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Mountain biking in Wales – four routes near Hay-on-Wye

On the eastern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Black Mountains are just a short hop over the Severn Bridge and easy to get to from the M4. They’re by far the closest proper mountains (ie: big!) to London and the South East, meaning you can easily bag yourself a wilderness Wales mountain biking adventure in a weekend!

Here are four routes you can do from Hay or Talgarth with mountain bikes:

1. The Black Mountains – between Hay and Talgarth, this route explores the tracks and moorlands on the northern edge of the National Park. The distance is 40kms and 780m of climbing, but there are short cuts if you have bitten off more than you can chew! Chance for refreshment at Talgarth, at the halfway point.

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Sitting just outside the Brecon Beacons National Park is a lovely undulating ridge known as the Begwns – ideal for family rides or beginner mountain bikers. The Begwns common is criss-crossed by a network of bridleways and footpaths – great for a ride or a stroll – and affords stunning views over to the  imposing, north-facing scarp of Black Mountains.

2. The Begwyns – blue (moderate ) 23 miles / 37km / 660 metres climbing

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This in an easier option over rolling countryside to The Roundabout, a tiny copse encircled with a stone wall. A stone bench there makes a great spot for lunch with a 360-degree panoramic view of the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons and marches of Radnorshire! The route does however start with a 5 km climb, on quiet roads, but once you get to the top you can enjoy the view and the descent.

Start by riding through Hay and cross over the Wye towards Clyro. You now have 5kms of climbing on tarmac to get you to the shoulder of the Begwns, but then it is open country, grassy trails and great views as you swoop over the rounded tops of our local hills. Then it is downhill on farm tracks to the banks of the Wye near Llanstephan, and an easy undulating ride round the lanes to Glasbury, where you follow route 8 of the National Cycle network back to Hay.

view from the Begwns - David Evans

We have also included a red-graded route around Mynydd Troed and Llangorse, with a killer climb and stunning descent to finish on.

3. Mynydd Troed and Llangorse – red (hard) 18 miles / 28km / 985m climbing

This route starts in Talgarth, this time skirting the twin peaks of Mynydd Troed and Llangorse before climbing (painfully!) to the ‘crux’ below Pen Trumau.

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The route ascends from Talgarth on tarmac before joining the ‘Three Rivers Ride’ bridleway towards Cefn Moel. After the rim of Broad Cwm,  steep, tight and twisty singletrack plunges to Blaenau Draw farm. You cross the A479 and climb on a mix of tarmac, farm track and then moorland trail to the shoulder below Pen Trumau. Finish on a long grassy and then rocky descent before heading back to Talgarth via tarmac and more bridleway.

singletrack around Mynydd Llangorse

4. Grwyne Fawr reservoir loop – black (very hard) 28 miles / 45km / 1407 metres of climbing

This is the big one – the legendary Grywne Fawr reservoir ‘killer’ black-graded route. Whichever way you dice it, it’s a long, tough day in the saddle and at some points – particularly the climb to the top of Y Das – be prepared for some pushing.

Our version starts just down the road from us in the town of Talgarth, and differs from the route published in the MTB Brecon Beacons route pack by cutting out some unnecessary tarmac and adding an extra descent, hailed by some as one of the best in singletrack descents in Wales.

From Talgarth, the route follows country  lanes to the lower slopes of the Black Mountains before a push-carry-thrutch up a well-armoured path to the top of Y Das. From there it’s a plummet to the shores of the Grwyne Fawr reservoir and onwards through Mynydd Du forest. The ride then climbs on gravel fire road before spitting you out on wild moorland below Crug Mawr. Another whip-fast, swoopy descent over moorland track and woodsy switch-backs lands you in Llanbedr village.

Draw breath now before climbing back high into the guts of the Black Mountains to a broad shoulder below Pen Trumau.  A final treat lies in store – a rollercoaster plummet back to base down grassy sheep track and narrow, rocky chutes.

Be aware that this is a committing route, in a remote, mountainous setting – check the weather before setting off, go properly equipped for a big a day in the hills and be prepared for some big, long climbs.

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Grwyne Fawr reservoir pic

Our mountain bike hire service offers a range of bikes suitable for riding in the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons, starting at £35 for a day’s hire. Find out more here.

At the shop on Forest Road, we stock the official Brecon Beacons mountain biking route pack – which includes the Talgarth and Mynydd Troed routes, plus several more.