The Black Mountains: An Infamous Classic

Climber Numero Uno

Taking advantage of a sliver of sunshine that permeated a week’s forecast of drizzle, Cara and I headed out to the Brecon Beacons for the day. We met up with Simon (who joined us on Manali-Leh last year) on what turned out to be a suitably epic ride. In fact, it was a route suggested to us by wheel-truing supremo Neil, also on the tour; an ‘infamous classic’, as one of the mountain bike mags put it. And while the climbs weren’t of Rohtang’ian proportions, they were steep enough to have us scrabbling for grip and peddling at the speed of crawling babies. Or off the bikes altogether.

The Ridgetop (one of them)

The ride began in Mynydd Du Forest (GR 252285, not far from Abergavenny); scenery doesn’t get much better than this little pocket of Wales. The ridges here are like huge shark fins, shielding the late afternoon sun from one side of the valley, throwing it into cold, deep and dramatic shadow. Grassy shutes fed down into valley floors, where forgotten backlanes meandered beside translucent rivers. Dappled autumnal colours and a clean, crisp light brought out the best in the auburn ferns. Indeed, it was all rather lovely.

Late Afternoon

The View

I took the Big Wheeler for a spin, but was blighted by three punctures in the space of a mere kilometre. Simon executed an elegant endo, adding another dark, angry bloodblister to his set of stigmata-style wounds from an earlier incident. And Cara managed to almost impale herself on some barbwire as she hurtled down a slippy, slabby, rocky descent strewn with giant mismatched steps.

The Descent

Simon’s host of computers reported us that we had covered a commendable 40km, with a respectable 1300m of climbing. We were up at Crug Mawr as the bikes’ shadows were longest, hurried back to the car park just before dark, gulped down a few warming cups of coffee and a chunk of carrot cake, before heading for home…

Long Shadows

Pics by Cass and Simon. Simon’s blog is here.


3 Responses to “The Black Mountains: An Infamous Classic”

  1. 1 Simon October 27, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for guiding me round…my calves have just about recovered from scaling the final climb! Having a great time over in Sweden…catch you guys again soon…

  2. 2 otbiking November 3, 2006 at 5:05 pm

    We’ll have to blame Neil for that!

  3. 3 Libby Casas (guest) November 4, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    Beautiful photos of the trip in Wales. My ancestors came from there, so I’m especially fond of the place! I’m too old for such bike trips, but did succeed in climbing Cadair Idris, on foot, in 2003, and hope to do a repeat in 2007.

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