Around The Block

Hi folks

Yesterday I took the bike out for a spin ‘around the block’; not just any block, but a 30 mile loop. But I call it around the block, as frankly, it’s one of the shortest routes I can do here as there’s no crossing them there mountains once you’re in ‘em. Here’s the route.

I decided today to thrash myself by cycling up the St Annes hill. This is a steep little bugger and if you are going to attack it, there’s a good chance your breakfast will be on the tarmac before you even reach the top, but it’s quicker than going around through another little village called Tregarth and up the less steep climb. It doesn’t start off great because the surface as you turn into the road is pretty rubbish and no amount of pot-hole-dodging will give you a good line. But it’s straight up as you turn into it and there’s pretty much no let up and according to my Veloview stats of the climb, it has an average gradient of 9.1% with a maximum of 41%. Well, I’m not sure how realistic that maximum is, but after all, it is extracted from GPS data and it is pretty damn steep in places! I’m also pleased, as I went from 34th to 7th place on Strava for the climb. I’m no Strava slave by any means, but I do feel quite smug about that :)

After reaching the top of the 0.9 mile St Annes climb, I carried on spinning quite hard to get up to the top of the entire climb; I wasn’t working 100%, but I was pushing quite hard. I planned on stopping for a minute to get the following panorama shot. This was taken with eight portrait images, stitched in Photoshop:

Pain is worth the view...

Pain is worth the view…

To counter the fact I just posted a rather splendiferous view, I will now post an image of me demonstrating how I was feeling after the climb. I apologise if I put you off your dinner:

Somewhat shafted.

Somewhat shafted.

I had some fun now to descend down into the village of Deiniolen. I turned left down a nice fast road, narrowly avoiding a couple of families out for a walk with their small humans wandering all over the road. And making no attempt to warn them of my incoming, if-I-hit-your-child-I-may-kill-them-speed, down the hill. Thank goodness for my very effective brake pads and my amazing bike handling skills. I dropped down through the village and on the roller-coaster road of Clwt y Bont, praying that its godawful surface didn’t destroy my rims and kidneys.

Turning left on to the main road, I free wheeled down to Brynrefail to make a very quick detour for another photo; it’s amazing I get any cycling done really but at least when I am moving, I work quite hard. That’s one reason why I cycle alone most of the time, as I wouldn’t want to slow people down or have them complaining that I’m taking photos; the way I see it, you can combine a good bike ride and workout as well as appreciate the scenery. And I think you’ll agree, we have some of the best scenery in the UK:

The stunning view over Llyn Padarn to Snowdon and the Llanberis Pass. Quite possibly one of the most photographed places in Wales and justifiably so.

The stunning view over Llyn Padarn to Snowdon and the Llanberis Pass. Quite possibly one of the most photographed places in Wales and justifiably so.

And my bike also wanted a piece of the action:

She feels better now.

She feels better now.

After making my way along from here and along ‘tunnel bends’ and its current road works (why they can’t fix the entire road surface is beyond me, as in some places when heading north on it, we cyclists have to take dangerous lines that force us into traffic, otherwise, we’ll fall into potholes and end up in Australia), I plod through a very busy Easter holidays Llanberis to ready myself to climb up to Pen y Pass, a climb that is approximately four miles, depending on who has added the segment on Strava, that is…

Here is a shot I took whilst moving as I approach the last village before entering the Pass proper:

Nant Peris. Crib Goch (right) and Glyder Fawr (left) rise up on either side.

Nant Peris. Crib Goch (right) and Glyder Fawr (left) rise up on either side.

Those eagle eyed locals amongst you will notice that there is something missing from the shot. No? I removed the 30 mph speed limit sign as I didn’t like it. What do you mean you never pay attention to the speed limits? ;)

I was going quite well, and pushing along in big ring until just before arriving at Cromlech where I was forced to drop into my 34. I decided to video it on my camera, as I’m a pauper who cannot afford a GoPro. It’s actually pretty hard to climb up a gradual ascent with a camera in your hand and in a large gear. It’s not very exciting, but it gives the folks that are not local an idea of what it’s like to cycle into the Pass of Llanberis; bearing in mind, this is the bottom…

Eventually, after much puffing and sweating and crying (not really, I don’t cry) I reached the top, where I turned around and shot another quick panorama back down the road:

Pass of Llanberis. Crib Goch is the mountain on the left, that a lot of tourists confuse with Snowdon.

Pass of Llanberis, 350m/1,148ft. Crib Goch, 928m/3,028ft is the mountain on the left, that a lot of tourists confuse with Snowdon. It is also the wettest place in Britain. Not today though.

I descended down the other side and turned left, straight into the pretty cold northerlies that were blowing today, so that put paid to any fast spin across to Capel Curig. I turned up into the Ogwen valley with the wind still in my face (Ogwen wouldn’t have it any other way) and just stayed in a manageable gear to get me across to the other end where I wanted to take one more picture of Tryfan. This is one of the few mountains in the UK that has to be climbed with the use of hands and feet, pretty continuously all the way up to its 918m/3,012ft summit, where you will no doubt get the urge to jump across from Adam to Eve. Don’t fall though, I don’t want to have to come and rescue you:

The view from the top of Nant Ffrancon on Pen y Benglog. This mountain is stunning from any direction.

The view from the top of Nant Ffrancon on Pen y Benglog. This mountain is stunning from any direction.

Naturally, the wind was still in my face as I descended down to my village, so I couldn’t really get my average back up and to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered, as I just cannot stand riding into wind. It just annoys me and makes me swear.

Hope you enjoyed looking at these images today. I’m going up a mountain tomorrow, so I will have something different in a couple of days.

Cheers.

A Windy Ynys Mon

Hello

Me and the wife went for a little ride around Anglesey today, covering forty one miles at a steady pace. We didn’t have much choice heading west on Lon Las Cefni due to the fairly leg-demolishing westerlies, but I must admit, it was very nice to be completely away from traffic all the way from Llangefni to Malltraeth. I’m not normally one for cycle tracks, but this one is OK, albeit completely open to Anglesey’s relentless wind.

I didn’t take many pictures to be honest, as the sky was clouded over for most of the ride, but when we arrived back at the car, a very friendly and chatty Welsh gentleman took our picture for us:

Tab a fi efo'r beics

Tab a fi efo’r beics (we just call it LlanfairPG by the way; the real name was a propaganda stunt to attract tourists – it worked!)

And as the water in the Straits was looking a lovely jade colour in the sun, I took a swift few portraits for a panorama:

Over the Menai Straits to Telford's Menai Bridge and Gogledd Eryri (Northern Snowdonia)

Over the Menai Straits to Telford’s Menai Bridge and Gogledd Eryri (Northern Snowdonia)

We arrived home and I helped my wife to pack up for work after we ogled some bikes on Ribble’s website (gotta love Ribble), one of my favourite and most used on-line cycling retailers.

The light was looking good over the mountains, so I got out the ‘proper’ camera so I could shoot RAW and fired off three landscape orientation photos with a view to stitch together in Photoshop; you can see the difference in quality between the images above taken with a point-and-shoot (which are still damn good, if I may say so myself – it’s not always about the camera). Here’s the final result after bouncing to-and-fro between Lightroom and Photoshop:

Beautiful light plays in and around Cwm Llafar. Nice to have most of Wales' highest mountains in our 'back garden'. To the right is Carnedd Dafydd at 1,044m/3,425ft. It's possible to make out the Llech Ddu spur, a fantastic Grade 1 scramble, disappearing down into the cwm behind Foel Meirch. Ysgolion Duon (Black Ladders) is centre of shot.

Beautiful light plays in and around Cwm Llafar. Nice to have most of Wales’ highest mountains in our ‘back garden’. To the right is Carnedd Dafydd at 1,044m/3,425ft. It’s possible to make out the Llech Ddu spur, a fantastic Grade 1 scramble, disappearing down into the cwm behind Foel Meirch. Ysgolion Duon (Black Ladders) is centre of shot. Click on the image and then click on it again to make it bigger.

