Across Wales: sunshine and sog

“Visiting Friends and Family” – the tick-box on the Australian Immigration form.  A join-the-dots process of sufficient complexity one of us alone; now multiplied with both of us.    The result is a route that criss-crosses the country from south to north and a transportation question…

How to join those dots?  By bicycle and with as little traffic as possible (of course).

So we went to work – remembered suggestions and a little internet time gave us the answer – the TransCambrian trail tagging onto the Sarn Helen trail (or something approximating to it).  The good thing about the UK’s good maps and long history of getting from A to B by non-motorised means is that for those who like the research process a ‘more interesting’ progress can be made.

Quintessential. Green (in our Australia-filtered eyes). Sunny and slightly chilly – the former won’t last long, but we’re expecting that. Not far from our drop-off point in Knighton.
Soft, damp and push-worthy territory – unless you’ve got big fat tyres.  My description of the fat-bike tyres being ‘over-kill’ for Britain soon proves hollow (in the right direction)
Thankfully things improve :-)
More soggy up-hill grass, this time at a better angle.  Classic British showers colour the sky in their retreat.
Evening draws in with some brightness to de-sog me.
For overnight, with more rain coming, we spot a likely barn.  “We don’t get many cyclists round here at this time of year” Andrew (the slightly bemused farmer) says.  “The cow might calve overnight, would you mind that?”.  He even supplies some 6″ nails in place of the rather frail pegs supplied with our overly ultra-lightweight tent.  I’m not sure we’d have thought to knock on a farm door for a dry place to camp prior to the Americas trip, but it’s a trick that bears repetition.
The ‘old routes’ – bridleways lace the British landscape.  At one time most of the ‘roads’ were like this – some became ‘main’, and others stayed as they were.  Enticingly snaking over and round.
Good honest muck, washed with plenty of rain
Having got going a little later than planned on the first day; when we got to Rhyader we were half a day behind.  Spotting a ‘short-cut’ up a paved road in the Elan Valley that would rejoin the route short of Llangurig, we meet a couple of local mountain bikers about to head up a trail.  Taking their suggestion that we follow, they lead us up onto a fine bridleway.
The boys leave us to make a circuit back to Rhayader while our route is all we want
though all good things have to end – as the paved road rises up to meet us
For a paved road, it’s not too bad ;-)
The next day; heading towards Machynlleth the showers become full-time, steady soak.  Glimpses-views happen enough to sustain us and bog-worthy fatness has to go un-praised as Sarah’s finding the squidge a little more hard work than could be considered ‘fun’.
Often following Glyndwr’s way – a multi-day walking trail, the riding gets quite technical (and slippery) at times
Heading north from Machynlleth and the end of the TransCambrian Trail, we discover that the Sustrans National Cycle Network 8 (and it’s derivatives) is going exactly our way. Via a very fine bridge across the Dyfi river.
These stickers and signs nullify the need for any significant self-navigation.
and take you past the necessary facilities.  In this case a tea-shop for early lunch in Dolgellau :-)  The afternoon brightness takes us through the Coed-y-Brenin forest, past Trawsfynedd and down to the Dwyfor river and the sea in time to arrive for dinner!

Route Information:

TransCambrian Way (IMBA-UK). From Knighton to the Irish Sea.  The IMBA-UK site gives links to GPS data, and print maps and booklet.

Elan Valley short-cut (Day 2 TCW) – B4518 (signed Aberystwyth ‘via the Mountain road’), then possible to turn right onto bridlepaths head up onto the ridge parallel to the road.

Machynlleth onwards.  National Cycle Network 8 (or 82)

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5 comments

  1. Tell us about the new monster bike! Is it amazing, or an embarrassing mistake (I’ve thought that once or twice)? I spotted two “22” frames at the bike shop in Glenwood Springs, CO. One was Ti, and the other was steel and painted like a John Deere.

    • Amazing. Needs to be ridden differently to other bikes I’ve known – it has its own line, much like others do. I think I ride it better each time I go out – starting to develop the ‘eye’ for the best fat-tyre path now. On uneven rock and rumble technical mountain bike trails I have to be careful not to go too fast in some places (managed to pinch flat a few days ago) – and getting the best tyre pressure is a learning process. Result today – no difficulty staying up with the fastest of my old biking friends on a sodden rocky/rooty singletrack. Discovered that, because the tyres displace so much water, that I have to hit significant puddles with the bars straight or risk the front aqua-planing/sliding out of control! My friends also discovered that if they’re on my tail, the puddle’s gone by the time they get there… Bit wet for photographic evidence.

      As a ride-all-day expedition ride it promises much too.

      • I’m glad to hear that you have found “too low” pressures. It took me quite a while to find low pressures in the snow, then again on rocky trails as I was afraid of pinch flats. Fat tires are a reliable but crude suspension system. In the area of traction and flotation they are tops. I’ve not yet planed on water. Sounds fun!

        Some days I dream about Nate tires.

      • Husker Dus aren’t too bad either. I’ve found the bike is sensitive to an overly fast pedalling cadence too – gets quite ‘bouncy’, but this goes as soon as you get the right gear.

        Large volume water displacement by hitting puddles at full speed is quite satisfying actually, as long as you’re prepared for the braking and steering effects too :-)

  2. Brilliant photos and evocative words, as always. And I just love to see you grinning with the fat tyres, Tom! Surely S is utterly persuaded, smart gal that she is…

    Best,
    Joe

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