Riding the Foel

9 Sep

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So I gave in and went for a ride with brother; he’s not keen on sedate riding and the fact he rides with knee pads and a full face helmet makes me feel I really need to catch up with the times.  His favourite riding spot is the Foel, a mountain I first road back in 1999 but since then the trails have grown somewhat and my XC bike is longer fits in.  I find the riding normally ends with a broken bike or a broken body for me; if possible I try to ride my brothers bikes when visiting; its cheaper for me without the repair bills!

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The mountain is due to have the trees felled and preparations have begun with the widening of the access roads; back in 1999 my brother was still riding a rigid Orange Clockwork and I have vivid memories of him holding a straight line through one of these bends and flying face first into the trees.

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Views of Port Talbot from the top

Riding the Foel

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My favourite, very steep and very tight switchbacks

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The tent that blew away…..

5 Sep

A few years ago I bought a Terra Nova Laser Space 2, until then I had been using a lightweight super rigid tent but not very spacious.  The Laser Space 2 is a very large lightweight tent which sleeps 2 people and has a huge porch area.

Dol Llys Campsite

Terra Nova Laser Space 2 Tent

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Its not a cheap tent, it now retails for £600 and when I bought it in 2010 I managed to get it for £300 online.  The tent weighs just under 3 KG and packs down to a reasonably small size of 55 x 20 cm.  The porch area is high enough to stand up in, for two people to comfortable move around in unpacking bags etc at the same time and if I remove the front wheels from the bikes I can fit two bikes inside with still plenty of room to move around.

On the downside it is built a bit like a sail, pitching in wind is a bit more challenging than smaller tents and the 18, yes 18 guy ropes can take a little longer than normal to set.  The tent comes with super lightweight titanium pegs although I now use some sturdier aluminium pegs for key points.

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Cooking in the Terra Nova Laser Space 2

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The tent pitched with no inner

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There is a front and rear door to the Terra Nova Laser Space 2

The first time we pitched the tent was in a valley below Mt Snowdon, on our way back down the mountain we could see the campsite but I couldn’t see the tent anywhere, Kate convinced me we were too high up to see the green tent but once we were back in the field the tent was still nowhere to be seen!  Where had it gone; it had blown away and was caught by some bull rushes, it wasn’t the only tent in the campsite to have been blown away, I counted 6 damaged tents in the campsite and several of them badly ripped by the wind.  But still, it was summer, it was an expensive tent, I felt it should be able to stand up to strong wind on a valley floor.  The tent was slightly damaged, it had a bent pole and some of the loops had broken off.  I contacted Terra Nova and they repaired the tent free of charge and sent me some new pegs to replace the ones lost, it was only a week old so I thought this was the least they could do.  Since then I have been a lot more careful where I have pitched it and if I know I am going on any trips where it will be exposed or above the tree line I make sure I take a more suitable tent.

With this said; its an excellent tent for cycle touring.  Its lightweight and very big once pitched, people are often amazed it was transported by bike.  Its great in wet weather as there is plenty of room inside to change clothes and cook.  The material are excellent quality although I am not sure how long they will perform for, the inner tent floor is starting to let in water after a night of camping and it is probably in need of waterproofing although it is still to let in water through the fly sheet.

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Plenty of room in the porch area even with bikes inside.

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Terra Nova Laser Space 2

Terra Nova Laser Space 2

The tent has 18 guy ropes

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Specification

  • Sleeps: 2
  • Season Rating Spec: 3 season backpacking
  • Free standing?: No (tent requires guy lines to be pitched)
  • Minimum Weight: 2.77Kg (6lb 2oz)
  • Packed Weight: 3.05Kg (6lb 12oz)
  • Pitch Time (estimate): 10 mins
  • Number of Porches: 1
  • Number of Doors: 2
  • Pitch Type: Fly and Inner pitch together

Packed Size: 55x20cm
Poles: DAC
Pegs: 24 x 5.5g Titanium skewers and 4 x 2g Titanium pegs
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The first Superlite tent you can stand up in, with room for 2 bikes in the porch

Campsites along National Cycle Network Route 8

2 Sep

Sometimes finding a campsite when touring can be problematic; if you have ever cycled 50 miles and then decided to look for a campsite only to find out you have to ride another 10 miles until the next campsite you might know what I mean.

