The Elan Valley above Penygarreg Dam, south East of Aberystwyth, Wales
Guest blog post by Phill and Polly who run Welsh mountain biking tour site, www.mtb.wales
Wales has rapidly become one of the world’s best destinations to mountain bike. Ever since Dafydd Davies planted his spade at Coed Y Brenin in the mid 90s, the trail network has grown and evolved with the ever changing developments of the bikes and the sport as we see it today. Back then, the idea of throwing yourself down Bike Park Wales, Revolution or Antur Stiniog would have only been for elite riders, or crazy young people without a care in the world!
Fast forward 20 years, and you see a wide and broad spectrum of riders at bike parks and trail centres across Wales every weekend. Two year old children ragging it down blue trails on their balance bikes, XC whippets, women and men riding out for a trail/enduro session and E-bikes for riders who improving their health and wellbeing. You see it all.
But there is a bigger world outside of the forest centres and bike parks to explore. The ‘natural’ playground of bridleway networks and tracks are a mountain biker’s nirvana. The freedom and liberation of cycling in the wilds of Wales is something you never forget. A sparse and rugged landscape of ever changing trails. The mountainous challenges of Snowdon, Cadair Idris and the Brecon Beacons can take the most seasoned riders out of their comfort zone with one poor decision of line choice on the steep, technical rock strewn paths.
Then there’s the ‘remote, green desert of Wales’ that’s our backyard and playground. The Cambrian Mountains are the spine of mid Wales with the Elan Valley situated right in the middle. The lake district of Wales is a mixture of big climbs and fast flowing descents that weave there way in and out of the reservoirs.
After the usual winter of never ending rain, the spring has been surprisingly dry, very. The Elan Valley supplies Birmingham with its drinking water, and had less than an inch of rain fall in the whole of April. Not great for the reservoirs, but great for guiding!
We’ve guided three Trans Cambrian crossings this year, and all have been dry and dusty, which is very welcome on the grassy climbs of day one. The route takes us from the English border to the Welsh coast and Dyfi Estuary over three days, 186km in distance and 3700m of climbing. It crosses the Cambrians three times and gives you a real feel of adventure with a real mix of terrain each day. Long may the fine weather last, the end of October might be stretching it!
We’ve also been fortunate enough to guide the team from Madison who were launching the new packs from USWE with brand ambassador, world cup/champion and all round mountain bike legend Steve Peat. Typically it rained that morning after being 23 degrees the day before, guess I spoke too soon on the whole drought issue! However it didn’t dampen spirits and the opportunity to ride with Steve on our favourite trails won’t be something we forget in a hurry.
It’s going to be a busy season, and we’re really looking forward to guiding and meeting new friends, and seeing some familiar faces returning to our backyard.
Phill & Polly