The dramatic Black Mountains are often over-shadowed by their bigger and more illustrious neighbours, the Brecon Beacons. This is great as far as cyclists are concerned, as it keeps the masses and the traffic away. The mountains are nestled just inside the Welsh border, southwest of Hereford, northwest of Abergavenny, and to the east of Brecon.
There are numerous back roads around the mountains, mostly steep and narrow, and our chosen route is a classic, which takes in a crossing of the areas most famous and imposing climb, the Gospel Pass. The area has long been a hunting ground for top Welsh riders, including Julian Winn, and adopted local boy Magnus Backstedt.
The route stats
• Start point/parking: main car park next to tourist info at Hay on Wye
• Distance: 40 miles
• Grade: Short and tough
• Bottom gear recommended: 39×26
• Terrain: rolling and quiet B roads followed by narrow and hilly country lanes, and exposed moorland climbing
• Traffic: sunny weekends and bank holidays can see a reasonable amount of traffic over Gospel Pass, so keep your eyes and ears open.
• Time: 2.5-3.5 hours
• Map: OS Landranger 161.
Other riding in the area
If you want to take on the Gospel Pass then there are several other option of a similar distance; you could head along the Golden Valley (quite flat) to Ewyas Harold then turn right and follow the lanes to pick up the pass road. Or for a slightly shorter, but hillier, option follow the steep climb through the lanes which run parallel to the pass (to the north and through Longtown) and then re-trace over the pass.
A longer option would be to extend west from Llangorse to Brecon, and then head back to the original route along the Usk Valley.
Hay on Wye is situated to the northeastern tip of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and right on the English/Welsh border. The flat and picturesque Wye Valley and the River Wye pass through the western fringe of the town, as does the main A438, which provides good and fast road access to the city of Hereford to the east (25 miles).
Hereford provides good road access from the north and the midlands, and also has a main line rail station. Head southwest for around 15 miles and you reach Brecon, another great base for riding in the area, while southeast you have Abergavenny – another possible ride start point, and mainline rail town. Abergavenny also has good fast road access to both the M5 and M4, which is ideal for access from the southwest and south midlands.
Food and drink
There are loads of cafes, teashops, and other watering holes in Hay on Wye. A really handy option is the café next to the tourist office, which is right by the car park. Out on the ride there are loads of good pubs and teashops; there are cafes and pubs in Crickhowell, and a hotel/tea shop at the old priory along the road to the Gospel Pass. If you take the longer ride option through Brecon then you will find loads of good cafes too.
If you’re looking for a good selection of spares and repair services then Brecon is the best bet where there are two decent shops (Brecon Cycles is near the bridge to the west end of town). There are several very good shops in Hereford too, and a decent shop in Abergavenny.
In and around this area there is no shortage of accommodation of all kinds. There is a Youth Hostel on the route its self (at the foot of Gospel Pass) and another larger hostel just outside of Brecon. For details call Hay tourist info 01497 820144.
Introducing Steve Thomas
We’d also like to hear about your rides too, good pictures and descriptions of your local training and riding routes, so we can share them with RCUK’s readers. So please e-mail us your rides.