Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Brechfa Enduro

Posted by Dandy | August 20, 2009 | 10 comments so far

Ellie wins a brand new set of Fox Vanilla forks
Muddymoles are prize winners at Brechfa!

But more of that later, as we had not got off to a good start that Sunday morning. We were late and it was raining, and it was 9.40 when we arrived at Llansawel Rugby Club, with registration closing at 9.30 and the riders briefing at 9.45. I parked the car while my daughter Ellie checked in, having borrowed the “Team Muddymoles” tag for the day.

The Brechfa Enduro begins with a mass start behind a vehicle that leads along public roads for a couple of miles, before pulling off and allowing us to climb a steep lane marked as “No through road”. With our late arrival (we were the last in the car park), we prepared ourselves and our bikes with minimum “faffage” and got to the start about 10 seconds after the leading car and the 100 or so bikes pulled out.

We caught the back of the pack and even passed a few as we encountered the first short but steep tarmac hill. I passed a lady rider who had just shipped the chain off her Orange 5 searching for a gear that didn’t exist, and being a gentleman stopped to offer assistance in pulling it away from where it had jammed between the cassette and the hub. Fortunately for me her partner (this Enduro is generally a team event, though solo entrants are also accepted to “Play alone in the woods”) arrived to help sort out the mess, so I left them to it.

Ellie suffers from exercise-induced asthma, and as our rushed start meant she had not taken her inhaler before we set off, the first real climb in damp conditions necessitated a stop to dose herself up. All perfectly legal for doping control if prescribed by a doctor, I believe.

We were quickly in the woods, and equally quickly the effects of the previous days and that morning’s rain were felt. The Brechfa Enduro uses the two main trails, Gorlech (Red) and Raven (Black) and throws in some “secret singletrack in the woods”, as well as the usual fire roads to link it all together. This makes it quite a different ride from the normal trails available, which in themselves are a fantastic (and long) day’s ride.

As keen readers of the MMs site will know, my Whyte E5 (with superb mud clearance) was recently stolen, so yet again I found myself on Cycleopedia’s long-term loan bike, a vintage full-sus Stumpjumper which is still for sale when I’m not abusing it in between bikes. Unfortunately the mud clearance on this bike was nothing like the Whyte’s, and combined with V-brakes resulted in me grinding to a halt after about 200m of ploughing through the damp woods.

Andy after the Brechfa Enduro

Equally unfortunately, there were several kilometres of this type of terrain. Ellie was faring much better on my On-One 456, designed for Northern British mud rather than our sandier Southern soils, and which was still sporting my winter Panaracer Trailraker tyres.

Very soon we found ourselves in the company of a few “more mature” riders, as well as the lads tackling this 30km or 48km course (depending on where you choose to exit) on some hefty, long-travel all mountain bikes. The odd fire road climb and descent allowed me the opportunity to free the several pounds of mud jamming the back wheel, with my V-brakes promoting much comment and schadenfreude from the few riders that were still around us.

Carrying the bike down yet another off-trail muddy diversion, I was passed by the lady I had stopped to help earlier. I think this put us firmly in the “lanterne rouge” position. (That’s a Tour de France reference, before the Prince of D.E.s gets started!). Having cleared the mud handicap yet again, we were surprised to find ourselves spinning past the “all mountain boys” pushing their steeds up one of the long fire road climbs.

There’s a total of 2,100m of climbing in the 48km route, so maybe their bike selection was a little optimistic. We were flowing well on the longer parts of the Gorlech trail (it really is a superb track and well worth a visit for those that get beyond Afan/Glyncorrwg), when I realised that Ellie was no longer behind me.

After a few minutes I returned along the trail to find her taking a link out of a snapped chain. We quickly fitted the last quick-link in my backpack (the previous day we had donated one to a rider stuck half-way up the “Wall” trail in Afan Argoed), but during this mechanical interlude the all-mountain boys sped past. About 15 minutes later we passed them again as they struggled up one of the longer singletrack climbs on the trail.

With all of the muddy off-trail excursions out of the way, we made reasonable progress along the rest of the Gorlech trail, enjoying the swooping berms and rollers that are its trademark. I did not attempt any of the double jumps, due to the combination of the aged Stumpy (which was probably up for it) and my role as “sensible parent” for the day (who definitely wasn’t). To be honest, I was not really enjoying the ride by now.

Ellie’s right knee was giving her some pain, a legacy from our recent Holyhead to Cardiff epic (soon to be another article on this site); and the V-brakes on the Stumpy were working at about 30% efficiency despite me having replaced the pads the previous day following the ravages of Afan Argoed. So when Ellie took a tumble on one of the faster corners (caused by a moment’s inattention as she tried to find the source of the On-One’s intermittent squeak), this confirmed the decision I had been pondering for the last few miles as to whether we would opt for the shorter route and miss out on the Raven trail section.

We were very pleased to see the feed stop after just under 4 hours of riding, and the free fruit cake and banana bread, washed down with some energy drink, were most welcome. The all mountain boys arrived just as we were leaving, and we were all amazed when an off-road tandem whizzed past and headed off down the narrow, twisty and jump-infested trail. The lady on the back laughed and whooped as they descended, what a nutter!

Ellie spoke to her later as we were cycling back, and she confirmed it was great fun, though I wouldn’t trust myself to steer it down those types of trail. “Barmy” was my conclusion.

We were very surprised when only a mile or so of the descent after the cake stop, we arrived at the finish for the event. Clearly, had I arrived in good time that morning to review the course map and listen to the briefing, I would have realised where the food stop was on the course. In truth, I was quite happy to finish, though I hasten to add that this was not a reflection on the event. It was more a combination of tired bike, tired legs and arms from the carries, and concern for my daughter’s knee joints.

