On a sunny Monday morning I made my first visit to Cwmcarn’s new trail, the Cavell. It’s been open for a few weeks now and has had mixed reviews from my friends ranging from ‘bloody brilliant’ to ‘…and at that point she threw her toys out of pram’! So it was with a mixture of excitement and (slight) trepidation that I grabbed my trusty steed and set off to see what all the hype was about.
From the car park, the first section is the same as the Twrch trail, a nice warm up until the ranger’s hut, but from then on it was all Cavell. From the outset, it was a granny gear climb and pretty much stayed that way for what seemed miles, I barely made some of the ‘rises’ and didn’t make a couple by running out of gears/leg power….the uphill is a leg and lung burner, no doubt about it. Saying that, whilst the climb is tough it is definitely not boring, pure singletrack and beautiful forest for the whole way, I enjoyed the climb as much as someone who is not built for climbing could, and was already thinking how I want to do it better next time. The tight, tight, tight switchbacks only added to the challenge and was a test to my average bike handling skills.
Then onto what is fast becoming a highly talked about and contentious section, the hideout, or perhaps more appropriately, the slideout – the section of the ‘…and at that point she threw her toys out of the pram’ story. The trail had dried out since it had opened last month, however it was still a slippery mess both up and down, shame really as once dried out/bedded in it will be truly gorgeous, only time will tell if that is the case. Either way the tight weaving through the trees is fun and will no doubt catch a few people out, especially if they have wide bars, too much speed and not enough skill!
I am a big fan of the Twrch trail, I love the techy climb (still can’t clean it) and I never get bored of the final descent, however the Cafell descent is fantastic – not a table top or smoothed out berm in sight, just the use of the natural environment, some steep, fast descents with tight corners to test your braking and your lactic acid threshold.
It took me two hours to ride the trail and I felt I had had a proper workout, when I got home and looked at the course details I learnt that the Cafell has 500m more climbing than the Twrch, and my God you do notice it! Overall, I loved everything about it…I loved the ridiculously steep climb, the ridiculously tight switchbacks, the ridiculously muddy hideout/slideout section and the ridiculously fun descent. It’s one of the most natural manmade trails I have ridden and I love the course builders for that, it’s at least 95% singletrack and will test your fitness and your bike handling skills.
Oh yes Cafell, another iconic Welsh trail has been born.