Our trip to South Wales with a Guided MTB Tour of The Brecon Beacons

Where: Brecon Beacons, South Wales
Price of Half Day Guided MTB ride for 2 people: £75
Price of Bike and Helmet Hire: £35 each
Level: Medium
Most challenging section: Riding on different terrains

For my boyfriend’s birthday, I knew he would want to do something mountain bike related. We’ve done a lot of cycling in North Wales so I thought South Wales would be a fun adventure for us both! My Nan used to live in South Wales with her husband and they happened to be visiting family in March, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to combine the two activities together.

I started looking for things to do around Merthyr Tydfil. I knew there would be plenty of trails but since I was not familiar with the area I was really keen on getting a mountain bike guide. I found a company online called Treads and Trails and contacted the owner Hue on their Facebook page to see what they had to offer.

I told him that me and my boyfriend had different levels of ability (Simon is a lot better than me) and that I wasn’t sure if we wanted to bring our own bikes as we travelling by train. Hue was very helpful, he told me that I could hire bikes through Treads and Trails and that he would find a route suitable for both of us. I was so excited and managed to keep what I had planned a surprise!

We got the train from Chester to Abergavenny with a suitcase and two helmets in hand. Simon was still clueless as to what was going on but I’m sure the helmets gave a slight clue. When we arrived we walked around the town centre and visited the Old Fish Market where we found a load of vintage action figures and Disney dolls! When the sun started to come out we found a nice beer garden where we sat and enjoyed a shandy. (It was St David’s day after all!)

We were then picked up and taken to Merthyr Tydfil by a family friend, this was great as there are no direct trains from Chester to Merthyr and it helped me keep the destination a surprise. We had a great night in Merthyr but we we were careful not to get too drunk with our big bike ride the next day.

Hue from Treads and Trails picked us up from the Travel Lodge where we were staying for an additional price which worked out a lot cheaper than hiring a local taxi firm. We had a pleasant journey to the Brecon Beacons and once we arrived at Talybont reservoir we were given our hire bikes. We were pleased with the quality of the hire bikes and they had been kept in excellent condition.

All set to go, we started on the first uphill climb. It was a few miles long but with a very shallow gradient. I started off confidently but after a couple of miles, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it. Runners spored me on who were passing in the opposite direction promising me I didn’t have much longer to go with this motivation I pushed on and I was very proud to make it to the top without stopping!

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We travelled on a lot of different terrains, from very loose rocky paths to very wet areas. This was a great experience for me as I have only ever ridden on neatly curated trails when mountain biking before. It took some time to get used to the loose terrain and I noticed my bike moving around a lot beneath me. I was assured this was normal and told to keep looking ahead as I have a habit of looking at what I am about to ride over. This is a bad idea and guaranteed to make you wobble more and possibly fall off! Hue was great giving tips and encouraged me throughout the ride.  When we reached the top we were rewarded with some spectacular views of the reservoir.

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Now for the fun bit; making our way down. We first rode down a big winding road which evolved into a narrower off-road trail. I dismantled my bike for only one part of the downhill section; a short steep descent made up of solely big rocks. I wasn’t brave or skilled enough to try this section and Hue suggested I walk down. I watched Simon whiz down the rocks and it looked like great fun which he confirmed when we met him at the bottom. I did manage to ride all the other downhill sections which included fords and loose rocky sections. I left the ride not only having had a great time but also feeling very accomplished. The whole experience was fantastic and I loved some of the challenges I came up against. Although the ride was not as challenging for Simon he thoroughly enjoyed the route and what it had to offer. Treads and Trails did a great job at creating the perfect day for both of us.

Here is a flyover of the ride;


We deservingly ended the day at the Crown pub in Merthyr. We met family and friends and told them all about our adventures over some great food and drinks. If you are ever in the area and want some great pub food then this is the place. Later in the night, a band called The Platinum Band performed and they got everyone dancing.

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Llandegla Core Skills Course for Women

Where: Coed Llandegla, Ruthin Road, Wrexham, LL11 3AA, Wales
Price: £90.00
Level: Medium/Difficult
Most challenging section: The sheer length of the day and the drop offs
Most rewarding section: Improving my techniques on the pump track

I had a brilliant first ride at Llandegla Forest but it made me realise how much I could improve my cycling as well as my fitness. After a quick look online I found a core skills course for women at Llandegla aimed at beginners.

The morning of the skills day, I was feeling quite apprehensive because I had never done anything like this before. I arrived at the Cafe at 9 am and the relaxed atmosphere soon calmed my mood.

We had a cup of tea while everyone settled in and talked about their previous experience and motivations for the day. I quickly learnt that I was truly the only beginner there. I think the instructor was shocked to hear I had only ever visited the centre once and before then I hadn’t rode since I was a child! While most of the women on the course had been riding for years.

