Monthly Archives: June 2015

Llangorse

Trail centre: Natural – Brecon Beacons.

Grade: Red

Length: The route that I rode was 31km (19.3 miles).  As always the singletrack that represents the point of the ride is a good deal shorter.

Start point: Llangorse Lake at 129273 (51.93, -3.26) makes a good start point.  There’s plenty of parking and a sense of charming superiority as you head off for an epic ride past all the families out to play at the lake.

Description: The possible route here features an excellent amount of singletrack over the hills.  Starting from the lake head North and weave through the lanes to reach the Northernmost point of the access land around Mynydd Troed at 16430.  Turn sharp right onto the bridleway that contours round the North Western shoulder of the hill, and ride for miles along excellent singletrack on typical Brecon Beacons packed red mud, crossing a road at one point and bearing right to continue your route along the edge of Mynydd Llangorse.  After a short, varied, and mildly confusing section through forestry and fields, climb to a cairn and turn right for a blast across the top of Cefn Moel and a steep descent into Bwlch.  Turn right and head out of the village towards the Welsh Venison Centre, and take a surfaced bridleway to left of the access track.  Follow the bridleway over Allt yr Esgair – at which point hedge trimming debris ripped my drive train in half and I had to walk back.  The second attempt to ride it avoided that particular issue, and the slog up onto the top of Allt yr Esgair was rewarded with a final excellent section of downhill.  Then wind back through the lanes to Llangorse Lake and a huge slab of pink sparkly cake at the café.

Good stuff:  The bridleway along the edge of the hills is brilliant, and goes on for miles.

Difficult stuff: The drop into Bwlch is a bit of a killer – loose, slippery and very steep.

Verdict: An excellent route to explore, ideally when the hedges have not been recently trimmed.

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Filed under Brecon Beacons, Natural, Red, Trail centres, Trail grades, Trails, Wales

The Blorenge

Trail centre: Natural – Brecon Beacons.

Grade: Red

Length: Various, as it depends what route you take on the Blorenge itself.  The ride I did was about 23km including getting horrendously lost on the way up.  Much shorter routes would be somewhat difficult, but possible.

Start point: The ride I did started at the car park in Llanfoist at 286133, although the main point of this ride is the long looping sections of bridleway across the Blorenge itself, running from 255110 to around about 280110.

Description: If you start in Llanfoist, use the nice gentle cycle path to the West, and then leave it at some point to make your way up through minor roads to the edge of the hills.  I’d give more detail here, but when we rode it we got hopelessly lost in the fog at this point, which made it a long and frustrating climb.  Finding a better route would be a great deal more satisfactory.  Eventually you should come to the bridleway that leads up onto the hills at 247130, which is a rough and awkward climb up past quarries.  The industry of the area is very clear for most of the route in fact, with ever-present quarries and many of the sections of bridleway on old railway tracks.

Once at the top of the bridleway it’s a quick blast along the road – again, easier when visibility is more than a few metres.  Turn left on the road, left at the T junction and then almost immediately right on a smooth surfaced track with a lake to your right.  Then the fun begins.  A bridge takes you onto the proper bridleway along the hill.  It’s a great ride, peaty, firm, occasionally rocky, occasionally boggy, with plenty of scope for picking lines through the tricky bits and getting up plenty of speed on the straightforward bits.  A turn to the left takes you onto the next distinct section – a tumbling and much looser downhill that is a test of technical skill – but still good fun for a bad mountain biker.  At the bottom, angle right onto a long loop of bridleway that contours round the base of the Blorenge.  This again is the best of Brecon Beacons riding – red firm soil, and interesting fast singletrack.  At the far end spin round the punchbowl lake and a quick climb takes you to the top of a restricted byway.  From here it’s just a matter of threading your way through the lanes back to the car.

Good stuff:  Once you reach the objective of the ride it’s all incredible – you can see why the Blorenge has developed a reputation.  It gives you a showcase of the best of Brecon Beacons riding in a very small area.  There’s a reason that it’s been featured in searches for Britain’s best singletrack in magazines.

