Tarquin's cycling pages

10 November 2007 - The Wall

WhereThe Wall
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date10 November 2007
Duration2 hours 20 minutes
Distance13 miles (~21 km)
WeatherClouds with occasional sunshine
Trail conditionsDry dirt track and forest trail
Katie Morris Unknown Specialized Enduro Elite
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 27 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)
Matthew Brown Unknown Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro
Peter Wilton-Jones 28 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp
Steve Rose Unknown Cannondale Chase

Trip report

Description by Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones

My first visit to the Afan Argoed Forest Park riding centre. This area is extremely popular with cyclists, and offers four major routes. These are all dedicated bike trails that take in several forest tracks, and trails weaving among the trees. They are very different from the normal mountain trails I usually follow, and concentrate on very technical riding downhill, or through trees, often very fast and easy to make costly mistakes. They require a lot of concentration, but offer heart-pounding rewards.

The trail maintainers claim that they offer fantastic views, but given my usual cycling ground in the Brecon Beacons, I would disagree. The views on the Afan Argoed trails are not fantastic, and are the same as you can expect from inside any forest. Lots of trees, and an occasional view across to another forested hill. A few points get a view of the Severn Estuary, but really, if you want to get views, go to the Beacons. Afan Argoed is for thrilling single trail riding, not views.

Our ride followed The Wall route, which is claimed to be 23 km long, but Peter's measurements put it closer to 20. Basically this means following the red route markers all the way from the car park. Our ride time was a little longer than would be expected for our particular group, but that was due to photography, and plenty of wasted time trying to fix bikes - more on that later.

See pictureSee pictureFrom the car park, a very short climb then descent leads down under a bridge and across a dismanted railway line. It then drops down into the valley below, over the river, then up another climb to reach the forestry track on the other side.

See pictureSee pictureThe forestry track runs level for quite a while, giving reasonable views over the valley. It heads up the valley, trying to get far enough away from the car park to give a good distance back again on the proper trails. Matthew's rear shock was having problems, and was failing to keep the air in, so he was forced to set it to hard tail mode. They call the Stumpjumper shock system The Brain, but it seems that Matthew's suffered a concussion.

See pictureSee pictureOne last view, then the route turns onto a track heading up the side of the valley. From here on, it alternates between climbing on forestry track, then speeding across to join another track, along narrow, shady paths between the trees. These are what we were here for, and they are an excellent reward for the climb (which tops out at about 350 m, the route having bottomed out at 100). The narrow paths weave around trees, climb up over their roots, up and down over rocky patches and streams, and around tree stumps. Occasionally they have mesh-covered bridges, or placed stones. In any case, they are fast and demand your attention.

See pictureAt the junction of one of the narrow trails and a forestry track, about half way around the route, the change in slope (far less than anything on the trails upto this point) caused my chain to bounce up in between the chainrings, and wedge itself firmly in place. A fraction of a second later, my continued motion forced it to twist 90 degrees, ruining a good 10 cm of chain length. Learn from this; 9 speed chains on an 8 speed bike may sometimes be recommended, but this is the end result. Peter's chain tool removed some of the pieces, and a very kind passing cyclist offered us a snaplink which quickly put the chain back together. A little shorter than before, but at least it worked. Granny ring was off limits due to the damage to the cogs and chain, and the largest chainring was unusable due to the reduced chain length. On this ride, that didn't matter because I was only using the middle chainring, and to be honest, I was happy enough to be able to move the chain round at all.

See pictureSee pictureAfter quite a few steep sections, a couple of which are inside the forests and not on the tracks, the edge of the forestry is reached, along with the best view. Down the valley to Port Talbot (and on a good day, across the Severn to Devon), and over the ridge to the right to Swansea. It's certainly not brilliant, but it is the best on the route.

See pictureFrom here, the trail heads down The Wall. A short stint on track, followed by an impressively steep slope, with the single trail slowly weaving down it to keep a gentle gradient. It is all ridable, and it's simply a question of how fast you can go while still maintaining your control (and without throwing yourself into the odd stream gully). There are occasional views down the valley, but this is not the place to stop to take pictures.

The narrow trail ends in the valley below, an excellent way to lose 250 metres of altitude. My bike, however, decided it had not had enough problems. The rear tyre (which I had had for 3 years, second hand from Chris Poole) split open in two places on the last section of the downhill, and the tube blistered out of it in two large bulges. Fortunately I heard it squeaking before it blew, and we managed to deflate it to barely-usable. Amazed that it was still working, I took a shortcut down a more gentle route onto the track at the bottom, bypassing the last 100 m of single trail. How many ways can you break a bike, and still keep moving?

See pictureSee pictureTaking a bridge over the river, the route then heads gently back to the car park and mining museum, with only a single short climb to the end. After lunch in the café, we then found the car window had been open the whole time, and nothing had been taken from the car. This is a testament to this place - that's certainly not how it would have ended in the Beacons.

Home page
Trip list
11 October 2013
02 October 2013
25 September 2013
18 September 2013
22 June 2013
08 September 2012
02 June 2011
12 March 2011
23 January 2011
12 June 2010
08 November 2009
15 October 2009
10 October 2009
19 August 2009 No. 2
19 August 2009
16 August 2009
17 July 2009
25 October 2008
30 July 2008
29 July 2008
13 July 2008
22 March 2008
02 February 2008
10 November 2007
28 April 2007
16 December 2006
12 November 2006
05 November 2006
29 July 2006
23 July 2006
15 July 2006
01 July 2006
22 June 2006
10 June 2006
04 June 2006
01 June 2006
20 November 2005
19 November 2005
13 November 2005
05 September 2004
21 August 2004
16 August 2004
27 June 2004
20 June 2004
21 March 2004
14 March 2004
08 February 2004
17 January 2004
20 July 2003
Rider list
Bike list
Contact me
See my caving site

Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS, JavaScript and DOM!