I have got better at planning my trips but I still like the flexibility of stopping when I’m ready and not to a fixed itinerary.

Recently I have been playing with Google maps; its a great feature on a smartphone and as long as there is a signal opening up My Maps can be really useful.  So whilst researching for a trip on NCN Route 8 I created a spreadsheet of campsites close to the route and saved them as a map layer along with the route.  It took a few different programmes to create but the results are pretty good.  If you click on one of the pins in the map you will get the campsite details from the spreadsheet I created.

If you want to use the map you can click on the View Larger Map link and then copy the Google URL or download the KML file.  Enjoy.

Pedalling for Power

28 Aug


It was always my intention to fit a dynamo hub with USB charging to my Surly Disc Trucker and after a month of deliberating and 3 months of waiting I finally got a hub and light with a USB connection fitted.

My original plan was to go for the Schmidt Son 28 6 bolt disc fitting hub which is one of the most highly rated and expensive on the market.  I ordered the hub in April from Spa Cycles who offered the best price on a complete build but by July I had given up waiting as the shop still hadn’t got it in stock despite an original order time of 3 weeks.

In the end I decided to go for the cheaper Exposure hub manufactured by SP Dynamo System.  The hub model is the PD-8 weighing in at 410 grams with a 6 bolt rotor fitting.  The hub is relatively new and there isn’t much information about online about these hubs; CTC had given it a good write up in their Cycle magazine in 2012 and the price of the hub is significantly cheaper than the Schmidt.

SP 8 Dynamo Hub connection fitting

To go with the hub I wanted to fit the Busch + Müller Lumotec IQ2 Luxos U LED which has a USB charging port and switch which can be mounted on the handlebar.  I was waiting for an online shop with a competitive price to get it in stock but with the hub bought and a month wait on the light I decided to go for the much cheaper Axa Nano 50 Plus Auto LED light.  On the Axa the USB cable plugs directly into the light.
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When the hub arrived it didn’t come with a cable connection and the light arrived with just bare cable ends.  As a make shift solution I connected the cables using some electrical tape as can be seen in the hub photo but the correct connectors were easily obtained online as the Shimano connectors fit fine.

I had read a few reviews on the light with a few saying the quality isn’t great but considering the technology and price I wouldn’t say it was bad and after 200 miles of riding so far I haven’t had a problem.  You can find some great information on a wide range of dynamo hubs and lights at http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tests/verlichting/index_en.html

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The Axa Nano 50 plus has a USB charging port on the side of the light.

The light has a switch on the back with 3 options, off, light on or USB charging only.  Its hard to distinguish between the clicks but it works well enough.  You can’t use the light and charge at the same time but I haven’t seen a light which gives you this option due to the power required to run both.

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The light also has a front reflector as part of the design, this is a nice feature as without trying I now almost have a road legal bike as the Shimano XT pedals came with reflectors and the rear Cateye light has a reflector incorporated into the design; just wheel reflectors missing at this point although the Schwalbe tyre have reflective bands on them.

When using the light it stays on for a surprisingly long period when stationary, this is useful at night when stopping at traffic lights or when I arrive at work and the basement lights are off.

Dynamo Light fitted below Ortlieb Bar Bag

With some adjustment it was possible to fit the light under the ortlieb bar bag.  This was important as when charging my phone I place it in the bar bag with the USB cable connecting the two.

So you might be wondering how well does the USB charging work; well I am yet to attach a multimeter and ride around measuring the exact voltage but I can tell you it does charge the phone at surprisingly low speeds.  I recently got a new Samsung Galaxy S4 and I was worried about damaging it at first but after 200 miles its working fine.  The phone beeps when it starts receiving power and this is almost immediately when the wheel starts turning.  Before I used the Samsung I tested my old HTC wildfire and this started charging at 6 mph.  The speed at which the phone started charging was one of my biggest worries, when touring with a loaded bike I average 8.5 – 10.5 mph depending on the terrain and distance.

