Hutch’s South Wales Road Trip – complete with some of the UK’s best trails

Team Wideopenmag’s Chris Hutchens heads out with the locals to discover more of his new turf around the valleys of South Wales.

It’s no surprise that the amount of talent in South Wales is this good when the riding is so varied and easily accessible. Having taken residence in the South West, Hutch explores the other side of the Severn River.

Even after a year of living in the South West and venturing over the Severn crossings I’ve barely touched the surface when it comes to the riding scene in South Wales.

With a weekend free I grabbed a few mates, gave some of the guys in South Wales I know a shout and headed over to see just a tiny percentage of the trails on offer.

I’ve grown to love the trail networks around South Wales and with them comes a superb riding scene with a load of motivated riders and trail builders. I’m lucky to know a few of the fast riders across the South from racing over the years so with perfect timing Storm Ali rolled into the UK.

I’d like to say this didn’t play havoc with the weekend but a more fluid few days than planned would unfold. Things kicked off with Martyn Brookes pulling a sicky. I’m still waiting for the forged note to come through from his parents on this one. Whether it was Storm Ali scaring him off or a dose of the runs I’ll never fully know.

Things kicked off in the far East of South Wales. We couldn’t push any further without touching English soil and well the whole premise of the trip would be undermined.

With talk of some new trails at Black Mountain Cycles it was an easy call to make. Meeting James, Owen and Lanksy our videographer for the day. Welshman Nikki Whiles, a long time friend, would also be joining. In the end the windy conditions got the better of the steezy manual king and he retired early evening missing out on some fresh bacon rolls from the on site catering.

With uplifts available this place is pretty well set up. The private park has something for everything from some technical downhills, flow trails through to huge tables and doubles. With Ali blowing strong we were pretty careful at first and limited ourselves to air time. The trails flow nicely here and we sessioned a lot of the park throughout the day.

As the day went on we found ourselves more and more in the air and hitting some of the new jump lines. Owen would be first to scope out what may well be a new top section to Full Moto. These were running well with the tree cover just providing enough of a break to shelter us from the oncoming gusts… just.

Our appetite for BMCC was huge and we sessioned until late in the afternoon before sharing some yarns over a cold one.

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Sadly there wasn’t much of an improvement in weather overnight. While we’re definitely in Autumn it might as well have been winter given the conditions and plummeting temperature. This wouldn’t dampen the spirits and what would certainly lift and falling moral would be Ajay Jones. He’s been on and off the MTB scene for two decades now and is currently pushing the scene hard in South Wales along with his #LetsAvew brand.

Check them out on Instagram for more about the ethos and fun matching merchandise. His young prodigee, on the bike and on the tools Callum would be joining us for the day. The rain was actually under control to begin with however as we set off but quickly turned. The boys were soaked. We hadn’t even started riding yet.

Exactly where we went during the day I’m not quite sure. Sadly my Garmins currently broken so I was on sheep mode all day. Risca, Cwmcarn and then well, some very steep forest amongst the staggeringly impressive Welsh valleys. With a tiny bit of Welsh heritage in me it almost felt like home, or just felt a little bit like the Scottish Borders.

Ajay would drag us up some steep climbs, even a little hike a bike would be thrown in there, and then ensure we teared it down the perfectly crafted trails. This was completely different to BMCC the previous day but boy was it fun. This felt like home. Beautiful catch berms, slightly slick trails and a tongue in cheek humour to the trail name, #JimAvew, all made for a laugh.

We’d call it a day earlier than planned. Fingers numb and bellies empty. The Prince of Wales would be the perfect location to call it a day, warm ourselves up and grab another cold one. A definite theme which seemed to be forming. Clearly James’ influence.

Plans would again change. The forecast looking awful and some fair weather riders deciding to bow out for the day. Instead it would be the dependable and raw speed of Leon Rosser who would ensure both James and I would see another new spot in South Wales. It’s a place neither of us had been to and we were both excited to ride at Barry Sidings.

The climb up kept on coming. Hills around the valleys are surprisingly large and annoyingly steep in places. Without eagle on the back you’d struggle in places. Thankfully we had found some sort of weather window. Our perseverance was rewarded.

I was not really in the mood for another cold day as per the previous day. We were down to three men and with the onset of man flu pending at the thought of another wet day on the hill we had a hard job ahead on the final day near Pontypridd.

Things got tasty as both James and I would try and keep up with Leon. His knowledge of the trails gave him a district advantage at this point but also made for a mega ride all morning. We hit a mix of trails. Nothing on the easier flowy side but this was ideal.

It rounded off a fantastic few days around South Wales. Time to put another 10 weekends in the diary to see more of South Wales, and that’s not including North Wales either.

Now that the Severn Crossing tolls have been scrapped, there’s no better time to hop across the river and explore South Wales.