Trail centre: Brechfa
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.
Whereabouts: South Wales
Where specifically: Two start points (three if you count the alternative start for the Gorlech trail) – one at Byrgym Bach, a few miles East of Brechfa village on the B4310, itself a turn off the A40 at Nantgaredig; the other at the Eastern end of Abergorlech, a few miles further on.
Trails: Derwen (green and blue), Gorlech (red), Raven (black). An honourable mention also to Cwm Rhaeadr (red), which is not far away and doesn’t have its own trail centre.
Why should I go there? It’s a new trail centre, and some thought has clearly been put into the trails that were built there. The green trail is unusual in that it is mostly on singletrack (albeit broad and gentle singletrack). The red is a relatively easy red, but great fun. The blue trail has been built with the innovation of building raised singletrack between the tyre tracks for the logging machinery – which in theory means that both forestry and mountain biking can take place without damaging each others assets.
Facilities: Portaloos at the two main car parks. Aside from that, local pubs, shops and toilets in Brechfa and Abergorlech.
Trail centre: Brechfa… sort of
Length: 6.7km (4.2miles)
Start point: Cwm Rhaeadr car park. Five miles or so due North of Llandovery. On the road from Cilycwm to Rhandirmwyn, you’ll see pine trees come down close to the road on the left. It’s there.
Description: A hidden beauty of a trail. A short sharp blast of everything good about manmade trail riding. Designed by Rowan Sorrell more or less in his back garden, and despite being in the middle of nowhere it should be a definite one for everybody. A knackering 2km climb on fire roads starts straight out of the car park, but turns into singletrack at the top, and quickly turns into everything a red graded trail should be. A series of rock rolls lead into a trail down the side of the wood, and then it tumbles over jumps and races down through the woods to a series of huge bermed corners that deliver you back to the car park more than ready for another go.
Good stuff: The 4km of singletrack that starts at the top of the climb and ends at the car park. Great features. Great fun bits of singletrack.
Difficult stuff: Very little that’s truly difficult. As with other well designed red trails, you can take it slowly to ride it safely and not terribly well, or as you progress can ride it faster. The rock rolls are a little tricky, and the first climb is tiring when cold, but otherwise the it’s all straighforward enough.
Verdict: Excellent trail that’s short enough to do two or three times in succession.
Trail Centre: Brechfa
Length: 9.2km/4.7km (5.7miles/2.9miles)
Start Point: Byrgym Bach Forestry Commission car park, a couple of miles East of Brechfa village.
Description: Thoughtfully built trail through the Brechfa Forest. The green option is short, but unusually interesting for a green trail, and provides an exceptionally good starting point for people who would like to find out what mountain biking is like. A smooth all weather trail surface is peppered with gentle features like easy versions of what you might find on harder trails. In particular, the last section (that can be taken as a tiny trail in its own right – just turn left at the first junction by the picnic table) is a hugely entertaining run. The blue trail of the same name is largely more of the same, but with a somewhat painful climb up into the extra bits of singletrack. There are some more exciting sections of trail on the way down, though.
Good stuff: Most interesting green trail you’re likely to come across, and plenty of fun riding whichever option you go with. More of the same in the blue trail.
Difficult stuff: Not much. Tiring climb when the blue trail heads off from the green.
Verdict: Excellent! Gentle stuff if you have some experience, exciting stuff for those that don’t.
Trail centre: Brechfa
Length: 19km (12miles)
Start point: Abergorlech. Continue along the road beyond Byrgym Bach where the blue, green and black trails begin. Through Nant-y-Ffin, through Abergorlech and park in the Forestry Commission car park on left at the Eastern edge of Abergorlech village.
Description: A beautifully designed, red graded manmade trail through the Brechfa forest. Mostly fireroad climbs, but some pleasant windy singletrack climb sections as well that break up the fireroad and help you to gain altitude without really noticing. Once you reach the top you enter a series of descending singletrack sections, each with a distinct ‘theme’. Jumps and bermed corners get steeper and more interesting as they finally bring you tumbling back to the start. There are also short links leading to an alternative start point from the top and to the black graded Raven trail that begins at Byrgym Bach.
Good stuff: Awesome, varied, tumbling singletrack descents that can be taken at a crazy speed or a more leisurely pace with equal amounts of fun.
Difficult stuff: Stump jumps at in the top section, though these can be easily bypassed with chicken runs. Very late in the trail a bermed hairpin leads straight down into a vertiginous drop straight down to the valley floor and up the other side. I have yet to ride it (as much as I keep telling myself I will next time), but another pair of berms lead into it halfway down and make it more genuinely rideable. The final descent section has steep corners on slick shale, which range from exciting and interesting in Summer to downright terrifying in Winter.