I’m Back! (I think)

So it’s 4 years since my last post! Where the hell did that time go? You’ve missed out on so many of my cycling adventures…

I’ve recently (the last 12 months) found life has been getting in the way of riding the bike, which happens, and the monthly miles have been reducing at a rate directly proportional to the size of my waistband. This is not a good situation, and it needs to be sorted ASAP.

It’s the summer FFS, and prime bike riding time. The evenings a long and warm(ish) so if I’m slacking on the mileage now what am I going to like this coming winter?

So this is it, the rebirth of the blog. Now I’m not going to say I’m going to post every ride I do, but it certainly won’t be another 4 years till the next one!

On Wednesday we fly out to Malaga, with our bikes, so there’ll be no excuses….. watch this space!

Welsh Weekender

Organised by Dean several months ago, but with the building work, Malaga holiday, and then losing Tarz the cat, it kind of crept up on me. After the Malaga trip¬†I was very aware that I’d gained some weight and lost a chunk of ride fitness so I’d done some extra miles in the hope I could get at least a bit of fitness back. I’d even got back on track with my Strava annual mileage target of 3000 miles, somewhat less that the 5000+ of previous years, but setting unrealistic targets is pretty pointless.

Anyway, enough spiel about mileage targets… I finished work on the Friday and headed West under reasonable skies, but the further West I went. the worse it looked. As I went past the trail centre at Bwlch Nant Yr Arian up at 1000ft above sea level it felt like the clouds racing overhead were brushing the roof of the car.

Once settled in to my digs for the night at Plas Dolau I considered the ride I’d put into my GPS earlier, it involved riding up the Rheidol Valley, then climbing out of the valley on a bridleway, eventually getting onto tarmac and up to Nant Yr Arian. Looking out of the window towards the mountains I could no longer see, made the decision for me. Plan B would involve staying reasonably low, probably just along the tarmac up the Rheidol Valley, with the option of trying a few bridleways if they looked worth riding.

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‘Plan B’ turned out to be quite enjoyable once I’d sorted out a navigational balls up. I ignored the golden rule of “If you’re unsure consult the map you’re carrying”, and ended up climbing up to the A4120 to Devils Bridge. I suspected I’d screwed up halfway up the 500ft climb, but was either too stubborn or stupid to stop and check the map, doing so only when I reached the top! Fortunately less than half a mile down the road was a quite a nice bridleway that dropped me back down to the valley floor.

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Valley sides steepened as I passed the Cwm Rheidol reservoir and power station, further on I stopped as the road turned to gravel at the site, scrambling down to look at the river. I’d passed the bridleway earlier and curiosity got the better of me so I climbed 250ft up, traversing the valley side to a point where it turned sharply up…. I looked, but nah, a brutally steep climb into drizzly cloud…. sod that. Fortunately at this point there was another option to take another bridleway back down…. that sounded a far better option.

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A tarmac spin back down the valley and I was soon at Plas Dolau, showered and ready to go in search of some chips by the sea. It wasn’t quite as idyllic as I expected, a grey gloom hung over the sea as a seemingly gale force wind blew in. The local sea gulls were using this to hover above me as I sought shelter with my rapidly cooling meal, the more brazen ones standing at my feet! In a couple of minutes my chips were cold and destined to be individually thrown in the air for the sea gulls to fight over on the wing.

Saturday dawned a lot more promising, blue sky with fluffy clouds and the weather forecast being for even better later. Last night I thought I might go for another spin up the Rheidol valley while I waited for the others to arrive, but looking at the mountains bathed in sunshine changed the plan and I decided to go straight up to Nant Yr Arian after breakfast.

After a slight issue with a lost room key at Plas Dolau I headed for the mountains. There were hardly any cars in the car park when I arrived but all too soon the place started to fill. By 09:30 I was on the bike and riding up the first fireroad, a message from Dean that their ETA was 10:30 meant an hour to mess around on the first and last trails, “The Italian job” and “High as a kite”. A couple of laps with photo stops in the sun, all to soon the hour was gone and it was time to head back to meet the others.

Dean and the others arrived, and pretty soon they were ready to ride. We headed out of the car park and up the first climb, the big Syfydrin loop the aim, a 22 mile loop with around 3000ft of climbing that takes in the best bits of the other trails that Nant Yr Arian has to offer, plus a great big chunk of proper ‘out in the wilds’ riding. After the initial ‘Italian Job’ we headed out of the centre and into the real world.

Within a couple of miles we disturbed a Red Kite who we didn’t see by the side of the trail. In a blink of an eye he was up circling us, it was huge, looking on the internet, it says they can have a wingspan of 5-6ft. He was using those wings to maximum effect, with minimum effort, gliding round us on the wind. We on the other hand were sweating as we pedaled the bikes along the trail in the late morning sunshine.

