I’m not a fair weather rider but looking back at my strava activity so far this year, the evidence suggests otherwise. So as the temperatures finally rose above freezing I thought its time to shock the legs and get back on the saddle. So 22 miles round Cannock Chase’s Monkey trail and off-piste ticked that box with a side helping of cramp.
Next up my old friend, Gareth was talking of riding Llandegla. It’s a great trail centre and the black run is a 9.5/10 trail. But I’ve been there loads of times, so I went onto Mountain Bike Wales to see what else there was and found Bwlch Nant yr Arian. I remembered this place from an age-old MBUK pull out and thought hhmm interesting. Apparently, it was mostly single track with fast and techy descents. Sounds promising, so time to kick off the 4-hour drive to the Aberystruth area!
The drive – I’ll be quick here – In my M135i, the motorways from Peterborough to Shrewsbury kept the MPG at a steady 38mpg which for a 3-litre twin scroll turbo ain't bad. Anyway, long story short, about 10 miles out of Bwlch Nant yr Arian on the on A44, you reach a section of road similar to those from the EVO triangle. Open mountain roads, with smooth tarmac, banked corners and great views. 10 or so minute later I arrive with the smell of hot brakes and the exhaust ticking itself cool – mentally I was in the zone.
So what’s Bwlch Nant yr Arian like?
In short, really, very good. As good as Llanedgle is to be debated, for three reasons;
The descent to pedalling ratio is not as good I don’t think. There is a lot of out there wilderness riding once you climb out of the vistor centre. You’re riding forest fire roads high up on the mountains. Great views, but you start to wonder whether you’ve got lost and just followed a farm track – so pretty out there feel. On the otherhand Llandegla has great descents, but also a fair few boring single track climbs, especially last half way round.
But when you do hit the single track at BNYR, it’s good, really good! There’s not much dirt, more slate and rocks with a dusting of pine needles. That means the trails feel more carved out than compressed hardcore. They role fast and are generally pretty narrow, which results in the feeling of you pinning it everywhere. Especially as the turns are more flick flack chicanes in an otherwise flat out section. So in short, 10/10 descents, especially considering they’re generally on the side of an otherwise very exposed mountain.
Then there’s the climb. Roughly 2/3rds way round you’ve just completed about 10 minutes of flat out descending after riding the top ridges. Your pumped, hollaring and gernerally fired up for more. At which point welcome to the biggest fire road climb I’ve seen in sometime. Settle in well, as you’ll be climbing for the next 30 minutes or so on a fire road at the bottom of the valley.....its gotta be 3km.
However to leave you with a reminder of why you came, the last descent down to the visitor centre is again, exposed, fast and techy.
So as you sit now down after a good ride, I’d recommend the fruit cake to replenish those thighs by the way, all three of us agree, BNYR is up there on our list. And defiantly one to revisit.
Hang on, one more thing. The skills park. 3 lines (small, medium, large). It’s awesome, check out the image here - large line for reference. I needed more commitment here's Gareth showing us how its done.
So would I recommend?
Absolutely – its one to tick off the list, but not to say you won’t want to come back. Certainlly your level of fitness needs to be high, but I’ll certainly be paying another visit soon.