Two chain-gangs!? Are you mad?


Yesterday evening was ‘Club Ride Evening’. The sun was shining, there was only a little wind and believe it or not, it was actually warm. It doesn’t always rain in North Wales ‘ya know.
I was flapping a bit as I literally had one hour to sort my stuff out, sort my bike out, sort myself out, forget to feed the dog as he stared longingly after me thinking ‘WTF? Arse-hole leaves the house without feeding me, at dinner time as well!? Bloody humans!‘, he seemed to say, in a lips closed, ventriloquist-dog kind of way (take a breath) and then drive the eighteen miles to Pen y Groes from Bethesda, wondering if I’d actually put my bike on the roof. I blame the wife, as I had to chase her up to Mynydd Llandegai in the car (as she’d gone out on her bike) to give her some money and a kiss (I pay her to stay married to me, you see). Secondly, I blame a mate of mine, who although is a thoroughly awesome chap, can talk for Britain. I’d met him that afternoon to sell him my much loved Kona Paddywagon Single-Speed; thanks Geoff! 🙂

Ahem, sorry, I’m supposed to be writing about the club ride. I’m easily distra…OHH LOOK! A SQUIRREL!

OK. Sorry.

I arrived at the sports centre in Pen y Groes, worrying I was late but everyone else was still milling around jangling their bone-boxes, whilst a dodgy looking fellow with an Audi RS5 was selling socks from the back of his car. These socks give us ‘Extra-Energy’ apparently, or so the dodgy salesman claimed.

We hung around some more and talked about all sorts of stuff (mainly cycling and free Continental tyres) and I’m pleased to say I finally got talking with some of the other club members; it’s hard sometimes when you’re the only English fella in the bunch! But these North Walians are a friendly bunch, so Darren started to talk to me, probably because he felt sorry for me 😉 Don’t get me wrong, I’m not totally ignorant when it comes to the Welsh, dwi siarad a tipyn bach ond dim fluent! I used to be very good when I was with my ex, but if you’re not around it all the time…

The decision was made to stick together today, so we moved onto the road and started off at a nice, steady pace heading off to Nantlle and the Drws y Coed Pass:

Mynd i Nantlle / Going to Nantlle. Craig Cwm Silyn and Garnedd Goch rise up in the background; where my wife and I went on the second to last blog post.
Mynd i Nantlle / Going to Nantlle. Craig Cwm Silyn and Garnedd Goch rise up in the background; where my wife and I went on the second to last blog post.
A completely pot-luck shot without looking. Has s lightly HDR look to it, as I had to pump up the shadows and lower the highlights quite a lot.
A completely pot-luck shot without looking. Has a slightly HDR look to it, as I had to pump up the shadows and lower the highlights quite a lot.

The light was absolutely perfect tonight for photography, so I was as excited as a monk in a mosque. As we wound quickly around the sweeping left-bend, the view opens out to the Nantlle Valley, with a stunning vista towards Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon), rising up like some great King, guarding over the Drws y Coed Pass, over-seeing all (I’m now getting the Game of Thrones theme in my head).

Cloud Over Yr Wyddfa
Cloud Over Yr Wyddfa

As we ride past the west end of the lake, you look to the right into the gateway of the Pass; it’s a truly beautiful sight and I must come down here in the car with the ‘proper’ camera. However, I wanted to get pics of the boys, so I hovered over the wrong side of the road, looking backwards and trying to cycle straight with my inhuman cycling skills whilst pointing the camera at everyone, trying to compose a shot without going arse-over-tit into the dry stone wall. I succeeded. In taking the shot that is:

As I hate telegraph poles in the shot, I removed them all. Oh you just wait and see what wizardry I come with later in the post!!!
As I hate telegraph poles in the shot, I removed them all. Oh you just wait and see what wizardry I come with later in the post!!!

It’s a nice, quiet road so it was possible to shoot without hitting any tin coffins coming the other way. Also, it can get very fast along here so we were flying along at a good old tick; such a good feeling; being out with the boys, the sounds of tyres and carbon frames ringing down the road, sunshine and the stunning views we are so privileged to have here. We do this because we love it and the club is going from strength to strength at the moment, not just with results, but with members too 🙂 🙂

We zip through the village and climb out of the other side as we enter the Pass proper, with the entire Nantlle Ridge on our right hand side; like I said in my other post, being a mountain walker and a road cyclist, I get the best of both worlds – views up and views down:

The left edge of Mynydd Drws y Coed and Y Garn. I purposefully pumped up the cloud contrast and darkness to add some drama.
The right edge of Mynydd Drws y Coed and Y Garn, Yr Wyddfa left.  I purposefully pumped up the cloud contrast and darkness to add some drama.