I have been on a few trips with the phone so far and charging varies depending on the terrain and the apps that are running.  A couple of weeks ago I road the Gospel pass and during a 40 km ride with 653 metres of accent the power only managed to maintain its battery level whilst running Googles Mytracks.  We spent most of our time climbing at a slow pace and although the decent was fast it was over in a relatively short period of time compared with the climb.

The next day I road 61km and descended 706 metres whilst using the endomondo GPS app and the phone charged significantly through the day.
Axa Nano 50 plus dynamo light

Since then I have also used the dynamo hub for a five day trip covering 240 miles across Wales, I was able to keep two phones charged enough for the duration of the trip and both of them were used for calls and internet.  A small HTC was easy to charge and if it was plugged in for more than a couple of hours I was able to achieve a full charge, Kates Iphone took longer to charge and was not plugged in long enough to reach a full charge.  Surprising the Iphone would beep to say it was charging at just over 3 mph.

So charging whilst using the phones GPS to track rides gives mixed results although the battery level does not decrease.  When not using the GPS the phone charges well and at low average speeds.  Using the hub over five days of camping gave good results and although we didn’t use GPS tracking for the ride the phones got quite a bit of use and we were never without battery power.

Cardiff to Bristol Night Ride

26 Aug

Earlier in the week I had been told about a night ride from Cardiff to Bristol and decided it could be fun; I was pretty sleepy by 10:20 pm when I left the house to get to the starting point on Saturday night, cycling through the marina it was already quiet but arriving at Pedal Power I was greeted by 24 bicycles with the riders inside enjoying cake and coffee.

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So after coffee and some photos it was time to get going; we cycled through Cardiff and from the back it was a great view of tail lights zooming through the streets.  By the time we had reached the edge of the city centre the group had already been split up and at the edge of Cardiff we were in three groups with myself in the middle.

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Will speeding through the night

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Upon reaching Newport there was a short diversion needed from the route so we waited for the group behind to catch up.  By this time our group was up to 11 riders and we stuck together until arriving at Bristol although  my counting abilities are limited at 3 am in the morning but I’m sure we didn’t leave anyone behind?

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A short stop at Redwick

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Taking in the night sights on the Severn Bridge

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The Avonmouth Bridge we crossed over on our way to Bristol

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As we got closer to Bristol we lost our way a bit and after a few laps of an industrial estate we headed down to Avonmouth crossing over the bridge to the South of Bristol.  The last part of the ride took in some hills before we descended down to the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  We had made it to Bristol, some photos were taken and it was time to get breakfast at Roll for the Soul.

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6 am arrival at the Clifton Suspension Bridge

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Unfortunately by this time I needed to get back to Cardiff and the first train wasn’t until 10 am so from the Clifton Suspension Bridge I headed home, directly to the Severn Bridge this time taking a quicker route and arriving there in exactly an hour.  The ride through Bristol and up to the Severn was beautiful in the morning light and the roads were deserted.  After crossing the bridge I consulted the map and chose the most direct and flattest route I could work out from a map with a lack of contours.  By 9:45 I was back home and eating breakfast; 120 miles covered, my legs were tired but more importantly I was in need of some sleep.

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The morning view of the new Severn Bridge on my way home

Trolls got a moustache

23 Aug

I haven’t been riding the Surly Troll on long distance rides this summer; the Surly Disc Trucker has taken over on that role.  When I bought the Troll frame back in 2011 the shop had a Surly open bar in stock and tried to convince me to buy it, at the time I had no interest in it and the first set of bars the Troll got were Thorn comfort bars.

Well the Thorn Comfort bars weren’t that comfortable and I eventually fitted some bar ends.  Bar ends fitted to the Thorn bars looked ridiculous, the bars had a large rise to them and also quite a large set back.  I had a smaller set of riser bars and fitted these with the bar ends to the bike.  This served me well on long trips, it made the bike look a bit silly but comfort wise it did a great job.

As I have only been using the bike for short trips in recent months I removed the bar ends.  A couple of weeks ago I placed an order with SJS cycles for the Harry Quinn build and decided to add some Humpert Country Mas Handle bars to the basket.  Costing only £7.99 they were considerably cheaper than the Surly bars and at that price I thought it would be fun to try a new control set up.

