If you've not
already done one of the big loops at Nant yr Arian you are seriously
missing out. This feature gives some idea of what a great riding
location it is, even in the middle of Winter.
We've been on three rides in three months at Nant yr Arian and they couldn't have been more varied. The January ride was perhaps the most intense with bright sunshine and not a breath of wind. To add spice to the pot one or two of the double-track slopes had become glaciers worthy of manning a bobsleigh instead of a mountain bike. We began the ride on a high and ended up ecstatic, with almost maniacal "couldn't wipe the grin off our faces with a track pump" enthusiasm. The north facing slopes of sheltered valleys were covered in a blanket of snow whilst the remaining ground was clad in Winter colours of gold and muted green.
up and ready to go...
The first climb of the day is one of the easiest as the main car park is high in the Plylimon mountains. Three hundred yards of dead straight forest road and one of single-track switchback climb brings you to a long sweeping left hander which suddenly tightens (steady now...) and dips in to the trees. This is fast, smooth and narrow until it drops down an easy rock staircase then makes a tight turn and spits you out on the high side of a deep and steep Welsh valley. The precipitous outlook is reminiscent of Cwmcarn but that's another story. A couple of tight flat turns (yawn) lull you in to a false sense of security before things start to wind up again with some nifty little bends dodging old tree stumps.
One more flat hairpin sees you at the starting gate and ready for a fright as you build momentum along the valley wall. Now you know you're having fun and from here it's a swoop to a footbridge then up a short pitch (yes, up) to the second half of the descent where you build so much speed that the drop and the bomb-hole get pretty desperate, try and stay on the ground if you don't want to jump the whole lot! A final hump spits you out diagonally across a forest road. intended to slow you down, it just has us landing on the front wheel and screeching to a desperate halt frothing at the mouth somewhat. A short forest road haul brings you to a singletrack shortcut to the lake at Llyn Blaenmelindwr, don't ask us how to pronounce it!
feature in text only form.
This is where you can move off on to the incredible doubletrack route. No other location we know of has such a great singletrack loop and quality doubletrack to compete with the best the Dales or Peaks have to offer. It's really a combination of factors that make this such a great ride, stunning scenery, fast and technical trail and a strict rationing of mud that can make you wonder how grass grows out there.
Some riders come un-prepared for Nant yr Arian's wilder side and so when they reach the lake they immediately take the double track back towards the centre. For the inexperienced and poorly equipped perhaps this is a good call. The rest should get out their maps and follow the narrow road along the East bank. Once you pass the second lake (Llyn Syfydrin, a little under a mile from the first) the tarmac ends and you find a pot-holed road with several fords and huge puddles which often link up giving the impression you're riding in a river. You soon reach a major ford which is often rideable, if you don't mind getting your feet wet.
On one unusually wet weekend we found a Range Rover which had conked out trying to get through, he had a snorkel exhaust! For the less aquatically ambitious there is a footbridge which can let you make it across dry, ya' wimp. The view after this, looking West across to Llyn Craigypistyll is pretty special. It's easy going then until you make the right turn off towards Nant y Moch Reservoir, which entails a short climb and perhaps a few minor diversions around oceanic puddles. One more clear water ford brings you to the reservoir and what a sight for sore eyes it is.
A short tarmac trip along the West side of the water and the road climbs steeply before you double back on a broad, quarry style road. More wide open vistas unfold before the trail heads downwards and you hit top speed just in time to, realise you should have gone a teeny bit slower... Because this is no tarmac: folded solid rock gives way to jagged pieces of loose stone. The right side is probably the smoother, but sliding too far across has you launching over a big hole in heart stopping mode for a cross country rider. Although it's soon done you'll be laughing at the bottom if you made it down in one piece.
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