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A virgins guide to Afan...
#1
The Plan

With a shocking wind forecast and an upcoming trip to Spain next weekend Mary and I decided to go and visit Afan and pop our cherries! We’ve been to Coed Y Brenin before on a 4-day trip but never to the much talked about Afan…

From Canterbury it’s a 5 and half hour drive, so we decided to spend Friday night in a Travel Lodge just outside of Bristol on the M4 for £45 and then drive the rest of the way in the morning. The thinking was we would arrive fresh and ready to hit two trails on Saturday and then do one trail on Monday.

Travel Lodge is Bike Friendly!
resim

Our plan was to tackle Whites Level, 15km and 525m Climb on Saturday morning and then Penhydd 17km and 550m Climb on Saturday afternoon and round it all off with a jaunt round The Wall on Sunday.

As ever plans go astray, we arrived with plenty of time at the campsite and pitched the tent, but then spent a while getting provisions at Sainsbury’s and getting to Afan itself. Although just 12 miles from the campsite it still took half an hour to get there with traffic lights in the towns and twisty lanes keeping the speed down!

Afan Forest Park

The first surprise is that there are TWO trail centres, Afan itself is host to The Wall, Penhydd and The W2, Glyncorrwg further up the road is host to Whites Level and Skyline. I think Ben mentioned he pedalled between the two a few times as he camped at Glyncorrwg, TBH I was glad we were driving in each day as it meant we could get from either centre very quickly and save our energy for the trails…

We headed up to Glyncorrwg to find Hotlines were running a demo with bikes from Intense and Lapierre and some stuff from Race Face. Even more surprising was one of my friends who used to work at DaKine was now working for Hotlines and might be able to do me a deal on a Lapierre… Just need a spare wad of cash in the first place now! We didn’t ride the bikes as we arrived a little later and after chatting we really wanted to get out and tackle Whites and leave enough time for Penhydd and stick to our plan.

Whites Level

We had been warned that the climb on Whites was “serious�, Mary hadn’t ridden for two weeks and probably only a handful of times in the last two months, so I knew it would be a challenge. I also knew it was 6km of pure uphill goat track climbing. It is hard, technical and it goes on forever. But I actually really enjoyed it, would have liked to have hammered up at speed but I was cruising with Mary in tow. She did really well especially as she hasn’t ridden much and was quite chirpy about the situation. Just when you think you have it sussed they actually bother to “name� uphill sections. Meaning the last half hour slog just wasn’t worthy of a name… Harsh! As ever the rewards are huge the stunning views and fresh air in your lungs soon takes the pain away from the legs and the feeling of being somewhere great puts a smile on your face.

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At the top of the climb is an extra loop called the Black Run, we decided to give it a crack and whilst it starts off alright it soon gets a bit sporting. The rock garden is steep and long and you really have to pick your lines on a hard tail. The real disappointment was that it isn’t very long and there is a really dull fire road climb to get back to within yards of where you started. It is an extra loop, which doesn’t take you anywhere. So after the harsh climb you feel as if you have wasted yourself on an IMHO pointless loop. Would be great if the trail went somewhere but it doesn’t, just goes back on itself. Lesson Learned!

After the Black Run you are treated to Windy Point, which is a long traverse which can be ridden at speed, stunning views and scenery abound with the huge windmills providing an interesting back drop.

After that it is all downhill really, a short climb near the end but the highlight has to b the Energy Trail. Huge jumps and doubles at the beginning, can’t say I did much flying but the massive doubles are fun to roll anyway. The trail is great fun and almost makes the effort worth it…

Overall I felt Whites Level was a lot of uphill for not a lot of reward, the Black Run seems a bit pointless in that you end up where you started, and the fire road climb is a pain after the initial climb. We both enjoyed it but never felt truly “rewarded� for our efforts. Energy was a highlight, but too short lived…
I am sure better riders would feel the Black Run was worthwhile, but I suspect even they would rather it went on to join the trail further on rather than just hit a fire road and present you with a dull climb.

Plans Foiled!

Sadly by the time we finished Whites Level we had realistically run out of time to tackle Penhydd, Mary was feeling her legs and we still needed to get dinner and have a BBQ and drink beer! So we headed back to the campsite and chilled out for a pleasant evening in the welsh sunshine.

resim
Must burn things... And drink beer...