Anyway, that’s all for today folks, I hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Thanks for looking :)

“Up Above The Streets And Houses…”

Most of you in the UK at least, will remember the title from the kids program, Rainbow’ that ran for an amazing 20 years!

And I challenge you now to get the tune out of your head…hehe.

Anyway, I’ve been messing about shooting a couple of shots for use in HDR images. Although not particularly high quality as I don’t have a high-level DSLR (one day), these are two shots taken tonight with five exposures each, using manual exposure for each one.The first is what I call the ‘standard’ image, with nothing major applied to it apart from contrast and tonal range adjustments, and the second one I have applied a grungy look to it so it appears more muted. The images are the view from my back yard, looking over the roof tops of Bethesda towards the Glyderau range of mountains as the sun set.

Opened in Lightroom initially with white balance adjusted then merged in Photoshop as TIFFs to maintain the image data, then back into Lightroom. Not my usual workflow, so I don’t think they’ve came out as well as I would have liked. Anyway, HDR (High Dynamic Range) not to all tastes, but I thought I’d post anyway.

The Glyderau over Bethesda.

The Glyderau over Bethesda.

A more muted version.

A more muted version.

Nant Ffrancon Views

Yesterday I went for a little spin on one of my local routes. Well, ‘little’ to me being 31 miles. I was supposed to take it easy but I ended up going faster than I wanted to.

The route starts in my village, up into the fertile Nant Ffrancon valley and from there heads south east through the ever changing Ogwen valley with its beautiful vistas in any direction, with the Glyderau on one side and the Carneddau on the other. After reaching Capel Curig, I head west into the wind through Dyffryn Mymbyr with views towards the Snowdon Massif, to climb up to Pen y Pass and the fun descent through the tight, enclosing walls of the Llanberis Pass.

For a change though, I wanted to go up the old, often rough road to the top of Nant Ffrancon, simply so that I could take the following pictures. I much prefer this road as there’s no vehicles (not that the main climb up is busy) and I love looking at the sweeping, ascending northerly arm of Pen yr Ole Wen that is Braich ty Du (some great scrambles on here). This road tends to stay a lot flatter than the main road, due to the nature of the valley. When Thomas Telford built the A5 between London and Holyhead, he designed it so that the gradient was no more than 1 in 14, so that horse drawn carriages could navigate it with ease. But the road I used rises very steeply at the end, just to test my legs.

Anyway, there are four images, each taken with my Fuji point-n-click, so not a lot of highlight detail was recoverable (and by that I mean the very bright white parts of the images). All are panoramas, stitched together from 8 – 10 portrait exposures, snapped within one minute so my legs didn’t cool down!

Thanks for reading and looking.

Nant Ffrancon as it starts to open out at its northern end, with Braich ty Du opposite. This route is also  a part of the Welsh National Cycle Network, in this case, Lon Las Ogwen. Dissapointed that I couldn't get my bike in fully, so it has been mostly cropped out.

Nant Ffrancon as it starts to open out at its northern end, with Braich ty Du opposite. This route is also a part of the Welsh National Cycle Network, in this case, Lon Las Ogwen. Disappointed that I couldn’t get my bike in fully due to the position of where I took the shot, so it has been mostly cropped out.

Looking over towards Pen yr Ole Wen with Tryfan peaking up on the right.

Looking over towards Pen yr Ole Wen with Tryfan peaking up on the right.

Full pan of Nant Ffrancon, back down the way I came and up towards Pen y Benglog. Pen yr Ole Wen appears more of a peak now, but this is a false summit at it has a flat plateau top at 978m/3,209ft. Tryfan and Glyder Fach, right. Ten images stitched.

Full pan of Nant Ffrancon, back down the way I came and up towards Pen y Benglog. Pen yr Ole Wen appears more of a peak now, but in fact, this is a false summit at it has a flat plateau top at 978m/3,209ft. Tryfan and Glyder Fach, right. You can easily make out the unnatural line of the A5. Ten images stitched.

Looking north now, all the way back down the valley; you can see how flat its base is now and why it's good for farming. Pen yr Ole Wen is even more pronounced from here, with Foel Goch on the left. I knew this would be a very tight crop, as I didn't want the road in the image, so the peak only just fits in. Around 300 metres from here I rejoin the A5.

Looking north now, all the way back down the valley; you can see how flat its base is now and why it’s good for farming. Pen yr Ole Wen is even more pronounced from here, with Foel Goch on the left. I knew this would be a very tight crop, as I didn’t want the road in the image, so the peak only just fits in. Around 300 metres from here I rejoin the A5.

The Winds of Chafe

Hi folks,

See what I did with the title there? I know, I’m such a genius I amaze myself. I chose this title because a) it was a windy ride, b) I was riding on new roads (convert what is ‘chafe’ to ‘change’ if you are not blessed with intelligent insight) and c) my new shorts were giving me nasty chafing on either side of my unmentionables. More on that as I write.

Anyway, I was really looking forward to doing this ride. I have become a little bored of cycling on my local roads (as wonderful as they are) so I wanted to go somewhere different, using the method of 4 wheels with bike in the back. Luckily, my awesome little Peugeot 205 can just swallow up my road bike with the front wheel off. So I chucked it in without giving myself a hernia and drove down to Cerrigydrudion, a little village a few miles further down the A5 after Betws y Coed, about 40 minutes drive from my village. Proceeded to be slowed down by roadworks (no change there), tractors, large articulated lorries and a caravan ‘clubber’. Not many places to over-take on the A5, due its windy nature, blind corners, blind tops and double white lines (in the UK, you cannot and should not over-take when these lines are painted in the middle of the road), but thankfully said ‘clubber’ indicated left to inform me it was safe to over-take when I was about to anyway on one of the few straights. Thank you that man. I floored the pedal in my 1.8 diesel and off she went, like a startled rat out of a drainpipe! Seriously, my 1994 machine can move it when she feels like it!

I arrived at Cerrig, had a quick natural, parked up the mean machine and made a quick decision about my wardrobe choice. Hmm, cold wind. Leg warmers and over-shoes it is then. I always get cold feet otherwise. Bugger. I always feel slower riding in winter/early Spring garb. I’ve shaved my legs and I want to get them out, dammit! I turned on my GPS, waited for the bleep to tell me satellites were found, and off I went with that wind behind me up the first climb out of the village. I even stayed in big ring. My fitness is really coming back now.

I’d driven along this road previously, and wanted to cycle along it and boy was it fun. It’s very quiet and has little traffic; I think no more than six cars went past me along the whole fourteen mile section. The road just rolls up and down merrily, so it was good to get a decent average. There’s a few little climbs to slow you down, but as soon as you’re up one, you’re down another again, gaining back what you just lost. I couldn’t have cared less today to be honest, I just wanted to stuff the average and enjoy the ride. There’s a little 20% climb (conveniently next to a pub) out of Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr to quote its full WordPress-spell-checking-confusing-name, that wasn’t really difficult so I was quickly over it. I was gaining height pretty fast though. Me and the bike were barreling along, but I didn’t want to miss one point that looks out east towards the southern Clwydian range of hills; a natural barrier that runs north to south (or south to north if you want to be pedantic) near the border between England and Wales. It’s quite a hazy shot, generated from six portraits, but it’s a lovely view:

East to the southern Clwydians.

East to the southern Clwydians.

After here it was a fast descent down into the town of Rhuthun/Ruthin, where I desperately needed to pee.

I cycled through and stopped on the other side to pee in a field in full view of passing traffic. The view whilst peeing was pretty wonderful though, giving me a clear panorama of the northern Clwydian range, including the highest point, Moel Famau at 555 metres/1,821ft. I could also see rather worryingly, the climb I was going to follow up to Bwlch Penbarras. I was going to follow the main road, but didn’t want to slow down the traffic in this ‘road rage age’ that we find ourselves in, plus I wanted more of a challenge:

Moel Famau's summit can just be seen peaking up left of centre; well, at least the Jubilee building.

