Category Archives: Cwmcarn

Cwmcarn trail centre

Whereabouts: South Wales

Where specifically: North of Newport.  Take Junction 28 off the M4 and follow the main road through Risca, then follow brown mountain biking signs up an unlikely road to the car park.

Trails: Twrch and Cafall (both red), and some black and orange graded downhilling routes.

Why should I go there? It’s not too far from England so a short hop along the motorway can get you there, and it is without a doubt one of the more intense trail centres around.  The two red graded routes are both almost all singletrack, excellent riding, and extremely challenging.  Riding them gives a sense of achievement and the knowledge that you’ve ridden something serious.  Both I would consider to be high in the red grading.

Facilities: Paid car park, cafe, toilets, showers etc.  Lots of local facilities too.  And a forest drive.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cwmcarn, Trail centres, Wales

Cafall Trail

Trail centre: Cwmcarn

Grade: Red

Length: 15km (9.3miles)

Start point: Cwmcarn trail centre.  Leave the M4 at junction at junction 28 and follow the A467 North past Risca.  Follow brown signs up an unlikely road to the Cwmcarn trail centre.

Description: Gruelling, challenging, but potentially fulfilling trail that, like Twrch, is almost entirely on singletrack.  An exceptionally tiring singletrack climb seems to go on and on, zigzagging up through the woods.  Finally reacing something like the top, there’s an excellent section of flattish singletrack followed by a little descent and then more climb.  From there more intense descent drops you back to the trail centre with a flourish.  A more natural trail surface than many purpose built trails means that in winter it gets decidedly wet and slippery, and when I rode it much of a whole section was blocked by fallen trees – though it wasn’t too clear whether that was from high winds or logging.

Good stuff:  15km of singletrack!  The Dragon Run section at the top is certainly a highlight for the bad mountain biker – the majority of the climbing is over, the rideable and fun trail winds between twisty trees.  Rocky Valley is also a whole pile of fun, and much of the descent presents a challenge that would be satisfying if my bike hadn’t been developing problems fast enough for me to be taking it very easy by then.

Difficult stuff: The climb.  Dear lord, the climb.  It’ll leave you panting for breath repeatedly, and seems to go on and on.  Tight hairpin bends on the zigzags are tricky for those of us who lack much in the way of technical skill.  Trail surface requires some thought too, being wet and slippery and very rooty at times.  On the descents, there are huge steep bermed corners that are a challenge to the resolve, but could be eminently rideable with a bit of commitment.

Verdict: A definite challenge, but a great trail to ride.

A rare bit of non-climbing trail, after a short period of gear fiddling.

A rare bit of non-climbing trail, after a short period of gear fiddling.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cwmcarn, Red, Trail centres, Trails, Wales

Twrch Trail

Trail centre: Cwmcarn

Grade: Red

Length: 18km (11.5miles)

Start point: Cwmcarn trail centre.  Leave the M4 at junction at junction 28 and follow the A467 North past Risca.  Follow brown signs up an unlikely road to the Cwmcarn trail centre.

Description: Unusual in South Wales manmade trails in that Twrch has none of the usual fire road climbs.  It is 18km of beautifully planned red graded singletrack.  This makes it both more satisfying and considerably more tiring than other trails, but all in all an excellently satisfying ride.  It is a relatively tricky red trail, meaning that for the bad mountain biker there are occasional bits that are possibly unrideable, but the rest is challenging and fulfilling to ride.

Good stuff:  18km of singletrack!  Plenty of awesome sections here, with technical climbs to challenge you.  The two ‘airstream’ sections at the top are an absolute blast – don’t worry about the black grading on one of them, they’re both completely rideable and there’s the option to go back and do both.  ‘Castle valley’ is also something of a highlight.

Difficult stuff: Some sections of the climb get too technical for the average bad mountain biker – as much as they present a challenge to work towards.  Expect sudden rocky, steep, slick sections that have you wondering how anyone rides them.  On the downhills, there’s very little that’s excessively tough, although there are sections of steep gully that get a little nerve-wracking.

Verdict: An essential trail to bag.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cwmcarn, Red, Trails, Wales