May 13, 2007

Big Bike Weekend

I don’t very often get the chance to spend a whole weekend riding my bike these days. However, the promise of a new bike, plus the child-guarding capabilities of a sudden influx of in-laws, meant that for once the option of getting out for both days was available.

Of course, the natural balance of the universe meant that such a fine opportunity had to be balanced, in this case with the worst weather since about mid febuary. Still, not to worry; it’s only weather.

On saturday, I headed down to Crickhowell, in south-ish wales, to do the “classic” Pen Trumau / Mynydd Du loop. “Classic” in this context means that there will be massive hills (mostly upwards), mud, and unrideable climbs. A perfect test for my new 5 :-).

The long climb up from Llanbedr to Pen Trumau was a real test of stamina, but super-scenic, with a proper big-mountain feel. From the col, a rocky blast back down again was made slightly more taxing by horizontal rain. Another short sharp climb up to Castel Dinas was rewarded with a fun sunken lane (sunken in this case under about a foot of water). Then the day’s biggest climb, up the side of Y Das. The route guide suggested that all but the last 200 yards of this should be rideable; perhaps this was true in 1985 but now it’s been badly torn up by motorbikes, and required almost a kilometer of tedious pushing/carrying.

However, from the top, there’s almost 10K of non-stop descending; first over a faint moorland trail, which gradually turns into a rough land-rover track past Grwyne Fawr reservoir, then an old drove road which provides a fast descent back to the road at the edge of the Mynydd Du forest.

Climbing back through the forest was almost my undoing; after half an hour’s solid climbing I somehow lost the track and ended up pushing up a fire-track through ankle-deep mud. Just when I was about to give up and turn round, though, I spotted the forest edge through the trees. A few more minutes of carrying, and an emergency flapjack to recharge, and I was bouncing along the moorland over Crug Mawr.

A steep descent back down took me back to Llanbedr, completing a round with about 40K of distance and lord knows how much climbing. The new bike has certainly proved that it can handle the old hardtail’s workload.

Sunday’s original plan was to head to Afan Argoed, just north of Swansea. However, a terrible weather forecast required a re-think; 7 hours driving just to ride in the rain for 2 hours didn’t really seem worthwhile. So instead we headed to Llandegla, which is only a couple of hours from Coventry. Steve has a fuller trip report. Despite one or two slightly hairy moments – a couple of sideways slides on the wet surface, and a rather too exciting nose-first landing on a tabletop – it went very well; the rain almost held off, and the new bike soaked up all of the abuse that I dished out to it. Seems like it’s filling the old full-suspension bike’s shoes (or should that be tyres?) too.

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