Introduction

WELCOME! I've been cycling through the Southeast Valleys of Wales since 2010 and I can't say (or show) enough about the place. I just love it. So if you've got the interest and would like to spend some time... sit back and let me show you some of the fabulous places I've discovered.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

VOLUME 01 ISSUE 07 
Out from the Archives


Hey gang!... whilst sitting out the cold autumn rain this week, I've been busy digging through the back issues of Bike Wales. So in this post I'm focusing on some of special ride reports from my first year in Wales - 2012.

Dark clouds and sun provide dramatic lighting across the Lonely Shepherd and Llangattock Escarpment.

2012 was a special year for not only did I begin exploring Wales in earnest, but I met some lovely people with whom to cycle. It was also the year I first met the Kingfishers and began joining them every Tuesday for crazy, wonderful adventures. Today, I've got several flashbacks to some of those memorable early days.

Lastly, I've got part three of my 2017 "Bike & Hike" trilogy. I'm hoping to further develop this aspect of my cycling adventures during the coming year, so these three little trips served as practice sessions.



Reliving the memories...

Looking for Clydach Gorge...
Read about my failed attempt to meet the Sustrans Volunteer group way up the mountain above Brynmawr. Little did I know that his adventure would turn out to be a life changing day. Check out my first trip into the gorge!
[ Review: Looking for Clydach Gorge... ]

Talybont Adventure
in 2012, I met this crazy South African guy and we immediately hit it off. Read about our intense day wandering over the moors above Trefil. I really put my new Dawes bike to the test too!
[ Review: Talybont Adventure ]

Maybe Maerdy, Maybe Not...
I was fortunate to join these lovely folks on ride over the mountain at Maerdy. The climb was incredible and the scenery stunning. Look back with me at one of my first group rides in Wales.
[ Review: Maybe Maerdy, Maybe Not... ]

Land of Discovery... Llandovery
My first overnight trip with the Kingfishers was a hoot and quickly became an adventure of a lifetime. I am so fortunate to have met these crazy, wonderful fellas. It was three days of miles and smiles.
[ Review: Maybe Maerdy, Maybe Not... ]



Feature Report

The Lonely Shepherd
The third adventure of my "Bike & Hike" series proves to be the best yet. Check out the Kingfishers along some of the gorgeous landscapes from the Llangattock Escarpment.
[ Feature: The Lonely Shepherd ]



I'll be continuing my work in the archive over the next few months, so this will provide a continuing feature for my posts. Plus, I've got some rides from the Summer of 2017 that will be coming out soon - so be sure to check back!. As always, thanks for stopping by.
Cheers! - cm

Sunday, 8 October 2017

VOLUME 01 ISSUE 06 
Music Videos Playlist


When not on my bike, chances are that you'll find me sitting here in front of this darn computer... along with some tunes crankin'. My post today is just a quickie - I'm going to offer up three artists that have been spinning on my playlist for the past couple of weeks.

The new and the very old - a lovely autumn day riding past Raglan Castle with the Kingfishers.

I'm sure many folks of my generation will agree that music has gotten pretty dull over the last couple of decades. Despite the morass of completely forgettable pop dirges littering the airwaves; I try to find new music. The first group is fairly new with just having released their second album. It's great stuff. The second artist has been around for a few years; however, I completely missed her until last month and she totally rocks. The last artist I've been listening to for a while and just deserve to be shared. I hope you enjoy!



Sounds in my head while my feet go round...

Wolf Alice
Ya gotta love these kids. They have a wonderful attitude and it's great to see someone not overtly interested in "celebrity". Give 'em a listen from this fantastic show show in Paris. The filming and music recording is excellent too.
[ Rock out to Wolf Alice ]

St. Vincent
This girl rocks. Her songwriting is rich and complex whilst her musicianship is amazing. Every female who would like to play guitar should watch this chick. She's simply incredible. Pour yourself a vodka and put on yer headphones.
[ Rock out to St. Vincent ]

Brian Jonestown Massacre
These guys have been around for 20 years. There's tons of video out to watch. Despite having what many people consider an out-dated sound - I really dig 'em. The link I have here is from one of the better recorded shows back in 2016.
[ Rock out to BJM ]



Latest images burning my retinas...

