Archive | May, 2013

I found my socks

20 May

My brother got me some cycling socks for Christmas, I wore them a week or so later when we went mountain biking but after that they disappeared.  I forgot all about them until last week when I was due to go for a ride with him  but surprisingly they turned up today!

This photo was taken back in January during a cold day out riding.

This photo was taken back in January during a cold day out riding.

They turned up at my parents house, I must have left them there when I had been mountain biking in the area.  Well the plan for Sundays ride was to cycle to Caerphilly and over some mountains but I got a call at 9 am from my dad asking me if I would repair the lead on his roof.  Even though the sun was shining I couldn’t say no so Kate and I drove to Neath.

Whilst we were there we thought we could still get a ride in and decided a trip to the top of the mountain would be a good option, its not  far and the route to the top is easy and it has great views at 272 metres and seen as I had found my socks I thought why not where them one more time!

The description from Sockguy reads:
SockGuy Wanker Socks
Made with 75% Ultra-wicking Micro Denier Acrylic, 15% Nylon, and 10% Spandex for exceptional comfort and strength. These features create superior softness and comfort and help eliminate blisters and hot spots.

On top the mountain the views were great, there was a mild wind but nothing too strong.  I hadn’t been out on the mountain bike for a while and whilst this was just a simple forest track accent and descent it was fun to get out off road!

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On the top of the mountain is a standing stone which is thought to be a boundary marker, it is mentioned in a Charter of King John in 1203.

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Carreg Bica or also called Maen Bradwen. Perhaps a monument of a buried Celtic chieftain it now forms a gatepost.

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Port Talbot is in the distance.

So it was a nice ride just over 6 miles with some excellent views.  I also fixed the roof and when I got home I put my feet up.

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The Very Bike Trip

18 May

Whilst out on my bike Thursday night I met Matt from France who was on his way to Cardiff along the A48.  He was cycling up a hill towing a trailer, we got chatting and he told me about his trip as we cycled along.  He had arrived in Holyhead only a couple of days before and had cycled to Swansea before heading to Cardiff.  But this was only a small part of his journey which started in France and has taken him to Belgium, England, Scotland and Ireland before arriving in Wales.

You can read his blog here: http://www.verybiketrip.eu/

 

SE Draft

16 May

Kate has said goodbye to her big pink single speed but she’s not sorry.  When we living in London Kate was in need of a bike and did’t want anything fancy as she was short on cash and didn’t want something fancy that would get stolen.  So she ordered a SE Draft from Wiggle in a massive 54 cm frame size and also bright pink.

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Now when we lived in London there weren’t many hills so having no gears was never an issue but that was before we moved to Cardiff.  Cardiff is relatively flat but despite this with 3 single speed bikes between us we moved to the top of the biggest hill for miles.

We live on top of the headland in the distance

We live on top of the headland in the distance

Soon after moving in I changed the gear ratios with new free wheels, we had never used the bikes as fixies, we are just simply not cool enough.  And I’m too afraid.  I changed my 14 tooth freewheel to a 16 and Kate’s bike got a stupidly small chain ring up front.  I can get up the hill most days but its hard work and on a hard day I get off and push the last bit.  Kate’s heavy steel framed bike was a mission to get up the hill and she quickly got fed up of not having any gears!

Sunny winter's day commute across the bay

Sunny winter’s day commute across the bay

After the initial gear change on Kate’s bike was not good enough I resorted to buying her a new rear 2 speed hub wheel.  Costing £100 the wheel had a kick flick hub meaning when you peddled backwards the hub would change gear.  But with only a 30% change it still wasn’t practical for riding around on the flat and then changing to go up a 16 metre elevation in 0.2 miles.  Before the hub was fitted the bike was heavy so its additional weight wasn’t welcomed.

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So after 18 months of life in Cardiff it was time for the single speed to go.  It cleaned up really well and with a new chain, the old chainset fitted and new pedals the bike was ready for a new home.

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The 100 mile ride and getting lost.

14 May

Last week my brother called me to say his friend wasn’t going to be entering a 100 mile charity ride with him and would I take his place.  Although I ride my bike everyday I hadn’t clocked up many miles over the winter and it wasn’t until April that I started to go on longer rides again.

So the next day I got up and decided to get 100 miles in.  I cycled to Swansea Marina and back from Cardiff clocking up 105 miles in 6 hours 38 minutes.  The day couldn’t have been better for riding, the sun was out and there was only a little wind for a change, I even returned home with some mild sunburn!

