Cycling in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire
With little traffic on its many back roads and the wonderful coastline of Pembrokeshire, the south west of Wales makes for some fine cycle touring. The Celtic Trail West (almost all on road) runs from Carmarthen to Fishguard, either along the coast (NCN4) or inland (NCN47); NCN82 continues inland up to Aberystwyth – a lovely trip over several days. Towns can be few and far between, though, so planning and being reasonably self-contained is a good idea – and Wales can be rainy.
The Preseli Hills aren’t huge compared to other Welsh ranges, but you certainly know when you’re cycling through – and up and down – them. South west of Carmarthen, you might drop into Dylan Thomas’s Laugharne and have a drink at Brown’s Hotel.
For families there are several short car-free options. Near Saundersfoot is The Tramway, a 2-mile railpath right on the coast, while Llanelli is on 27 miles of traffic-free (not always smooth) paths (NCN4 and NCN47). Ten miles north of Haverfordwest, Llys y Frân Country Park has a 3-mile waterside circuit great for young kids with a mountain bike.
Adult mountain bikers have a wide range of trails, some very challenging, to choose from in the forests of Brechfa (in remote country northwest of Carmarthen), Cwm Rhaeadr (a few miles north of that) and Crychan (close to the Brecons).
The university town of Aberystwyth, with its grand seafront setting and annual bike festival in and around the town in May, is at the end of NCN81, which has long traffic-free sections on its way there.
Cycling groups and clubs in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire Freewheelers CTC (Haverfordwest)
Regular rides in and around Pembrokeshire
Pembrey and Burry Port Cycle Club (Burry Port)
Community cycling club for all, beginners to competitors, families and charity riders
Talardd Cyclists Club (Llanllwni)
Narberth Dynamos Club (Narberth)
Regular rides in the wonderful Pembrokeshire area and beyond
CMC Adventure (Carmarthenshire)
Trail Blazers (Pembrokeshire)
Cycle Specific Velo (Carmarthenshire)
Pendine Cycling Club (Carmarthenshire)
What to take with you on your ride
The only thing you really need for cycling is a bike. And maybe a phone, and credit card: in Britain you’re only a call away from any service you might need.
But unless money is no object, it’s wise to take a few things with you on a day ride. A saddlebag, panniers or bikepacking bags are best for carrying stuff. A front basket is second best. A rucksack is third best. Your sweaty back will soon tell you why.
Cycling short distances in jeans and t-shirt is fine, but on a long or strenuous ride – over ten miles say, or in hills – those jeans will rub and the t-shirt will get damp and clingy. Shorts or, yes, lycra leggings and padded shorts will be much comfier, and merino or polyester cycling tops wick away the sweat, keeping you dry and comfy. (They don’t have to be lurid colours.)
If rain’s in the air, pack a rainproof top. If it might turn chilly, take a fleece or warm top. But the thing you’re most likely to forget is the sunblock.
It’s remarkable how often you enjoy being out on the bike so much that you suddenly realise it’s getting dark. So take lights (which are legally required at night). They’re price of a sandwich, take no space, are easy to put on thanks to tool-free plastic clips, and the batteries last for ever.
Take a puncture repair kit (with tyre levers) and pump. Make sure it fits your valves, which will be either ‘Presta’ or ‘Schraeder’ – realising they don’t match is a very common roadside discovery! Carrying a spare inner tube (make sure it matches your tyre size) makes puncture repair much easier: mend the old one back at home. If you do get in trouble, some kindly passing cyclist will probably stop to help.
Using a helmet is a personal choice – they’re not legally required.
Cycling makes you thirsty, so take lots of water. Long-distance riders talk about ‘the bonk’ – a sudden loss of energy rendering you almost stationary. It’s miraculously and instantly cured by eating something sweet. On short rides you’re unlikely to run out of energy, but just in case, take a snack like flapjack, banana, chocolate or jelly babies.
Taking a packed lunch or picnic will save you money, though that hot drink and cake in a cosy cafe could yet prove very tempting!
Your phone GPS could be invaluable for showing where you are when lost; you can download free detailed UK maps and GPS software before your trip.
Paper maps are still useful, though, so take one: no power source or wifi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.