Steve's Mountain Bike PageI'm not a racer, or the world's best rider, but I've been riding offroad for over 25 years - I ride for fun and fitness and to enjoy the beauty of the hills and mountains where I am blessed to live.
I started riding offroad around the Neath and Afan valleys in 1979-80 on my 5-speed O'Brian road bike, but fortunately mountain bikes were invented shortly afterwards and are a vast improvement. The frames are much stronger, gearing far lower, and above all the brakes work. Damage to bike and rider is greatly reduced, though it remains a risky sport.
I currently have two mountain bikes, a 1995 Raleigh M-Trax Ti2000 and a 2005 Kona Dawg. My oldest son Rhys has taken over the Ti2000, so I'll rarely ride it now. My younger son Jordan rides a Trek 820 and daughter Rebekah uses a Trek Mountain Lion until she grows tall enough to use the Giant Hollywood that's waiting for her. Anne rarely rides but can use her Apollo MTB, or ride the Giant or Jordan's Trek.
Raleigh M-Trax Ti2000
I bought this new in mid 1995. It has a bonded titanium frame with aluminium lugs and cro-mo steel rear triangle. When new it had cantilever brakes, a 21-speed Shimano STX-RC groupset, rigid forks, flar XC bars with bar ends and pedals with toe-straps. I added SPD pedals, a rack, and rode it in that condition until the first big refit about 1998. I added a Marzocchi Bomber Z5 air fork, changed the cantilevers for V-brakes, fitted my trusty Brooks saddle off my tourer, bought new wheels and upgraded the transmission to 24 speed LX. In 2002 I changed the front wheel to one with a Hope hub and fitted a mechanical disk brake, upgraded 2004 to a Magura hydraulic disk. Due to neck pain I raised the handlebar height by fitting a riser bar and stem extension.
By 2006 my oldest son Rhys was tall enough to ride the Ti2000 so I removed the stem extension, changed the pedals to DMR V8's, and gave the bike a service so he could ride it as well as me. Rhys asked me to take=off the rack and we fitted 'crud' guards front and rear. The frame is still good for fast XC riding so the retirement of the Ti2000 may still be some way off.
Well you can't live next to one of the world's top 10 riding destinations and not ride there can you. We moved home to the Neath Valley in 2001. I had been riding recumbents since 1996 but by early 2006 it was obvious that I hardly used them anymore (nearly all my road riding is on my 2004 Brompton folder) so I sold my ICE Q-NT recumbent trike and bought a 2005 model Kona Dawg from my local bike shop, Skyline Cycles in Glyncorrwg. Why the Dawg? I need a fairly upright riding position or my neck hurts, and Kona's "Back Country" range of "all-mountain" bikes fit me well. I talked to local riders and mechanics and got the impression that the Kona bikes were more solidly built than some rival brands, and able to cope very well with the terrain of the Neath and Afan valleys. The fact that Skyline use them as hire-bikes speaks volumes for the durability and maintainability of Kona frames and suspension systems. The clincher was that Skyline had a 2005 Dawg available for two-thirds the original price (to make way for 2006 stock). I test-rode the Kona versus a Commencal Meta 5.30 and although the Commencal had a nicer front fork (Fox Float 130mm) the riding stance was too low for me, so the Kona won. See the Kona website for info about the '05 Dawg here.
I have the luxury of being able to cycle from my home straight onto National Cycle Network Route 47 - the high-level route from Neath to Pontypridd over the mountains (grin). It takes 25-30 minutes to winch myself up to the 200m contour above home, and once I'm up there I can head into the forests for hours. Once through the first forest section I can opt to turn right and join the Afan Forest Park all-weather tracks, or continue on to Craig-y-Llyn (this now forms part of the new Skyline trail), or turn left and head downhill to Resolven if I need a fast road-ride (or canal towpath) home to Tonna. Safety is important and some sections have poor mobile phone coverage. I always carry some tools, water, a whistle and torch, first aid kit, map and space-blanket.
Afan Forest Park
We live only a few miles from the Afan Forest Park, voted in 2004 as one of the planet's Top 10 MTB destinations. Lucky us eh - see http://www.mbwales.com for full details of Afan and other Welsh mountain biking centres.