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We offer free, tracked UK delivery on orders over £10, with delivery starting from £1.99 for orders below this value. We also have a selection of premium shipping options available including timed slots, Saturday delivery and DPD Pick-up

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  • Back to Blog  

    #TeamRutland – Cycling Through Wales

       Words by Kathryn Dickinson

       on 27/12/2018 12:49:37

    team-rutland-cycle-through-wales

    This article was written by our Area Manager Dan Murtagh; both Dan and Alex love taking on new cycling challenges, from racing cyclocross to taking part in the Fred Whitton challenge!

    Cardiff to Chester: Cycling through Wales

    Last September Alex and I set off on the trip of a lifetime following the National Cycle Route 68 (Pennine Way/Cycleway) from Berwick-On-Tweed to Chester. We refer to it as the trip of a lifetime now because time is a great healer – I’ve recovered from having too much chocolate milk in one go, and we have both re-integrated into normal life; we both own washing machines in which we can wash our kit, and we don’t have to survive from Co-op to Co-op for food. So, with permission from our partners we decided to embark on a second trip of a lifetime before the winter arrived.

    Following a National Cycle route makes sense so having looked at the Sustrans website we (I) decided on riding the length of Wales. A few messages back and forth we decided we would round the route up and go from Cardiff to Chester via route 8 and 5. It would be 354 miles, 5 days, just over 70 miles a day on and off road. It would be slightly easier than the Pennine Way trip, with less daily mileage and climbing so we built in the options of riding route a couple of trail centres (Coed y Brenin and Penmachno) and I plotted at least 2 routes a day so we could change the route depending on how we were feeling and the weather.

    • Day 1 – Cardiff to Brecon
    • Day 2 - Brecon to Llanidloes
    • Day 3 - Llanidloes to Llan Ffestiniog
    • Day 4 - Llan Ffestiniog to Bangor
    • Day 5 – Bangor to Chester (Edit: Sheffield to Nottingham)

    Our Kit

    I changed my bag setup this year. I used the Ortlieb Accessory Pack on my bars on its own and an Ortlieb Saddlebag. Alex used his full size Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack. I was pleased to condense my kit down to 3 litres of space. This year Alex didn’t bring a book, so we were both travelling lighter.

    For this trip we would both be running our Specialized Crux Experts.

    Specialized 2019 Crux Expert Carbon Cross Bike

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    • FACT 11r Carbon Frame
    • SRAM Force 1 hydraulic disc groupset
    • Roval SLX 24 clincher disc wheels
    • SRAM Force 1 hydraulic disc shifters
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    Days 1-3

    The first obstacle was getting to Cardiff. My train from Oakham was cancelled the day before so I had to drive to near Nottingham and then ride “The Prologue” with Alex to the station. This meant we could travel together, and get breakfast from Tesco / Starbucks. Alex started as he meant to go on buying a bag of 12 Brioches. Only 2 Survived to Cardiff, 1 was consumed on the road once we had left Cardiff bay and one, sadly was lost en-route due to road vibration.

    cycling-the-length-of-wales

    The weather was set to be good for the first day so it was pleasant enough for arm/leg warmers to keep us warm most of the time. When I say us, I mainly mean me. Alex’s second loss of the trip was a single arm warmer – Pretty annoying as one isn’t much use, so this eventually was used for cleaning our bikes each day. The route followed along the river Taff out of Cardiff and worked along national cycle routes to Brecon. There isn’t much in the way of cafes along the way so we stopped at a Subway at a retail park. Its definitely worth making sure you have more food with you that you think you’ll need.

    cycling-the-length-of-wales-team-rutland

    Day 2 was a slightly different experience. It was due to rain, and it did. This time we stopped at a Greggs service station instead and diverted onto route 81 for the last part. In the last 15 miles of the ride it was heavy wind and rain,  and the off road climb over route 81 was like a river and the descent was worse. At this point I’d like to publicly thank Alex for channelling his inner Mick Dundee on some of the local cows. (You know, the ones with big horns. Massive in fact, like giants). One wasn’t going to move out of my way in the road, but eventually did when Alex arrived and performed the Mick Dundee stare and hand signal.