The bars are shaped like a handle bar moustache although the moustache almost certainly came before the bicycle.  Riding it is pretty fun, its comfortable, upright and great for cruising.  The longest journey I have made with them so far has been about 20 miles hauling some heavy panniers and they were fine although I did take my time.

Handle bars on Surly Troll

Not a Surly Open Bar but Humpert Country MAS bars

Moustache Handle Bar on the Surly Troll

If I make any long multiday trips on the trill I will be refitting some risers and probably bar ends but in the mean time the moustache is staying.

Surly Trolls Moustache

Familiar Terrain

21 Aug

Day 5: Glasbury to Cardiff Bay

Over four days we have been riding from Holyhead in the north of Wales to Cardiff, our final night had been spent at a campsite not far from Hay on Wye just off Route 8.  A couple of weeks ago we rode this route after a night camping so we knew what to expect.  We set off after breakfast heading through the market town of Talgarth to a memorable climb, well Kate remembered all of it, I only remembered a little.  After spending the last four days climbing over mountains in north and mid Wales it didn’t seem too bad and we descended towards Brecon although we diverted off the route cutting off about 4 miles by avoiding the town.

We continued on to Talybont Reservoir, the route from Brecon is known as the Taff Trail and is very popular, even on a Friday we saw quite a few cyclists.  When we rode the route a couple of weeks ago Kate was running skinny 1.25″ tyres on her bike so we opted for the road around the reservoir rather than the designated Route 8 that steadily climbs the mountain alongside the reservoir.  The road is flat the length of the reservoir but at the end of the valley it climbs a long steep hill with a 25% gradient.  So this time we went with the designated route which is along a gravel forest road; it was pretty smooth for nearly the whole length although it climbs steadily.  After an hour of climbing we reached the top and got the stove out to cook some lunch.

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Ladies Surly Disc Trucker

Surly Disc Trucker with Ortlieb Bar Bag

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Surly Disc Trucker with Rear Light

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Taff Trail Talybont Reservoir

Surly Disc Trucker

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Surly Disc Trucker with Ortlieb Panniers

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Surly Disc Trucker

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Carrying a tent on Surly Disc Trucker

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After climbing above Talybont reservoir we knew the rest of the route was mainly downhill and when we rejoined the traffic free section 5 miles from Merthyr we picked up some speed and before we knew it we were in the centre of Merthyr.  At Merthyr we decided to take a detour from Route 8 and follow the Trevithick Trail which stays on the East side of the valley, its quite a bit quicker than sticking to Route 8 and also avoids a long set of steps which take Route 8 under the A470.

After riding the length of Wales riding through the valleys was noticeably different, where as north of Merthyr the routes had been lined with native species of plants and trees the traffic free route from Merthyr down to Cardiff were lined with invasive species, rubbish, glass and vandalism, but with this said it has some great views and fascinating history.

My favourite routes in the valleys are the ones on the tops of the mountains looking down, they usually involve a steep climb to get up there but then the scenery is rewarding enough.

The ride back to Cardiff was easy but it seemed to take us a lot longer than usual, as we went through Taffs Well Kate got her bike caught in a fallen pine tree and a little further on my gear cable snapped, it wasn’t a surprise, the previous day my shifting was a bit peculiar and when I looked at the bike in the evening I could see that the gear cable had frayed.  I decided rather than try and remove the frayed cable I would wait for it to break as it would be easier to pull a broken cable out.  With less than 8 miles to go it seemed pointless to stop and fit a spare cable as it was all downhill to the bay and we were keen to get to the pub to meet some friends so I rode the remainder of the route just able to change my front gears.

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We whizzed passed the millennium stadium and down to the bay; we headed straight to the pub for a pint.  An hour later we were completing our last 2 miles back to our home, I still hadn’t fixed the gear cable so after putting some tension on the cable and tying a couple of knots I climbed our final hill of the week at a quicker pace than normal to finish the trip from Holyhead to Penarth.

The Wrong Kind of Undulating

19 Aug

Day 4: Llanidloes to Glasbury

Waking up at Dol-Llys campsite I realised we had forgotten to get milk the following day to we opted for breakfast in town.  Llanidloes is a really nice town and interesting place, its not on Route 8 although its only a mile away, Route 82 does go through the town.

