Category Archives: Afan

Afan trail centre

Whereabouts: South Wales

Where specifically: Two start points, but they’re both up the same road.  Leave the M4 at junction 40 and follow the A4107 towards Cymmer, following the valley through a number of villages.  Keep straight on all the way and you’ll eventually come to the Afan centre on the right.  Stop here for Penhydd, Blue Scar and others.  Carry on along the road and follow brown signs down a sharp turning to the left towards Glyncorrwg.  Round a sharp hairpin bend and straight on down through the village, and eventually Glyncorrwg ponds and trail centre are on the left.  Stop here for The Wall, Blade, and Skyline.

Trails: Rookie (green/blue), Blue Scar (blue), The Wall (red), Whites Level (red), Blade (red), Penhydd (red), Skyline (red), W2 (black), Rheilffordd (DH).

Why should I go there? Quite simply, it’s tough to ask more of a trail centre.  You could happily spend a long time just riding the trails.  Blue Scar is an excellent blast of a blue graded trail, the red trails range from the relatively straightforward Penhydd through the Wall and Whites Level and into the intense and challenging Blade, and then on into the remote Skyline.  Links turn the Wall and Whites into the multi-climb monster W2.  There’s an incredible amount of riding here to keep any bad mountain biker (or good mountain biker) interested.  It’s also within a reasonable striking distance of Cwmcarn, the Forest of Dean and Brechfa, as well as natural riding in the Brecon Beacons and the Gower.

Facilities: At each of the start points there’s a cafe, a bike shop, workshop and hire place, an extensive car park, toilets and showers.  Miners museum at Afan, and fishing and a campsite at Glyncorrwg.

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Blade Trail

Trail centre: Afan

Grade: Red

Length: 24km (14.9miles)

Start point: Glyncorrwg trail centre.  Leave the M4 at junction 40 and follow signs for Cymmer.  Keep going straight on through villages, past the Afan trail centre and on.  Turn left down a steep hairpin into Glyncorrwg and continue on through the village.  Glyncorrwg ponds and the trail centre will be on the left.

Description: Much more of a sustained and technical challenge than most of the other red trails at Afan.  The singletrack climb is shared with Whites Level, and allows you to gain a lot of height without too much difficulty.  Then Blade leaves Whites and heads off into some technically challenging sections of singletrack.  Definitely a trail that will push you.

Good stuff: Every section of singletrack is something to look forward to.  The satisfaction of having ridden it and ridden it well would by immense, if somewhat beyond my current skill level.

Difficult stuff: Once you get into the singletrack sections specific to Blade, the difficulty level increases significantly.  The constant hairpins in Helter Skelter are a distinct challenge, and the rock that gives its name to The Rock section requires a level of technical skill that I am a long way from having.

Verdict: Excellent trail, but a distinct challenge for the bad mountain biker.

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Filed under Afan, Red, Trails, Wales

Whites Level

Trail centre: Afan

Grade: Red

Length: 17km (10.5miles)

Start point: Glyncorrwg trail centre.  Leave the M4 at junction 40 and follow signs for Cymmer.  Keep going straight on through villages, past the Afan trail centre and on.  Turn left down a steep hairpin into Glyncorrwg and continue on through the village.  Glyncorrwg ponds and the trail centre will be on the left.

Description: This trail is one of the two that ushered me back into mountain biking, and that I tend to use as a yardstick to judge other trails.  It’s nicely designed and for the most part completely rideable, although it has been heavily affected by forestry work at one time or another, resulting in diversions.  A largely singletrack climb gets a lot of height done without you noticing too much, and then a series of excellent singletrack sections will leave you grinning.  There’s an optional black-graded loop at the top which I’ll review if I ever ride it, and Whites can be combined with The Wall into the epic and black-graded W2, which again I’ve not ridden.  There’s two options for the final descent as well.

