Clive Powell Challenge Ride (Elan Valley)

Clive Powell Mountain Bikes
Clive Powell Bikes
(from the Trans Cambrian ride)

The Clive Powell Challenge Rides are regular events organised by Clive Powell Mountain Bikes in Rhayader. The route isn’t way marked. Instead each rider has a laminated map and there are check points with an orienteering punch at each. These have a unique pin pattern so you can prove that you visited all of them.

I did a lot of orienteering when I was at university (back in the early 90s) so I liked the sound of this. I’ve also visited the Elan valley a lot in the last two years and rate the riding there.

Due to a late ride on Saturday I decided to drive down on the morning of the event. This meant a 7am start on the road from Stroud. Google maps prediced 2h20m and an enjoyable drive via Leominster on empty roads delivered me to Rhayader at the expected time. I had seen some mist on the way and the temperature had dropped to 0.5 degrees but on the plus side it was sunny and dry. After feeling weak at the start of a few events recently I made sure that I stoked up on food. A massive amount of porridge and then force feeding myself Carman’s Muesli bars on the drive down.

Plastic bags for dry feet
Plastic bags for dry feet

I booked in at the HQ where Clive told me that 40 riders had already left (you can start between 9am and 10:30am). I had a quick look at the map and it was all familiar territory. I’d ridden all of these before, see my list below. That didn’t put me off though; these are quality natural trails.

I’d suffered a fair amount from cold wet feet recently and rather stupidly I was wondering if I’d get wet out there. The very nice man in the bike shop found me two perfect plastic bags for my feet.

Elan valley mountain bikingI set off into the sunlight and started on the road climb towards the golf links. I’ve ridden up the golf links before and not only is it quite steep it’s also a total waste of a brilliant descent. I reasoned that Clive mixed the routes up between events and it was inevitable we’d have to climb up one way or another. The route ascended the long way to the road (previously I’d always taken the short cut). If you don’t know where the check points are then you have to ride the whole route.

On the plus side I picked off a few riders up the climb. Once again I’d started out feeling a bit weak but as soon as I had to engage in grind then the body delivered the energy. I’m probably over exercising at the moment. I need to regulate my exertion levels on my training rides more carefully. Oh well. Strava gave me a 10th place up there and that includes stopping to take some photographs.

The long slog was rewarded with a short road descent right past where we’d just been.  You need some mental toughness for this mountain biking lark I suppose. I had a good opportunity to see the long line of riders in front of me. Targets to try picking off later.

The Roman road ascent was a big long boggy slog which I quite enjoyed. The first proper descent was down grassy slopes down to Craig Goch and it was very slippery.  Strava put me 3/18 for the day there. I’m really chuffed with that since I thought I was being too cautious.

Craig Goch dam in Elan Valley
Craig Goch dam

A long and gradual descent down the old tramway lead to the next big climb. I’ve done this before and knew there was only one really steep part as long as you took the left hand zig zag option. I managed to clear the whole lot and was cheered on by people pushing, which was great. At the top I bumped into a massive crowd of riders. I assumed that it was a queue for the check point. I was wrong. It was just a big social. In the middle of it was Philip from Mountain Bike Wales.

Social group at Clive Powell challengeAfter some questionable bog walking I got stuck into the Rhydoldog descent (5/16 on the day 15/55 all time). In the dry you can pretty much just point the bike and hang on. Soggy wet grass on sweeping corners made me think a lot more carefully about how much speed to carry. Definitely not as much fun as the dry.

It was time for tough walk up to the top of the famous gulley descent. I had a good look at the gulley (I rode it in the dry) before carefully walking down it. I passed Clive Powell who was cursing at his camera.

I tagged onto the back of a large group for the ride round the reservoirs including Gareth from Cycle Tec. It was a Sunday social, though with a good pace.

It’s hard to say whether this event was a race or not. It was certainly more fun than the typical race. The group used some local knowledge and took a track to cut a corner off and missed a checkpoint. One last climb up to the Cefn where Strava gave me a 9th place! I’m really pleased with that considering I stopped to have a rest by the farm.

Elan valley gulley

Elan valley gulley descent

A careful descent on the slippery mud lead to the river crossing where I took the bridge (I’ve ridden the ford when there’s less water). Then home was back in sight. My top speed of 50km/h was on the last road descent into town.

Foot suspension bridge over the river Elan

Three and half hours after setting off I was back at Clive Powell bikes for tea and soup. That was a great ride out. It offered some navigational interest, classic natural trails, riding companions and it was all over in good time.

Clive Powell challenge map Jan 2014

Route: Garmin connect | Strava | gpx

Stats (Garmin): 38km, 910m, elapsed 3h38m, moving 3h05m, av moving 12.4 km/h, 1700KCal.

Complete list of my Elan valley trips!

Video from Mountain Yoga breaks trip


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