Monday, 15 September 2014

Half Commutes & short leisure rides

Last week was epic. It already feels a distant memory.

This week has been made of half commutes and short rides for the South Pennine Walk & Ride Festival.

 What are half commutes? Well every day this week Stephen has been out of the office in the morning, but in the office for afternoons. Simply I cycled in to work in the morning and chucked my bike in Stephen's car for the return. Yes I felt a massive cycling cheat, but when your commute is 15 miles each way it really saves some time at the end of the day & means you get your tea time at a sensible hour.

The weekend consisted of four short festival rides.

Another sunset ride saw the sun appear just in time for the ride. It was only four miles, but it's an enjoyable little route up to The Halo at Haslingden.


Saturday's family ride was beautifully sunny and yesterday was the two loops around Tockholes (which counts as two rides... I suppose the ride home actually makes it three for the day).

I'm planning my next ride for tomorrow, but am unable to get it under 50 miles. I'm trying to take things a bit easier since last week I was plagued by incredible sleepiness. The main issue with pregnancy cycling & my dream rides is keeping them realistic and trying to not take too much out of my body. I'm fighting off ideas for bike-packing trips before the end of summer, but it is tough, there's just so many lovely places to visit around here and I dont think riding through any frost this winter would be terribly sensible.
 My cycling daydreams will have to be confined to bicycle accessorising ie recovering my saddles to make them asthetically awesome for each bike and sewing up some nice saddle bags. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

200 miles in one week, second trimester

Long before I discovered I was pregnant, or even got in that state, I put my name down to lead around 9 rides for the South Pennine Walk & Ride Festival. Over the last few months I'd been wondering whether I'd be able to carry out the rides, now the festival is here, I have my answer! From the post-title, I'm sure you can guess it's a 'yes'.

The week began with an easyish RSF club ride that was due to have just one significant climb over Weets Hill and the rest around Nappa Flats returning by canal.  I was on my newly aquired second hand mtb - suspension for off-roading when pregnant is pretty sensible to avoid pain in appendages that don't usually bounce on my athletic frame.

The day was stunning, although the ride was marred by events out of our control that meant we were out for 11 hours solid and had to do some route backtracking and replotting. Thankfully it was dry and a lovely day to be out. The report from the day is on the clubs website.

Despite a whole day out, on Monday I'd decided that since I couldn't make Wednesday's club ride of the Trough, I'd do my own. Stephen had a meeting in Lancaster in the morning, so he gave me a lift up the M6 and my plan was to ride home through The Trough (a first time for me), over Waddington Fell & the Nic O Pendle.

Along the route I met up with four other guys from the club who shared the bulk of the ride with me and Ian rode the whole way to visit the Carradice Factory. He'd pedalled up from Southport to meet me at the start.

I was on my new vintage French steed testing it's hill climbing skills. I'd picked it up the other week and only done a couple of commutes. Ian and Steve were also on old vintage steel cycles.
It's an interesting little bike - google Claude Pottie` and you'll see that not much info exists.  The triple and lighter weight makes it much better on the hills than my 60s mixte and my only issues on the day were the fact I'd not done many hilly miles in one go recently for months. I pedalled up all the hills, and only needed to stop on the Nic for a few mouth fulls of malt-loaf, although the climb out of Sabden felt tougher than usual.

Still, I was very pleased that at 15 & 1/2 weeks pregnant, I'd done the 36 miles and over 5000ft of climbing that Memory Map tells me the route is. And had a lovely day in fantastic company.

Tuesday, Weds and Thursday were rides to my mum's and work, so no pictures of anything of much interest there.
On Friday we had a meeting in Chorley and it was Stephen who had brought up the option of cycling there. Not me! So a 15 mile ride to the office followed by a 22 mile blast from Rossendale to Chorley along some lovely lanes, but against the clock, so no dawdling and sadly no pictures. The sun was shining, but the headwind kept us cool. We met up with Geoff from the club and his good lady for a pub tea and our plans to ride all the way back were thwarted when Stephen had one too many pints to brave a journey that long. Instead we cycled to the train at Bamber Bridge, had a heart attack at the one way fare back home (£19.40!!!) and then enjoyed the uphill back to the house over the hill.