Moel Famau’s summit can just be seen peaking up left of centre; well, at least the Jubilee building.

Well, I wanted a challenge and I got one. For sure. I turned off the main road at Llanbedr and within a matter of metres, the road rises. The climb itself is around 1.7 miles long with an average of 11.2% with a maximum of 28.8%! The first section out of the village was already testing my legs, as I had to lean forward to equal the centre of gravity to keep my front wheel firmly planted on the tarmac. There was no let up and it became gradually steeper as I hit a little junction and hit the climb proper. Crikey, what else had it in store for me? Yet more up and steeper still. The road is very narrow here and to my annoyance (and no doubt the driver’s) I had a car behind me. I couldn’t stop but was barely moving at around 4 mph. But it’s hard to keep a car at that speed without stalling on a hill. Luckily there was a small lay-by on the left, so I pulled in taking care not to stop and lose my momentum to let him past. The road opened out further up, so any cars could squeeze past just. All I could see was up in front of me, like a relentless, un-shifting wall of pain, tormenting me and mentally playing with my mind to make me stop. I just had to get out of the saddle now and stomp the pedals, not something I like doing in my lowest gear of 34 x 27, but changing up would put too much strain on my chain. I was breathing heavily now and wishing I was a few kilograms lighter and stronger. I could see the hairpin up ahead, and vowed to stop there as I wanted to take a shot of the bend, and it gave me a good excuse to stop for two minutes; I’m not ashamed as it’s a very hard climb and can be found in the book “100 Greatest Cycling Climbs: A Road Cyclist’s guide To Britain’s Hills“. The inside of the hairpin is as steep as it gets:

This picture doesn't do the climb's gradient justice; it's steeper than it looks.

This picture doesn’t do the climb’s gradient justice; it’s steeper than it looks.

I was grateful for the climb to ease up on me after the bend for 50 metres or so, then it followed around a right hander to continue upwards, but not as steeply as the first sections before the hairpin; anything seemed easier after that! At least I could sit down again now. I made the summit and parked up for a few minutes with one guy saying “Bloody hell, did you just ride up that as my car struggled!?” to which I replied, “Trust me, your method was easier“. I took a number of portrait shots for a panorama. The view from here is fantastic, and on a less hazy day, it’s easy to see Snowdon (35 miles away) and Cadair Idris (40 miles away):

The top of the climb disappears back down the hill, as I look west towards Snowdonia.

The top of the climb disappears back down the hill, as I look west towards Snowdonia. The town is Rhuthun/Ruthin.

A panorama relief giving info on where to spy the mountains in the distance.

A panorama relief giving info on where to spy the mountains in the distance.

I was eager now to descend down to Loggerheads, as I was on schedule to meet my wonderful wife for a coffee and some cake. The descent was fun but as usual I behaved like a girl on it, keeping my speed below 40 mph, but I was glad to have my new brake pads as they slowed me down a treat when I needed to. I nodded a quick hello to a couple of mountain bikers coming up the other way; I nod/wave to all cyclists. Doesn’t matter what you ride, we are all cyclists and I get fed up sometimes of seeing comments on forums about people ignoring each other because they ‘ride different bikes.’ Pathetic.

I met up with my wife, who works locally. I’m always very pleased to see her, as she works away a lot, so a brief food stop was a treat. She had her usual hot chocolate, bursting at the seams with mini-marshmallows and a piece of chocolate cake, whereas I plumped for usual caffeine fix and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. We chatted for about 30 minutes then she had to get back to work and I needed to get on too. I gave her a big hug and a kiss and had one last look at her over my shoulder as I disappeared up the hill towards Mold. Naturally, I had contracted ‘cafe stop legs’.

From here I made a small navigation error, despite telling my wife earlier that I’d recced the route and taken pics of questionable junctions on Google Streetview, so that I would “never get lost” to which she’ll no doubt be laughing at as she reads this. I just needed to turn round back towards the roundabout and turn left. My memory failed me in an epic fashion, as I told my wife earlier that I needed to take the second roundabout…dumb-ass.

The next climb of the day was Bwlch yr Oernant, translated as “Pass of the cold stream”. Or, the Horseshoe Pass as it’s known because of it’s shape as it contours around a hillside. Before I got there though, I was climbing up a long drag when all of sudden there was a loud SNAP! as my chain decided to part ways with itself. I pulled over on what seemed to be quite a dangerous road, as it was straight and drivers were going pretty fast up it, so I was a little nervous. I used my initiative and hung the bike’s rear triangle on a branch that was sticking out of the hedge, so I could use it as a makeshift repair stand to allow me to turn the cranks whilst fixing the chain. One thing I love about being a cyclist is being self-reliant. You carry all that you need with you; tools, inner-tubes, pump, food etc. It feels great knowing that if something does go wrong, I can be up and running again having used my skills gained over many years. This particular technical problem cost me seven minutes and black, oily fingers. So off I went again. And this is where the chafing really started to kick in, and I had a good twenty miles remaining yet. Not good.

I was surprised at the ease with which I climbed up onto the Horseshoe, but I knew I was ascending the easier side as I’d already gained some height climbing up out of Mold. The wind was pretty strong up here today, but I wanted to stop and get pictures, as usual, including the following, out-of-focus selfie:

I clamped the camera on its mini tripod to a wobbly post, zoomed it in and ran ungainly to the bike within 10 seconds to get the shot!

I clamped the camera on its mini tripod to a wobbly post, zoomed it in and ran ungainly to the bike within 10 seconds to get the shot! Moel Famau can be seen to the right.

I cycled a little further round to get the panorama that I wanted. I made sure I took at least eight portrait exposures so I could get a good stitch in Photoshop and I’m very pleased with how it came out, apart from the slight distortion on the hill on the right. The very curved fence line is a normal result of a panorama when stitched:

Looking down into the beautiful Eglwyseg Valley and to the Eglwyseg crags. The descent is to the right, heading to the centre.

Looking down into the beautiful Eglwyseg Valley and to the Eglwyseg crags. The descent is to the right, heading to the centre.

I jumped back on and got myself ready for the descent. It drops down quite quickly as you reach the first left hander and again on the second turn, but then there is the fantastic long run-out on smooth tarmac. I built up speed pretty quickly, but the wind was buffeting me about, making me very nervous. There were also a  number of sheep next to the road chomping on the grass, so I gave them plenty of room. I probably reached 40+ mph, but if I had my confidence back and if it wasn’t as windy, I could have reached 50 mph easily. I slowed down as I reached the lower reaches as I knew there was a cattle grid to negotiate. I bumped over it and took it steady down the rest as it became steep again. I was really enjoying myself. Eventually, I arrived in the pretty town of Llangollen. It was pretty busy today, despite being a Tuesday, but it’s the first major town on the A5 as you enter Wales from the East. I stopped on the bridge to take a few shots of the River Dee for another panorama:

The River Dee in Llangollen.

The River Dee in Llangollen.

A similar shot further across the bridge, but a vertical pan.

A similar shot further across the bridge, but a vertical pan.

I stocked up on a couple of bottles of energy drink and treated myself to a dark chocolate bar, and made my way out of the town on the A5, keeping an eye open the right turn I needed. And I have to say, this was my favourite part of the ride on this road. It basically follows the river, contouring around, up and down the sides of the valley and the scenery was absolutely wonderful; I was feeling so happy to be here. There were little villages with houses just dotted around on the hillsides and it was so peaceful as the River Dee carved its way through the landscape around me:

The view west a mile or so after Llantysilio village.

The view west a mile or so after Llantysilio village.

