28 miles, 3,545 feet of climbing
Accommodation: The Hafod Hotel, Devil’s Bridge, Ceredigion
After a lovely cooked breakfast, with homemade bread, we set off along the Afon Dulas valley, climbing gently on tarmac. It’s not long before we’re ascending more sharply, on a mix of gravel and grass up Foel Fadian. The climb is monumentally steep in places and toward the top we’re pushing – if my life depended on it I might have cleaned more of it, but as it is we have a long way to go. As we head toward the Afon Hengwym valley the trail becomes somewhat intermittent and we’re on a compass bearing at times, intently checking the map when we stop. It’s satisfying, bushwhacking-style riding as we hop around rocks, attempt to power through bogs as our wheels sink above the hubs, and occasionally have to manhandle the bikes up shallow but steep ravines.
Following as we are an established route (or so we thought …) we ford the river as instructed, carrying our bikes on our shoulders with the cold, swift-flowing waters dragging at our legs. At this point the path becomes very indistinct and our progress slows dramatically. The map says there’s a bridleway here but we certainly don’t find any sign of one so we trudge on, pushing bikes across what feels more like a swamp. Eventually we make it to gravel but it’s getting late, such was the delay. To make up time we put the hammer down on the tarmac toward the Nant yr Arian trail centre and then do the same over the gravel through the trail centre – we risk losing the light if we don’t keep moving. At the Nant yr Arian viewpoint we take the obligatory tourist shot of each other sitting in the giant wooden chair, soaking up the fantastic view in what is now blazing sunshine. Aside from the occasional road cyclist, we meet our first biker here. A combination of poor weather and remoteness must have kept others away from much of our route until now.
We still have a fair way to go so we push onwards, dropping down then up and over the upper flanks of Ffynnon Wen before descending sharply through woods to the Afon Rheidol valley. Bravado gets the better of me as I try to ride across the river but I lose my wheel to the current, promptly falling off much to Paul’s amusement! Finally, around 9pm, just as the sun disappears entirely, we arrive at our hotel for the night – they’d kept the kitchen open just for us. We devour everything on the table and crash out, knackered, in what is a pretty spectacular setting atop the famous waterfalls.