Welsh Mountain Bike Coast to Coast – North to South
Having just completed this epic 6 day ride, here are some notes, thoughts, musings etc
Total – Day 1 to 6: 38hr ride time, distance 376km, ascent 7,067mtr
Giant Trance 29er, rough ride guides Wales C2C mtb route pack, Satmap GPS. 21 ltr backpack to carry all clothing, spares, snacks for the duration, weight inc. water around 10kg
After a relaxing and very scenic train journey to Conwy, started riding 11.30.
Conwy is a small town with a great castle & nice seafront. The route soon leaves the town and takes you up onto a mixture of bridleways, country lanes, rough paths etc.
There are some quite steep climbs with equally nice technical descents. This continues until you arrive by Surf Snowdonia which is a nice place for a short break. The route then continues on road & up to the Marin Trail above Betws y Coed. Nice to have a change of riding with some man made single track. Having left the trail after a few sections & crossing the picturesque Miners bridge, it’s a real hike a bike slog up the Sarn Helen track, this will kill your calves. Eventually you pop out at a crossroads then a short ride up and down brings you to the final climb to get to the Penmachno trail, and the welcome sight of The Eagles Pub/bunkhouse which has great beer, food and clean rooms.
Ride time: 5.5hrs
A short road ride takes you up into the old slate quarries and a mixture of hike a bike and rideable sections. The final grass hike a bike before you reach the top explodes your lungs and calves, its brutal.
After a bit of cross country you reach the working quarry and there’s a long twisting road taking you all the way down to Ffestiniog. Pick up the A470 for a short while until Traswfynydd, and a nice gentle route around the old power station to the Café by the lake, which was a welcome lunch stop.
After refuelling and continuing around the lake a long gradual country lane brings you to the edge of Coed y Brenin. After following some nice rough tracks you eventually reach the Beast Trail (which was familiar territory) where some superb singletrack riding awaits you. After multiple trail sections it’s time to leave and head to Dolgellau on a nice country lane. After arriving at Ivy House B&B, washing the bikes, and showering it’s time for a well deserved beverage at the Royal Ship, and onwards to the Gatehouse for one of the best steaks ever.
Ride time: 4.5hrs
Having left Dolgellau early, and with the first very long & steep climb the full breakfast didn’t seem like such a good idea. A mixture of lanes, off road tracks eventually brings you to the top. With Cadair Idris to your right the views down into Machynlleth are superb, it’s just a shame that most is on a narrow tarmac road. The optional section to ride Climachx trail was not taken (having riding it a few times before). Coming out of Machynlleth a country lane climb takes you to the Mach trails and some great open mountain riding and one heck of a steep long climb before branching off the trail and heading down some rough rocky bridleways which seem to go on for ever before you pick up the trails at Nant yr Arian.
The visitor centre was a welcome sight and stop for refreshments, before taking the road descent to Aberystwyth.
Ride Time: 8.5hrs
After picking up the national cycle trail which is a very scenic track with good surface you eventually arrive by Strata Florida Abbey.
From there the going soon gets tough with some steeper climbs on forest roads. You will soon have a big choice to make.
Either take the lower tracks, which involve water crossings (we will come back to that) or the up & down route through the forest which avoids these.
We decided on the lower route, and even though it had been dry for an extended period there was lots of water, big long boggy puddles, seven fords to cross (which in places were more like rivers & near waist high), current was quite strong. Be warned you will get wet.
Whilst it was a nice challenge to complete, on reflection I would take the up & down route through the forest next time, as its pretty time consuming crossing the fords, you get very wet & smelly, and the bits you can ride are nothing special.
If it has rained in the last weeks, this will be a pretty dangerous route to attempt, be warned.
After coming out you then reach a road. Do not take the bridleway by the side of the YHA Dolgoch, it is completely unrideable for the most part, very boggy and will result in a back braking hike a bike that loses you lots of time.
Instead stay on the road with the river on your right, cross the bridge & climb the road to Soar y Mynydd.
We then had what was expected to be one of the highlights of the trip, but which turned out to be a big disappointment, the 8km Doethie Valley descent.
After the initial very rough climb to the top the descent starts well on a rough stoney track, but once you turn left at the post marker for the most part it’s a real chore. It’s not all downhill & the path is very boggy, rutted, collapsed and unrideable in places. I couldn’t wait to finish it.
None too soon we hit the road and arrived at the Royal Oak in Rhandirmwyn for some welcome food, beer & a bed for the night.
Ride time: 8hrs
Headed down the lane to Llandovery & decided to skip the Cwm Rhaeder trail loop, as had ridden this many times before. Continue on country lanes with some steep climbs before arriving at the base of the Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons. Its then a mixture of riding & hike a bike up some very steep terrain until it flattens out and you can continue riding on the open mountain with superb views. The terrain is a bit boggy in places and a few small stream crossings before eventually reaching the start of the final descent.
Looking down onto Dan yr Ogof, the descent is a mixture of grass, mud, rocky tracks which allows you to pick up speed fast before eventually becoming pretty steep to allow for an awesome finish to the road. A few km down the road was our room for the night the Ancient Briton in Pen y Cae, where there is a huge choice of real ales and big portions of food.
Ride time: 6hrs
Starting with a road climb which leads to a forest road climb, the views opened up and the coast was in sight which was our end destination.
Some nice rough bridleway descents took us quickly back down to the road at Glyn Neath & then a monster climb on a mixture of loose and hard packed forest road to join the Skyline trail above Glyncorrwg. After some more forest road up & down we were at Windy Point, which is one of the best mtb trail sections in the Afan Valley. A great fast blast down there, over Parsons Folly to pick up the final few sections of the Wall trail starting at 363. With adrenaline on overload we made it down the end of the ZigZags section onto the cycle track, and had a gentle ride downhill all the way to Port Talbot & onto Aberavon beach which was the finish.
Ride time: 5hrs
Day 4 was physically tough and the riding not the best, would definitely find an alternative route from Strata Florida to Rhandirmwyn.
A superb trip which was both physically & mentally challenging. The possibility to ride many different types of terrain, to visit places and sights that are off the track.