I should probably start out by explaining that when I say ‘Brit brand trio’, I’m referring to Rab, Mountain Equipment and Montane. These three brands are the standard-bearers for the UK outdoor industry, and between them they account for over half of the products ranged on Webtogs.co.uk at any given time. It was these brands, along with another of our suppliers; US brand Marmot, that Webtogs MD Keith and I set out to visit last Sunday on a 5-day buying road-trip. I can report that it was epic thanks to the exciting new products on show… and the added bonus of getting to take the bike out on some awesome trails in the Lakes (Altura Trail, Whinlatter & The North Face Trail, Grizedale) and Peak District!
Team building is an incredibly important part of any business which values the welfare of it’s employees. This is mainly due to the fact that it stops you all wanting to throttle each other but it also creates a bond between you and your fellow colleagues. The bond that was made for us, as employees of Webtogs, was made last weekend when we decided to all go to Afan, near Port Talbot in South Wales, to camp for the Friday evening and then do some pretty knarly mountain biking up and down Afan before returning home on Saturday afternoon.
We left on Friday afternoon after work and arrived in the evening around 8ish. Not a bad time considering the slow moving traffic over the Severn Bridge and beyond. We had driven in a car and a bongo van, the car driven by speedy Lavelle Gonzalez arrived early at Glyncorrwg Ponds Camp Site to set up the tents while the bongo van slowly meandered it’s way up the valley only to come to a halt at Afan Lodge where we were to dine for the evening and await the arrival of the rest of the troops from the camp site.
At around 8.30 we sat down to eat supper and chat about the adventure that was unfolding in front of us. The main topic of conversation was to do with the weather because when we left North Dorset it was pretty fair however as soon as we arrived in Wales the clouds rolled up the valley and the rain set in. It didn’t stop raining at all until we hopped back over to England so you can imagine what cycling up a Welsh mountain was going to be like.
In the morning we woke to a grey and wet Welsh welcome so we warmed up with a cup of tea and croissants before shooting off down the valley to pick up some hire bikes and helmets. The hire bikes were great and my goodness we put them through their paces. The bikes definitely took a bit of a battering with some of the guys making friends with trees, toppling off the board walks and landing upside down after rather a steep drop coupled with a sharp bend. We are still here to tell the tail but with less skin and more bruises.
The bad weather did nothing but accelerate our enthusiasm for getting on with the ascent and at first I think we were all, except Keith and Jon Stock our North Face rep, a little taken aback at how technical it was. We soon found our rhythm and with a few tips from the more experienced riders we all made our way up through the twists and turns of the densely forested Afan mountain. It took around 2.5 hours to arrive at the top and then the descent kicked in. An hour and a half of navigating narrow tracks, sharp U turns and board walks. Amazing fun but most amazing of all was that none of us got a puncture, one guy we passed on the trail was fixing his 5th in two days. All 9 of us made it to the bottom covered head to toe in scratches, bruises and mud but all with huge smiles plastered on our muddy faces.
Next stop was to the cafe at the foot of the mountain where Sue, Kuma and a welcome warm cup of tea and some good honest Welsh Rarebit were waiting for us. We all tucked in and shared our favourite and most scary sections with each other and had a laugh, all the while still looking like a team of rugby players after a tough match. Next it was to the showers which were, well, warmish to say the most but a shower non the less. After the showers packing up was the name of the game and all clubbing together to take 6 tents down doesn’t take long, even in the wet.
There are reports coming in from the passengers on board the bongo van that to keep Mike on his toes they were all singing along to the Paul Simon Greatest Hits album to pass the time, I’m not sure how many businesses there are on the planet where the employees are that comfortable with each other that they can perform a full rendition of ‘You can call me Al’ in front of each other? It’s a Webtogs thing I guess.
Another boost for moral on the journey home was the appearance of the sun, who decided to arrive just as we hopped back into England. It honestly felt like we hadn’t seen it for weeks so it was a welcome sight along with another cup of tea when we arrived back at home. A great weekend had by all and I can say that I now have the mountain biking bug along with a few others no doubt.
I thought we’d add a few quotes from the guys to sum up their weekend below so enjoy reading them.
Charlie – “Never had so much fun in the mud.”
Gareth – “Can’t stop the bruising, but I can’t stop grinning either!”
Lucy – “I cant think of anything better to do on a rainy Saturday than to play in the mud in Wales. Cant wait to go again!”
Jon – “Flying squirrels have nothing on the Webtogs crew!”
Ross – “Proud recipient of the Webtogs stabiliser award for falling off every 5 minutes”
Mike -“That’s my idea of a dirty weekend away”
Lee – ” What a roller-coaster of emotion, weather conditions and hardcore welsh terrain – loved it, epic adventure”
Sue – “smelly wet dog is nothing compared to 9 wet and muddy mountain bike riders”