I've been waiting to do this ride for a while - it's in the mountains of South Wales, so, obviously, you need a fine day. And today was ideal - 20ºC, and the wind only from time to time. That doesn't happen often.
The point of the ride is that the scale feels a bit Alpine. The hills are long, but well graded, and there are plenty of hairpins to keep the progress smooth. It joins three good climbs in Simon Warren's 'Greatest Cycling Climbs' book, with one of them being tackled from both sides, into a ride of just over forty miles with fourteen hairpins and 4700 ft of ascent. That's a good day out, without being excessive.
Everything being set, I made a fairly early start from home and drove down to Ogmore Vale. There's a good, well surfaced cycle path that takes you from there past Nantymoel and the busier part of the road, and then you're straight in to the climb. I had hardly started when a local rider - Dale - pulled alongside and we passed the time of day to the top. He was going to Ferndale Woods, which he recommended as very pretty, and he warned me that my planned itinerary was pretty hilly - that's why I'm doing it, I told him. We parted at the Bwlch - big views immediately - and I swooped down to Treorchy to start the climb to the Rhigos. Six miles steady climbing, with some very Alpine hairpins, and even bigger views over the Brecon Beacons from the top.
Hairpins again on the way down, with a rather slower descent to Aberdare. The valley wind had got up, and I had to pedal downhill at some places, but at least it would give me a push on the big hill to come.
No such luck. Valley winds are valley winds, and you don't get them on the hillside. So a hard pull through the woods, the heat bringing out flies, before I got above the trees and had a bit of breeze before the top. Flying over the top, then down again, no valley wind this time, and eventually back to Treorchy. Only the Bwlch left.
I took this at a steady pace (slowly), and was pleased to buy an ice-cream from Canale's van at the top. They've been selling ice-cream there since the 1920s, when there was considerable Italian immigration into this part of Wales. It's nice to see that Carpanini, Servini and Canale are still going strong, offering what is, by now, a very Welsh-Italian cuisine.
One last swoop down again, back into the car and off to London. The only tedious bit was a jam on the M25 at the end. Hey ho.
I recommend the area, as long as you get the weather. About three and a half hours by car, or about two hours by train to Bridgend and an extra ten miles each way. A good day out, or weekend if you fancy more. There's plenty!