January 03, 2014
On Your Bike!
With that post-Christmas, heavy-body feeling, we decided to make the most of one of the few dry days and go for a bike ride along the paths of the Afan forest. Tentatively testing out my Dad’s new bike rack; (we managed to get him a useful, proper present this year), we loaded up our 3 bikes and set off for a fun-filled day of mountain biking.
Afan Forest Park has a number of different bike trails, ranging from a good family ‘Rookie’ route, up to more difficult levels such as W2 and The Wall.
I made the mistake of trying The Wall once, with my team in work. I couldn’t walk for 2 days afterwards.
However, have used the ‘Rookie’ route for groups in work and felt that it would be an excellent track for my daughter to start her first proper mountain bike adventure. We have been on many flat tracks throughout Cardiff, but I wanted her to improve and build her skills, her confidence and her ability to negotiate a variety of paths.
The green Rookie route is mainly tarmac’d, fairly flat and with only short up-hill gradients, which gives good endurance practice. A positive aspect for children is it’s wide trails with no scary drops alongside. This allows children to progress slightly ahead, without your heart jumping a little. The route also includes a “skills area” which can be avoided if needed.
It allows young riders to develop technical skills by curving around bends and dropping down small steps and stones. My daughter loved this challenge and her confidence developed within minutes as she whizzed around the corners, rode up and down the man-made hills and practiced applying her brakes to safely decrease her speed.
‘Safety sign for technical skills park’
What’s lovely about the rookie route is that there are picnic tables and rest stops along the way, which mean that (with a well packed rucksack) you can enjoy the day out, take your time and stop when you get hungry and, yes, we had turkey sandwiches for lunch!!
We also visited the cafe located in the visitors centre, where we enjoyed a steaming cup of tea and a delicious slice of homemade cake. We noticed some of the lunch orders coming out of the kitchen, and I think I saw the biggest plate of jacket potato with cheese and beans EVER!! The cafe was busy when we were there and so people were told that there would be a slight wait for food but, since the food was being freshly-prepared, it seemed excellent value for money and people didn’t mind taking a few moments to sit down and de-brief their experiences on the various routes.
Feeling re-energised after a brief rest stop, we headed back out and did half of the rookie route again, practicing different skills and trying harder parts. It’s another reason why this is a good family bike route, because you can just do a short journey, or increase your distance, depending upon abilities and ages.
Also, while out ‘en route’ we saw a lot of families walking, so this a great location for enjoying both activities.
We had a really lovely day. It was great to see my daughter’s confidence grow throughout the day and she really got into the mountain bike adventure, demanding to go back the following weekend!!
Also, it was good to be able to take my Dad out and show him the some of the environment that I work in. Three generations of family spending quality (and a very muddy) time together in the outdoors.
I would highly recommend visiting the site on-line before going, just to check the park and cafe opening times. It also gives up-to-date changes of the bike routes due to weather conditions or maintenance work.
For trail information, you can telephone
Afan Forest Park Visitor Centre on: 01639 850564
The Afan visitor centre opening hours are:
April to September: Monday to Friday 9.30am – 5.00pm(6.00pm on weekends and Bank Holidays)
October to March: Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4.00pm(5.00pm on weekends and Bank Holidays)