A Cruelly Denied Average…


Sorry for the lack of updates recently, but I have had lots of computer issues and I’ve given up trying to fix them (turns out I need a new monitor – I could get a 19″ Dell TFT for less than £30; who’d have thunk it?) So for now I’m having to make do on non-native resolutions and blurry text. Not good for my eyes.

Anyway, I’ve only got a couple of pictures today from the ride I did; as in previous posts, here’s the link if you want a nosey. A couple of days ago (alright, Friday) I did an epic ride down the Lleyn Peninsula and ended up cycling 109 miles/175 kilometres and for my buddy Paul, that equates to 872 furlongs mate. Paul still thinks I live in the dark ages as I still won’t cycle using kilometres. I didn’t write a post for it as I spent over 50 miles of the ride in thick fog, so photographs were few and far between. I was very satisfied after riding this distance as the last long distance ride I did was a local sportive event held on Ynys Mon/Anglesey, which was 103 miles (incidentally, the biggest ride I’ve done since living in Wales was 133 miles). That’s a lie actually, I rode to Cardiff which was 180 miles.
As I’m a nice guy though, I’ve lovingly stitched together one picture that I took as I exited the fog briefly above the village of Llanaelhaern. The climb is tough to this spot, and although the view is less than ideal, at least I was above the fog. The view from here normally stretches right up along the Caernarfonshire coast and across to Ynys Mon and is stunning. I’ve also posted a shot of one of the lovely old black and white direction posts with lots of un-pronouncable (at least, if you don’t live in these parts) names on for you. Also, we have a claim to fame from this signpost. The highly talented singer, Duffy was born in the village of Nefyn. A lot of good things come out of Wales, including (but not limited to): Tom Jones, Cerys Matthews, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Manic Street Preachers, Welsh cakes (mmmm), slate to roof the houses of the world(!), Howies clothing, sheep(!), Welsh beef, cheese, fantastic ale, and of course, RUGBY!! Others (mainly the odd nasty English person) would say the best thing to come out of Wales is the M4.

The wonderful black and white posts that are quite prolific on the Lleyn Peninsula.
The wonderful black and white posts that are quite prolific on the Lleyn Peninsula.
Slow. Hmm. There was no danger of me going fast up to this point. That's Tre'r Ceiri on the left and poking above the fog is Garn Fadryn.
Slow. Hmm. There was no danger of me going fast up to this point. That’s Tre’r Ceiri on the left and poking above the fog is Garn Fadryn. There’s an error on this stitch that I could not remove.

I’m trying to get my fitness back after a persistent back injury, and I am getting there now. Well, at least if today’s little outing is anything to go by. Thankfully, today it was warm-ish enough for me not to make a foolish wardrobe error and end up with freezing hands, however I’ve only just got the feeling back in my toes after foregoing overshoes and using the old ‘plastic-bags-over-my-socks-and-toes’ trick (actually, I use the dog’s poop bags). Unfortunately, this just makes your feet sweat and the condensation doesn’t escape, which becomes cold as the wind blasts through your cycling shoes. Some of us are paupers and can’t afford proper toe warmers.

So today I set off the usual way to end up in Caernarfon first off after dropping into Y Felinheli. There’s a decent cycle track that keeps us off the road into Caernarfon from here, just beware dog walkers and SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You) pedestrians; it was mercifully devoid of people today though, so I floated along at a steady 18mph.

I reached the royal town of Caernarfon (don’t be fooled, the town attracts all sorts of low-life scallies of a Saturday night). Prince Charles had his investiture here don’t you know, in 1969; here’s some history. I crossed the little swing bridge and decided that as I could actually see more than twenty metres in front of my face today, and Anglesey was visible across The Straits, I took a few portrait shots for the below stitched panorama:

On Y Foryd looking to Anglesey (left) and Caernarfon and castle at right.
On Y Foryd looking to Anglesey and Caernarfon and castle at right, built by Edward I in 1283. And no, it isn’t falling over, I just didn’t correct the perspective in Photoshop 😛

The wind was a little keener on Y Foryd today, so I had to work a little harder to maintain the speed I wanted, but without pushing too hard. I carried on around until I got to a point and came across an unfortunate anti-English slogan, which always upsets me, but thankfully, it’s a minority that do this kind of thing; the Welsh are generally very friendly and welcoming so don’t be put off visiting because of small minded pond-life:

Always sad to see this kind of thing.
Always sad to see this kind of thing.

I moved on.

I like cycling along this road as a) it’s perfectly flat and b) I can be reminded of the happy memories of my wedding day as I look to the right to Fort Belan; it’s barely distinguishable, but I guess that was the point so that it was hard to spot by marauders and pirates back in the 1700’s. After leaving this road, I make my way to the little village of Llandwrog but before I get there, there’s a wonderful section of road that has 90 degree corners, one after the other and they are so much fun to fly around; I run 170mm cranks so I can continue pedalling and leaning into the turns without fear of grounding my pedals – takes me back to my fixed gear commutes.