14 Locks, Newport, & Sirhowy Parc
Oh yeah... I put a few new images up in my Gallery this week. I have loads to process with images going back to 2009 to work on... YIKES! Well, this is a start...
[ View 14 Locks, Newport, & Sirhowy Parc Gallery ]



Now the sun has come out on a glorious autumn day so with a song in my head, I'm off to ride Lady Purple down to 14 Locks. As always, thanks for stopping by.
Cheers! - cm

Saturday, 30 September 2017

VOLUME 01 ISSUE 05 
Reading, Writing, and Remembering


Fall has arrived and along with it - rain. I had planned a long ride for today; but not wanting to fight the weather, I have called it off. I'll save it for another day. And postponing rides always leaves me in a sort of down mood. There's plenty of other things I can do... (things I need to do!), but I'm in a strange sort of mindset. So I guess this should be documented as I would a cycling trip... just another type of journey.

Cycling home last week I saw the first fall colour...

It's 7:00 am. I've come downstairs, made a cup of coffee, turned the computer on and here I sit. Melanie is sleeping soundly upstairs and all is quiet on a cold and rainy Saturday morning in this little part of little Wales.

I spent the better part of yesterday reading about other people's adventures on the website "Crazy Guy on a Bike" (CGOAB) and today I am longing to be on the road. So to focus on what I'm thinking and feeling; I will write about what I've been reading.

CGOAB is a very straight-forward website for people to keep an online journal of their cycling adventures... and it's massive. First of all; the number of entries is daunting and secondly, the length of some of the trips are phenomenal. I'm talking "sell your house and everything you own and travel around the world" types of cycling trips. I find it hugely addictive reading and dangerously compelling.

So I'm dedicating this issue of my blog to the many folks out there cycling the world, regardless of the weather - making their life an adventure. Cheers to all the world-traveling cyclists! May your journeys be safe and your adventures rewarding.



Reading About Riding

Life is like a box of choclates
These folks were my first BIG read on CGOAB and I was instantly hooked. It's quite a unique adventure to take your family on a year-long cycle tour and these brave folks set an amazing example. Their journey is fascinating and wonderful. Though it ended a few years ago, it is well worth the read.
[ Check out the Genners Adventure ]

Death, Life & the Rural American Gas Station
I can honestly say that I've read hundreds of journals on CGOAB, but the writing and photography on this one is some of the best. I love their jovial attitudes and their reckless abandon never ceases to be just plain fun! It's laugh out loud reading and the chapter titles are classic. I envy these people deeply.
[ Check out Jeff & Kristen's Adventures ]

ABC: Anchorage to Baja California
I have never met Curtis and Jenny Shaw in person, but I was instantly drawn into their journey. Often people set out with very strong "goals" for their cycling trips, but C&J seem so laid back... I guess I kinda got a little crush on them straight from the start. I've been reading about their adventures for over a year now (and I love the photography). [ Check out CJBike Tours ]

America ByCycle
Ya gotta check out these cool kids. They had some great marketing ideas and a super strong brand for cycle touring. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened to them or what they're doing now, but back in the day when they made their website - they were on it!. Be sure to watch the videos.
[Check out America ByCycle ]

Racpat RTW
As is the case, reading about one cycle tour leads to another. Curtis and Jenny met Patrick and Rachel while on the road in Central America and included a link to their journal. Hang on to your hats folks... this one is a doozy! Yep, they're two and a half years into a trip around the world.
[ Check out Patrick & Rachels Epic Tour ]



In Closing:
I know I've given you plenty to look through. I hope you find some journals of interest. And as a final footnote; here's a bonus link for Curtis & Jenny's second leg to their massive tour: DEF: Down Even Further-Mexico & Central America. As always, thanks for stopping by.

Relevant Links:

Coming Next Issue:
  • Music Video Playlists

Saturday, 23 September 2017

VOLUME 01 ISSUE 04 
Getting to the Core


2017 has been a great year of cycling. The downside is that I haven't written much about it and now I've a huge amount of material to publish. So I'm dedicating the next few months to update my back catalog of adventures. As you can see too, I've begun sharing external links of websites I find of particular interest. It just seems to make sense. I hope you enjoy and thanks for stopping by.
Cheers! - cm




Rides
I'm returning to my core purpose for creating this diatribe by reintroducing the section entitled oddly enough; "Rides". (Found in the navbar above...) To start with, I've got two great trips for you to read about: "The Punchbowl" and "Pontypool Folly". I'll be updating this section regularly so be sure to check back.