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Route 82 in Llanidloes

Kate looking for breakfast in Llanidloes

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We cycled around the town which was virtually empty at nine in the morning and then continued on our way. The route for the day was to head to Rhayader about 15 miles away and then on to Builth Wells a further 17 miles from Rhayader and then down to Glasbury which was not far from where we planned to camp. I knew the journey to Builth was going to be lumpy but after that it would be mainly downhill alongside the river Wye.

We started the day with a climb up to Llangurig where we had originally planned on camping at the previous night, it seemed a long way from Llanidloes although it was only 5 miles but it was up a large hill. Upon arrival we realised we had made the right decision the following day stopping at Llanidloes.

The route to Rhayader is quiet and pleasant, it follows the river Wye and at times the A470 can be seen the other side of the valley. It is very hilly or best described as undulating. The scenery was once again fantastic with steep sided valleys and rocky outcrops we wound our way to Rhayader where once again the route does not go into the town. As we didn’t need anything we ate lunch on a bench where a couple of dogs out for a walk joined us until their own eventually beckoned them on.

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The road from Llanidloes to Rhayader

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Kate had company for lunch

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A few miles outside of Rhayader the tarmac road ends and Route 8 continues along a historic coach road owned by the National Trust. I’ve ridden this section quite a few times although always in the opposite direction, its about 2 miles long and very scenic, although some of it is only ridable on a mountain bike. I’ve ridden it with full panniers on the Surly Troll and it hasn’t been a problem bouncing along the rocky surface in parts and on the troll I never really worry about the terrain.

On the Surly Disc Trucker it was a bit slower, I had to push the first steep section which is littered with fist size rocks but once past this we were able to ride the rest although slowly. I recently fitted a new wheel to the Disc Trucker with a dynamo hub which had kept our phones charged for the last 3 days but in order to keep the wheel weight low I had fitted a light weight Mavic rim which stopped me from speeding off and bouncing down the track.

The section of route made a nice change from the tarmac but it was hard going and without an appropriate bike this section is hard to ride. The only alternative is cycling along the busy A470 which would certainly get you between Builth and Rhayader a lot quicker.

The Disc Truckers were great on the off road section even with mine fully loaded, I couldn’t go as fast as I can on the Troll and I wouldn’t want to ride all day on this terrain but it was really no problem for the bike, thumbs up again for the Trucker!


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Pushing a loaded Surly Disc Trucker

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Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Full Panniers on a Surly Disc Trucker

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off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

Off road riding on a Surly Disc Trucker

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Cycling from Builth Wells to Glasbury

After the unpaved section it didn’t take us too long to reach Builth with a welcome final decent to the town. We stopped at the Co-op to pick up some supplies and then followed Route 8 further south. The last part of the day saw us following a quiet road alongside the river Wye to Glasbury, apart from a headwind it was an easy ride from Builth to Glasbury and mainly downhill. At Glasbury we stopped at the garage to buy a couple of beers and made our way to Newcourt Campsite just outside Felindre and just a few miles from Glasbury.

I’ve stayed at Newcourt Camping a couple of times this year and its a great campsite, its on a working farm and the field has some great views. Compared to yesterday it had been an easy day of cycling yet we were getting tired after four long days of hard riding.  One more day left to take us back to Cardiff.

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Day 4 Elevation Profile

A Day of Mountains

16 Aug

Day 3: Barmouth to Llanidloes

Waking to the sound of bleating sheep today, I woke early and put some water to boil in the tent for a morning coffee.  Apart from the sheep it was quiet with a great morning view of the estuary below. We packed our bags and the tent and rolled down to the cycle route below the field where we had pitched for the night.

Apart from the occasional runner and cyclist the route was quiet at 9:30 in the morning; we continued along to Dolgellau with a stop at anther toll bridge along the way and within an hour we had arrived at the town where we stopped at the first cafe for a second breakfast.

