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The Rhayader Round     Page 1

Rhayader has two of the best downhills in Wales. This ride unlike others we have seen, takes in both of them. This is the story of our first not quite so smooth version of the Rhayader Round, (soon to be published in the Routes section) As promised here

Total distance 21 miles: Explorer 200 Llandrindod Wells & Elan Valley

Rhayader looks peachy on the map, there are stacks of simply fascinating bridleways heading off in all directions. But when it comes to making a loop of it, they turn out to be badly drawn. Did this stop us from boldly going where we (at least) had never been before? Yes! I mean no... Anyway armed with a little local knowledge and some unrealistic mileage predictions we arrived one bright sunny Summer morning to push back the frontier of mountain bikers knowledge.

The omens were good, the car park was free (at the leisure centre, turn North one hundred yards from the clock tower, it's on the right) and the sun was smiling down upon us. So of course things started to go wrong right away. My recently re-installed Ipaq wouldn't play ball and it was back to the old OS map and bog standard GPS. As we headed South past the clock tower on the A470 the clouds had slunk in. We soon came to the slightly overgrown gate leading down to the first of two small, river fords. Once through the gate the track headed straight for the, great big eighty feet wide, fast flowing, swollen river. It looked like we might have to swim for it.

As it was my daft route, I went first and made it about three quarters of the way across then it was feet down in the tepid torrent. Much of my pride was soon restored, as this turned out to be the best effort of the group and Tom narrowly avoided going under completely. Those river bed rocks are seriously slippery. Once we were all across and praising our Sealskinz socks we merrily chipped off down a sweet little singletrack on the other side. This led us up to a short section of farm road and within half a mile to... Another great big eighty feet wide, swollen, fast flowing river. Our rusty bottom brackets were never going to forgive us. This river does have a bouncy, high suspension footbridge for the less aquatically inclined, which Tom took with relief.

The rest of us attacked the river full on this time, we were going good, we were going to make it! We slithered to a soggy halt three quarters of the way across. We sloshed out at the far side and consoled ourselves with the very pretty view down the river, which less intrepid (damp) bikers would never see. So, things were looking up, straight up as it turned out, the next section of bridle was best tackled on foot. 

After heaving our bodies and bikes three hundred feet up a near vertical grassy field we stopped for some food and a rest under a large oak tree. Which turned out to be useful, as it shielded us slightly from the heavy rain which began to fall as soon as we opened our packs. We drew out the snack stop more than a little in the hopes that the almighty downpour would subside, more than a little. And then, all at once, it got a lot worse.

Hang on, I tell a lie, actually it stopped. Bliss, only a few hundred feet more of verticality and we were home dry. Then as we descended we took a wrong turn. I will draw a veil over the next half an hour which saw us back track and go through a farm yard with a 'Private No Entry' sign we spied as we exited, sheepishly.
Finally we were back on track and ready to hit the fine singletrack we had been pointed towards by those in the know. The sun came out, the birds began to sing and off we pedaled bound for the 'Miner's Trail'.

We made one more wrong turn which I attributed to Tom's climbing enthusiasm as he shot off up a farm road to the right: wait for the gate marked 'No Motorbikes' before you turn off. Once through the gate a lovely grassy lane climbs up over solid rock and then fords a stream before hitting a short steep pitch. Sprint up here and you might well make it without a dab, it's not as far as it looks. Now the rock in the trail becomes more exposed and the bracken gives way to heather.

You won't reach the top without a bit of pushing over the rocky scarp but it's short lived and soon a joyous little singletrack drops you down to the beginnings of a small, almost bracken-choked valley. This is the start of one of the best little descents in Wales. Hug the right hand side of the valley and soon you will gather speed before rocketing down a good little pitch and fording another stream, It's not so deep and we just ploughed through. The view over the Garreg-ddu reservoir appears here and it's fabulous. Get ready to drop off the back, you're going straight down to meet it!  

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