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With this in mind I was very nervous for the day but the instructor and all the women were so encouraging that I soon forgot about my inexperience. Throughout the day I was able to go at my own pace and was given tailored advice from the instructor who filmed me using an iPad. It was great to look at the video footage and see where I was going wrong and how I could improve.

After we spoke about bike set up, the first lesson we learnt was all about positioning. Our instructor got us comfortable with leaning as far back as we could off the seat while pushing our heels down to stabilise us when going downhill.  To be honest I found this really difficult, even when we were practising on flat ground. Throughout the day I slowly gained more confidence to lean back but still have a long way to go. Unfortunately I never received the videos that were filmed from the day so I have managed to find this great picture demonstrating the body position we were practising.


Source: https://reviews.mtbr.com/5-mountain-biking-body-position-mistakes

Next we headed to the pump track where we learnt how to pump our bikes so that we didn’t need to pedal. This was fun and something I had never done before. The instructor was great and broke the technique into different steps so that it was easy to follow.

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Next we practised corners, looking at where to position our pedals as well as our bodies. Below is a short video I took of our instructor demonstrating how to preform a corner.

Around mid day we stopped for a well deserved lunch in the cafe. It was perfect timing as I was starting to become worn out.  For me I found the most challenging part of the day to be the sheer amount of cycling (mostly up hill) to and from each area. This was down to my fitness levels which obviously were not the best after only a week of cycling.

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The food was great and was all included in the price of the day.

We ended the day at the skills area of Llandegla. This is a small area which brings together different trail features. Earlier we were taught how to manual, so here we could practice the same technique as we dropped down some rocks. For those not quite ready to do this (me) we practised rolling down the rocks. Here is another video I took of our instructor demonstrating this.

At the end of the day we all headed back to cafe where we were shown all the footage of us that had been filmed throughout the course. It was great to see how far we had all come.

It was a brilliant day and I can’t believe I learnt so much in seven hours. Although I still have a long way to go, the course defiantly improved my confidence and gave me a solid foundation to improve my mountain bike skills. I always try to use the tips and techniques given to me throughout the course and notice my riding improve when I do.

Check out the video to find out more about the day and what it entails:

 

First Ride – Llandegla Forest

Where: Coed Llandegla, Ruthin Road, Wrexham, LL11 3AA, Wales
Price: Free
Level: Casual / Easy
Most challenging section: Very steep climb at the beginning of the ride.
Most rewarding section: The sense of accomplishment at the end of the downhill section.

Llandegla forest is a mountain bike centre in Wales with different routes that vary in difficulty. I had heard lots of great things about it and was very excited to go!

I bought brand new cycling clothes for the occasion; Muddy fox padded leggings and a top from eBay. I loved my clothes even though I looked more like a road cyclist than a mountain biker. They also proved to be very comfortable throughout the ride. However, my new shoes weren’t the same success. I didn’t realise they were made for clips, so the soles were very bumpy meaning I couldn’t grip the pedals properly. “All the gear and no idea” comes to mind.

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Picture stop by the reservoir

Since it was my first time anywhere like this, I thought I would do the green route (the easiest). I had wrapped up warm because it was an icey and cold day but as soon as I started pedalling I became so hot that my coat and buff had to come off!

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Llandegla Forest Map – Green route is top right

Struggling up the first hill, I had to make a stop half way up. It was only short but I had never cycled up anything remotely steep and I started to worry what I had got myself into!

As I got into the ride it became slightly easier as I carried my momentum from the flat and downhill sections into the short uphill climbs.

I was also messing around with my gears, trying to figure out what felt best. At first I would try and lower my gears while peddling up hill, which wasn’t a good idea as it threw me off balance. Towards the end of the ride, I learnt to lower my gears in anticipation of any up hill sections and this helped massively.

Llandegla is very picturesque and it was great to ride through the forest, especially since there is limited off road routes in Liverpool. I got so distracted by my surroundings near the reservoir that I nearly fell off my bike, luckily I didn’t, but it taught me an important lesson to always look where I am going.

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A near fall

Towards the end of the ride I was excited to see some downhill sections. As I started to descend I was shocked at how fast I was travelling. The rough terrain and ice made my bike rattle so I held on tight and enjoyed the ride! (In hindsight I probably held on too tight and needed to relax my arms).

The trail continued to meander back down through the forest, finishing at the cafe where you can stop for a well deserved drink and snack.  At the end of the ride I was worn out but I was ready for round two on the green route!

I had an amazing time at Llandegla. Everyone is very considerate and you can go at whatever pace you feel comfortable. Whether you are new to mountain biking or experienced, I would definitely pay this place a visit because there is something for everyone! Even if you want to try out mountain biking for the first time, why not rent one of their hire bikes and see what all the fuss is about!

Find out more here: https://oneplanetadventure.com/trails/

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The end result