The ABR team saddle up to ride a stunning route through the welsh valleys in search of a delicious treat
Six of us stood crammed inside the small serving area of CJ Morris Family Butchers in Treorchy with a look of hunger in our eyes. There was a sense of nervous anticipation as we watched the butcher deftly slice through a side of beef, his casual wielding of the carving knife revealing a lifetime spent perfecting his craft.
We’d travelled more than 100 miles to taste Treorchy’s famous beef and I could feel my mouth salivating at the prospect as those lovingly cut slices were handed across the shop counter. I’d been promised it would flake when I picked it up, and it certainly did.
And then, the moment of truth as I took my first mouthful. The beef was tender, juicy, and oh so tasty, the flavour enhanced by the unexpected bite of its salty crust. It was all I could do not to drool.
And to think, we’d almost missed this moment. If we’d arrived 10 minutes later, CJ Morris’ would have closed for the day at 1 pm. Thankfully, we made it just in time, and boy I’m glad we did. Trust me when I say, if you’re a meat-lover, there’s a butcher’s shop nestled in the Welsh Valleys just waiting for you to make a pilgrimage.
What’s the beef?
Ok, so I should probably explain why the people of Treorchy were met with the sight of six burly adventure bikers wolfing down slices of beef on the streets of their town one Thursday afternoon.
It’s simple really. The ABR team have all been working pretty hard lately, so we decided to take a day out of the office and head off on a ride-out together. The magazine’s owner and founder, Alun, is from the Valleys of South Wales and knows the area better than most. So, we jumped at his offer to lead us on a tour of the best biking roads in the area.
The pot was further sweetened by the fact that, according to Alun, ‘the best beef you’ll ever taste in your life’ is found in Treorchy, and that we absolutely must stop and get some. That was how the Treorchy Beef Run came into being. But don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian because the ride was just as satisfying as the beef, well… almost.
And so it was that six members of the ABR team gathered at 8 am on a chilly winter morning eager to see how the day would unfold. I was riding a KTM 1290 Super Adventure S which is a bike I’ve come to hugely admire over the past couple of months.
Alun was in the lap of luxury on BMW’s magnificent R 1250 RT, managing editor Bryn was riding a Yamaha Tracer 9 GT, staff writer Ollie was on a brand new 2022 Africa Twin, and sales guy Will was on a Triumph Tiger 850 Sport. Our gang was completed by the newest addition to the team, sales guy John, who was on his own Honda CB1000R Extreme. As the only one of the group on a naked bike, he was clad in thermals from head to toe.
After some interminable fettling, tinkering, and general faffing around with our bikes and gear, we finally set off from the office in Stratford-upon-Avon and motored across the border into Wales to the official start of Treorchy Beef Run in Abergavenny. We would then ride a 113-mile loop taking in the best roads and the most spectacular scenery the Valleys had to offer.
Abergavenny sits in the southeast corner of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and in the shadow of Sugar Loaf Mountain. This local landmark dominates the skyline and, at 596m, it’s one of the highest peaks in the Black Mountains. From the saddle of a motorcycle, its conical shape looks like it could be a dormant volcano, but it is in fact made from the same red sandstone found throughout the area.
From Abergavenny, our merry band travelled north-west along the A40 which follows the meandering path of the River Usk, until we reached Brecon. The picturesque town is a great spot to stop for a coffee, and if you fancy sticking around for longer, take a stroll over to the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh (postcode: LD3 7EB).
Here you’ll find the Zulu War Room which details the history of the 24th Regiment during the Anglo-Zulu War. The conflict is perhaps best known for the Battle of Rorke’s Drift and the resulting film, Zulu, starring Michael Caine. It was a fight that saw some 150 British soldiers repelling attacks by thousands of Zulu warriors. A total of 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded for bravery after the battle.
Into the mountains
From Brecon, we turned south on the A470 into the heart of the national park. The sweeping road took us past Pen y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales before we jumped onto the A4059 and struck out across rolling hills and wide expanses of moorland towards the Rhigos Mountains.
