Yesterday I went out on a ride I’d planned to do a previous day, but had a moment of ‘I can’t be bothered‘ syndrome and put it off. Besides, I wanted to wait for a sunnier day. So yesterday presented itself, with fluffy clouds, light north-easterly winds and intermittent sunshine. Oh, and the chance of rain.
Also, I was aware that I hadn’t been on my bike as much so far this month, so figured it a good idea to get some mileage in. Seventy one miles in fact, or should I say 113 kilometres? According to The Rules, specifically #24, I should be measuring and referring to my rides in kilometres. Now I’m quite old hat and set in my ways, but after pressure from other cycling friends (not to mention piss taking) and even my wife, I took the plunge yesterday and rode in kilometres. I promptly started doing some calculations to convert mph to km/h so that I didn’t ride too fast and blow out on the ride; you have a feel for certain speeds anyway, but I wanted to be sure. Continental readers may be wondering what the fuss is about, because you already measure this way, but being British, I’m used to miles. So, I set off.
I should point out that I tried my best to make my images look as good as I could, as I really dislike shooting in JPEG and my point and click is particularly poor at managing noise, so I’ve tried to strike a balance between sharpness and noise amount on these edits, but there’s only so much you can do to a JPEG without removing all the detail as you reduce noise.
The first image of the day I shot whilst moving. This is the view as you make your way up the Nant Ffrancon valley. The mountains in front are known as the Glyders, particularly Glyder Fawr at 1,001 metres and Glyder Fach, 994 metres. Normally, telegraph poles and cables get in the way of the shot, but I have removed them with the Content Aware tool in Photoshop, as well as a couple of vehicles that were further up the road:
Because of the position of the sun at this time of day, I knew I would be able to get a lovely shot across Llyn Ogwen to Y Garn and Foel Goch:
From this point onwards, I pass Tryfan, rising up majestically like some great Stegosaurus immediately adjacent to the road, passing all sorts of people as they leave their vehicles to clamber up it. It’s still pretty busy here after the Easter holidays, but not quite as car park and layby-busting as summer gets; this valley tends to be swarming on warm, summer weekends and it pays to get here early so you get a parking space. But it’s a stunning place to visit, so get over here 🙂
So I carried on downhill, heading east out of the valley and down towards Betws y Coed, that was also very busy. It’s probably the coach trip capital of Wales! It was here where I was descending into the village, doing at least 25 mph, when a man decided to walk out right in front of me. I should add that he looked right into my eyes when he checked for traffic, but still insisted on stepping out. My quick thinking enabled me to miss him and I shouted “It’s still a bloody road, you know!” as I went past him, only to hear “F**k off arse-hole” as I passed him. Some people just don’t have a clue. He probably drives a BMW or an Audi, or even a gigantic Range Rover. Sorry to tar you all with the same brush, but in my years of experience, people who drive these vehicles give themselves a bad name by their standard of driving; impatient and aggressive.
So I let this go, and carried on up the A5 towards Conwy Falls. This is a beautiful spot, and it has a nice, steady climb up to the area that I always enjoy. It was just a case of following the road down to the village of Pentrefoelas now, where I stopped and filled up one of my bottles.
Next stop was Nebo, which is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village, that sits on rolling high moorland, with stunning views to the west over the Conwy Valley and to Snowdonia’s northern mountains. It’s pretty high up here, taking me to maximum of around 380 metres, so the northerly today was making it pretty chilly, so I was keen to drop down again later. It was nice to look back down the hill, so I cycled up to a point where the road gave me a nice sweeping arc before I took the picture:
I stopped at a viewpoint a few kilometres after Nebo that I knew of to take the following panorama. Because of the auto settings on the camera, it was very difficult to take the images at an equal exposure; this is quite obvious to the trained eye (the grass on the right of the shot is a little darker, so I could have worked on it a little more to make it equal, I guess):
I also took another at a different focal length, ensuring that included lots of cloud for drama:
I was enjoying this road, as it was almost devoid of traffic apart from the odd farm vehicle. At one point I saw something in the road and stopped to see what it was. I picked up what was a yellow direction marker, that had clearly been cut off a nearby post. These have been put in place by the excellent Always Aim High Events for the inaugural Gran Fondo Conwy. Unfortunately, in the UK at least, a lot of organised cycling events are being sabotaged by shameless individuals who do not think cyclists have a place on our roads, and think that we are “disturbing their tranquillity” or are a “nuisance“. Sometimes they remove the signs (in this case), turn them around or worse, lay tacks in the road, which is a serious risk to any cyclist.
These people need to get a life and realise that these events bring a lot of revenue to all the areas that they take place in, with hundreds or even thousands of cyclists taking part. And hey guess what, we have just as much right to use the roads as you do. And for just one day out of your sad, sorry little life can you not just shut up and let us enjoy these events?
I reported it anyway to the organisers who were very appreciative 🙂
Further along the road levels out a little, becoming more of a gentle roller-coaster and before I descended down one section, I quickly pulled over and took this…:
…so that I had the opportunity to add a bad joke into my blog post 😀
Anyway, I was getting cold now so decided to press on and drop down into Colwyn Bay and on to Llandudno. It was here I encountered another person with questionable behaviour, this time behind the wheel of a killing machine. The flat road that follows around Llandudno’s promenade tends to encourage speed, so I tried to stay around 40 km/h. Also, this road has vehicles parked either side of the road all the way along it, so I decided out of safety, to ‘take the lane’. The reasoning behind this is simple: it prevents me from getting car-doored by people who don’t check their mirrors or blind-spot when they exit their cars; I am FULLY visible to drivers behind me, and it prevents these drivers from over-taking me. I’m also well within my rights to ride like this. Unfortunately, one idiot woman didn’t think so. I knew she was behind me, but I was not about to be forced towards vehicles parked up; she’d have to be patient. But no. She decided to over-take, as a car was coming in the opposite direction, forcing said car to brake and flash at her and also forcing her to cut in quite close to me. Where did she find her license? I’ve no idea, perhaps she found it in a box of Cornflakes, back in the days when cereal manufacturers used to put little toys and stuff in the packets (I loved those!).