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Eight miles into the ride we had our first puncture as we dropped down from Bwlch Yr Adwy, James running tubed tyres pinch flatted, landing heavily off rocky drop, that I just so happened to be taking some photos at…… trying to give it big for the camera? ūüôā New tube in and we carried on, for about half a mile. Tim caught me and Dean up, James had done it again, having used his spare tube, the latest one was patched and used. We reassured him that we didn’t mind, the sun was shining and the views were great, however if it had been raining we wouldn’t have been so happy! Off we went again, the drop down to the Nant Perfedd ford was stunning.

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Me and Dean arrived at the gate by the ford and I ran back up the trail to get some action shots….. nothing. We waited….. still nothing. Shouting back to Dean, we agreed it could be several things, either someone has come off, a broken bike or a puncture. Tim arrived, James had punctured again, and was walking down the hill, we agreed that out of the three options a puncture was the best. We went and sat by the ford in the sun, skimmed stones and Dean did a ride through for the camera.

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This time one of the patches on the tube hadn’t stuck properly, so one of Deans 27.5″ tubes was put into James’s wheel and off we went again. Fortunately there were no more ‘loss of tyre pressure’ events and we got back from the wilds and into the centre. Soon we were at the top ‘Mark of Zorro’ one of my favorite Welsh trails, and a new top section had been added since my last visit. Dropping 500ft in about a mile and a half it’s a 6 minute roller coaster ride, with no guide rails or safety net.

We hadn’t descended far when Deans enthusiasm ended up with a roll around in the scenery. Dusted down and bike checked we carried on. I was on a roll, as I descended I noticed a strange noise every time I stopped pedaling. I was enjoying myself that much I wasn’t about to stop, the bike was still working. Big grins all round when we reached the end.

Who ever built the trails had a sick sense of humour as within 2 minutes riding from the bottom of ‘Mark of Zorro’, you come onto ‘Legburner’ a two and a half mile unrelenting climb that goes up over 900ft. I’d checked the bike and found that the chain had hopped off the side of the lower jockey wheel and cut through the side of the derailleur cage. Not good, but I’d sorted it out and on the climb it seemed OK.

At the next section of downhill trail the chain hopped off again, this time I couldn’t free it, and in trying to sort it a section of derailleur cage came off in my hand. With the bike upside down I could see that the cage was twisted and every time I turned the pedals the chain jumped off. A bit of brute force and ignorance had the cage lined up, but whenever I tried to ride the bike the same thing happened very quickly. I pushed/rode the bike to the top of the final descent and told the guys I’d roll down the fireroad to the car park, and see them there.

A good look back at the car park confirmed my suspicions, the rear derailleur was FUBAR. The rear cage was twisted and having a great chunk missing too wasn’t helping matters….. I needed to get a new one or my weekend was over, annoyingly I’d got a spare in my garage that I take to Spain every year, but that was 130 miles away, hopefully Summit Cycles, in Aberyswyth, 11 miles away, would have one that would fit. “How can I help you?” He asked “You might just be able to save my weekend” I replied….. 30 minutes later and it was saved.

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A 50 minute drive through the mountains and I was in Rhayader, searching for our bunkhouse. As I reached the edge of town I saw a signpost “Beili Neuadd“. As I pulled into the drive I spotted Dean, who’d driven over without the detour to Aberyswyth, and also a load of the mountain bikers I’d seen pull up at Nant Yr Arian as I was leaving the car park, easily recognizable in their¬†Big Foot MTB club kit. A quick shower, change of clothes and it was pretty much time for the taxi that Dean had arranged to take us into town to the Triangle Inn¬†where we’d got a table booked.

A very pleasant evening, I’d thoroughly recommend the place, the food was fantastic and the Rev James on tap really hit the spot. A bonus is the landlord is also the owner/driver of¬†Merlin Cars¬†the local taxi company, so just ask at the bar and they contact him and let you know how long it will be…. in our case, just enough time for an Old Pulteney¬†as a night cap.

Sunday dawned with clear blue skies, a superb full English from the owner of the bunkhouse had us all sat round the long table taking bikes over breakfast. I asked a few questions about the route I had in mind as the Big Foot crowd had ridden it on Friday. It all sounded good, so the route was on! We packed our stuff into the cars and got the bikes ready to go. The owner quite happy for us to leave our cars there.

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Rhayader was up, people wandering about as we rode through at 09:15, even at Clive Powell’s the bike shop doors were open. Most local bike shops are closed on Sundays, but we surmised that in a place like this, closing for half of the weekend would be financial suicide. Down past the Triangle Inn and we were out of town, linking together a few lanes and bridleways before we crossed Glyn Bridge over the Elan River. It’s a suspension type foot bridge that always gets a giggle when several people are on it, as it sways and bounces about.

