Fat mountain biker rides 114 miles in a day!
113 miles to kill, I was around 18 years old the last time I did this journey, with my brother on an iron-framed, steel-wheeled ‘racing bike’ with Sturmey Archer hub gears. It had taken us 12 hours!
I wanted to get through Kidderminster before the traffic kicked off, the ring road there can be pretty dicey having pedalled it recently. Mission accomplished no cars at all, then the toughest climb of the journey, thankfully very early in; the climb out of Kidderminster, past Shatterford, towards Bridgenorth. While it did seem to go on forever and have more false summits than I recalled, it didn’t pose much of a challenge. Get in an easy gear and spin. It did seem the only hazard was going to be motorbikes. While the vast majority were riding sensibly, there were a very small few who I had no doubt I’d see again, probably being scraped off the Tarmac and into a body bag. I’m a motorcyclist myself and I can assure you they were being very carefree with their existence!
The next stage of the journey that was of some concern to me was the climb out of the Severn Valley towards Moreville, but it was early in the journey and again I seemed to get up it no problems at all. Things were looking good!
I chose to stop about 32 miles in for my jam sandwiches and a good drink. Again the motorbikes whizzing past me while I was eating were starting to worry me – a group of about a dozen roared past, all the bikes were litre sports bikes, Kwaks, Yammys, Susies and a Ducati, absolutely flying, and this is on a twisty, turny B-road. The other thing bugging me was a cheeky little headwind, just strong enough to be noticed and to be an impedance.
Onwards then, the next stop I’d scheduled in was at Churchstoke to meet my folks for lunch as they were driving from Tywyn to Birmingham Airport to fly out for their cruise. I was looking forward to that. I don’t see them enough!
It was through Craven Arms, a small market town in Shropshire, then turn off towards Newtown, which would take me through Churchstoke for the lunch stop. This was a drag, Churchstoke didn’t seem to be getting any nearer, but the bonus was the scenery – the Long Mynd was looking good as was the surrounding hills of the Marches.
At last Churchstoke. I parked up to wait and was immediately taken up in conversation by a fellow cyclist riding a tourer with panniers. He was clearly a regular cyclist as he was built like one. Not an ex-rugby player trying to be a cyclist like me. Then when he told me he used his bike with a trailer and panniers to move house due to a divorce, I knew I was definitely speaking to a hardcore pedaller. He seemed to be impressed with my journey and was keen to know how it was going and how a big lad like me was coping with the trip. He then spied my Crud Roadracers and was very interested to know how they were in general use – not only was he interested, he started to dismantle them to see how they worked! A bit cheeky I thought, but he stuck them back okay so no harm done.
He went on his way and I got a phone call off Mom saying they were late and not even in Newtown yet, so the unanimous decision was that I cracked on. I had a sandwich and a bottle of Lucozade, refilled my water bottles and set off. Ten minutes down the road they passed me! Obviously Mom’s renowned sense of direction was operating at its usual lack of efficiency!
A bit down the road after seeing Mom and Dad drive past I stopped at the ‘Welcome to Wales’ sign for a piccie, and a cyclist stopped to ask if I needed assistance – he was absolutely gobsmacked when he got the answer to the question, “How far are you going today?” That chuffed me a bit!
This was when the ride got hard: the trip to Newtown up Kerry Ridge was not great, but it was paid back in a brilliant descent into Newtown. That was my best speed, 42mph. The cars kept a respectable distance behind me and didn’t try to overtake, which was nice.
Newtown was rammed, loads of traffic lights with caravans, campervans and cars all heading home. All going nowhere fast. Not me, I was up the middle of the road and through the hold-ups in no time. I was tired now though.
The stretch out of Newtown to Talerddig (dd in Welsh is pronounced th) was horrible, I had to stop at Caersws for 10 minutes’ rest and a drink. It was a steady climb to Talerddig and this was when my morale started to take a bit of a hit. I was always thinking about calling wifey for a lift, getting a taxi, a bus or even a train. On Bank Holiday Monday, yeah right! But I kept turning those fat old legs.
I eventually, after what seemed like an age, got to the Dyfi River. I vividly remember taking time out with my brother by the side of this river at this very spot back in the ’80s, so it seemed right to uphold the tradition and do the same. I needed the rest. Just chilling out here was the right thing to do. A whole water bottle was quaffed and I enjoyed watching the trout swimming below me and wished there was a way to carry my fishing tackle on my bike.
By now at about a 100 miles in my legs were starting to cramp, my calves mainly but my hams were also letting me know of their presence at regular intervals. I got to thinking that pedalling 113 miles for a 46-year-old fat bloke who weighs 16-17 stone wasn’t such a good idea. But I knew now I would see it through. It was the estuary road from Machynlleth to Aberdyfi with the last little haul up the side of the estuary. Granny ring, lowest gear was the order of the day as I churned up it at 8mph, I was now running on instinct. Legs turn, let’s get there.
Aberdyfi was looking good, but it was heaving with Bank Holiday tourists, again the bike was the way though. Four miles to go, with a coastal headwind and rolling topography wasn’t the best way to finish, I was officially in bits. Then I saw Tywyn looking very close, but I knew it wasn’t as close as it seemed – another 15 minutes, the longest of my life, was needed to finish.
Turn left at the Talyllyn Railway, a freewheel down the road and my pain was at end. What an epic.
According to my cycle computer the stats were as follows:
Distance 114.83 miles
Ride time 7 hours 49 minutes 43 seconds
Average speed 14.6 mph
Fastest speed 42.9mph
It was funny, I had to really think about the journey after the event as I’m struggling to remember details. In retrospect, it seemed to fly by without incident, but clearly that’s my mind playing tricks! But, I doubt with my current circumstances that I’ll ever do that kind of distance again. A real milestone for me.
This entry was posted on Monday, November 8th, 2010 at 4:42 pm and is filed under Blog, What Mountain Bike. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.