We soon perked up when the nice chap from Mojo suspension (the UK’s Fox distributor) handed over a brand new pair of Fox Vanilla R forks to Ellie, who was the third woman home. She tried to hand them back, explaining that she hadn’t completed the full course, with me hastily intervening to stifle her instinct for fair play.

She was happy to accept after it was explained they were spot prizes, she was the youngest female entrant, and the clincher, they liked our team name of “Muddy Moles”. (See pics on Mojo’s site). We cycled the few miles back to the Race HQ to retrieve the car, then returned to collect our forks, snaffle a burger from the BBQ, then retire to the garden of the excellent Black Lion in Abergorlech for a well-earned beer.

I would definitely tackle this event again, and with a drier few days preceding it, the course would have been a cracker. This is West Wales, however, so bring a bike that is prepared for mud if you fancy entering the Enduro.

The main Gorlech and Raven trails are fine for year-round riding, with the majority being made up of well compacted stone. They are nicely bedded in, and seem to wear pretty well (I first visited last year). As I mentioned, the Gorlech (red) trail has many fast sweeping berms and table tops and doubles, as well as quite a few launching points. There are also some beautiful and almost other worldly wooded sections; very “Lord of the Rings”.

I have yet to tackle the Raven trail, so I can’t comment on it, but it’s an excuse to be back for sure. You could make a great week-end by combining Brechfa with some of the other mid-Wales trail centres (Coed Trallwm, Nant yr Arian) or some of the fantastic natural bridlepaths and singletrack that exists in these parts (see the Summer 2009 edition of mbr). Also see MTB Wales for some ideas.

Filed under Rides in August 2009


About the author

Having been mountain biking since 1996, you might have expected Dandy to have learnt to ride a bike by now. Several broken bones in the last few years prove the maxim that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

In between hospital visits, Dandy rides a brace of much-blinged Pace RCs, the 'green themed' 405 and the silver & gold 506. His winter hack is the Moles' favourite, an On-One 456 hardtail, now converted to an Alfine hub He also dabbles in 'the dark arts', keeping 2 road bikes in one of his seven sheds.

There are 10 comments on ‘Brechfa Enduro’

We love to get comments from our readers - if you've spent a few moments to comment, thank-you.

If you haven't had a chance yet, jump to our comments form if you have something to say.

  1. Matt says:

    Andy, sounds a great event, I think you’ve just whetted my appetite for next year. A good excuse to visit too.

    Congratulations to Ellie for the new forks, that’s quite a result and amusing that using our name helped!

  2. Easynow Nick says:

    Well done to both of you.

    Are the shop ordering you another E5?

    I really hope you get that sorted soon.

    Good result on the forks, sounds like you had a pretty good holiday overall 🙂

  3. Andy C says:

    Thanks Nick, despite the ‘loss’ I have indeed managed to get in quite a bit of cycling over the last few weeks. I’m waiting for the insurance to tell me how much they’re going to cough up before I decide what to do next.

    I have an idea that the slightly more fashionable bikes with longer travel & slacker head angles may be worth a look, though I don’t want to ‘over bike’ myself. 140mm is probably more than I would ever use or need, but the Whyte did have quite a steep (71.6) head angle.

    I’m thinking of the ususal MM suspects; Orange 5, Lapierre Zesty, or possibly a Santa Cruz Blur LT just to be a bit different.

    Perhaps I will use the forks with a jump frame as that’s clearly an area I need to work on!

  4. Hey up. Thanks for the review. A few of us were going for the longer course, but the stickiness of the earlier part of the trail knackered us out, so we ended up doing the shorter route.

    I was one of the ‘All mountain’ riders. In my defence (of bike choice) I just enjoy the descents, XC bikes aren’t as much fun on these descents, especially on the Black (Raven) run, so id rather endure a sluggish climb and have more fun on the descents. The choice of bike only really falls apart when we drunkenly agree to enter the Enduro every year 🙂

    You really should come and do the black run. Its so much fun, from the initial section, to the spooky section to the freeride area towards the end, its all good!

  5. Ah… I just spotted your tops. We were in the pub on a table to your left when you walked in, a group of 5 of us.

  6. Andy C says:

    I hope that didn’t bring back any painful memories, though I feel better knowing it wasn’t just me that was knackered by the early ‘mud fest’.

    You are confirming that I really must have a go at the ‘Raven’ trail soon, maybe when I’ve got my new bike?

    Shortlist is Orange 5 Pro (a Muddy Moles favourite), Lapierre Zesty or Santa Cruz Blur LT. I think I want something with a slightly slacker head angle than the Whyte.

    The tops were a sad tribute to my nicked ‘custom built’ Whyte E5. I really could have stayed in the pub garden and had more than the one pint of ‘General Picton’ bitter, but sadly my daughter’s not insured to drive the Saab Aero !

  7. Muddymoles says:

    Off to Wales

    Off to Wales for a mix of natural and man made trail riding

  8. Muddymoles says:

    Weekend report: South Wales 22-24 July Day 3 – Unfinished business at Brechfa

    The moles get to sample the Red and Black runs at Brechfa Forest, starting from Abergorlech

  9. Related: Off to Wales | Mutterings, Lifestyle | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

  10. Related: Weekend report: South Wales 22-24 July Day 3 - Unfinished business at Brechfa | Rides | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Leave a comment…

Have your say – we'd love to hear what you think.

If you have something to add, just complete this comment form (we will not publish your email address).

*Required information.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.