Guest Post: The Bwlch & The Rhigos – A Rite of Passage – By Gareth Thomas

The Bwlch and the Rhigos are seen as somewhat of a right of passage by many cyclists in South Wales.

By which, of course, I mean the Bwlch AND the Rhigos, not one or the other.

As part of my ongoing, incremental training plan I decided to have a bash at these last Saturday. I chose to do the Bwlch from the Ogmore Valley side this time round, so I headed north out of Cardiff and taking in Llantrisant and Gilfach before dipping down and back up to Glynogwr. The views here are absolutely stunning and well worth the effort of the challenging roads. (See the photos).

I always find the approach to the Bwlch the toughest part of the climb from the Nant-y- Moel side. First there is the very steep section up Stormy Lane (third exit from the Clock roundabout). Then there’s the long pull which actually looks quite flat. Don’t let appearances deceive you though – it really is a bit of a dog.

Again I was overtaken by a much keener cyclist before I even got to the main event, but I just about held off the challenge of his mate at the very top by working up the gears for a sprint finish.

Poor route planning featured again on this ride, as I hadn’t realised how close the Rhigos climb was from Treherbert. It starts just after the village. I asked a local where the climb started and his description of “by there” still hadn’t properly prepared me. I probably took on an energy gel a bit late for the initial steep climb, but I think it may have helped during the gentler but hideously long drag to the top.

Glynogwr, by Gareth Thomas
Glynogwr, by Gareth Thomas

I was very nearly beaten by the mental challenge of this long climb. It just kept going and going. You can’t see the top due to the nature of the climb with its corners and switchbacks. Not having a clue how much longer I had to go I considered heading back but decided to plough on.

I was pleased to see that coffee from the van at the top car park was only £1.20, but more than a bit gutted that they only take cash payments, so I had to carry on. The fast descent was thrilling and provided a much welcome adrenaline kick. I have to admit to feeling quite proud of myself too which mixed with the adrenaline and relief of a completed challenge had me ‘buzzing.’

With the toughest climbs out of the way the journey back to Cardiff wasn’t too arduous. I made the schoolboy error of going through Aberdare town centre which probably knocked my average km/h down a bit. Again this was a function on not planning route with enough detail.

I really must start learning from these mistakes and have a better idea of which roads to pick up on the way home. I seem to spend most energy and detail on the ‘there’ part of the journey and not enough on the ‘back!’


Having said that though, I was relieved to miss out on the planned climb of Caerphilly mountain on the way back. I’m sure I could have managed it but I was just glad to get home at the end.

I managed to break the 100km barrier for the first time in several years and the 1,500m of climbing will be useful training for the forthcoming Velothon. A few more weeks to go then and I’m starting to feel more positive about the event. Wish me luck!!

3 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Bwlch & The Rhigos – A Rite of Passage – By Gareth Thomas

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  1. Great ride. Next time, if you’ve still got energy to burn, after the Rhigos, take a right turn at Aberdare and head up the steep and very challenging Maerdy Road and then back down to Cardiff through the Rhondda.

    After spending months heading out from Cardiff and going either East or West, I’ve only just discovered the great rides out there to the North. So many peaks and valleys to explore !!


  2. Did this on Saturday with Steffan, great ride, thanks for the recommended route! Not sure it would be quite as nice on a dreary day but with the sun out and clear skies it was truly spectacular…


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