Sunday

I have a friend in Porthcawl just a short drive from Afan who came to meet us. Marc used to run Rush Extreme bike and kite shop in South Wales and has been riding for years. He came on the Penhydd Trail with us, 17km and 550m of climbing for breakfast! The climb is long, but much easier than Whites; much of it is on fire road but in woodland so you are in the shade. We overtook a few people on the way up and Mary even went passed a couple of riders, which put a big smile on her face. Marc was telling us how he had been riding in Afan for years, 5 years ago much of what is there now were just natural trails that they used to get chased off by the forestry commission warden. Funny how times change! The situation got so tense at one point that walkers actually put wire across a downhill trail and injured a rider; he cut his arms and chest but wasn’t too badly hurt. It was around this time that the Forestry commission realised it needed to do something to keep the bikers and walkers happy and this is when many of the routes were born. Marc knows the area like the back of his hand and said he would take us on a tour one day. He is actually thinking about setting up a tour guide service-taking riders off the beaten track to explore what he reckons are far superior and all natural trails.

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Marc knows this forest like the back of his hand...

With the climb on Penhydd over the downhill bits greeted us! Highlights were the Hidden Valley and Side Winder; you really do get a great reward on Penhydd for not a lot of effort.

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As ever there was a lot of chatting and catching up so the ride was fairly stunted with plenty of wind bagging at each stop. The best bit had to be meeting a chap in the Hidden Valley walking along the trail, I asked if he was OK and wondered if he had some mechanical to his very expensive looking Trek EX8, his reply “I suffer from vertigo and I’m terrified…� right so what are you doing up a Welsh mountain!

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Marc being chased by team Sketchy...

Mary had got into the swing of Penhydd and was riding much faster than the day before and really enjoyed it, so it was smiles all round!

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Mary on the last descent

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Penhydd Done! Also an ode to Nick...

Plan back on track…

Marc didn’t fancy The Wall and neither did Mary, so we planned to go and ride some demo bikes round the demo track at Glyncorrwg. As we drove out of the car park though Mary pointed out that I had wanted to ride The Wall and that I would regret it. Being ace she said she would have a shower and read a book while I went round.

I checked the Trail Map and it recommended and 1 and half to 3 hours to complete the 23km. I knew without anyone to chat to I should be able to get round in about 2 hours.

The Wall

So after some lunch in the car park I saddled up and headed off. As soon as I got on the bike my legs were complaining, they had seized over lunch and I had ridden everyday since Thursday with laps of Blean and Bedgebury, not to mention kitesurfing before that.

resim
Smiling at the start!

I powered through and really rode as fast as I could round the fire road sections at the beginning, I did stop to take a few pictures along the way and then I saw a couple of riders in the distance so I got the bit between my teeth and pressed on… Before the first techy climb I had them on the fire road, BAM as Mike would say, my first scalps… My goal was to ride as fast as I could and only stop for the odd breather and picture when necessary. I was making good progress and the hills and riders ticked by. By the time I had reached the top I had passed 16 riders in all and was feeling pretty wrecked but then turned my attention to the downs. These were by far the highlight of the trip for me. Graveyard and Zigzag were amazing, really long and technical and stupidly fast, my arms were hanging on for dear life as my calf’s cramped up whilst I was trying to keep the bike under control. The bike was performing excellently and the tyres provided plenty of grip and the brakes were faultless every time I needed to scrub some speed. Easily the most exhilarating and entertaining part of the whole weekend! I reached the end of the downhill at 1 hour and 39 minutes and realized if I hammered back to the car I could do a lap (from my car to my car) in possibly less than 2 hours. Giving it everything I had I made it back to the car in 1 hour and 49 minutes 23km and a 450m climb done and dusted! I was so stoked with that. Thinking back if I hadn’t stopped for pictures I could have done it in 1 hour and 40 minutes at a push… Next time!

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Afan was an excellent trip, short notice unplanned and very rewarding, Penhydd was great fun, Whites Level was enjoyable but The Wall made the trip for me, it has a real sense of scale and the last two descents are relentless fast and technical.

In the end I managed to accomplish my mission of three trails in two days, Sunday involved 40km of riding with 900m of climbing, but it was some of the best riding I have had in a while and well worth it! Afan feels more natural than Coed Y Brenin, and I think less technical in most places, the climbs are much harder though at Afan, they really sort the men from the boys…

Facts:

Getting there: 5 and half hours by car from Canterbury
Travel Lodge: Chippenham Leigh Delamere M4 Westbound <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.travellodge.co.uk">http://www.travellodge.co.uk</a><!-- m -->
Campsite: Brynhyfryd Campsite, this is the next closest after Glyncorrwg the entrance is a bit like a pikey farmyard, but we had a lovely pitch down the bottom of the field that was very private. Would recommend it to anyone looking for an alternative to the norm… <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.brynhyfrydcampingcaravanning.co.uk/">http://www.brynhyfrydcampingcaravanning.co.uk/</a><!-- m -->
resim
Afan Forest Park information:
<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.mbwales.com/en/content/cms/centres/afan_forest_park/afan_forest_park.aspx">http://www.mbwales.com/en/content/cms/c ... _park.aspx</a><!-- m -->
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#2
Very good. Why does everyone get to go there when its sunny except me!

