Singletrack classic rides: Riding the Dyfi

Distance 13 mi / 21 km
Traffic free
Circular route
The Climachx trail in the Dyfi Valley offers a day out for those looking for an alternative to the Athertons’ more well-known Dyfi Bike Park descents

Among mountain bikers, the Dyfi Forest has almost become synonymous with the Athertons’ famous Dyfi Bike Park. This is not surprising since the siblings not only built one of the UK’s most popular downhill venues but also established the production of Atherton Bikes in the nearby town of Machynlleth.

Not everyone visiting the Dyfi Valley comes here to shred Dan’s latest creations, though, and the Dyfi Valley has much more to offer than just its famous bike park. Visitors should keep their eyes peeled for osprey and even beavers while exploring the lush hillsides and valley floor, where a vast network of mountain bike trails coexists alongside an array of environmental projects.

One of these trails is Climachx – a wordplay on the name of the town. Built by Ecotrails in 2005, it loops around the forest a few miles north of Machynlleth. The trail has been a favourite since then, and parts of it have been used in events such as the infamous Winter Warm Up and the Dyfi Enduro.

In spite of living in this area for over six years, I had never ridden the full loop. We’ve done the final descent – Tony the Tiger – a few times but each time I had ended up hiking my bike down most of the track, swearing under my breath (and sometimes out loud).

On one occasion I had to use our dog lead to hoist my son Nathan and his bike out of the trees down the side of the track after he came in too hot and tumbled several metres down the cliff. It’s safe to say, the tiger terrified me.

A grrrr-eat start

With the 2023 race season over for my two downhill-crazy boys, and with newfound confidence in my own riding skills after a recent trip to Ballater and Comrie Croft, it was time to have another look at this classic loop.

We invited a group of young local riders and opted to start in Corris as eight of us live in the local villages and could ride to the starting point. The promise of tea, coffee and cake from Idris Stores at the end of the ride was another, not unimportant, deciding factor.

We met on a sunny autumn morning in the village car park, next to the Corris Steam Railway Museum. There was still a chill in the air but it seemed like the forecast of rain showers all day was on the pessimistic side. After a week of heavy rain, it was nice to see the sun out. The forest looked inviting with the moisture rising from the trees in whisps of fog.

After the inevitable faffing to get bikes and people ready, we set off through the village, down Minffordd Street to cross the River Dulas and head up into the forest. We followed the back road between Corris and Ceinws for about half a mile.

It forms part of the National Cycle Route 8 which stretches over some 400km from Anglesey to Cardiff. Locally, it connects Machynlleth with Dolgellau, allowing access to the Dyfi Forest trails from a multitude of locations. This first climb certainly woke us up properly.

We turned left onto a bridleway which forms a shortcut up to the forestry road. By this time, a few of us had to dismount and start pushing our bikes as the bridleway is short but steep.

Once we reached the forestry road, we got back in the saddle to tackle the longest climb of the day, locally known as ‘The Enduro Climb’. The young guns were pedalling easily but it wasn’t long before I started contemplating my life choices as the view of cosy Corris disappeared behind the trees…

Children are riding in a line along a village high road. They are all on mountain bikes and have helmets on. There is traffic alongside them
Passing Idris Stores in Corris – the last flapjack supplies for a while

The night before our ride, I’d met Rachel Atherton in the petrol station in Machynlleth and told her about our ride out. She offered me the loan of an e-bike which I declined, thinking it wouldn’t be fair on the other riders if I turned up as the only one with extra power.

Halfway up the climb, I certainly regretted my decision when my lungs were burning and my legs already started to ache before we had even hit the trails. Esme, a 12-year-old downhill racer, joined me in musing why anyone would choose to ride uphill, let alone enjoy it.

Ian, one of the dads who joined our young gang, disagreed. He loves a climb and thinks it makes the descent extra sweet if you’ve earned it. He pedalled off, chasing his son Louis up the hill shouting questionable encouragements.

Deciding our walking muscles needed a workout too, Esme and I got off our bikes and pushed the rest of the climb.

Elephant in the room

The rest of the group was waiting for us at the top, at a T-junction of forestry tracks. Straight ahead was the track that leads down to the official Climachx car park, while the one on the left headed deep into the Dyfi Forest where miles of singletrack were waiting.

On our right was the trail we would take at the end of our route in the afternoon – the final descent of the Climachx route, my nemesis, Tony the Tiger. We turned left towards our first bit of gnar.

