Want to visit Triumph’s South Wales-based Adventure Riding Experience and then put what you’ve learned into practice? Here’s Head Instructor Matt Reed’s guide to the best routes in the local area.
A ruin you can ride: probably the best description of this network of Roman roads linking the rises and falls of the Brecon Beacons, with Neath in the south.
The series of inspirational and demanding green-lane routes is closed at certain times of the year but when open form a stunning backdrop. The southern end of the route is just three miles from the Triumph Adventure Riding Experience, so perfect for Matt and his team to enjoy a bit of downtime in between courses.
“We are really lucky that, arguably, the best stretch of Sarn Helen is through the Brecon Beacons National Park on our doorstep,” says Matt.
“When it’s open it’s legal but be warned, it’s rocky with bedrock rivers, very gnarly and one for knobbly tyres.” The southern stretch of Sarn Helen, open during June and August, has been tailor-made by nature for beginners as it weaves and corners its way more than 1,500 feet above sea level through thick forests followed by the reward of wide-open vistas.
Trans European Trail
The Trans European Trail (TET) in Wales is part of a pan European dirt-road or green-lane circuit spanning 38,000km of some of Europe’s most remote, diverse and inspirational landscapes. Dirt is key here as volunteer organisers in 30 countries do their damnedest to ensure riders can avoid bitumen and where they can’t, the roads are short, minor and scenic. So if gravel, mud, sand, rock, river and grass on routes too small for a 4×4 are your thing, then the Welsh section will be enough to tempt a Tiger rider or sucker for a Scrambler.
“People say some stretches are quite hard and some are easy. I prefer to describe them as good rides or not good rides,” insists Matt. Allow two to three days for the mountainous Welsh section, which loops northwards to rejoin England in the Peak District.
The Gower Peninsula
After days of standing on the pegs, treat yourself and your legs to some smooth surface roads along the breathtaking Gower Peninsula. The nine-mile stretch west from Three Cliffs Bay to Rhossili Bay is the perfect throttle up antidote to days dodging greenery and tyre-deep potholes full of muddy water.
The Gower’s 73 square miles include the beautiful beaches and dramatic cliffs of the south coast and the salt marshes of the north, perfect for a photo stop as the sun sets. Best time to visit is out of season when the roads are tourist-free and the whole area of natural beauty can be covered in an afternoon, whistle-stop-style.
The name might have a heady mixture of Italian flair and American sass to it, but don’t be fooled… in winter it means mud, sweat and raging rivers. One of the most famous trails in the UK, it’s a zig-zagging, boulder-laced and extremely watery ride that will test off-road adventure seekers to the limit.
“It’s not for the faint-hearted and you might need a snorkel anytime apart from the summer, but when you’ve done it you realise it’s half tidy,” says Matt.
Locals say its nine fords, valleys and testing route through the Twyi Forest make it virtually impassable in the winter which, for Matt, translates to a challenge. “We were up there in March and the water was over the seat on our Tiger 800s, right to the limit. It’s a bit scary but it makes it even sweeter when you get to the other side.”
The rocky, potholed and sometimes deceptively deep Strata is no respecter of unwary riders and needs treating with respect, so always best to travel in pairs just in case. Matt says: “This is one of the toughest technical rides, but the rewards of stunning scenery and the spectacular setting are immense. For first-timers it’s probably better to go in summer.”
Welsh TT circuit
A small village deep in rural Wales, whose hush-hush military purpose means you’ll never find it on any map, is at the heart of this fascinating route. The only sound you’ll hear around Cilieni is the British army as they practise storming enemy homes and firing at a non-existent enemy… and the rumble of motorcycle engines when the warning flags are not flying.
“I’ve also heard they shoot riders who aren’t on Triumphs,” jokes Matt, a big fan of the 100-mile blast over the top of the Brecon Beacons and past the village ‘in the middle of nowhere’.
“Some of the views are incredible and almost on a par with the level of beauty you’ll get in Canada along the Roman road around Llandovery.” The best stretch passes through the Beacons up to Rhayader and out through the Elan Valley and Devil’s Bridge Falls, a narrow but stunning road with its ruins of copper mines and big views over the valleys. If you do this, folklore – well Matt anyway – says you have to visit the West End Cafe – South West Wales’ equivalent of the Ace.