Welsh Ride Thing 2013 (It was sunny!)
Had been looking forward to this for some time. I have been slowly acquiring some kit for bikepacking and wanted a bit of a challenge so signed up for the WRT. Found it whilst perusing the Bear Bones forum.
The basic concept is to arrive in a field with other like minded people and then head off into the wilds of Wales. We had been supplied with 14 checkpoints with the idea you do as many as you like and pick whichever route you please. Its not a race, just the opportunity to get out and ride your bike and sleep under the stars.
I asked a friend Andrew if he was interested, he is currently training for Ironman competitions but is keen on doing an endurance race next year and he will have multiple days of supporting himself on the bike. He was up for it so it would be good company for me.
For the last few years the weather had been horrible so I had set my mind to the fact it was going to be horrendous. It was Wales and the odds were stacked against us.
As the weekend approached we got the maps out and had a look at routes. We wanted to get all the checkpoints in but Stu at Bear Bones had chucked a couple of awkward checkpoints in that were out of the way. Looking at our route it would be approx. 90 miles to get them in. Not bad over 2 days but remember this is Wales!
The weekend arrived and we set off at 5am to get to Wales for the lunchtime start. The weather just got better as the day went on. As we packed our kit the sky was cloudless. At check in we had to weigh our bikes and kit. I came in at a not so slight 55.5 lbs. Andrew came in at an impressive 43 lbs. The winner had a claimed 36 lbs…
We set off just after lunch and after 1 mile I got a puncture. Well not precisely but the valve on my tubeless set up was leaking and would not seal. After messing around with it for 20 minutes I stuck a tube in and forgot about it.
Within 30 minutes of setting off we were hike a biking up some steep sections (welcome to Wales). We made some good progress and started hitting the checkpoints. Day 1 had some serious hills but at least we bumped into some other guys doing the same route so it was not just our poor route planning.
We hit checkpoint 5 by the end of the day then freewheeled down to a little village and found a pub for an evening meal. We then headed back up to a reservoir we had spotted and pitched right next to the water with a great view.
Using the wheels off my bike as end supports I erected my tarp set up, slipped into my sleeping bag and had a great nights sleep. We awoke at 5 am to frost on the ground but the start of another beautiful day. Porridge and a brew and we were off.
Today was going to be a long day of riding. We set off for our 6th checkpoint and hit it before 9 am. We then carried on following the bridleway to realize it vanished after another 20 minutes. We searched and double checked our position but had no choice but to turn back. We bumped into an old boy heading for the 6th checkpoint and told him not to head that way as the bridleway vanished. He just advised ‘hey this is Wales, you cant trust the maps’! This was a lesson we would learn a few more times in that day.
The day went by in a blur with a stop at Devils bridge for a spot of lunch and then a quick blast down an old train line (flat!) to Aberystwyth.
Fish and Chips on the seafront and then we climbed out and hit some back roads to start heading back to the start. We made some good time finally finishing riding at 9 pm at night. 13 hours of riding. 66.7 miles completed that day and over 3000 metres of climbing.
Needless to say I slept like a log.
Final day and I awoke at 5:30 am. Breakfast was consumed and we hit the trails by 7am. We found a lovely trail back to the start weaving its way through the valleys with minimal climbing and some great riding. A quick blast down the final desent and we arrived back at Pennant by 11 am. Cakes and coffee greeted us. A slice of lemon drizzle and a cuppa and a chat to some other fellow riders and then we headed for the car for the 5 hour drive back to Essex.
All in we covered 117 miles with just over 6000 metres of climbing. We hit all the checkpoints but 1 and we got within 0.5 km of that but a moto enduro event stopped us from getting to it at the Sweet Lamb so I am including it! The weather was fantastic and it was a great event.
Would definitely be up for taking part again but would change some things for the next trip:
- Get fitter if you are going to do it with someone training for an Ironman. The second day ruined me and was one of the hardest days of riding I have ever done.
- Take more than a 9 speed bike. What was I thinking!!!! Definitely need a granny ring!
- Take more time, stop more and have a tearoom stop etc.
- Load the route into a GPS. I reckon we spent 20% of our time looking at maps.
- Pack less. I didnt use quite a bit of equipment. Although saying that if the weather had been bad then I would of been thankfully of some of it.
- A 20 litre drybag on the front is too much. It kept catching on my suspenison and affected the ride quality. Nothing more than a 13 litre in future.
Got some snaps from the trip…..Enjoy!
Last minute route checking
Getting ready for the off.
Andrew after first decent hike a bike section.
Wales – Great views
Not a bad view to wake too!
Porridge – Breakfast of champions.
Stop off for supplies – Mainly choccy!
Suspension ruined my drybag on the front. Put extra air in but still caught on wheel. 20 litres is too big up front!