We stayed the Friday night in Llandudno, meaning it was only a short drive down the A470 to get to Llanrwst and the Marin trail starting point. There's a decent sized gravel car park at the start, or alternatively you can drive on further up the trail and park at a smaller car park near Hafna Mill.
The Trail is a loop so it really doesn't matter where you are starting from. There is also a huge network of fire roads all over these forest hills, so if you felt like it you could deviate from the Trail and explore a bit (don't try that without a map though).
In theory the trail is one way and the whole route is signposted with bright blue posts at vital points. Although the occasional one has been knocked over and the little arrows and a bit too little for my eyes.
This was the first ever bit of Mountain biking that both me and my old Raleigh have ever done and I wasn't sure what to expect really. The very first part of the trail, as you leave the car park is a bit like being thrown in the deep end and it certainly didn't do much for my confidence about completing the rest of the trail. Luckily this section is a bit of a one off and isnt very long. It's a single track, going slightly uphill with lots of loose slate stones, meaning it was an absolute bugger to get going without the rear wheel spinning out from under me. I'll put this mainly down to the total inexperience Raleigh feeling very awkward at first as it's the first time I've properly ridden it in a few years.
Once you're past this first bit it's time to start climbing (the bit I'm good at). All the climbs are on the open fire roads like this:
With a few exceptions they are all reasonably steep but easy inclines. Even so, it can be pretty knackering on some of the longer climbs when you are fighting the loose gravel and your knobbly tyres.
There are also plenty of footpaths dotted around these forests. Although it is well signposted at any points that you are likely to come across either walkers or vehicles.
The fast downhill single track sections should be exclusively bikes, but you never know, so it pays to keep an eye out ahead. I didn't take many photos of the single track downhill sections (because its too much fun to stop) but this photo is typical of how they weave through the trees with plenty of big lumps, bumps and rocks littering the route.
Not all the single tracks are hidden in the dense trees like this. Some take you through mossy damp woodland filled with freaky toadstools.....
or bridges over streams.....
This little bridge has had lumps built into it specially for making you crap your pants when you go flying over them to fast:
Further up the trail there is a fair sized lake, which with it's cystal clear water and shallow banks its very tempting for a quick dip on a hot day:
At the second smaller car park is the ruins of Hafna Mill - a lead ore processing mill.
Overall it was a great day out and took us around 4 hours to complete, but that was with quite a number of stops for breathers, running repairs & chocolate. Obviously I fell off quite a few times, but they are only ever slow sideways plonks where you meet a big rock too slowly and dont have the momentum to get over it.
You quickly get used to the idea that going that bit faster is actually safer. There is a sweet spot, depending on you bike and skill, where you are going fast enough to skip over the more uneven surfaces, but not so fast that you are sent into orbit on a lump or can't make a turn. If you are going too slow though, the bigger lumps will just chuck you off or you'll lose your balance at steeper slopes or rough turns.
I was expecting to see a plethora of megabucks bikes all day, but in reality there was a full range of bikes being used all the way from Turners to Raleighs like mine but with neither spds or a suspension fork fitted. These American guys pictured below had even gone down the uber safety route of full knee, shin and elbow pads - bit over the top if your ask me, but each to their own.
I finished the last couple of hundred yards on the route without a chain, as my split link gave up the ghost. Thankfully being so close to the end it was no big deal and not worth the time to fix. Once you are free wheeling it's suprising how much you can do without a chain. It was a nice little challenge to keep my momentum up, knowing that if I lost it there was no pedal power to get me going again.
In conclusion, you know it's been a good day when your legs have a tide mark: