Wales is known for its mountains, and its cycle routes are no exception. But Lon Cambria, which crosses the centre of the country from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth, gives a chance to enjoy the fine scenery without too many gruelling climbs.
Quiet lanes wind from town to town – Welshpool, Llanidloes, Rhayader – with rarely a car to be seen. Scenic highlights include miles of views from the top of the Long Mountain; a truly delightful lane down the Wye Valley; and the glorious cycle-path past the Elan Reservoirs. And if you need any more persuasion, the route finishes with a full 24 miles of descending to the sea at Aberystwyth.
Three days makes for a comfortable ride; two is achievable for the fitter rider. Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth, at each end of the route, are interesting historic towns that merit a longer stay if you have time.
Any hybrid bike or road bike will be fine. Most surfaces are tarmaced, with only a few (easily skippable) sections on the descent to Aberystwyth requiring sturdier tyres. Mountain bikes may struggle up the steep climb of the Long Mountain.
Though cycle routes are usually tackled west–east, to gain the assistance of the prevailing wind, in this case we’d recommend starting at Shrewsbury. The hills gradually unfold to show mid-Wales at its best, and arriving by the sea in Aberystwyth is a fine finale to the ride.
A reasonably fit first-time tourer will cope comfortably, especially on a four-day itinerary. There are a couple of stiff climbs, but the views from high ground are instantly rewarding.
NCN route 81 actually begins on a canal towpath in Birmingham! You can follow it all the way from Birmingham to Shrewsbury for an extra 50 miles, though there’s a busy road crossing at Albrighton which is less than great.
Or if you want to ride more of Wales, consider heading south on Lon Teifi which meets Lon Cambria before Aberystwyth.
Just the one. When the main route takes a circuitous (but delightful) detour via Rhayader, you can choose to head due west from Llangurig over a high, exposed pass. It’s hard work over a rough surface, but offers an unforgettable glimpse of Wales at its wildest.
Shrewsbury is easily reached by train from Birmingham, Manchester or Cardiff. (TfW’s trains have limited bike accommodation and you’re advised to book; the West Midlands trains on the Birmingham route are less cramped.)
For your return journey, there’s a direct train service from Aberystwyth back to Shrewsbury. This also stops at Welshpool, Newtown and Caersws, should you need to break your journey.