Morning camping coffee

Morning Coffee

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The Mawddach Estuary in the morning

Cycling Penmaenpool Toll Bridge

The Penmaenpool Toll Bridge

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We didn’t see much of Dolgellau but the town is a nice looking place; the route from here climbs the mountain behind the town and from the map I could see it would be a steep ascent.  The climb went on for a long time but as we approached the top there were some superb views of the mountains surrounding us.  The road was almost deserted apart from two road cyclists who sped passed us during the climb.  The road eventually ended and we followed a tarmac path across the mountainside until it reached another road which took us down to the start of another climb.

We went through the gate and around a bend in the road which revealed a steep steady climb to the top, we were in mid Wales and there seemed to be no way to go but over a mountain in every direction.  We climbed with views of Cadair Idris to the west; a mountain with a height of 893 metres.

As we cycled we could hear cheers and shouting, at first I thought I was hallucinating but on the neighbouring mountain we could just make out a group of people cheering at us; they must have been thinking we were crazy climbing the road.

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The town of Dolgellau

NCN Route 8 Dolgellau

Overlooking Dolgellau

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The road upwards from Dolgellau

The road upwards from Dolgellau

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The road upwards from Dolgellau some more


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The second climb of the day

The second climb of the day

NCN Route 8 mountains in Wales

I made it with five bags and a tent!

At the top of this climb we had views down a valley and looking over yet more mountains; as we left the top a fighter jet roared past, it was so close we could see the details of under its wings.  The road down was steeper than our road up, it wound its way down the mountain and was covered with small chippings, it made for a slow decent and I had to hold the brakes most of the way down.  From here we road to the town of Machynlleth, it was market day and the town was packed, we picked up some lunch and sat in the park preparing for the biggest mountain climb of the ride.

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The road heading south to Machynlleth

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A slate fence to the right of the picture

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Great views on the way down

Cycling the Dyfi Estuary Route 8

Almost at Machynlleth

The road from Machynlleth climbs the highest road on NCN Route 8.  Its a great road with awesome views but there was more traffic than on any other climb on the route and most cars were speeding past; at a narrow point ahead of us two of them clipped wing mirrors, as the car coming towards us passed the glass of his wing mirror was hanging off and as we passed the spot the BT van which had hit him had left his mirror glass on the road, neither of the drivers stopped.  Later on a Subaru came hurtling towards us out of a corner; he must have mistaken the mountain road for a rally stage as he sped past.  For most of the time we were alone on the mountain but when the traffic did come by it was certainly noticeable.

The road had many turns and each time we thought we were at the top a turn would reveal another hill, surely we thought there was nowhere else to climb too.  At its highest point the route reaches 510 metre’s, this was our third large climb of the day and we had started at sea level at the Mawddach estuary.

 

Highest place on NCN Route 8

Looking back down the road to Machynlleth

Riding to Machynlleth

Looking back some more

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Great views all the way up

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Looking back down the road

Cycling from Machynlleth

And looking up the road

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And looking back down some more; the climb seemed like it would never end.

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It really was an awesome climb

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A small part of the climb we had ridden

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And at the top of the mountain

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It was almost flat on the top

The top was welcome but time was getting on and we still had 15 miles to cover so we just kept going, the decent was a welcome break for the climbing and we followed the route to Llanidloes along the River Severn.  The route alongside the river is one of my favourite sections of NCN Route 8 with a great picnic spot along the way, the route is undulating but closer towards Llanidloes there is more descending towards the town.  We reached a junction on the route with the option of going into the town or another five miles to a campsite in Llangurig.  Our legs were tired from all the climbing so we opted for the campsite at Llanidloes.

We had climbed 6092 feet in 46 miles; Dol-Llys Farm and Campsite was a welcome site, it was a much more established campsite than the previous two nights and for a change we pitched close to the facilities to save our legs.  After dinner and beer I was out for the count.

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Day 3 Elevation Profile

Mountains and Coastlines

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Day 2 – Caernarfon to Barmouth

The previous day we had covered just 30 miles but I was tired enough to sleep for 10 hours and woke to the sound of cows mooing in the next field; I assume it was time for milking.  In our kitchen bag we had packed coffee sachets and some flavoured porridge; conveniently we had picked up a pint of milk the night before as I hate porridge with water.

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One day I will pack a camping cafetiere but until then its coffee sachets with milk already mixed in. They don’t taste much like coffee but at least I get that caffeine hit.

