Al’s FatAfan mission

From team rider Al Fairbairn

After last weekend’s (mis)adventure on The South Downs Way that resulted in a 70 mile road ride to get home, I figured it was time to show the Puffin some proper trails. With the car fully loaded we headed off to Afan Forest Park and the lure of some fast, rocky terrain.

My friend Rob and I arrived Friday evening and after a quick bite to eat, suited up and headed off into the darkness. The plan was to ride a quick loop of The Whites Level Trail to loosen up our legs for the following days big ride.

If I’m honest I really wasn’t feeling the love for the Puffin to begin with. This was my first real off road ride on a fat bike and I found myself struggling to find any flow. I was bouncing off rocks, having a hard time cornering and getting pretty frustrated. We finished the ride and I headed off to bed questioning my choice of bike for the weekend.

Saturday morning began early. Breakfast was consumed, coffee drunk and bikes adjusted. I decided to let a little more air out of the tyres to see how that would effect the ride. I finally settled on 10psi. This seemed like a happy medium between too hard and destroying the rims on the rocks.


As we climbed up the first section of trail the difference was remarkable. The grip offered by the 45 NRTH tyres was phenomenal. It takes a little while to adjust to the handling characteristics of a fat bike. You really have to muscle it around. The steering is a lot slower and heavier than the lightweight race bike I normally ride. The feeling of inertia from the enormous wheels and tyres takes a bit of getting used to.

We made our way up the fire road climb to the top of the Skyline Trail. There has been a lot of tree felling so the regular route has been changed. The diversion took us down some superb fast rocky descents. I found myself gaining confidence and aiming for the steepest most gnarly lines. The Puffin devoured the rock gardens with ease.


As we headed back towards the visitors centre we joined the newly opened Blade Trail. This contained some fantastic sections of fast bermed singletrack, jumps and rock drops as it plummets down hillside. We arrived at the Skyline Café ready for a well deserved lunch stop. After lunch we rode down the valley to sample the reopened Penhyyd Trail. This began with a long climb on a combination of graded singletrack and fire road. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Puffin is a joy to climb on but it was nowhere near as bad as its weight would imply. It was basically a case of sit down, select an easy gear and grind your way to the top.

 Rob was starting to feel the effects of a long day in the saddle and was glad to finally turn downhill. The decent featured a mixture of natural singletrack and man made swoops and turns that promptly returned us to the bottom. A gentle cruise back up the valley to the car and that was that. 65 miles and 7000ft of climbing completed. I can safely say I am now a fat bike convert and can’t wait for the production Puffins to arrive!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 at 5:30 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.