This really is one of my favourite roads, even when it is often sopping wet with run-off from the hillside to the left but there was only one wet section to splash through today. As we shot along, I saw a thing of beauty. Now I know what you’re thinking ‘What, you saw your reflection in the puddle in the road?’. No, this was of a mechanical nature. I fumbled in my jersey pocket for the camera as quickly as I could, as an immaculate, duck-egg blue Ford Escort Mk I ‘Mexico‘ sped towards us:

Ford Escort MkI Mexico
I tried to ensure I didn’t skid on my own trail of drool as I saw this car. (Nuclear explosion happening in the background)

As the car zoomed past, I got an amazing shot to the rear:


I have a thing for retro cars from the 70’s and 80’s. They are things of beauty and best of all, hardly anything computerised; all moving parts, as a car should be. I personally own a 1995 Peugeot 205 1.8D Special Edition ‘Mardi Gras‘, which I got a year ago and had less than 47,000 miles on the clock; for a car from 1995! I’ve since added about 4,500 :/
I love it. It runs really well, is great on fuel and gets admiring glances. And does 60 mph from a stand-still in 14.5 seconds! Amazing!! I mean look at her, she’s a hot little Frenchie!:

Car Bach Fi! / My Little Car
Car Bach Fi! / My Little Car

And she passed her MOT today; good girl, I’m proud of you, even if your hand-brake cable outer is corroded and knackered.

Prior to the climb, I shot this:

'Concrete man'
‘Concrete man’

Anyway, retro car fantasies aside, we hit the climb of Drws y Coed and quickly, the Energy Bunch was strung out to become the No Energy Bunch. It’s not a long climb, just a bit steep in a couple of places. I wanted to get up to the right-hander at the top, so I could get past as many riders as I could so I could get a couple of shots of them coming up, plus I could have sneaky rest whilst I did so:

The boys catch up, whilst Alun fondles his bike's undercarriage in the background.
The boys catch up, whilst Alun fondles his bike’s undercarriage in the background.


Caled gwaith / Hard Work
Caled gwaith / Hard Work


Dawnsio cyw iar ar Drws-y-Coed / Dancing chicken on Drws y Coed. Alun still fondling his bike.
Dawnsio cyw iar ar Drws-y-Coed / Dancing chicken on Drws y Coed. Alun still fondling his bike. At least, I think it’s Alun.

On reaching the top, we’re are treated to a nice descent down into the village of Rhyd Ddu with Snowdon looking mighty majestic in the wonderful evening light:


There was a chap in front of me, so I tried to get a shot of him on the left, with Moel Hebog and the Hebog range of mountains on the right, whilst doing 50km/ph one-handed down the hill; I’ve had plenty of practice at this:

Lone rider. Until I catch him, that is.
Lone rider. Until I catch him, that is.

I thought we’d be stopping at Rhyd Ddu to re-group, but we didn’t so the group was pretty stretched out after the climb. I was working quite hard to catch the lead group of riders, but it’s pretty tough work when you’ve nobody to share the load with you. The descent down to Beddgelert was coming up anyway, so I could get a rest after accelerating, eventually meeting up with the rest of the rabble in the car park:

Yr Ciwed Un / The Rabble No. 1
Yr Ciwed Un / The Rabble No. 1

We all had a good rest here and it was decided by Alun that we should do a chain-gang along the road to the end of Llyn Gwynant. We’d work in groups of five, with a team leader in each. I was chosen as team leader and became very excited and did a fist-pump for a joke. Turns out I was a crap TL as when I was on the front I ended up going too fast! It’s very hard to balance when you have varying abilities in a group, so we tried to agree on a pace which we struggled to keep to on the way out, as the other guys that were in front sped past us in the opposite direction.

