With a couple of days off and more dry weather in the forcast I decided to take my Kona Unit on its first bikepacking trip. I wanted to give it, and me a test with some pretty uneven terrain and hills but still having "type 1" fun. South Wales seemed to be perfect. Just over 2 hours by car I plotted a return loop from Newport to Talybant Resovoir in the Breacons. Just over 90 miles and 6500ft of ascent. Not as far or as much climbing as the SDW, but I knew the tracks would be more challenging.
When I set off along a disused railway line in Newport I thought I had brought the wrong bike. Smooth surface and gentle gradient for about 13 miles. The first bit of off proper off road was a nice gravel track, snaking its way along a wooded valley. A wrong turn resulted in a hike a bike section up an impossibly steep track to get back on route. The reward was stunning views across the valley. The undulating terrain continued with views at every turn. Then came the downhill section to Cwm Callan on an old Roman road. It was here the Unit came into its own. The 29"x 3" tyres combined with the flex of the Reynolds steel frame made sure there were wide smiles on the fast rocky descent.
One more big climb to do. The pass between Fan-y-Big and Cibyn. A bit of a MTB classic, with a long, at times very steep and rough track to the summit (18000ft above sea level). I plugged away and the Unit rolling over loose rocks with ease. Once at the top I stopped to take in the beautiful views and some water! I could see the trail heading down the left side of the pass. It would be pretty much downhill all the way to Talybant-0n-Usk, where I planned a stop
for a pint and meal and find a spot for my hammock.
Here again I was glad of my bike choice. The set up allowed me to enjoy the descent and get up some speed. I actually met to bikepackers coming the other way. They were pushing, but it wasn't suprising as they had 32mm tyres! I told them the rewards at the top were worth it, I hope they made it before dark.
I made my way round the west side of the Talybant resovoir, topped up my water, filtering from an ice cold stream. I took a few moments to cool off and dip my feet. Bliss. Next, food. I came across a village pub with a garden backing onto the Brecon canal. Perfect.
I could see there was a forest near the north east of the resovoir, so I headed there and found a hammock spot.
Next morning started with a long climb. The legs were good and the gearing on the Unit meant I could spin up the trail and take in the views of the resovoir and Pen-y-Fan. The sun was out and it was going to be a hotter day but I knew I had a long section of the Brecon Monmouth canal to enjoy before the big climbs of the day. Canals are boring. No they're not. The Brecon Monmouth is a cracker. Yes, its flat. Yes, its smooth. But the views are ever changing and you are often treated to woodland one side and open valleys the other. Considering it was a sunny day in the summer holidays, there weren't many people.
After Pontypool comes a tough uphill section. Over 1000ft of ascent in 8 miles. Allrideable, if your legs will allow. Once at the top it was all downhill to Newport. There was one treat left. The Cwmcarn MTB park. Whilst on a track just above the forest I spotted some mountain bikers hitting the trails to my right. That looks fun, I thought, so I went to take a look. The dedicated MTB trail was a red route and would take me to the bottom of the forest. Would I be ok on a fully loaded rigid mtb? Only one way to find out.
I took it steady to start but soon grew more confident of the Unit's and more importantly my own ability. Grinning like a 9 year old, I made my way down the trail that kept going and going. The buzz lasted all the way to the car.
A great last minute overnight trip. South Wales offers some great off road riding. Parts are remote, but you are never that far away from civilisation. The Unit dealt with everything the route threw at it and was only held back by its rider. The bike is sooo much fun to ride. I'll be back !