Saturday morning arrived with some leg ache, but the Walk & Ride Festival was here. The rain was torrential as we donned our wet weather gear and hats to meet Brian for the family ride from the park. Luckily the rain turned into a drizzle for the rest of the day.
Sandwiched between the family ride and the evening ride, I had a 2nd birthday party to pop into, so there was much rushing around, pressie buying and lugging up to and from Loveclough.

I had hoped nobody would turn up for the sunset ride and I did have two cancellations from people that had 'chickened out' - possibly due to the weather or perhaps night riding for newcomers to cycling is a bit daunting. But we were greeted by the warm smiles of Ian as we rounded the corner.

As we set off the clouds were still dominating the sky. We enjoyed exploring the tracks above Clowbridge Reservoir and at this time of night we had the place almost to ourselves.
By the time we were reaching the Singing Ringing Tree, the clouds were dissipating and a warm golden hue was forming across the hills.

As we turned to leave The SRTree, a blast of sunshine emerged from the cloud over Hameldon and we were gifted with a pretty amazing sunset.

From here it was mostly downhill and as we neared the reservoir, the skies lit up bright deep pink, illuminating the dark waters.

I was very glad to have enjoyed this little 5 mile loop and had a beaming smile all the way home.

So second trimester cycling is going really well. Better than the first, although that was hot weather, body overheating and then adding to that any cycling made it far too hot to be comfortable.

I have some handlebar adjusting to do soon - I think the forward leaning position on the mtb combined with pedalling motion pushing against my tummy really helped create some discomfort.
But I've had plenty of energy to keep going and the 'blooming glow' everyone keeps saying I have is far more to do with getting the sunshine on my skin than anything else I think.

I'm surprised that I'm managing to continue to keep up the miles without any problems and without really piling away any more food than I'd usually be eating.

Now all I need is a big Bump On Board sticker / flag to attach to my bike!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Where have I been?

Apologies for the massive lack of posts recently. I have been getting out and about & have some wonderful rides to share with you.
The last few months have consisted of buying a house, getting married, starting a new post at work (well it's only a secondment but its very different) and now I'm 12 weeks pregnant, so it's been rather a lot of change in a very short time. Hence the blog has been somewhat overlooked.
So to whet your appetite, I'll be updating in the next few weeks with with:
the last post of the wedding trip
my first wild camp (solo)
Calder Aire Link
A mammoth few commutes for work meetings
A trip to Howarth
A couple of very enjoyable RSF rides

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Llangurig to Breacon

The sun was in full force for the next few days of riding. We set off from Llangurig heading southwards following the course of the River Wye as it traversed many smaller valleys. This made for stunning cycling with the view changing completely every few miles. Although we were following the river, the roads rose and fell along the sides of the valleys which was a challenging start after the previous day's massive climbs. But with a crystal clear blue sky & an early start we were both relishing the rollercoaster roads.

At Rhayader we joined the traffic free old railway route that took us into the always beautiful Elan Valley. It's easy to understand why so many cyclists mention this area as their favourite part of Wales.
Due to the long distance of this day's riding, sadly we didn't follow the River Elan upstream to the reservoir, instead continuing along the Wye.

A Sustrans sign warned us of muddiness and treachery ahead as we reached Ty'n-y-fon Wood. It advised that we could follow the A-road instead, but the track leading up looked fine for anyone in the RSF, so we merrily continued up the rough stones enjoying the view from this elevated position where we could see the A-road below, surely it didn't have quite such resplendent views.

The track became more challenging as we continued. It seems that this route is being 'sanitised' and two workmen, a digger & a huge heap of stones had been laying the foundation of a more modern surface. As the work is in early stages, the small stones made for very slow progress - a bit like pedalling through treacle. Every stroke of the pedal being some real effort your pushing through the cranks. And with the heat of the mid-day sun, we were eagerly anticipating the lunch stop at Newbridge-on-wye. Back on tarmac, we flew knowing the little town wasn't far ahead.
However when we arrived, there wasn't much choice and all we could find was a small snack to tie us over. It did give our legs that boost to push on to Builth Wells. It felt like forever snaking around the hills without much sign of civilisation anywhere, but then all of a sudden we were heading into a town and a view which seemed identical to a homely view of Pendle Hill & the River Ribble!
A quick circuit of the town to decide where to eat and we settled on CC's, which was perfect! Lovely salad & quiche and a cake and the couple (I think they were a couple) who ran it were so struck with out cycle tour, we got free brews out of it. A sandwich bar I highly recommend if you're ever in the town!!