A short section of road and we hit our first proper climb, only 500ft, but the first section is steep, and the that in combination with the heat from the sun meant we were happy to reach the shade of some trees where the tracks gradient lessened. As we approached a gate we noticed a group of cows standing the other side. A couple with pretty intimidating horns, we decided to head down the field a bit as there was a second gate into another field.¬†We used this and then could see another gate we could use to get back on the farm track, bypassing the cattle. We got nearer the other gate….”Oh f**k!” look at that big boy.

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There on the other side was a beast, a proper bull, with a cow, calf and several tons of attitude. Eyeing us up and down this fella was going nowhere. James picked up a small stick. “What you gonna do with that” someone asked. “Throw it at him to make him move” was the reply. “If someone throws a stick at you does it piss you off?” someone asked. “Yes”……. “A pissed off bull, with attitude, weighing several tons is just what we need!” someone replied. We headed off along the barbed wire fence till we found a a section we could climb over.

We descended into the Dulas valley, stopping to let a pickup and tractor come up the trail. A quick map stop when we hit tarmac confirmed we needed to go right… and up a 20% road climb. I got off and started pushing pretty quick, I’ve ridden it before and it just gets steeper the further up you go. Soon we were all pushing, a food stop was suggested, but sensibly we waited till we’d done most of the climb and could sit in the shade of some trees.

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Starting the long decent towards Caban-coch reservoir I remembered from bitter experience that when we got to the abandoned building at Ty’n-y-pant we had to turn hard left otherwise we’d be on a steep track leading straight down to the waters edge. Fortunately I spotted the turn well in advance and several ford crossing later we were at the valley floor. Soon we were on the byway that follows the Claerwen river, only riding the flooded sections of the track and bottling it when it came to the final ford through the Arbon River at the foot of the Claerwen Dam, the most impressive of the Elan valley dams.

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Climbing to the top of the dam gave a great view of the valley we had just ridden up.

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After the obligatory look over the edge, we dropped down the side of the dam on a cheeky trail I know. Onto the road and it was decision time, we could either climb up and over to Garreg-ddu reservoir or take the easy option and roll down the road…. the latter was the unanimous choice. Most of it was rolling until we spotted an ice cream van on the other side of the dam then it became a sprint!

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Fuelled by a 99 with a flake we headed up the side of Garreg-ddu and Penygarreg reservoirs on the cycle path built on the course of the old railway used in the construction of the dams. The nice steady incline a appetizer for the main course which lay ahead. Reaching the dam at Craig Goch I suggested that we eat any energy food we had. Another group of bikers arrived and headed to the bridleway that would take us up and over Esgair Perfedd to the mountain road.

We started just after the other group, but pretty soon we were riding with some of them as their group rapidly spread out. The trail skirts the reservoir gradually climbing, all the time, just enough to work the legs. The real climb you can see all the time getting closer, it looks steep, and looks don’t deceive. Not only is it steep, but it’s grassy and soft. The kind of terrain that feels like you’ve got a brake sticking on.

Now I’d love to show you photos of it, but I’ve tried taking photos of it and it really doesn’t do it justice, and anyway I was on a mission. I always give this one my best shot, it’s the last climb of the day, so I figure why not. I’d ridden it all the way non stop once before. There was no way I was going to stop for a ‘selfie’. I’ve learnt from experience you have to climb stuff like this at your own pace. So I switched my Garmin to show my heart rate and rode to that.

Guys from the other group we’re starting to push, I knew Dean and Tim were both off and pushing, James was still in front of me and riding. Then suddenly he stopped, and got off. That was the target I had to beat. Getting to it, it was a step up, probably not even 2″ but at that incline enough to stop you if you didn’t get it right. Up to it, and just give the bike that bit more while leaning forward to stop the front end lifting. Front end over and then power the front. The trail now turned right, the gradient didn’t reduce, but I could see two guys from the other group in the distance stop and congratulate each other. I had my second target…..”Rule 5, Rule 5, Come on, Rule 5″ I muttered mantra style (It’s a cycling thing, look it up on Google ūüôā ) Then, “Great effort mate”…. I’d made it and was congratulated by a complete stranger, that’s mountain biking!

A fast descent down to the mountain road followed by a quick tarmac climb and we were at the top of the Roman road drop into Rhayader (I’ve no idea if it was ever a Roman road, but that’s what most people I know call it) The top section is a taster, but get past the standing stone at Maen Serth and things get really interesting, 1515ft to 710ft in just under 2 miles on loose rocky trail. Get it right and it’s superb, get it wrong and it hurts, a lot! ¬†As I found out in August 2012

I got to the bottom, Dean not far behind. Then nothing, another “accident (lets hope not), broken bike, or puncture” discussion followed. Still nothing, but noticing he’d got a signal Dean rang Tim. Puncture! Thank god. We chilled in the sun while they sorted Tim’s puncture further up the hill.