Couple of things. Would have been easier to do Wall and Penhydd on the same day like I did as its the same trail centre then Whites the next day

I mentioned the demo day in the rides section but maybe you had gone by then heh

I feel your comments regarding the Black Run are a little unfair. Remember that its simply an extension of the original Whites Level route, yes theres a long fireroad coming back up but you also get a fun downhill. Without a chairlift, if you want to ride down, you have to ride back up. You can simply ignore it and just do the "old" Whites but its there if you want to. Ok they could extend Whites to make it longer but then theres already Skyline from the same centre....
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#3
Nice report Rou and nice "Bammage" on the Wall....

Funny how everyone sees things differently, the Wall was/is my least favourite in my mythical equation "FUN =  REWARD >= EFFORT"

No obligatory water crossing pic on Penhydd either!?  :o

Sounds like a great weekend - just one left to tick off though ay? - Skyline.

The wall in under 2hrs is very good indeed - especially after a long weekend - the fireroad climbing is dull, but if you keep looking right, the scenery lets you forget that.

Oh and just to clarify - the "low level cycleway" between the centres is downhill all the way from Glyncorryg to Afan, and a tad uphill on the way back - its VERY easy and actually a nice warmup/down (oh and theres a pub halfway along it!) For anyone new wishing to do both, they are easily ridable between the two.

Roll on September.....  ;D
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#4
I have no interest in doing Skyline just so I can say ive done it, even you said how bad it was. I want to do the July trail which does most of it except 2 sections of singletrack iirc and should still be excellent plus will leave me with energy to enjoy the last downhill

I sprinted up that cycleway flat out after doing Skyline as I was so soaked and was fed up by then
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#5
&quot;Breezer&quot; Wrote:I want to do the July trail which does most of it except 2 sections of singletrack iirc

Oh no no no no...

July trail cuts MILES off the main loop - If doing it again, Im doing the July Trail - s*d doing the rest of it, wasting VDT in my book!  Wink

I done it to say Ive done it to give my own honest opinion, regardless whether it was good or bad - there was some great ST and DH in it, but lost withing the mile upon mile of fireroad.

Not sure what the plans will be for the Sketchy weekender, but I will need to be bullied hard to do Skyline again.

I now wish to do the Wall again now my skills have improved as I found it very technical, and now tackle W2.
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#6
That's a fair comment about the Black Run, Darren, next time i think i'd probably miss it out, i dunno. It is fun but the climb is in the sunshine, long and dull and i think they could of made more of it. It's like they chucked in the downhill and didn't think about the going up. I like going up as much as the next man, but i think with all the climbing you do on Whites a long dull fire road drag just takes the edge off it a bit...

Perhaps i enjoyed The Wall so much as i did it at speed rather than at cruise and chat mode... I loved Penhydd, but really did have the most fun on The Wall...

It was an amazing weekend though, and totally feasible to do it in two days... Would recommend it in nice weather! Wink
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#7
Yes it missed out about 10 miles of fireroad, look at the map. Infact I dont even know what the July trail is, I just keep hearing about it, anyway, click the PDF on here

http://www.mbwales.com/en/content/cms/Ce...yline.aspx

If I go and do "Skyline" I would most likely follow it round to point 36 then cut through to 54, that way you miss out TONS of fireroad and only sacrifice Exaclibur and South Pit.

Edit: You can cut even more out, before point one just go up the "emergency exit route" then fireroad to point 6 so missing out even more of the tedious stuff
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#8
I did the black run twice but yes the uphill was ZZZ although it did mean having the first annual Zesty appriciation society meeting as there were 4 of us at the top! Wall was good, my only mechanical was near the start of zig zag

I need to go again and do my original plan of Cwmcarn on the way back as its only a 10 mile detour
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#9
&quot;Breezer&quot; Wrote:Yes it missed out about 10 miles of fireroad, look at the map. Infact I dont even know what the July trail is, I just keep hearing about it, anyway, click the PDF on here

http://www.mbwales.com/en/content/cms/Ce...yline.aspx

If I go and do "Skyline" I would most likely follow it round to point 36 then cut through to 54, that way you miss out TONS of fireroad and only sacrifice Exaclibur and South Pit.

Edit: You can cut even more out, before point one just go up the "emergency exit route" then fireroad to point 6 so missing out even more of the tedious stuff

July Trail started at the end of Granada at 18 - so it cuts out what must be 15+ miles(?)

I went skywards off the rockery at 19!  Undecided
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#10
So it turns right at 18 and joins at 60? That does miss out a lot! I think my one of going from 36-54 is the best comprimise, still a fair bit of fireroad ie 18-27 looks zzz but you get more singletrack later

rockery at 19? Its shown as fireroad on the map, solid yellow?

(This is still on topic as its discussing the trails for people who have never been there heh)
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