Monday, 16 August 2010

What The Sign Didn’t Say!

Forget the shop, B&B and hotel. All this sign should say is “home of the best man-made MTB trails in the country”

The day started at 6.30, a quick shower, pack up my gear and get to Grants by 7.40. The car wheels are rolling again by 7.50 and around 9.30 we’re parking up. Laggan Wolftrax is the venue and I’m feeling pretty excited. I’ve heard the folklore surrounding this place but the closest I’ve come previously is passing the end of the road.

By 9.50 and we’re climbing the fire road. As ever it takes me an age to warm up, the climb is steady but feels relentless at this early hour. Grant spots a power ranger and makes it his mission to pass him on the climb which he easily does.

We meet at the high point just before the start of the upper red. The power ranger isn’t like those found in the tweed valley, he is polite and full of conversation. As soon as I recover my breathing I join in.

Breathing (mine) recovered we head out on our first run, the single track is made up of hardcore with more than a handful of rock features to keep it interesting. Grant is at ease sweeping through the corners selecting which rocks to ride and which to navigate round, I’m a little more nervous, a lack of confidence in the tyres gripping and maybe (just maybe) a little less skill see me making good use of the brakes as we sweep across the open hillside.
After re-entering the trees we soon emerge via a set of rock steps back at the fire road and all too soon we are once again climbing. Grant was of course waiting for me at the trail head for the lower red.

The lower red starts by heading out across the hill, a multitude of rock features wait to carry us across the soft ground. This is different to the upper red, slower and more technical and im enjoying it more. After following the trail for a couple of km we hit the start of the downhill trail.

This is where the fun really started, sweeping single track through the trees, rocks, berms and even a few roots. I felt much more at home here and enjoyed the run back to the car park although we avoided the notorious boardwalk and i minced the impressive jumps on the final orange graded section.

Bottles re-filled we headed straight back out, passing our friend the power ranger carrying his bike, the front wheel resembling a Pringle! Fully warmed up I’m now happily climbing to the trail head in the big ring. The camel back has been discarded and I enjoy the new found freedom.

Again we head out on the lower red, this time the speed is increased and we’re taking timeout for photo opportunities. Grant sprints ahead, jumps off and snaps and then it’s my turn. Open a gap, jump off, power up the camera, focus, snap and then off again, this time chasing down Grant. This was probably the best run of the day. A combination of great single track and the challenge of opening up a big enough gap to get a snap make for an exhilarating run.

Back in the car park we replenish the hydration stocks and make plans. As usual I’m flagging but quickly decide there is no way I can travel 100 miles and not climb back to the upper red. It’s agreed to do the upper red then finish with the short climb to the orange decent.
We head off, Grant soon drops me but I keep spinning away at a steady rate determined not to move out of the middle chain ring. For all but a tiny section this is achieved and within 20 minutes I’m at the end of the fire road and climbing the remainder on single track. If only all climbing could be done on single track.

By the time I reach the trail head I’m burst, my head is throbbing and my buff is saturated but I’m happy to be here. Half a bottle of watered down noun sees my pulse return to normal and we’re ready to roll.

Second time round the upper red fees better, I’m happier to let the bike go and I ride every rock step. Half way down I mentally agree with myself that I need to stop talking about doing a skills course and actually do it! Its places like this that I always notice my lack of technique and being overtaken by 13 year olds does nothing to hide this!

Upon arriving back at the fire road I’m feeling better. The orange trail doesn’t really do it for me, it’s all berms and big jumps (I have a one wheel on the ground policy) so I make the choice and suggest we do the lower red again. It didn’t take any persuasion and before I know it we were heading up the fire road one last time.

Again I find the lower red the better single track but I’m flagging. A couple of times I snatch the front brake or I get a little too close to the foliage. We arrive at the start of the boardwalk, a section we had avoided due to the lack of chicken wire or grippy paint. I decide to do it this time, its 240m and I know I’ve ridden longer board walk in harsher conditions. I get going and quickly realise why we had been avoiding it, the timber is stained green with moss and the corners are tight with no margin for error. I continue mincing along and occasionally hear a squealing brake from behind. How typical, in 3.5hrs of riding it has to be on the board walk where someone finally catches up with us!

We get back to the car park and the ride ends in the best possible way, two bacon and egg rolls.......followed by cake.

I’ve looked forward to Laggan for ages and it didn’t disappoint. Unlike my other trail centre experiences you were never constantly looking over your shoulder for other riders and whilst the trails were manmade they were challenging. The designers have used the natural features and this was as far away from the Peebles runways as you can get. The car park was full yet you could never see more than a couple of people on the trails.

It’s unfortunate that lagan is so far away but at the same time it is also fortunate. To get here you have to make a conscious effort but the effort is rewarded at every turn!

We will be back.....and I’ve a feeling it’ll be sooner rather than later!


grant said...

We're building up a stockpile of places we need to revisit.... :-)

KatieCake said...

oOOo ... They seem to be letting any ole' riff-raff blog on here nowadays. LOL. :P

Sounds like a super ride was had by you both. Where's the all important cake pic?