Afan and back

For a while I’ve been thinking of doing a ride from my house in
Bridgend up along the road through the valley to Afan Forest Park and
then doing a ride around the park and then coming back.  I discussed
the idea with a couple of mates but most people told me I was daft,
till I mentioned it to Dan, who’s a far keener mountain biker than me
and he thought it was a great idea.  It quickly changed from riding
along the road to riding along the hill that splits the Ogwr and Garw
valley and then dropping into the valley, backup the other side and
into the top of the Afan forest.

I roughed out a route on a GPS mapping website and Dan tidied the
route and loaded it onto his GPS.  Yeah, I know it’s cheating, but we
were going a long way over totally unknown ground and we wanted to
actually get there.  We met up outside Rush Cycles in Brynmenen early
one morning, we got going fairly early, about 8am.  I took a wrong turn on the way there so was about 15
minutes late.  It was quite nippy and I was beginning to realise that
my lack of cycling specific kit (no padded shorts, no decent winter
gloves and summer mtb shoes) that would cope with the winter might
mean things were going to get a bit frigid.  However the skies were
clear and it didn’t look like we’d have to contend with any rain.
Anyway, we set off along the first short road stretch trying to get to the proper start of the
ride out of the back of Bettws.  After a bit of faffing we found it
and got stuck into the mud.  It was pretty hard going for me, the
descents were thick with mud so needed speed, not something I’m known
for.  It was basically impossible to ride uphill due to the mud.  So
the tone was set for much of the rest of the ride – hike-a-bike.

Quickly enough we popped out onto the road and set off a long some
back lanes trying to find the first big climb of the day, roughly up
Moel Cynhordy, which is about 450meters.  The first
section of which was basically a stream and as a result more
hike-a-bike.  However the route moved onto a farmers track which was
quite rideable and we made up some time here.  The first small
downhill came up which was mostly ridable.  However it ended in a
muddy bog which we had to walk across.  There was a nice looking
fireroad to the right, but we were heading for a different end of the
Garw forest.  We did use the fireroad on the way back tho.

After the bog we were into the top of the forest, which was basically
all fireroad, so we got stuck into the riding.  Which was generally
decent.  Soon enough we got onto a long and loose descent which spat
us out onto the road at the top of Maesteg.  We weren’t on the road
for long, the next climb beckoned.  Up through a farmers yard and onto
a rough track, eventually bought me up to a part of the world that I
had walked with the wife before.  We headed right up Foel y Dyffryn (366m),
back to hike-a-bike, before being able to ride off the summit into the
back of the Afan Forest Park.  Here we were able to cruise down the
fireroad to the vistor center.  Which when we got there looked awfully
closed.  It wasn’t but, there was a moment of panic.  We locked the
bikes up and went into get cakes.  Once we’d taken our fill of cakes,
pasties and cups of tea we set off to retrace our route.

As is often the way my knee was starting to give me some trouble.  So
I had to ride/walk the initial climb out of the center back through
the forest.  We were able to ride over most of Foel y Dyffryn and the
descent on the otherside was a great piece of rough riding over the
side of the hill.  Well Dan rode it all, he could do the climb, I just
fell over half-way up.  No real line, just enough of a slope to get up some
speed and enough lumps and bumps to make it hard.

Again, back down into the village above Maesteg and back up onto the
ridgeline.  The lovely descent was considerably harder on the way
back, but still ridable.  We stuck to the top of the forest to miss
out the worst of the boggy area and were able to make much better time
here.  Soon enough we were back onto the track at the top of the hill,
however it was about 5pm now, so lights were attached to bikes and
turned on.  We got to the final descent well enough, but decided that
as it was dark and it wasn’t ridable for long enough, we’d stick to
riding back down the track, past the farm and out onto the road.  When
we hit Tondu, Dan said his good byes and headed off to Pencoed.

I kept on down the road into town.  Kept a couple from crossing the
road as they thought I was a car or motorbike, heard the guy go ‘it’s
a bike!’ as I passed.  Soon enough I was home after ‘enjoying’ the
last bit of riding through Bridgend.  I hate road riding.  Horrible.
But I was home in time for beer and pizza.

Stats are:
44.9 miles
6,022ft climbing
8 hours in the saddle, an hour or so in the cafe and a couple of hours of walking

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