Anyway, the daft cow was slowed down within 100 metres by a bus trying to pull out, so I squeezed past her on purpose to upset her; I take defence and offense when cycling, if I didn’t, I’d probably be a tarmac-pizza by now. As I sped off, I heard her shouting at me, but thankfully, I couldn’t make out her no doubt berating words. Guess she never thought how badly she was driving. Did I also mention that she was driving an Audi….?
I continued on to Marine Drive, the rather nice road that follows one way around the Great Orme, with great views out to sea all the way around it. It’s quite a testing ride around the east side, due to the gradient and also the abominable road surface in places. I worked quite hard around today to try and better my PB up to the café, Rest and Be Thankful, but I was slowed down by a 4 x 4 Audi driver….seriously. I was keeping up with him he was driving so slowly. Eventually, I think he actually checked those really useful things that let you see behind, and drove off.
I got to the café (closed!) and carried on after a brief picture back down the road. Again, there are a number of telegraph poles and cables viewed from here, but they spoil the shot so I removed them during the edit:
I just span gently on a for a bit to release the lactic acid build up from my legs during the climb up. I arrived at the spot just before the road descends to take another shot. I did shoot a panorama here, but the image was so noisy I never bothered with it, but naturally, I did take a shot with me in it; well, no cycle ride post would be complete without a picture of your author now, would it 😉 :
After having a brief chat with a foreign (Spanish?) photographer and to check out his Nikon D5300, and then becoming envious, I shot down the hill at some speed, only then realising I’d forgotten to press the resume button on my GPS, so I gingerly let go of the bars and turned it back on. I was really hungry now, so decided to stop at a shop for some food. I bought a nice chicken wrap and a scrummy bar of chocolate. Whilst I was chewing said wrap however, I bit into what I thought was a bone, but on recovering it from my mouth, it was actually a piece of metal, not dissimilar to a paper-clip in fact, but thicker in bore and just under two centimetres long with a bend on the end. Luckily, I hadn’t bit into this blighter as I would have had a mouthful of blood, or worse if I’d swallowed it, potentially a punctured stomach or other digestive organ.
I should have took it back, but I was so hungry, I just ate it all, chewing extra carefully; no other bits to my relief. I munched down the chocolate pretty sharpish, as I was getting freaked out by the small child sat in a car who was staring at me for some reason. Time was a-wastin’, so I pressed on to get out of Conwy and off the main road back on to the coastal cycle track that follows the A55.
Along here I was constantly looking back over my shoulder to get a nice, colourful shot of the Great Orme and eventually came up with this:
I also shot into the sun in the other direction, trying to angle the camera so the sensor could get less exposure from the over-bright sky, meaning I had to edit it quite a lot to balance the overall exposure:
I carried on cycling until I reached a point where I have to cross the A55. From here I could get another shot along the coast:
I passed a couple of cyclists on the 7% climb around this section to drop down into Llanfairfechan. I passed a female cyclist who was going along at a fair old lick, saying a quick hello as I passed. Continuing on to Abergwyngregyn, or Aber for short I would follow the roman road a little way, and then turn left to join a rough road I usually come down, that would climb up to Llanlechid that is just near my village. Unfortunately, the ‘Road Closed’ signs actually did what they meant today (this road’s been closed for months); there was a huge Caterpillar digger blocking the way, so I had to turn about and rejoin the roman road.
So, do I go through Tal y Bont, or do I go up the ridiculously steep climb to join the road I would have been on earlier? Foolishly, I opted for the latter. This road is horrible. It is so steep, that it’s the kind of climb I would avoid, so I may do it once a year, if that! It was also ‘closed’, but I knew that I could still get through at the top of it. So, off I went getting ready for the pain and suffering that was to follow. Stupid boy.
I got up to around half way, and tried to zig-zag across the very narrow road to make things more manageable. Which was when my front wheel decided that it couldn’t be bothered any more and skidded out beneath me. I did a comedy fall sideways (thankfully up the hill) and just laughed and said “You bastard“. Now, getting back on a bike on a climb this steep is just comedy. It took me numerous, failed attempts and lots of swearing. You try to clip one foot in, push off and as fast as possible, clip in the other foot. All this whilst trying to maintain your balance and dignity. To make life easier, you attempt to ride across the road and then turn into the gradient, but on a road barely wider than the length of my bike, this is easier said than done.
Eventually though, I forced my back wheel on the wall at a slight uphill angle, clipped my right foot in the pedal, did a little track stand, clipped in my other foot and I was off! But not before taking this:
Normally, you can exaggerate a hill’s gradient by pointing the camera a little downwards, but this image above was captured pointing straight in front of me. This folks, is the gradient. And did I mention the horrendous road surface that’s not conducive to grip? To be fair, it’s being fixed. I was battling so hard to keep traction on the rear as well as trying to keep my front wheel terra-firma bound. There’s just no point trying to stand and pound the pedals. You just have to struggle up in what gears you have. Which frankly, are not low enough for this. The gradient in places is in excess of 30% (33% in fact) but stays at around or above 25%, and it is truly awful. For me, one of the hardest, bad language-inducing climbs in the area. Which is why I nick-named it, “The Bastard“.
I got to the top and yelled a big “F**K YOU” at it and joyously pedalled very slowly towards Llanlechid and home. What a great ride.
Thanks guys 🙂