. You'll pass through a couple of farms but generally the way is obvious and very much follow-your-nose.
Warning: With it being Easter the main track up to the summit (Llanberis Path) will be fairly busy with walkers and other cyclists. So take your time and go with the flow. Once you're heading off down from the summit on the Ranger Path it'll be much quieter. Also, Snowdon is a proper big hill with a particularly technically demanding descent. Don't underestimate the mountain.
- A decent mountain bike with good brakes and fat tyres will do. Given the choice we'd recommend something like a 456 Evo paired with a nice short stem and wide bars.
- Body armour. No need to go crazy and plaster yourself head to foot in plastic but a pair of knee/shin pads are strongly recommended.
- A pair of thick gloves and a warm wooly hat. Not for riding in, for keeping you cosy during rest stops if the weather turns grim.
- Shoes that are comfortable to walk/hike in. Stiff and slippy XC race shoes aren't much to walk in and Snowdon involves a bit of walking.
- A map. The route is easy to follow but you want to make sure you're on the right track (OS Explorer OL17 Snowdon is the best one).
- Rucksack with spare inner tubes, pump, multitool, packed lunch and the usual bits and bobs.
Rainy day option: All-weather 'fast food' fun
Coed Llandegla trail centre
Distance: Blue route 12km, Red route 18km, Black route 21km.
Duration: As long as you want really.
Where: Coed Llandegla forest, Ruthin Road, Llandegla, Wrexham, LL11 3AA.
Description: You could do Llandegla as a warm-up before attempting Snowdon the day after. It works equally as well done as a warm-down, calmer riding experience to do after you've survived the Snowdon Ranger Path the day before. Llandegla is an easily-accessible and reliable place to go and rag your bike around. No matter what the weather, the swoopy, bermy trails are always a fun fling.
Warning: Get there very, very early as Easter weekend will result in the car park filling up fast. The trails themselves don't actually get too busy with 'traffic', which is nice.
- Llandegla is a great place for 29ers. On big wheels you can really maximise the trail momentum and cornering traction to end up absolutely ripping around the place. Something like the Planet X Dirty Harry is ideal. Light, fast, grippy, playful.
- Fast rolling tyres. No need for super sticky, big knobbled tyres. Better to keep the drag down and the speed up. You'll have more fun.
- Generally less-is-more. Don't weigh yourself down with loads of spare layers of clothing or a full workshop toolkit in your pack. You're never that far from the visitor centre (or even a passing fellow rider who may help you out).
- Enjoy just following the waymarker arrows with minimum distractions and extra kit. Trail centres should be quick 'n' dirty 'guilty pleasures'.
5 April 2012