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 by bicycle yourself! 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, muse

Sunday, 7 February 2016

First Week of February Recap

On the previous Saturday (Jan.30th), I completely overworked myself on the "Wentwood Massacre" and I came home with a pretty sore knee. But I took the next two days off because of lousy weather and hoped the time away from the bike would be enough to heal. However, I rode pretty hard this past week, so here's a quick recap.


(shhh... sneaking up on Raglan Caslte...)

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 02, 2016
Distance: 74.4 miles
Elevation: + 4254 / - 4314 ft
Ride Time: 07:13:41
Weather: Sun, Sun, Sun
Temperature: 5℃ / 41℉
I left home in the pouring rain at 8 am. By 10 the weather changed abruptly and became a fantastic sunny morning. Welcome to Wales! Protective of my sore knee, I joined Brian, Ivor, Eric, and John at the Boating Lake in Cwmbran and cautiously started our adventure on the new Community Links paths snaking along the banks of the River Avon Lwyd to Pontypool.

We wandered from Pontypool through New Inn and Glascoed, passing along a ridge just north of Llandegfedd Reservoir for about 5 miles right until it joins with the A472 at Monkswood. The sun was shinning and day was looking to be perfect for a nice long day in the saddle.

From Monkswood, we turned north and slowly wound our way through Goetre, Llanvair Kilgeddin, Clytha, Great Oak, ending in Raglan where we climbed up to the castle for lunch at the little cafe. It was a relaxing, easy morning, and a brilliant ride.

After lunch, it was a slow and lazy ride back down to Usk. We said our goodbyes to Brian and Ivor (who went off toward Pontypool) while Eric, John, and I headed down Bullmore Road to Caerleon. From there Eric split off to Malpas while John and I continued into Newport on NCN 88. We went up along the canal on NCN 47 through 14 Locks where John split off and I continued on to Crosskeys. The last leg droped me down through sleepy little Waunfawr Parc and as the sun was setting I made my way slowly home alone under the heavy canopy of trees of Sirhowy Parc.


A frozen lake at Parc Bryn Bach

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 03, 2016
Distance: 58.1 miles
Elevation: + 3515 / - 3631 ft
Ride Time: 06:12:10
Weather: Sun, Cold, Wind
Temperature: 1℃ / 34℉
My goal today was to find an alternative route for my "55 for 55" event. After speaking with Brian (of the Kingfishers...) he suggested that I should not only find an alternative route that is NOT prone to flooding, but one that offers a bit of shelter from the rain.

Well, the first part of the ride on NCN 492 out of Pontypool was certainly sheltered, but once I came out of the trees at Blynavaon, I was completely exposed. It was very cold and very, very windy climbing up from Garn Lake along the path to Brynmawr. By the time I was up along NCN 46 on the Heads of the Valley, I decided that this route is entirely too strenuous.

So... it was a good day for training. I had a good workout, but I was still nursing a sore knee. Once I got to Merthyr, I turned onto the Taff Trail. It was a lovely late afternoon. The temperature warmed a bit, the sun started setting, I turned on my dynamo light, and I had a relaxing ride down the valley. However, despite being mostly downhill, I was exhausted by the time I made it home.

Just look at that elevation profile! It seemed like a good idea... but having made the ride now, I think I'll keep looking for an alternative route for my big event.


Along the river-front in Newport

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 04, 2016
Distance: 72.4 miles
Elevation: + 3070 / - 3112 ft
Ride Time: 07:03:28
Weather: Sun, Mild
Temperature: 9℃ / 43℉
I set off on a fairly easy ride to Cardiff. Still nursing this infernal knee, I rode down through Sirhowy Parc to Bassaleg where I joined NCN Route 4 across to Draethen. From there up through the crazy "Alice in Wonderland" tunnels at Lower Machen and into Caerphilly via the old railway line and Riverside Parc.

From Caerphilly it's an easy-peasy coast into to Cardiff along the Taff Trail through Taff's Well and Tongwynlais. By the time I arrived it was nearing noon, the sun was out, and it was warming up nicely. Most folks were in work, so the the mid-town streets were fairly quiet.

However, heading toward the docks along Newport Road, it's always congested and busy. Turning right onto Rover Way I fought my way through the multiple roundabouts to where it finally quietens at "Gypsey Squats". (I cannot wait for Sustrans to develop an alternative route!)

Once past all of that nonsense, the road is absolutely lovely with very little traffic as it winds along through the tall sea-grasses of the Gwent Levels. Passing through Peterstone and St. Brides should have been easy going with the wind at my back. The road is absolutely flat.

It should have been, but at this point my knee started acting up. So I took my time through Newport and up to 14 Locks. I must say at this point I was worried. I actually wondered if I could ride my bike home. I got off and walked along the canal path toward Risca. And fortunately enough, walking felt fine. Good news.

Frustrated about whatever could be the cause of my knee pain, on a whim; I lowered my bicycle seat. I hopped on and voila! After about ten minutes not only did my knee stop hurting, it actually felt good... really good! What a great surprise.

