Dolgellau has become something of a pioneering centre in the evolving field of adaptive mountain biking. The Mawddach Trail has always been an attractive route for adaptive cyclists, but a number of new developments have made it possible for adaptive riders to have genuine mountain biking experiences.
The MinorTaur trail, at the Forestry Commission Wales Coed y Brenin Trail centre, is a blue-grade mountain bike trail and was built to plug the gap between the ‘easy’ Yr Afon green route and the significantly more challenging red and black routes within the forest.
The MinorTaur follows a ‘daisy-chain’ design with loops of trail leaving and rejoining the Yr Afon trail, giving plenty of opportunities to tailor a ride to the desires and abilities of the group.
By no means being an ‘easy’ trail, the MinorTaur was designed to give a progressive introduction into technical mountain biking, and is engineered to be wide enough to take adaptive mountain bike trikes and quads along its entire length, making it a fairly unique facility in Britain.
On a recent try-out, we managed to ride a wide variety of adaptive bikes down the first exciting sections. Make no mistake though, this is no all ability trail; there are significant climbs, bermed corners (a series of 10 back to back in the ‘Slipway’ section alone) and step-drops.
The MinorTaur is a great place to learn and hone your skills, but for all riders the trail will take a degree of fitness, skill and nerve to complete in style.
With this trail open every day of the year, the centre is able to offer genuine mountain biking experiences to a wider range of riders, though as with mountain biking in general, it is not going to be appealing, suitable or indeed possible for every adaptive cyclist. Equally, the rough nature and steepness of sections of the trail will mean that it might not be suitable for all adaptive bikes.
In partnership with the Snowdonia National Park Authority, Sport Wales, and Disability Sport Wales, the aim of the Discover Dolgellau ‘Challenge your Boundaries’ project is to develop and promote adaptive mountain biking as a sport in the Southern Snowdonia region of Wales, and to show that adaptive MTB is a means by which active people with disabilities can regain access to the mountain wilderness, or simply experience it for the first time.
The project, based at the Coed y Brenin mountain bike trail centre just outside Dolgellau, provides equipment and opportunities for the coaching and development of riders with a disability to a point where they can make independent or at least semi-independent journeys off-road.
All adaptive MTB riders will need to pass through a half-day accreditation process before they are able to take out ‘Challenge your Boundaries’ bikes without one of the project's leaders.
Once accredited, they may book and take out equipment whenever it is available, for a rental fee (currently £25). There is no charge for the accreditation process if you attend one of the scheduled sessions (listed on their Facebook page, but there is the same rental fee for use of the bike.
The accreditation process will show riders how to operate the bike, describe the limits of where the rider may take the bike, and will make sure riders can deal with simple trail-side repairs like mending a puncture. It will also establish that, in the event of a minor crash (yes, they probably will happen now and again!), the rider can right the bike and get back on it.
The project also offers training for existing mountain bike leaders who would like to include adaptive riders within their groups.
With a background in teaching MTB leadership, and skills coaching, SnowBikers provided the biking know-how behind the 'Challenge your Boundaries' project, and were involved in the design of the associated coaching sessions. They conducted the pilot rides for the project and are now able to offer guided rides and skills coaching to riders of all abilities and at all levels.
Additionally, they offer 'Tandem Tours' which provide a great chance for visitors with visual impairment to experience the thrill of trail cycling in Wales. The popular Mawddach Trail is a great place to start a tandeming career, but more experienced riders might fancy upping the adrenalin by tackling some of the off-road mountain bike trails at Coed y Brenin.