Cycling in South Wales
Cycling in South Wales
Despite Swansea, Newport and Cardiff and their suburbs taking up so much of South Wales, the Sustrans map of South Wales is a blur of green: that colour denotes off-road routes, and every one of the valleys seems to have its own green trail. The majority of Wales’s 1,200 miles of National Cycle Network routes are here, most of them offering traffic-free cycling in thrilling scenery.
Most notable is the Taff Trail (NCN8), running its richly interesting off-road way from Cardiff Bay, at the focus of the capital, through Pontypridd to Merthyr Tydfil (where it crosses on a tremendous traffic-free viaduct, Cefn Coed) and ultimately Holyhead. With lots of places to sightsee, mainly flat character, wildlife corridors and also towns and villages, the Taff Trail is great for family cycling.
The towpath of the Monmouth and Brecon Canal is another lovely family ride, running as the NCN49 for 11 miles from Newport up to Pontypool. Another fine and gentle route is from Port Talbot to Afan Forest Park (NCN887), a 12-mile return trip with interesting artwork, the South Wales Miners’ Museum, mountain bike trails and great views all en route. The six-mile bayside path from Swansea to Mumbles Head, an old railpath (part of NCN4) gives more easy trundling.
That NCN4 is part of the Celtic Trail, which has some long stretches of off-road as it makes its way from Chepstow all the way to Fishguard: 377 miles of challenging but spectacular riding for the confident tourer.
As a place for everyday cycling, Cardiff benefits from gentle gradients, large parks and sincere ambitions: around 10% of commutes are on two wheels and the aim is to double that. Infrastructure is still variable, though, and friendly routes sparse. The Bay, at least, is an easy and pleasant area to bike around, ringed by car-free paths.
Cycling groups and clubs in South Wales
Llantwit Major & Vale CTC (Llantwit)
Swansea and West Wales (Swansea)
Regular Sunday and Wednesday rides in Swansea and around
Wilson’s Wheelers (Cardiff)
Owen’s Riding Cycling Association (Cardiff)
Charity memorial ride on Sat 24 Jun
5 4 3 2 1 Cymru (Cardiff)
Atradius Bicycle Users Group (Cardiff)
WG BUG/GDB LIC (Cardiff)
Cardiff Pedal Power Project (Cardiff)
Cycling charity for all with hire bikes, events, etc
Cycle Tech Rhondda (Rhondda)
Ogmore Valley Wheelers CC (Bridgend)
Club and social rides, time trials, coaching and turbo sessions
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 or rear rack and panniers 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.
What have we missed? Recommend your favourite routes using the comments box below.
Cycling routes in South Wales
Cycling events in South Wales
Make sure your bike is working
(from our partners, Halfords)
Creaking cranks, wobbly wheels or slipping saddles are the last thing you want, but Halfords' guide to basic bike maintenance will keep you rolling smoothly. Whether you’re a regular commuter, a leisurely weekend rider, or prefer to tear it up on a serious MTB trail, signs of wear and tear might keep you off the saddle from time to time. Whilst we can’t promise to banish those roadside mishaps, we can help keep your bike tip top with our top tips!
You’re heading out on your lovely bike, with a pannier packed with your essentials. A glorious route lies ahead, but then you run into a spot of bother! Most of the time there are handy hacks you can do to tide you over whilst out and about, and we’ve taken a look into the most common bike problems and solutions…
Clicking saddle? Check that the bolts connecting the saddle to the seat post are not loose. Tighten until the saddle is firmly secured using an allen key from your trusty toolbox!
Squealing brakes? This could be down to dirt or oil on the brake pads. Give it a quick wipe down, then when you get home take the brake pads off and readjust.
Squeaky derailleur? A little lube should help. Remove any excess.
Creaky pedals? Dry pedal bearings, loose crank arms or a worn bottom bracket could be the culprit. Once home, remove and lube the pedal bearings, tighten and lube the crank arms, or replace the bottom bracket if it’s still making a fuss.
Some of the problems you find with your bike might need a closer look, and here’s where we can help!
Wobbling disc rotors, spongy brakes and rattling bolts needn’t be as pesky as they sound for long enough to keep you off your bike! Call and see us with your two wheels at your local Halfords, or with any other bike bothers you might have.
From as little as £15 a year, Halfords will take the labour out of looking after your bike. Halfords offer a range of care packages, they provide free fitting on all parts and accessories bought from Halfords, and even include an annual service worth £50 as part of the plan!