Tarquin's cycling pages

20 June 2004 - Talybont - Pen y Fan Loop

WhereTalybont - Pen y Fan Loop
(Brecon Beacons and South Wales)
Date20 June 2004
Duration2 hours 40 minutes
Distance19 miles (~31 km)
WeatherSunshine and plenty of it
Trail conditionsDry, gentle tracks, extensive loose rocky paths and a lot of tarmac
Chris Poole 32 Orange Sub5
Mark 'Tarquin' Wilton-Jones 24 GT LTS 2000 (TWJ)
Nicola Brankley 25 Giant Boulder 510 Sports Series
Peter Wilton-Jones 25 Gary Fisher Marlin Disc

Trip report

Description by Chris Poole

This ride followed the route described in 'The Brecon Beacons National Park & the Black Mountains (mountain bike guide)', and is also known as "The Gap".

Ignore the 'No parking for cyclists & walkers' sign and start at the foot of the reservoir (so pretty on a misty morning). For this ride the road back to the head of the reservoir is preferable to the forestry track loop above - there's plenty ahead to test the legs and lungs. In any case, towards the foot of the first climb the deceptive gradient is testing enough.

The first climb on road is one of the steepest in South Wales. Engage a low gear (but not your granny ring [Ed. bah!]) and plug away. The shade of the forest canopy gives welcome relief on a sunny summer morning. Either pushing or riding is going to hurt so you may as well pedal as it gets much more respect from descending traffic. Whilst recovering at the top don't forget to turn round and savour the panoramic view.

See pictureSee pictureIf your name is Tarquin, you'll throw caution to the wind and set a new personal best top speed on the road back down to join the Taff Trail [Ed. 43 MPH if you care] (they don't call them Marzocchi Bombers for nothing). A steady gravel climb lifts up to reveal superb views of Pen y Fan ahead and of Pontstycil reservoir behind.

See pictureSee pictureNow pick your way carefully down to the start of the day's best climb (extra kudos if you can stay on the bike across the beck without polishing your arse on the rear tyre). Don't be fooled by the clear view of the path to the pass between Cribyn Craig Cwm Cynwyn and Fan y Bîg, this last climb is a glorious bitch. The rock-strewn surface is a useful distraction from the slog which is really only noticeable towards the end. Persevere and enjoy your lunch in front of a commanding view of Mid Wales, it never fails to impress (though our webmaster remarked "a bit featureless isn't?").

See pictureSee pictureThe mountain descent is anything but featureless and you'll need to concentrate hard to avoid being thrown off course by the rockery. I hadn't really missed the GT LTS 2000 (CP) until I watched Tarquin blaze a trail across everything in his path on his (though the Orange Sub5 is a much better climber). Mobile phone reception is good here in case you need to call an ambulance. On the right bike this is a great descent but I wouldn't try it without suspension forks (I ended up with concussion and three days off work when I did).

See pictureAfter that heart-pounding rapid, occasionally rabid downhill the final on-road section back to the car is a bit of an anticlimax but can be spiced up by barrelling into blind corners at full tilt on the wrong side of the road. Have a drink at the friendly White Hart Inn - you've earned it.

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