only half an hour from Bristol and it's a great ride.
distance 17K (10.5 miles)
Grid references and map links from: Landranger 171 Cardiff
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1. 301 358 show
2. 403 357 show
Forest Drive Lodge.
3. 542 500 show
4. 537 456 show
Top of climb.
5. 317 226 show
6. 258 339 show
7. 329 317 show
Start of last downhill.
An inauspicious and very minor right turn on a council estate, leads (after three quarters of a mile) to the pretty setting of the Cwmcarn visitor centre. At time of writing the route is not officially open. Risk assessments still need to be completed and this means there are no direction indicator arrows or maps available. Apparently the organisers simply would not be covered if they told you where to go at the moment. This doesn't mean the trails aren't there though, so we took a trip to get a preview of what's on offer.
On the day we visited they were taking even less chance of being sued and had laid brush wood over one hundred yards of the first section of trail! (which climbs directly from the overflow car park). To circumvent this we followed two local riders John and Matthew, Eastwards up the Forest Drive beyond the visitor centre. After a quarter of a mile the road splits and we took the right fork down to and then across the Nant Carn river and continued up the Forest Drive road. Once you reach the lodge a further half a mile up the riverside road (passing a road closed sign, were these guys trying to tell us something?).
it's possible to join the riverside singletrack as it follows the river cutting below the road, crossing bridges twice on it's way up to the picnic area near the top of the valley (follow the valley up-stream, it's impossible to miss). When you reach the picnic area, have a snack ready, this is a popular Sunday barbecue spot and the aromas are excruciating! the route continues behind the green road barrier to your right.
One hundred yards along here is a post marker and a steep little singletrack up the grass bank which climbs for about 200 yards and can be ridden without a dab if you've still got the energy. After this steep little climb you reach a grassy forest road where you turn left for a pleasantly graded climb to a T junction, turn right here. Not much more climbing and you reach the highest point of the ride. After a couple of hundred yards of double-track descending look for a wooden V shaped barrier on the left, leading on to a snaky open singletrack where you'll ricochet off numerous tree stumps on a gradual descent back towards the road. More motorbike unfriendly barriers cause pedal clearance problems at the start of the first of Cwmcarn's trademark narrow and slightly off-camber singletracks. The spice to many of these is the disconcerting drop at the edge, on this fast trail you ride six feet above a minor road which either slows you down or is way up in the dangerous sports league.
From here on it's single all the way with as yet unimproved, winding and undulating dirt under your tyres. This dark route through the wood leads to a speedy slalom style singletrack descent which will put a grin on your face. Soon after a high speed descent through the woods lulls you in to a false sense of security before spitting you out in to the open for some high speed dips and a narrow finish where the trees will threaten to love tap your bars and roll you in the dust. Ten yards of Tarmac lead to a slight switch in tactics, the camber drops off to your left now. With some top views in to the valley this part of the trail is the bumpiest at present. On our third lap (yes, third') I suddenly felt my bike yanked back as if my rear wheel had become snagged in a barbed wire.
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