A new electric bike hire company is taking cyclists off the beaten track to discover the best scenery in West Wales. Founder Ed Sykes told us what’s in store.
From craggy highlands dotted with stone circles to golden, sandy beaches, a mountain bike ride with Hidden Routes is one of the best ways to get to know the landscape of West Wales.
The new bike hire/guided tour company has a couple of important features that make it more accessible than most – and also more imaginative. For a start, its mountain bikes are electric, enabling access for novice riders or those who consider themselves unfit. Secondly, its experiences – which can be tailored to individual tastes and timescales – include opportunities for treats such as a swim in the sea, a beach sauna, and a warming cup of hot chocolate spiked with spiced rum from local producer Barti Rum.
Further options are available at Llys Meddyg, the Newport boutique hotel where Hidden Routes is based. A Sunday ride could be followed with a hearty Sunday lunch, while on other days you could opt for a meal in the restaurant or the Secret Garden – a picturesque, sheltered outdoor dining area where you’ll also find a yurt that will soon offer Japanese holistic therapies and a brick-built kiln where local fish are smoked for the kitchen.
Ed Sykes, who runs Llys Meddyg with his wife Lou, created Hidden Routes to enable people to enjoy the countryside of West Wales without having to drive. He encourages visitors to leave the car behind and arrive on the train; he can collect you from the railway station at Fishguard and drop you back there after your experience.
“I am super keen on encouraging people to not have a car,” he says. “You can leave London Paddington at lunchtime and be having supper with us that evening. You don’t have the hassle of having a car and can cover 40 or 50 miles a day on an electric mountain bike.”
While some guests stay for a night or two, others come just for the day. There are multiple options, from short introductory rides to day-long treks. The ability to provide electric bikes has been a game changer, with riders able to keep up and choose their own level of difficulty.
“You don’t have to be super fit because the electric bike thing makes things a lot easier,” says Ed. “Fitness differences can be levelled out through the settings on the bike.”
Hidden Routes’ guides are expert riders – often park rangers – who have intimate knowledge of the area.
“These are people who work alone quite often, so guiding is a nice change for them because it’s quite social – they meet other people and can show people the details of the landscape,” says Ed.
And what a landscape it is.
“It’s an immersive experience. You can be lofted right up to the Golden Road on the top of the Preselis where you’ve got an amazing view of the sea. You can explore the interior landscape and then fly down the mountains to the beach. We’re blessed with a lot of Iron Age remains, older, Neolithic sites like Pentre Ifan burial chamber, and ancient woodlands like Ty Canol woods, which are carpeted in moss.”
Trips can also include visits to the site where the Preseli Bluestone for Stonehenge was quarried, and to local food producers such as Pant Mawr Cheese or Bluestone Brewing Company.
“The routes are accessible – not too technical,” adds Ed. “If you can ride a bike on a road, you can do it. I would encourage people to come and try it, even if they have a bit of fear about it. We start them off slowly to find out what their ability is, and then we design it around them.”