An Icy Welsh Christmas

Icy Welsh Christmas Title
Which is exactly how I found myself preparing for the upcoming two day adventure in Wales. As ever, the day was full of mission-creep. New tyre so I had to put the wheel on, then noticed the bearings were loose so had to 'punch' the mating surface, then whilst warming the bike pre oil change, the carb slide was sticking open. Whilst I had the seat and tank off to sort that I noticed the clutch cable was on it's arse! Then noticed the front pads were getting a bit 'rum', so at least I had acclimatised to the outside temp… deep joy... anyways...

5am on Saturday morning and I loaded the bike into the van, in the snow with Alan and Ian Ribble Valley (no he's not a double barrelled posh git, simply in the Ribble Valley TRF!). The snow was getting worse and worse on the way. I particularly didn't enjoy the right hand bends as I was sat nearest the drop, and there was one memorable slide, which was great fun. As we got nearer to Dolgellau the snow tailed off until there was none at all when we arrived. Bikes out, gear on and Andy phoned to say they were late. I told him to start writing his lines then to save time later.

Wayne turned up, then started 'fixing' a MASSIVE dent in his back wheel with a handy stone, it was akin to the Ape scene at the start of 2001 a space odyssey, only more simian.

And... they're off! I started my bike only for it to rev itself stupid again! We all had a mess, I spat out my dummy (as I had 'fixed' it the day before... WD40!) I decided to 'ride it better'... once around the campsite and it was fixed. Off again they went, till the first gate where Andy's KTM wouldn't start on the button, and he ain't used to kicking, trust me, or bumping. We got it going and away we went. The weather wasn't too bad, a bit of sleet, a bit of hail, a bit of rain,a bit of snow… a bit of a pain in the arse with the old goggles. A fair 'lick' was now got on and we made good time to our first 'encounter'...

A couple were 'hanging around' on the lane we were about to ascend, so one of our group enquired as to why they were blocking the lane. It seems they simply did not want us to use the lane, and stated that they worked for the Landowner, then the Council. We gently informed them of the status of said lane, that it was a legal BOAT and the fact that they were committing an offence under the road traffic act. We remained gents as they started filming us going up the lane… I asked if she could email me with the footage as it's a great lane... she declined. All this just the day after boxing day… peace on earth, goodwill to all men?

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High vis in low vis

Up over the mountains and into the storm. How can sleet always be smashing your chops regardless of your orientation? Down the other side to the sea where the blizzard abated, and I even managed to ride over the infamous 'Wobbly Bridge of DEATH'.

Lunch courtesy of a lonely Spar supermarket opposite the petrol station. A crude pasty but no hot drinks available so I had a cig to warm my lungs, yet another fine dining experience with Alan the 'Ambassador really spoils us'.

Lunch done  and it was off to take on The Road Of Bones. Actually, I think Alan had the only success on this little gem,but then he is on a KTM Freeride, so not much skill involved... I made a right hash of it by stalling the fecker (it requires momentum) then stitched up the few behind me with a neat blocking manoeuvre (bike on its side) although I managed to stay off my arse, unlike when I am riding. Carnage ensued, bikes/riders everywhere encouraged by a laughing Alan, well it's HIS Xmas too! All squared and up over the top, back down to the road but not before a knarly leaf littered lane that I remembered going up in the summer. I enquired why we were going down it, but needn't have after the first ten feet, it was as slippery as an ice rink. I had a few moments, then onto a little grassy incline. Steve (PNM) had a Laurel and Hardy 'piano' moment, with his bike and boots, up and down like a new brides pyjamas… very funny.

Down to the estuary rail bridge, always nice riding across that and onto the last killer lane back to the site just as darkness fell… marvellous. Having booked in the camping Barn in the morning, and paid my money (sharing with Dave 'Cuzzer') It was only now we noticed no quilts had been provided (my fault, and the attendant had left the campsite). So turning down my offer of ample body heat, Dave and I set off into town to feast at The Ship, a most welcoming and civilised hotel in the 'town'. Met up with Andy and Steve who regaled us with tales of their fine hostelry (they were staying there) how they had, Thai masseurs in every room, and a mint on the pillows. Meanwhile Alan had sorted out out quilt issue...he really is a big softy..quads 'n' that.

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The Road of Bones eats another victim

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The shadow of Carer Idris

After a cold night we woke to find everything was frozen. I had to pour hot water on my seat and oil filler cap just to get it off. The bike started and surprise surprise it was revving itself silly again… so I rode it better...again....

The tarmac sections were VERY scary, no snow just ice. We all took it very easy, then onto the first lane which was also the last one from the previous night. The morning was stunning, very special light and a dusting of frost not to mention it being Baltic! I don't mind icy lanes,but get me off that tarmac…now! A shortened run was the order of the day as night riding back on icy roads would have been idiotic.

The riding over Happy Valley was stunning, sea views, gin clear skies, this is the 'schizzle' as the kids say.

Andy was still having trouble starting his bike (KTM) so with that and his 'trials' riding style he held us up quite a bit. Lunchtime and he decided to get to the bottom of his starting woes and discovered the re-set button for his solenoid...RESULT!

Back on the road and whilst waiting at a gate we realised we had an issue. It turned out that Steve's KTM had junked his split-link and his chain had doubled up between the front sprocket and swingarm. Disaster. We tried pushing it forward… nothing. We tried loosening the swingarm but had no 15mm socket so I suggested trying to 'pull' the wheel back by hand. No joy, then Alan suggested a 'shock' pull on the wheel, as in 'slam' the wheel from slack to a taught chain backwards. One slam, one link out, two slams two links out…etc. Some fine advice from the 'headmaster' and of course I pointed out his subsequent smugness to the group, nobody likes a smart-arse, but it WAS a lifesaver.

By this point it was getting dark so it wasn't the best that there was even more gate waiting as Steve's KTM had a spoke come totally loose. As I said, "to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail" which I think is KTM's motto. Yes I know I had trouble with my Honda, but that was a fail to STOP going, not a fail to GET going.

And on to to the last lane in the shadow of Cader Idris, in the late dusk and eventually the dark back onto tarmac with my arse twitching all the way back to the best shower anybody, has ever had.

Thanks to all the crew for another unwasted (in more ways than one) xmas holiday, and a special thanks to Alan who had to drive us back in the freezing fog after all that! Still he likes a challenge (or so he insists). We could not have done it without you.

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Cuzzer paves the way

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Alan emerges from the steam 

Written by Joel Chester Fildes

The trip was the annual Manchester Christmas ride. The group left from north Dolgellau and rode into Snowdonia on the first day, before heading south from Dolgellau into the Happy Valley on the second.

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