    I think the last 8 miles probably took us an hour before we finally arrived in Llanidloes. We got some food from a corner shop and managed to wash our bikes at a garage before taking them into the hotel. We were so filthy, covered in mud and grit we both (separately clearly…) had showers with our kit on to wash it all off before having to wash it all in the bath and attempt to dry it all over night. This was my first mistake of the trip – I didn’t put enough effort into washing my bib shorts and rinsing them off, so in the morning they were dry but very obviously sandy and gritty. Still, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger….

    team-rutland-cycle-through-wales-cardiff

    The 3rd day to Llan Ffestiniog was our best day. The only small hiccup an hour into our ride - Alex lost the Ass Saver mudguard he had only clipped that morning. By this point it was funny he was losing something every day, not to mention he didn’t have it on all day when it was actually raining. We had some rain for an hour or so, possibly whilst going over the hardest climb of the trip but the route was fantastic. Finally, we managed to stop at a decent café in Machynleth, Alex got some more waterfall selfies and we had a small ride around Coed y Brenin trail centre which breaks up the riding. I think this was the perfect multi -terrain bike packing route – We had plenty of roads over decent climbs and off-road parts that made it fun whist covering miles. It was going to be downhill from here…

    Days 4 and 5

    This is where our trip took a turn. Day 4 was the worst weather I have ever ridden in and was mentally tough. It wasn’t a long day, but storm Ali had arrived in north Wales and made the short 12 mile ride to Betws-Y-Coed torture – We were high over the top of a valley dropping down into it and it was cold. We stopped at a Café in town where there was an outside heater, under which I was desperately trying to warm up, but all I can really remember is sitting under it trying to work out how best we could get out of this situation. There was a number of options and we were both thinking them without saying too much:

    1. Train from Betws-Y-Coed to anywhere.
    2. Ride to Llandudno and get a train home.
    3. Carry on and ride to Bangor.
    4. Call our mums.

    Sensibly we decided to carry on to Bagnor, purely because we had already paid for the hotel. This wasn’t very sensible logic to use, but financially sound at least so we took the shortest route possible to get there over Llanberis Pass. This was the low point. It was a strong head wind (BBC app suggested 48mph) and it was raining hard. I came unclipped on the way over the climb because the wind was blowing sideways so hard – I didn’t come off, but being stopped in your tracks by the wind and trying to get started up hill again wasn’t great.

    The descent wasn’t much better really as it was heavy with traffic and it was going much slower down than we could. This section probably only took an hour or so but not knowing the roads and when it might end was the worst part. The run into Bangor after this wasn’t so bad and the rain has stopped – It was still windy but it was behind us. It’s funny how quickly you can move on and start enjoying yourself again after what seems like a ride that would never end. In reality it was probably only 4 hours of bad weather on the day in total but not knowing where you were and how it was going to be in a hour is the testing part. At the hotel we decided, now fully trusting the BBC weather app, that would be change our plan – Instead of riding from Bangor to Chester, we would get a train out of wales to Chester and ride from there as the weather didn’t look as bad.

    bike-packing-through-wales

    In the morning storm Ali had really taken hold, so we stuck to our plan made the night before to get a train out of Wales so we could escape the rain and 50+mph winds and ride straight back to Nottingham. We managed the 3 mile ride to the train station, but once on the train that’s where the fun started. The train to Crewe was cancelled at Chester and replaced by a bus service on which we couldn’t take our bikes, so we decided to get a different train to Stockport – The logic being we just needed to be within riding distance of Nottingham. We then decided we would get a change and head to Buxton – Alex knew the route back from here and it would be about 70 miles. Great! But then we missed the connecting train because of a delay so ended up getting on a connecting train to Sheffield. This left a 38-mile ride home straight into a headwind. I guess this is part of the fun of riding from point to point and having the options to pick and choose but it was a real pain. We managed to get wet once more before the end, but eventually made it back to Alex’s house after 5 eventful days.

    bike-packing-through-wales-mountains

    Our mileage and planed route had been cut short, but we had an adventure and still did a decent amount of miles each day and left still feeling like riding the next day. Wales is a fantastic place to ride your bike, especially following a national cycle route. The landscape and the varied riding made it perfect for a gravel adventure so Id certainly go back and ride parts we didn’t ride this time.

    Lessons learnt from our second trip of a lifetime:

    • Unpackaged Brioches are too soft to strap onto a bag with a thick elastic strap. You’ll lose them.
    • Arm warmers are better in pairs.
    • The BBC weather app is accurate.
    • Follow fitting instructions on Ass Savers and clip them on properly.
    • Have a back up plan. I plotted a couple of routes for each day so we had a bail out and having the relative luxury of being able to change plan and jump on a train made such a difference. I wouldn’t have wanted to ride our planned route on day 5.
    • All of our hotels were very accommodating to cyclists. Id emailed in advance to say we would be arriving on our bikes and wanted somewhere to store them, and in all cases we were well looked after. The manager at one hotel even let us but the bikes in his house. I’ve found this to be the way everywhere we have stayed.
    • Wash bib-shorts thoroughly.

    More #TeamRutland Adventures

    #TeamRutland: Tackling the Fred Whitton >> #TeamRutland: La Marmotte >> #TeamRutland: Les Cinglés du Ventoux - Conquering Mont Ventoux >> #TeamRutland: A Pennine Adventure >>

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