Sunday, 26 September 2010

Wales Compleat, Solo, End to End

On Saturday, at 17.15, I entered the train station at Swansea by riding up some small steps in a tunnel under the tracks - my very last technical section, just metres away from my final destination. Quite fitting really, after 413kms, some of the most challenging riding I have ever experienced. My Wales End to End was complete.

Sorry I wasn't able to post everyday, but tiredness, lack of WiFi, or technical problems with my pod conspired against this.

Body and machine held up well to the strains and stresses of the riding, the weather, and the accummulated grime of a mineral and animal nature that stuck to me and my bike. Even a car power-wash didn't succeed in removing it all and I had to put my shoes into quarantine on the return journey on the train !

To take up the account from day 3 when I last posted:

Day 4. Devils Bridge to Rhayader
The rain continued, so I decided to take the National Cycle Network from Devils Bridge to Rhayader. This involved less off-road, but rather narrow roads that climbed over the Cambrian Mountain Range. I passed through deserted mining villages, huge dams, and reservoirs, with finally an asphalt single track along the scenic Elan Valley.

I was soaked through, chilled, by the continual rain and was pleased to see that my next B&B could also provide me with a hot bath.

Ride Stats: 53kms, 6.5 hours, 651m climbs, 476 max alt, 14% max grad, 0 punctures.

Day 5. Rhayader to Brecon
The day dawned damp and misty, but gradualy improved. After a full Welsh Breakfast with extra beans and hash browns I was ready and fuelled for anything the countryside could throw at me. I rode a combination of the National Network Route 8 and the Sarn Helen. This involved very muddy farm-tracks, climbing grassy slopes of two mountains, and a great road descent to the Wye Valley at Buillith Wells.

The final part was the hardest, over the moorland and forest north of Brecon. Lots of the tracks were not rideable due to over use by 4x4 (somthing I am all too familar with in Israel) or had been closed off entirely by the authorities. I had to climb and lift my bike over numerous gates and styles. In the Brycheiniog Forest my GPS would not work , I got lost, and fell twice in deep rutted pools. Eventually I broke through and found the road to Brecon.

The land-lady of my B&B was waiting with a hose and brush, the Welsh are so thoughtful !

Ride Stats: 71kms, 9.5 hours, 1374metres climbing, 447 max alt , 18% max grad, 1 puncture.

Day 6 Brecon to Swansea
My final day and my best day! The weather was great and I was about to cross the third major mountain range in Wales.

I rode westwards from Brecon to pick-up the Sarn Helen Roman Road that climbs up to one of the highest peaks of Brecon Beacons, Bryn Melyn, and then continues on to the sea. I passed a group of MTB riders getting ready to ride, the first I had seen on my whole trip, besides those concentrated at the Coed Brenin MTB Centre. In fact, I hadn't seen on any other rider on the trails during my whole trip: In Wales you are alone in the wilds, except for the sheep.

The Roman Road is broken up and is indistinct in many places, rocky steps, wth deep ruts and parts were flooded. The riding is technically demanding and I was under pressure to finish in time to catch my train. I also had no spare inner -tube, and if I punctured again, I would have been in trouble to get out of this remote area in daylight. Luckily, I managed to ride this final stretch without further incident and it was with great satisfaction that, I saw Swansea Bay in the distance, as I descended from the hills near Neath.

My mission was complete, another end-to-end under my wheels.
Ride Stats: 72kms, 9 hours, 982 metres climbs, 18% max grad, max alt 473m, 1 puncture.

Hwyl fawr am nawr ! = See you again soon. My Welsh is improving !

Friday, 24 September 2010

Wales Day 3: Devil's Day

Machinelleth to Devils Bridge

When I set out on this stage, there was little indiction that the weather would change so dramatically. It made a tough day even tougher as I was
climbing the highest peak on my tour.

I started winding my way up the picturesque narrow lanes , through farm yards, and then the lower grassy slopes of the mountain. All good so far. Then the trail got steeper over a very slippy rock face that had me hauling my bike centimetre by centimetre higher. No wonder the MTB Magazine graded this route: Killer.

I conquered it eventually to be rewarded with a wild plateau with a small lake, wide rideable tracks, and a view to the sea. Then the clouds rolled in and with them the rain. The tracks became indistinct, very boggy, and i was having to wade raging streams. Luckily my GPS held out and I could navigate my way out of this wilderness to the nearest road. All good fun!

Needless to say, In these conditions I continued by road to the hotel at Devils Bridge ( named for tourist waterfall) and I don't think I've appreciated a hot bath so much. A day to remember.

Ride Stats:
Distance 44 k, 8 hours, Agg climbs 981 metres, max Alt 512
m, max gradient 18%, 1 puncture (repaired under extreme conditions of mud and sheep shit)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Wales, So Far

Wales So Far

I haven't been able to post a daily report of my riding in Wales but I have now fixed the problem with my pod, and so here is a summary of my first 2 days on the Coast to Coast:
Day 1. Conwy to Festiniog
Rain had stopped but the off-road sections were still very wet from the huge amount that has fallen in the previous days. I enjoyed pushing up trails that were flowing with water but other parts were quite boggy, so progress was slow. The vistas were quite magnificent under an ever changing sky. Finished by riding on the road over the high pass from Betwys Coed to Ffestiniog to my fully ECO B&B which had a sauna which I used to dry my sodden shoes.
Distance 63k, Duration 9 hours, Climbs 1130 metres, max gradient 25%, max altitude 452 m, 0 punctures.

Day 2. Festiniog to Machinelleth
Great day of riding over the mountains of Snowdonia. The terrain was still wet but rideable, got stuck in a bog only once ! Visited the famous MTB centre at Coed Brenin and had a little fun on the trails. I finished the day in darkness as the route was longer than i had expected. All the locals are sympathetic to riders !
Distance 110 k, Duration 10 hours, Agg climbs 1453m, Max Gradient 19%, max altitude 371m, 0 punctures, 2 very tired legs.

Bike and body are standing up well, but wait for next post to see how I fare with the weather to take a turn for the worse.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wheels Across Wales

Tomorrow I will embark on my fourth Coast to Coast, C2C, End to End, ( Englandx2, Israelx1) , all epic experiences, but crossing Wales raises the bar above all the others.

The plan is to follow ( very approximately in places) an old Roman Road, The Sarn Helen, north to south, from the Irish Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Six days over some of the highest and roughest mountains in the UK.

Today I arrived on a very crowded train to the North Wales town of Conwy (with it's impressive castle) and from here it is just another 350k to my finish point of Swansea. Weather and WiFi permitting, I will try and post the dirty details of each day's ride. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop