With all of the stunning hills, mountains and forests of Wales, it’s no surprise that it’s an incredible place to go mountain biking. The Welsh have something of a knack for building incredible mountain bike trails and you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to options for where to ride.
In this post we’ll give you the pick of the bunch; trails that every avid mountain biker should ride at least once. But first, a bit of information about trail centres for those who are new to the MTB world.
What is a Trail Centre?
Put simply, a mountain bike trail centre is a mountain bike trail, or more likely a series of trails, built around a trail centre. The trails will usually be man-made using natural materials and will make the most of the natural environment. The centre will usually have quite a few useful amenities too. For the smaller centres this might mean a car park and some toilet facilities, but for the bigger centres this can also include cafes, bike hire facilities, bike shops and maybe even uplift services to get you to the top of the hills.
Essentially, a trail centre is designed to make your day on a bike as enjoyable as impossible, with everything you might need nearby.
What Do the Trail Grades Mean?
Trail centres will always give their trails a coloured grading. This system makes it possible for all riders to know what kind of trail to expect and what skill level they need to ride that route. The grading system spans from green to black; beginner to expert.
Green grader trails are usually wide, well-surfaced, relatively flat trails that are suitable for beginners and families. In a trail centre setting, the green routes usually follow the fire access roads.
Next up are the blue routes. Again, blue trails are likely to follow some of the fire access roads, but with the addition of some singletrack sections. Although there shouldn’t be anything too technically challenging, a good level of fitness will be required for tackling the steeper hills, and a good level of confidence on the bike will be needed on some sections.
It’s at this grade where the trails start to become challenging – and lots of fun. Expect steep climbs, fast descents, flowing singletrack, berms and drop-offs. This is what trail centres are all about but you’ll need a good level of fitness and technical ability to make the most of the red trails.
Black trails are where the experts live. Think red routes but bigger, steeper and faster. Black graded trails are likely to feature jumps, large drop-offs, rocks and other unavoidable obstacles.
The Best Mountain Bike Trail Centres in Wales
Coed Llandegla in Denbighshire, west of Wrexham, is home to the One Planet Adventure mountain bike centre, and here you’ll find a range of trails with something on offer to suit all abilities.
For beginners, there is a green route that circles the reservoir and a blue route that gently climbs into the forest before descending to the centre via some great singletrack.
For the experienced riders, there are the incredible red and black routes that have put Llandegla on the mountain biking map. These trails have plenty to challenge you with, from fast-flowing singletrack to boardwalks to berms.
This trail centre is also well-known for the great facilities. Onsite there is a well-stocked bike shop, a cafe ready to serve you coffee and well-deserved bacon sandwiches, bike hire facilities and even a workshop to service and repair your bike. For those looking to improve their skills, you can even book onto coaching sessions here and really improve your riding.
Llandegla has everything that a mountain biker could possibly need.
Coed y Brenin
Coed y Brenin was the UK’s first dedicated mountain bike centre and over the years there have been new trails added and old trails extended. Today, it’s the largest centre of its kind in the UK and a ‘must-do’ for anyone that loves mountain biking.
There are miles and miles of trails to ride, including the much-loved Dragon’s Back trail and the infamous black-graded Beast of Brenin.
For the beginners, there is a skills area known as the Foundry, as well as excellent green and blue routes.
As you’d expect from a centre of this size, there are plenty of useful facilities too; including shops, cafes and bike hire.
With so much on offer here, you’ll probably want to make a weekend of it.
BikePark Wales proudly claim that their trails are built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. There are over 40 trails on offer here, and when you consider that there is a team of trail builders onsite, continually tweaking and perfecting the flow of each trail, you know it’s going to be fun.
Arguably, this trail centre is one of the best that you’ll ever find for those at a beginner to intermediate level. As well as boasting the UK’s longest green downhill trail, there is a huge choice of blue graded runs, all designed to give you the thrills of mountain biking without ever having to face jumps or drop-offs.
That’s not to say that this isn’t a place for the more advanced riders though. There are more than 20 trails that are red or black graded, and even a couple of ‘pro-line’ runs for those at an elite skill level.
Afan Forest Park
Afan is a firm favourite for mountain bikers in South Wales, and it’s easy to see why. Expect fast-slowing descents and epic views on these trails.
There are over 130km of trails to be enjoyed, ranging from the shorter family-friendly trails right up to the 40km, black-graded W2 trail.
It’s the red-graded runs that make Afan such a popular place to ride, with the Penhydd trail considered a classic ride, and the 20km trail known as The Wall boasts some of the best singletrack descents in the UK.
Onsite, the park has two centres, the Afan Forest Park centre and the Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre. Here you’ll find everything you’ll need, such as toilets, cafes and shops.
Antur Stiniog is all about downhill riding. This centre is an uplift assisted centre, which means that you and your bike are transported to the top of the hill where you can choose which trail to ride back down again. Then, you get to do it all over again by getting transported back to the top.
There are 14 trails to choose from, ranging from green to black. Facilities wise, there is bike hire available, a cafe, and even skills coaching sessions to book onto.
As this centre is uplift assisted, it will cost you between £30-£36 to ride here, depending on the day and time of year. For that, you get as many lifts to the top as you can squeeze into a day, with the uplift service doing up to 20 runs a day. This means you get to focus all of your energy into riding downhill and not waste any energy getting back to the top.