We continued the course of the Wye on the opposite side of the river from the A-road. This section was fast going - that wonderful feeling on a tour when you really feel you're actually making headway. We hit the main road, but there's a shared use footway, we carried on a bit further than the signed route for a garden centre brew & cake stop before the last pull of the day. We took a quiet lane where a very small elderly lady was sitting on her garden wall with her slippers on, smiling. We stopped to say 'hello' and she was so delightful- still full of wonder at the world and where she lived, clearly loving watching cyclists go past her house. She praised how well we'd climbed the lane, but warned us that there was much worse to come!

As we climbed, we saw a radio mast on a hilltop. Well that climb wasn't so bad after all. We turned a corner at Talgarth and it kept climbing, ok it was steeper, but we could make it. Two ladies in a car descending the hill gave us a big Thumbs Up as we reached a junction. A good feeling. Then we turned another corner and wow, yep, there was the hill. And it was a Good Un!! I slowly chugged up the hill that stretched out ahead. Stephen decided to be sensible and get off rather than strain his old-man-football-worn knee that had begun to bother him. I was happy to still be pedalling my fully loaded steed as a mamil passed me on his descent of he hill on some feather light make believe bike ;-) (and happily for Stephen, for that last stretch, he had decided to get back on).
It was one of the harder climbs of the tour, but probably my favourite. The lengthening shadows & warm evening breeze were lovely.

There was a good chunk of downhill from here as we approached the town of Breacon. Again it felt miles from civilisation, but then we started to pass houses and people out walking & running. But the cycle route seemed to take an excessive detour to reach the town. We popped into the supermarket for provisions for the night at the YHA. We still had a few miles left to cover as we followed the canal out of town in golden light.

The area was charming, but we had a good hour left on the road. I was very sorry that the setting sun meant we pressed on quickly here and took the main road as much as we could rather than follow all the little roads of the Taff Trail.
The route took us right up to the hostel and we arrived in semi-darkness, with clear starry skies. The hostel duty manager was very excited to hear about our trip and she had just got married a few weeks earlier. We grabbed some supper and chatted in the lounge for a while before turning in.
We did discover that YHA Danywellant does NOT have self-catering facilities. I didn't even know there were any hostels that don't provide a kitchen for guests to use! I will remember to make a note of that for the future; it would have been very useful to have known before carting tins of beans & a box of eggs all that way. And only discovering that fact after the reception had closed so we had not ordered breakfast for the next morning...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Wedding cycling tour Dolgellau to Llangurig

The morning after the wedding we went down to breakfast & Nick & Sharon brought a bottle of bubbley to the table. I was feeling a little on the rough-side, so after a small glass, we put the remainder into the flask.
We knew it was going to be a big day ahead - not massive mileage, but massive amounts of climbing. We said our goodbyes to our families (thanks for taking our clothes home) & hosts and were on our way & instantly climbing. Instant climbing when you're rough is not much fun! We stopped for a few breathers as we climbed up from Dolgellau.

And we climbed some more. And some more. Eventually we crossed the main road as the bus carrying Sarah passed us - I waved maniacally hoping she would see us. The quiet lane carried on climbing for what felt like forever, and finally we reached the top. The view was amazing, as was the feeling that we were going to have so many more climbs to follow as valley after valley stretched out as far as we could see.

A fun descent took us past fields of lambs, verges of daffodils and villages en route to Machynlleth which was delightful after the morning slog.
We stopped at a corner shop for butties, but they'd sold out, so we grabbed some bits & sat in the sunshine on a bench eating jam slices & having a swig of bubbley (which opened with the most satisfyingly massive pop after being churned around on the bicycle frame) before carrying on to find a proper lunch at the leisure centre in Machynlleth (very cheap & good food). The lunch both gave us a much needed boost for the next section of climbing through the desolate hills where there's just nothing other than amazing views, one or two farms & sheep galore. We opted for the off road option, which was stunning, but Stephen's pannier rack was suffering from the rough terrain (he needs to invest in a proper one that is fully supported), so he walked most of the climb, we reached an unrideable section and both had to push up the last mile, which is a slog when you have a loaded bike!