The road was quite hard going in places, with some sneaky little climbs. I had to get out of the saddle quite a lot as I needed to ease the soreness from the chafing either side of my manhood, but each time I sat down again I had to ‘re-adjust’ everything to get a semblance of comfort again. I tried to block it out as I didn’t want it to spoil the wonderful ride I was having.

The road continued to follow the river and at one point I had to follow a pretty long and fairly steep climb up out of the valley, with a terrible road surface, but the view at the top more than made up for it. I looked down and just soaked in the sight. It was beautiful and so tranquil. All I wanted to do was just get off my bike, and sit on the grass and drink it all in; I was so envious of the people who lived in the white house. Still, I took five minutes here to just enjoy the peace and the beautiful view that I think was the nicest on the entire ride. The light was playing too so I could get a good picture here:

The grass really was this green and verdant; the sun really helped to bring out the colour in the afternoon light. I could have stayed here all day.

The grass really was this green and verdant; the sun really helped to bring out the colour in the afternoon light. I could have stayed here all day.

I took another quick face-selfie whilst I was stood here; I tried about six times before I got one I thought was OK:

Trust me to spoil the scenery.

Trust me to spoil the scenery.

I left this little slice of heaven and eventually made my way out towards the A5 again, and the noise and danger of fast moving traffic. Bloody chafing was getting to me now, but in time it kind of ‘warmed up’ for want of  a better phrase, so it was less uncomfortable, but still unpleasant. On the flip side to this, I seemed to have a second wind of power, so I was happily riding along in big ring, even up the climbs; that’s even after fifty hilly miles. I was really pleased with myself and so I should be; I’ve worked very hard on the bike to get my fitness back and I am reaping the rewards, slowly but surely. Even my weight is starting to come down a fraction, after gaining a little from newer muscle development, but I admit to it being frustrating at the speed it comes off compared to the amount of calories burned; over 30,000 in March alone.

Nearly finished now though. I stopped for another natural in the bushes to the sounds of a singing Chiff-Chaff (that’s a bird, if you’re not a ‘twitcher’), made further adjustments to my giblets and was off again. Turning off the A5 a little further along led me on to a minor road that ran parallel to it, so I could at least avoid the road as much as I could. Exiting this road, I had to go straight across to another minor road. Unfortunately, this means more climbs, as heading off adjacent from the A5 just means more hard work. Moving up the first hill past a farm, I changed down from big ring and got chain-suck. This has been a major problem for me since I moved to Campagnolo gearing, but I don’t think it’s necessarily to blame, more than likely being the aftermarket PZ Racing carbon chainset I run. I need to get a stopper, as it has damaged my frame pretty badly and despite being very aware of this happening when I change down at the front, it still happens if I’m not concentrating and it annoys the hell out of me; just glad my frame isn’t carbon, or it would have mashed it up by now.

Anyway, I squeezed past a large farm tractor and trailer, that was giving birth to a number of sheep, so I had to slow right down and find a safe path through them without spooking them or upsetting the farmer. It’s a common occurrence here in the wilds of Snowdonia if you want to follow B-roads between farmland!

Oh look, sheep. Best not kill any.

Oh look, sheep. Best not kill any.

After my run in with the sheep, this road had a sting in its tail. Luckily, I was coming to the end of my ride. It climbed up quite steeply and for a good distance before finally easing off a little around a bend, but again, the views were awesome and worth it:

Back down the scorpion's tail. Again, steeper than it looks.

Back down the scorpion’s tail. Again, steeper than it looks.

After getting over this climb, I was treated to a most wonderful view of the distant mountains of Snowdonia. Despite the haze, it was easy to make out the Snowdon range, the Glyderau and the Carneddau, from west to east in an unbroken panorama. I took the shot in black and white as I thought it would turn out better:

Stunning

Stunning

From here I made a fast descent that dropped down very steeply into a small valley, and that rose out of the opposite side up another stiff, but mercifully short 25% + gradient. It was the last climb so I hammered up it until I was out of breath at the top. The chafing was really bothering me now, so I was very pleased to see my start village of Cerrigydrudion again. So, I just freewheeled back down the hill I started out on, pleased to see my mean-machine still parked up. I wanted a picture of me looking knackered so I sat the camera on its tripod on a bin and came out with this:

I really like this pic, but I darkened the crotch area as it was bothering me!

I really like this pic, but I darkened the crotch area as it was bothering me! Nice helmet hair though.

I stretched whilst being giggled at by school kids and I also admired the beautiful, pristine red Camaro that some lucky sod owned parked up across the road.

So despite the crotch soreness, this was one of the best and most enjoyable rides I’ve had in ages with some of the most breath taking views.

I think perhaps I may invest in some liner shorts.

Elton

 

 

 

A Flying Visit to York

This last weekend, my wife surprised me with a visit to my home city of York for my birthday. It’s a beautiful place, but when I lived there I never really appreciated its beauty as a tourist would. So we did the things that tourists do; wander around aimlessly, not looking where we are going and taking photographs of anything that moved (that’s just Chinese/Far Eastern tourists really). Thankfully, I have intimate knowledge of the city centre so the ‘not looking where we are going’ part wasn’t really relevant; I did have to warn my wife about cyclists zipping past York Minster though, as to be honest, I used to get really wound up by tourists on my daily commute past the very foot of the Minster. Back then there was a marked cycle track (which naturally, tourists and pedestrians stood/walked in) and I liked to frighten people by cycling past them very closely if they were in my lane; well, don’t walk in cycle lanes then – I’d do the same now! Not sure why the marked track has been removed; I saw a lot of commuters not sticking to it, so maybe that’s why.
York is a fantastic city for commuting by bicycle, and I rarely went to work by any other means. My commute was only 5.5 miles each way and was easily traveled on my single-speed, fixed gear road bike. It is comparable to Bristol or Cambridge for ‘cycling friendliness’ .

Anyway, for history of the York Minster please go here. And if you’d like to learn more about my beautiful home city and its history, go here.

All the images taken were with the Canon SX40 HS, but without the RAW conversion software (CHDK – Canon Hack Development Kit) I plugged into the memory card (because I formatted the card by mistake). All edited in Camera RAW, Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 5.

So the first shot I took was a panorama of the south face of the Minster, comprising of six portrait shots stitched together:

Very pleased how this one came out. There will always be scaffolding on the building due to its ongoing repairs; even after the fire that seriously damaged it in 1984.

Very pleased how this one came out. There will always be scaffolding on the building due to its ongoing repairs; even after the fire that seriously damaged it in 1984, but it remains and always will be, a stunning piece of architecture, one of the largest in Europe.

I also snapped one with my wife in, to give it a little scale. Although, the images don’t really do the size of it justice. The central tower is 200 feet/61 metres high:

The sky didn't stay blue for very long unfortunately.

The sky didn’t stay blue for very long unfortunately.

I took a magnified shot of the beautiful circular window. You can just make out the anti-pigeon netting:

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I wanted to take a shot looking towards the eastern end of the Minster, to include the commanding statue of the Emperor Constantine. Shame about the scaffold:

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A very brief background to Emperor Constantine. I was brought up on an avenue named after him.

A very brief background to Emperor Constantine. I was brought up on an avenue named after him.

Feeling small, kneeling before the greatest Emperor York had ever seen.

Feeling small, kneeling before the greatest Emperor York had ever seen.

From here I took my wife down to see Clifford’s Tower which was first built in 1068. It is also from this point that Stage 2 of the Tour de France will depart; I am so proud that my home city is hosting a stage of the Tour – it is an amazing opportunity for the city and for the county of Yorkshire:

 

It's a shame the daffodils were not in bloom.

It’s a shame the daffodils were not in bloom.

B & W version

B & W version

We were wanting a sit down and a hot drink, and I knew of a little place calls Dyl’s that is in the old motorhouse on Skeldergate Bridge. This area is regularly under water due to its proximity to the River Ouse. So we had a nice sat down next to the river until we were almost accosted by a local skallywag:

I told him to wind his neck in (this can mean 'to not be so cheeky' in the UK); obviously an apt thing to say!