The Rhigos Road is famous among bikers around these parts, and while it may not rival the likes of the Stelvio Pass in terms of thrills, it’s still a lot of fun, especially with a group of mates on motorbikes. We carved our way along a series of twists and turns, including one gloriously tight hairpin, before pulling over at the summit with big smiles on our faces.
The view from the car park at the top of the Rhigos Road across the vast valley below was spectacular. The landscape was formed by glaciers scooping huge cirques and valleys out of the landscape over millions of years, those powerful forces producing what we know as the Brecon Beacons today.
It was an incredible sight but there wasn’t time to ponder geological history for too long because we had beef to eat.
And with our hunger growing, Treorchy’s finest was reaching mythical status, in my mind at least.
So, after an excellent espresso from the coffee van we’d parked next to, we mounted the bikes and set off towards Treorchy, the southern section of the Rhigos Road proving an absolute gem as it snaked its way along the valley side.
After a final hairpin turn that took us into Treorchy, we all parked up in the street opposite CJ Morris and crammed inside the small butchers shop. I was a little gutted that I didn’t have time to eat the takeaway roast dinner on sale for less than £3, but the delicious slices of beef and a corned beef pasty more than made up for it.
Our hunger may have been satisfied but that didn’t mean the Beef Run was over. We still had the second half of our 113-mile loop of the Valleys to complete and there was plenty of stunning riding still to come.
This included the sensational A4061 Bwlch-Y-Clawdd Road which snaked its way out of Treorchy up the valley side in a series of gloriously tight turns, offering stunning views ahead that we became part of as we rode further south.
A few miles down the road, Alun took a right turn off the A4093 just past Glynogwr onto a tiny side road. This took us under a bridge and onto a narrow single-track lane. As we climbed steadily up a valley side, the paved surface deteriorated and I felt my front wheel bounce over loose rocks littering the road. It was fun on my big KTM adventure bike, but I hoped John was dodging the rocks with his CB1000R’s small 17” front hoop.
This was the sort of backroad you’d only find with local knowledge and I was grateful we had a valley boy showing us around. As we reached the top of the climb, we were met with sweeping views of South Wales and the Bristol Channel. The sun was shining and we were all smiles. It was a great day to be alive and riding motorbikes together.
Reluctantly, we left the stunning views behind as we followed the twisting single-track lane down to Brynna. Here we took an A-road to the outskirts of Llantrisant before turning north to Tonyrefail.
We then followed Alun down yet another narrow country lane, his big RT taking up the full width of the road. What followed was a snaking, technical lane that had me swinging my bodyweight from side to side around each new bend. It was an exercise in controlling a big bike on tiny roads which proved a hell of a lot of fun.
Closing the loop
Finally, we dropped down into Pontypridd where we stopped at a bright red building that’s become something of a national treasure. The family behind the Groggshop has been sculpting and selling intricate ceramic figures on the site since 1971. Their handcrafted creations range from film stars to dragons, but it is the Welsh rugby collection the shop is best known for.
Step inside and you’ll be embraced by a celebration of all things Wales where jerseys and signed photos of many of the rugby and football stars who’ve been immortalised as Groggs adorn the walls. It’s certainly worth making a stop to marvel at the creations and pick up one of your own.
After taking a look around, we jumped back on the bikes and headed north along the A470 to Merthyr Tydfil. Here we skirted the town and turned east, back to towards Abergavenny. It felt good to open up the KTM’s 160bhp engine on the wide dual carriageway and it gave me the chance to reflect on the day’s ride.
It had been a fantastic route through a beautiful part of Wales, made all the better by the laughter and banter that biking with a bunch of mates brings. And, it had been a privilege to ride with Alun and be shown the roads, towns, and landscapes that he’d called home for so many years.
As we reached Abergavenny, we completed our loop and it was time to head back to England. On the way home, I pondered calling this ABR route The Best of the Valleys because that’s exactly what we experienced. But the Treorchy Beef was so tasty, it really had to take centre stage.