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? It must be tough, with no business infill mid-week it seems, in many of the places we stay during this trip. At breakfast we discretely 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 also consider changing route to go to the nearest town which we know has a bike shop, Rhayader but after a bit of discussion, and armed with some improvised new tyre boot in the form of laminated menus kindly donated by the proprietress we decide to stick with our plan to head off once more in to the wilds.
Before long we’re on 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 which shows on the map has been used in earnest even remotely recently. As on Day 4 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 grips of my handlebars in an attempt to keep my posterior way 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 once on to the road we up the speed to reach Builth Wells, for we’ve been badly delayed with our big push. Outside the Co-op supermarket we resupply for what is going to be another ride in to 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, including briefly considering one of us going the quicker route by road 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, only carrying one of many 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 the sun setting beautifully over the Brecon Beacons, I’m beat. It’s been a huge day, despite the road detour and we have a celebratory curry before retiring to our lodgings for the night.