Gravel Bike Riding at Coed y Brenin

Jacqui and Cliff, friends from the world of Quadrathlon were staying just north of Dolgellau this week. They were here to take part in the Hurly Burly swim up the Mawddach estuary. Unfortunately the swim was cancelled due to the weather, but we didn’t let the rain stop us from going out for a gravel bike ride around Coed y Brennin on Tuesday.

Things were a little hectic at home as well, but that didn’t stop me either.

After seeing Morgan off to school I drove north through disgusting conditions. Heavy driving rain and loads of standing water on the roads made thing interesting. The Dyfi Bridge in Machynlleth had been closed several times due to the height of the river so I wasn’t sure if it was open.

Dyfi Bridge
Dyfi Bridge

The webcam said that it was before I left but the tide was rising, rain was still falling and the road signs into Machynlleth said that it was closed. I’d left myself some leeway time-wise for the detour via Cemaes Road if need, but thankfully it was open. The weather suddenly improved once I was up and over the Tal-y-Llyn pass and to the north of Cadair Idris there were even some glimpses of blue skies.

I’d like to say that with three current Quadrathlon Champs in the room it was all talk of training schedules, hard workouts and race strategy. But no, despite the fact that we had the current V50 Female, V50 Male and V40 Male BQA trophy holders in the room it was just the chat of friends preparing for a nice easy ride in the hills.

I arrived at the lovely cottage Cliff and Jacqui had rented for the week. It was right on the banks for the River Mawddach and hidden away from the road. It was lovely inside as well. High vaulted ceilings, wood burning stoves and views out into the surrounding countryside. What’s more there was coffee waiting for me and a nice chat and a catch up with Cliff, Jacqui and Alan who I was introduced to.

Gravel Bikes at Coed y Brenin

Things were looking OK weather-wise so we soon set off on our gravel bikes for the fire-roads and tracks of Coed y Brenin. It wasn’t long before we were climbing the hills past ant nest for some amazing views out over the Rhinogs to the North-West and Cadair Idris to the South.

We weaved out way around the trails stopping now and then for photos and enjoying the riding. Things clouded over after a while though so it was on with our jackets after a long, cold and wet descent. Of course, as soon as we had our jackets on the rain stopped and we were heading back uphill again so off they came once more.

Back at the bottom alongside the tumbling Mawddach River Jacqui decided to leave us and head home so that Cliff and I could continue on. We spotted a rugged looking mountain man panning for gold in the river below a bridge. As he started to head up towards us Cliff suddenly disappeared. I stayed and asked the gold-panner if he’d found his fortune yet. He surprised me by saying that he found £40,000 worth of gold last year but doesn’t sell it as it’s ‘just a hobby’!

I caught Cliff back up. Later, back at their cottage whilst chatting, it turns out that Cliff had been a little scared of the ‘rugged looking mountain man’ so didn’t stick around to see why he was coming up to talk to us. I like the way he just disappeared and left me alone with him – it’s good to know who your friends are! Actually, I think that maybe Cliff had spotted an opportunity, with me moving up into the V50 age group next year maybe if I’d been abducted by a crazy mountain man in the wilds of a welsh woodland he’d still stand a chance!

I survived my encounter unscathed and maybe with ideas of a new career opportunity – £40,000, that would do me nicely! Off we headed out along the river and then towards some impressive waterfalls.

Next was a really steep, unrelenting climb. Traction was minimal but the gradient wasn’t. Out at the top and it looked like rain again. Back on with the jackets for a long descent into what ended up being fairly sustained torrential rain. The tracks soon became streams as we made our way back towards the Visitor Centre and then down along the river once more. A quick fun blast along part of the Minotaur single track and it was then off towards the cottage.

Sandwiches and hot drinks awaited and more chance for chatting in front of the roaring log burner. A good day out in the hills and an easy drive back home.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.