I pedaled home through Sirhowy Parc and up the back road to Oakdale without a thought. This simple 1/2" adjustment to my saddle height seemed to have solved the problem. Brilliant.


On Manmoel... The road is out there somewhere?

Ride Report
Ride Date: February 05, 2016
Distance: 24.9 miles
Elevation: + 1668 / - 1599 ft
Ride Time: 02:30:25
Weather: Heavy Rain
Temperature: 7℃ / 44℉
Okay... day four; a short ride to check my knee. I've a wonderful little route up to Manmoel and back, then a short hop up to Hollybush and back. The combined routes total about 25 miles and I really enjoy it. I get a good climb along with a fair amount of steady pedaling on a mostly traffic-free ride.

And the real test for Friday was my saddle adjustment; could that simple issue be the cause of my knee pain? Of course too, I had to deal with rain. And not just a sprinkle or moderate rain... but heavy, hard rain with strong gusty winds. Lovely.

The ride up to Manmoel went really well despite the rain. I felt at first as if I was riding a kids bike with the saddle set so low, but not having any knee pain was wonderful, so I gladly accepted the adjustment.

The ride down and over to Hollybush was good too. However, riding in the rain always adds a bit of strain to my efforts and by the time I started up Coal Yard Rise heading back home to Oakdale, I began to feel a bit of pain in my knee.

Of course, tyre issues can also add to one's concern. Thankfully, I made it home without a puncture and oddly enough, the worry of my tyre distracted me from focusing on my leg.

Well worn after 3k miles... good job Conti!

And today it's Sunday... I've had another couple of days off my bike. The leg feels good. I need to change those tyres, replace the brake blocks, and give the ole' girl a good tune-up. This will be just in time for storm Imogen tomorrow and a trail event ride! Woohoo... check back and see if I'm cheering this time next week. cheers ~ cm

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Wentwood Massacre

Ride Report
Ride Date: January 30, 2016
Distance: 60.2 miles
Elevation: + 3685 / - 3686 ft
Ride Time: 07:39:45
Weather: Sun, Sun, Sun
Temperature: 7℃ / 44℉
Yesterday I rode out into beautiful sunshine with temperatures hovering around 6℃ to 7℃... an ideal day to have a trial run of the course I've outlined for my big event (read about it here...). And it was ideal for the first 22 miles. But after leaving the sleepy little village of Llantrisant I came over a slight rise then turned and headed toward the river... WOW! was I hit with a big surprise. The River Usk had flooded far beyond its banks and was about 3 feet deep across the road as far as I could see. It was like a massive lake stretching all the way to Newbridge on Usk.

Now I've been cycling this route regularly for four years and I've never seen the Usk flood to this extent. This section of the route is commonly called "the Straight Mile" by locals and is completely flat, so it's understandable considering the amount of rain we've had over the past several months. But geez! I was completely caught off guard... as were several other cyclists and motorists.

Elevation of "proposed" route...

So after a bit of debate, a couple of us decided to head back as we came and turn east to follow NCN 42 up over Wentwood Forest. At the time, I thought this a reasonable alternative. I knew there was a significant hill to climb, but had I known then what I know now... I would not call the hill I climbed "significant". It was massive. It was brutal. It was gorgeous and I thought my lungs were going to come out of my mouth.

Elevation of "Wentwood Massacre".

Looking at these two elevations, the top one actually appears more varied and "hilly". But this is one of the problems with most all cycle routing programs; they use the same "image" height for the graphic regardless of its scale. So to fully understand the difference I need to show you the two imposed over each other with correct scaling. Here ya go.

Elevations merged and scaled.

That's a bit clearer depiction of the differences in the routes over five miles. The route I had planned is rather undulating to cycle, whilst the Wentwood route was simply a long-ass climb. Of course too, now I realize that the horizontal (x-axis) scale is out of whack with the vertical (y-axis) so I should really replot them both again. But for now here is the entire route as I finished out yesterday. Note: the spike along about 22 miles!

Click here to view an enlarged map. ]

So that's it for now. A big day to close out the month. I set a five year record for the month of January with a total of 520 miles. You can check out the monthly details here. Cheers ~ muse

Links of Interest

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Countdown Time...

It's not just a crazy idea any longer... in order to get the press release out yesterday, I needed to launch my Just Giving page and now it's LIVE.

>> Here's the Press Release

>> Here's the Just Giving Page

And of course, I've built a few pages to explain my efforts.

>> Here's the Event Overview

Show Your Support
Next, I need to promote this event... Facebook, Twitter (no idea???), AND this is where you can help. All you need to do is share my post. Tweet my event to your friends. Help me by spreading the word about my event. Of course you can just:

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

>> View the route I'll be cycling here: 55 for 55 Route Map

>> View the calendar of days and miles here: 55 for 55 Calendar

Thank you ~ Curtis Fields

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