Llangynog Loops Back to: Llangynog
Loops HomeLlangynog is:
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
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.
in to insanity
At last you reach a wooden gate and cross on to a grassy singletrack, this zips you the three hundred yards across the flat plateau to the top of one of the most incredible descents in the UK. This is twelve hundred feet pretty much straight down on rabbit-clipped grass single track. There's a real 'going over the edge' feeling to this one with the shining slate of Craig Rhiwarth filling your view ahead, the sensation of height and scale takes your breath away. A couple of well placed bumps let you fly off down the trail and then you're sliding in to the first bend. This is really smooth natural single track, in the dry it's deep joy sliding round the corners way too fast for comfort. In the wet you'd need a sanity check at the top and clean shorts at the bottom.
The middle section has two long straights and one 'slightly' bermed corner, after the corner a short solid rock section leads in to a narrow cliffside and then points you right at a handy square boulder. Best lose a little speed here as it would be pretty embarrassing to hit the only rock on the trail. The final section before the gate is the steepest and anyone with an XC set up bike (like us) will have fun staying on as the last two hundred yards requires some serious off the back braking. Once through the gate a smooth, grassy doubletrack takes you down to a further gate and stream crossing on the right. Through one more gate on the other side and then skirt right again across the foot of Craig
This last section of the downhill is another peach, beginning on grass and at speed it launches you in to a small copse with slate outcrops narrowing the trail. At the far edge of the copse a sprung gate leads you out on to the loose slate piled up against the foot of the craggy mountainside. This section of the trail is narrow and technical, with a fair old drop to the left and slate jutting out at odd angles, it's amazing horses manage it safely. All too soon you're on a narrow tarmac road at the back of
Llangynog, only two hundred yards from the car park. It's almost worth riding (and pushing...) back up to do it again, we
did once, it hurts.
Llangynog is easy
to get to, tough to ride and rewards you in spades. It has fantastic
scenery, big and fast descents, technical riding and a good car
park. Get on your bike!