Riding the Brecon Red – The Gap

This is not a route guide – there are loads of them out there! This is instead a description of how the route rides for a fairly ‘average’ weekend mountain biker. It should give you a good idea what to expect from your day in the hills.

The tourist office et al sell an excellent guide for mountain biking in the Brecons and this ride is labelled as the Brecon Red. Note that a couple of downhill sections are pretty technical, but you can always get off and push (I did).

The ride breaks down into several sections, so first piece of advice is don’t burn out too early!

Brecon to Talybont
Easy, easy, easy. Ride on towpath and quiet lanes. Watch out for the left fork in Talybont or you end up at the dam and have to double back! It’s a steady gentle climb just right to warm you up.

Talybont Reservoir
Here’s where the fun starts. A nice steady climb up the old tramway gets you a great view of the reservoir. The climb feeds you onto a downhill that is harder than you expect. Smooth sections trick you into gathering speed just before you hit mud/rocks/water. Great fun but be careful – still got a lot of miles to do. I found this downhill section entirely rideable, but a bit rocky to be a flat-out downhill. Note that there is a bridge at the bottom (Spring 2010) – the guides say you have to cross a ford.

Start of the famous Brecon Gap track

To the foot of the gap
A few kms of roadwork to get to the bottom of the Gap. It all seems pretty easy until you get to the waterfalls and then you have to knuckle down to a pretty tough road climb. It is a smooth and quiet road so you can zigzag to take the edge of the gradient, but it sure got me sweating (and I did take a breather near the top).

The Gap climb
Have lunch before your climb if the weather is at all questionable. The Gap is no place to stop for food when the wind is blowing. The track to the top of the Gap is entirely rideable apart from a small rocky dip near the beginning. It is rocky though so pick a smooth gear and pick your line carefully. This is the sort of middle ring climb that feels tough but puts on the height quickly. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the view of Pen Y Fan.

View at the top of of the famous Brecon Gap track

The Gap descent
Admission time. I put my foot down, fell off and then walked the first few yards. It is really rocky and after a few months layoff I wasn’t ready to bounce my way down. After the first 50 yards it became a little easier, but I was still pretty slow and careful. You would be mad to ride this without a helmet!
After maybe a hundred yards it gets easier again, but be careful. The easy sections can suddenly get rocky and loose. Towards the bottom you can let rip as the ground gets a bit more solid and a grassy bank offers a smoother alternative.

The descent rattles down a long way – wear gloves to make life a little easier on your wrists.

Fantastic views at the back of the Brecon Gap track

Back to Brecon
A couple of miles of boring (but pleasant) roadwork take you back to town, but don’t be disappointed because one last treat is in store. The final bridleway downhill right into town is a cracker. Loose, rocky and slippery, but somehow after the Gap you will be in the groove and go for it (perhaps it is the proximity of medical attention should it all go wrong!). This shoots you out right into town – time to hit the chip shop.

A great day out (4 hours at my pace with food stops). Strangely I found the descents mentally tougher than the climbs because I hate putting my foot down! The climbs are just right and the flat bits are fast rolling. Pick a good day though because the wind could make it a killer if it blows in your face.

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