Posted this on a local forum and cross-posted here previously. And to re-iterate to the willy-waver with poor comprehension skills from the last thread, I didn't consider Raven "too hard"
Just got back from 2 nights/3 days in mid/south Wales, exploring centres and trails we havent ridden before. Hopefully some useful info for someone.
We rode the longest trail, the 35km Syfydrin. This combines all the trail centre singletrack of the 16km Summit trail with a massive natural doubletrack loop out into the back of beyond. Terrific views and a real old-school XC explore feel, very exposed so would be horrendous in poor weather. The singletrack is typical of trail centres ie. good quality, all weather surface. If you werent expecting the non-challenging backcountry feel I can imagine it being disappointing or frustating but we loved it. Excellent facilities on-site (good cafe), its popular with bird watchers and walkers not just MTB so has had a lot of investment. Best views of any centre in Wales.
Rode the longest trail, the red Gorlech in the morning, and the slightly shorter black Raven in the afternoon. They run out of different car parks a few miles apart, with no facilities bar (very clean and well maintained) chemical toilets. You can join them together for one big loop but it suited us to move sites as part of the trip. The Gorlech trailhead map claims to have 1070m of climbing which is laughable- I can only imagine Rowan Sorrell confused feet with metres (otherwise we need to give Dave Brailsford a call about our climbing prowess). Lots of swoopy hardpack singletrack, pretty much all in forest so good riding even in poor weather, no big climbs, and a few bermy/bumpy/jumpy sections courtesy of Mr Sorrell. The final descent with its multiple lines, berms and tabletops is something you'd want to session again and again.
The Raven left us both a bit "meh". You go from noodling up a steep singletrack climb (seems to have far more and steeper climbs than Gorlech), turn a corner and youre dropping into a Swiss national DH-style precipitous rocky bermfest. I dont know what Rowan Sorrell's brief was, but the hardpack "bike park" sections are brilliant play riding but completely incongruous and jar with the rest of the trail. There's a lot of natural dirt as well as hardpack singletrack and if you took all the "gnarl" sections out it'd be a cracking trail centre XC route. Both bits are good fun riding but the mix seems odd.
There is a 6km trail (Cwm Rhaedr) nearby which was basically Rowan Sorrell's dry run. I couldnt be arsed unloading and reloading the car for 6k but it is well reviewed.
After chatting to the FC Ranger we chose to ride Y Wall. Penhydd will re-open in September and be pretty much new, the logging operations have moved from Afan valley to Glyncorrwg valley so Whites Level/Skyline suffer heavy detours. They are also building a brand new 30+km trail, Blade, that will join Wall and Whites Level (rather than the fireroad slog it is to join them to make W2 now).
Y Wall has always been a fave trail of mine, and theyve managed to improve it with half a dozen new sections of singletrack. The ride down the side of the river and back up the fireroad on the other side has been replaced with singletrack sections out of (Alpha) and into (Omega) the centre, over a new purpose-built bridge. Some of the climb is covered in a new "Elevator" section, which has that magical quality of sucking you along and uphill without you realising. There are other new sections of singletrack too. At the top of the trail, before the final "zigzags" descent you keep riding uphill, in order to ride a bike skills trail (its near a second smaller trail centre building) which has perfectly flowing swoopy pumpy berms. Had it not been p1ssing with rain we would have done multiple runs of this- I cant remember another set of berms that flows so well (at trail centres subsequent berms often tighten up to force you to lose speed rather than let you keep it up).
There is another new centre, Blaengarw, relatively close by, apparently its awesome but again only about 6km and is worth riding to from Afan rather than driving (as its in a different valley its only a few miles away, but 45mins by road). Next time.
Is in north wales. And is crap.