I told him to wind his neck in (this can mean ‘to not be so cheeky’ in the UK); obviously an apt thing to say!

After this, we decided to have a walk on the city walls. So we walked on the section from the bottom of Skeldergate Street, up past Nunnery Lane and around past York Station, to exit at Lendal Bridge. I saw the following and got excited, naturally:

Can't wait to come back in July! My third Tour de France in a row!!

Can’t wait to come back in July! My third Tour de France in a row!!

Then we climbed the steps onto the walls, where we discovered our legs were aching from the short ride we did in Lancashire with friends the day before:

My wife couldn't resist sticking her head out through the crenelations!

My wife couldn’t resist sticking her head out through the crenelations!

We approached Micklegate Bar, which has been the entrance into York for serving monarchs for over 1,000 years. Less pleasantly, it was also used to impale the heads of traitors on spikes. Which is nice. ‘Eeeee, them were’t days.

Approaching Micklegate Bar.

Approaching Micklegate Bar.

At least the daffodils were blooming on this side.

At least the daffodils were blooming on this side.

At one point as we passed through Micklegate Bar, I noticed that the old Sony shop had been changed into a rather nice looking cycling cafe. I was so envious of cyclists in York now; there is nothing I like better than chilling out with a coffee in a coffee-shop-cum-bike-shop; it’s part of cycling culture. This coffee shop you could even take your bike in by the looks of things, and hang it up, away and out of sight of thieving hands outside. I would love nothing more than my area (Bangor, North Wales) to have something like this as I think it would do so well in the right place and if I had the money, I would seriously think about starting my own business; it’s always been a dream of mine to own and run a coffee-shop-cum-bike-shop:

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After my sulking, we carried on around past York Station towards Lendal Bridge, where I took the classic distant shot of York Minster. Just a shame the low cloud had come over, giving me featureless, boring skies:

Looking east over Lendal Bridge to York Minster

Looking east over Lendal Bridge to York Minster. I’ve never seen this road so quiet (about time it had restrictions placed on it)

We mosied over the bridge where I took a quick shot north west over the River Ouse, looking towards Scarborough Railway Bridge:

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From here we walked to a very famous fudge shop, where my wife wanted to buy some of the expensive fudge. You can watch it being made, if that’s your kind of thing and you don’t mind the sickly sweet smell. These shops are not independent to York, they are a large chain. It was £5.00 for one lump of fudge, but it is the nicest, smoothest fudge you’ll ever taste. Mmm, scrumptious!
We had a little wander down Stonegate, where one of my favourite pubs and old haunts is, Ye Olde Starre Inne (or “Ye Oldy Starry Inny as we used to call it). It’s a great pub, with great ale. I remember having about four pints of Theakston’s Old Peculiar in here; wasn’t a good idea, it’s very strong ale!

The banner above Stonegate, just in case you're ever drunk enough to miss the entrance to the pub!

The banner above Stonegate, just in case you’re ever drunk enough to miss the entrance to the pub!

I took my wife down to The Shambles, where she bought me some Sour Apple sweets. I knew about these from when I lived here, and I wanted to get some. These are without doubt, the most incredibly sour hard sweets you will ever eat and your face will contort into caricatures you never thought possible, that is, if you can keep the sweet in your mouth long enough. I challenged my wife to keep one in her mouth, but she couldn’t, saying that it was ‘vile‘. I have a penchant for sour sweets, however. You may need a drink afterwards…

The Shambles

The Shambles

And because I’m biased as to where I come from (and bloody well proud of where I’m from!) I saw this in a window and took a picture of it:

So very true.

So very true.

My wonderful wife had another surprise up her sleeve. I knew we were going for lunch at the very famous Golden Fleece, which has been around since 1503 and is very haunted. It has featured on the TV series ‘Most Haunted‘ on two occasions. My wife is very good at keeping things secret from me (not always a good thing, surely) and she’d arranged for us to have lunch with my brother and sister in law and their two, wonderful kids. We had a great lunch whilst I supped on a nice pint of Theakston’s Best bitter. We said our good byes afterwards and made our way up the Minster again, as I wanted to get a shot inside before we left. Unfortunately, you now have to pay to wander around the building, which is a real shame. I know they have to source funds from somewhere to continue maintaining it, but it always used to be free entry, apart from up the central tower. Perhaps it should be free to residents (even ex-residents). Nevermind. So I got a few vertical shots for the panorama I wanted. It’s not the best, as it’s just not taken at the right angle as I wanted to be where the two people are stood on the left, to look straight down the nave:

York Minster's stunning interior. At least, what I could shoot :(

York Minster’s stunning interior. At least, what I could shoot :(

After the disappointment of not getting the shots I wanted, I took a couple more pictures of the model that is outside the western end of the Minster.

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Looking west

Looking west

I took these shots and then it was time to leave unfortunately.

We had a wonderful time in York, even though it was very brief, but we will be back for the Tour de France in July and will have more time to do things and the bikes are coming next time!

 

Le Bonk!

Hello peeps

Yesterday I experienced something on the bike I have not experienced in a few years; what we in the world of cycling call ‘The Bonk’. Yes, I have pictures, but you know how I like to waffle about other things as well in an attempt to enlighten the less cycle au fait of you.
So what is it? Well, our muscles burn glucose which is used for fuel and if this fuel becomes low or runs out, we suffer with hypo-glycaemia; which means very low levels of glycogen in the blood.
Normally, your body can sustain itself without additional glucose requirement for around 90 minutes but after that, it has to rely on input from you to maintain glycogen levels. If you don’t do this, the brain says ‘well, I can’t really make your body work properly without good levels of glycogen in your blood, so I’m going to start shutting down, starting with your muscles’. This is obviously not good on the bike, especially when you still have around 30 miles to cycle when you’ve already done 50. But as cycling is such demanding exercise, it is essential that you stay on top of your blood sugar levels, or you end up like I did yesterday; bonking. Desperately needing sugars and carbohydrates. But I’ll touch on that when I arrive at it.

Anyway, yesterday I’d planned to do a pretty big ride, taking in the towns/villages of Conwy, Betws y Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog; here’s the route. I’d arrive home at just under 78 miles. I was a little dubious about my back tyre as it had worn through at one point and decided to take the risk and ride on it without changing it; thankfully, it survived but is now much more worn and probably not safe to use again.

So I pootled out of my village, immediately uphill (which would be the theme for the day) towards the village of Llanllechid; I know, hard to say if you’re not from round here but the more you read my blog, the more you’ll get the hand of it. I decided that instead of using the road down into Tal y Bont, I would use the upper road that drops down half-way along the roman road into Abergwyngregyn. I knew this road surface was pretty dire, but it’s a good shortcut and affords wonderful views on a day like yesterday. So I descended slowly and carefully, to try and save my back tyre. I was especially careful where there is a sharp S-bend with huge pot holes on it, that still haven’t been repaired, but it isn’t an oft used road to be fair; more for farmers. The view though, is totally worth the bone-shaking, screw-loosening descent (all shots taken with my Fuji Finepix; panoramas stitched from 6 – 8 portrait exposures. Edited in Camera Raw, Photoshop CS6 and finished in Lightroom 5):

Looking north over the A55 that runs along the entire north wales coastline to Holyhead on Anglesey. As you can see, not the best road surface for a road bike.

Looking north over the A55 that runs along the entire north wales coastline from just south of Chester to Holyhead on Anglesey. As you can see, not the best road surface for a road bike.

It was nice to get off this stretch of road and also the roman road, as despite not being used by regular traffic, I still become hyper-aware when cycling along them as the road is barely wide enough to pass oncoming vehicles; otherwise it would be much more fun to fly along at speed, with its sweeping bends and dips, so I usually keep at around 20 mph just in case.