So Saturday came around 5 days later and the weather was terrible.  The ride was from Cardiff to Tenby, it sold out within 24 hours with 1000 people entering.   I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast in the days coming up to the event and whilst I knew riding 100 miles was no problem for me I knew riding 100 miles with my brother was going to be testing.  Not because we don’t get on but because he has spent the whole winter riding hard and had managed to get incredibly fit.

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Signing on at the start of the ride

I arrived early at the start and whilst it was already busy there were certainly a lot of people yet to arrive.  After signing on we made it over to the start line with only a few people ahead of us.  As it was a charity ride there was not big start but groups of 50 were going to be sent off to avoid congestion at the traffic lights out of town.  As we waited people started to trickle off and as we made it to the start line the marshal let us go 5 minutes before the official start; cheating already and I’m not taking the blame!

We made our way out of Cardiff stopping at the many red lights and finally got to the final set before heading to Bridgend on the A48.  Greeted by a hill which was to be the first of many we passed a few riders and at the top we picked up some speed along the flat.  My approach to long distance riding differs somewhat from my older brother, whilst I like to maintain a steady rate of exertion he likes to  maintain a steady speed whatever the gradient and quite early on this made for a disagreement.  “Your so erratic with your speed” he yelled; “I’m saving myself for the remaining 93 miles” I yelled back.  On the flat and descents I was happy to push the speed but on the hills I usually like to take it easy not dropping below 10 mph to conserve energy.  The wind was reasonably strong but not as bad as I expected, 90 minutes into the ride it started to rain and although showers were forecast the sky had turned dark grey looking like it was going to continue all day.

Stuffing myself at the first food stop of the day.  We skipped the bacon roll and just filled our water bottles

Stuffing myself at the first food stop of the day. We skipped the bacon roll and just filled our water bottles

Now at this point I must point out with my 6 days notice before the event I had only managed to raise £30 and as my mum rarely reads this blog she is unlikely to ask for it back.  But if you sponsored my older brother you might want to have a word!  Just after Port Talbot we decided to take a minor detour to avoid a long exposed straight into the wind and instead chose a shorter hillier section but less exposed and not part of the official route, of course I objected to this easier option!

We sped our way to Swansea, despite the wind getting stronger we were making good progress, as we approached I wanted to stay on route and follow the cycle route through the marina whilst my brother wanted to continue along the road.  I argued it would be quicker without traffic lights and it probably was but really I just wanted to enjoy the view without the traffic.  It started well but as the sea front is exposed it often has sand blown on to the path, with a light dusting my companion let out some moans, and with a thin layer there were a few more and a cry that “we should rejoin the road, this is f*ing ridiculous”, when a little further on and the sand got a foot deep and my tyre cut through it like a knife I had to agree, it was back on the road.

A few miles later we were turning off onto a more sheltered route which ran along an old railway line through Clyne valley, although uphill the sheltered route was the easiest and most pleasant of the day.  This was good as the next section was to become tough!

Out of Gowerton we made our way over the Lougher estuary and on our way to Llanelli.  Now the wind had become fierce, this was what the weather man had described; 20 mph westerly winds, why were we heading west I thought!  Luckily on the last section we had managed to pick up two companions.  After my brother had done his stint at the front I took the lead for a while but eventually I was relieved by a much stronger rider and thankfully I was able to take a rest at the back which was much needed.  The wind was very strong and the pace was very high, I was struggling to hang on and whilst I fiddled around in my back pocket to find an energy bar a gap opened up which was almost impossible to close.  Another short stint at the front for me and I was knackered, luckily my ultra fit brother was able to take us most of the way to Llanelli where we stopped for some water.  At this point our recently formed group was disbanded and the two of us set off again.

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Whilst in other places we had managed to keep up a good pace of 18 – 20 mph against the wind along the millennium coastal path it was brutal, slowing us down to a miserable 10 mph against the wind.  We could see some other riders had detoured along the more sheltered main road but our lack of knowledge of the area meant we were unsure how to join them and this time we were stuck to the official route.  As we passed through Burry Port harbour the route became more sheltered and we were able to pick up the pace again, tagging along with a strong rider on a blue ribble bike.  A few miles from Carmarthen the terrain became lumpy and as we approached the hills we could see lines of riders in front making their way up.  Now whilst I am hardly a power house I am small and climbing is not a problem, and also I had the incentive to keep up with my brother who had sped off up the hills.  Whilst along the flat roads and downhill sections many riders had passed us we now overtook them on the hills and as we got to Carmarthen there were only two riders with us.

