It was but the first month of the year
As I gathered together my bikepacking gear.
Wales in January; it would probably be raining,
But no matter, for this was really for training.
In preparation for Finland I go,
To a land bleak and white and covered in snow.
The Bear Bones Ford Fiesta is that which beckoned;
No finer celebration of fords could be reckoned.
Out from the start, my route headed west,
Riding into the wind was really a test.
Onto Glyndwr’s Way, where new trails await;
Progress would be easier if the wind would abate.
Last Monday saw my last ride of the year, and it was a cracking one with which to finish the year. It was minus 7 degrees Celsius as I left the house at 5:30am. The temperature didn’t really get above freezing until closer to 11:00am, by which time I was high up on the Black Mountains, east of Brecon. The ridge tops were majestically covered in a dusting of snow, and though the ground was frozen, the going was far from easy. The 100km loop took over 10 hours to ride, but left me satisfied that I’d rounded off the year in suitable style. (more…)
There are dozens of excellent tracks all over the Beacons & eastwards to the Black Mountains (note: plural). It’s an area I know like the back of my hand – I can ride over 100 miles of trails without even needing to check the map. However, if you head westwards just a little way there is one area where I had never ridden: The Black Mountain. Back in August, I decided I needed to put that right. And I definitely needed to take a map. (more…)
Pick a few points on a map, a variable distance apart, say 20-40km.
Highlight any good rideable off road trails you know between these points. You’ll need about three fifths of these.
Highlight any of the unrideable trails you know between these points. Don’t use any more than one fifth of these, or your route will have a slightly sour taste.
At this stage, you may notice that not all your trails join up. Link as many of these sections as you can with bits of road, yellow ones if you have them, or any that have those small black arrows on.
You might still have a few loose ends, but don’t worry, these can be linked up using arbitrary rights of way over the top of bleak mountain tops. Again, don’t over do these, as it will affect the bitterness afterwards.
Once prepared, keep your route in a dark place for a couple of months to mature and don’t tell anyone where it is.
While your route is maturing, you will need to source approximately 70 mountain bike riders (bikepacking variety) who will ride your route. They don’t need to know where it goes at this stage, they just need to think they want to do it. (more…)
This post continues from my previous entry for the Lakeland 200.
I woke up at 9:35 AM. For only two hours sleep, I didn’t feel too bad. I finished the rest of my olives and got dressed into some normal clothes. Rummaging around the van, I found some more food and began the process of replacing the thousands of calories consumed over the last 27 hours of riding.
The other objective for the weekend was to ride The Shindig, a social bikepacking event organised by by Bryan Dawson for Shand Cycles. The grand depart was from Milngavie (pronounced mull-guy), north of Glasgow at 2:00 PM. There was a strong likelihood I wasn’t going to make it in time, but I wasn’t coming this far north and giving up on it entirely. (more…)
I stopped at the bottom of a rooty and rocky trail threading its way up through some woodland. It was too steep to ride. I prepared to dismount for yet another push, but my mind challenged me before my body could repeat the now familiar ritual of the next bit of hike-a-bike. Just how far, from this exact point, would it be to ride the road back to Keswick?
I was near Elterwater, west of Ambleside part way into the Lakeland 200 ITT route. The sun shone, but everything was dark. I’d been riding since 3:33am and it was now 3:00pm. I was just past half way and I’d had enough. I’d lost count of the number of climbs I’d pushed. Over 60 miles of Lakeland trails lay behind me, mostly hewn from large lumps of rock that provided no respite. I still had to do a distance equal to what I had already covered, and over more difficult terrain. Sunset was 4 hours away. (more…)
Having covered the equipment and technical side of things in my previous post, We’ll now explore what I decided to shoot and how I pieced it together.
My knowledge of good proportions of the route gave me a good mental picture of different sections I wanted to film. Devil’s Staircase (ascent and descent), Abhainn Rath and Corrieyarrick Pass were all on my list. Of course, I didn’t know whether I’d be solo or with someone at these points, so I made use of any opportunity to film another rider when I saw them to maintain a sense this was a race. I found myself solo on Day 1 more than I expected – partly owing to a torn sidewall on the Devil’s Staircase descent – and after the quick start and the sense that the tyre repair had cost me time early in the race, my mind was battling with the concept that I should be racing while my filming head was saying, ease up, there’s a good scene to shoot there. In a couple of places I passed up the opportunity to film off the bike because I could see other riders back down the trail behind me and didn’t want to get caught. In the end I had quite a good selection of various bits of the route from Day 1, but the challenge of editing into a reasonably concise sequence and keeping with the flow of the music meant a lot wasn’t used.
The bothy sequence at the start of Day 2 came out much better than I expected. As soon as I woke, (more…)