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Has Coed y Brenin – Britain’s first ever trail centre – stood the test of time?

Everything you need to know about mountain biking at Coed-y-Brenin in North Wales

Coed y Brenin’s Tarw Du (Black Bull) trail is the oldest purpose-built mountain bike trail in the country, dating back to 1996. Its creation is credited to a somewhat unsung legend of UK mountain biking – Dafydd Davies.

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Davies was forest ranger here back in the early ’90s and the first to see the potential for manmade singletrack, as an alternative to boring fireroad bashing. Working with almost no support, he and a small band of volunteers moved mountains of rocks and sculpted the first part of the Tarw Du trail entirely by hand.

He then managed to convince the Forestry Commission that what he was doing had promise and, with limited funding the UK’s first purpose-built MTB trail came into being – a loop that began the trail centre revolution.

Downhill rider Adam Brayton jumping off rocks at Coed-y-Brenin in north Wales
Adam Brayton sends it off the rock slabs at the top of the Tarw Du trails. Photo: Andy Lloyd

THE TRAILS

Coed y Brenin boasts a range of all-weather, mostly rock-surfaced trails for all abilities and sections ranging from fun to challenging – one of our favourites being Y Slab on Tarw Du.

The Dragon’s Back and Beast of Brenin are solid tests of riding skill as well as stamina.

Green: Yr Afon – 11km

Blue: MinorTaur – 8km

Red: Temtiwr – 9km, Cyflym Coch – 11km, Dragon’s Back – 31km

Black: MBR – 18km, Tarw Du – 20km, Beast of Brenin – 38km

17.01.18. Coed-y-Brenin, Wrecking Crew Mountain Biking UK Adam Brayton, Joe Smith, Matt Walker, Ed Thomsett. PIC © Andy Lloyd www.andylloyd.photography
Most of the trails here ride well whatever the weather conditions. Photo: Andy Lloyd

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

Get there

Coed y Brenin Forest Park is located in north Wales, just off the A470, about five miles north of Dolgellau. The postcode LL40 2HZ will take you there.

Facilities

Car park, visitor centre, cafe, bike shop, bike wash, toilets, showers and bike hire.

Nearby bike shops

Beics Brenin is in the visitor centre. Not only do they have bikes to buy and hire, but they’re fully stocked with spares and run coaching courses too.

Contact

www.mbwales.com

What else is nearby?

Penmachno

Drive half an hour north-east from Coed y Brenin and you’ll come across Penmachno, a remote little hamlet with a great red-graded trail loop hidden away in the hills. It’s loads of fun but has drainage problems, so be prepared to be riding through a stream a lot of the time.

Nant yr Arian

You’ll find this trail centre 45 minutes due south of Coed y Brenin. It’s another wild-feeling spot, with trails of various grades plus a rad skills area that opened last year.

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There are some fantastic views to be had while on these natural-feeling trails. Photo: Andy Lloyd

WRECKING CREW WISDOM

Matt Walker, Madison Saracen World Cup team

“Coed y Brenin is not your usual trail centre. It’s the most natural one I’ve been to and I love it for that, it’s got so many rad natural sections. Whether you’re going up or down, there’s always something to keep you on your toes. It’s a great place to train, the trails are really technical and rocky. Generally I tend to stay away from trail centres, however Coed y Brenin is one of the few I’ll continue to return to.”

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MBUK VERDICT

Why ride here?

Loads of trail options of all different grades make for a great day out in the hills

Rad…

  • The rocky terrain rides well in all weathers
  • Tons of trails and loads of options for creating pick-n-mix rides
  • One of the most picturesque trail centres around

BAD…

  • It rains here (a lot)
  • The jumps in the skills area have seen better days
  • It’s miles from anywhere
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THE BOTTOM LINE

The UK’s original trail centre is still just as compelling a place to ride as it was when first built. The rocky yet flowing fun it offers makes it one of the best official spots we’ve ridden in this country. The Beast in particular is a real treat, with sections that range from smooth and manmade to raw and rugged. Coed y Brenin’s trails make great use of natural rock features and are kept in good shape by Natural Resources Wales, and the views are stunning if you pause for long enough to admire them.

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Our full report on Coed y Brenin is in issue 354 (available here), or pick up a copy of the latest mag to keep up with our monthly Wrecking Crew reports.

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