Leaving Carmarthen there is a long busy road that the ride in previous years has taken but this year there was a different route, one of the riders with us wanted to continue but I was keen to follow the designated route, we followed the signs and rode along roads that were new to me.  The two riders we had picked up were strong and my brother was leading the way and leading them away from me.  A gap opened and as much as I tried I couldn’t close it, those hills before Carmarthen had been long and big, a few years ago I managed to  reach 48 mph down them with a tail wind, if that tailwind had been as strong as today’s headwind I’m sure I would have reached the illusive 50 mph.  Finally my brother looked back in the distance and slowed down for me to catch up, the two other riders slowed for a short time and then disappeared into the distance.

As we approached a village called Llansteffan I realised we had gone wrong somewhere, this wasn’t part of the route and we were too close to the coast.  We continued for a while and when we got to a crossroads we got our phones out to look at a map.  We had missed a turn and somehow we were way off route, 6 miles in the wrong direction.  Whilst we were working out which direction to go another rider appeared who we had ridden with earlier.  Sticking to the small single track B road and avoiding the even smaller lanes made our way back to the route along unnecessary hills.  Now if you have been reading up to this point you are probably thinking well you shouldn’t have taken that short cut earlier on the ride, and I would agree apart from I had been cycling for 80 odd miles with my maniac brother and now we were lost.

Luckily the road we followed took us back on to the route and I felt like the end was in sight, my head calculated 17 miles left which wasn’t quite correct as it turned out to be more like 23 miles left.  We rode on and I had a new lease of energy after taking some more gels and energy bars.  A nice police officer sent us in the right direction at a roundabout with a missing sign and after some more hills and a few more we were almost at Tenby and the sun was out.

Arrival in Tenby

Arrival in Tenby

The last 10 miles went by fast, with the end in sight I had no problem climbing the last few hills as we kept a good pace.  Arriving in Tenby I followed my brother who seemed to know the way at first but as we went down a one way street I had my doubts, but we had done it, 100 miles which had become 116 miles but we were there!  We rolled into the harbour and he bought me a burger whilst we realised we had ridden around the finish line, never mind, the crowd had plenty of people to cheer after us, well at least 950 I’m sure!

Cardiff to Tenby Route

Unfortunately the battery on my phone ran out at 103 miles. 

Abergavenny to Cardiff

8 May

What a great day Saturday 4th May turned out to be! At midday I hopped on a train to Abergavenny with a map and some pasties with the aim of cycling back to Cardiff via Newport.

I left the station at Abergavenny and followed Route 42 a short distance until I got onto Route 46.  A couple of months ago I did this part of the journey cycling from Abergavenny to Neath which was just over 50 miles and the first secton of 46 was one of the most scenic passing through Clydach Gorge.

Which way to Cardiff

Which way to Cardiff

The route runs along the river as you head out of town and over the bridge.

Abergavenny Bridge
As quickly as I got on to Route 46 I was leaving it to join Route 49, a first for me.  The route was well signed and there was no need for the map.

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Route 49 follows the Brecon and Abergavenny canal and it is a fantastic route, leaving 46 took me up a short steep path but I was delighted to find the canal at the top which follows the edge of the hillside.

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The path was unpaved for much of the way but it was a good surface with only a few areas which were gravel.  Running on 1.5″ tyres was no problem

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I had no problem ducking under the many canal bridges but for those of you who are more lofty this might become a bit tiresome.

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I followed Route 49 through Pontypool and Cwmbran until I reached the outskirts of Newport and after going underneath the M4 I joined up with Route 47 which I followed to Fourteen Locks.  The route was well signed and shortly after the visitors centre there was a linking route from 47 to Route 4 marked with bracketed 4’s (4).

Back on Route 4 I had my first hills of the day passing through some great countryside on the way to Caerphilly.

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Along the way there was  race meet.

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As I followed the route through Caerphilly I could see the castle in the distance which the route passes.

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Descending from Caerphilly I joined the Taff Trail and followed it back to Cardiff ending the trip after 6 different National Cycle Network Routes and 52 miles.  I would highly recommend the ride although if you want  a shorter distance to cover you could end at Newport and catch the train.

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