Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Gap

Since a Drude moved to Herefordshire my roadie pal and I have been gradually hatchin' a plan to go for a pukka MTB ride in this gorgeous part of the country. Taking a while to match up a suitable free weekend we finally turned our wheels over the Brecon Becons today. Even though we'd had plenty of prep time we hadn't really settled on a route until a few days before and the writeup suggested we'd get a good taste of the area without killin' us. ;-)

With snow forecast for Sunday and the air temp dropping we wrapped up and rolled out of Talybont-on-Usk onto a disused railway line. I thought this'd be a gentle, wide'n'smooth warm up to the open moorland ahead but we quickly found the trail was rocky (albeit with the rocks plugged into the earth) and as it narrowed so did our focus on the next few lumps ahead. The gradient wasn't anything to worry about and we were soon removing the layers in the dappled sunshine, especially as we were still shielded from the wind by the valley'n'trees.

As the tree line receded the views became more dramatic, the wind steadily increased and the rocky terrain continued to focus your ridin'. After a short rocky scrabble (both of us hiked) we rolled out onto a ridge and carefully navigated our way through "The Mother of All Bogs" - I kid you not. We found it was fairly dry but in winter I suspect this section would be a nightmare. After some rocky and boggy moments, Drude soon learned to latch on the line I'd be continually adjusting for the less hazardous option. At this point the wind wasn't too bad (it was still behind us) and the views were difficult to ignore until your front wheel got bounced/sucked off line ! A nice technical and twisting climb followed that got me (aka Mr Flatlands) back in the steep'n'techie groove.

After racing through and around long 4x4 scars we started to plunge down into the forest where the bridleway gradually became more rocky. Then rockier. Steeper and rockier. Until Drude hoped we were done with the rocks, then we rounded a corner for the mother of all loose, rocky drops. "Commitment" was all mumbled and I jostled my way down.

A comparatively gentle section followed before we popped out onto the road around Pentwyn reservoir. This is the lowest point before "The Gap" and it's gentle drag up, all the way, for mile after mile of road that then breaks to double track. We past a few walkers but they didn't hinder our jolly progress upwards. Thankfully the track wasn't too technical but the increasing headwind made some bits quite awkward.

After a catching our breath in the lee of the ridge (and gorgeous sunshine) we continued through "The Gap". OMG, the wind was tearing through and forced us both to dismount purely because we simply could not see - our eyes were watering soooo much, even behind sunnies. You're quickly plunged down and around the mtn that pleasingly reduced the headwind but now it became a gusty cross wind ! The descent isn't as deep in loose rocks as earlier but it just goes on and on and on with just a few short and sandy (packed) sections to give your limbs and eye's a rest. Proving that a full susser ain't such a bad thang I hammered down and at the gate I found my roadie chum was upping his game on the challenging terrain. At least I couldn't hear his singing as I crashed down the trail :)

Back in the warm sunshine of the valley we decided not to bother riding up to Brecon and zipped around the quiet country lanes. After slip streaming a 4x4 :p we were soon at signs for the Taff trail and a few corner later we opted for the even quieter canal tow path back Tally b.

This ride has plenty of climbing but it's relatively gentle and riding the route clockwise means you get rewarded with loads-a-fast and/or technical downhills to make the steady drag's well worthwhile. Although it's technical in places it's a got some great sections to hone your skills and even "scared y cats" can get around without too much walking.

After a well earned pint and a bite to eat we headed back to Drude's to clean up, pop open a cold one and soak the ol'bones in his hot tub. Tip top.

It's a route I'd definitely like to tackle again, who's interested ?

Tracklog, pic's and a partial writeup from WhatMTB here.

Posse: Drude (Giant XTC), Farqui (5Spot)
Weather: Dry, sunny spells, warm in the valleys but windy and cold up top
Mechanicals: none


toons said...

Farq's how you getting on wih the Push'd Pike?

uphilla said...

Sounds like proper old fashioned mountain biking! You did well with the weather, but sounds like it is one to try again in the drier, warmer seasons? Scenery sounds fab.

Farqui said...

Toons, the Pike seems to now be settlin' down nicely. Since the Push mod, it's defo needed longer to bed in. I had it set a little harder than I should have as I wanted to keep up with me pal. I'm starting to appreciate the new settings now that it's loosening up. Are you still lovin' yours ?

Uphilla, I loved this ride and it's made me re-consider my wilderness to bespoke trail ratio. This served up a whole heap more than the usual sanitized trails. Tho I guess they each have their +/- points. The MoaB section (atop the 1st climb) would be bad in the winter but it's all rideable now.

toons said...

I haven’t ridden them for a couple of weeks; I was trying a slightly higher psi on the last ride 130/130, but preferred 120/120. They're quality on the rocky sections, the rebound is miles better.

I wish I hadn’t tested that Enduro SL, I want more travel up front!
But without the extra weight, which isn’t going to happen.

dahnhilla said...

Sounds pretty awesome, like dad says, proper old fashioned MTB'ing!

I'm interested... :)