For the full blog, visit Outdoor Fitness Magazine
Big thanks to Isobel at Outdoor Fitness Magazine for dropping us a line about our social media presence. We love posting images from our days and weekends guiding, to our personal sessions on the local trails. It has always been our intention to inspire people to get out and ride, explore new areas, and visit Wales at every opportunity! For Instagram and Twitter, just search @mtbcymru
For the full blog, visit Outdoor Fitness Magazine
Living and working in Wales has huge benefits. It's beautiful wild landscapes, amazing mountain bike centres and forests, stunning coastline, the South Wales valleys, Tom Jones and Rugby.
But living on a small island on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean means our weather can be rather unsettled. Warm winds from the Caribbean cross the Atlantic and rise over our mountains, cools, then the heavens open and it pours down!! A lot!!
When riding through puddles, streams and rivers we like to be comfortable, and Sealskinz socks have done us proud for many years. Each year they improve on the last, better fit, warmer merino, finer, lighter, an essential garment that's always evolving. Then there are the gloves, dexterity on the grips and no numb fingers, and that essential skull cap to keep your head and ears warm.
So when Dave Richards from Sealskinz suggested a partnership, we didn't hesitate a second and jumped at the chance! Throughout the winter months it's been our first go to piece of kit, warm, dry toasty feet can make all the difference on a ride, especially when living in Wales' answer to the lakes!
The guiding season kicked off in both style and quality from the Old Skool MTB Accommodation in Bronaber, just north of Coed Y Brenin. Owners Dafydd and Sian Roberts, once the original cafe owners and local MTB legends from the old CYB centre and cafe back in the day are owners and hosts of the Old Skool House.
Back in the 90s when Dafydd and Sian ran the old centre, a Sunday ride consisted of doing the Karrimor and Red Bull loops on the same day. But it took far longer then with a stop half way round for cheese, beans and egg on toast in a packed, sweat filled cafe that was steaming, oh the good ole days!
Sian continues to cook the most amazing food that is both high in carbs and protein to get you through a weekends riding. The accommodation is 5 star, its just so comfortable. The sofas, a roaring wood burner and a nice glass of wine are just what you need at the end of ride.
Diane and Graham had been guided by me and Polly back in October down at Elan Valley, and wanted to come back for a weekend with more friends. A wild ride around CYB was just what the group ordered, and we set about guiding them on the route we had previously ridden the week before. The weather wasn't great, but that didn't matter. Sarn Helen in, Cain and Serpent's tail twice, Abel, and out to the mid way cafe for cake and coffee. We hit the wild trails south and Miners Path before heading back into the forest and onto the old Pink Heifer and home. It was wetter than an otters pocket on the way back with rivers running down the trail, all I could think of was "thanks heavens for knee high Sealskinz" as we paddled and pedaled back. The other saving grace was a rare tail wind along the Sarn Helen, hallelujah! On arriving back, shower, fire, beer/wine/food and relax.
After a lovely evening of listening to Clive, a guest that was larger than life with an infinite knowledge of wine, we assessed the weather and decided to avoid the planned Pont Scethin. Might have been due to the lightening strikes on Rhinog Fawr!! So we opted for traveling further south to the Dyfi and a play on the classic enduro trails. Builth, Dickos and out along the field on the full enduro trail. Can explain the whole ride in three words, fun, fun, fun!
It was a lovely start to the season, and a big thanks to Diane & Graham, Chloe & Clive and Tony & Dot for their company and easy go with the flow attitude out on the trail.
We have been planning a linking ride between Coed YBrenin and Pont Scethin for sometime. A route that to local riders is nothing new, but you get drawn into the same old trail and ride every time, only to say after "I wish we had tried that linking trail, darn it again."
After an unsettled period of weather (understatement) a Sunday was free to go for it. What I didnt anticipate was a weather window of clear blue skies and a warm westerly wind, it felt just like summer.
Polly was teaching one of her popular Yoga Workshops at the Coed Y Brenin Visitor Centre, a full house of nearly 30 people. As I got my kit ready to leave, I felt like the cat that got the milk, they were inside and I was out playing! I Know they will have their revenge another day when rain is horizontal.
Dropping down the Minor Twr to Ganllwyd, I headed out west on a bridelway climb that spat me out at the bottom of 'Pop' on the Tarw Ddu, out of breath from the climb and seating head to toe from the heat!
A gentle fire road takes you toward the Rhingau, Fawr and Difwys were simply stunning. It looked like an impregnable fortress, just what the Romans must have thought two thousand years ago when they crossed Wales.
Turning south west around Mynydd Glan-llyn-y-forwyn and onto a tarmac, you immediately look for a bridle up to a house called Garth-gell. From the top you can see the Mawdach Estuary and the mouth to Cardigan Bay. Continue on to Banc y Fran and a single llop of Post Scethin and reverse the route home!! Simples!! JUst make sure you prepare for a BIG day out, food, water and spares, 50+km depending where you start.
Back to the centre for a cake and coke, after all, it felt just like summer, not March!
The Dyfi Valley is just a quick drive over the mountain, or a long ride out if your looking for an epic day. Getting over is easy, riding back is another story. So I opted for the car!
From the Climach-X Trail head we rode out on the usual route to later access the enduro trails used in the popular Winter Warm Up organised by local hero Carl 'Slate' Jones. A staunch worshiper (bordering obsessive) of the late John Disley (London Marathon in case you didn't know, or haven't yet met Slate), but none the less, a great guy.