After hitting the main Pwllheli road, I turn left onto the road up to Pen y Groes. I’m so glad this road was re-surfaced a year or so back as it was pretty awful before; makes climbing it so much easier. Well, I say ‘easier’ loosely. It can still get me out of breath and fill my engine with lactic acid until my legs are burning. But it was straightforward today and I found it quite easy. Best not burn my legs out for the Drws y Coed climb though…

After leaving this road, I arrive in the village of Pen y Groes and turn right to head towards Talysarn and Nantlle. Again, another road that has been re-surfaced recently, making it much more of a joy to ride than its previous, pock-marked, energy and momentum-stealing surface; I don’t feel like I’m riding a dirt track any more. This carries on all the way through to the other side of the village and over the speed bumps until I rejoin the original surface, that thankfully isn’t that bad.
As I cycle down this road, there is a wonderful view of the eastern end of the Nantlle Ridge across to the right; it is in fact, one of favourite views in the area. At the far left you have Y Garn and to the visible far right, Mynydd Tal y Mignedd with its obelisk on the the summit that was built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee; having sat next to it I can assure it’s quite tall. The following image is a panorama made up of eight portrait shots and stitched together in Photoshop. Craig Cwm Silyn can just been seen peaking out to the right. It is a beautiful view and it’s one of the most reliable places to see a cloud bank rolling off the top like a giant waterfall during cool weather:

The Nantlle Ridge, from left: Y Garn, Mynydd Drws y Coed, Trum y Ddysgl and Mynydd Tal y Mignedd. all sub-700 metres.
The Nantlle Ridge, from left: Y Garn, Mynydd Drws y Coed, Trum y Ddysgl and Mynydd Tal y Mignedd. All sub-700 metres.

I also risked life and limb to take this photo, as I had my arms poking through the electric fence that is erected here to stop crazy sheep escaping or eyeing you up from atop the dry stone wall, leaving us cyclists thinking “will it or won’t it jump in the road, and what evasive action should I take if said sheep partakes in this suicidal behaviour?“. Anyway, I received a couple of shocks for my trouble to bring you wonderful people this picture.

I carried on to the start of the Drws y Coed climb. Although pretty short, it is a little steep just after the start and at the last section where it bends around the corner. I pushed harder than usual up it today as I was trying to maintain an average speed of 17 mph for the entire ride. I was up it in just over 5 minutes. Like I said, not that long, but not that easy either. Reaching the top I was thankful for the recovery on the descent down into the village of Rhyd Ddu.

From here I turn right and south to head down the hill to Beddgelert. Again, more respite for the legs. I couldn’t get much more than 35 mph down here today as the westerly had suddenly become a southerly. Being the time of year, there were no tourists milling about all over the road near the bridge for me to have a collision with, so I carried on up to Nant Gwynant. I filled my bottle up and had a natural at the Pont Bethania car park for the Snowdon Watkin Path (I should point out that I used the toilet for my natural, and not the car park). I left and tried to pick up the pace a little so I could hit my average of 17 mph before I hit the bottom of the Gwynant climb. Glad to say I did, as it was about to drop down a couple of tenths. Today though I hadn’t cycled 92 miles before hitting the start of the climb, but my legs did have 38 reasonably fast miles in them. I always get a little apprehensive before this climb. I don’t know why. It’s not that hard or even steep, it’s just a bit of a drag; the key is to maintain a good tempo after the first couple of ramps and just spin at a high revolution, which is what I did today, completing the climb in a little under fourteen minutes. Not super fast, but not slow either. And now a nice descent to Capel Curig with a little wind behind me; I just got down on the drops and took it easy, as I wanted to have fuel in the tank for the Ogwen ascent and the wind I was expecting to get in my face and piss me off.

It started off alright and I was confident I’d reach my goal of 17 mph average. That is until I got towards the end of the long straight section and past the SOS box. Normally, it’s easy to get up to speed after the left hander with a helping hand from the small descent. Not today. I don’t normally expect to get battered by wind until I pass Tryfan, but today I had a fight on my hands. I called the wind a “total f**king arsewipe” and various other profanities for it trying to destroy my average speed and it only got worse as I arrived at the right hander onto the Nant Ffrancon descent. Yep. Thanks westerly, for turning into a northerly as I turned into you. Could you not have spent time today getting in some hill walker’s face instead? Thanks for making me work my ass off just to keep my speed up instead of having a rather joyous descent to my village like I normally do.

I got to the flatter part of the descent before I hit the smooth tarmac and the fast bendy section, and I’d managed to get my average back up to 16.8 mph but knew now that there was no way I could make the seventeen I wanted. Argh! Roadworks and traffic lights! Phew, green light and traffic still moving. So I took the opportunity to stay at 30 mph by drafting behind a car (don’t try this at home, kids), looking through his windscreen to see what was going on ahead in case of evasive action, with the odd yaw out to the right for further scoping.

I hit the bottom of my street and made 16.9 mph. Bugger.

Still a great ride, but in the words of Quake 3: “DENIED!”

Thanks for reading guys.



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