Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sustrans Route 4 - The Celtic Trail - South Wales: Day 4

Kidwelly - Tondu

Waking up from a pretty decent nights rest, I'm in the shade of the trees at the edge of the campsite & my tent is dripping with the morning dew. I need to air my kit out as it's starting to get a bit damp & smelly. I use the nearby children's climbing frame to dry out my bag nicely in the morning sun.

The site must have 75 static vans with awnings but I have only seen one person here! Nice site & lovely & quiet. I get my porridge cooked & start to break camp, determined to pack up my kit well today. It takes me a little while longer as I have to wait for my tent fly to dry off too. Packed up & washed up I see the first person today on this deserted camp site. The cleaner asks what I'm doing & we chat for a few minutes about the route & the strength of the sun. I've already applied some sun cream so I'm good to go.

After a ride through Kidwelly the route heads off the road & on into Pembrey Forrest. I do a lap or two around the cows in a field before I get my bearings & the route becomes more & more remote. With the sun beating down it's a lovely flat ride through this peaceful part of the country.

After about 5 miles of the above I arrive past a camp site & onto the sea front for a ride along the Millennium Coastal Park. I have to stop to cover up my sun burnt legs with my 3/4 length bottoms & consume yet another Snickers & a banana. Continuing through Llanelli I meet another cycle tourist coming the other way & we stop for a chat. Mark is doing route 4 East to West & we tell each other about the respective routes ahead. We shake hands & continue on our way. Shortly after I pass a rangers van & the horn blasts. It's Scott, back to work today & we have a brief chat & then I'm back in the saddle. The lack of hills today is most welcome & the miles seem to glide on by. I stop by the wetlands Centre for more food & to consult the guidebook. Looks like I should make Swansea by lunch time. I arrive at Mumbles by around 1:30pm & get some food & sit on the beach front to eat & get annoyed by wasps! I decide to check out the tourist nfo centre in Mumbles to see if I can locate a decent camp site somewhere between Swansea & Tondu. The ladies at the TIC are great & once they point out my pronunciation issues, they even ring the campsite so that I can check out the facilities - Thanks girls you're ace :-) I stop to use the public toilets on the sea front & wheel my bike inside as there's room in there.

I back track along the sea front towards Swansea & I'm still rolling on nice flat roads soaking up the sun & the happy vibes of the other beach front users. I get a bit lost on Swansea harbour but eventually find my way after asking a couple of people the way around.

It's quite a chore finding your way through the big towns & if you miss the signs its frustrating getting back on track. I got lost & ended up going down a river bank for a mile or so before it turned into a muddy singletrack & I had to back track again. I was glad to get out of Swansea but Port Talbot was no better. After riding along the sea front the route went through a pretty rough area & threaded it's way through a large housing estate which wasn't a pleasant ride as there were gangs of youths out in force & I was glad to get out of there. I was getting tired but knew I still had a way to go to get to Tondu so I carried on under the M4 & up to Margam Park. I went wrong yet again when a fork in the road appeared & the route marker said straight on!? I logically took the road instead of the footpath but after an evil climb & 15 minutes of pushing I knew I hadn't made the right choice. The only upside was a breathtaking view back over Port Talbot

So back down I went & then took the other path only to find a gate which I couldn't get my bike through. I had to take off the panniers, squeeze the bike around & reload up the other side. By this point I was swearing at anything & everything. I climbed up again through Margam Park & down the other side where - guess what? - another gate I couldn't get through....

By around 7:30pm I was stopped at a Spar in Pyle stocking up on much needed food & water, just a few more miles to the campsite to go.

When I finally made it to camp I was disappointed to find the site was a shit hole. There were broken down cars in the driveway with the engines scattered on the floor around them & a bunch of contractors vans parked up next to a bunch of caravans. I thought I'd stumbled on a pikey camp-ground. I was too tired to about face so paid for my (sloping) pitch & set up camp. The showers were dirty, the toilets worse still & the kitchen had dishes piled up by the sinks & the plug holes full of... god only knows? The place made my skin crawl & I had some guy turn up & park his car next to my tent & slept in the back of his car. I was determined to get the fuck out of there first thing tomorrow.

Distance = 69.93 miles
Riding time = 6h 59m

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sustrans Route 4 - The Celtic Trail - South Wales: Day 3

Manorbier - Kidwelly

Got up around 7am & got some porridge & tea on the go, it was another glorious sunny morning & was already hot by 8am.