When we got back on the road, it still wasn't the top!
But we were rewarded by a blissfully traffic free, smooth as butter gradual descent. The last big climb of the day complete, we were enjoying taking it easy all the way to Staylittle....

but I hadn't accounted for the subsequent smaller blips on the elevation profile and although we only had a dozen miles left to complete, the last section felt very tough. The roads rollercoasted around the smaller hills, gradually working their way up to the highest village in Wales, but repeatedly dropping you down and such a twisty road meant you didn't know what was round the next bend. Then a straight road downhill & behold, a blue building. It had to be the Bluebell Inn where we were booked in. We were both delighted to freewheel straight into the carpark rather than have the chore of arriving at a town, only to have the next task of funding the accommodation.
A basic room & an unassuming place, but after a shower, we went down to the bar & ordered our tea. And that was good! We had left beautiful, Welsh speaking North Wales behind and now in mid-Wales hearing any Welsh was also behind us.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Wedding Cycling Tour Days 2 & 3

We had a rest day before the Big Day, stopping two nights in picturesque Barmouth.

We pootled about town in the morning looking for things to make a bouquet with and only managed to get some ribbon, then in the afternoon embarked on a few hours of hiking from the Panorama walk onto the hill tops & back into the town behind the lovely old fishing cottages that are propped against the hillside in San Francsican fashion. All the little stairway alleyways were an idyll for me - allowing me to snoop on people's gardens and wonder at the cuteness of the place.

We returned to the b&b to find a card & a bottle of champagne outside our door that Jupp & John had kindly left us, so we hauled up for the evening with face masks, hair masks and generally chilled out.

The morning of The Big Day arrived. Alas the previous day's amazing sunshine was nowhere to be seen & the sky threatened rain for our ride along the Mawddach Trail.

A light breakfast for the mere ten flat miles saw us arrive in Dolgellau in good time (without getting rained on) & we even had a leisurely pot of tea at Ty Seren where we would be stopping for the evening.

Then the rush around. A fast shower & a frenzied attack with curling tongues and hairspray followed by a battle with the birdcage veil. Sarah & I then rushed off to find a florist toot-sweet. The lady there was lovely, but spoke better Thai than English & despite me wearing a wedding dress, she didn't seem to understand what the flowers were for. I thought an explanation would confuse things further, so I took my vase display back & asked Sharon & Nick for some scissors. There ensued a flower massacre in the shower as I cut the stems to a sensible size and tied my bouquet. Ta-daaa, ready! With time to spare.

Stephen's pretty bobbins with directions, so I was surprised when he had made it to the registry office before me!

Official business in the back and some laughs with Rhian & Rhian, the two registrars. They misheard my address thinking I had moved to the village of Lame Bottom, which when you're on a cycling tour gets some pretty good mileage! They were lovely & very welcoming. The tiny office is tucked away in the back of the council building and seats up to 20. Ideal for a quieter wedding ceremony & perfect for ours.
Everything had gone to plan and the music began to some giggles (readings below for those into that kinda thing).

We headed off to The Ship Inn for a wedding lunch then up to Gwesty Gwernan where Stephen's family were staying. We propped up the bar for a couple of hours.
We returned to find our room at Ty Seren was decorated with a wedding balloon & confetti everywhere you could think of! A really lovely touch.

Moors and clouds, Hills and sky
Stretching out forever infront of us
A lifetime of adventures ahead.

Headwinds, inclines, flats- unavoidable
We’ve already had our fair share
Keeping the ride diverse.
The challenges of our journey
Shape and strengthen our union
As we grow to understand each other more.

The climbs are easier
And the care-free-wheeling, a joy
Now we share our path.

The momentum gathered will carry us.
Our wheels propelling happiness
Onward, forever affirmed.

They say the tandem shows the sum of a couple
They also say, ‘She’s not pedalling!’ a lot!
Communication, compromise & humour required,
Then a flying machine is what you’ve got!
Complete trust in the pilot’s essential for enjoyment
For a ride ride full of laughter and smiles.
Team work is the last ingredient needed
To make a lifetime of happy miles.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Wedding Cycling Tour Days 1&2

Months in the planning, 400 miles, not a drop of rain, no punctures either. A very memorable way to get hitched!