Elephant isn’t part of the original Climachx route but is a local old-time favourite and a great way to link up to Climachx. Given that we took a different starting point, it was a no-brainer to add it in. Nathan and Tomos, 14 and 15 years old, warmed up for the first steep bit by sending it down a chute on the bank opposite the trailhead, straight into a deep puddle, as you do.

Ian gave us an exact rundown of what was ahead, only to find that we turned left halfway down, taking Elephant Shortcut instead. As I went up the bus stop to set up for the left-hand turn, I regretted this instantly, finding myself faced with roots and a steep entrance to the next bit of the trail.

Going by Ian’s description, I think I would have preferred the old Elephant, but the others were already sending it down the shortcut at full speed.

It’s probably fair at this point to state that I put myself firmly in the bracket of ‘below average’ riders if the previous hasn’t made that clear already. Elephant made me once again review my life choices and wonder what on earth I was doing on this ride.

Fortunately, photographer Nils was ready with some sound advice as I tried to make my way down the deep, twisting rut. “Just stay on your bike but put one foot down to scoot yourself forwards. You won’t fall off.” Advice I would put into practice a few more times that day.

Rain doesn’t stop play

The final chute back onto the forestry track had turned into a little stream after all the rain from the past week but was still perfectly rideable for everyone (bar me). It had been raining pretty much non-stop all week, with ‘yellow’ warnings of rain for several days.

Fortunately, other than some puddles here and there, the tracks didn’t reflect the amount of celestial water we had seen. That’s the beauty of the slate bedrock around here – water runs straight off, leaving the tracks perfectly rideable all year round. Recent drainage work put in by Natural Resources Wales and the volunteers of Dyfi Mountain Biking also helped.

Towards our left we could already spot the start of Easy Rider, the next section of singletrack. It turned out to be exactly what the name promised – a beautiful stretch of easy singletrack with a couple of rocky sections to keep it interesting.

Three people are sitting on the ground. It's muddy and they're wearing muddy mountain biking kit. Their bikes are lying on the ground next to them. One woman is holding a pie.
Ina educates about proper pie preparation

It gave me confidence that I’d be doing more than taking my bike for a walk that day. It brought us out onto an older forestry track, covered in grass, that led us up the other side of the hill to the top of my favourite track of the day – Va-va-voom.

We took a moment to admire the view that awaited us there – layer upon layer of green hills, some topped with trees, others with fields dotted with sheep. A brief, light shower made Cari and I look for a rainbow before we all dropped in.

Va-va-voom skirts downhill around the valley on the edge between a section of clear-fell and the woodland above, offering views across the valley for most of the way before heading back into the woods. It’s not steep but you soon carry a fair bit of speed, enough for the young guns to get airtime on the small rollers.

I spotted a variety of mushrooms on the side – it was a shame there was no time to stop to pick an evening meal of ceps and chanterelles. The track ended in a few big puddles waiting for a splash.

Who doesn’t love splashing? Turns out a few of us, not just Nils who unsurprisingly opted to ride slow through the puddles to protect his camera equipment. By this time my bum was wet anyway… I hadn’t been one of the sensible ones who put waterproof trousers on.

Fist bumps and jumps

Back on the forestry track we had the option of following the signs for the original Climachx or adding a little extra. Knowing that the downhill-loving youth found the ride rather tame so far, we opted to add a little detour down Dicko’s to give them a bit of an adrenaline boost before we stopped for lunch.

Four riders needed to head home early and with Dicko’s finishing on the forestry road that leads straight back into the village of Ceinws, it made sense to go that way.

Cari and Esme set off ahead of me and within seconds disappeared into the distance. These girls are fast and fearless! I was enjoying the wide track with several lines to choose from until my brain made me grind to a halt at the top of a rocky drop.

I accepted Nils’s invitation to push up a little bit and try it again. While the speedier among us got quite sendy on that section, it was perfectly rollable for the likes of me and got me buzzing to make it down. The rest of the group celebrated my achievement with fist bumps and cheers.

The second part of Dicko’s drops out of the woods into a fast-rolling set of jumps and berms before crossing a fire road into the third part, a final descent down steep and loose slate. The younger crew flew off the whoops sending some steezy shapes.

We all stopped on the fire road where we said goodbye to Tom, Tomos, Bertie and his dad, George, who needed to head home for a much-needed sleep. George had come straight out of a night shift but as Bertie was the youngest of the group at two days shy of 11, his dad had made a massive effort to join the ride with him.

