Before I tell you about the Bear Bones 200, you need to know about some things from earlier in the year.
In May this year, I took part in 3rd Welsh Ride Thing (WRT), which is a three day bikepacking and navigation event run in aid of Wales Air Ambulance. A series of checkpoints are set across a wide area of Mid Wales, and you plan a ride of you own choosing to visit as many or as few as you wish over three days. I happened to spend most of it in the company of Aidan Harding. Within the right circles, Aidan is well known for a number of big achievements for long distant races such as the Tour Divide and Idita Bike. Indeed, for Idita Bike, he narrowly missed first place in the 1100 mile race to Nome, and posted the fastest singlespeed time for his second place finish. When he caught me up and suggested we ride together, I thought then that I would be in for a hard time. Here was a man who had ridden more miles in a month than I’d ridden all year, and who would go on to ride more miles next month that I would probably achieve for the remaining part of the year. It was slightly intimidating, but I dug deep and kept pedalling.
The WRT course was tough this year. It took on very lumpy terrain north of Machynlleth, which anyone who has done the Dyfi Enduro will know. The first day took us out over Glyndwr’s Way along a surprisingly challenging route before we tackled the even more challenging 600m summit of Tarrenhendre in deteriorating weather conditions. We stopped eventually at a lower and calmer elevation with about 60 km ridden.
The following day we were rolling for around 8am, which was fairly leisurely all things considered. Our day two route would take us right around the north side of Cader Idris and back into Dyfi Forest before eventually heading SE along more Glyndwr’s Way before making the link back over to the finish at Pennant. In all, we rode 92 km in about 11 hours. It was the furthest and longest I had ever ridden a singlespeed before, and I was suitably tired by the end of it.
Though it only turned out to be two days of riding, it was really useful to pushed a bit in terms of distance and severity of riding. Aidan said he thought it was harder than a typical day on the Tour Divide, which was encouraging in many ways.
A couple of weeks after the event I got an email from Stuart Wright, WRT organiser, asking how I’d felt about the distance we’d ridden and how we would have change our strategy if we were doing, say, 300km. My reply was
If faced with a greater distance (with equal severity), I would take gears – no question. As such, I’d most likely be a bit quicker and/or not quite so tired at the end of the day.
In August the inaugural Bear Bones 200 was announced: a 200km individual time trial starting and finishing in Mid-Wales and taking a challenging route south through Hafren Forest, Elan Valley, Twyi Forest, Devils Staircase, Coed Trallwm and back over to Elan Valley for a return route back through Hafren. For a bit of perspective, the route was half the distance of our Welsh Divide Trip and with 50% more ascent. You needed to be prepared for a night under the stars too, with a sleeping bag and bivvy bag being mandatory kit items. Don’t forget to take enough food with you either as the only places to get food were at 60 and 100 miles into the route.
A week before the event was an announcement that anyone who completed the event would get a green badge. If you could get under 28 hours you got a blue one. The black badge is reserved for those who could get under 24 hours.
Naturally, I would be aiming for a black badge. I also, for reasons I can’t quite identify but possibly related to my poor memory, decided to take the singlespeed.
To be continued…