MTBMeetup keeps me coming back every year. It’s the fourth time in a row that I’ve made the annual pilgrimage to One Planet at Llandegla to enjoy the social riding that comes with the perfect event. This year was as good as any.
I’d been in Wales for a couple of days before anyway so it made the trip even better; MTBMeetup would be the ending to a five day bike-centric trip. I got to the campsite on the Thursday to find an almost empty field. I’d never seen it like that before. Usually it’s filling up when I arrive on the Friday night. Aside from the shouts of “don’t let him on!” from Marmot and Tris, it was peaceful and empty. I sat in the baking sun jotting some notes from the previous days so I could write on this blog when I got home and not leave out any details.
The whole ethos of MTBMeetup hasn’t changed since I first went to the event in 2016, or even from before then. It’s just about getting people together to share their love of riding mountain bikes. It’s really that simple. Every year, there’s a great group of us who gather and share this stoke. Nothing more, nothing less.
It wasn’t long until Jase and Donna arrived. They pitched up and then we headed to the pub for food.
Friday saw the arrival of the rest of the No Name Syndicate, Andy and Rich. It’s become almost tradition that the corner on the left of the front field of the campsite becomes the No Name Syndicate HQ throughout the weekend of MTBMeetup. I pitch nearby so that I can have a chin wag with them all and catch up. That, and Jase always brings a really good gazebo so we can sit and keep dry if it rains. With everyone together, we headed for a gentle ride round the blue at the trail centre. It’s not my cup of tea, and feels more like an XC loop than anything to me, but we had a laugh all the same and it meant that we could give our legs a spin before the main event on the Saturday. We bumped into Si on the way which was great. With all he does for MTBMeetup, he’s super busy so riding with him was a great bonus none of us thought we’d have.
Part way around the route, my rear brake became spongy and didn’t want to bite. It seems typical that I travel to an event and end up with a mechanical. Luckily, One Planet sorted me out early morning on Saturday so I could ride. It means a lot when the bike shop are able to jump in and save the day like that.
The Friday night was a laugh too. As much as I enjoy the riding, I find the socialising equally enjoyable. All sat together around the campsite, laughing, joking and playing a ruthless game of Cards Against Humanity. Meeting people who I’ve chatted to over Twitter or Instagram. Looking at each others bikes. That’s the heart of the event to me.
Si and the others who organise MTBMeetup really outdid themselves again with the main day. It’s normally a great event but this year seemed even better. Transition, Bird, Pipedream, Pace and Hope were all there demoing and showing their bikes. Sonder even launched their new Evol at the event. Rad8, Broken Riders, MSC, and even more brands showed up too. I met up with Geoff from Vee Tire Co. and chatted about what I thought were the pros of running the Flow Snaps from them. That was great – being able to put a face to an email address.
We rode the black route. I had a score to settle after coming off on JJ’s jumps last year and having to limp back to the trail centre with a twisted crank and a ripped out pedal. Tris spent the whole day towing me in to the jumps and helped me get the confidence back which was missing before we did that ride. Everyone was full of enthusiasm and there were plenty of smiles as we rode.
It really struck me this year that MTBMeetup is such a powerful event – one that is so fundamentally different to anything else I’ve been to. It’s never about trying to sell more products. It’s not about racing for the fastest time. Put in the best way I can, it’s about encouraging people to ride. Rich had been off his bike for some time and having an operation on his leg but that didn’t matter. He joined us on the Friday ride and everyone was stoked just to see him pedal up that first hill, never mind everything else. Watching G and James tank along the blue at full pace was great. Phil stacked it after breaking his chain but that didn’t stop us from riding together. It’s just about riding and having fun.