The mountain bike lot here at 'Radar Towers never seem to be in the office. Doddy, Skins, Jamer - more often than not their desks are empty. And you rarely need to ask where they are - the answer is usually Cwm Carn. Just 30 minutes from the Severn Bridge, Cwm Carn offers some awesome off-roading and that filthy lot put loads of kit through its paces on the hill's trails, jumps and berms (whatever these are.)
Here on Cycling Plus we're kinda lucky - if we want to test gear then we can get our bikes out of the garage, pop out of the door and we're in our natural roadie habitat straight away. Of course, while we don't actually have to seek out places to ride - we're not exactly lacking for roads in this country are we? - we still search for that elusive, traffic free, awe-inspiring piece of black top. Which takes me neatly back to Cwm Carn.
A few weeks ago art editor Warren said that Cwm Carn would be perfect for a CPlus shoot. I thought I'd better go along to make sure that Woz, snapper Smiffy, and reviews editor Jez weren't thinking of trying out bikes with suspensions or riding in baggy shorts. I was also keen to make sure that Jez didn't try wall riding the seven grand Scott Addict LTD. And you know what? Cwm Carn was bloody brilliant on a road bike.
While most of the downhilling fraternity opted to sit in a mini-bus, their bikes on a trailer, to get to the top. Loftus and me took to the forest drive on our bikes. As it was off-season - and there was some forest work going on - the drive was completely car free apart from Smiff's 'classic' Fiat estate. (The shot of me at the top is from the day). The forest drive climbs and twists through the trees and would make for a brilliantly hard training loop. And the descents were - in my head at least - grand Tour-style fast and curvy. I want to go back as soon as I can. And I won't be getting a lift to the top.
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Cycling Plus is the magazine partner of the Etape Caledonia - 81-miles of stunning riding on closed roads around Pitlochry.