Coed Llandegla Wales mountain bike center for two week's? Well, why not!

Holiday time.

It was annual holiday time for the Muddy household. Muddy Wife always chooses the house. Really, she chooses the house. She doesn't choose the location; she chooses the house. She likes a certain style, and any 'housy' elements that wouldn't inspire Kevin McCloud mean the entire location gets discarded. By such means we end up anywhere in a big circle from Germany to Cornwall, Scotland to France. It's all very random. We ended up on the Belgium coast once, just over 90 minutes from home, living in a ground floor beach flat because the interior was polished concrete.

Anyway, you've probably guessed where we went by the title. Wife actually booked a cottage on a 150 acre working sheep farm in Llandegla because the view from the kitchen was nice. I didn't ask where we were going, she didn't know the area other than it was Wales somewhere. Once told the location I vaguely knew that at Llandegla there was some kind of mountain bike center, yet having lived in Wales for years I also knew that it was near the decent hills overlooking Llangollen. It was also near the Ponderosa.

Fried food.

You don't know the Ponderosa? Ah, you've not motorcycled through Wales then. The Ponderosa is a big cafe atop the Horseshoe Pass. It's bogo basic; fried breakfasts and cake in plastic bags made in factories miles away. It has no personality. It's functional. Indeed go look in the Google on-line dictionary, and in any language, anywhere, they define Functional as: basic; minimum working; Ponderosa; up to the task at hand.

On a wet, cold day* when you've been walking on the hills, have motorcycled up from London, or as I do, cycle over, it is heaven. Warm, inviting and with that smell of over cooked food from your childhood.

My holiday cycling was thus initially centered around the Ponderosa, and thus the hills over Llangollen. Each ride out would some how involve a coffee there, watching the fast motorcycles go by. Some days I went twice.

Here I digress. The clientele is a definite mix. Motorcyclists eating and talking the talk. Cyclists having coffee and a snack after another STRAVA climb up the Horseshoe [the real cyclists - i.e. me - use the Old Horseshoe]. Walkers eating a hearty meal after being in the cold. Each of these groups I admire in a way.

Or extreme fat b*****ds who drive there just for the pleasure of having a massive double fry up with all the extras. One couple who between them must have totted in at 70 stone. They both fuelled up, both had a pint of red sauce on their meals - they emptied the bottles onto their plates, and sat facing a wall whilst they ate.  This in an area where people travel hundreds of miles to admire the view. They ate, it must be said, with a fair degree of diligence.

I've nothing against hugely fat people fundamentally. I was once three stone more than I am now, and could put away food with the best of them. Still can if nobody is watching [indeed did - the steak and kidney pie with all the trimmings plus chips didn't last long with me I can tell you!]. No, it was the facing the wall whilst they ploughed through their meals that did it for me.

Steep hills? You bet!

These hills are not for the fainthearted. Coming in from Llandegla itself they are not huge climbs. If you can ride up Box Hill, these Welsh hills pose no problems really. Sure you get a bit more sweaty and you do ask yourself where the sodding top is, but the top comes soon enough.

That is until you go off-road. You can ride a bit, through some lovely heather and tall ferns. Pick and eat a few billberries. Then the trail turns upwards. You stop, you look, you ponder how.

The how is to hoick your bike up on to your shoulders and carry it for twenty minutes. I measured one slope. It was 45 degrees. For a kilometre. Have you carried your bike up a slope like that recently? That was tough. I figured it was a one off thing, that I'd be cycling the rest happily. Nah, each hill was like that. Ride to the bottom, get off, admit defeat and carry the bike. Luckily I'd taken my heaviest and most cumbersome bike to carry; the Orange 5. Or, as it got called affectionately on the last climb, the b*****d c**t of a tw*****g bike.

The best bit, though was the other side. The climbs are rewarded with some lovely downhill runs. Not swoopy, but rocky and jumpy and steep. That 45 degree climb was one scary drop. Hard on the brakes all the way down. I'm sure a better rider than me would have actually ridden it at some speed, but I'm a wuss. Slate scree over bedrock for me wasn't a lovely surface to ride on. What it wasn't was boring. Looking back now I should have done it more but I was frightened Mommy.

Those hike-a-bikes though.

Baby heads.

One drop down, for around 3 km into Llangollen itself, was over baby head rocks. Chugga, chugga, chugga went my suspension. Dinga, dinga, dinga went my rims. There seemed to be an optimum speed where it all smoothed out, say 20km/h. Unfortunately this was 10km/h less than gravity wanted me to do, so I had to ride the front brake for a spell - the rear was useless on this stuff. At the bottom my bike smelt, and my front disc had turned blue.

A little later, when I had to stop at a junction, the bike didn't. At the Ponderosa, after a mad climb up the Old Horseshoe Pass, a quick brake dismantle revealed front pads that were so glazed I could see my reflection. Luckily I'm a tight wad where it comes to changing valuable bike bits - I simply rubbed them in circles on some smooth concrete. Then went to find some mud to ride in.

Is this a holiday diary or a blog mate?

OK I'm not now going to do a blow by blow account of my holiday. I'm going to stop here for the moment, and will report on Coed Llandegla later on. In essence I rode the hills until I'd ridden them all, and then went to the centre from mid-holiday onwards. The centre wasn't better than the more natural stuff; it wasn't worse either. It just took me a week to learn both the trails, the trail shortcuts and the locals way into the forest. This I may add wasn't to avoid the parking fee - which was a very reasonable £4.50. Our house was three miles from Coed Llandegla; it took longer to load the car up, drive there, and unload than it did just to ride in.

Let us just leave it that once I'd ridden Coed Llandegla I didn't ride the more 'natural' trails any more, and my visits to the Ponderosa ceased. Actually they didn't. On walks over the hills, each had the cafe as the half way turn around point. You can't beat a dinner that evokes memories of school days.

See me on twitter @Muddythatbike

*you could interpret 'cold' in any way. Hot day? Ponderosa it is. Wet, cold, dry, snow, anything really. What you can't do is think: 5pm? It'll be closed then.