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And that was it, a short ride through town to the bunkhouse, a shower (worth asking if we could have one, rather than drive home stinking) and a three plus hour drive home….. ¬†Where next?

 

Total miles Р82     Total ascent (ft) Р9315    Total ride time Рapprox 11 hours

 

A week(ish) in Spain

We flew out on the 7th of June and back on the 16th, so in reality we had 8 days.

We had decided to go back to Malaga, as we’d had a long weekend there last year and really enjoyed it. Also, this year we thought we’d take our bikes, as travelling with Monarch it’s only ¬£30 per bike per flight, a total of ¬£120, and when we looked you’d struggle to hire a pair of decent hardtail mountain bikes for less than ¬£250. An additional cost we hadn’t bargained on was about ¬£15 extra on taxi fares at each end due to the extra baggage. We hired an ‘estate’ car for the last couple of days, so there was no taxi fare back to the airport in Malaga, so I’d say the extra costs bumped up the final total to around ¬£165, still far better than price to hire them out there. And of course there’s the advantage of riding a bike that’s set up exactly how you like it….. and doesn’t have the brakes set up ‘continental’ style, with the possibility of an OTB experience if you have to panic brake!

A couple of ride ideas were possibles, one being ride West along the coast then turning inland to explore the Guadalhorce River estuary, and then follow it inland. The other to drive inland to Lucena and ride a section of the 128km Vía Verde del Aciete towards Jaén. The Vía Verdes are 2400km of old railways around Spain converted into walking and cycling routes.  Information on Via Verdes in Spain

Arriving late on Wednesday meant unpacking and building the bikes first thing Thursday morning. The bags looked fine and the cargo inside was good, so a bit of spannering and they were built and ready to roll. A balcony on the lounge meant a convenient storage area, one with a stunning view as you can see below!

Bikes on balcony

After heading to¬†Atarazanas market to get supplies we had brunch on the apartments roof terrace…. it was HOT, up in the mid 30’s, so we waited till late afternoon before we ventured out on the bikes. “Just a short one”, around the city and maybe to the East along the promenade of La Malagueta. Almost three and a half hours later we got back from an adventurous coastal ride to Torre de Banagalb√≥n. The slight breeze off the sea and the evening drop in temperature a welcome relief from the heat of the city.

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With a high spirit of adventure, we set off on Friday to take the bikes on the train to Fuengirola, and explore there. What a mistake, the place is horrible, we decided to get on the coast and ride round the Punta de Callaburras, hopefully finding somewhere nice on the other side. Unfortunately the main A7 road skirts the coast and you have to ride on a gravel track separated from the oncoming traffic by a single bar Armco barrier….. we bailed, and headed back to the station only stopping for an ice cream.

The plan ‘B’ was to get the train back up the coast and get off in good old Torremolinos and ride back to Malaga from there, as we’d done it last year and it’s quite a nice chilled out route. Getting off the very busy train, we waited for the crowds to leave before heading for the exit. The automated gates were OK for me as the Superfly is a 29er and quite long so standing it up meant the bars cleared the automated gates and I could walk the bike through. Sara’s 26er however wouldn’t and so she had to turn the bars and kind of squeeze it in between, I grabbed it and pulled it through, but there was a gap between Sara and the bike….

The gates closed with her still station side, the machine returned the ticket, she put it in again, and it was promptly eaten, never to be seen again. I’m now outside the station with two bikes, while she’s inside, unable to get through the barriers. Rather than try and climb over, it was decided that she should go and find a station employee, and explain the situation.

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So I sat in the sun and waited……

Sara on the other hand tried to explain the situation to the only railway employee she could find, and just got a shrug of their shoulders. After a while another train arrived and fortunately she found someone who wanted to help, and so she walked behind the woman through the barriers, not leaving a gap. She was out, but not at the exit I was waiting at. She asked several people, probably Spanish, if the exit was the only one, but they mistook her question to be ‘Is this the only station’ to which the answer was yes. Eventually she found a taxi driver who understood and pointed her in the right direction.

“Lets get to the beach and head back”, easier said than done in Torremolinos, a complete lack of any kind of meaningful signs for the beach took us on a tour of the place. We just kept trying to head downhill, on the assumption we’d get to the beach… eventually we did, and turned East, happy to be heading back from a pretty disastrous day.

