Blue Hippo Media, the people behind the enjoyable Bicycle documentary, have teamed up with Singletrack to make a film about the history of mountain biking in the UK. As with their previous effort the money to start production was raised through crowdfunding. I was a tiny part of the first real MTB boom in the UK, more years ago than I care to count, so I definitely wanted to see this film made. One of the perks on offer was a ride around an unspecified bit of Wales with Rob Warner (and a film crew). For a thirteen-year-old me Rob was one of the British mountain bike elite, along with Steve Peat, Jason McRoy and a handful of others who showed up in MBUK regularly, and in recent years his commentary on downhill world cups has been a thoroughly entertaining accompaniment to the race season. A ride in his company sounded like a recipe for a good day out in itself, and with the added feel-good factor of helping finance a film I wanted to watch I didn’t have to think for long before deciding to cough up for a place.
The unspecified bit of Wales turned out to be Coed Y Brenin, a fair drive away but by all accounts well worth the visit. In spite of its great reputation and history as the first proper trail centre in the UK I had never ridden at there before, so quite apart from riding with a genuine Legendary Name (© Singletrack), I was looking forward to seeing what the place has to offer. Our guide for the day was Daffyd Davis, one of the original movers and shakers behind the first trails built here back in the 1990s, so we had the benefit of his encyclopaedic local knowledge. He shepherded us around a variation of the MBR route, with a few long stops to facilitate filming by the crew at various points en route.The film crew were mostly unobtrusive apart from the long pauses at the top of a couple of descents whilst we waited for them to set up, and occasional friendly encounters with them at the bottom of the valleys. We were incredibly lucky to fit our ride perfectly into a little weather window between Atlantic winter storms, despite a wet, grey drive out and the threat of snow in the evening. We spent four hours or so on the hills and it only started to rain once we returned to the visitor centre; we rode the whole way round in sunglasses. The trails were excellent, a nice mix of relatively natural feeling rocky singletrack with a few groomed trail-centre berms and jumps thrown in here and there, as well as the inevitable fire-road climbs linking everything up. I will definitely be back for a visit, hopefully sooner rather than later.
Riding with Rob was highly entertaining, we were regaled with anecdotes and jokes the whole way round, and it was fascinating to follow (or try to follow) him down the trails – he’s still got an amazing facility on a bike, years after doing any serious racing. He was friendly and personable and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the ride himself, all whilst keeping a professional eye on the film crew and ensuring that there was no dead air or awkward silences whilst the cameras were rolling. He was even happy to pose for the obligatory selfies we asked for.
Once we got back to the visitor centre there was a bit of an informal interview in the drizzle, a cup of coffee, and I set off for home having had a thoroughly brilliant time. I can’t wait to see the finished film; all being well it will première in Hebden Bridge on July 16th this summer, and I think is due to be released on DVD shortly afterwards.