Bike Week Special: The Experts on Cycling and Mountain Biking

Here’s a ultimate guide from biking experts in the Brecon Beacons.  We’ve picked four expert guides and representatives from biking tourist businesses based in the area to get their best tips and recommendations. 

Group bike rides in the Brecon Beacons, by Treads &n Trails ©

Group bike rides in the Brecon Beacons, by Treads &n Trails ©

We like to think the Brecon Beacons is one of the ultimate biking destinations in the UK for both road cycling and mountain biking.  Routes travel through jaw dropping scenery, traffic free roads and a variety of terrain suitable for all levels of experience.

On the pro Mountain Biking and Cycling panel:

Robin Eveleigh from Wild Rides

Robin Eveleigh from Wild Rides

Robin Eveleigh – Wild Rideshaving lived in the Black Mountains for ten years, Robin set up Wild Rides to showcase the amazing natural riding in the Brecon Beacons.
Huw Dullea – Treads and Trails, offer guiding, coaching & instruction on Mountain Bikes or Walking in the Black Mountains & Brecon Beacons Mountain Ranges in Wales.

Anna, from Drover Holidays

Anna from Drover Holidays

Anna HeywoodDrover Holidays. Anna knows a thing or two about cycling, before setting up Drover Cycles and Holidays in Hay-on-Wye, she completed a bike ride from the UK to South Africa!
Kay Dartnell – Wheely Wonderful Cycling, organises cycling holidays throughout the Wye Valley, Mid Wales, Lon Las Cymru and Brecon Beacons.
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1. As a cycling tour provider in the Brecon Beacons what do you like about biking in the area and what do you think it offers in terms of cycling holidays?  

Anna Heywood: “One of the best things about the Brecon Beacons is the quality and variety of the landscape – on a single ride you can go from quaint villages to windswept moorland to winding woodland lanes.”

Cycling in the Brecon Beacons by Drover Holidays ©

Cycling in the Brecon Beacons by Drover Holidays ©

Huw Dullea: “Excellent wilderness mountain biking to suit a wide range of abilities”
Robin Eveleigh: “For mountain bikers, there’s so much variety in terms of technicality so it’s a great area to spend some time developing your skills. If you’re new to the sport you might consider booking some coaching sessions on the easier ground with a view to working your way up to some neckier stuff. Plus, you can always find something worth riding, whatever the weather.”
Kay Dartnell: “Wheely Wonderful Cycling has been organising holidays in the Welsh borders and Brecon Beacons for the last 21 years.  Every one of our customers has come back enthusing about the unspoilt scenery and tranquillity of the area (in other words there are few cars on the cycle routes).  Put this together with great accommodation and fantastic local food and you have a world beating cycling destination.”

 2. What’s your favourite descent in the Brecon Beacons National Park and why?

Great decents byTreads & Trails ©

Great decents byTreads & Trails ©

Kay: “Whizzing down the Gospel Pass to Hay-on-Wye (via Fforddlas) and heading straight for Shepherds Ice Cream Parlour.
Huw: “Crug Mawr”
Robin: “There’s a belting line in the Black Mountains descending from Twmpa towards the Llanthony Valley. It never gets too steep, and has a bit of everything thrown in – a few loose, rocky steps, a bit of twisty singletrack to keep you on your toes, and a whip-fast, smooth grassy section to finish. It’s become a bit of a sweetheart over recent months and it hardly sees any traffic.”

3.  What’s the toughest but most fulfilling road ascent in the Brecon Beacons National Park in your opinion?
Kay: 
“Gospel Pass has it all – a tough climb but with plenty of compensations.  Try a small diversion to the incredible church at Patrishow – see amazing carvings and wall paintings, lunch at the Priory hotel, rest the cycling muscles by strolling round the Priory.  Then back on the bike to the top of the Gospel Pass.  Wonderful views and a great downhill.

By Wheely Wonderful Cycling ©

By Wheely Wonderful Cycling ©

Anna: “There are plenty to choose from!  My favourite is the ride from Hay to Gospel Pass – it’s not the longest, or the steepest, but the view from the top takes some beating.”

4.  If you had to choose one, which would you opt to do: mountain biking or road cycling in the Brecon Beacons?

Taff Trail in the Brecon Beacons by Wild Rides ©

Taff Trail in the Brecon Beacons by Wild Rides ©

Huw: “Mountain Biking every time, the Brecon Beacons National Park is made for it”
Robin: “I’ve always been drawn to the mountains. I used to climb, but it’s a very time-consuming and weather-dependant sport that involves a fair amount of faffing about. Living in the Black Mountains, I can ride from the front door – rain or shine – and soon be up in the hills. It’s mountain biking for me!”