After Friday’s fun and games Sara said she’d like a day off the bike so we decided to walk up to the Castillo de Gibralfaro¬†that sits high above the city. Now, I ride a bike, I don’t do walking, so it was a bloody long way up… but worth the views, even though a misty haze had descended from the mountains.

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One thing I also noticed while peering over the walls of the castle was singletrack on the slopes below….. singletrack that needed to be ridden….. later.

Sara relaxed in the apartment while I rode the bike through the busy pedestrian streets of old town M√°laga, it was early evening and the bars and restaurants we’re rapidly filling. Soon I was on the steady Calle Mundo Nuevo road climb up. The road is closed to traffic, giving me a chance to have a good look up the slopes to the castle, and spot trails dropping down onto the road.

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First place I headed for was a viewpoint we’d stopped at when walking up earlier in the day. I’d spotted a signposted ‘Sendero’, a hiking trail, and decided that would be a good one to start on. It wasn’t bad, but only went round the hill without losing any height. I needed ‘down’, and I found it when I headed to the other side of the hill and found the trails I’d spotted from the castle walls. Over an hour I spent descending some lovely trails then riding ¬†back up the tarmac to the top over and over. To get off the hill I decided to ride an unmarked trail that headed off the path under the viewpoint. It was stunning, with great views over the port, until it abruptly ended, at the fence of an apartment block that was in the process of being built….. Damn. I had no more drink left, my legs were feeling all the climbing, and there was a cold beer waiting on the roof terrace…

Sunday was forecast to be hot…. and it was. After a lazy morning we headed for a bar that was showing the Catalan MotoGP. Later when it had cooled a bit we headed out with really no idea where we were going. We were suprised to see the beaches still packed at 7pm, so we headed up the coast past¬†Chimenea de los Guindos, a preserved chimney with a plumb bob inside so you can see it sway in the wind, that sits right on the coast.

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We stopped on a breakwater at Torres del R√≠o, and watched the locals enjoy their Sunday evening. Local kids were climbing a large lump of concrete at the end of the breakwater and jumping in as jet skis flew in and out to the makeshift jetty on the beach. Fishermen sat amongst the rocks on the otherside of the breakwater, seemingly more interested in chatting amongst themselves than actually catching anything. If this is a typical Sunday then the Malague√Īos really have got the right idea!

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Monday, and the plan was to get up early and go out on my own…. and it worked, rather than hit the alarm off button I got up and headed inland. I’d downloaded a couple of routes I’d found on the internet to my Garmin and as one was just a cut down version of the other I’d go with the longer 32 mile route, with the option to cut it short if needed.

Even as I headed out of Malaga at 7:30 it was up at 25 degrees C! As soon as I left the city, the road steepened and I headed up. Very quickly I reached the Montes de M√°laga national park, the tarmac turning to dusty fireroad. The mountain bike tyre tracks a good indication that this place was well used. As I climbed higher I could see bits of single track dropping down through the trees, but how you got to them I had no idea. I carried on, as it was a weekday I only saw a couple of walkers, and four cross country type mountain bikers, but I was certain from the tyre tracks everywhere, come here at the weekend and the local mountain bike crowd would be here in force.

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I got to the split point of the two routes, following the long route it headed straight up the mountain, but there was no sign of a track. I scrambled up a few hundred meters, in the hope that a track would appear, but no such luck. Back down at the bike I headed off on the short route, the fireroad winding it’s way up the mountain. Eventually I rounded a corner and there was a sign ‘Fin de Carril Bici’ (End of the Bike Lane) My Garmin told me to carry on, but I could see from it that in about 200 meters I’d be on a road. Looking to my left a track carried on up the mountain, and higher up I could see a red and white communications mast…. I wonder….

By now the temperature was just under 30 degrees C, and my water bottles were nearly empty, but with my ability to retrace my path back to this point using my Garmin I pressed on. There were no bike tracks on this trail, but a mountain biker came flying down the hill after about 1km, with a cheery wave and “Hola!”. Sure enough after another 20 mins of climbing I was at the mast, very nice, but the view wasn’t anywhere near as good as further down. A quick snap of the mast and I was heading back down.

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Getting back to to the sign, I checked my Garmin, the road looked very much like the A7000, with it’s two 360 degree hairpins. I’d driven it in 2016 when we’d come to Malaga for a long weekend. I’d now got no water left, so it was time to head back… but the big question was off road or on road? The decision I made gives you an idea of how much fun the A7000 is. Forks locked out, and in the big ring I hit the tarmac… wow, what a mad descent, it’s not a very busy descent, so I could just let the bike go. All too soon I was back at the apartment full of happy endorphins, and ready for another day exploring Malaga.

