About 2 months ago, we took our bikes to North Wales to an area called Coed-y-Brenin (translated, The King's Trees). CyB has become one of the most popular organised trailheads in the UK and when you go there and do the rides it really is not difficult to see why. The forest has been broken down into a number of different trails, all of which usually start off with a sapping climb and usually have a fast or very technical descent. The rides vary from about 11km to 35km in length. I rode 3 of the trails and being midweek, I mostly had them entirely to myself. I did a recce on a Sunday, and the trailhead was packed with vehicles so weekends are probably best avoided.
Each of the rides was classical forest and I started my rides no later than 8am so being late summer, the canopy is largely incessant drops of water and the smell of the earth is really wholesome. The trails are manmade, and they have to be if the trails are not to be carved up too badly with the resultant loss of topsoil. But each trail is amazing. The manmade tracks are built up from rocks and slate with runoffs for water. There is enough technical stuff to satisfy all but the craziest riders and one of the rocky descents is a switchback around the trees and has raised humps to really produce a wraparound smile on your face. Even the forest tracks are pleasant and one trail took me past delightful waterfalls. The only downside is that being a working forestry commission area, some parts are desolate wasteland of logging operations and the constant movement of Caterpillars and heavy trucks has turned some areas into deep mud swamps, but even that was fun to ride.
My last ride took me through controlled fire starts where the bracken and dense forest foilage was being burnt to reduce the fire risk later. Riding through dense smoke, heavy mist, rain, wet stone and slippery mud provided enough of a technical challenge to keep me amused for a long time. Temperatures were almost extreme from chilly just above zero in the morning to dank humidity under the forest and then into the clearings at the top of the forest where it was almost uncannily dry, dusty and hot. For sure, none of this may compare to the best in the US and Canada, but in its own way, this forest is a jewel to the UK and one that I really recommend to all UK riders to get to as a matter of great importance. The trailhead cafe is a delight. There are clean loos, a special bike wash hose-down area, and when I got to the cafe late morning, it had steamed-up windows and inside were other riders enjoying cups of strong tea, beans on toast. The tables outside were full of tame birds that come down to take scraps of cake, sometimes from your hand. Absolutely delightful.
There is one trail there, the Karrimor, which does a 35km circuit around the vales and mountain which I have promised myself I will do next year, but then again, the highlands of Scotland beckon and it would be extremely rude not to go there as well. So, I have a big wish list for 2004 and some amazing rides are planned.
Just wanted to share this with you all. I haven't described it as well as it really is, but I often think of those trails and the fun and joy I experienced for a week in that area.
Roll on 2004!