Welcome friends. This humble blog is about the simple observations I discover whilst cycling through lovely Wales. I hope to offer you, dear reader; cheerful reflections upon the days and miles I pedal, along with encouragement to get out and explore on a bicycle! Perhaps too, if I attempt a bit of amusing anecdotes along the way, I may invoke your readership as well. Thanks for stopping by... cheers, cm

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cycle Instructor Training

In November it's cold... often it's raining. From 4:30 in the afternoon until 7:30 the next morning it's dark. I awake at five am. It is seven degrees, dark, and raining. This is the day I am to begin my cycle instructor training.

I like to get up early. I like to have enough time in the morning to relax as I prepare for the day. I want to have a couple of cups of coffee, a small breakfast of cereal, juice, and fruit. I like to sit and sort my thoughts before venturing out. I want to organize my gear then pack my bike efficiently, and check everything over before I get on the road. I want to travel comfortably so that I get to my destination early.

This day, however; will be unusual. Setting off in the rain is always difficult and requires a special effort - physically and psychologically. I will need my full rain kit including; waterproof jacket, trousers, gloves, neoprene shoe booties, and helmet cover... pretty much everything in order to attempt to keep dry. I'll also need front and rear lights. I need to see AND be seen.

I will also need a change of clothes to wear during my day at the training centre; something dry and casual. Most probably I will also need another cycling outfit (which is dry) in which to pedal home. That's three outfits for the day. Then in addition to the essential gear I haul around in my handlebar bag, I'll have a packed lunch. So all this means that I'll need two panniers. That makes three bags and a total weight of about thirty pounds.

Today I'll be travelling to the lovely suburb of Gabalfa just north of Cardiff. Its just over 25 miles down, but because I take a different and longer route coming home; it works out to be a total of 55 miles round-trip. The class I'll be taking is from 9:30 in the morning to 4:30 in the afternoon; Monday through Thursday.

To get there, I'll cycle over to Maesycwmmer where I'll head down Pandy Lane into Bedwas & Cearphilly. There I'll get on the Taff Trail and continue on mostly traffic-free paths for the remainder of the trip. It's an easy ride actually... mostly all down hill with just a few short, but busy sections between Taff's Well and Tongwynlais. Gabalfa is just off the trail in a rather busy shopping and industrial estate.

Cycling in the rain always takes a bit more effort and usually requires more time. You've got to ride much slower and I generally make more stops to check gear, adjust my clothes and what not. Of course, it's going to be dark too. Dark and cold and raining. I hope to make the trip in 2 hours. Thankfully in this part of the world no one with any sense is out at this time of day, so I can count on a very quiet ride... in the dark, and in the cold, and most certainly in the rain.

But let's pause here for a moment... As I read back over this objective introduction, I sound rather stoic and methodical. And in my own way I guess I am. I do plan extensively, perhaps some may say excessively. But the fact is... I'm thrilled. It's going to be an adventure! Sure, it's gonna be cold. Yes, it will be dark and most certainly, absolutely, I will get thoroughly soaking wet... wet to my very core. But it's going to be a blast!

I'm going to see the day come to light as I cycle down tree-covered lanes all to myself... rolling through the dark green morning, the sheep will be baaing and the cows will be mooing in the wet grassy meadows, and little yellow lights will be flickering to life in the windows of houses far off across the valley.

From under the dark canopy, just below the high ridge I'll see over the fields to the far off mountains as the sun begins to rise and light the sky with a blue pink haze.

I'll glide through the narrow streets and around the corner shops just waking up, past delivery trucks with men and hand-carts loading vegetables... slipping past with the clickty-click of my rear derailleur, hunkered down over the handlebars, wet and gleaming like an arrow.

As I roll along the Taff, I'll see the heavy rush of a river come to life... high on its banks, roaring over the weirs, the water brown and grey and white... racing beside it, looking to see who is faster? Then there's a sigh as it gurgles through a rocky cutback... And suddenly it widens and slows... almost to a stop and then all I'll hear are my tyres slicing over the wet pavement. Slick quick splashes, swish, swish, front then back, through the narrow spots while dodging branches and leaves slapping at my helmet.

I'll have all the time I need to get where I'm going. I'll have dry clothes in which to change once I'm there. I'll find a little coffee shop and warm up. I'll watch the cars speeding by and the people scurrying about, off to work and school and all the important places, with their cars loaded full, and pale faces pressed behind foggy windows, sleepy blurry eyes. They'll be blinking at my skinny legs and slicked down hair and wet goofy smile... wondering who is he?, and what's he doing, and why?

And then I'll head to class and meet some new folks and learn some new things. And when all of that is done for the day and the sun starts to set and the rain begins to dribble... I'll get on my bike and look up the road, at the trees blowing in the wind... and I'll do it all over again... coming home.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Llangynidr Mountain & the Brecon High Country

Part 1 of 2; Oakdale to Brecon
Distance: 32.2 miles

I began this day trip with a ride heading north toward Brecon. Its roughly 32 miles up through the Brecon Beacon Mountains from our home in Oakdale. We're really fortunate to live so close to this spectacular national park. If you visit Wales and plan to do some cycling, you simply must climb Llangynidr mountain. I've climbed quite a few mountains in the Brecon Beacons including the Gospel Pass and to be honest, I think this is one of the best.

The route starts just off of NCN 46 along the Heads of the Valleys on the B4560 from Beaufort to Llangynidr. I suggest riding out from Beaufort because not only is it easier, but more dramatic.

It's a slow ride at first. The climb is steady and subtle.

But then quite suddenly you reach the top and the valleys just unfold beneath you. In the far distance you can see Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Llangorse Lake... while the Brecon Beacons loom up along your right.

Then the ride down to Llangynidr is not one for the faint of heart. It was quite easy for me to reach speeds over 40 mph during the three miles of steep descent and some of the switchbacks are "hairpin turns" which require very long and hard breaking. Needless to say, I didn't get many photos...

Halfway... looking down.

... and looking back.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Looking for Moleman II

I caught some type of chest infection in early June of this year which laid me up for a couple of weeks. The weather had been exceptionally nice and I was worried that I was going to miss some lovely days cycling. But once I had recovered, I started training again on this little route up behind our village.

The road is rather rough in places and it has a steady climb of about five miles.

So this is my short training ride; all of six miles... up to Manmoel and back.
And look at the views!

Then to round off the ride, I generally continue back down the mountain to Blackwood and up the other side of the valley to Hollybush just to tack on another seven miles. It's nothing difficult, but makes for a great start if you've been out of the saddle for a while. There's hardly any traffic and well... it's rather nice, I think.

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