I was so impressed with my first ride of the new Darren Fawr mountain bike trials, I just had to get back there with bigger tyres, an idea what to expect and my video camera (now helmet mounted. I also had to bring along a couple of friends, long time DimExcuses rider Matt Seager and new to the DimExcuses experienced but accomplished rider Matt Bailey.
It was a lovely sunny Wales day (I am beginning to think is there any other sort of day in the Garw Valley) and warmer than predicted. I guess I am just lucky. The car park was full of riders who had come into the area for the day, they must have read my blog. There was a really friendly atmosphere and the local kids were whizzing about on their bikes in the car park asking lots of questions.
So we set off up the blue loop which is quite a pleasant climb. This time I remembered to GPS the route. You can see the map here.
The black climb was as hard as I remembered and according to the map we climbed to 1300 feet (the carpark is at 600 feet, so only 700 feet of climb)! This time I got a photo at the top.
I was determined to get some better video footage than last time, so I had moved away from a chest camera to a helmet mounted one. The video I took is of the black / blue decent. It has been more cut than Jessica Ennis’ abs, and is edited down to 5 minutes. Keep an eye out for small dog that nearly got run over halfway. Luckily Matt B herded it out of the way. Music Crystal Method.
It really is a great ride. It was then back to the car park to dump my heavy rucksack and mount my camera to the handlebars. A quick chat with the other guys in the car park and it was back off for another 2 laps of the blue loop, or 3 in Matt B’s case (we like is DimExcuses attitude). Here is my handle bar footage of the blue loop set a bit loudly to Skrillex ‘Weekends’.
All in all a great ride that is a welcome addition to Wales’ MTB Trails. DimExcuses.
I was pleased to hear this month that the Garw Valley had completed their new mountain bike trails. So armed with my new video camera I had to try them out. Firstly I drove up the Garw Valley from the M4 Junction 36. Following signs for Bryngarw I drove up to the top of Bryngarw village. Parc Calon Lan is well signposted, and has a good sized car park next to a small wooden visitor centre. They were several riders in the car park and a good atmosphere, plus it was a great afternoon for a ride in the rare winter sun.
The trails are very well designed. You can find a map here, on the Garw Valley Community Council website. There are two loops, both 3km, that can be joined to make one big loop 6km. The format is very similar to Brechfa’s Derwen green / blue trail, but this ride is very different to that. You start of on the blue loop with a moderate climb up gravel single track. You soon get to the pinnacle of the blue route. At this point you can take the blue descent completing the blue run, or head up the black climb. You could do the blue route several times and have fun.
I took the black route, and it is proper black. I suppose if you ask for black in a famous coal mining valley you will get pitch black, you can’t see your hand in front of your face underground black. I must admit i had to push in parts. As this is Dim Excuses I won’t say it was the first ride of the year, my thin tyres were struggling over the stones, I was recovering from a cold and a goat ate my homework. There is a further option for a halfway shortcut on the black trail. I continued to the top where there is a sign saying ‘well done you are at the top. Yeee Haa’!
All the signage is excellent and bilingual, da iawn! It is then pretty much all downhill single track. The top has some really challenging rock garden sections. This is a very technical track. Several sections got the better of me (sorry about the moment the trail made me swear in the video). Once down the black descent you seamlessly crossover to the blue descent, which is very flowing and great fun. If you are coming with the family or inexperienced riders I would just do a few laps of the blue, as I said before the black is challenging. All in all, a great addition to the South Wales MTB trails, well done Garw Valley, I will definitely be back soon.
So here is the video edit, sorry about the riding, filming and editing. I will try better next time. It is a chest mounted camera, I will try helmet mounted next time. Music in the video is by Crystal Method.