Taking some inspiration from our road route the Short Sharp Shock, we’ve come up with an off-road alternative for those of you who like to feel the mud in your hair.
This is not the sort of route you’ll find at a trail centre. It is a number of shared routes, forest trails and fire roads that you may well share with walkers and horse riders.
Please ride responsibly. Think “active afternoon with the family” or “muddy shortcuts” rather than segments on Strava.
Head up the hill from the centre of Tongwynlais towards Castell Coch and continue on the road past the quarry entrance. If you are feeling adventurous there are some paths you can take that will bring you to the back of the Forest Cafe, but that’s one for another day.
On your right you should see an entrance to the bridleway, along with a bridge across the brook. Take a right here and join the trail.
In summer this trail will be pretty dry and easy to navigate, but in winter it tends to get churned up and will accumulate water in some of the deeper channels. Pick your line carefully here, but we found it pretty easy just heading straight through the puddles.
Eventually you will reach a sharp right turn, marking the start of the main challenge on this route.
Bearing in mind you’ve been climbing the whole way already, this takes it up to just under 11% on quite rocky terrain. On 35mm cyclocross tires this proved a bit tricky, but this steep section is quite short and a sharp left will soon emerge for the first descent.
Here, if you so desired, you could go straight on and arrive at the top of Rhiwbina Hill. Used in reverse, this could be a shortcut back to Tongwynlais from Rhiwbina.
You should see a brick shack to the left of the path, but plow on through some undulating terrain until you arrive back at Heol-y-Fforest. Here you head straight across the road and left towards the Fforest Fawr car park.
Head straight down the middle on the access road. It’s a bit of a bone-shaker but it’ll take you behind the castle and down towards Taffs Well.
Eventually you will come to one of those beloved (arf!) access barriers that RCT Council are famous for. Get through it as best you can. On a mountain bike you may need to lift it over, but those on drop bars shouldn’t have too much trouble.
You’ll emerge on an old railway line, making it pretty straight, flat and with the occasional relic from a more industrious time. Eventually you’ll arrive at an intersection with another former railway line, the Penrhos Cutting.
Take a left here and follow the trail down to Taffs Well, where you can join the Taff Trail back to Tongwynlais.