5. What’s your favourite visitor site/attraction to cycle to?
Anna: “Llanthony Priory.  The road is so quiet and the valley so picturesque – you feel like you are discovering it for the first time.  And of course there is a great cafe and bar at the site.”

6.  What’s the toughest ride you’ve been on in the Brecon Beacons?
Huw:
“My own route! Covering the whole of central and eastern, I know where to find the most challenging and enduring route ”
Anna: “Last Boxing Day the Drover Cycles team went for a spin on our road bikes in the western part of the National Park. We got lashed by icy rain and, as we passed the Usk Reservoir, the wind was so strong that it nearly knocked me off the bike.  I’m sure I’ve been on tougher rides but that one does stick in the memory.”
Robin: “A variation on the Talgarth ‘killer’ black route taking in Grwyne Fawr reservoir, Mynydd Du forest, Blaen-yr-henbant and Rhiw Trumau. It’s a good 50km and then some, and you really feel like you’re out in the wilds. On the day, I wasn’t really fit but had to put the distance in because I was training for an event. There was no option but to knuckle down and crack on.”

7.  If you were to take a family of five out on a ride where would you take them?
Kay: ” On the cycle path from Brecon along the canal, there are plenty of places to eat, and if they still have energy when they get to Talybont, you can explore the path along the Talybont Reservoir – but take a picnic for this stretch.”
Robin: “On some flowy natural singletrack around Mynydd Llangorse. The hill has a proper mountain feel but there’s nothing too technical and you’re always close to civilization if you have to cut the ride short for any reason. Maybe I’d show them a few choice lines I’ve discovered that aren’t even on the map!”

8. Where do you think the best place for traffic free riding is?

Brecon and Monmouth Canal

Brecon and Monmouth Canal

Huw: “The Canal Towpath”
Anna: “It’s hard to beat the Brecon and Monmouth canal, but the lower reaches are worthy of exploration – you don’t have the stick to the busy section between Brecon and Talybont as the towpath is rideable and interesting all the way to Cwmbran.”

Expert Advice: Travelling to the Brecon Beacons with a Bike

Best biking accommodation:
Kay: “Stay at The Start in Hay on Wye, Dawn is a very friendly host, & provides great breakfasts – with help from her feathered friends.”
Huw:The Bell, Glangrwyny
Robin:Cosy Under Canvas is a luxurious glamping site a stone’s throw from Hay-on-Wye. They even have hot tubs to soothe away your aches and pains after a day in the saddle. ”
Anna:The Bridge Cafe, Brecon

Best Brecon Beacons village to stop at whilst on a bike ride:

Talybont Cafe

Talybont Cafe

Kay: “Stop at them all, even the tiniest hamlets have secrets to share – like the Ogam stone at Trallong, or the wall paintings in the church at Llangasty Talyllyn.”
Huw:Talybont-on-Usk
Robin: “Talybont, you’ve got some choice pubs serving local real ales, and the village store-cum-cafe, too.
Anna:Hay-on-Wye – I’m biased!”

Most spectacular bike ride:
Kay:
 “It has to be the Gospel Pass, it is a slog, but the views are spectacular.”
Huw:Black Mountains Killer Loop
Robin: “The legendary Gap route including the descent to Dolygaer – stupendous views from high above Talybont reservoir.”
Anna: “Hard to choose but the ride over Gospel Pass probably clinches it.”

Best town-to-town route:
Kay:
 “Brecon to Crickhowell – Easy cycling, following the Monmouthshire & Brecon canal along the Usk… with pubs at all the right places ”
Huw: “Brecon to Abergavenny”
Robin: “I like Llangorse to Talybont via some tight natural trails around Mynydd Llangorse and some off-the-map singletrack over Cefn Moel to Bwlch.”
Anna: “Hay to Abergavenny via Llanthony Priory”

Most bike friendly place:

Drover Cycles ©

Drover Cycles ©

Kay: “They all are – every one likes to stop & chat with cyclists”
Huw:Abergavenny
Robin: “The staff at Drovers bike shop in Hay-on-Wye always greet you with a smile. The Granary – also in Hay – is a popular place for bikers to stop for a bite, with plenty of room out front to park your steed.”
Anna: “The Granary Cafe in Hay-on-Wye”

Best way to bring your bike to the national park:
Kay:  “Cycling from our base near Ludlow (excellent train links), our cycling holidays build up the excitement of cycling to the Brecon Beacons by keeping the Beacons in view as you spend a couple of days “warming up”
Huw: “Car”
Anna: “Ride it here!  But for those short on time, the train to Abergavenny is a great option – just plan ahead as space is limited.”

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