Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Penmachno – the bit in the middle

Posted by Tony | November 15, 2012 | 8 comments so far

Cwm Penmachno

It wasn’t a playground fun feast of Llandegla or a Gnarr of Antur Stiniog, but Penmachno had it’s own charms*.

*This view might not of been universally held amongst the four moles on tour.

After a blast of a morning at Llandegla we got back to the centre and realised that we would have to forgo to excellent mega berms of the skills centre, pack up the car (which was already begining to smell fruity), put the bikes on the back (thanks Barry) and head off to Penmachno, so that we could stand a good chance of finishing before it got dark.

So with the car packed we ate and drove over to Penmachno. The weather was great and – relatively speaking compared to Llandegla – the car park was packed. We got the bikes off but the warmth of the day was fading and we were happy to start climbing in order to warm up. Matt was shivering and Andrew legs had cramped up on the way over.

Having ridden Penmachno before, I knew all about the starting fireroad climb and spun up to warm up, catching D’Andy as we got to singletrack. Pemnachno is a favourite of mine but unlike many other trail centres it feels quite “natural”. The trail is narrow (6-12inches) lumpy and winding in places. This trail requires concentration and speed to find a flow, but it’s hard work even on the flat-ish trails.

All too soon the first part of singletrack were over and we regrouped for the second fireroad climb. Throughly warmed but with some tired legs in the group (Andrew and D’Andy). Next it was into more sweet singletrack which finally brought us out of the trees (it was getting dark in there) to open moorland.

Typical Penmachno trail

Another tough little gain of height across rocky narrow moorland paths brought us it just about the top of the train. Then it was across and down the slabby trail. The trial was certainly in worse shape then we rode it a couple of years ago and had eroded into little jarring drop offs with extra concentration required as the light rain made traction minimal. Damn it was fun though with a great view across the hills – if you could take your eyes off the trail.

From there on, it was mainly downhill and D’Andy was a man transfromed. It’s amazing what a bit of gravity does to him! The remainder of the trail, bar some short fireroads, was sweepy, narrow with tight switchbacks and lumpy rollers. A complete hoot as I chased for all I could give D’Andy’s back wheel. We all were grinning by the end! Altough Matt was a broken man, beaten up by the relentless route.

D'andy auditions for the Pirates of the Caribbean. I think!

D’andy auditions for the Pirates of the Caribbean. I think!

The gravity must have gone to D’Andy’s head?

Then it was off to the gravity main course of Antur Stiniog.


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  1. Andrew AKAK says:

    I liked it a lot I was just in very poor condition that afternoon. I should love to ride it again a bit warmer and drier. I wonder if the fireroad climbs are a stopgap or the best they can do?

    • Tony says:

      Hi Andrew. I think that it’s practicalities that they put the fireroads in. Not many trail centres have both climbs and the rest of the trail made totally of singletrack (Whytes level at Afan is one of the few that springs to mind). It would be great to have a 100% single track trail at Penmachno but I’m not sure it’s possible within the geography either. I haven’t done the full trail yet (some day I’ll have time!) to say how much of that is singletrack either – maybe D’Andy will know?

      BTW – great pics to show the feel of the trail. Narrow rocky and demanding, not in a gnarr technical sense, but in a never letting up concentration sense.

  2. Gordon says:

    Sounds like an amazing weekend. All the reports are written in a wonderfully gripping style. I’ve particularly enjoyed the contrasts between the areas as I don’t think that was clear in the generic trail leaflets.

    Many thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts up.

  3. Bazza says:

    like the write up chaps and gravity definitely is getting the better of Dandy… would blend nicely into a Supertramp concert Eh! Dandy?

  4. Dandy says:

    “I knew all about the starting fireroad climb and spun up to warm up, catching D’Andy as we got to singletrack”

    I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I was climbing like a mountain goat, it’s just that it was getting quite chilly at the start and I headed up to keep warm while the other guys finished their faffing, knowing damn well that I wouldn’t be in the front for long.

    I really like Penmachno, mainly because the singletrack descents are great fun. For me, I’m quite happy with the climbs being on fire roads, as I can spin up steadily and admire the fantastic views, even if it’s wet. And it was wet when we visited. As well as the rain from the week, we also experienced a few heavy showers on the way round.

    Luckily for me, I had a super tacky Minion on the front in anticipation of the next day’s trails. Although the climbs were a bit of a struggle with a kilo of rubber on the front wheel, as Tony suggests, I had great fun on the descents trying to shake him off my back wheel.

    Jez wrote a great little review of when we tackled the full route last year . The extra section also has some great singletrack (very much more of the same). There is some really fun boardwalk, and even a few rocky sections iirc. Maybe it will be third time lucky, Tony, for completing the full route?

  5. Gordon says:

    I rode this trail yesterday and can fully relate to the comments above. I found on the single track my eyes were glued to the metre of trail directly in front of my wheel and had to really force myslef to look a few meters ahead – never mind even thinking of the view!

    I enjoyed the fire roads as i could relax my mind (whilst furiously spinning the legs!) and have a bit of a look about.

    The horizontal wind/rain combo was sheltered for the most part by the trees, but the moorland section was like trying to cycle into a giant jetwash.

  6. Related: Mountain biking the Cadair Berwyn Loop in North Wales

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