This is my love letter to Wales. I am fascinated with it's rich history and rugged landscape. Within 50 miles I can travel over 5000 years. The Bronze and Iron Ages, the Middle Ages, and the not so distant Industrial Revolution all huddle beside each other amongst the verdant Southeast Valleys. This is where I ride and this is why I write.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Brecon & Beyond

Originally I wrote up this adventure for the Ride with GPS website as part of their Ride Report feature. Now I'm finally getting to a proper post for this site as part of my "Missing Reports from 2017" series.


I left early Saturday morning just before 8. Not the most promising look to start the day, but this is Wales and if anything holds true; it's that the weather is damn changable. Plus, it's February after all... what should I expect?

The fog and mist stuck with me as I rode north up the Sirhowy Valley and across toward Dowlais.

What luck! I arrived in Pant just as they were getting the engine prepped at The Brecon Mountain Railway. I've cycled just under 20 miles at this point, so it's the perfect time to take a break.

I stood around for about 30 minutes drinking coffee, eating some snacks, and just watching the men warm up the engine. Who doesn't love old steam trains? It looks to be a moody day for taking tourists up and down the mountain. I like it!

The fog gets thicker as I continue north along an old forestry road high above Ponsticill Reservoir. Yup, this is the Taff Trail.

I am in the clouds. Looking over the mountain edge you cannot even see the reservoir below me.

It's a fast ride down the other side of the mountain to Talybont-on-Usk and look what I found at the bottom... sunshine!

Crossing the River Usk... looking south (above) and looking north (below).

It's a drop-dead gorgeous ride into Brecon. The route is mostly rolling on quiet lanes, but then moves onto the M&B Canal for the last two miles into town.

Honestly, this part of the Taff Trail just needs to be cycled to fully appreciate. The Norman town of Brecon itself is worth spending a few days. Narrow streets place an emphasis on walking and beg to be explored in a lazy, rambling sort of way.

The town sits at the junction of the Rivers Usk and Honddu, whilst the River Tarell is also a few hundred metres from the town centre. To top it off, the Monmouth & Brecon Canal starts here as well, making this a town of old-world bridges, quaint architecture, and water. It is simply stunning.

I'm going to pause a moment here to show the route map. I've cycled 40 miles to reach Brecon (approximately halfway) and it's at this point that I'll begin heading west briefly, then turning south toward home.

If you look closely at the elevation detail above, you'll notice that once I leave town I'll begin my second big climb of the day. It's a bit tricky navigating busy round-abouts, but once on the A470 the road is wide with sweeping curves that look out over the deminishing valley to your left.

It's not just the climb that is breath-taking. I'm in the heart of the Brecon Beacons and pausing to take a few photos is a must.

It's a long slow slog on a fairly busy road, but honestly... it's well worth it. I've found too, that most drivers are very considerate. It's a scenic route and everyone is gawking at the views. Plus folks are so impressed to see you on a bike - when you stop at a lay-by, everyone wants to talk with you!

I've said it before, but standing in the Brecon Beacons, one loses all sense of scale.

Looking up the valley toward the mountain pass shrowded in the clouds. I'll climb approximately two miles and then snake along between a series of high ridges before dropping down the other side of the valley into the thriving metroplis of Merthyr Tydfil.

It was getting late in the afternoon by the time I crossed the mountain pass just below Pen y Fan, the highest peak in south Wales.

The other side of the valley is largely uninspiring, so I just peddaled my way for roughly 10 miles back down to Merthyr where I rejoined the Taff Trail again.

Report Card
Ride Name: Brecon & Beyond
Start Date: Sat. Feb 28, 2017
Starts in: Oakdale, Wales, GB
Departed: 7:55 AM
Distance: 79.0 mi. / 127.4 km
Elevation: + 5342 / - 5342 ft
Max Grade: 9.8%
Total Duration: 09:52
Moving Time: 07:38
Stopped Time: 02:13
Max. Speed: 33.1 mph
Avg. Speed: 10.3 mph
Weather: Fog, Clouds, & SUN!
Temperature: 8°c / 48°f
Once on the cycle path, it was a smooth 20 mile ride back home; not without lovely landscapes and interesting remnants of the industrial age, but this old man was tired to the bone and taking snaps was beyond my capability.

But stay tuned... I've got plans for a special report on the Taff Trail coming soon.

Seeya down the road. Cheers! cm

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