Lady Purple
Also of note is Melanie's 30 year old mountain bike; the poor thing has sat around partially disassembled, tyres deflated, and un-loved for nearly a year. But she's back! I started fiddling with her last week and I must say she's riding better than ever. Check out my write up in the latest "Gear" section.

Mike's Imagination
I read quite a few cycle blogs and I try to support them as much as I can. Mike's Imagination is one of my favourites. His lifestyle and outlook is admirable, his writing is great, and his photography is brilliant. I hate him deeply (hate=envy). His latest post is short and to the point. Damn him! Fish On!
(photo credit; MHayes © 2017)

The Radavist
Next I've included a link to The Radavist; a website that captures the spirit of West Coast cycling with great content including wacky travel stories and unique product reviews. I just like poking around, looking at their work, and enjoying the mental grove. It's a cool mashup of bikepacking trends meet the '70s! Dig it.

Without Bounds
Lastly, I've thrown in a video for you to watch; Without Bounds. It's some fairly radical outsider stuff not suited for everyone, but it talks to the gypsy in me deeply. I am of that ilk and were I not married and living comfortably in Wales... this is where you might find me.



Relevant Links:

Saturday, 16 September 2017

VOLUME 01 ISSUE 03 
Time Management


What happened to the summer of 2017? It's the middle of September and the shops are starting to put things out for Christmas. Urgh.

If you've wondered why I haven't posted lately, well.. I've been struggling a bit with writing. However, I haven't been completely remiss, so I thought I'd show some of the reports I created for Ride with GPS. I've included three external links showcasing their newest feature along with my photos and diatribe. Next you'll find a link to a fellow blogger that also reviews gear and such. He's a pretty interesting fella - so be sure to poke around his website. And lastly, I've included a link to one of the Portlandia series; something fun to watch.




Daffodils & Disasters
I quickly became motivated to write having been selected as a weekly "Rollout Winner" for Ride with GPS. There is something intriguing about the layout that inspired me to revisit some of my favourite rides.

[ Read about Daffodils & Disasters at Ride with GPS ]



Legendary Neath Explore
Tim John and I had a wonderful day out exploring the two canals that parallel the Neath River. Discovering the history of Wales never disappoints along with great weather cannot be beat!

[ Read about Legendary Neath Explore at Ride with GPS ]



Ride to the Sun
Dean Piper organized this amazing ride and little needs to be said; just check out the photos. Joined by Vimal and Gwyn, the four of us left Pontypool at 3 am for a surprisingly quiet and beautiful equinox.

[ Read about our Ride to the Sun at Ride with GPS ]



Tom's Bike Trip
I began reading this guys blog a few years ago and I still think it's one of the best. His review of the top touring bikes is I found of special interest and quite thorough - indicative of all his writing.

[ Read Tom's Bike Trip at his blog ]



The bikes not cutting it.
If you haven't seen Carrie Brownstein's and Fred Armisen's wickedly funny Portlandia; I suggest you get to it. I cannot get enough of their stuff... it's so on target it makes my head spin.

[ View Portlandia; The Bike's not cutting it. ]



Later this month I plan to introduce a new section just for reporting on my rides - so be sure to check back soon.

Thanks again for stopping by - cm

Monday, 19 June 2017

VOLUME 01 ISSUE 02 
Content Mangement


I've been pretty busy for the past couple of months. I've kicked up my longer rides trying to go a bit further north and west. Surprisingly enough, I got a call from Parkinson's UK to venture out the Vale of Glamorgan. You can see the results of that trip to Ogmore by the Sea as well as my last Sustrans ride below. I've rounded up some of the details from several other recent adventures along with my take on "humble-bragging" in my 100 Mile Club. Finally, I've thrown in a link to a retro bike from Pashley I quite fancy.



Parkinson's UK and the NGS
I was asked by Parkinson's UK to lead a group ride to promote their relationship with the National Garden Scheme. You can see some of the fun we had visiting seven unique gardens in my Special Event Gallery.

