Trail centre: Natural – Brecon Beacons.
Start point: Start point for the ride that we did was the car park at the dam across Llyn Brianne at 794485 (52.12, -3.76). Start point of the Doethie Valley itself is more like 757533 (52.16, -3.81).
Description: As with many natural rides, this one consists of a route to and from a single long section of singletrack. The Doethie Valley holds a legendary place in mountain biking circles, as it is a section of (largely) rideable singletrack that extends over six miles.
The route begins by crossing the dam and winding ones way firstly along the shore of the reservoir and later up through forestry, to come out on a track that leads out into the hills. This track is fast, but largely uninspiring riding, but it does carry you a good distance towards the start of the singletrack. When you reach the chapel at Soar y Mynydd, a track to the left leads you up and over into the Doethie Valley. The track when we reached it was securely locked and sported a sign letting us know it was closed to all traffic. After some discussion, we climbed the gate and continued, and soon discovered that the problem was a deep and narrow gully that had cut into the track. It presents little problem for the mountain biker, although anyone careless enough to drop a wheel into it could be seriously injured a long way from help.
Turn left on the obvious path once you’ve dropped a considerable distance down into the valley, and you begin the singletrack section of the ride. In essence – just keep going. There are stream crossings, some bogs that can stop you dead, rocky sections that would require a great deal of skill to clear, and sections where (at the right time of year) the path is so obscured by bracken that you end up riding by feel and blind faith more than judgement. That said, a lot of the path is excellent riding – hard packed dirt in shallow gullies that needs just the right amount of skill to ride well. It goes on for miles.
At the end, come out on a farm track, cruise round the shoulder of the hill and take the track on the left up and over the saddle back down to the car.
Good stuff: The Doethie Valley. Better as it gets later, and some exceptionally good and extensive natural singletrack.
Difficult stuff: The closed track over the hill at the far end of the route begins steep and slippery, and then goes through some huge puddles, and then enters the section with the deep gully. The gully section is not exactly difficult, but does require some care. On the singletrack, look out for bogs and rocks, but there’s so much good riding that the occasional foot on the floor doesn’t seem to matter too much. The final climb is a bit of a killer after a long ride, but ultimately straightforward.
Verdict: Definitely worth a ride, although it seemed to us that we could have taken a different track across the hill and had most of the good riding without much of the bad. However, that would cut out a couple of miles of singletrack.