 

Later after a day around the city we got the bikes and headed along the coast for a steady spin. After a chill out by the see we decided to head back and stop at one of the many chiringuitos on the beach and have something to eat. We sat, ate, and watched shoals of fish break the water just a few meters behind the waves breaking on the beach, they too presumably having their evening meal.

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Tuesday and Wednesday ended up as non biking days, the first as we’d booked to walk the Caminito Del Rey. We picked up a hire car and drove up into hills to the walk. It’s not the best sign posted place and the organisation can be best described as ‘Spanish’ but it was well worth the trip. Thoroughly Recommended.

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Wednesday was planned to be a sightseeing/Biking day in the area in the¬†La Alpujarra region, basically the place I go mountain biking every October. Sara had never been so it would be a good chance to show her round. It’s very picturesque, the villages of Capileira, Bubi√≥n & Pampaneira cling to the side of the¬†Poqueira valley, with the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop. Unfortunately as I’ve been several times before I didn’t bother taking any photos! The plan was to head up higher and ride some of the fireroads and trails, but the temperature hitting 39 degrees C the bikes stayed firmly in the back of the car!

Thursday…… “Oh, no, we fly home tomorrow” we had a late breakfast looked at Google Maps and decided to explore further East along the coast. Having the bikes still in the back of the car was a bonus. We drove East to Torre de Mar, parked up and headed for the sea front. This really was the ‘Spanish’ seaside, probably what Torremolinos was like before it was ‘developed’, Caleta de Velez, Algarrobo, Lagos, El Morche…

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We stopped in El Morche when the coastal path ended at some fenced off football pitches, I’ve subsequently looked at Google Earth and it does carry on after, but by this time it was getting hot so we retired to the shade of the grassy Chiringuito Cacola. Quite how he managed to grow grass on the beach I’m not sure! Cold drinks and shade were needed, and enjoyed. Siesta time, watching the world go by (or not). Before we knew it time had flown by and it was around half 3, time to get back and get the bikes and our stuff packed ready for an early start. ¬†The bikes had been in the sun, but imagine my surprise when I looked at my Garmin.

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A steady ride back with stop at a deserted beach so Sara could have a paddle in the sea. In Torres del Mar two ‘Cornettos’ tasted great sitting on the grass watching the green parrots chase each other. Then back to the car, bikes in and drive back to Malaga and an evening of packing bike bags and cases.

Our first holiday abroad (travelling by air) where we’ve taken the bikes. Would we bother again? I’m in two minds. Having your own bike is great, you know it works, and the brakes are the right way round. Cost wise it work too. But there’s the extra work of packing and unpacking the bikes, and with the best will in the world, bike bags are not the easiest thing to manoeuvre around a busy airport, or city streets. They do come in handy though for transporting clothes, that are being used as ‘impact protection’ and certainly on the way home some goodies were stashed in them. Apart from the bike bag I only took a cabin size bag and a rucksack! One thing we have subsequently discussed is the riding we did, Sara really didn’t need a mountain bike at all, the riding she did could have quite happily been done on a hired hybrid (that cost a lot less than a mountain bike) My two solo rides needed a ‘proper’ mountain bike, but other than that I’d have been fine with a hybrid too.

So would we bother to take them again….

Watch this space!

Spanish and Welsh Epics – 10th June

I’ve had enough of typing loads of stuff into this blog, I’m going to just post pictures and a bit of text¬†for a while.

3rd June – Cambrils, Spain – La Vuelta de Serra Llaberia (72 miles, 9200ft of climbing)

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Would I do it again? Oh, yes!

9th June РMargam Park, Wales РWiggle Dragon Ride (132 miles, 11,000ft of climbing)

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Would I do it again? Ask me in about a month….

The weather was great for both. I did enjoy the Dragon, but the extra 50 miles really does take it’s toll, as does the rough Welsh road surfaces. Add to that the fact that two of the biggest mountain climbs come at the very end of the Dragon ride, just when your legs are shot to bits. Rhigos¬†climbs to it’s summit at 1630 ft,¬†from Hirwaun up and over to Treherbert, Just¬†a few miles later you turn right¬†in Treorchy and there in front of you is Bwlych, another 1600+ ft summit that drops you into the Afan Valley. If you thought your legs hurt climbing Rhigos, just wait till you’re 3/4 of the way up this beastie.

I’m not selling the Dragon Ride very well am I?

I don’t feel like riding a bike again for a while, but I need to keep my legs spinning as I’ve got the 100k (62 mile) Peaks Epic coming up in less than two weeks!

Yes I’m a slacker…. – 29th May

Sorry, no posts for a while….

Not much to say really. Have been trying to get some big road rides in to prepare me for the Wiggle Dragon and almost every time Ive been twarted by the weather.

Went to the Peak District on Bank Holiday Monday…. that was nice.

