Peter Kimpton finds a bike that’s perfect for riding on the beach and explores the Glamorgan coast near Porthcawl
Peter KimptonThu 16 Aug 2018 07.30 BST
Smooth tarmac to rough, potholed roads, gravel tracks to mountain paths, cyclists encounter good and bad surfaces, but rarely do we ride on sand. Most bikes would get stuck and seize up in seconds. Beaches may be free of traffic, but they are the last place you think of for a bike ride. Yet a fat-bike defies the laws of traction and discomfort, and allows you to explore thousands of miles of coast in a fraction of the time it would take to do so on foot. But where best to try it?
Porthcawl, near Bridgend station on the coast between Cardiff and Swansea, is a surprisingly underused and beautiful beach. It’s the nearest lengthy surf beach to London and several other cities, lies near world-class mountain bike trails, is home to the rarest flower in Britain, and was a film location for Lawrence of Arabia. And for one weekend a year, it’s the surreal home to 35,000 Elvis devotees.
But here I sought other ways to be all shook up. Porthcawl is ideal for exploring miles of unpopulated coast on two wheels. Hire a fat-bike and feel like you are riding a tractor. With their massive wheels and tyres, you feel you should be wearing a gold chain – they’re the badboy gangster of the big, showy bike family. And for a regular road cyclist, they are also strangely counterintuitive. Tyre pressure is best set low: sometimes as low as 6psi (most road bikes are pumped to at least 80psi), and with very low gearing, the experience is a bit like rolling on a cushiony balloon across all sorts of rough surfaces.