The countryside north of Pumlumon is spectacular: defined by deeply-cloven valleys that take on almost gorge-like proportions as they slope down from the summit to join the River Dovey, just a short distance from the new-agey town of Machynlleth. The mountain itself, the highest in Mid Wales, is a little devoid of quality mtb tracks, but these northern foothills more than make up for that, with one or two that provide some magical riding.
This little figure-of-eight kicks off at the tiny hamlet of Staylittle, on the northern reaches of Llyn Clywedog, and follows a spectacular minor road up to the even smaller hamlet of Dylife, where the real action begins. It’s tame at first: a steady pull on a good jeep track, and bumpy section of duplex along a grassy ridge top. But as it loops lazily around the southern slopes of Y Crug, the awkward bank top trail turns sinuous singletrack, and the drop into the steep-sided gorge beyond is both dramatic and challenging.
The fun isn’t over yet, either. After an easy bridleway climb over Uwch-y-coed, a rougher track sneaks around the side of Foel Fadian and plunges spectacularly into the valley below. The steps get steeper as you go, and a few of the positions are wonderful — especially the big-dipper at the end, which will certainly test the traction of your tyres.
The climb from Aberhosan goes on forever, and then some; and you’ll probably be wondering whether it was all worth it by the time you hit the Wynford Vaughan Thomas memorial, with wonderful views over the valley below. It’s easy going from here: first over the brow, and then down to Dylife, where a short climb gains the ridge top again for a fast and furious final fling.