At one point I have to cycle right next to the A55. This isn’t very pleasant, despite being part of the National Cycle Network, but is mercifully short. I arrive in Llanfairfechan and make my way up the stiff little ramp of Pendalar, before joining another surprisingly steep climb that takes me over and along the A55 to Penmaenmawr.

It’s here that I need to get up and over the Sychnant Pass. This isn’t really a very long climb, but it’s quite steep and had me in my easy gears quite quickly. The descent is wonderful though, despite having to slow down for a cattle grid. From here I drop down into Conwy and then join the B5106 to Llanrwst. Again, another very stiff climb has to be negotiated to get out of Conwy, but once you are over it, it’s fairly flat (for north wales, at least) all the way to Betws y Coed. So I took the opportunity to relax a little and just spin along, letting the road dictate how fast I cycled.

I reached Betws and from there made my way on to the A470 to Blaenau Ffestiniog. From here, it is pretty much a slow drag upwards until you reach the bottom of the Crimea Pass climb. Leaving Dolwyddelan I’m treated to a wonderful view of Moel Siabod’s more impressive south face, which I didn’t take a shot of as the composition would have been poor, as well as there being ugly, man-made things in the shot. I did however squeeze off a quick moving shot of Castell/Castle Dolwyddelan; the images from the link provide more shots and info about the castle:

Not a great shot by any means, but I was riding along at 18 mph.

Not a great shot by any means, but I was riding along at 18 mph. I cropped out the road and wall.

It’s not long after this that I reached the bottom of the climb up over the Crimea Pass, which tops out at around 370 metres/1,213 feet. The climb starts off very steeply and can tire you out very quickly before it eases out a little onto a false flat before rising again at a more ‘friendly’ gradient. The first image below shows the start and the second is a little further up the first steep section:

It's like hitting a wall sometimes.

It’s like hitting a wall sometimes.

It eases off after the left hander.

It eases off after the left hander.

When I thankfully arrive at the top of these sections, I am rewarded with a great view, with the road winding away into the distance:

It really is a fantastic view, despite the climbing that remains. The mountain to the right is Allt Fawr, 698 metres.

It really is a fantastic view, despite the climbing that remains. The mountain to the right is Allt Fawr, 698 metres.

I don’t normally stop at the top of the climb, but I wanted to shoot a panorama and, naturally, a selfie. The view is pretty amazing:

Moel Siabod in the distance, with the A470 disappearing back down the hill.

Moel Siabod in the distance, with the A470 disappearing back down the hill.

I managed to do this as a panorama, by first taking a shot to the left and then setting the camera on a 10 second timer to take the shot on the right, with me in it. Then stitched together. I couldn't get the shot I wanted with one exposure.

I managed to do this as a panorama, by first taking a shot to the left and then setting the camera on a 10 second timer to take the shot on the right, with me in it. Then stitched together. I couldn’t get the shot I wanted with one exposure.

I put the camera away and readied myself for the fast descent into Blaenau Ffestiniog, which is in Snowdonia, but also isn’t. This is a real shame as the town quarried incredible amounts of slate and contributed so much to the wealth and heritage of not just the national park, but to Wales as a whole. However I think Gwynedd Council are trying to restore it’s status and rightly so in my opinion.

I descended down the hill, trying to relax as I’m not the best descender. And then it happened. Speed wobble. This is an incredibly unnerving and horrible feeling and frankly, scares the shit out of me. But I rarely get it, so not sure why it happened today. Basically, when you hit a certain speed, due to all sorts of scientific stuff, the bike’s front pivot (it’s headset and fork) oscillate very quickly and it makes you think that there is something wrong with your bike. First instinct is to grab the brakes. My heart was in my mouth and thankfully after regaining control of it by slowing down, I could stop panicking. Be still my beating heart. It also affects the rear of the bike and it kind of feels like you are riding on a puncture, with unresponsive steering. Checking my max speed on my GPS when I got home, I only actually topped out at 46 mph/74 kmph. To see this phenomenon in action, watch this and you’ll see it at around 30 seconds in. Yes, it’s frightening:

Luckily, despite it occurring on a bend, I had plenty of road and no oncoming traffic to correct it.

Unfortunately, this was not to be my only dangerous experience today. On descending out of  Blaenau (somewhat nervously after the wobble!), I was banking around a right hand sweeping bend, at around 35 mph (this doesn’t sound fast, but on a road bike, you’d be surprised how fast it feels) when a large articulated lorry came up behind me. Instead of being sensible and waiting until the road straightened, which would have been a matter of seconds, he over-took me. And as he did so, the lorry pushed all the air out of the way as it flowed around the front of the truck, and as it hit me, I was pulled back in towards the lorry; I must have been barely 2 metres from going under his wheels and that is no exaggeration. I braked hard and came to a stop to get over the shock. I was too shocked and scared at the time to think about getting his reg plate or haulage firm name to report him for dangerous driving, so I just took two minutes by the side of the road to collect myself. My nerves were shot after this and every descent afterwards I was just unable to relax, which is in fact the worst thing you can do descending. The only thing protecting us cyclists if we crash at speed is thin lycra and a helmet. I can’t believe a truck driver would be that stupid and I was so angry for a long time afterwards.

I took it easy after this. I couldn’t go on the Maentwrog road as the bridge back into Penrhyndeudraeth was closed, so I decided to make a right at the Oakeley Arms pub and take the steep (1 in 6) climb up to the village of Rhyd. I just wanted to get off the main road now. I’m glad that only one vehicle passed me along this road. This is a very tough road when you are already feeling tired, so I just forgot about maintaining my average speed and just took my time as I still had a long way to go.

Eventually, I arrived at the turn off for one of my favourite stretches of road, that after quite a bit of effort, rewards you with fantastic views of Snowdon. But today I regretted it. My legs were seriously starting to fail me, so 3/4 of the way along this road, I just had to stop and sit down. I was getting the bonk and was cursing myself for coming this way, with its leg-shredding ramps. I took off my helmet and gloves and just laid in the sun for 20 minutes, after eating a couple of oat bars for carbohydrate. It was so peaceful; all I could hear was the sound of rushing water, a couple of birds singing and the odd light breeze in the trees. I could have sat here for hours. But I needed to get home and I still had to negotiate the Nant Gwynant climb and the ascent into the Ogwen Valley; I was very low on energy and every pedal stroke after this just felt like torture. I’d like to thin kit was worth it though, as I had one of, what I think, one of the best views in the national park without actually being up a mountain:

The stunning view north to the Snowdon Massif.

The stunning view north to the Snowdon Massif.

Looking over Cwm Llan with Cwm Tregalan behind and the 400 metre/1,300 feet+ wall of Snowdon's south face. I've been up this wonderful mountain in excess of 30 times now, from all directions.

Looking over Cwm Llan with Cwm Tregalan behind and the 400 metre/1,300 feet+ wall of Snowdon’s south face. I’ve been up this wonderful mountain in excess of 30 times now, from all directions.

I took it really easy from here, as I made my way to the steep and fast descent into Nany Gwynant, that also provides a wonderful view:

The road provides a perfect leading line to the summit of Snowdon.

The road provides a perfect leading line to the summit of Snowdon.

I dropped (carefully!) down into Nant Gwynant and filled my bottle up and downed around a bottle and a half of fluid, to hopefully give my legs some much needed fuel for the climb to Pen y Gwryd. It’s funny to think I hit the bottom of this climb just over a week ago after doing 92 miles and I got up it OK, but today I’d ‘only’ done 63 miles and was dreading it; I got up fine, albeit slowly, managing to keep at 8 or 9 mph. At least I had a four mile descent to Capel Curig now, but I just wanted one last picture of Moel Siabod from the north with the little post box:

Traditional red postbox with Llyn Lockwood and Moel Siabod rear.