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Great riding, big views and sunshine….. what all Bank Holidays should consist of!

And so on Friday it’s Spain, Cambrils again…. We liked it that much we decided to go back for a week! So you may see some more ‘two up in Tarragona’ type posts if me and Sara decide to hire ‘our’ tandem again.

As a birthday treat I’ve organised hiring a road bike for two days, so I’ll probably do a couple of small local rides on the Sunday to get used to¬†the bike¬†(and riding on the wrong side of the road). Monday will be a big adventure, riding up into the Serra de Llaberia mountains…..

Wooo Hooooo!!! One work day at work till holiday time!

Bucks Off Road Sportive – 12th May

I struggled right from the start. Originally I’d intended to try and get a really fast time on the 100k route, but as soon as we hit the first climb my legs felt heavy. So I decided to Stick with Lump and Andy, as they were going at a reasonable pace and were doing the 100k too.

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We got to the first food stop and found Den and Chris who’d set off earlier on the 132k route. Den had damaged his wheel rim and cut the sidewall off his tyre. As he was running tubeless, he’d gone to fit his spare tube, only to find it was a 29″ tube and the bike he was riding had 26″ wheels…. oh how we chuckled!

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We also found out why Lump kept losing his chain off his front chainring…. a bent tooth. This was extracted using some pliers. This helped alot and the regular stops to refit his chain became regular stops to water the scenery….

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All was well till just after the first food stop at 40 kilometers…. then my legs just died. I could plod along in a spinning gear, but as soon as I hit any kind of hill or anywhere that required me to up the power I just couldn’t do it. It felt like I was riding through glue!

For the next 40k I just about hung onto them, it was only the last 20 that my legs came back a bit, and then only for short periods. I managed to complete the course in 5h 30m, which isn’t a bad time, but I’m sure I could have done it in just over 5 hours if my legs had been OK….

In the¬†words of Forrest Gump “That’s about all I got to say bout that.”

FNSS Rd1 – 11th May

That’s Friday Night Summer series to those not in the know….

“What’s that?” I hear you ask…. (so taken directly from the FNSS website http://fnssmtb.com/)

What’s FNSS mean?
Friday Night Summer Series, it does what it says on the tin. A summer race series for mountainbikes. Sorry no Cyclocross bikes allowed.

Why Fridays I want to go out on the beer?
Good question, could be that Public places are quieter on Fri Eve’s as most people are out doing just that. It could be the fact that you and the organisers get a chance for a good rest on Saturday if you don’t work. The real reason is that this series was started by Road Cycling clubs getting together. They already had road stuff on Tues, Weds and Thurs and nobody wants to race on Monday now do they!

OK what’s it all about then?
The Friday night Summer series is a group of races organised by individual people, in 2013 it has it’s 22nd continuous year of running. It has the same central Insurance cover and one Uber head Honcho ..Neil Holman. This ensures a proper centrally organized setup and admin to enable easier accounting. But still all races are slightly different in format as each organiser adds his/her own touch.

How far’s a race?
The basic format is that everybody races together in one mass start on a 45 minute plus one lap format.  (due to larger race entries this can now be split into two starts generally Senior/Junior then Vets/Ladies) This method means no matter what level of fitness you are you will not race for much more than an hour. This means only about 13-15 miles for even the fastest riders, and each race starts no earlier than 7.15.

What if the leaders lap me?
When the organiser works it out he’ll shout out last lap at the leader as he passes, and then at all following racers. When the race leader returns to massive applause for the win; all the following riders are deemed to have finished, No mater how many laps behind they are. All riders crossing the line receive a finishing position and some series points. Note; smart riders will have worked out that if the leader is catching you towards the end of the race, you can save having to do another lap if he passes you before you cross the line.

Can I do it ‚Äď I have no flash kit or any race license?
Anyone can race, all you need is a bike and a helmet, and no special bike or kit either. All Youths and Juniors must have parental consent. Mudguards, racks, toeclips, pink Emmelles, tandems, cut off jeans, we have seen them all and they add to the event. Nobody will laugh at you here, we’ve all been there trust me. There’s no need for any licence or club membership, just you and a bike.

So there you go, there are 13 rounds in the series, and your best 6 results count towards your final place in the standings. You can race as many rounds as you like, but less than 6 and you’ll not feature in the final standings. As usual, a combination of holiday and afternoon shifts mean I can only race in¬†3 rounds ūüė¶ On the positive side, I can race in round 11 on August 2nd at Delapre Abbey, Northampton. The course there is simply stunning ūüôā

So round 1 was at Borough Hill, Daventry. Originally home to a BBC transmitting station, and site of the first ever practical demonstration of RADAR on 26th Feb 1935. The course is a superb mixture of open grassland, fast woodland, gravel track and steep twisty woods. The finish being below the 600′ radio mast that dominates the site.