So a quick run down 'Builth' and 'Dickos' got us quickly tuned into the trails. The descents are fast and loose, never steep, but the bike can soon get away from you and before you know it, your looking at the rear tread of your tyre as the back end swings round! The Dyfi also has a reputation of being brutal on tyres, and this ride was no exception. Two slices of the Butcher and sticky white solution was spraying out across the trail!! Unbelievably it nearly sealed, but alas a tube was called for.
Onward we went to the full enduro route that is saved for warmer weather and the full enduro distance of 60 (bloody hard) km. The field crossing that in race mode feels like hell was in fact firm, and a pleasure to ride across.
The field traverse is more than worth the effort for what lies beyond. A loose rock descent with some washed out sections that require fast line choice or big kahunas to trust your bike!! Hit the fire road and before you know it you're hitting to further sections that resemble 'Builth' and 'Dickos' all rolled into one very sweet drop!! From here we dropped back down to Corris via the Mountain Centre and a well earned snack.
The power of social media can topple governments, make millions for charity, can make a pop star or destroy one. It can also send you a message in the morning asking if you'd like to help out on the new MBWales film project, a 5min promo that highlights our fine land. The brief, arrive at Nant Yr Arian, take bike off roof, put on your best bike gear (plenty of that thanks to Madison) and ride like you stole it while being chased by a drone with heat seeking missiles (ok, the last bit wasn't quite true, but there was a missile!).
As it turned out the weather didn't play ball, dark skies and a 20-30mph cross wind. But that didn't stop Chris Davies of Eastwood Media and Wales Adventure fame. Get the kit on, lets go ride and see what we capture. The Italian job offered a great backdrop with Chris and Treebeard (nickname, not Lord of the Rings) got the cameras and angles set up in quicktime. Myself, Ollie and Polly would be riding as a group of friends, out for the day and enjoying the trail.
The drone got up in the air for a few shots, amazed it did given the wind, and was expertly piloted to get up and down safely, without firing its payload of missiles at us!! Sorry, lost the plot again, wild imagination...
Quick run into the centre with drone shots, spot of lunch and back out for photo stills on Hip ty Hop, just in time before the hail and rain started. This seemed to be a theme for Chris, shooting Wales in summer is a challenge, but in winter, simply madness!!
The end product? A stunning 4k film that shows the essence of riding in Wales, even when the snow is down. Year round riding whatever the weather, what ever the bike, whatever the trail. Visit the new site and enjoy the film at www.mbwales.com.
With our first guided weekend less than a month away, it was time to make sure the wild trails around Coed Y Brenin were still open. We parked up at Bronaber and headed out along the Sarn Helen Roman Road toward the forest. The skies were clear blue and early morning sunshine, what a day to be out.
We continued onto the forest and joined up with the MBR loop and onto Abel. But what we forgot was that Dyfi Events were running the Antifreeze event, riders everywhere! But thankfully were only playing on Cain and we soon left the madness.
Heading south we picked up a couple of Bridleways before giving the damaged Miners Path a gander, and so happy we did. Clear fell was well underway and might be ready for end of March?
Joining back onto the man made stuff we rode up past the both on the Beast before heading down the beautiful old heifer. Quick trip to the Beics Brenin to see the boys and back out on Sarn Helen to complete our reccy for Dian and Gra's group, it's going to be epic!! Day two reccy next week!
After the previous weeks ride over the Gap, the following Saturday saw much the same conditions. Hafren and Plynlymon were covered in snow and ice, making the climb up past the Source of the River Severn a real challenge.
However it was a good opportunity to test the Madison Zenith Windshell that Aled had sent across. A close fitting softshell with well placed pockets and a good hood. It regulated my body heat perfectly, not too hot, and not too cold! Coupled with my Addict shorts, they kept the wind and water out all day.
And being so wintery, I didn't see a soul all day...bliss
The Gap through the Brecon Beacons is a trail that tastes somewhat better the harsher the weather. So a February 14 date was chosen with Polly to ride out and finish with dinner at The Star in Talybont. As we drove toward the Beacon's, it was clear there was something white covering the tops like a white sheet draped over your knees! Add to this a temperature of -2 and we know we were in for a treat!
The ramp from Talybont was quiet and still, with very little happening in the valley below. It was clear from the tracks that we were the first out that morning, just the way it should be. Nearing the top the wind was whipping it up and the snow became crisper, crunching as the treads rolled over fighting for grip.
Down by the Neuadd Pontiscili was a further drop in air temp, so we didnt waste time by the water and headed for the Gap. A few walkers were out, all kitted up, and these idiots riding through! The gap was like sheet glass, but surprisingly grippy when you caught the rock edges. A quick photo and time to drop down. I took the Genesis High Latitude 29er, 34mm stanchions and a trail geometry to match. It was a beast on the loose stuff, while Polly chose her lines with a little more care on the Cotic.
Once down, we jumped onto the canal tow path and headed for the Star Inn for Sunday roast and a pint of Brecon's finest. Happy Valentines...x
Trail centres, trail heads, bike parks, DH centres etc etc etc... But you cant beat your local trails for that week night blast, Sunday epic or just go session stuff!
For us Hafren Forest gives us all of the above and some. It's northerly neighbor the Dyfi is superior in the length of descent, but the climbs can also hinder the amount you session. Hafren are shorter sections but just as high on quality and air time, without the slate slashing stone. So a best of both worlds?
It's also Wales' largest forest, so plenty of space to explore and play... We love it...