36 miles, 4,980 feet of climbing
Accommodation: Bridge Cafe, Brecon, Powys
Unbelievably, we’re the only people staying in what is a moderately sized hotel (in the Elan Village). I’m struck once again by the remoteness of central Wales, travelling as we are out of prime holiday season and mostly mid-week. How do hotels and B&Bs keep going year-round? At breakfast we discreetly load up on toast for, ahem, lunch (“Goodness, you do have big appetites don’t you?!”) and attempt to buy a mountain bike tyre from the proprietor, in order to replace Paul’s. Sadly, no dice. We consider changing route to go to the nearest town that we know has a bike shop, Rhayader, but armed with some improvised new tyre boots in the form of laminated menus kindly donated by the proprietress, we stick with our plan to head once more into the wilds.
Before long we’re panting up the locally dubbed ‘Puke Hill’ (yes, it’s steep!) followed by some great flowing, open riding along grass and rocky sections above Caban-coch Reservoir. And then, it begins… As with day 4, I’ll be damned if the bridleway marked on the map has been used even remotely recently, so again we’re on a compass bearing, this time over the top of Cnaprau’r Ferlen through endless, heavily hummocked tussock grass. We’re pushing for hours and it’s exhausting! Coming off the top and now back in the saddle the descent is stupendously steep through thick bracken, and I’ve barely got my fingertips on the handlebar my posterior is so far back over the rear wheel for fear of somersaulting bike and I down the slope! Paul and I weave our way down through more hummocky, boggy ground, still with no clear path in sight.
Eventually we reach the road and up the speed to get to Builth Wells, for we’ve been badly delayed with our big push. At the Co-op supermarket we resupply for what is going to be another ride into the evening. After a quick chat about whether we should still try for our planned route, off-road up and over the slopes of Banc y Celyn or take the road instead, including briefly considering one of us going the quicker route and the other going over Banc y Celyn, we opt to stick together. In order to save weight we’ve pared tools and spares right down, sharing items between us. As we ride off I get a puncture straight away (my first) which, we both reflect, seems to be an indication that we made the right decision! Even though we’re on tarmac it’s a slog to Brecon. As I crest the top of Pen y Crug just outside town, with a beautiful sunset over the Brecon Beacons, I’m beat. It’s been a huge day, despite the road detour, so we quickly consume a celebratory curry before retiring to our lodgings for the night.