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Barney takes a trip to Hay, while the sun shines…

This isn’t how it usually works. If you’re a freelancer like wot I is (Barney Marsh, writer of rongs, that’s me), you usually find yourself pitching ideas like a desperate, capering gibbon to the dispassionate Singletrack suits with their blank faces and dark glasses, before one of them presses a button which either leads to a commission or (more often) a trapdoor to the metaphorical furnace room at the bottom of Singletrack Towers.

But Hannah – who essentially operates as the Metatron of Singletrack – told me she’d had an email from a young chap called Lew Price who actually suggested a ride in that there Hay-on-Wye. Lew emailed alluringly of stunning views, stiff climbs and sweet, sweet singletrack, and stuff – ooooooooh. So, like a keen little hamster – albeit one who owns a van – I trotted off, cheeks stuffed with bike gear, to the far northeastern bit of the Brecons to see what was what.


Gospel truth.

Hay-on-Wye evokes a variety of feelings in me. Yes, it’s at the very tippy top of the easternmost bit of the Brecon Beacons National Park, but that’s not it. For me, and I suspect for most people who’ve heard of it at all, the things that will spring to mind are books. Lots and lots of books. There are over 20 bookshops, there’s a world-renowned book and literature festival, and the place is frankly seething with literature-fiends, if that’s even a thing and not a weird oxymoron. Oh, there are plenty of road riders too, who head over there from places such as Bristol to drink tea before heading up and over the famed Gospel Pass – the highest road pass in Wales. I was one of them, a disturbingly long time ago, back when I was lithe, young and beautiful. Indeed, a few of those road riders might have concluded, as I did, gliding gracefully huffing and puffing up the pass, that there must be some pretty good mountain biking in these here hills, before idly letting such matters slide along with the descent into Abergavenny. And some of those road riders would be right.

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About Singletrack

Editorial Chipps is brushing up on his knowledge of rules and regulations. Classic Ride: Hay on Wye Barney Marsh finds out why you might like to look further than the book shops in this lumpy little corner of the UK. Bike Park Wales Samantha Saskia Dugon goes behind the scenes to reveal the people that make our pay to play fun happen. Munros Challenge Sanny thinks we should all set ourselves a challenge if we want to be truly alive. Capital to Coast Max Darkins rides from the centre of London to the south coast, in search of beer and chips. Why not? Column: Jason Miles Jason bemoans the excessive enforcement of spurious rules and regulations. Has he been talking to Chipps? Dumplings Chipps heads to Italy for a race where he has to hunt dumplings. Does he need a net, or a spear? Chipps e-MTB Chipps spends a wet weekend in Wales on an e-bike. Will life be any more fun with a battery, or is it still a wet weekend in Wales? Bike Test Dean Hersey gets stuck into three distinctive 29ers that span the width of the new (ahem, nu) school of full suspension 29er trail bikes. Pete’s Pros Pete Scullion continues to ride with (or chase after) the professional riders of today. This issue, he’s talking to Steve Peat. Jez Avery We catch up with legend of the 1990s UK MTB scene ‘Jumping Jez Avery’, and discover that behind the stunt shows and bunny hops, there’s a whole other life. Arran Sanny hops on a boat to Arran to check out the trails that are often overlooked by those going for the big obvious pointy hulk of Goat Fell. Last Word Mark swaps his car for a bike.