Lon Las Cymru is a route that has been calling to me for a few years - right through the heartland of Wales. It happens that there's a registry office en route in Dolgellau, so it seemed a fitting way to get married. We stuck a chunk of NCN5 on to the start from Chester and added an extra stretch into Somerset onto the end to beef it out a bit finishing at Blue Anchor near Minehead.

Day 1 had big mileage, but not much climbing, however there was a heck of a big headwind that ground things to a slow crawl along the banks of the Dee and all the way along the seafront past Rhyl into Llandudno towards the peaks of Snowdonia's hill tops that seemed to remain on the horizon forever as we slogged away. We enjoyed a nice bit of climbing after Flint which was lovely on pretty lanes up to Hoylake golf club for our first pint of the trip, which broke up the flat slog nicely.


As the holiday season hadn't got underway, most places were closed so finding a place to eat was no simple task. A lovely village before Llandudno came to our rescue with a fancypants pub meal. Semi-defeated we decided to get the train to Bangor to make up the time - that stretch is mostly along the A-road, so we werent missing much & we'd already visited lovely Conwy so had been on that stretch before.  We were also stopping at an Airbnb find & I was worried about arriving late, not knowing if our host had an early start for work the next day.

The night-time ride to the train then on to Penisa'r waun was delightful; bats flying alongside us, quiet narrow roads and the shadows of the mountains against the dark sky were breathtaking. Roller coaster roads came one after another.

We arrived at 10.30, our host, Luke who is a fellow cycle tourer was very understanding & lovely company - he had cycled Lon Las Cymru a number of times.

The great thing about arriving somewhere in the dark, is that when morning arrives, you're awarded with a beautiful view. The area here was stunning and I'm sure I could while away many cycling and walking hours just here. I aim to return there for a proper explore. 

Day 2 we set off towards Caernarfon where the start of NCN8 is beside the old mountain railway near the castle. Brilliant sunshine from the start, but cold headwinds again.
After leaving the beautiful lanes, we were on the converted railway track which offered mountain views to the west and more distant views of the coast to the east as it worked it's way in land to cut across the peninsular. 
The flat track was long forgotten as the route snaked it's way up steep hills and around farms, beautiful, but our legs were already tired from the previous long day in the saddle and getting reaccustomed to hauling two weeks worth of gear in the panniers. Eventually we were rewarded with a fast descent into the pretty seaside town at Criccieth where we enjoyed a picnic overlooking the bay, beneath the castle in a warm sheltered spot.

We plumped for a little bit of rough-stuff along the bridleway coastal path here, although it turned out there was a style we had to lug the heavy bikes over.

As we approached Black Rock Sands, we were greeted by a gentleman on an oldschool ten speed mountain bike & his good lady on a 3 speed, 20 inch wheeled bike with a basket containing crisps and pop. She  was taking the rough climb in her stride & apparently kept leaving him far behind as she managed every climb unphased; both joked (with grand Huddersfield accents) about his heart-attacks and the vein surgery he was about to receive. Half an hour later & we were pedalling towards Porthmadog again.

We made a quick stop for provisions before quickly carrying on to the stiff climb we knew was approaching.

We knew that the storms that had battered Wales the other month had left plenty of infrastructure problems in this area, but the miles of A-road diversion was less fun than we anticipated as we powered on with fast traffic on a very narrow road with drivers who must be sorely irritated by not only this huge detour, but the road works & traffic lights along this stretch that they've had to endure since before Christmas. The railway & pedestrian bridge is also out, adding to the volume of traffic on the stretch that cyclists are also being diverted on.

Finally we were through the diversion and we stopped at a roadside b&b which also has a cafe for a brew, a cake & a chill out! Right above us was a very high, steep hill. This is where route 8 goes. But we decided that we would make up for lost time by  going on the b-road which runs part way up the hill - offering lovely views, but with less effort. It was a good decision, although I'm sure the off road track is worth checking out another time.

It was a straight run into Barmouth from here and we did make excellent time, better than we'd anticipated, so it was a shame to miss the off road hill, but equally nice to enjoy our luxury room at the b&b, beside the window enjoying a glass of wine & the view of the Mawwdach Estury.