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Porridge from the sachet

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The pouch the porridge comes in acts as a measure for the milk; it couldn’t be simpler.

For some reason it seemed to take us an age to get going but it was our first morning after camping.  We packed the tent and rolled down the small lane back on to the cycle route.  The cycle route from Caernarfon runs alongside the narrow gauge track of the Welsh Highland Railway until the train line branches off and the cycle route continues along the old track bed.

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When we got to the bottom of the lane from the farm we were just in time to see the train pass on its way to Caernarfon.

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We followed the old railway line for several miles but decided to take a signposted short cut to Porthmadog cutting out the small town of Criccieth.  After leaving the railway line we encountered a few hills which made us question whether the shortcut was worth it, but the views were great and before long we were eating pasties in Porthmadog harbour.

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Surly Disc Trucker loaded up.

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Kate’s Disc Trucker not so loaded up.

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View of the “Cob”; the sea wall built in 1811.

The Cob in Porthmadog is the route for the cycle path, road and also the railway line for the Welsh Highlands train which starts in Caernarfon and which we had cycled along earlier in the morning. Porthmadog is a popular tourist town, it gets very busy in the summer and the traffic can be a pain if you want to cycle through the town as we did, but there is the option of following the cycle route around the outskirts.

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After Porthmadog we cycled through Penrhyndeudraeth and across the Pont Briwet bridge which crosses the estuary to Harlech.  They are currently building a new bridge and at times the existing bridge is closed, the work is expected to go on for a couple of years so its worth checking its staus as otherwise its an 8 mile detour inland.

After the bridge we crossed over the A road and hit an unexpected hill which was rather steep.  When we looked around we had great views over the estuary and the road kept on going up and up.

Kate climbing hill above Halrech3

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The route took us through a wooded valley before climbing again and above the town of Harlech.  In the distance we could see a silver band going up the mountain but I was sure the road couldn’t be that steep or go up the mountainside ahead of us.  I was wrong, there was a steady stream of water flowing down the road reflecting the sunshine, as we got closer it became apparent it was our route.

The climbing seemed endless but there was a great view to the west of the estuary, mountains and penisular, but we could also see the much flatter and busier A road below.

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No sooner had we reached the top we were descending down the other side to the coast and on the road to Barmouth, down on the coast road there was a lot more traffic so we had to ride in single file, we chose to stay on this road all the way to Barmouth rather than take some of the quieter detours off it which form Route 8.

Barmouth is a busy seaside town and the has a nice sandy beach.  We managed to find the Co-op after negotiating the one way system in reverse and stocked up on some beers and food for the night.

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Southbound from Barmouth the route crosses the Mawddach Estuary over a wooden railway bridge, its fairly long with a span of 820 metres.  The bridge was built in 1867 and after around 110 years of service trains were stopped due to safety fears over the bridges strength, these fears seem to have gone away along with the woodworm hopefully and the bridge is now back in use for trains pedestrians and cyclists.  There is a toll booth which charges 90p for walking and 30p extra for bikes; we didn’t pay but not because I’m too stingy, the toll booth was actually closed.

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After crossing the bridge the route heads inland alongside the estuary, its one of the most scenic rides I’ve been on and a perfect finish to the day.  We cruised along until we reached our campsite for the night; Graig Wen campsite is just on the route.  We had called the campsite just after we crossed the bridge and were told camp anywhere in the lower field but not at the bottom as we woud get wet when the tide comes in, it was very close to the estuary.  Despite the field being on a very steep slope and covered with sheep and sheep poo it was perfect, well I thought so; Kate wasn’t as impressed and was concerned we were going to be sharing the tent with our new befriended lamb.  We had a great view and although the main campsite, toilets and showers were a 600 metre walk away there was a compost toilet just a short distance away.

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The Tree Bog

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The route from Caernarfon to Barmouth had been great, it was very scenic with both the mountains and the coast; a huge improvement on the previous day across Anglesey.  Although we hadn’t expected to do so much climbing above Harlech it had provided some great views and the ride down to Barmouth was pretty easy, we had covered about 48 miles with a moving average of 9.2 mph.  At the campsite we cooked some dinner, drank a beer and enjoyed the view knowing tomorrow would be tough.

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