Acre > Wales
Riding with Dirt Magazine
Photography By Szymon Nieborak / Words By David Jaquin
The world of biking is a funny beast, numerous magazines, ever more websites and the constant growth in the complexity of technology, materials and racing. This sport of ours is ironically driven by one of man's simplest and most efficient inventions. It's a link, a magnetic friendship machine that heaves it's weight about like enormous sprawling web of metal carbon and rubber. We ride the threads of this structure, meet people we never would have, that's a big part of why we all do it and that's where this little story starts. Thanks to Tim-Berners Lee and the inconvenience of US to UK time zones every turn of this trip was conceived in 47 emails, well somewhere around that number anyway. ACRE supply wanted to reach the far edges of their MTB web to further test their apparel and bags and that meant coming to South Wales.
The plan was hatched and it was by no means a complex one, basically, "I'll pick you guys up from the airport and chip off a bit of the local trail iceberg for you to take back to melt in San Francisco." Easy.
Lyle Barton, the man with the ACRE brand oozing from every seam was already in the UK visiting a few shops and I caught up with him in east London before meeting Shawn at Gatwick and making a quick exit bound for the hills. As meeting new people in the bike world goes that magnet comes out to break the ice and the jetlag. We pondered fashion, trends in tyres and the volume of tea the Dirt crew is known for consuming. As the tarmac led us from concrete and tarmac to endless potential in the Welsh hills, everyone was keen to ride but due to the amount of traveling we had all been doing, sleep was first on the agenda.
After bikes were built and new threads donned it was time to get out on the trails. A drop in temperature was a bit of a shock for these west coasters so we started quietly with a cruise around the Forest of Dean. We probably don’t think about it enough or even realise how lucky we are but having numerous trail centres providing decent routes in a near all weather surface is something the Americans aren’t used to. So we rolled around the Forest trails, Szymon fired off some photos and we had a brew to talk bike gear, the magnet was getting stronger
Having whetted appetites for trails and Welsh dirt it was time to hit the local pub and deliver the secrets hushed away to most folk. The local trails we know and love around Dirt HQ are some of the finest hand cut tracks in the country and according to Lyle, the world. Because of that maps aren’t handed out to anyone, in fact they are not handed out at all and the one we used was actually burned once the guys had left. Rolling but steep hills linked by winding lanes gave us day two of our trip, the woods are packed with sweet trail fruit and we were off to get fat.
We hit our version of the Canadian boulder runs you see out and above Whistler, a track built by Billy the Web back in the day. It’s classic stuff and gave everyone a taste for more. Where we went next was on similar hills but very different terrain, folklore prevents further embellishment but lets just say we were all treated by the trail kings that day.
After another night "shooting the shit," their phrase not ours, we packed the Dirt van and decided to explore further than a commute from the Dirt office. We headed for Bike Park Wales via a spot near Abergavenny to bag some shots for this and the mag. Everyone had gelled, the bike magnet had drawn us all in and friends were made over tea and tyres. With some commitment roosting down some slag heaps of mining waste the shots were bagged and we set off for a well earned whooping and yippee session at BPW. Merthyr Tydfill beckoned and after a brew we set off climbing up the fire road. From some hand crafted singletrack and two inch high berms we were met with a monster of a place.
BPW might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it can’t be denied that it’s a bloody good fun place to ride. Most of it is best experienced sans DH bike and we did just that, Blue, Red and Black were rallied then raced before climbing back in the van. Shawn loved this place and Lyle couldn’t stop grinning, a lot of fun compressed into a small area was a treat but the local stuff still held the highest regard from the West Coast boys. The weather again rocked and after a bit of early rain the place was running dry and fast, after wearing our brake pads down a bit more it was time to head for the sea.
Our final location was on the coast, and a tight path that was a challenge to ride after a day spinning down wide turns and boosting manicured doubles. The south Welsh Coast was the perfect way to round off this trip though and it reminded us that it’s not all about the bikes and the gear it’s about people.