On reaching the end of the lake, I turned around and said we should have a re-group whilst I went off-road for a natural after nearly falling in a hole. After the main was drained, so to speak, we agreed on a pace again, with me leading off, but this time we stuck to it after some confusion between miles per hour and kilometres per hour! We tried to stay at around 20 mph initially, and then picking it up a little as the road twists down a slight hill, taking care to avoid the two perilous wheel breaking potholes on the left. We hit the hill after Caffi Gwynant (my favourite cafe), but as we hit the hill, we strung out again as I didn’t slow down as I hit it…sorry guys! I freewheeled down the other side past Llyn Dinas where we all got together again and pushed the pace a little faster to around 25 mph, until we hit the bloody road works! I managed a track stand without making an ass of myself, and the lights changed and we pulled off down into Beddgelert again, bumping over the horrible red stripe speed bumps as we entered the village.

Despite the chain gang pace, I still managed to get a picture:

Cysgod / Shadows. Where are the cyclists??
Cysgod / Shadows.
Where are the cyclists?? I did say I had further wizardry.

It took me an age to do this picture, as it was very difficult to manipulate. Originally, three riders; one immediately in front and left, middle and further up left. I removed the last shadow because it was crossing into the middle shadow a little and I couldn’t separate it without it looking pretty crap. Any Photoshop genius’s reading this will probably know how I did it. I’m pretty pleased with how it came out 🙂

We all climbed out of Beddgelert which takes around 10 minutes, and the light was really great now, so I shot a quick one of Snowdon:

Yr Wyddfa a Bwlch Main / Snowdon and Bwlch Main
Yr Wyddfa a Bwlch Main / Snowdon and Bwlch Main

I spun my legs hard to catch the rider in front, but I was feeling pretty tired. We reached the train station and decided that none of us could be bothered any more, and we were all going to catch the train to Caernarfon:

Yr Ciwed Dau / The Rabble No.2.
Yr Ciwed Dau / The Rabble No.2.

Whilst we waited for the train, we figured it wasn’t coming so made the decision to cycle back instead (this is all a lie, by the way). Some of us would climb out of Rhyd Ddu and head back down Drws y Coed, and the remainder would cycle up to Waunfawr and climb up the awful climb that we christen ‘Cardiac Hill‘. True. It’s quite horrible. It starts off ok , until you get further up and the gradient ramps right up and then you follow a 90 degree left-hander that goes even steeper and threatens a trip to the local A & E. I’ve done this hill three times since 2008. It does however, have a good side. The ride over the top through Rhosgadfan and the fantastic descent down the King’s Road to Pen y Groes is not to be missed. Not to mention the amazing views down the Lleyn Peninsula, the Menai Straits and Anglesey.

But I had a cough. No really, I did. Besides, I’d been taking pics of the rabble the whole ride and wanted one of myself, with Snowdon in the background as the sun set:

Fi, beic ac Yr Wyddfa / Me, bike and Snowdon (On 10 second timer)
Fi, beic ac Yr Wyddfa / Me, bike and Snowdon (On 10 second timer)

I’m grinning like a loon/crazed skull because a) I was knackered and b) look at the view! The two lads caught me up and we carried on down the descent, making sure we narrowly avoided missing the large van that was coming up the other way! This made the other guys ahead of us a little nervous, as they thought we’d hit it, as they waited at the end of the straight.

Leaving Drws y Coed
Leaving Drws y Coed


Wet Butts
Wet Butts

We arrived in Nantlle and foolishly agreed to have another chain gang, so we put the hammer down on the smooth tarmac and as we got up the gradual climb we slowed down as I think we were all somewhat tired. I know I was. But that didn’t stop us going for it again, so I took the lead, knowing we didn’t have far to go and pushed until we reached the sports centre where we started.

I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, as I said ta-raa to the boys and turned up to the parked car and my waiting bar of Bournville dark chocolate. But not before shooting a selfie immediately after jumping off the bike:

Dwi'n wedi blino rwan! / I'm very tired now!
Dwi’n wedi blino rwan! / I’m very tired now!

I was beat and we’d only done a there-and-back ride of thirty miles, but it was pretty fast, with my average just hovering under 28.9 km/ph or 18 mph.

Thanks again for a fantastic ride boys, and for making me feel so welcome after a long absence. See you all on Sunday, for the Ffestiniog 360!

Gwelai chdi wedyn 🙂



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