Difficult stuff: The bridleway climb is a bit of a beast.  Steep, technical and loose, although it could be that my impression of it has been coloured by getting lost and being tired.  You might find it’s not so bad!  The tumbling descent from the top is a challenge too, but fun enough that you’ll quickly forget the bits you had to awkwardly slither over.

Verdict: Excellent ride, a great experience of Brecon Beacons riding.

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Filed under Brecon Beacons, Natural, Red, Trail centres, Trail grades, Trails, Wales

The Gower

Whereabouts:  Wales.

Where specifically:  South Wales, the peninsula that runs West of Swansea, with the Loughor river along the Northern edge.

What am I doing here?  The Gower peninsula is worth a visit, whether mountain biking or not.  It was Britain’s first SSSI, and contains in its small area a hugely varied selection of terrain and wildlife habitats, including some of the finest beaches in the UK.  There are upland moors, woods, cliffs, beaches, salt flats, sand dunes and plenty of others as well.  Swansea itself is not far away for nightlife, bike shops and the like, the Celtic Trail National Cycle route crosses the peninsula, and the coastline has more choughs, cormorants, seals and other wildlife than you can shake a stick at, even if you’re well practised in wildlife stick shaking.

So which bits should I ride?  The Gower is a relatively small area, and so it’s quite possible to do a route taking in the majority of good spots.  See the other Gower post, which covers them in more detail.  The singletrack along the side of Rhossilli Down is excellent, as is the obvious and fun bridleway along the top of Cefn Bryn.  There are plenty of other good sections, but a quick look at a map, a guide, or the other post on here should provide plenty of material.

I miss trail centres.  The incredible trail centre riding of the Afan Forest Park is not far away up the Neath valley.  Margam Park reportedly has a new red graded trail as well (though I’ve yet to ride it).  Slightly further afield the quiet and beautifully designed trails in Brechfa Forest are within striking distance, and if you’re not from the area then the trip back along the M4 takes you past Cwmcarn, the Forest of Dean, and all sorts of varied riding.

My bike’s broken.  In Swansea there’s Wheelies, the Urban Cyclery and Schmoos.  Llanelli doubtless has some of its own bike shops.  Halfords, for cheap parts and basic repair, is everywhere.

Where can I find out more?  See the other post where I’ve described some of the sections of bridleway in more detail.  I’d recommend the Vertebrate Publishing book on Mountain Biking in Wales for a route taking in the highlights of the Gower.  Mountain biking wales, as always, has a good selection.

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Filed under Gower, Natural, Trails, Wales

Raven Trail

Trail centre: Brechfa

Grade: Black

Length: 18.5km (12miles)

Start point: Byrgym Bach.  From the A40 between Carmarthen and Llandeilo, turn North at Nantgaredig.  Follow the road through Brechfa village and out the other side.  Carry on round the bends until you spot the Forestry Commission sign.  There’s little warning so keep your eyes peeled.

Description: As the very first black graded trail ever attempted by anyone at Bad Mountain Biker Mansion, I was very pleasantly surprised.  The grading is not the unreachable jump up that I was expecting.  This trail climbs up into more remote areas of Brechfa Forest and has you feeling like you’re a good long way from the tame sections close to the car park.  Long and interesting singletrack sections provide most of the riding, and particularly later on large features are built into the trail for the adventurous.  The whole thing feels more like natural riding – and more like the likes of Cafall or Bike Park Wales – than it does trail centre riding.

Good stuff: Lengthy, varied, remote and interesting singletrack sections throughout the trail.

Difficult stuff: The climbs seem steeper, more gruelling, and more technical than on the red and blue routes in the forest, and later on the larger features would be a distinct challenge – but these are well supplied with chicken runs for those of us who like to maintain a healthy complement of limbs.  The bridge, although not technically very tricky, requires some nerve.

Verdict: Awesome!  Definitely worth checking out if you fancy a reddish black challenge.

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Filed under Black, Brechfa, Trails, Wales