[ Read about the Parkinson's UK & the NGS Cycle Tour ]



Cordell Country Heritage Ride
I've moved on from volunteering for Sustrans, but you can read about my last lead ride from May of this year. It just happens to be one of my favourites too! See the gang and fabulous weather we shared in this Special Event.

[ Read about the Cordell Country Heritage Ride ]



2017 100 Mile Club
Many may laugh at the extent of which I track my cycling... but cycling is what I do AND I also enjoy a good spreadsheet. You can view the dirty details in one subcategory of which I am particularly proud.

[ View the 2017 100 Mile Club ]



Fochriw Highlands & Taf Valley Report
I continue to write reports on my adventures for Ride with GPS. Take a look at the stylish layout offered by RwGPS stylish in my latest installment covering a unique route along the Gelligaer Common as well as a tasty section of the Taff Trail.

[ View the Fochriw Highlands & Taf Valley Report ]



Pashley Retro Racer
I've been "eye-ballin'" this beauty for a while. One day maybe I'll have one for myself. Meanwhile, I thought I'd share the love.

[ View the Pashley Retro Racer ]



Thanks again for stopping by - cm

Thursday, 15 June 2017

VOLUME 01 ISSUE 01 
Exploring Bike Wales & More...


I've taken a slightly different approach to this latest post in order to showcase some of the additional features of which you may not be familiar.



Gallery
Melanie and I took off this week for a day to explore Caerphilly Castle. It had been on my bucket list for over five years and I was thrilled to finally go there. The weather was outstanding and chasing my queen about the darkened castle was a hoot!

[ View Caerphilly Castle Gallery ]

Charts
To be quite honest; I'm addicted to spreadsheets. Many of you know the extent of which I document my rides... but in fact, you may be quite surprised at the ridiculous amount of data I attempt to track. Slip over and check out some of the new data sets I've added to the morass!

[ View 100 Mile Club ]

Gear
Okay, I admit it. I love a good bit of bike porn as much as anyone. And when it's my bike performing the visual stimulation, well... enough said. If you're interested in viewing some of my latest "portraits", why not head over to the Gear section of my blog and have a gander?

[ View Latest Bike Porn ]

Ride With GPS
If you know me; you know I love RwGPS. Now they've introduced a new feature that I'm absolutely hooked on. Check out some of the latest reports from like-minded cyclists - cycling all over the world. Do it now. If you're not familiar with their website; [ check 'em out ]

[ View Featured Reports ]

Sexy Bike Alert!
I ran across this little beauty last month and thought you might want to give her a look. She's quite an unusual build in these heady days of carbon-fibre toy bikes. Masi and California have come up with a great blend of modern and retro for the gravel lover in all of us.

[ View Sexy Masi Adventure Bike ]



I hope you enjoyed exploring a bit... why not add a comment and tell me what you thought? Seeya next time. Cheers! muse

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

DAY TOUR 
It's good to chat...


The day started rather chilly and grey, but by noon the sun was out and it turned into a glorious summer day. And it's not often that all the Kingfishers are out together! Overall a fabulous day.

Ivor, Eric, John, Phil, Brian, & Graham






Heading into Caerleon along the Usk at high tide.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

GROUP EVENT 
Parkinson's UK & The National Garden Scheme Cycle Tour



It's come about quickly, but we've got a lovely cycle tour planned for Sunday 28 May.

Lesley Jenkins and her husband Mike (not pictured), welcomed me at their
lovely garden during the pre-ride planning day.

I made the ride last Sunday to learn the route and find all the destinations. I can testify that it's F A B U L O U S ! I've written out the agenda along with some additional details in the Events section of the blog. [ Read more about this event... ]

If you've got the time and inclination, come on out. It's gonna be a blast!



IMPORTANT LINKS

☞  Read how Parkinson's UK and the National Garden Scheme are working together, click here.

☞  To find a garden within the National Garden Scheme near you, click here.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOGGING 
Zen Master



"... some things are better than others, that is, they have more quality, but when you try to say what the quality is, apart from the things that have it, it all goes poof! There's nothing to talk about. But if you can't say what Quality is, how do you know what it is, or how do you know that it even exists? If no one knows what it is, then for all practical purposes it doesn't exist at all. But for all practical purposes it really does exist." - Robert M. Pirsig

I first read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" in my early twenties while failing miserably in architecture school. The book completely fucked with my head and put another high velocity kick into my already spinning confusion about what the hell I was doing with my life. And I loved it.

