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Jonathan Manning battles the conditions and the gradient on a challenging ride in the Brecon Beacons
Bike routes can be separated into two distinct groups. Some are amazing all year round, such as pine forest trails, tracks around reservoirs and coastal roads with far-reaching sea views.
Others can be absolutely captivating in perfect conditions but struggle when the weather is grey and winter has leached all the colour from the countryside.
This ride from Aberbran Club Campsite, close to Brecon in Powys, definitely falls into the latter category. With leaves on the native woodland, bright green grass in the pastures and the sun dancing on the River Bran it will be absolutely exquisite. The roads are quiet, the hillsides are dramatic, and there are only sheep, ponies and buzzards for company.
Although I was not blessed with such conditions there was still plenty to commend this ride.
The farm names provide tongue-twisting pronunciation challenges for non-Welsh speakers, although Google lends a hand by translating Aberbrân into 'crow estuary'.
Heading upstream from the Club site, which was once a railway station, the ride rises and falls from one river valley to the next where it meets Afon Ysgir (River Squirm) for a downstream return towards the River Usk.
This is not a long ride, but the general trajectory of the first half is uphill and steep in places, so you will feel it in your legs until gravity comes to your aid for a long descent back to the Club site.
Above all, though, it’s a taste of a wild, remote part of the country, a slice of the Brecon Beacons outside the national park’s typical tourist trail. Look past these rather gloomy photos and imagine this landscape in its summer finery – in the right conditions it will help create a simply unforgettable ride.
You can also download the route for this ride from our dedicated Strava page here.
1. From Aberbran Club Campsite turn left and continue to a T-junction. Turn left, signposted to Trallong, and then in 60m turn right. Continue on a long climb, passing through farms, followed by a 2fast descent.
2. 3.8km – at the foot of the descent continue straight ahead over the bridge (ignoring the road that turns to the 3left), and continue to a T-junction in 100m.
3. 3.9km – turn left at the junction and in 600m turn right opposite a farm gate. Continue on this road, with a river on your 4left, then right, for almost 3km.
4. 7.5km – turn left opposite the sign for Wigwam Holidays, and stay on this 5road for 2km to reach a T-junction.
5. 9.5km – turn right at the junction, crossing a bridge. Stay on this road for almost 4km, with a river to the left, to reach a T-junction with a bridge on the left and a white house ahead.
6. 13.5km – turn right at the junction and continue for 2km, eventually
crossing a bridge. Turn left 60m after crossing the bridge and in 150m the Club site is on the left.