Despite the growing number of bike parks and trail centres across the UK, there are still a number of relatively unknown trails that lie in the forests, just waiting to be shredded. Brechfa Forest, in West Wales is one of those secret treasures, and it's one of my favourite places to ride as well.
Situated in West Wales, just north east of Carmarthen, Brechfa has a limited, but gnarly web of trails which showcase the true inner beauty of this forest. There are four trails to choose from, one of each grade: green - blue - red - black. This is one of the reasons that makes Brechfa a great trail destination because there really is something for everyone, including walkers.
For me, Brechfa invokes a warm nostalgic feel for being my first ever mountain bike experience. Many rides later, and I still feel the same excitement and buzz as I did on my first visit.
Unlike many trail centres and sites, Brechfa doesn't have a café. No rental facilities, no workshop and no bustling hub of muddy riders. The forest plays host to a pure form of mountain biking, and its quiet hidden atmosphere provides an almost meditative ride not usually found elsewhere. It's just you and your bike, what more could you need?
Where is Brechfa?
The lack of mobile phone reception in Brechfa can make it difficult for coordinating group rides. It can also pose as a problem to finding, perhaps it's one of the reasons why it remains a largely unridden spot.
Once you hit the village of Brechfa (usually found on most maps and GPS devices), carry on north out of the village for about a mile. On your left hand side will be a sharp turn up into the car park, sign posted with green forest signs.
Parking is free (hurray), and there are picnic tables and BBQ areas to cook up your own post-ride noms. There's a couple of port-a-loo's as well.
Derwen Trail (Green) - 9.2km
The Derwen trail is perfect for families and beginners. With steady climbs and flowing descents, this trail gives the rider a taste of adrenaline fuelled fun. What I love about this trail is that it's of a reasonable length, whereas many other centres have green routes under 5km. Short trails can't always provide beginners with a true sense of trail riding.
Derwen Trail Extension (Blue) - 4.7km
If you're feeling a little brave, and you have some gas left in your legs, then add on the extension of the green trail. This additional 4.7km loop has some more technical switch-back climbs, but with some seriously fun rewarding descents. A few little kickers and rollers are dotted throughout to test your skills on too. This blue trail is really fun, and really fast. It's a great stepping stone from the green trail in terms of difficulty and technical ability. The blue extension is also a great indication of what's to come on the red.
Half way around the green trail, the trail forks to give you the option of taking the blue trail extension, or the option of carrying on with the green trail. The blue extension loops back onto the green afterwards.
The Gorlech (Red) - 18.5km
The Gorlech trail is a local legend of a ride for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was designed by BikePark Wales director, Rowan Sorrell, who is a mad trail builder. Secondly, it has some seriously gnarly features: tables, kickers, stone clad berms and steep slab shoots.
There are three main climbs along the trail, each descending into a bigger and better fun madness. I've ridden the Gorlech in the hot sunshine, and in the Welsh downpours and it never fails to put a smile on my face. It's a fear conquering trail designed to push your limits and help you progress your skills.
Note: The starting point of the Gorlech trail is in Abergorlech.
The Raven (Black) - 18.5km
Designed by Rowan Sorrell and Brian Rumble for the Brechfa Enduro, the black graded Raven has quickly soared into a "must ride" on mountain bikers bucket lists.
If you like mad singletrack climbs and fast unrelenting descents, then the Raven trail is your ride. It's packed full of challenging features, like some of the biggest tabletops you'll find on a trail ride. Drops, jumps, high rise berms and loose terrain... the Raven has it all.
Note: If you're feeling unstoppable, then there's a cut-through at the top of the red and black trails that allows you to loop the Gorlech and Raven together.
While there isn't a Brechfa MTB centre or café, there is a mobile café that parks in the car park on most weekends. The Shed does some of the best post-ride food I've ever had. All food is locally sourced, baked goods are homemade and the tea/coffee is on point.
While riding alone can be meditative and fun, Brechfa has very limited and intermittent mobile phone reception. If you do go riding by yourself, make sure someone knows where you are going and what trail you're riding.
If you're looking for a weekend of fast technical fun, or even a pootle around some stunning scenery, then Brechfa should be at the top of your go-to list. It remains one of my favourite places to ride, whatever the weather.
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