Afan Forest Wales, Mountain Biking March 19 2014


Afan Forest Park in South Wales is just off the M4, between Cardiff and Swansea, in South Wales. The nearest town is Port Talbot, although that is some way off as the actual location is by it’s nature quite remote.

Afan Forest Park has benefited from extensive investment to become a first class mountain bike trail centre, with five purpose built graded trails to suit all levels of ability.



There are two visitor centres within the park, with camping and catering facilities at each as well as bike hire, repair, spares and equipment sales. On each of our many visits the staff have been enthusiastic and helpful and the food is really good biker food – jacket potatoes, lasagne etc. and not a chip in sight.



View from the campsite at the visitor centre


We have stayed at both campsites and can say that they are both good and very good value, you are allowed to light fires at the campsite at the main visitor’s centre if that is your thing and all are quiet and peaceful at night times, although the campsite at the main visitors centre is not that level so choose your pitch carefully – if it is wet you will have a river running through your tent in no time!. You need to be sensible with bike security as with anywhere, if you are really concerned there is a secure bike storage area at the Glyncorrwg centre which we have used in the past. Facilities at each are pretty good, with showers (token operated), toilets, bike repair and cafe although the cafe at the visitor centre shuts quite early – the Drop off cafe at Glyncorrwg stays open late and plays biking videos and has a really nice vibe (note on my last visit April 2011 the Drop off Cafe was closed)

So what of the riding? The riding is very good, I have written about individual trails elsewhere on the blog but here is a brief summary of each;



Penhydd

Penhydd is currently closed at the time of writing (April 2011) for major works but the last time I rode it I remember it as a fun trail, mostly fireroad climbing with some cheeky switchbacky descents with great names – Hidden Valley, Side Winder, Dead Sheep Gully and Genesis, some fantastic singletrack, whilst not as thrilling as some of the bigger trail descents, it more than makes up for with the twisty flow and switchbacks, I look forward to it re-opening in the near future.

Y Wall (The Wall)

Distance: 23Km

Climb: 450m

Time: 1.5 – 3 hours

Start: Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre

Overall grade: red/difficult

Currently my favorite trail due to its natural flowey feel and swooping singletrack a long fire road climb and some great singletrack sections especially the ominously named “Graveyard” and the aptly named “Zig-Zag”



"Graveyard" nothing to worry about here then!


Whites Level

Distance: 15km

Climb: 400m

Time: 1.5 – 3 hours

Start: Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre

Overall grade: red/difficult

Not sure why they call it level as it is anything but. Whites is the most extreme trail at Afan with a whole mix of something for everyone – technical rocky climbs, fast descents, singletrack a “black” run section, boardwalks, table tops, berms and kickers, its all there. Personally, although I like Whites it feels a bit too man made for my tastes, kind of like someone had a clipboard with a tick list of things to include and added everything. My advice is to ride it once and see what you think, it is thrilling and fast in places, well worth all the climbing but for me does not flow together.

W2

Distance: 44km

Climb: 975m

Time: 4 – 7 hours

Start: Either Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre or Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre

Overall grade: black/severe

W2 is an interesting one, it splices together The Wall and Whites Level making for a 44km, 975m of climbing 7 hour epic. This one is worth doing if you only have one main day of riding as you can do pretty much the whole thing in one day. Personally I like to ride each trail individually and take in the view and the individual characteristics of each trail but for a full on smorgasbord of riding W2 has it all.

Skyline

Distance: 46km

Climb: 2000m

Time: 5 – 7 hours

Start: Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre

Overall grade: red/difficult

For some reason I have never ridden Skyline, it is quite long 46k with 2000m of climbing, someone once said it is a bit cross country and not that exciting but that is all I know about it, I will tick it off the list one day, if you have ridden it let me know what you thought, hey you may even talk me into riding it next time I am there.

Signage.



All the trails at Afan Forest are very well marked with clear markers at turnings, just don’t miss one as you will have to back track to the last one and find your way back onto the trail. Each singletrack section is marked with a named gate to aid navigation and to keep groups together as people tend to wait at the end of each section for members of their party to catch up.

Surface

The surface is generally quite loose and rocky, expect boulders and exposed rock, with quite narrow single track. There are tree stumps lining the edge of the trail so you need to be quite precise as clouting one of those is not good. Some of the single track has a steep bank on one side, which it pays not to look down as you are riding as that will really put you off. In the wet it is quite slippy, but still rolls nice and fast as there is not the thick mud that you find in other parts of the country.



Safety

OK, there is no getting around this, mountain biking is dangerous, not in the league of setting yourself on fire with petrol dangerous but if you are not careful you can hurt yourself quite badly. Add to this that you will be high up in mountains with changeable weather and with no phone signal in some places it pays to be prepared. A helmet is a must, you do see people without helmets, but that is up to them, personally I have seen cycling head injuries that have ended up in intensive care, believe me that is not a nice place. Body Armour -when I first saw people with knee and elbow pads I must say I sniggered to myself, we are going for a bike ride for crying out loud. I now have extensive scars on both knees, I am going to invest in a set of knee pads for my next trip. Basic first aid gear is a good idea, don’t go mad, but plasters and bandages are great for cuts and sprains. I have broken my foot in three places, mountain biking in Wales and strapping my ankle with bandages enabled me to ride/ hobble off the mountain, without that it would be a call to the rescue guys. Generally, if you ride within your capabilities and are well prepared you will be fine, but if you are stepping up to this from spinning around your local woods prepare for a steep learning curve as this is in a different league.

Here at Duffbag, we visit the trail centres in Wales regularly, this is what our products were designed for duffbag kit bag for transporting dirty kit post ride and duffbag bike bags for transporting dirty bikes to and from the trails. If you see us in the duffbus at any of the centres come over and say hi, we are very friendly!!