Trail centre: Forest of Dean
Length: 17.5km (11miles)
Start point: Cannop Ponds cycle centre, Forest of Dean. Head for the mid-point between Coleford and Cinderford and follow signs. The centre is on the B4234, North of the B4226.
Description: Sweeping and gentle ride round the Forest of Dean. Surface is entirely on broad tracks and gradient is gentle for the whole ride. Short apparently blue graded sections flank the trail at times, but rather than being at all challenging they instead just provide a brief respite if you find the gentle smooth tracks monotonous. Links can also take you into the towns and villages around the route. Nothing about the route really constitutes mountain biking, although attempting it on a proper road bike may not be wise.
Good stuff: Excellent for families, very gentle ride that feels satisfying due to the amount of the forest seen from it.
Difficult stuff: Nothing. Some of the short blue sections may require you to pedal.
Verdict: Excellent gentle ride.
Trail centre: Natural – Brecon Beacons.
Length: 9km (5.5miles)
Start point: Usk reservoir dam or Pont ar’Wysg. Turn West in Trecastle or East through Llanddeusant. Usk reservoir is South of Llandovery.
Description: Short and reasonably easy fire road route around Usk reservoir. Includes some short climbs, one of which is on a road. It’s a fun and straightforward route that works nicely as a family ride or a short evening blast.
Good stuff: Little that’s spectacular, but take some of the flat or downhill sections at speed and they’re fun nonetheless. It’s an excellent opportunity to get covered in mud without the effort of the longer and harder trails.
Difficult stuff: Nothing much. Some of the brief climbs are surprisingly sharp.
Verdict: Fun, easy, and worth riding if you have half an hour to spare in the Brecon Beacons.
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.