Starting at sea level always makes a ride seem that little bit tougher, and from the narrow streets of the small coastal town of Newport, Pembrokeshire, the roller-coaster ridge of the Preseli Hills looks positively daunting. It would be so easy to opt for a day on the beach.
Once up, though, the Preselis really do cut the mustard; not just because of the riding — although this is pretty damn good in places — but because of the spectacular position they occupy, high above the West Wales coastline, commanding huge views in all directions.
The route starts, rather inevitably, with a big climb. It’s not all pain and suffering though. The first descent of the day, a rocky ramble that skips around the edge of Carn Ingli and plummets down into Cwm Gwaun, is one of the finest in the area; splitting the toil up neatly. There are few breathers after this until you complete the traverse of the steep flanks of Foel Eyri and join the main track that crosses the Preseli Ridge.
This isn’t too promising to start with, particularly the first shallow saddle, which is boggy and trackless and will quickly have you wondering what on earth you’ve let yourself in for. Stay with it, a short climb soon exposes a clear track that then rolls along the tops offering challenging ruts, steep descents and punishing climbs. It runs for a whopping 10 kilometres in total but you’ll still be wanting more.
The final drop doesn’t quite live up to expectation, especially the boggy, gorse bush jungle that connects the open hillside with the much more satisfying final descent track. Don’t worry, it’s plain sailing after this and there’s plenty of opportunity to really spin on the long road leg back into Newport.