| Wales N.B. |Rough Ride Guide - Welsh Coast to Coast
I don’t claim to be a map reading expert…far from it, but after numerous bike tours I am pretty savvy when it comes to navigation. I was therefore quite surprised how challenging I found the well-annotated RRG Welsh C2C. At this point, I want to emphasise this is NOT a damnation, far from it, rather some constructive feedback for other cycling enthusiasts considering the RRG Welsh C2C.
First and foremost, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with Ordnance Survey maps. The better your understanding of the scale, symbols and general features found on these designs the easier you’re going to find navigating the routes. It had been a long time since I’d used Ordnance Survey and after adopting much smaller scale maps for previous trips it was quite a shock to the system. The RRG Welsh C2C does not come with the Ordnance Survey key and it’s pretty essential for the ride in my opinion. That said, the rest of the RRG map folders include a full Ordnance survey key. Therefore, if you purchased the Welsh C2C as part of a bundle then you’ll have the key in another binder. However, if bought independently I’d recommend sourcing a map key pre-ride.
Secondly, In the past I’ve generally planned routes myself or followed a set ride covering a large geographical area e.g. the 450km Black Forest ‘ Bike Crossing’ route. I’m not used to following someone else’s ride, particularly when it zig-zags so frequently between different trails. Although the annotations in the RRG were generally good, I found that attempts to be as short hand as possible made some directions a little confusing. This is made worse when the notes reference quite generic countryside features as waymarkers e.g. on the last day the map mentioned a ‘pool of water’ before the turn off. However, torrential rain meant the track was lined with 'pools of water' and the trail had numerous overlapping tracks/forks every few hundred meters. This is not a condemnation as the author is simply trying to distinguish notable waymarkers in areas with no signage. I’m just reaffirming that a second map, compass or GPS device is essential for some of the more remote trails.
Thirdly, these are ‘MTB’ routes, not necessarily ‘bikepacking’ trails. If you’re approaching these rides with a mountain bike and a credit card you’re going to be just fine. Alternatively, if like me, you’re taking a rather cumbersome/heavy bikepacking set-up it’s going to be physically tough, I’d recommend the lightest rig possible. This moves me onto my last point, I would strongly suggest tackling these routes in the summer months. This will enable you to pack more frugally, as the warmer weather will allow you to carry less clothing and more comfortably utilize a minimal tarp set-up. Furthermore, during the winter months many of the routes become completely unrideable and make a small number of trails dangerous. Whilst I was away heavy rain meant small streams crossing tracks had become pretty fierce and posed a risk of sweeping me off my feet…not ideal when some of the routes run alongside sheer drops (the Welsh C2C map does make a number of references to potentially hazardous singletrack in bad weather). Additionally, large sections had become ankle deep in muddy sludge. I’m not saying it’s impossible during the winter, far from it, but in hindsight I think it would’ve been a more enjoyable ride in the summer.
As mentioned previously, the above is in no way a negative review of the RRG Welsh C2C. The company has done a truly excellent job of piecing together an epic 330km MTB ride from Conwy all the way to Port Talbot and I take my helmet off to them. I’m merely conveying my personal experience with the maps and offering a few constructive points in the hope that it helps other cycling enthusiasts get the very best out of these epic routes.