This weekend I headed to MTBMeetup 2016 at Coed Llandegla in North Wales. The idea of the event is to get mountain bikers from across the country together to ride some amazing trails and meet new friends. The first event took place in 2014 with 40 riders; last year 150 people attended and this year the trail centre estimates there were over 1,200 people onsite for the combined Meetup and demo day.
When #MTBMeetup appeared on our Twitter feed, I jumped at the chance to request tickets and immediately applied for the Adventure Photography and Videography Workshop with Chris Davies. Then it hit me that I didn’t have a bike to ride…or even a helmet! I didn’t need to worry though; the best thing about MTBMeetup is that the people who attend are the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.
I got in touch with the guys at Orange Mountain Bikes, who kindly agreed to loan me a Five for the Saturday. A big thank you to Adam Proctor who set me up on the bike and made sure that the model I rode on the day was top of the range. I also discovered that you can rent helmets from One Planet Adventure for just £3, problem solved!
When I arrived, stalls from bike brands filled the lower car park along with demo bikes from Orange, Santa Cruz, Ghost, Alpkit and Yeti. Ride North Wales had brought along their Shoretrax and Early Riders provided bikes for children to try out. The One Planet BBQ was in full swing with free beer from Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery.
I had a good chat with the guys on the Broken Riders stand, who admired the bike and talked me through some of the latest innovations in mountain biking.
There was huge demand for this year’s Adventure Photography and Videography Workshop with Chris Davies and I was lucky enough to be drawn as one of just fifteen on the course. During the 45 minute classroom session, Chris guided us through the benefits of turning off our cameras’ automatic settings and explained how to get the best out of our equipment. Then we headed out on the blue trail for some practical work.
Riding the Five to the top of the trail was superb and Chris had enlisted the help of a couple of his riders so that we could experience working on a professional shoot with people who didn’t mind being asked to, “go around one more time!” The guys were even kitted out with bright new clothing from Polaris Bikewear.
We practiced our new found skills for around an hour before heading back down to the trail centre for lunch and the all important raffle draw!
Prizes donated by supporters Polaris Bikewear, Stooge Cycles and other generous companies were raffled off and helped to raise over £2,000 for this year’s charity, St Gemma’s Hospice, chosen as they helped care for Jenn Hill who sadly passed away from Cancer last year.
“Jenn, our dear friend and deputy editor at Singletrack Magazine, had always supported Simon and me with the MTBMeetup and we wanted to do something in her memory” said Chris Davies.
One Planet Adventure took donations for the demo bikes that were on site and themselves raised over £1,100 for the Welsh Air Ambulance.
After the raffle I spoke with organiser Si Bradley, who is genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met. “I am blown away by the number of people who came. We arranged it all over Twitter and it’s all completely free. I’m so grateful for the support we get to make this happen; the MTBMeetup has turned into a mini-festival this year!”
I then rode back up the blue trail to take some more photos and enjoy what little time I had left with the Five. At the end of the day it was very difficult to hand it back to Orange and I predict that an investment will be made by me at some point in the not too distant future.
Other events on the day included free skills courses run by Alliance MTB and Chasing Trails, a women’s ride by Trail Takeover and children’s rides guided by Craig Walmsley and Paul Hargreaves. On the Sunday a 40km route was created for MTBMeetup by Ride North Wales taking in the sights of the Dee Valley from high up on Llantysilio mountain (route available here).
I will definitely be returning next year to attempt some of the more adventurous runs, hopefully with my own bike! I would like to thank Si and the team for re-igniting my passion for all things mountain biking and for the hard work that they put into ensuring that everyone had a great weekend.
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You can find out more about Chris Davies Photography and view examples of his work at www.chrisdaviesphotography.com