One of the things I've been wanting to do for a long time is put a trip together for a Welsh Coast to Coast trip, so one evening with some time to spare, I dug out a load of maps, got onto Trailwise
and a few other websites and did some research... this resulted in a potential route which I then cast out to some friends to see if they were free and up for it... 350 miles, 3 days... let's go!
John, a mate from near Chester, who is a rally rider in his spare time, was the only one free, but didn't have a suitable bike, so with a weeks notice, went shopping for a KTM 450. He ended up with a 6 days 2012 for around £4200!!
I drove down to John's place, stayed over for the night, then at 6am the next morning John's brother turned up, (he'd somehow agreed to drive the van back from Port Talbot to John's place so the Sunday night logistics were made easier, what a STAR!!)... that was it, we were off!
Four hours later we were parked up at Morrisons in Port Talbot after a hairy drive, we were undercut by a white van driver on a roundabout, nearly a bang... then an old guy in a posh Merc decided he wanted the lane we were in, so just pulled across with no warning as his back end was level with my drivers door... kids in the car and all... never even acknowledged the horn etc!! Muppet...
We changed clothes and got fueled up, then headed to the beach for the obligatory photo, then off to the first lane, right out of Port Talbot and with lovely views back to the coast.
Lane after lane followed with some fun bouncy lanes of cobbles and climbs.
We wound our way over towards Neath in a big loop, then found our first TRO'd lane... it's got roundel red signs on it for the moment, it appears to be a seasonal TRO for some kind of woodland disease but the signage as usual is utterly rubbish and negative.
On Trailwise it has been used in 2014 and the TRO is out of date, but the signage says otherwise... needs more investigation I feel. So we bypassed it unfortunately and picked up the next lanes... there are a few that are signed as Restricted Byways, (a truly confusing category, its either a byway or a bridleway!). As there is no information online for this that I could find, we were very unsure about some of them, so found alternative routes where possible.
As we headed towards Sennybridge, the day was winding on, we picked up the Roman Road and passed by the ancient Roman fort, had a few stops for pictures and snacks and then dropped into Llandovery to finish up around 16.30pm. We decided to stay here as the next day was the Strata Florida and some properly boggy lanes, so B+B time!
We stayed at the Level Crossing, which is a lovely place, run by a lovely lady, however we may well be the last people to stay there as the Greek owner has decided to close the place and make the staff redundant.. shame it's an ideal venue for the trail rider/driver lot, in town and next to a garage and a good price!
Beer, big dinner and a good giggle saw the day end in style!
It dawned with really heavy rain, we sat having breakfast waiting for the sun to come up, then geared up for a properly wet day out!
First lanes were straight into a shallow ford down a greasy stony track, then some more smaller lanes and some tarmac to get to the Strata. We both changed out of our full kit as we knew we'd be getting warm on this bit!
As it turned out, the water levels were the lowest I've ever seen it, John has done this 10+ times so had more experience of it than me, plus he's quicker than me on a bike, so he was in front and we basically rode the whole thing in an hour, including stopping to check water levels at the Bothy crossing and the last 'deep' puddle.
On the final bit, I had my first off of the 3 that day, the front wheel sliding sideways on a greasy slab, the bike went down hard and so did I, but both OK so off we went again. We came out the other end, pretty wet and cold, but time was pressing and we had a lot of miles still to do, so some snacks and we were off to Claerwen Reservoir.
At the end of here, we both decided we'd do a detour from the planned route into Rhyader, so we stopped at ET James, the trail bike garage, where we got chatting to the old guy who works there, he was telling us the place has been open since 1921!
John bought some Sealskinz socks here to have dry feet but they leaked in an hour so wet feet it was to be!
Hot coffee and sausage egg and chips followed to set us up for an afternoon in the rain. Once back on the bikes, we headed back to the trail via a couple of lanes, (its good that both John and I know this area a bit so can do this easily).
Llangurig and Llanidloes followed for more fuel, then its out towards Aberystwyth to pick up some beautiful lanes that just wound up into the hills and dropped into Machynlleth, where we opted to stay as it was now dark again... dawn til dusk riding... ace!
Accommodation here was hard to find as it's a school holiday, we ended up in a B+B at the edge of town, near to a chippy, so fish n chips for tea... no drying room meant using the radiator in the room, inadequate really but we had dry gloves and socks for the final day at least!
This turned out to be the longest and hardest day, but at least it was dry for the most part...
The trails started out with a steep technical climb up into Happy Valley, then over to what John calls the Valley of the Kings, it's a place where he's done plenty of rally riding training. This was via a great little hard lane of boulders, ace fun!
Dolgellau saw us refuel and hit the tarmac again for a bit before we headed up into some great terrain.
We headed over the shoulder of a hill near Barmouth where I found my brake master cylinder had no fluid in it, just at the top, so I had the whole descent with just the back brake, that was interesting!!
At the bottom, we bumped into a group of bikes, some 12-15 strong, all skill levels and heading up the steep descent we'd just come down, they struggled with the terrain and there were rooster tails all over the place. John & I both thought the group size to big for such delicate moorland, but then who are we to criticise I guess. The lane is fabulous and we both want to ride it again!
I had another off here getting cross rutted and trapped my foot under the bike, it became swollen pretty quickly and painful, causing me to limp, so we decided to head into Harlech to get brake fluid and check it out.
We sorted the bike and I decided to just carry on as we were miles from home still. Some more tarmac to leap frog a section as time was pressing again, saw us blast up to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where we stopped for coffee and cake at at big mountain bike centre called Antur Stiniog, a great cafe, well worth a visit... then it was off to some trails that a lad from the North Wales TRF had given to me near Betws Y Coed...
We called the trail riding a day at Penmachno after a massive epic in a bog and forest, this took up loads of time and we both got soaked again, this time in sweat!! It was a great laugh but really hard work. It was here my side stand broke, the bolt sheared and disappeared into the bog some where!
A very cold ride on A roads saw us back at John's place for near 8pm after heading over Horseshoe Pass, where his lovely wife Taz, made us tea, pizza bread and then beer... we finished the night off looking at pictures and laughing about the trip epics!!
There is still a bit to finish to get to Flint, so we may well go back to do this one of the days this year. It's definitely a 4 day trip unless you have more day light hours than we had. It's also needs a bit more investigation re some of the lanes in the south. The lanes in the North are way more technical than the ones we rode in the southern section, but it is an ace trip and well worth the time it took to work it out!
Try it again with the rest of the team in the summer is the plan!!
Approximate costs of the trip for both of us:
B+B accommodation for 2 people: £130
Total £285! Bargain...
Things that need replacing:
John's bike - The left handguard - that's it!
My bike - Plastic mudguard cracked, clutch lever end, both sets of brake pads, new brake fluid, side stand bolt! Oh and let the broken bone in my foot heal!!
It's autumn, the trees are looking ace, the weather is changing and daylight is getting shorter, so loads of fun to be had in a shorter time...
I need some better lights on my bike and the suspension is set up for someone at least 5 stone heavier than me, so more bits to sort! excellent...