Good stuff: Every section of singletrack.  Energy is a particular favourite of mine, and Goodwood and Darkside provide some great and varied riding, even after the demise of the boardwalk in Goodwood.

Difficult stuff: Nothing hugely troublesome, though the occasional tricky feature might cause problems.  Take care with the bridges in Energy, and the dropoffs in Darkside.

Verdict: Excellent trail, perfectly designed.

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Filed under Afan, Red, Trails, Wales

The Wall

Trail centre: Afan

Grade: Red

Length: 23km (14.3miles)

Start point: Afan trail centre.  Leave the M4 at junction 40 and follow signs for Cymmer.  Keep going straight on through villages and eventually you’ll find the trail centre on the right.

Description: This trail is one of the two that ushered me back into mountain biking, and that I tend to use as a yardstick to judge other trails.  It’s nicely designed and for the most part completely rideable.  A long fireroad climb gets most of the uphill out of the way without too much difficulty or effort, and then begins a series of singletrack sections, each and every one worth looking forward to.  Can be linked to Whites Level to form the epic and black-graded W2, which I’ve never ridden.

Good stuff: Every section of singletrack.  Tramway and Graveyard are particularly fun.

Difficult stuff: Some sketchy moments at times – though most are fine with the right speed and planning.  The end of Tramway was the site of my one and only faceplant, so I’d advise picking a line that doesn’t end suddenly with a sudden dip, an unexpected log and a meeting of face and trail.  Keep right.

Verdict: Excellent trail, perfectly designed.

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Blue Scar

Trail centre: Afan

Grade: Blue

Length: 7km (4.5miles)

Start point: Afan trail centre.  Leave the M4 at junction 40 and follow signs for Cymmer.  Carry straight on through villages and eventually the trail centre is on your right.

Description: Wonderful but short blue graded trail.  Gentle singletrack climbing leads up to a short section of descent that leads into a longer fireroad climb.  Helpful section names ‘Just Around the Next Bend’ and ‘The Top’ let you know how you’re getting on, and then an awesome long section of singletrack begins.

Good stuff: The first descent section Jim Crow is a blast, and a taste of things to come.  Later on, Widow Maker (ignore the name!) and Hitchers and Ostlers are just as good, just as blue graded, and just as fun.  Very fun and achievable ride.

Difficult stuff: Not much at all.  Climbs are tiring at times.

Verdict: Excellently designed and great fun.  Good when ridden immediately after Penhydd or one of the other red trails.

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Filed under Afan, Blue, Trail centres, Trail grades, Trails, Wales

Penhydd Trail

Trail centre: Afan

Grade: Red

Length: 15km (9.3miles)

Start point: Afan trail centre.  Leave the M4 at junction 40 and follow signs for Cymmer.  Keep going straight on through villages and eventually you’ll find the trail centre on the right.

Description: This trail kicks off with a pleasantly gentle singletrack climb (gentle because it shares it with the blue graded Blue Scar), and then a short section of descent before a longer, and surprisingly rough fire road climb.  Reach The Top and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d reached the top.  Nope.  Another kilometre and a half of climbing still to go, but after that you’re into singletrack, that sweeps back and forth across the hillside and makes you feel like a proper mountain biker, although you may quickly be disillusioned by the more technical sections later on.

Good stuff:  Early on, Jim Crow is an excellent section of blue graded descent (again, shared with Blue Scar) and is an absolute blast – all big bermed corners and simple jumps.  Later on, Sidewinder is the genuine payoff on this route – a wonderful long section of singletrack that has you feeling like you’re miles from civilisation and at one with the bike.

Difficult stuff: The climb is tiring, but not as bad as some.  Late on, Rocky Rebellion is a surprisingly technical short section that can catch you out, and Revelation features some awkward rock gardens and some vicious dropoffs.  The surface is rougher and looser than some as well.

Verdict: Excellent, and generally more straightforward than The Wall or Whites Level.

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Filed under Afan, Red, Trails, Wales