I know enough philosophy to get me in trouble. That is, I've read quite a bit... took some courses in college covering the classical Greek thinkers, read a bit of existential crap and other European hoohaa, and then I was raised as a confused Presbyterian in a little Southern redneck town. So, I know as much as anyone and everyone.

Persig died today. And though I haven't read the book in years, I can honestly say that I carry it with me in my thoughts every day. To say that the book had a profound impact on me is to put it mildly. I've returned to the damn thing several times; especially while dealing with the knuckleheads in grad school. Its critical analysis on life has been a tool I employ to this day. (Case in point; "What the fuck do the Brits mean when they say 'proper'?")

So I'm saddened by this news. But perhaps some folks unfamiliar with the novel will pick up this philosophical-tome and they too will receive a great deal of comfort from the rational thinking on an irrational world. It's fucking quality.

- Rasputin Crankshaw

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

BLOGGING 
Ride Reports


I'm not planning to turn this blog into a portal, but I've been busy with some other things of late that I thought you might find of interest. Check out the links below and let me know what you think.



Ride with GPS
They've a powerful new feature that I've found completely engaging; Ride Reports. It's a pretty straight-forward component that allows the user to create magazine-style articles to elaborate upon their rides. Check out some of the great stories from all over the world.

[ View RwGPS Ride Reports ]



Portland Design Works
Recently, I won some cool swag from this company so I am without a doubt - completely biased. But you should check out their gear too because they've some great stuff... I particularly fancy the metal fenders/mudguards.

[ View Portland Design Works ]



Cool New Swag!
Check out my cool new swag in closer detail in my gear section. I'm loving the "Owl Bottle Cages" as well as the "Fenderbot", but what really rings my bell... is my lovely new brass bell! Plus... don't forget the great new jersey and cap from RwGPS.

[ View Cool New Swag ]



Sexy Bike Alert!
I can't recall how I came across this beauty... surprisingly, it's not offered for sale in the UK. It pushes the boundaries for what I normally appreciate in a bike in all the wrong ways. But I dig it.

[ View Sexy Raleigh Bike ]



More Charts!
I've been playing yet again with Googlesheets to create some new graphics to supplement my riding details. This week I've got two new charts showing a comparison of my mileage between 2016 & 2017. Check out the cool interactive features which allow you to mouseover elements to view specific details!

[ View 2016 vs. 2017 Charts ]


cheers! cm

Saturday, 22 April 2017

BLOGGING 
Earth Day 2017


I was just a boy of 10 and I clearly remember all the excitement of the very first Earth Day in 1970. I'm going for a ride today and think about what I can do...



There are some surprising statistics in this short animation... the most shocking to me is that the world's population has doubled? Wow! I did not know that. How soon before it doubles again? Urgh... I'm going for a ride before I spend countless hours searching the Internet.

and on that happy note... cheers!, cm

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

GROUP EVENT 
Winding House Ride



Going to the Winding House in New Tredegar to see the thing in operation was really impressive. The weather was fantastic. It was wonderful to see everyone and we shared a lovely ride up through Rhymney Valley. Ya can't beat that!






But the Winding House is all about the machine... on a MASSIVE scale. And you really have to see the thing running to appreciate the magnitude behind this force of engineering. It is humbling to reflect upon how its basic operation was central to the extraction of men and coal.


It's quite unnerving to see something this massive spinning - in an enclosed space... and you are so near to it. Crazy!


And yet, we can walk away and relax... have a coffee or tea with cake. (So unlike what the miners had!) I wonder what they would think if they saw us today? Sitting back and contemplating their lives... their struggle and hardship... was it all for this? I feel quite fat and lazy and extraordinarily fortunate, yet I hope to show my appreciation and understanding. I truly admire the people that lived and worked here.



























Today, I was not in a hole in the ground. I was not digging coal. I was out in the sunshine, with my friends, having a bit of vacation, riding my bike like a crazy loon. I didn't have to come home to wash coal dust off in a dirty metal tub in the kitchen and go to bed early only get up to do it all again.

I am clean and the day is bright and I can look back and remember this day... this day was unique and I am very, very fortunate. Yes, I am a lucky boy, indeed. Thank you everyone.

Winding House Ride Part 1



Winding House Ride Part 2