Very steep, if you can't/won't push don't go. Close to England it's a
real 'day ride' without the marathon drive. Amazing, we love it. The
ride composes of up to two big loops from the town, one if you're
distance 43K (23 miles)
Grid references and map links from: Landranger 125 Bala and
To open map link click on
'show'. To change to OS map select halfway between + and -
on map size selector.
1. 055 258 show
Pentre rough track.
2. 064 238 show
Road at Cwmwr Isaf.
3. 034 225 show
4. 029 206 show
5. 021 191 show
6. 044 201 show
7. 073 214 show
On to grass, double back.
8. 058 227 show
9. 085 244 show
10. 103 254 show
Left at Plas-Du.
11. 095 270 show
Right at barn.
12. 072 279 show
Left through gate.
13. 064 268 show
Right over stream.
14. 059 264 show
Having an OS map of the whole country on screen makes it a lot easier to scout out new and tasty looking routes. One such area scrolled in to view on a late night of calculating contours and retracing red dotted lines ad-infinitum. I was searching for an area that was closer to England than many of our Welsh routes. Surely there must be great riding to be had in the mountains we drive by on the way to Coed y
Brenin? One radically steep looking mountainside has a bridleway which crosses the contours at ninety degrees, this just had to be a hoot. Once I'd mapped out a ride using as many of the local rights of way as possible, I had a chat with local routes-Guru Paul Davies who made a few suggestions, like not carrying our bikes across a vast wet moorland...
On the morning of the ride the weather was exceptional with bright, unbroken sunshine forecast for the whole day: smart. As we arrived in Llangynog we were stunned by the dramatic scenery with rugged mountains towering over this tiny Welsh hamlet. I couldn't believe we'd never heard of the place. The village has a local website which simply doesn't do it justice, they need better
pictures, just point your camera away from the car park and you should get some! We set off up the first climb, this bridleway is very steep and not at all nice to climb cold, early in the morning, or any time of day come to think of it... The views behind us of the craggy rocks of Craig Rhiwarth helped to brighten the mood on our frequent breaks whilst pushing and granny ringing our bikes up
When we reached the top we thought we needed to turn right, when in fact the turn was half a mile ahead. We raced out along a good forest road then across open grassland finally realising our mistake after about a country mile. We eventually turned back and found the climb around Graig
Ddu. This smooth climb was much more to our liking and we soon reached a deforested plateau, covered in the decaying corpses of stripped pine trees. Trouble was the branches from all those trees carpeted the trail, on a wet day this would be totally lethal but baked in the sun the silver wood offered excellent traction.
We thundered off down this roller coaster road of bared lumber bones, silvery stakes jutted out in all directions and threatened to skewer a falling rider. It really was lots of fun, weight right back, lofting the front wheel half of the time to avoid being snared on a hundred wooden wheel traps. We caught up with the others after a short photo-session and then made another wrong turn.
Without consulting the map we followed an obvious singletrack to the left which turned out to be a really evil downhill course set up by some locals with long forks and more testosterone than Sylvester Stallone on steroids. Seriously, hats off to these guys riding impossibly narrow, steep scree slopes and eight foot drop offs. We walked most of it and short cut painfully through last years brambles to avoid trauma on the big drop. A short road section and forest climb bring you out in to the open for some high rolling fun on the way down to the picturesque Lake
Vyrnwy. Look out for suicidal sheep who can't wait to get their necks under your front wheel, they have an uncanny knack of
barreling along the trail, then darting off to one side before diving right in front of you at the last possible instant. Who says sheep can't be scary?
As it turned out only the first hundred yards had grown in, thereafter a sweet long descent entirely on off-camber ensued, dead straight but with a few roots to add spice. At the end of here is a steep zigzag through a ditch which required the rear end to be slid round, see if you can make it up the other side... After a short climb we hit the road for a quick blast downhill then on to an un-promising looking, damp bridle between two walls. As soon as this turns right a grassy straight line descent with a couple of spoil-sport gates has you hurtling down on to the road and in to the three-house hamlet of Gelli. Some smooth tarmac sees you through Penybontfawr and heading up country lanes on the climb up the back of Glan-hafon.
So this is loop two then and it's a bit of a killer with good steady climbs, but boy do they drag on a bit! After a snack stop and about half an hour of climbing you turn on to the stony doubletrack at a large barn. The views in to the Afon valley are pretty spectacular, especially as you reach the Northern end, with the summit of Moel-Sych at eight hundred and twenty seven
meters visible on a clear day. It has to be said that the final push to the saddle at five hundred and thirty meters is boggy and we wore our Sealskinz socks on a pretty dry day for this. There's no avoiding it but it's only three hundred yards and the reward at the top is exceptional.
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