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