Our gravel riding tours owe a great deal to Heather Kay. Her tales of amazing off-road adventures on little known tracks through the Mid Wales mountains were enough to get us exploring, and now we’re hooked. We’re also extremely fortunate that Heather has joined the Crys Melyn team, as route-planner, gravel cycling guide, and general source of useful information and advice on all things cycling.

We asked Heather to tell us about her love of gravel…

Tell us a bit about your cycling background.

I have been a competitive amateur mountain biker for several years, in that time I have managed a 2ndoverall in the 4X protour with a win in Pamporovo, Bulgaria. I have represented Great Britain twice at the 4X World Championships finishing 10ththe last time I went. I have also been British 4X Masters champion and won the British Enduro Series Open Women category. Last year I also won the Welsh Enduro Series. I am lucky to be sponsored by Stanton Bikes, Flow MTB and Duck Smart.

How did you get in to gravel riding?

It’s a funny one, I am a mountain biker at heart but got introduced to road riding by my local pub that organises a charity 100 mile challenge every year: “Off the barstools and on to the bikes”. After the charity ride my cheap 2ndhand road bike got stolen but I’d fallen in love with the joys of road riding in Mid-Wales (quiet country lanes, stunning scenery). So when considering what I would get as a new bike I thought outside the box and went for gravel, at the same time my 2 riding buddies were tempted by my idea and also bought gravel bikes. The 3 musketeers were back and we were going exploring!

What do you like about it? What makes it different to the other kinds of cycling you do?

When I started road riding I loved how you were always cranking, pushing yourself, I felt so strong, the miles flew by under my wheels. On a mountain bike I had always felt unfit, grinding away and not getting anywhere. Gravel riding gives me that sense of power, and the miles can fly by, but at the same time it can take me out into the middle of nowhere, far from civilisation, into the wilds. I love mountain biking for the technical descents, when on the gravel bike I can also push those technical skills but in a totally different way, testing what I can get away with.

What’s your favourite route?

Hmm this is a tricky one, I actually think that locally I haven’t found it yet, there’s just so much to explore! Currently it would have to be a loop which takes you up and out on to the edge of the hills, skirting around, looking across Borth bog and out to sea, and then across all of the Dyfi estuary, it’s stunning. The route then takes you up towards Nant y Moch, through the pine forests before heading back down into the valleys and home. It puts you right out into the middle of nowhere, through so many different habitats, and with stunning views around every corner. Magic.

What kind of bike do you ride?

I have a Trek Crockett 5 which is actually a cyclocross bike but I love it. I switched the rear cassette to an 11-34 just to give me that little bit extra on the hills and it takes me everywhere (I even switch tyres and use it as a road bike)

What advice or tips or advice have you got for anybody who’d like to have a go at gravel riding?

Do it! You don’t need the poshest bike in the world just a scenic (potentially flatish) gravel trail to ride along. I took a couple of work colleagues out a couple of weeks ago, we drove up into the mountains and did a short loop, they were both on commuters with appropriate tyres and absolutely loved it. There is nothing in the world quite as good as riding your bike.

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