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Trail > New Mountain Bike Trail – The Hives

Last October I checked out a new descent which was very overgrown but looked like it was be an awesome technical challenge once it had been cleared. I christened it “The Hives” because it ends at a set of bee hives in the middle of nowhere.  I had pointed it out to Carlos and over Christmas he had done some of the clearing, so this weekend we had a go at it.  It totally exceeded my expectations and has shot straight to the top of my ‘favourite trails’ list! It’s very, very hard so I guess I won’t be taking a lot of guests there, unless they fancy a real switchback challenge! We didn’t count but there must be over 30 switchbacks. Starting close to the road at the top of a local mountain, (I’m being deliberately vague because it’s definitely a trail for us only!), we opted to ride a couple of short loops to get warmed up before dropping into The Hives. The trail starts really mellow with some gentle singletrack through the trees, all loam and tree roots, but it soon ups the tempo with some tricky contour singletrack with lots of rocks and roots to keep you on your toes. There is a fence to cross which provides a natural rest point and we were both buzzing by the time we got here; Carlos’s night out in San Sebastian the night before and early morning start now forgotten! The trail really kicks in after the fence line, throwing switchback after switchback at the bike. The first couple of sets are tough but we both got them first time, the next set though was a lot trickier, with a slippy rock right hand switchback which required total commitment. Carlos slid the bike round it like he’d been doing it all his life but I stuttered and put a foot down. I got it the second time. Stopping for photos gave us a good excuse to push our bikes back up the mountain and do these ten or so switchbacks a few times. . The next switchback was as hard as anything I’ve ever ridden in Verbier or the south of Spain (although it didn’t have a death fall like some in Verbier which removes some of the adrenaline!) and was a sharp left hander over a big rocky step. Sound bad enough? Well it was worse because as the bike rolled over the step there was a deep groove ready to catch the tyre and throw you over. The only line was to let the front tyre run wide and then drop it into the trail with the back tyre running over the rocky step. The consequences for failure were a large amount of air time which would probably be followed by a painful return to earth! Carlos had a weeks boarding holiday to the Pyrenees starting the next day so decided not to make an attempt but with no such excuse I went for it. I cleared it but the bike only just rolled over the step, hitting the bash guard hard and bottoming the front fork out. For me, this was what mountain biking is all about. Another fence crossing before the last few hundred meters drop. The switchbacks here weren’t as sharp and were losser and less defined allowing us to build a bit of speed, sliding and surfing the bike down the mountain. This was probably the most fun part of the day for me. We soon dropped into some dense forest and we were threading the bike through leaves and committing to switchbacks that wound through tight tunnels in the foliage meaning the exit was completely obscured! Fantastic. Just as we reached the Hives the switchbacks became very defined and tight and I had to put a foot down for the second time that day, I dabbed a bit and got round and as I was accelerating towards the end of the trail I heard Carlos’s whoop, indicating he had succeeded where I had failed!

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