Just Riding

Just Riding, Photos, Trails

Around Cairngorm


The inner part of the Cairngorm Loop is but a small part of a longer 300 km self-sufficient mountain bike route.

At just over 100km for the part I rode, I discovered it’s not to be under estimated; the solitude of the Cairngorm mountains, the magnitude of the hills that surrounded me, the depth of the glens through which I rode, the beauty of the rivers, the colour of the trees and texture of the heather – they all far exceeded my expectations.

Here is a collection of ten photos from the ride. (more…)

Just Riding, Video

Welsh Ride Thing 2015


Modern day bikepacking in the UK – as version of traditional touring for people who prefer their riding off road – had to begin somewhere. Just maybe that “somewhere” was a small farm in Mid Wales, which hosted the first Welsh Ride Thing seven years ago.

Not concerned with scoring points, beating the clock or riding an obscene amount of miles,  the “WRT” draws in both hardened and aspiring bikepackers alike to a field in Wales before sending them off into the wilderness for three days in search of “points of interest”. Getting stuck in a bog, falling in a stream, maybe having a pub meal, sleeping in a bothy or perhaps under a hedge are all optional activities along the way. Life could not be more simple.

Here’s a video of how a wet and windy weekend in Wales unfolded for Beth and I on this years Welsh Ride Thing


Just Riding, Statistics

Bye-bye 2014

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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…)

Just Riding

Shadow Play


I switch my light off and stand for a moment in the forest while my eyes adjust from the bright white of my bike lights to the silvery glow from the half moon high in the sky above me. Tonight is a beautiful night for ride. Stars twinkle in a crystal clear sky and the air is mild and calm.

I ride on and up through the forest, my eyes now accustomed to the moon’s glow. This world of silvery grey and black constantly changing and casting new shapes and shadows around me. The climbing continues. The forest track is flanked with broadleaved trees, and their bare crowns cast complex shadows over me as I ride beneath.

Nearing the top the track enters into some dense spruce trees. I leave the light off and enter the blackness. My world of silver grey and black is reduced almost entirely to black. I can barely see the ground beneath my wheels and the edges of the track are only visible out of the corner of my eye. A faint glow of moon light gradually appears in the distance as the edge of the forest approaches.

Eventually I burst out of the dark spruce trees into a mountain landscape bathed in moonlight. The lower flanks of the Beacons rise up from the edge of the forest, their crisp dark edges against a bright starry sky.

I linger for a while, content with my solitude in the landscape that surrounds me and the vastness of the universe above. I hesitate to embark on the descent, knowing that as soon as I switch my light back on I will leave this intriguing world of moonlight and shadows and all the infinite beauty of the stars and confine my world once again to a pool of stark whiteness.

Just Riding, Trails

Feeling Lucky?


I could see rain clouds in every direction from the house, except for overhead and the direction I wanted to go riding, where the sky was clear and sunny. I thought:

It’ll only be a short ride, I’ll leave the rain jacket at home.

Jumping onto the Pegasus, I headed for Mynydd Illtyd, an area of common about 4 miles from Brecon with some great open singletrack and few sharp climbs to really test the legs. As I got to the common, sun still shining overhead, the view west over to Fforest Fawr was black:  a wall of  cloud and driving rain about two miles into the distance.

The trouble with parts of the Brecon Beacons is they have their own climate. Parts can be sunny, while others are drenched in rain, with little inbetween. Keeping the right side of the weather boundary is a mix of good judgement and sheer luck.

You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?

I pressed on towards the rain with increased urgency. Just as I approached my return point, the wind on my face was laced with fine rain. I peeled off the main track and kicked the pedals hard along a gradually climbing grassy singletrack path. Even after I turned my back to the wind and could no longer see the black ominous clouds behind me, the race is on to finish the ride and not get wet.

Finding a level of strength and determination that has evaded me lately, I hammered round the rest of the loop at a blistering pace. The steep climbs were all dispatched with maximum commitment, and just as I rounded the top of the last climb, I decided on a small detour to a trig-point. It was a bit further and steeper than I expected. With legs burning, lungs bursting, heart pounding and with the sun still shining I got to the top of the trig point to stand victorious and dry in front of black clouds and distant rain. In nearly every direction I could see rain falling, yet overhead the sun still shone.

I don’t think the ride would have been half as exciting if I’d actually taken my rain jacket.