A cycle route takes in misty lakes, forest tracks and quiet lanes amid a remote, magical part of Powys. The epic ride ends in a cosy pub just as rain sweeps in
Alf AldersonSun 15 Apr 2018 10.00 BST
Powys pedal power … a gravel bike is a road bike with a more comfortable riding position with wider tyres, mudguards and pannier mounts
“You used to be able to ride through here,” I said. “Yes,” replied my friend Mark, “but that was more than 20 years ago.”
We were looking for a dirt road through Cwm Henog forest, to the west of Llanwrtyd Wells in mid-Wales. I cycled around here regularly in the 1980s and 90s when I started mountain biking but things change, even in these remote hills: I simply couldn’t find that old road.
But we had a good alternative route planned for our three-day gravel bike adventure. We’d head north on a minor road from Llanwrtyd Wells through thick woodland along the Irfon river, then turn left at the hamlet of Abergwesyn to ride over lovely Abergwesyn Common, with impressive crags looming on either side.
Things became more challenging at the Devil’s Staircase, a hideously steep climb up the southern slopes of the Cambrian mountains, where I got off and pushed. I was “bikepacking” on a relatively heavy gravel bike with knobbly tyres and a large seatpack, and carrying a small rucksack.
A gravel bike, if you were wondering, is essentially a road bike that has relaxed frame angles (for a more comfortable riding position), can run wider, knobbly tyres for riding off-road and comes with mudguards and mounts for panniers.
Our route would take in minor country roads, forest roads and dirt tracks in the Cambrian mountains, although our first off-road action didn’t come until we’d sped down the north-west side of the Devil’s Staircase, along the eastern bank of Llyn Brianne reservoir and across the dam’s impressive spillway to hit the dirt road along the reservoir’s western shore.