Living in NYC but with my family back Wales, UK, I couldn’t skip another Christmas. I was lucky enough last time to ride from San Fran to LA, but it had been 18 months since I’d seen familiar shores.
But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t be able to ride bikes… Plus this time I had the added bonus of bringing my girlfriend Emma back to the ‘Shire’ (Pembrokeshire). Not dissimilar to the Shire in Lord of the Rings, rolling green hills, people with no shoes and hairy feet etc. Plus I always enjoy a second breakfast. Around the age of 12 my family moved from Letterston to Dinas Cross. This spelled a big change in what was on offer for a kid of 12 years old. While only 20 or mile away they were quite different geographically - I now had several beaches, a jagged coastline and mountain all within bike-able distance from my new home. Never again would I return home on time for dinner or bed and when I did, knees, elbows and shins would either be splatted with mud or blood (sorry mum). Even better than my new playground were a group of kids that inhabited it.
I moved to Dinas Cross in ‘97. This coincided with the large but still relatively subculture mountain bike boom that was going on in the UK, and probably the US too. Soon enough I was hooked. The new back garden ‘mountain’ offered endless bridlepaths, footpaths (not actually meant for bikes, but when you’re a local…) unofficial sheep tracks for which we could ‘rag’ our bikes down. Some of the guys had suspension, some of us didn’t. Either way it didn’t matter, we’d haul up the mountain, tear through the village (old ladies would scream ‘Monsters!!!’) and wouldn’t stop until we hit the sea. During these times I had made an unconscious change within myself from just a kid with a bike, into someone that just had to ride and having a bike was part of my identity. From here on out, I’ve never not had a serious bike of some kind in my life. Back in those days we rode downhill, dual slalom and trials, later on in university, due to broken ankle from mountain biking, I would transition to road and rarely looked back but it was nice to go back to where it all began.
I hadn’t been on these trails since I was probably 17 or 18, so to go back and ride them on some sweet hardtail 29er’s that we managed to rent from The Carningli Center (cheers Graham!) in the neighboring village of Newport was a huge hit of nostalgia and very cool to share with Emma. Double whammy bonus that she loves mountain biking too! The hills remained exactly how I remembered, a rugged landscape like this, battered by the Irish Sea ocean gale force winds, takes a long time to age. The endless options of lines to take, carved by the repetitive footsteps of sheep, the wild horses not far off in the distance, the huge ocean beckoning in the backdrop, all of this together makes for a brilliant mountain biking playground.