I pretty much grew up on this beach, Grandma had a caravan on the site behind the beach, I spent weeks here as a kid, with gran and my parents. The old man taught us about tides and rips, how not to get cut off, and on occasion how to get cut off, safely, we messed about in boats kayaks and dingies, fishing off the beach and from the boat, then I discovered the internal combustion engine, in the form of motorbikes, another legacy from the old man. On 24th January2023 I wandered down onto the beach that holds so many memories and spread some of the old man’s ashes.

As I continue down the A55 heading to Betws y Coed, I hear whatsapp messages landing, reading when I park up at Gwydir my already sombre mood is heightened as I read that Gary Burton has left the building, expected, but that doesn’t ease the news. A bright light in so many peoples lives, extinguished, waaaay too early, you will be missed by many Gary. I set out to try and enjoy the ride ahead, and I do. We have to do what we can, when we can, while we can!

Now badged as the Gwydir Mawr trail, this is what was originally the Marin trail and has been around for a good few years. Its been a long time since I rode anything like this on a hardtail, but the PACE 627 is ideal, plenty of bounce at the front and plenty of zing from the Reynolds 853 frame, steel is real!!

The trail still delivers in spades, big ass climbs that I don’t hate quite as much as I used to and some nadgery techy descent bits that I love as much as I always have, the PACE is a revelation and the Hope Tech 3 brakes provide proper one finger braking, loads of stop with no arm pump. The Royal Oak is one of my favourite pubs, nowt flashy, hand pulled beers and decent food served quickly, just what’s needed after a few hours in the saddle.

After a night in the van parked up above the Glen it’s Penmachno, shorter, more technical and harder riding, the trail feels more remote and doesn’t seem to get ridden as much as other places, there’s other out there today, but I see no one, some light rain is making the rock sections slick and I have a couple of sketchy moments catching the front after slides.

Moody Welsh weather, cloud drifting in and out all adds to the atmosphere of the ride. The last down bit here is fast, as fast as you dare, the faster the sketchier, utterly bonkers, love it.