Having sung the praises of trail centres yesterday, I got a much needed reminder today that singletrack doesn’t always come perfectly sculpted, with clear run outs after jumps, smooth berms to hug around corners or a year-round weatherproof surface.
Brechfa Forest West is just down the road from the mostly man-made trails of Brechfa Forest East, but a world away in terms of riding experience. All of the trails here are natural, and you’ll almost certainly need a guide to make the best of them. Fortunately we have one, in the friendly form of Jason Mulvey. Jason messes around with bikes all day while his wife Nikki is doing the hard work of running their catered mtb accommodation business – MudTrek.com. Actually that’s not fair; he guides guests all around the best riding spots in the south and middle of Wales, while Nikki plans menus, cooks and makes sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
I’d visited before so I knew what to expect. The toughest bit was convincing them I was back for the riding and not Nikki’s cooking. And the riding was as good as ever – a 25k route around Brechfa West, the highlight of which was a screamer of a descent that our cameraman managed to capture in wide angle from across the valley (look out for a couple of dots moving fast for a few seconds in the vid).
The debate over trail centres and whether they’re ‘real’ mountain biking will always rumble on (I was certainly guilty of dredging it up when I worked on MBR). For the record, I think they’re great. If you don’t have much time to plan an all-natural route, they’re the most reliable way of finding a guaranteed stretch of good quality singletrack. Of course, trails needn’t be man made to be fun – sometimes it’s better the other way round. You’ll most likely have to work harder on the natural stuff to find your flow, but when it all comes together – whether on a high exposed peak or a dense, sunlit woodland –there’s nothing like it.
If you’re ever mid/south Wales way, Jay can help you find both, so check out MudTrek for a double helping of the good stuff (that’s food and trails).