It’s 6am on a Saturday morning and a large huddle of students are milling about in a car park in Sheffield. They’re next to a library, but there’s no studying going on today, because today is the day the University of Sheffield Cycling Club (UoSCC) were heading off for a weekend in Wales.
DIRT ISSUE 131 – JANUARY 2013
Words by Alex Kohnert. Photos by Duncan Philpott
At Sheffield we’re lucky to have some of the best riding in the country on our doorstep, in the shape of the Peak District – but that doesn’t stop our sense of adventure wanting us to go further afield. Riding, for uni students, is so much more than just getting outside and smashing up and down hills though. Our Welsh trip came at the end of November, when the days started getting shorter and the coursework started piling up in a big way, so a chance to get away from it all for two days was very popular, and spaces sold out within an hour of them going on sale.
While people were arriving and chucking bikes into the hired van, others who had got there earlier were standing about in the freezing cold chatting about tyre pressures, what the weather was set to be…and the one bight spark who’d already managed to get a mechanical on his way down. The first source of piss–taking for the weekend had already been established, and we hadn’t even left the car park yet. Perfect. Eventually all the gear was stowed away into one ram–packed transit, everyone piled into the rag–tag group of cars we’d pulled together, and we set off about an hour late in a haze of energy drinks and hangovers.
A quick hop down the M6 and everyone arrived at the first stop of the weekend: Coed–y–Brenin. One of Wales’ best trail centres, it doesn’t need any introduction – and after three hours cooped up in cars the whole group was itching to get out and ride. The big prize of the weekend was Sunday’s trip up (and then down) Snowdon though, so nobody wanted to smash themselves to bits on the Saturday – making Saturday’s riding a ‘warm–up’ if you like.
CYB’s eleven and a half mile MBR was the trail of choice for the day, and definitely delivered on its promise to deliver “a mix tape of Coed–y–Brenin’s best bits”. Rocky descents, sweeping berms and a little BMX–style track halfway round, which provided a fun distraction, made for a fantastic couple of hours. By the end of the trail, it was pissing down with rain, but that didn’t stop a fairly sizeable bunch of the hardier guys going for a quick smash around the short but fun MinorTaur before darkness fell. One big plus of Coed for the Saturday was that there were showers available once the day was done – a fact that was highly appreciated by our group of soaked and muddy students!
After a quick wash everyone shacked–up at our home for the night, a local village hall (reliable and affordable was to accommodate large groups – there were over twenty of us). Who can complain about sleeping in the dry and warmth for £3 a head? Unexpectedly, this came complete with pool table, kettle and lots of foam kids toys (great for bedding), and everyone made themselves comfy. Soon enough, a massive pizza order was put in. Twenty–eight very hungry lads all wanting their body weight in fast food – the local rural Welsh takeaway didn’t know what hit it, and probably made a year’s worth of takings in one night. Soon the beer (generously provided by the club in the price of the trip) started flowing, and everybody began to wind down after a long day. A few guys brought laptops so that pictures and GoPro footage from the day could be looked through, analysed and subsequently mocked.
This pretty much sums up a lot of what the club’s about. Yes, we ride bikes, but we also like to have a few beers and talk bollocks once we’re done. A lot of the time if you’re riding you meet up with your regular group of mates or guys from work, hit the trails for a few hours and then go home for an early kip. When we get back from riding, we’ll usually rendezvous at the pub to chat about the day’s events, often with the risk of casual drinks turning into a mid–week student night out on the town, which certainly leads to knitting together a tight bunch of people. Most of us live on the four or five streets really close together, so it’s hard to make excuses as to why you can’t make it, especially if someone’s knocking on your door. Though it’s not all about the drinking, some of our lot don’t even drink alcohol at all – to help with ‘fitness’ they claim, whatever that is!>>