Scott was packed up but kindly waited for me to get my shit together & we hit the road to Tenby. The route took us through Kiln Park caravan site where I'd stayed as a child & it was such a lovely looking place, totally immaculate & made me want to book up to come & stay there! Tenby itself was also a beautiful place to ride through, with it's pastel coloured cottages & lovely views across the beach.

Continuing on to Saundersfoot we stopped for some food on the beach front & the skies started to cloud over. The ride to Carmarthen was hilly & once there we got food & Scott said he knew of a camp site near Kidwelly that I could stay at & he would continue on home from there.

By the time we got to Tanylan Farm camp site I was tired. Got a pitch for the night & said goodbye to Scott & thanked him for the company on the ride. The site was nice, clean & quiet & well priced too. Set up camp in a sheltered corner when it rained for all of 10 minutes & then showered, ate & got my head down for the night.

Distance = 51.92 miles
Riding time = 5h 51m

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Sustrans Route 4 - The Celtic Trail - South Wales: Day 2

Solva - Manorbier

Woke up around 6:30am & hadn't slept very well, I think the excitement of the trip had me tossing & turning all night! The weather had come out to play & what appeared top be a misty field on nowhere hill last night, turned out to have a rather nice sea view this morning.

Had my porridge & packed up my gear for my 1st full days riding & took the main A road into Solva to get back onto Sustrans route 4. I had to stop after a short while to get some sun lotion on as the temps were rising rapidly as the sun was heating things up a treat.

The route was very hilly again & having not recovered so well due to lack of sleep, I was finding it hard work. I rolled down the hill into Newgale where I'd surfed when I was about 10 years old on a Family holiday.

Descent into Newgale

Beginning the long climb out of Newgale

Upon reaching Broad Haven I was feeling ropey so stopped into the convenience store on the seafront to stock up with water, banana's & snacks to get me going again.

Moving inland towards Haverfordwest the route evened out a little & I plodded along pretty country lanes & cycle paths, stopping to grab some shade in a field & to scoff a pastie. Whilst riding towards Pembroke I sensed someone on a cycle right behind me & turned to see another touring rig draw up beside me. Scott, from Kidwelly, was on a 3 day tour of the Preseli hills on route 47 & back via route 4 from Fishguard. We rode together & chatted & followed the route into Pembroke where we stopped off @ the 'golden arches' for some much needed sustenance.

Pembroke marina

Pembroke Dock

Pembroke Castle

From Pembroke Scott suggested camping at the YHA in Manorbier so we came off route & located the YHA in a lovely location near the sea. There was a bunch of schoolkids on a trip staying at the site but we were OK to camp at the bottom of their field & use the facilities. We set up camp & showered & decided to walk into the village to get some pub grub for the evening. We stored the bikes in the YHA's bike lock up & walked up the hill & blagged a lift to the main road by some military personnel from the base nearby. The village was peaceful & pretty & the pie & chips in the pub went down a treat as we discussed touring, bikes, camping gear etc. Got back to camp & got our heads down for another day in the saddle tomorrow...

Distance = 40.19 miles
Riding time = 4h 52m

Sustrans Route 4 - The Celtic Trail - South Wales: Day 1

Fishguard - Solva

I had been planning this trip for some months & was originally going to do this tour of South Wales with my brother. As it panned out I did it solo & I'm kind of glad I did as it turned out to be a difficult ride in places & my bro isn't an experienced cyclist. I caught a train to Fishguard which was a bit of a drag (2 changes) with a loaded cycle & as soon as I arrived at Fishguard Harbour around 1pm, I was into the toilets to change into my riding gear & then hit the road. Having the maps (West & East) & the guide book for the ride is advisable although the route is well sign posted, it's easy to get it wrong if you're not paying close attention in places.

The weather was pretty poor, damp & a head wind but being fresh on my tour I was still enjoying the wild scenery & lovely coves I rolled down into & climbed back out of. I passed a bunch of MTB'ers riding the opposite direction & they gave shouts of approval for my loaded pack horse! The hills were pretty severe in places & I had to push up a couple of very steep ones. After having reached St Davids & checking out the Cathedral, I figured it was time to locate a suitable camp site & get sorted for the evening. I came off route & headed for Nine Wells camp site indicated on the map near Solva. Pitched up the tent in the fine misty rain & showered, cooked some pasta & chicken & got my head down for the night...

