Introduction

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

Monday, 30 April 2012

Cabin Fever

No good news regarding the weather... it's still raining like mad. The wind is howling and it feels as if it's November outside. It's supposed to be this way all week.... wonderful, eh?!

So to compensate with the cabin fever that has set in (day 4 not riding my bike and I can only clean so much...), I've decided to redesign the website. I had been contemplating this issue for quite a while, but following the urging from several users and the suggestions from the talented MJC Designs, here we go!

This will be an ongoing process for the next several weeks as we restructure the site to include several new features as well as better showcase some of the existing such as maps and charts.

If things seem a bit chaotic or disjointed, bare with us. We'll be back; bigger and better than ever. Cheers, muse.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

This shit SUCKS... and that shit is AWESOME.

Okay I've had enough. I didn't ride Monday because of the rain. I rode Tuesday, however; and I got caught in the rain. Now today I am sat inside watching a friggin' torrential downpour. Enough already! I want Spring. And I want it now.



But I guess I can take this "opportunity" to do some other bike related tasks. Like... reparing my bike shoes! Now I've had these shoes for for many-a-mile ... far longer than you would guess. And I have taken great strides to care for them cuz they's super awesome. So get ready... I have had these shoes for 20 years.

UHU glue not shown...

That's right. I bought these shoes in 1992 while living in Manhattan at a little cycle shop on 14th street in the Lower East Village. Now I must admit that I haven't used them consistently. There were long periods of time when I didn't cycle, years even. But still...

Why did Nike stop making these shoes?...

I also want to address toe clips for a moment. Americans seem to have lost the notion of bike shoes with toe clips. All you see are either flat pedals or clipless pedals. And that's completely mind boggling to me, because toe clips RULE! With toe clips you get the best of both worlds; you can wear street shoes or cycle shoes... and you can move your foot around if your foot is feeling a bit tired or cramped while still benefiting from the additional torque of being "clipped in".


I've had these Shimano 600 pedals for over 30 years. I bought them as part of a group set I purchased in the early 1980's as an upgrade for my 1978 Trek Touring bike. (more on that girl later...).

So kids... get yerself some toe clip pedals. Stop that clacking around in yer clipless shoes (ya ain't gonna win no Tour de France and ya bug the hell outa folks too...). Relax... enjoy your ride. Walk like a normal person when ya stop for a burrito and beer at that wacky pub ya found outside of town.

Now I'm a goin' outside and do a sun dance! cheers... muse

Sunday, 22 April 2012

rain, rain, rain...

Someone said that this has been the coldest Spring in Wales for 100 years. I don't know if that is true, but it certainly has been the coldest I've ever seen. I've ridden in snow, hail, and bucket loads of cold, cold rain. It's APRIL folks! Now last week in particular I didn't get as many days in the saddle as I would have liked because of this maddening weather, but the rides were a little longer.

Along the Taff River during a brief respite from the rain...

I set myself a goal to get 15 days of riding in for the month of April. I wasn't going to focus on the overall mileage, however I did cross a milestone last week with 1,019.34 so far this year. Regardless... it is the 22nd of April and I've only ridden 10 days. Now I'm facing the fact that I need to ride my ass off this week.

and I've yet to tire of Caerphilly Castle...

So I'm going to clean my bike today and ride tomorrow, then Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday. With that I'll make the 15 days and should have well over 500 miles for the month.


Route Details: Secondary roads for 2 miles from Oakdale to Pontllanfraith. NCN 47 from Pontllanfraith to Quakers Yard. NCN 8 from Quakers Yard to Nantgarw. NCN 4 from Nantgarw to Bassaleg. Local bike route from Bassaleg to Rogerstone. NCN 47 from Rogerstone to Pontllanfraith. Secondary roads for 2 miles back from Pontllanfraith to Oakdale.

Totals: 51.68 miles. Time: 7.5 hours (including stops) Avg. Speed: 6.89 mph



I have ridden in the hail... I got soaking wet and froze my skinny ass off... Did I have a good time? Hell yes! I even had the time to take some photos... so here ya go until next time. Cheers, cm

Nice looking road signs way out in the country...

Nice looking flowers way out in the country...

Nice looking country way out in the country...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A Warm Up for Tomoz...

This is not a bad ride... quite easy actually now that I'm in better shape, but it is long and includes a few good climbs.

Photo Credit: John Wilson 
To start off, I head down the western side of the mountain and across the Chartist Bridge to Blackwood where I turn north onto NCN 467. It's an excellent local path along an old rail line that meanders 4 miles up through the woods to Hollybush. This sleepy little ride passes through the old Markham Collery and includes great views across the valley toward Manmoel.

The view up toward Hollybush...
At the top, I turn directly around at the old train station (now a very cool private residence) and return back down the same path continuing on through Blackwood High Street. Once across town (a whopping 1 mile...) I get on NCN 47 at Pontllanfraith (Of historic note; Gelligrose Mill... ) and ride south into Sirhowy Country Park (distance so far about 13 miles...).


Now it's an easy-peasy coast of 4 miles down through the spectacular Sirhowy Country Park. The paths have been widened, the trees and underbrush have been cut back... essentially they have completely re-groomed the park.

Entering the park from the north...

Friendly observers along the way...

and more friends...