Traditional red postbox with Llyn Lockwood and Moel Siabod rear.

I descended down to Capel Curig, cursing the cold north easterly wind that was draining me of my last dregs of energy. I was beat. Absolutely exhausted. I dragged myself up into the Ogwen Valley, having found a second wind to help me along, but it was probably more to do with the fact I was not far from home, so it spurred me on. I hit the top of the descent with relief and sat up to stretch my back and hamstrings. Naturally, the north easterly was now in my face. I just gave in at this point, as I could not be bothered any more and just chugged along home.

Made it. At last. That much needed rest on the Cae Dafydd road seemed so far away now.

So there you go folks, neglect fueling at your peril, as there is nothing worse than running out of energy on a long ride.

Except perhaps, being dragged under the wheels of an articulated lorry.

My guardian angel was smiling down on me again, today.

Thanks for reading folks.

Elton

Don’t matter what the weatherman says…

The stunning view across the Menai Straits to mainland North Wales and Snowdonia, taking in Conwy mountain from the east to Moel Eilio in the west.

The stunning view across the Menai Straits to mainland North Wales and Snowdonia, taking in Conwy mountain from the east to Moel Eilio in the west.

…cos the weatherman says it’s….well, even he/she doesn’t know.

Well today was a surprise as it dawned nice and sunny when I was expecting rain. Or hail. Or snow. As is so often the case this time of year as the winter so desperately tries to cling on as the sun also desperately tries to deliver Spring. A number of friends I know reported on Strava the amount of different seasons they have cycled through this week, and I have also joined them in this; if we spent days waiting for light winds and sunshine here, we’d never get out on our bikes. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, here in the west of the UK, the weather is a fickle and often nasty beast.

Hence why last week, there were no winds, blue skies and warm sunshine. I even had my shorts on and sat out the front sun bathing. In March. And now? Just when the mountains thought they’d shrugged off the last remnants of snow and Snowdon no longer kept to her name, I woke up yesterday to a good fresh covering on them down to around 800 metres. I know this because I am a mountain geek. And because I looked out my window.
The weather this March is proving so far to be pretty similar to last March, except the warmth and cold days have been changed to different times of the month. Last year we had 25 degree celsius temperatures  at the end of March and the following week in April, we had a massive dump of snow down to lower levels. Which my wife and I promptly took advantage of with a wonderful hill walk in the Carneddau mountains, descending in very deep snow into Cwm Llugwy with our jackets off and sleeves rolled up because it was too warm. Go figure. The following week, it was gone.
Our weather here is just one big ball of confusion and doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going. ‘Should I rain? Snow? Hail? Blow people off their bikes and off the tops of mountains? What about sun, can I do that? Argh, I don’t know what to do why does your stupid country have to be surrounded by water and be subject to so many different climates!?’ Said the weather to itself never.

Anyway, as said confused weather decided to be nice to us today, I went out for the fourth bike ride of the week as a nice book-end. If it’s cloudy on the mainland, go to Anglesey, where it’ll be sunny, but er, windy. It was fine today though, with light winds from the NW, so cold. As I went out late in the afternoon, I figured around 25 miles should do it so I would put a little more effort in. I rode onto Anglesey feeling fairly sprightly, which promptly disappeared as I turned left up onto the 12.5% hill towards Llandegfan and left again onto  the Lon Ty Newydd road, a narrow road that climbs up further but not as steeply. I was going well. I cycled through the back of Llandegfan down towards the Mile Road; a long straight section of road that is well, a mile long. In actual fact, it’s about 0.8 miles, but let’s not split hairs here, as ‘The 0.8 Mile Road’ would be a ridiculous name. Before I turned right, I quickly got a few shots for a panorama:

East to north Snowdonia. And some sheep.

East to north Snowdonia. And some sheep.

Within a few hundred metres of joining this road, you drop down pretty steeply (1 in 6 gradient) and your bike runs away with you and if you don’t like this feeling, don’t pull hard on the anchors as this road is often damp, being in the shade. And not just damp, damp. I mean, a little greasy damp. And because a child on a bike with stabilizers could descend most hills quicker than me when they’re in this condition, I feathered the brakes most of the way down, keeping it at a steady 35 mph until I arrived in Beaumaris where I’m sure most cyclists completely ignore the 30 mph speed limit signs and just carry on as they are; I know I do. Not quite tourist season yet, but being a sunny Sunday, Beaumaris can still be busy with sight challenged and driving-on-the-right confused foreigners, so covering one’s brakes is always prudent.

I stopped quickly again to grab the portrait shots needed for the panorama at the top of the post and headed off again as I didn’t want my heart rate to drop too much.

This road, known as ‘Millionaires Row’ (due to its absolute filth and squalor) can be great fun to blast along and now more so as the crevasse-strewn cross-country mountain bike trail it previously was has been lovingly re-surfaced. I tried to maintain a fast speed, but looking at my Strava stats afterwards, I think my GPS device must have had a brief panic in the middle of all that squalor and gave me a stupid average speed afterwards. Nevermind, I’m not that fussed about ‘beating’ other riders on segments; Strava has just become a ridiculous willy-waving competition for some folk. Each to their own though, no offence intended :)

After getting off the bridge, I turned right onto Treborth Road (another road in dire need of attention, and no motorists, I will NOT use the adjacent cycle track). I dropped down onto the Felinheli road and turned left onto the Nant y Garth climb, which is around 10% gradient. I hadn’t done this for a while so again, I tried to go a little faster up it, but certainly not my max. It’s wonderful at the top of this road, as the view opens out before you with the mountains of Elidir Fawr right in front of you and Snowdon further back, a little to the right; it was especially nice today, with the late afternoon sun turning the snow a bright white.

I turned left at the Ty Mawr roundabout and just span at around 25 mph through the village of Pentir.

One last climb left; from the Pont y Pant bridge to the cross roads at the top. Not particularly steep, but quite hard if you push. So I pushed today and came out with a decent average up it, so I was pleased as I wanted to maintain my 17.5 mph average speed, so I had to pump up the pace on the last straight into my village, which is slightly uphill and drains you quickly.

I came to a standstill and maintained my average, so I was pleased. Here’s the route.

Hmm. This blog is taking a turn to the cycling oriented and I hope cyclists reading this enjoy what I write; your visits are much appreciated.

See you out there and ride safe.

Elt

Onwards and upwards…

Howdy folks.

Last night I decided that, even after my wife said I should perhaps have a rest off the bike (cunningly disguised using other, more devious words), I wanted to get out and do a short but quite tough ride before the rain and hail arrived by lunch time the following day. And as it dawned quite nice today, I was out of bed at 07:40 (to be precise) to get myself sorted out. After not being able to find my leg warmers (imagine giant socks with holes at each end, one larger than the other and as long as each leg) I opted to wear full tights, I’m not sure which denier. Ha, I’m hilarious. Good job I did really as it was going to be pretty cold where I was going. Here’s the route; clicky.

The route I’d opted for takes me up from my village, to an initial high point of around 350 metres/1,148 feet through open moorland. There was a cyclist who had pulled out in front of me, exiting the St. Annes road (another tough climb) and I made it my aim to try and catch him. He wouldn’t have it though, especially as I was going to offer that he sits on my wheel to save a bit of energy, as the wind was picking up again from the south. So rude. He kept on jumping (standing up to pedal) to get more power through his legs, as he seemed to be a big gear masher (like I used to be), but I just wanted to maintain the nice spin I had. He’d have had less trouble with the wind if he tried the same; climbing up a hill with wind in your face is damn hard work I can tell you. Anyway, I guess I could have upped my pace a little to drop him, but I wanted to save my legs. I overtook him at the top as he stopped for a rest. I carried on into the wind.