The rest of us stopped for a quick picnic lunch on the fire road, enjoying the wide-open views across the valley. This part of the forest was completely felled in 2018 but thanks to the tireless liaising from David Evans with Natural Resources Wales and the efforts of the Dyfi MTB volunteers, Dicko’s was rebuilt afterwards.

A boy is cycling on a mountain bike down a gravel trail. He is wearing a blue waterproof cycling jacket and black mountain biking trousers and a helmet.
Dicko’s final descent down steep and loose slate

It’s possible to ride the whole track and go back up from the bottom, but a few of us were starting to feel the climbs in our legs. Weighing up the balance between the extra adrenaline and the energy needed to head all the way up, we did only two-thirds.

When we sat down to eat, a buzzard agreed it was time for lunch, catching the thermals up the valley to see what rodent snack was on the menu today. The first big shower of the day cut our lunch break short.

The open views across the clear-fell came with a price to pay as the wind across the valley was cold. Time to get back on the bikes, for once we welcomed the climb to warm us back up.

Choosing wisely

The forest road brought us through a beautiful section of deciduous woodland, a welcome change from all the conifers. Ruben and I admired the beech trees covered in thick moss from roots to crown, looking for faces in the shapes, while we pushed up the hill, a little bit behind the rest of the group.

A bunch of friendly motocross riders coming down the road told us the top of the hill wasn’t far off. We had heard the noise of their engines before and knew to be careful. Some MX riders are quite cheeky and zoom up or down the mountain bike trails but most of the Climachx sections have barriers across the start to prevent accidents occurring.

Back at the top of Dicko’s, we rejoined the Climachx route. At this point, Ruben and I decided to stay on the fire road and save our energy for the final descent. Having spent most of the week in bed with a nasty cold, Ruben’s energy levels were not at their usual and the numerous climbs were causing his chest to hurt.

With the next two sections running more or less parallel to the forestry road leading us all back to the top of our first climb, we agreed to meet the others there for a final snack stop before the last descent.

The others turned off onto Better Late Than Never. I marked it for my next ride as Cari and Esme told me it’s similar to Va-va-voom but even more fun, a bit up and a lot more down.

We passed the top of Va-va-voom, a woodpecker flying high up in a tree as we approached. The rest of the group headed up Where’s My Ball?, which leads off to the left. It’s a big climb to the highest point of the whole route before descending back to the start of Tony the Tiger.

Ruben and I continued on the forestry track, past Elephant and reached the meeting point just before Nathan came skidding out of the woods, clearly having a lot of fun on the hardtail, which was kindly provided by Wheelism. It wouldn’t have been much fun doing this loop on his downhill bike!

Perhaps as a result of the skidding, Nathan spotted a puncture in his rear tyre before we headed down the final descent. I was rather grateful for the extended break while Nathan put a fresh tube in.

He’d left the tyre levers at home but Ian was already there to peel the tyre off the bead with his bare hands. Remember this man loves a climb…

Beating Section 8

It wasn’t long before we were all ready to head down Tony the Tiger, for some grrrrrreat fun. The track got its name when the original dig crew found a balloon with the cartoon character’s face on it, but it’s known locally as Section 8.

It consists of two miles of downhill with a couple of short rock garden climbs thrown in. Keep your speed as you head into them and you’ll get up and over, but if you’ve slowed down too much you’ll most likely be pushing your bike.

On the other hand, if you’re going too fast through the first woodland, you may miss the ideal photo opportunity where a small clearing offers the perfect view of Corris at the bottom of the valley against the backdrop of the majestic Cadair Idris.

Two people are riding down a very muddy off-road track on mountain bikes. They are wearing mountain biking kit and helmets.
The younger crew built up some nice speed going downhill

A few rock rolls brought us out of the woods. Now heading west, the view changed to look across the Dyfi Valley and the track became a bit more rocky with a few drops and slate slabs. Most drops were perfectly rollable though, even for me, and to my surprise, I even managed to ride the big slate slab.

This was the section I was most terrified of last time but inspired by all the youngsters flying down, I was determined to do better. I repeated the words of encouragement Nathan and Ruben had for me in Ballater. “You got this, Mum.” “It’s not as scary as it looks.”

Only one drop almost sent me over the bars, but as I found out in the car park later, I forgot to release my forks out of lockout after the climbs. Silly newbie error!

A big berm with layers of exposed slate turned us back towards the woods where a hairpin berm sent us into the final open section. Two big arrows are perfectly placed to warn riders well in advance of the sharp left-handers.

