Rhayader Nant Y Arian
Words and photos by Pete Ratcliffe.
It was a very wet, miserable 7am when we left Swindon. Arriving at Rhayader in mid Wales 2.5hrs later it wasn’t much better!
The original plan had been to follow a route over the hills round Rhayader. The clouds were very low and looked to be set in for at least the next few hours – not good conditions to up on wild moorland. The local bike shop in Rhayader agreed – so we decided to de-camp to the trail centre at Nant Yr Arian just up the road. Trail guide.
The ride started with a fire road climb to get the legs warmed up. We soon came to the first section of singletrack (The Italian Job) which set the mood for the rest of the ride. This was a really flowing downhill section with the odd rock steps thrown in to keep you on your toes and some steep switchbacks towards the end. Another short fire road climb brought us up to Spaghetti Junction. From here the three trails separate before arriving back at the same point, then you can choose to do another loop or head back to the centre. We elected to do the short Pendam loop before going on to The Summit.
The Pendam is a bit of a fire road slog before another section of very flowing and fast singletrack through the woods, lots of rollers and berms. Jamie had a bit of a spill and Alan came close too but he just managed to avoid an inconsiderately placed rock and stump combo near the end.
After a short blast on road there is another short section through the trees before a flat but fun section skirting round the lake.
The first few kilometres from Spaghetti Junction on the Summit loop is on a farm track / byway across pasture and open moorland – this has a really nice natural feel to it, not like the bland fire roads you normally find at trail centres. There were some deep puddles but also some rocky sections to keep the interest up.
This brought us out at the top of the Mark of Zorro section – a winding series of flowing turns and switchbacks with a few techy moments but generally more ‘fun’ than ‘frightening’. The end of the section spat us out onto fire road at the lowest point of the trail so after a short fuel stop we set off on the long crawl back up to Spaghetti Junction. The aptly named “Leg Burner” is a relentless fire road slog over about 3.5km and took us about 20mins of hard riding to complete it – however, on a positive note, the sun did come out….briefly…at 12:23pm, we noted the time as it was the first time we’d seen the sun all day!
Once back at Spaghetti Junction and having paused to let the burning in the legs subside, we decided to have another go at the Pendam loop as it was so fun earlier in the day. By this stage though there hadn’t been any rain the standing water on the trails had got us pretty soaked (I had puddles in my waterproof socks!!). We figured that if we went straight down then we were unlikey to leave the café’s haven of warmth, coffee and cake to climb back up to Spaghetti Junction – so if we wanted to extend the ride any more, now was the time to do it. Pendam was equally as good the second time round and well worth the extra distance.
This left us with just the trip back to the visitor centre, starting on fire road, again gaining some height before dropping onto the ‘Drunken Druid’ then ‘High as a Kite’ singletrack sections. Again the singletrack flowed really well, fast in places, technical in others and a final traverse above the lake that kept us grinning all the way to the bike wash.
The visitor centre and café at Nant Y Arian is in a fantastic setting overlooking a lake and is a great place to watch the dozens of Red Kites that frequent the area. The centre itself is also well appointed – Jamie made use of the showers and after putting the bikes to bed and a quick change into dry clothes we tucked into cake, bacon rolls, venison burger, Panini and steaming tea and coffee. This kept us going on the drive back. It is maybe a little far to go on a day trip from Swindon, but if you are in the area then Nanty is definitely worth a visit.
Article and photos by Pete Ratcliffe.
See UK mountain bike trail locations for more ideas on places to ride.
The original plan…
A 35km ride with about 1200m of climbing. Not an easy ride, it would be comparable to Skyline…, W2 at Afan or The Beast at Coed y brenin.