It was nice to get a little speed increase dropping down onto the back road around Deiniolen that takes me to the start of my intended ascent. I turned the last left bend onto the atrocious surface which slowed me down straightaway, even more so as the hill here is about 10% gradient. There’s only so far you can go here until you get to the closed access gate, so I had to lift my machine over the gate without giving myself a hernia; I don’t have the lightest bike in the world. Well, I bought her before the carbon boom so she is aluminium and a little arse-harsh; but I love her. Wow, she’s 9 years old now. Ahem, sorry.

Luckily, the road surface over the gate is a lot better, but the gradient isn’t. It’s worse, with percentages ranging between 10 and nearly 19% on the way up. I did initially take some pictures whilst I was moving lower down, but they came out pretty awful as I was riding into the sun, so I haven’t included them, so these first couple of shots are a little higher up.

Up and up and into the wind again. Very cold now also. Just above the road's vanishing point is the flat plateau of Elidir Fach.

Up and up and into the wind again. Very cold now also. Just above the road’s vanishing point is the flat plateau of Elidir Fach.

Yeah, it's still going up I know.

Yeah, it’s still going up I know.

I knew after this section I didn’t have far to go, as the view opens out again.

The last section. Elidir Fawr rear with The Pillar of Elidir at the left.

The last section. Elidir Fawr rear with The Pillar of Elidir at the left.

The Gate Under The Mountain; it's not the entrance to the Mines of Moria, but I'm unsure if there's a giant, tentacled monster living in the adjacent reservoir.

The Gate Under The Mountain; it’s not the entrance to the Mines of Moria, but I’m unsure if there’s a giant, tentacled monster living in the adjacent reservoir.

My sled having a rest

My sled having a rest

Now I don’t cycle up here very often as a)I’m not that much of a glutton for punishment and b)well, it’s kind of out the way from any of my circuits. But it is a great climb that really makes you work and is excellent training. This is my third ascent on the bike now and to be honest, it never really gets any easier. The beauty of it is the fact that you can hopefully get an amazing view, as this road takes you up to 640 metres/2,099 feet and it does give you a massive sense of achievement; if I include starting in the village of Tregarth to the top of this climb, it is around 5.7 miles of uphill – no mean feat. It was very cold up here today though, so I didn’t want to hang around. I shot a few images for a panorama and a selfie with the camera on my tiny tripod at 10 seconds; luckily the wind never blew it off its precarious position.

At 640 metres looking north-west over Elidir Fach and Marchlyn Bach to Anglesey. The hill I took the sunset shots from in my previous post is right of centre.

At 640 metres looking north-west over Elidir Fach and Marchlyn Bach to Anglesey. The hill I took the sunset shots from in my previous post is right of centre.

I almost fell on my arse running in my cycling shoes to get in the shot before 10 seconds was up; this is heavily cropped!

I almost fell on my arse running in my cycling shoes to get in the shot before 10 seconds was up; this is heavily cropped!

After taking the shots, it was time for some fun. The descent! And it’s fast. Unless of course, you are chicken like me and spend a lot of the time wearing out your brake pads and wheel rims; perfect situation for a blow out. Hot rims. At least they’re not carbon. And wet, because a) carbon rims get silly hot under prolonged braking and b) if they’re wet and you haven’t scrubbed water off them prior to needing to brake, you won’t slow down and likely die in an horrific accident. But let’s not be morbid. Carbon rims and brake pads have improved over the years.

I wasn’t brave enough today to get over 40 mph on the descent, as I was pretty nervous about being hit by gusts of wind. Which I was. It really felt like I was riding along a knife edge and every time I was hit by a gust, I felt very unstable; it doesn’t help that you only have around a centimetre of width on the road anyway. There’s also the nasty cattle grids to contend with on the descent. Some cattle grids in the world you can  roll over at speed, provided they are seated flush with the concrete edge on either side. These grids however, are pretty nasty as running perpendicular to your direction of travel, are metal ridges with sharp tops at either side of the grid and hitting them hard at speed would cause a) a nasty blow out, b) a broken rim and nasty blow out, c) an horrific accident or d) all of the above. Thankfully today, I suffered none of the above. But I did neglect to slow down enough at the last cattle grid and my rear wheel hit the concrete edge quite hard, but oddly it wasn’t a pinch flat (where tube is compressed against the wheel rim, causing a split). I got that weird, unnerving squirmy feeling you get on the bike with a rear puncture and thought it best to slow down before my heart exited my body. I rolled to a stop at the entrance gate. Swearing but laughing as at least it was at the bottom of the descent.

I fixed it, lifted my bike over and cycled down the last bit and saw a few guys going to do what I’d just done, giving them a cheery warning as to how cold it was up there. The rest of the ride was pretty cold so I doubled up my gloves in Deiniolen and cycled down through the village to Rhiwlas. From there I made my way home, trying to take in as many climbs as I could due to the short ride, and finished riding up through Rachub, into upper Bethesda, then back along the straight to home.

Then it started to hail. Perfect timing.

Elt

Sunshine during the rain…

Hello.

I completely forgot that I went out the other week to get some shots during sunset on a little local hill called Moel y Ci. It’s an ideal spot as it’s possible to shoot in any direction with an unimpeded view. And, due to the weather outside being pretty awful to say the least (high winds, rain; nothing we’re not used to here in the western half of the UK) I’d like to bring a little sunshine into your lives today. It’ll also make me feel better before I have to drive in it to pick up my little girl from school.

Now most photographers, and myself included, would say that a cloudless sky provides very little drama during a sunset, but what you do get are beautiful colours; oranges, reds and pinks as the angle of the sun’s light is refracted through the dust in the atmosphere.

So, have a look for yourselves. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…(all edited in Camera Raw, Photoshop CS6 and finished in Lightroom 5).

As a rule, try and avoid your shadow being in the image. But I wanted it in this shot, before the sun started to set.

As a rule, try and avoid your shadow being in the image. But I wanted it in this shot, before the sun started to set.

A magnified shot of Yr Elen and the lower half of Cwm Llafer. Carnedd Llewelyn at right.

A magnified shot of Yr Elen and the lower half of Cwm Llafer. Carnedd Llewelyn at right.

A lone figure admires the view with Moel Wnion and Gyrn, rear.

A lone figure admires the view with Moel Wnion and Gyrn, rear.

As the sun sinks, the shadows extend over Elidir Fach and Fawr.

As the sun sinks, the shadows extend over Elidir Fach and Fawr.

A greatly magnified Snowdon. Carnedd Ugain is the mountain on the left, whilst Yr Wyddfa sits to the right. The railway can be easily made out.

A greatly magnified Snowdon. Carnedd Ugain is the mountain on the left, whilst Yr Wyddfa sits to the right. The railway can be easily made out. You can even see the visitor centre to the right of the summit (horrible eyesore).

Looking west over the Menai Straits and to Ynys Mon as the sun sinks fast.

Looking west over the Menai Straits and to Ynys Mon as the sun sinks fast.

Similar to above shot, but further south and to the western end of the Straits.

Similar to above shot, but further south and to the western end of the Straits.

The colours are really setting off now; looking SW down the Lleyn Peninsula to Yr Eifl or 'The Rivals'. I cycled way past these little mountains on my big ride the other day.

The colours are really setting off now; looking SW down the Lleyn Peninsula to Yr Eifl or ‘The Rivals’. I cycled way past these little mountains on my big ride the other day.

Just a minute or so before it sets over the Irish Sea.

Just a minute or so before it sets over the Irish Sea.

North Western Snowdonia in the closing seconds of the setting sun.

North Western Snowdonia in the closing seconds of the setting sun.

Just enough light left to capture big skies, beautiful colours and a lonely looking moon post-sunset.

Just enough light left to capture big skies, beautiful colours and a lonely looking moon post-sunset.

The sky was obviously not this black, but I under-exposed the moon to bring out the detail.

The sky was obviously not this black, but I under-exposed the moon to bring out the detail.

Another sun sinks below the horizon.

I hope this has brightened your day.