Distance = 26.49 miles
Riding time = 3h 25m

Fishguard Harbour


St David's Cathedral (with scaffolding)

My humble abode

Monday, 6 June 2011

Gaz's Birthday Ride out...

Did a 50+ mile Cafe run out on Sunday to Willoughby. Great days riding with lotsa laughs.

Happy Birthday mate :-)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Surly Bikes Cross Check...

Not had a great deal of time for blogging of late but wanted to report on my latest road bike build, my 2011 Surly Cross Check.

I purchased a Surly Long Haul Trucker back at the end of summer but it didn't turn out to be quite what I wanted so I moved it on & picked up a Cross Check to replace it. I built this up with budget in mind, & got some great deals through Specialized Bikes & my LBS. I built the wheels myself with some previously used hubs & some nice Mavic rims I picked up off Gary G & sourced all the rest of the stuff at the best prices I could afford. I decided to go with the Black as I figured most folks will want the new Robins Egg Blue colour which I'm not overly keen on anyway!

Frame: 2011 Surly cross Check 56cm
Fork: Surly cross check with mid-mount eyelet
Headset: FSA orbit MX
Brake hanger front: Tektro
Brake hanger rear: Surly SS
Stem: Specialized comp-set road 90mm
Bars: Specialized pro 2 road ergo 44cm
Tape: Specialized BG bar phat 4.5mm gel pads
Levers: Tektro RL520
Brakes: Tektro CR720 canti
Shifters: Shimano dura ace 9sp
BB: Shimano tiagra exo
Crankset: Shimano sora compact 50/34
Pedals: Shimano M520 SPD
Chain: Shimano HG53 9sp
Cassette: Shimano HG50 11-32t
Front Mech: Shimano sora double
Rear Mech: Shimano deore SGS long cage
Seatpost: Bontrager race lite
Seat: Passport pilot leather
Seat Clamp: Surly SS
Front Hub: Shimano deore LX 36
Rear Hub: Shimano deore 36
Spokes: DT swiss plain gauge 3X
Rims: Mavic T224 36's
Tyres: Bontrager all weather race hardcase 700x32
Skewers: Halo hex bolt
Mudguards: SKS chromoplastic P45
Rear rack: Bontrager back rack II
Rack bag: Vaude silkroad plus
Rear light: RSP tourlite rack mount
Front light:
Computer: Specialized wireless sport
Bottle cages: Bontrager race lite composite
Pump: SKS super sport alu

I wanted a classic look using older looking components & to be simplistic & functional. Very pleased with how it turned out & I still need to sort the steerer length & some other minor tidying as it's ridden in. After waiting for 2 weeks to ride her due to the poor weather, I finally managed to get a couple of rides in over the last few days.

Got all my winter weather clothing about sorted so I'm keen to get out as long as it's not icy. It's great having a rack bag as I can take everything I feasibly need for day rides & more?


Wednesday, 1 September 2010

My first Century...

Whoa! & also my first post of the year, talk about unmotivated...

So anyway, there's a bunch of local guys who do an annual 100 mile bike ride on August bank holiday weekend & this was my second year riding it. Last year I only had my Kona single speed road bike so I was chuffed when I ended up doing 82.5 miles of the ride. This year, I have my new Surly LHT (build post to follow....maybe) so was all in for completing my first century ride. The route is basically a loop out of Banbury & around god knows how many villages & returning back in to town on completion so people have the option of cutting back if they feel like they've done enough. We started at 8am & it took us 10.5 hours total to complete, 8.5 hours riding time & 2 hours of snack stops, wee stops, tea stops & lunch stops!

Overall I thought the ride went quite well, we got soaked by a sudden deluge before the halfway point but it brightened up & we managed to dry out. I felt good up to about 60 - 70 miles but started to fade from there on in. We had a shitty head wind for the last 30 miles & it made for very hard work to the finish. Out of seven starters, five of us went on to do the complete route.

I don't mind telling you that I was very tired at the end of the day & it took two days before I felt fully recovered but I am pleased that I have now cracked the century mark.

I hope that next year if the ride is on again that more riders will join in as it's a good social gathering of like minded people & we all had a good laugh & a great days exercise!