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So, to the race…. I always struggle with the start, more in where to be¬†in the pack…. as you just line up on a 4(ish) bike wide track. I’ve headed for the front before, but the fast guys leave you for dead, and mentally it beats you up, you almost feel like you’re going backwards. So I usually aim for mid pack. At Daventry I ended up a bit further back than I’d have liked (should have got to the start earlier!)

The seniors headed off first, and 2 minutes later so did we. Straight away I started passing people, in a tight bunch it’s not easy, and I knew I should have been 10 or 15 riders further forward at the start. Not much I could do now but get my head down and ride. Into the first lot of woods it was single file, but as it rides¬†pretty quick¬†¬†it wasn’t too bad.

Out of woods and it was onto a gravel track…. and into a headwind. On my practice lap the wind had almost stopped me dead here and I’d made a decision that on every lap I’d draft someone (ride in their slipstream)¬†all the way along it. It worked, I hung behind a couple of slower riders all the way, and just as we were about to turn behind a hedge I accellerated past. Mental note – do that every lap if possible!

The next set of woods are quite tight and twisty and the pace slowed, with only one real line through the trees it was frustrating. All I could do was have a breather as we crawled along. The exit of the woods was a quick steep climb. We’d now¬† caught a couple of Senior catagory backmarkers, and they were trying and failing to ride it. Trouble was they were in the way so I had no choice but to pick the pick the bike up and run through the scrub at the side of the track.

Back on open grassland again I found myself¬†catching¬†two Rugby Velo Riders. Over the line, lap two. They were my target, so I pushed hard, I had to, out on the open grassland they were quick.¬†Into the fast woods and I’d got up to them, and now heading onto the gravel I was right in behind them. Turning off the gravel I tried to overtake, but the headwind hit me hard and pushed me back. Now into the twisty woods… they were slower, but not slow enough to be able to get past. At the few overtaking points I’d spotted I could get almost level but hadn’t got enough to edge in front and take the line.

Out onto the grassland and I made my move, I was now in a Rugby Velo sandwich, but I lost my rhythm on the bumpy section on the run in to the line. Lap three, I was behind them both again. Halfway round the lap I spotted Dusty Dan a mate who was riding in the Senior class, he’d started two minutes before me, and he was catchable. I hung behind the Rubgy Velo guys, trying to gauge if we were going to catch Dan. At this rate it was possible. More position swapping with the Velo guys followed.

As we crossed the line the¬†last lap bell rang,¬†I could see Dan, he was close, but I was unsure if we’d catch him. I had to go now, out of a rough section I tried to be as close as possible behind the Velo guys. I was too close, they swerved to miss a mound, I hit it and was all over the place. I dropped off them…. “F**k! Agggghhhh! All that effort. “Come On!! Pedal!!! ¬†Head down, I put every ounce of effort I could into it. On their tail again somehow, but slowly one of the Velo guys pulled away.¬†Dan was close now, as we exited the woods he was there. I overtook the lone Velo rider and went past Dan.

Onto the gravel I had no one to draft. I pushed again hoping to drop Dan. But Velo man was there still. The bike felt weird, a puncture? I looked down and back at the¬†rear tyre… it was OK. “It’s in your head! Push on!” As we dropped into the woods he overtook me. He was holding me up in the twisty stuff, but we were still catching and overtaking a couple of¬†slower riders. Dan wasn’t directly behind me now, I had a buffer. Out onto the grassland for the final time, my legs were like jelly. Velo man pulled away, and a rider I’d overtaken in the woods crept past. A glance back and Dan was closing… pedal!!!!!! Another look back and he was closer PEDAL!!!!!! Across the line, chequered flag….¬†roll to a stop, lean¬†over the bars and feel¬†like I’m about to throw up!

1 hour 7 minutes 45 seconds…… Dan crossed the line 5 seconds after me! But in reality that’s 2 minutes 5 seconds ūüôā

So I ended up in 38th place, not bad, my lap times were OK (15:12, 15:29, 15:20) apart from my first (21:45). It’s a longer lap due to the start straight, but everyone who finished around me had a first lap time about a minute shorter. I’m sure that was due to the traffic in the first set of woods, and if I’d started further up the pack I’d have managed a lap in the high 20s….. which would have put me up around 31/32nd…..

But I didn’t, and if I ate less and didn’t have the odd pint or two, and trained more, and had never smoked etc etc…. I’d probably win every race….

Right, next event, the Bucks Off Road Sportive…. 100k (62 miles) in the Chilterns…..

Oh, and I did have a puncture. I got home and my front was flat!