Return of the Mach

Before Enduro (pronounce it to rhyme with “fluoro”) became mountain biking’s favoured marketing buzzword, there was the Dyfi Enduro. Since 2001, in fact. Now while I’ve been aware of this event for ages, it’s never really been on my must do list. That changed thanks to the insistence of our new riding buddy Matt Jones, a man who despite being a connoisseur of solo 24 hour misery also likes the fun downy stuff.

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The format is simple: a 30-ish mile pootle around the forest near Machynlleth, the lovely Welsh town whose name has been mispronounced in more ways than mine. The route comes within spitting distance of the awesome Cli-Machx trail centre, but doesn’t actually use any of it, and also has a reputation for making liberal use of fire roads.

If that sounds pretty uninspiring, it’s because I haven’t mentioned a couple of other things. First off, the campsite for the event is right next to the town centre, which also hosts a comedy festival that weekend, so it’s much more fun and lively than a lot of similar events. Heavy on atmosphere (and sheep poo), it feels more like a music festival than a sufferfest. Second, the quality and quantity of the descents is legendary. In fact it’s probably one of the few events of this type that appeals as much to beery downhillers as the carbon hardtail posse. 

After a fun local ride to warm up, the night before the race was spent sampling the ales and critiquing the terrible dancing in the beer tent, and dodging a rather large amount of rain and wind. We rolled out en masse down the high street to big crowds of cheering locals, a nice change from the usual audience of bedraggled sheep. We climbed up the valley past tipis, the Centre for Alternative Technology, and a family of hippies banging tambourines, and after a stiff fire road climb  we were at the queue for the first section of singletrack.

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From then on the ride followed a rough pattern of wahey-eek-groan-repeat, as we clattered down some amazing slatey descents, scared ourselves silly, then winched up to the start of the next one. One section, the legendary World Cup descent, was so loose and steep that a kindly middle-aged marshal was dishing out advice on how to ride it – “Just keep right and let go of the brakes!”

Despite a lot of standing water the trails were riding well, and the organisers thoughtfully provided us with on-course entertainment to distract us from the rain and single-digit temperatures. A ska band played at the top of a climb, the local schoolchildren had given one bit of the woods a UFO-themed makeover with cardboard and Bacofoil, and students from Aberystwyth uni were manning a very well timed beer stop.

The one fly in the ointment was that I’d forgotten to bring a mudguard, meaning that pretty soon my eyes were brimming over with lovely Welsh grit. Putting a pointless overtaking manoeuvre on the editor of Singletrack magazine, I managed to hole my back tyre, necessitating an extended period of Tubeless Faff. Thankfully one of Matt’s friends was on hand with a spare spare tube (Matt himself was way ahead of us at this point) and we were able to proceed.

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Rolling in several hours after the keen beans, we’d certainly had our money’s worth. But then that’s not really the main draw for this event – it’s about fun riding, bad dancing,a chilled weekend with the family, catching up with mates and making new ones. It usually sells out in 5 minutes or so, but if I’m anywhere near a computer when tickets go on sale for next year’s edition, I’ll probably sign up.

Ant

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