The Road to Pont Scethin

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Winter can be such a fantastic time of year to get out on the bike for an overnight trip, with cool clear air revealing some fantastic views. This video is about a trip I took recently to a place I’ve always wanted to visit, since seeing a photo a couple of years ago: Pont Scethin.

Pont Scethin is a bridge, built some time after 1762, that lies on the old Drover’s Road from London to Harlech. In the 18th century, this was the main route through this part of Wales (long before the existence of the coast road). The old road remains as a walking/ riding track now, and the bridge still stands in this wonderfully isolated position.

The sunrise in the morning was amazing, and it’ll be a trip I will remember for a long time to come.

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Highland Trail Race: Epilogue

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The air was cold rolling down the road out of Tyndrum. The Highland Trail Race was done, but the riding wasn’t over until I’d got myself back to Ewich House. Having the prospect of a bed for the night was useful incentive to finish the race that evening.

I was too late for food in Tyndrum so had to make do with what I had left in my bags and whatever I could scavenge from the car. Half a packet of crisps, two pieces of stale malt loaf, one flapjack and a large supermarket cookie. Not quite the reward I was hoping for, but together with 120g of Torq Recovery powder, it was going to have to do. Continue reading

Highland Trail Race – The Final Push

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I woke up with a jolt. I fumbled for my phone, the only means I had of telling the time with my GPS switched off. It was 5:15 am and very light. I got up quickly to see if Mark’s bike was still in the bothy, and it was. I gathered my kit together in a matter of minutes and was on my way by 5:25 am.

Knowing that Mark was a stronger and faster rider than me, I knew that I needed to get a few miles down the road to give myself a cushion for the rest of the race. The only reason I was in this position was because I’d slept less than he had. I’ve just done three of the hardest days riding of my life, covering 530 km, and I now had to race another 160 km to the finish. And I’ve just had 1.5 hours sleep. No pressure. Continue reading

Highland Trail Race – Day 3

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I opened my eyes just enough to assess that it was now daylight and closed them again. The rain pounded on the tin roof of the emergency shelter. I was still on my own, so whoever it was out on the mountain last night, they either stayed in Shenavall or stopped somewhere else. It was 6.30 am. I got up and put my damp cycling clothes back on, and then put my goretex jacket and shorts over the top. My legs weren’t feeling brilliant, but then yesterday was a 194 km day. Maybe they’d loosen up. Continue reading

Highland Trail Race – Day 2

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I think it got light before 4:00 am, but it wasn’t until 6.30 am that I hauled myself out of my sleeping bag and got my kit back together. It was a tidy bothy, one I’d be given the details of by a friend via the Bear Bones Bikepacking forum. It was worth having ridden the extra distance to and I felt fairly refreshed even if by only 4 hours sleep. I’d saved a couple of pieces of pizza from the night before, one of which served nicely as breakfast.  Continue reading

Highland Trail Race – Day 1

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At the shout of “Go”, at precisely 10:00 am, we tore off up the stone track ahead of us. The first part of the route followed the West Highland Way to Kinlochleven, the major difficulty in this section being the Devil’s Staircase. The initial miles were much more straight forward, and for the most part completed at a brisk pace that just allowed for conversation while we still rode as a group. The pace up the first long climb to the Glencoe Ski Station was beginning to put me outside my comfort zone, so I backed off a bit and watched the leading group of 5 riders edge away (Aidan Harding, Phil Simcock, Mark Goldie, Phil Richmond, James Gillies). The descent that followed to King’s House was fun, but it only served as short respite before we got onto the Devil’s Staircase. The first long push of the day followed, which I enjoyed in the company of Rob Wixey and Alan Goldsmith. The moderately technical descent brought Rob and I into Kinlochleven, at which point we left the West Highland Way and heading North-east towards Loch Elide Mor. Continue reading

Highland Trail Race – An Introduction

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This is the beginning of a series of posts about my experience on the Highland Trail Race. In simple terms, it was a 430 mile off road self supported bike race around a predetermined route. No entry fee, no prize and certainly no support. If you’re wondering why it will be spread over so many posts, its because it was singularly the most difficult thing I have ever done on a bike. This bland statement does little to conjure up an image of what the race delivered. The fact is, half the field didn’t finish at all. Those that did endured an almost unbelievable level of physical exertion and mental pressure simply to complete the route. At this stage, I’m not even sure how I’ll tell my story, but for now lets start a week last Friday. Continue reading

Trans Cambrian Way Double (Part 2)

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Click here for Part 1

Up until now, I’d also been “flying under the radar”. I had a Spot tracker with me, but only Beth (my wife) knew where to look for progress updates. It wasn’t until a I sent out a few tweets at Dyfi Junction that I declared my intention to ride the double. But now the word was out, I was committed to getting to the job done.

Every joyful descent leading down to the Dyfi Junction became a painful climb to regain the higher elevations – they’re not called the Cambrian Mountains for nothing. Glaspwll track was a steady slog on foot; its gradient too steep for my 32:19 ratio and my already well-traveled legs. Once at the top, the grassy terrace was even more beautiful in reverse, and with the low sun now casting a warm orange cast over the landscape. However, this was soon forgotten when I reached the bottom of Foel Fadian. Its intimidating steep flanks rose up steeply to a crisp darkening sky. The push turned to a slog, and I would occasionally stop and look back to where the sun had been, but it didn’t diminish the effort required to complete the ascent. By the time I reached the top, it was properly dark and the temperature beginning to drop. Continue reading

Trans Cambrian Way Double (Part 1)

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I roll down the high street in Knighton early on Saturday morning. A nearly full moon is beginning to set in the south west, and the first light of dawn is beginning to show in the other direction. I pull up at the railway station, place my bike under the sign and take a photo.  Its 5.30 am. There’s only one ride that starts here: the Trans Cambrian Way. And for the first time, possibly, it’ll also feature as the end of the ride. Here is my account of the Trans Cambrian Way Double. Continue reading