Do you ever get those moments where you think things can’t be right? You know, when something seems like it’s too good to be true. It normally is, right?
That’s exactly how I felt when I got an Instagram message on a random Wednesday at just after half two in the afternoon. It went something along the lines of “Hey, we work for Red Bull and we want to invite you to ride with Gee and Dan Atherton at Dyfi Bike Park. Are you interested?”. Weird. Why on Earth would I say no?
Cutting a long story short, after a few emails back and forth, I was signed up, although right until the day before I was sure it was a wind up. I was certain that my other half had put someone up to it and that I would find out just before I set off to Wales that I wasn’t actually riding with anyone. I was wrong, as you’ve probably guessed by now, so I set off on the four hour journey to Wales.
When I arrived 20 minutes early at Dyfi (and was the first of the invited group), Dan and Gee were loading the uplift trailer for another warm-up lap and I was invited to take the ride to the top of the trails with them. In the Landrover on the way up I confessed that I didn’t know exactly why I’d been invited – it turned out nearly everyone else on the day was connected to media brands somehow – which they thought was funny. Gee pulled out his phone and found a list of all the people who were coming. What he read about me made it sound like I really know what I’m doing with blogging and photography. Of all the things from the two days, that will probably stay with me the most; it’s filled me with confidence to keep writing and creating. Eventually, we reached the top and they shot off.
When the rest of the invited group arrived, we were kitted out with gear from the Atherton’s sponsors. Endura kit, Oakley goggles, and Bell helmets. I was asked if I’d brought my own bike or if I’d like to ride a prototype Atherton bike. Silly question! And what a machine it was. It felt light, fast and incredibly stable just riding it around the car park. Then the uplift began.
Gee chatted to us about the park on the way up. There are currently four black graded trails. The jump line and ‘Racetrack’ were the ones we rode during the day but there are two more – ‘Slab’ and ‘Original DH’. Gee told us that Original DH is just as easy, or hard depending on how you’re looking at it, as Racetrack. Slab sounded a little more challenging. It’s clear that Dan has a huge influence over the place and has been working tirelessly to make sure it has been perfected before being opened to the public. According to Gee, there’s a huge community behind it and Dan takes on all the help from the locals who want to come and get involved. It sounds like there’s a small army of young chaps who have found inspiration in building and riding at Dyfi.
The jump track had 50 tabletops on the way down which were really sculpted and shot you high into the air. I certainly didn’t clear any of the bigger ones as I kept reaching for my brakes; last year’s crash on the jumps at MTBMeetup was still playing on my mind. After the last of the wooded sections there was a steep chute out to the end of the track which had taken a bit of a beating in the recent rain and number of riders over it. Still, the track rode fast and was heaps of fun.
Racetrack was more technical but I enjoyed it far more because my wheels stayed on the floor. It was difficult and needed you to pick your line carefully. After the top section, which included some drops, it dipped into the woods on some fast, flowing sections with loads of line choices. Gee later told us that he and Dan are still finding new lines even now; and they’ve been digging there for almost five years or something like that. Right at the end of Racetrack was a steep section which was almost divided into three parts, each seeming more rocky than the last. That bit kind of reminded me of some sections at Danny Hart’s Descend… only it was steeper and more sketchy. Honestly, I’m really pleased to have made it through the whole day with only one slide-out and no proper crashes. I definitely feel like I could improve lots by riding at Dyfi.
The whole afternoon riding in the back of the Landrover and following Gee down the trails was amazing. Perfect weather, amazing bike and an incredible place to ride. When we reached the bottom, there were cold cans of Red Bull waiting to perk me back up before taking on another lap. Does it get better than that?
Finally, we called it a day and then drove to the Royal Ship Inn and ate together. Dan came along too but I ended up at the other end of the table so didn’t get to chat to him. It was great to talk to the media folk though – it seems like a fantastic career to have, although I’m sure it’s not all taking uplifts with professional riders.
Then it was time to head to bed. I made an early night of it because we were out the day after to walk Hardline…
…but that’s another blog post.
Photos throughout this article taken by Mark Roe.