At the southern end of Sirhowy Park the trail veers off toward the village of Cross Keys with a short hop through Waunfawr Park and into Risca. You have to get on the road for a short bit, cross the railroad tracks and then climb up onto the Monmouth & Brecon Canal path (around 3 miles...). But now it's now smoothe sailing all the way down to 14 Locks (another 4 miles).

Joining the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal at Risca...

Looking back up the Sirhowy Valley from the canal path...

Now take I a break. There's a quaint little information facility (with clean restrooms)... benches to sit upon and relax...a pond with ducks. Time for lunch... (I've ridden 24 miles so far.)

Arriving at 14 Locks...

So... to get back home I turn around and repeat the same ride I just made but in reverse. Overall, I'm on the road with cars for two miles through Blackwood and Pontllanfraith (twice), a mile from Waunfawr Park to the M&B Canal (twice)... and a couple of miles between Oakdale and Blackwood. That works out to around eight miles of roadway and 40 miles of cycling paths. Not too shabby I would say.

For the stats; the 48 mile round trip ride took me 5 hours (including stops)... for an average of 9.6 mph. Using the MapMyRide website to follow my course (see above map), it measured the elevation gain at 1,949 feet. Again... that ain't too bad.
The question looms; am I prepared for a ride with the boys? Find out on my next post...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Back to Basics...

On Wednesday I rode down to Newport where I got on NCN 49. This path heads north along the Monmouth & Brecon Canal. 




I was somewhat reticent about just snapping off photos and blogging about the ride because, well... it's so darn predictable. But holy cow. The ride along the canal from Cwnbran to Brecon is everything but predictable... it's fabulous. It's magical. It's completely outside of time. So despite my previous post, here they are...

Looking left...                         ...looking right.




I'm working on getting a map together. MapMyRide doesn't include all the paths that follow the rail lines and canal tow paths here in Wales, so I'm looking into Sustrans and CycleStreets... I'll get back to ya. Cheers, cm

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The conundrum...

What can I do to make this blog different from the thousands of other cycling blogs? I don't want this to be just another "diary of my life on tour" or a quasi-bike/gear-head diatribe... and I'm not cool or hip enough to go any where near the new hip and cool bike crowd.  What about me is unique? What is it that I'm doing that will bring you, dear reader, back to this blog? Below is a map of the route I rode yesterday... big deal? 45.55 miles... so what?


Should I include photos to perk your interest? Would visual details add more flavour to the post? Do I describe the "three seasons in a day" I had? (It was first overcast and warm when I left home... then sunny and cold with a strong headwind as I came across the Heads of the Valley, and then cloudy and very cold as I came down from the Brecons... which even included some brief hail...) I just dunno?

Well, I'm off for another ride today where I'm sure to contemplate these pressing issues over and over in my limited mind. And with that note... I'll get back to ya later. Cheers, cm

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Strangeness in a strange land...

Although still cloudy and cold, I rode the Taff Trail (NCN 8) to Cardiff on Thursday for my first day in the office at Sustrans. The ride into town is a very easy 28 miles door-to-door and aside from the four miles down the mountain from Oakdale at the start, it is almost entirely on cycle paths. There are several tricky areas around the university at Pontypridd and the adjoining car park, but it's a great morning commute one could easily manage a couple of times a week. As far as coming back to Oakdale after 5 pm, we'll see about that later this summer when the days are a bit longer.

That is if we ever get a summer. We were teased with a week of fabulous warm spring weather at the end of March only to be hit with this nonsense the first week of April (see image right). Yeah... look at it. It's friggin' SNOW!... IN APRIL!, which I can say I had never seen at this time of year. And I'm not happy. Easter has certainly proven to be quite different in Wales.

So it's Sunday and the Met Office is calling for heavy rain (again) for the remainder of the week. I kinda doubt it will be that extreme (since they are like most forecasters... wrong!). But we shall see. I want to get at least a 50 mile ride in before Thursday when I will again be riding into Cardiff. My goal is to get at least three rides in this week.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Helluva day...

It wasn't the hardest 50 miles I've ridden, but it was the most dramatic. The first 20 miles or so lulled me into a comfortable ease as we followed NCN 47 through Sirhowy Country Park north to Hengoed. It was then across the viaduct and a short ride through Penalta Park to Trelewis for a break at Taff Bargoed Park.


It was after this that the boys truly showed their metal as we climbed the mountain from Trelewis over to Deri and Bargoed. If ya click on "view elevation" on the map below, you can see that at around mile 28 we began a climb of over 500 feet. That's a category 4 climb... for 2 MILES! And you know who was last... I even had to stop twice, but these little mountain goats didn't miss a beat.

After a brief stop we hopped back on our bikes for what we all presumed would be a leisurely ride down the other side into Deri. That was not to be the case because within 5 minutes it began to rain. Now if you haven't experienced riding a bicycle down 15% inclines in the pouring rain on a single lane road on the side of a mountain, I have a place for you to visit. (Sorry no pictures...)


they call this; "cowboy country"...

The boys take a break...

John contemplates the day...

Graham makes it to the top... "no problem".

A fine group of lads.
(Brian, John, Graham, and Ivor)



They call themselves the "Kingfishers". And a smarter man might have chosen to merely hear the story...  yesterday however, I naively took the bait to join these fine gentlemen on a leisurely ride through the country.


With Easter coming next week I get some time to recover, train, and prepare, so in a fortnight my friends... I shall see you again... and we will ride The Valleys of Wales.

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