Friday, July 28, 2006


Saturday Afternoon, I have in front of me some of the best single-track I have ridden, it is warm and dry, the sky is clear, scenery superb and I have the place to myself! Spain? France? Well no, just outside Betwys-y-Coed, North Wales near a small village called Penmachno.

A family camping trip meant that I had chance to ride one trail in the area, originally it was going to be the Marin, but thanks to a suggestion from Farqui I opted for the shorter Penmachno. This is a complete trail, but there is another section planned and until the second part is done there is no signposting maps etc. (See the notice in the photos for explanation). Distance is around 12 miles, there is some car parking, way marking is excellent and fully in place.

There were a few riders packing up when I arrived and when I asked them about the trail they said it was mostly ‘tight’ flowing single-track, some jumpy bits, but nothing technical and no big drops. The trail builders seem to differ; I guess it depends on your definition of technical.

The initial climb is by fire road but then it soon goes into single-track. ‘Tight’ seems a good description, because these trails are fast and flowing, but need full concentration as they twist through the trees and over narrow ‘bridges’ – there are plenty of stumps and rocks to catch you out. Surface is slate, so may be very different in the wet.

The sections of single-track seem to last for ages related to the climbs. There is a long section across an open hillside that initially climbs then is flat, but again needs concentration. There is a tricky single-track switchback climb and towards the end it gets even more interesting with some switchback descents, the hairpins are quite tight in places. The final descent across a steep hillside is well worth waiting for and leaves you wanting to go round again!

As I was on my own and it was the first time I had ridden here, I took it very easy. There is certainly a feeling of remoteness compared with other man-made trails, I guess this will change when the next section is completed and better facilities are in place. Used the 5-Spot, (annoying gears still present!), but could be done easily on a bike with less travel.

So, thoroughly recommended, perhaps not worth 3-4 hours drive alone, but maybe in combination with other trails in the area.

Highlights of the ride? Long twisty single-track and the sight of a large bird of prey gliding to roost a few feet in front of me as I rode one hillside trail.

P.S. Betwys-y-Coed is a good place to visit for all the family, nice shops, pubs, etc. Lots of walks from the town if that is your thing. I do not recommend the Fish & Chip shop on the main road!! Alpine café by the Station has been recommended elsewhere, open for breakfasts, but can get busy later.


Farqui said...

Phew, I'm glad that this relatively new trail stands up to the recommendations of the STW peeps. Your description sounds sweet, I v.much like a "flowing" trail :)

It's 12miles and how long would you say it would take (minus photo ops) ?

quote "annoying gears still present" - does this mean that you're looking to convert your 5Spot into a singlespeed :lol

Farqui said...

I ought to add that this trail isn't a Forestry Commission owned jobbie but a private enterprise. Which makes it all the more impressive.

Oh and hawk eyes Jamie recently pointed out some sweet little vids over at MTBBritain.

toons said...

I'd seen a couple of posts about this trail on STW and found those videos.

It looks v nice, especially the final bit.

How did it compare to the other Welsh stuff you’ve ridden; better, different or not as good?

I must get myself down to Wales.

uphilla said...

It is different to other Welsh stuff in that it is almost purely single-track, so no drop-offs etc. Still big fun. Climbs did not seem as severe as elsewhere and I liked the fact that they are not all on fire roads. Of course my impressions would be very different if it had been wet and cold, thus keen to try it again when it is not too hot - at times the sweat was dripping off me and making it difficult to see.
Fitted Hutchinson Bulldog Tyres for this ride, very light and fat, seemed to handle the conditions well, though I suspect they are aimed at hard pack.
Single Speed?? The simplicity is tempting, but too much hard work. The thought 'SRAM' crossed my mind today, but think I need to try other things first.

Farqui said...

We like single-track we do.

*in your best Darth voice* "listen to your heart Uphilla, the SRAM side is strong. Come join us..." (sorry it's been a long wk!)

BullDog's eh - BrayDrude run's them and they seem to give good all round traction. Makes 'em perfect for those Welsh trails which are soooo varied.

uphilla said...

Just watched the videos - they are towards the end of the trail, but give a good impression. I was riding about half the speed of these guys, perhaps they show how easy it is to get caught out, I guess it took me a couple of hours with stops.