The drop is rather steep so you wouldn’t want to be going straight ahead at full speed… Tony The Tiger finishes with a section of berms which have been recently restored by the Dyfi Mountain Biking trail crew before the fire road brings you into the Climachx car park.

From there it’s only a short ride back to Corris. The promise of cake, if we made it back in time before the village shop closed, made us pedal just that little bit faster.

As we rode back I pondered the beauty of mountain biking. Here we were, riding as a mixed group with a variety of ages and abilities, having a fab day out together. Everyone looking out for each other, celebrating whoops and wins, and encouraging each other on the climbs.

I may still be a ‘below average’ mountain biker but that doesn’t stop me from having an above-average load of fun.

Why bother?

This route is a great all-weather ride in its own right but is also ideal for those who want something else to do while others get the downhill laps in at Dyfi Bike Park. Since the bike park is pretty intense – and riding tired is a great recipe for crashing – this route would also be an ideal Sunday ride to pair up with a Saturday of uplifts and make a full weekend away riding.

The beauty of this route doesn’t just lie in the variety of singletrack or the amazing views, but also in its versatility. The main forestry roads form easy-to-follow veins through the woods from where the network of trails spring.

You can start from the south side at the official Climachx car park or even ride up from Machynlleth, or from the north side in Corris. The original Climachx loops around the forest but extras can be added or parts omitted to make the ride fit the rider.

Don’t have much time? Then just head up the Enduro Climb and run down Tony the Tiger to pack in a maximum amount of fun. Alternatively, you can do the whole Climachx with all the extras (Elephant, Builth and Dicko’s) for a full-on day in the saddle.

Due to the diversity of its natural beauty, heritage and wildlife, the area was recognised as UNESCO Dyfi Biosphere in 2009. Otters and salmon swim in the rivers, beavers are being reintroduced, ospreys migrate from Africa and breed here every year while the saltmarsh is an important fuel and nesting place for migrating waterfowl.

As well as plenty of nature reserves, there is farmland, the Centre for Alternative Technology, beaches, walking routes – and a vast network of mountain biking trails. Plenty of off-the-bike attractions.

This route features in Singletrack magazine issue 152 as part of its Classic Rides series which Cycling UK supports. Cycling UK members can enjoy 50% off a print and digital Singletrack subscription.

A young female mountain biker is riding downhill across a rocky terrain and tree roots.
Above-average fun

The knowledge

Distance: 13.3 miles.
Elevation: 2,630ft.
Time: 3 hours.
OS map: Explorers OL23 and OL215.

Getting there

If travelling by train make sure to check if there are any rail replacement buses on the route as they won’t take bikes. Cycle Route 8 links the town with the Dyfi Forest.

The Climachx car park has no facilities, but Machynlleth and the nearby villages offer all you need. In busy times of the year parking will be very limited in the villages so please park responsibly and don’t leave vehicles at the local cafés or visitor centres while you’re out riding.

A few times each year the forest is closed for rally racing. The Dyfi MTB website offers up-to-date information. Consider making a donation to towards maintenance of the trails.

Food and drink

The Corris Craft Centre café serves an all-day menu – best check opening hours beforehand as they vary throughout the year.

Idris Stores has everything from coffee and snacks to spare innertubes and local produce. Their Google Maps listing has up-to-date opening hours.

Tafarn Dwynant in Ceinws serves a variety of drinks while The Slaters Arms in Corris also has pub meals.


The area has options for all budgets and plenty of bike friendly places to stay:

  • Bike Corris: Off-grid glamping in Corris with owner David Evans offering guided rides for guests
  • Fronwen Lodge: Luxury self-catering accommodation for up to 6 guests, ride straight from the front door
  • Dyfi Adventure Campsite: Family-run non-electric camping pitches, as well as glamping and shepherd’s huts on the edge of the Dyfi Forest
  • Gwerniago: Campsite on a working farm just outside Machynlleth offering electric and non-electric pitches as well and motorhome camping.
  • Pubs with accommodation: The Slaters Arms in Corris, the White Lion Hotel and the Wynnstay Hotel in Machynlleth. The Old Vicarage in Corris offers a luxury B&B experience

Bike shops

  • Mach 10 Cycles in Machynlleth offers parts, repairs and a small fleet of Bird Aeris 9 demo bikes
  • Wheelism in nearby Abergynolwyn offers everything from servicing to coaching, guided rides and hire bikes
  • Based in Corris, Rikki Barrett offers coaching and guiding in the Dyfi Forest and beyond