My favourite rides are always the rides with great people. I’m lucky enough that I’ve got a great riding friend, who also helps out with lots of the Pedal Slip things we do, and riding with him makes everything much more enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I love riding even when I’m on my own, but the chance to learn from someone else; watch them take different lines; or get them to bolster your confidence before hitting a jump… having a riding buddy makes things much more of a laugh.
So when we decided to head across to the Mountain Bike Meetup (MTBMeetup) this year, we were super excited at the prospect of meeting other people who we could share our passion with. We weren’t disappointed.
Honestly, at first I wasn’t sure what to expect. I suppose part of me thought it might be some massive corporate-style event, where everyone simply wanted to talk specs and try to sell you more stuff. The other part of me underestimated the idea of it totally. I found myself explaining the idea of MTBMeetup to my non-riding friends as some kind of elitist group that gathers every now and then: “oh, it’s just some thing where a bunch of people will go ride some trails together. We’ll likely just end up riding them on our own anyway.” I couldn’t have been more wrong.
By the time Friday night rolled round, I’d allowed myself to get excited at the prospect of meeting some other bike-loving folk. George headed out to meet me, we hooked up the bikes and got on the road. After stopping 200 yards down the road to allow my overly-paranoid self to check that I’d strapped the bikes to the rack properly (for the hundredth time), the only thing that stood between us and Wales was the ever notorious 50mph speed limit on what seemed like all of the motorway. We arrived just after 9, in the dark, and battled with the tents. Mine seemed to be straight forwards – until I realised I’d actually put it up inside out and had to start again – and George’s looked like it might blow away in the wind due to lack of tent pegs (he ended up using twigs).
The following morning was a cold one. After a shivery nights sleep, waking up freezing to ice on the outside of the tent really summed up the last 10 hours. We’d arrived a little underprepared and struggled to get warm once we’d finished to get the tents up. George’s sleep deprivation and asthma set off his day even worse than mine, and before long I was pushing his bike, and mine, up some sort of bridleway in search of the trail. Thankfully, we’d bumped into Si (@SacredDirt) and Ant (@m0nk3yb0y74) and their jokes kept us going until we finally found the visitor centre.
Representation of the ‘corporate’ side of the event was organised just right. There was enough there to have a look round; the opportunity to rent a demo bike if you wanted to; some freebies to grab; and just the right amount of it all. Everyone else was a biker, there to enjoy the day just as we were. George and I nodded a quick farewell to the others and scrambled for a seat on Chris Davies’ (@cmjdavies) photography course. The morning zipped by as we were taught to manage ISO, aperture and shutter-speed to get decent shots of riders. Even our iPhones wielded great results once we’d got the hang of it. Then it was a blast down the fire tracks back to the visitor centre for the raffle and lunch. Dec (@DirtJunkiez) popped over to say his hellos, and whatever else he said in Welsh, before we watched the raffle prizes being awarded. Unfortunately, our bribes weren’t accepted so we walked away from the raffle without the top bike frame prize.
Following the sausage rolls and cakes, George and I decided on the red route. The long climb to the top of the trails at Llandegla seemed like a mammoth task, especially for one wheezing, asthmatic George, but the rest of the trail was totally worth it. The riding trumped our usual haunt of Dalby forest no end. Blasting over boardwalks, round berms and popping off little bumps made for all the more fun and within minutes we’d all but forgotten about the terrible nights sleep. The weather was warm and dry and the trails felt quick under the tyre. All was well, and the trip was back on track until almost the halfway point. George seemed plagued with bad luck and suffered a snapped chain. With lack of spare links, and no hope of removing one for a bodge job (my chain tool seems determined to bend every link it touches), it was a push back to the trail centre, with the occasional helping hand from me riding alongside and dragging him and his bike along for the ride too. Thankfully, the trail centre had one chain left, flogged it to George and we retreated back to the campsite for a shower and some food.
The evening soon came round and we found ourselves having a natter to our tent neighbours for the weekend – Tom (@twomonbikes) and Caroline (@cazza_bikes). The pub was calling, and before long Si, Ant, Tom, Caroline, George and I were all warming up with drinks in hand. The ‘afterparty’ further down the road turned out to be another opportunity to meet even more bike obsessed folk. We were in our element. I managed to grab Simon (@Good_Guy_Si), the bloke behind MTBMeetup, for a quick chat and learnt the history of the event. It seems that there’s been a calling for more friendly, riding-based events given that in three years MTBMeetup has grown from 40 riders to over 1200 this year. The atmosphere of the event was just that throughout, too – friendly. The whole time we were there, we were greeted as if we were friends by everyone we bumped into. We didn’t even lock our bikes up throughout the entire weekend! Eventually, the urge to head to bed was too strong, so we headed back for a final drink at the campsite. Finishing the night around a fire, in the dark, swapping tales of rides and trails was fantastic. Every person we’d met shared the same passion as us.
The following morning was a 6:30 start, and much to the delight of George’s lungs plenty warmer. The tents came down (much quicker than they went up), the cars were loaded again and we decided on a One Planet breakfast. Full English (or Welsh?) finished off, we hopped back on the bikes and headed out for the black. Tom and Caroline showed us how it’s done as they blasted each section, pushing us hard to keep up. From time to time, we called out for a breather, which they gladly allowed, before putting the pedals down again and racing through the forest again. The jump line was a quick introduction to real air opportunities (something we lack at Dalby), and B-line was interesting for boardwalk-weary me. I was thrilled to have ridden with a couple of folk who could really push us to keep up, and tested what we could do. The black route was definitely the highlight of the trip for me, for the riding, but especially because of the company.
All said and done, we’ve already said we’re definitely going back to next year’s event, wherever that is. Meeting more mountain biking fanatics, having a laugh (even with the cold and mechanicals), and heading out on great trails are all reasons it’s simply too good to miss. Hats off to Simon and the others for a fantastic event.