I’ve been wanting to explore the Elan valley since I got a gravel bike and when we had a mini summer in the middle of February I knew I had to get over there to take advantage of it.
it also took me 5 minutes to be able to walk properly
I’m still suffering from a tibial band injury that i picked up last December riding in Scotland. luckily it doesn’t hurt at all when pedaling but does become very sore afterwards even with the recommended stretching exercises. It also plays up if i sit in the same position for a long period of time. It takes over two hours to drive to the start point of today’s ride from home and so when I pulled up in Ryhayader not only was it a struggle to get out of the van it also took me 5 minutes to be able to walk properly.
After getting my leg moving and unloading the bike I was ready to go. Ryhayader is right at the end of the Elan Valley so it was a very short ride through the town centre to the start of the trail. I had loaded the route onto my Garmin but the route is very well signed posted so unless you intend to veer of the route you won’t need a map. within minutes the first iew of the Valley appeared and well, it was pretty breath taking.
I’d left home early to avoid traffic and it also worked in my favour on the outward leg of the route as I had the place pretty much to myself. There aren’t many better things than to stand looking at that view with the only sound heard being a distant bird and the lapping of the water.
The route starts off on surprisingly rolling tarmac which takes you off the busy A road out of town, it probably would be faster on the road as there are a few gates to negotiate but the inconvenience is worth not sharing the road with a logging lorry or a holiday maker taking more notice of the view than how they are driving. the tarmac path passes the Elan valley Hotel and then the Visitor centre and then the tarmac turns much more interesting for a gravel bike. As it follows the banks of reservoirs the path becomes muddy, rooty and rutted in places. I stopped here for a drink and to reflect that the water in my flask probably came from this very lake as it was originally built and flooded to feed the thirsty folk and industry of Birmingham.
The trail wound on along side the water until it came to the part where the route starts to climb up a steep loose surfaced bank through a wooded area. Well usually it does, this time there was a orange barrier with a sign saying a short area of the route was closed due to a landslide. So a complete loop wasn’t possible. I did however decide I’d ride up the either side of the blockage to get as close to a loop as possible. I’d also comment at this point that the best was to do the route is to avoid this climb and do the loop backwards. this means the climb is on a very quiet road with awesome views and gentle gradients but means the second part of the route is all off road and all downhill on some very cool gravel tracks that take a bit of concentration!
The blockage was a rock slide and although it was only about 5ft across it was clearly dangerous and closing the trail was the only option.
On the return leg it was clear that this is a very popular place to visit as it was much busier. But in the usual way of things the busiest place was near the visitor centre and its cafe. It seems visitors to Wales do the same as visitors to forest centres etc with cafes, they turn up, look at the view from the car park, buy a coffee and then get back in their car, not many seem to venture far from the “honey pot” even on the warmest February day for years. Such is modern life.
The potential to explore the area is immense with lots of bridleways and quiet lanes to check out. I did just over 25 miles in fantastic weather. But This was still February and as the day went on and the shadows got longer the temperature fall was dramatic and it was wise to stick to routes that were sign posted or known as sunset is early and it wouldn’t be a good idea to get lost without adequate clothing or lights. i’ll comeback later in the year and do some more exploring.
A great ride to experience, nothing too strenuous but with potential for a much bigger, more technical and physical ride in the future